Woonsocket-based is one of five major corporations to recently end financial support for American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).
ALEC is described by board member and Woonsocket Rep. Jon Brien (Dist. 50, Woonsocket), as a bipartisan group that puts lawmakers together with businesses to come up with ideas (ultimately, legislation) "That will foster a free-market society."
ALEC has received criticism from Common Cause, the New York Times reports, which attests the organization's practices amount to lobbying, violating its tax-exempt status.
ColorofChange.org, a political action group working "...to make government more responsive to the concerns of Black Americans," praised the companies' break with ALEC in a release posted to their website. ColorofChange.org has launched a campaign calling on companies to break with ALEC, claiming the group has helped draft laws that restrict access to the polls for blacks, Latinos, low-income voters and other marginalized groups. Specifically, they reference ALEC's model voter ID law. Though ALEC has since scrapped the task force that drafted the model legislation, it is attributed as the inspiration for many current voter ID laws across the US.
An opinion piece in the Washington Times defends ALEC against the claims.
Critics say the new voter ID laws, which require photo identification for voters, disenfranchise minority voters because it places an undue burden on their ability to vote. The Justice Department is challenging the Texas voter ID law, and US Attorney General Eric Holder has labeled the law a poll tax, because it requires voters to travel long distances and pay to obtain documents.
A was sponsored by Brien, but the Providence Phoenix reports it was drafted by Secretary of State Ralph Mollis prior to ALEC's model legislation and left out an "onerous" provision requiring anyone trying to vote without ID to show up at the board of elections the following Monday with proof of identity.
"We want to thank these companies for making the right decision, and we continue to call on all major corporations to stop funding ALEC given its involvement in voter suppression and its work pushing policies designed to benefit rich and powerful corporations at the expense of people of color, workers, and the environment," said Rashad Robinson, Executive Director of ColorOfChange.org.
"Over the last few weeks, we have closely followed the issues surrounding the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and have heard from numerous stakeholders expressing their views," said Larry Burton, CVS Caremark Senior Vice President for Government Affairs, in an email to ColorOfChange.org printed in the release. "As a result, after careful consideration of the available information, CVS Caremark has discontinued its membership in ALEC."
ALEC has also .
On May 1, Sen. John J. Tassoni Jr. (D-Dist. 22, Smithfield, North Smithfield) asked to have his name removed from the list of state legislators enrolled as members of ALEC. The Providence Journal reported that state Sen. Walter Felag also quit the group.
Brien has said the two legislators' departure from the RI chapter is the result of a misunderstanding of the organization and bullying tactics employed by the organization's critics. He could not be reached for comment on CVS's break with ALEC.