Some companies are learning that supporting hyper-partisan groups can backfire when their customers find out about it. In recent weeks a number of companies are trying to distance themselves from the partisan, right-wing group ALEC before their brands become as damaged as Susan G. Komen for the Cure®.

ALEC, The American Legislative Exchange Council, is a shady, hyper-partisan, state-based lobbying group that was able to wield power by staying under the radar. Recently the Trayvon Martin shooting case exposed how ALEC helped push through a dangerous “shoot first” law in Florida. Now people are learning that ALEC is also getting state laws passed that limit the voting rights of minorities, limit the power of working people to negotiate for better wages and limit the power of citizens to fight for cleaner environment. So now the big corporations supporting ALEC risk being seen as fighting people’s efforts to have a better life, and their brands are at risk.

(Please visit Alex Exposed for more information. See alsoAtlantic: Exposing ALEC: How Conservative-Backed State Laws Are All Connected)

Komen Foundation’s Serious Brand Damage

A few months ago, in a move to please the conservative right, the Susan G. Komen for the Cure® foundation pulled funding from Planned Parenthood. How’d that work out for them? Komen’s “brand equity” dropped 21 percent, one of the most dramatic plummets in brand-equity ever.

How far a drop was this? Komen was ranked among the top two. This year it ranked No. 56. That’s a drop of 54 spots. The value of the Komen brand is ruined. The Komen executives behind the Planned Parenthood decision were forced out.

Harris Interactive: Scandal Rocks America’s Support for Susan G. Komen for the Cure®, According to 23rd Annual Harris Poll EquiTrend® Study,

Based on findings reported in the 2012 Harris Poll® EquiTrend® study, Susan G. Komen’s current brand equity score of 55.1 represents a 21% drop in brand equity over the prior year ─ a historic drop in the study’s 23-year history, surpassed only by Fannie Mae in 2009.

From “Gold Standard” to “Trailing the Pack”

Since its inclusion in the EquiTrend survey in 2008, Susan G. Komen has consistently rated as either the first or second most equitable non-profit organization in its category. This year, SGK fell 54 spots to 56th place out of 79 non-profit brands surveyed.

If you are a corporate executive, numbers like that are terrifying. This is a completely ruined brand, and it only took a few weeks to get there after people heard about their association with the partisan right. This is what happens to a brand when it is caught associating with the likes of ALEC.

Corporations Leaving ALEC

Now that people are finding out what ALEC is doing, some of the big corporations that fund them are dropping out to protect their brands. In recent weeks Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Intuit, Mars, Kraft Foods, and PepsiCo made their escape. Their business depends on people having positive feelings about their brands, so they dare not risk a Komen-style brand crash.

The NY Times, in an editorial, Embarrassed by Bad Laws,

The council, known as ALEC, has since become better known, with news organizations alerting the public to the damage it has caused: voter ID laws that marginalize minorities and the elderly, antiunion bills that hurt the middle class and the dismantling of protective environmental regulations.

… In recent weeks, McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Intuit, Mars, Kraft Foods, Coca-Cola and PepsiCo have stopped supporting the group, responding to pressure from activists and consumers who have formed a grass-roots counterweight to corporate treasuries. That pressure is likely to continue as long as state lawmakers are more responsive to the needs of big donors than the public interest.

But there is a long list of companies that are still supporting this partisan, anti-citizen organization.

When Coca-Cola left ALEC, Richard (RJ) Eskow explained, in Good Guys Win One: With ALEC, Things Go Better Without Coke,

Score one for the good guys: After being pressured by Color of Change and other progressive groups, Coca-Cola has left ALEC – the cynical corporate coalition that has pushed a bevy of anti-democratic, anti-middle class, and anti-consumer initiatives.

Now that Coke’s come around, next up is Walmart. Their response on the ALEC issue was equivocal and unacceptable. And the issue needs to be raised directly and firmly with the other companies that back the organization – a list that includes AT&T, Bayer, ExxonMobil, GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, Kraft Foods, Pfizer, and UPS.

[. . .]

No Defense

It’s true that ALEC is like the United States Chamber of Commerce, in that many of its member companies don’t realize what it really stands for. But the ones who have consciences (or understand the power of consumer anger) will eventually respond, just as they have for the Chamber. (Many leading corporations have left that organization as it moves to the extreme right.)

Richard concluded with the point I wanted to make here, so I’ll let him say it:

Heads up, Walmart. Know who does a lot of shopping in your stores? People who have been victimized by ALEC policies: Poor people, minorities, and people who are working more and earning less. They’re getting wise, they’re getting angry – and they’re getting involved.

Companies: you are risking ruining your brands by associating with partisan, right-wing groups like ALEC. Executives: needless ot say, you are risking your careers if you are funding ALEC or any other partisan, right-wing lobbying groups, including the Chamber of Commerce, even Heritage Foundation.

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

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About the Author

Dave Johnson

Dave Johnson (Redwood City, CA) is a Fellow at Campaign for America's Future, writing about American manufacturing, trade and economic/industrial policy. He is also a Senior Fellow with Renew California. Dave has more than 20 years of technology industry experience including positions as CEO and VP of marketing. His earlier career included technical positions, including video game design at Atari and Imagic. And he was a pioneer in design and development of productivity and educational applications of personal computers. More recently he helped co-found a company developing desktop systems to validate carbon trading in the US.

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