Friday, April 6, 2012

The Forces Behind Trayvon Martin's Death

By Betsey Piette
Published Apr 4, 2012 9:15 PM

What do Koch Industries, Verizon Communications Inc., Coors Brewing Co., Wal-Mart, the Altria Group (Philip Morris’ parent company), PhRMA, the American Bail Coalition and BellSouth Corp. have to do with the murder of Trayvon Martin?

These major corporations and industry groups have provided the bulk of funding to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the power behind Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law. This law has provided the justification for Martin’s killer, George Zimmerman, to walk free. Officers of these and other corporations have also served on ALEC’s Private Enterprise Board.

ALEC has channeled variations of this “shoot first” bill into legislatures in Florida and at least 23 other states. After Florida passed its Stand Your Ground law in 2005, ALEC’s Criminal Justice Task Force and board of directors adopted a copycat legislation model — the Castle Doctrine Act — and began promoting it through a nationwide network of right-wing state legislators. (Media Matters for America, March 28)

The National Rifle Association, a longtime ALEC funder, played a key role in the passage of Florida’s law. Florida state senator, Durell Peaden, an ALEC member, introduced the bill that Gov. Jeb Bush signed into law in April 2005.

ALEC was founded in 1973 by Paul Weyrich, co-founder of the Heritage Foundation; former Illinois Republican Rep. Henry Hyde; and conservative activist Lou Barnette. PR Watch’s Brendan Fischer reported that ALEC bills disproportionately affect communities of color.

The Nation magazine’s John Nichols pointed out that ALEC’s work has focused on cutting tax rates for corporations and wealthy individuals, privatization, deregulation, and legislation designed to weaken, if not eliminate unions, including Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s attack on public workers in 2011. (AlterNet, March 25)

While ALEC has managed to stay out of the spotlight since its founding, the role of Florida’s Stand Your Ground in the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin has shown a spotlight on this ultraright organization. Along with George Zimmerman, the entire board of this reprehensible organization should be made to stand trial for Martin’s murder.

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