Amazon drops affiliation with conservative political group ALEC, which opposes taxation at state level, citing group's endorsement of controversial issues such as voter I.D., self-defense

Cindy Allen

Cindy Allen

May 25, 2012 – Associated Press

OLYMPIA, Washington , May 25, 2012 () – Internet retailer Amazon.com Inc. is dropping its affiliation with a conservative political group, in part because of some of the positions the American Legislative Exchange Council has taken, a spokeswoman said Thursday.

Amazon's decision follows that of several major companies around the country who have announced in recent months that they are leaving ALEC. Liberal activists have led a coordinated campaign to highlight how ALEC operates and some of the controversial pieces of legislation the organization endorsed.

"Each year we evaluate all of our association memberships and we've decided not to renew our participation in ALEC, in part because of positions that group took on issues unrelated to our business," said Amazon spokeswoman Mary Osako. She did not have specifics on those positions.

Advocates complain that ALEC improperly influences legislation around the country by allowing corporate leaders to develop model legislation alongside state lawmakers. They also point to some of the laws that ALEC has helped spread around the country, such as ID rules for voters and the so-called "Stand Your Ground" self-defense law.

Amazon worked in ALEC at least in part by focusing on tax laws, according to model legislation and other records obtained by advocacy group Common Cause. The company has fought taxation at the state level, and a measure proposed at ALEC would have allowed companies to operate untaxed in states even if they advertise, hold trade shows or work through subsidiaries.

North Dakota state Rep. Blair Thoreson, who chairs ALEC's communications and technology task force, said the measure was discussed but not adopted. Model legislation adopted at ALEC is frequently taken by state lawmaker members back to their home states.

Activists protested Amazon's participating in ALEC outside the group's shareholder meeting earlier Thursday. Collin Jergens, a spokesman at the Seattle-based advocacy group Fuse, said the activists were pleased with Amazon's decision.

"We hope that other corporations and members of the legislature will follow its lead," Jergens said. "We believe that legislators should be accountable to the voters, and not corporations, and this is a step in the right direction."

An ALEC spokeswoman did not immediately return a call seeking comment. The group has said in recent weeks that it is being unfairly targeted as part of a broader campaign against its conservative agenda.

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