According to documents ColorOfChange obtained from the highly-secretive American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) last month, user-review site Yelp! joined ALEC — and gave the group at least $10,000 — during the opening week of George Zimmerman‘s murder trial.
More than 50 corporations have pulled their funding from ALEC over its responsibility for deadly so-called “Stand Your Ground” — or “Shoot First” — laws. It’s due to Shoot First that Zimmerman was not only acquitted of all criminal charges for his confessed killing of unarmed teen Trayvon Martin,1 but will likely be immune to any civil penalty for wrongful death.2
Pressed to explain the company’s bizarre decision to join ALEC now, Yelp!’s Director of Public Policy admitted he “can’t ignore” the damage ALEC has done.3 But the company is suppressing thousands of negative reviews posted to ALEC’s Yelp! page opposing the move, and Yelp!’s CEO has made every effort to sidestep the growing controversy. To cut through Yelp!’s filter and reach company decisionmakers directly, ColorOfChange is launching a new site — TELLYELP.NO — that drives home the harm Yelp! inflicts on our communities by funding ALEC.
In the wake of Zimmerman’s acquittal, Shoot First — with its legal presumption that subjective, racist fears are justifiable grounds for vigilante homicide — has served to paint a target on the backs of Black youth.4 Shoot First endangers millions of people living in more than two dozen states, and there is now eight years of available data on the laws’ racially-biased outcomes.5 But ALEC has taken no steps to repeal Shoot First laws in the states where they’re on the books — nor to stop ALEC legislators from continuing to introduce new ones. Ten Shoot First bills have been introduced so far in 2013, and two have passed.6
ALEC is a bill mill that thrives on millions in fungible corporate “membership,” “scholarship” and “sponsorship” monies;7 this explicit pay-to-play legislation pipeline ensures that ALEC will continue to produce extreme profit-driven laws8 that exploit and endanger our communities. By funding it, Yelp! is directly furthering all aspects of the ALEC legislative agenda, and is responsible for the harms caused by the laws that result.
Thanks and Peace,
–Rashad, Matt, Arisha, Kim, Johnny and the rest of the ColorOfChange team
September 26th, 2013
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1. “Fox News Still Denying Role Of Stand Your Ground In Zimmerman Acquittal,” Media Matters for America, 08-20-13
2. “‘Stand your ground’ law may snarl any civil suit vs. George Zimmerman,” Orlando Sentinel, 07-16-13
3. “Agree: can’t ignore it,” @lutherlowe (Twitter), 08-15-13
4. “Open season on black boys after a verdict like this,” The Guardian, 07-14-13
5. “Uneven application, shocking outcomes,” Tampa Bay Times, 07-03-12
6. “ALEC at 40: Turning Back the Clock on Prosperity and Progress,” Center for Media and Democracy, 08-08-13
7. “How the ALEC corporate bill mill works,” Capital Times, 08-16-11
8. “Big Money, ALEC and the Gun Agenda,” Truthout, 12-16-12