Consumer goods and pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson has withdrawn its support from the controversial lobbying group the American Legislative Exchange Council.
J&J’s move came after an ad campaign sponsored by civil rights group Color of Change (COC) that was designed to pressure the company to drop its support from the lobbying organization, known as ALEC.
J&J did not acknowledge pressure from outside forces, but a company rep issued a statement confirming the split. “We have been in dialogue with the American Legislative Exchange Council for some time, and while we acknowledge ALEC’s recent decision to focus only on innovation and growth-supporting policies, we have decided to suspend our participation and membership.”
The civil rights group says ALEC is the force behind a number of legislative initiatives around the country that are designed to suppress the turnout of minorities at voting booths on Election Day. COC also says ALEC is a major supporter of various “stand your ground” movements, which it claims are at least partly responsible for delaying the arrest of a suspect in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin in Florida.
"As Americans learn more about ALEC's extreme agenda, companies understand that their brands suffer through association with a group that has weakened our democracy and made it harder to earn a living wage," stated COC Executive Director Rashad Robinson. He applauded J&J’s decision, saying it was “in the best interests of consumers."
COC launched its ad campaign earlier this month directly targeting J&J.
Before it launched the ad campaign, COC said it had been lobbying J&J for months to pull out of ALEC without success. Ads ran in Chicago, Washington DC and New Brunswick, NJ, where J&J is based, as well as in Sanford, FL, where 17-year-old Martin was killed in February.
COC said that more than 500 of its members called J&J in the last two months to urge the company to quit ALEC and that hundreds of additional calls were placed by members of affiliated groups, including People For The American Way and Progressive Change Campaign Committee. It didn’t break out the number of calls placed before or after the ad campaign launched, however.
COC said that J&J was the 19th company to pull support from ALEC since it launched its campaign targeting corporate financial supporters of the group last December.
An ALEC spokeswoman didn’t return a query seeking comment on J&J’s decision by press time.