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Color of Change again threatens companies participating in ALEC

Color of Change again threatens companies participating in ALEC

Extortion is the new social justice.

We’ve written before about the bully tactics utilized by organizations like Color of Change in order to achieve their political aims.

These tactics are not just abusive and opinion-supressive. They’re effective.

Major companies like Amazon and Wal-Mart have already cut ties with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) in the face of pressure from the left. Since then, many more have followed suit and anti-ALEC organizations are just giddy.

Just in time for summer, Americans can cut their grass with a John Deere mower, drink a cold Miller High Life, and buy sunscreen from CVS without fear that their consumer dollars will be used to fund policies like voter suppression and climate change denial, now that Deere & Co., MillerCoors, and CVS have dropped their membership in the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

The Washington Free Beacon has shed some light on the tactics being utilized by Color of Change in their campaign to silence ALEC, which are tantamount to extortion but carefully couched in terms meant to avoid criminal liability for threatening to damage reputation:

The methods employed by anti-ALEC groups could be described as not unlike extortion, experts say.

Color of Change, a “social justice” nonprofit headed by 9/11 Truther and former Obama green jobs czar Van Jones, has been at the front of the “name-and-shame campaign,” which seeks to pressure ALEC’s corporate sponsors into dropping their membership in the organization.

“To date, we have not publicly highlighted [your] involvement with ALEC,” Color of Change executive director Rashad Robinson wrote to a corporate member of ALEC in a June 25 letter obtained by the Free Beacon. “However, we plan to do so and wanted to make you aware of the next steps in our campaign.”

“We have commissioned a series of radio ads to make consumers aware of [your] relationship with ALEC and the policies it supports,” Robinson continues. “We plan to begin running these ads soon on Black radio stations across the country. We will also make the media aware of this ad campaign.”

“If [redacted] is reconsidering its relationship with ALEC, please contact Color of Change’s Director of Strategy, Gabriel Rey-Goodlatte, as soon as possible,” Robinson warns. “We would appreciate a response within one week.”

Using the irrational yet familiar charge of racism when faced with political difference of opinion, radical left-wing groups like Color of Change are picking away ALEC’s revenue stream piece by piece.

These attacks are growing both in number and frequency, and they need to be stopped.  The question is how.


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So, I’m to understand that multi-billion dollar businesses, with their “deep pockets” and vast legal staffs, are caving rather than fight a “bit of mud” slung their way?

Sounds like there needs to be a considerable “push-back” or be content to be pushed around.

    raven in reply to ALman. | August 19, 2012 at 4:55 pm

    Few things in America today as weak, craven and averse to conflict as a corporation. Color of Change, following in the footsteps of shakedown artist Jesse Jackson, knows this very well.

It is a mistake to give into thug tactics. I understand why a corporation may feel like in its best interest to do so, but eventually it will create a bigger problem.

Remember what Clemenza said to Michael in Godfather I when they were practicing shooting.

casualobserver | August 19, 2012 at 3:41 pm

I think it is more likely that Color of Change wants to avoid a public and potentially lawsuit-riddled attack. They simply want those who have not yet joined or participated in ALEC or similar organizations to be fearful. Although I’m not one who retaliates as a rule, I could be persuaded to not favor companies who participate in the some far-left groups like CAP, or Color of Change, or even Planned Parenthood. It’s not classy but it seems fair play.

If this is all that Van Jones is bringing to the table, then I don’t have a clue why the companies are caving about ALEC.

Black owned media is all but extinct. These big corporations need to stand up for themselves. For a bunch of them, where are their customers going to go? Walmart leaving ALEC over a threat like this? Their customers aren’t going elsewhere (no available market). CVS? Ok, it competes with some of the smaller drug chains, but largely there is a monopoly (economic) in certain cities that have been carved out, and in the smaller rural towns. Again, no effect on ACTUAL commerce.

I think it’s time that one of these companies headquartered in a Conservative state actually take a letter like this to the Attorney General and give them a nudge about an extortion charge based on reputation damage. My guess is that sort of charge would make the AG a hero and cause the Looney Liberals bankrolling this thing to run for the hills lest they be tarnished by financing a organization under criminal charge for extortion.

    Context of my “extinct” comment: Per Starla Muhammad at The Final Call in her piece on July 26, 2012:

    “Blacks own less than one percent of full power commercial television stations and less than three percent of commercial radio stations, yet make up nearly 14 percent of the total U.S. population.”

      Blacks make up more than a vast majority of the multi-millionaire athlete in pro sports, commercial endorsements, recording contracts, etc. yet they are only 14% of the population.

      In fact, blacks make up 100% of the president, attorney general, surgeon general, etc., yet the are only 14% of the population.

      Must I continue?

    Ragspierre in reply to Chuck Skinner. | August 19, 2012 at 4:39 pm

    Chuck, I’d like you to expand on your “extortion” theory, please, because I can’t see it in light of First Amendment protections.

    I would also challenge you on the “monopoly” usage. A competitive advantage is not a “monopoly” by any stretch.

      jdkchem in reply to Ragspierre. | August 19, 2012 at 5:56 pm

      Give me $1000000 or I tell everyone you like to nuzzle Harry Ried’s sac. Does that expand the extortion theory for you? That is pretty much what they’re doing in a nutshell. How does anyone even remotely claim that “you do what we want or we make your life miserable” is protected by the 1st Amendment? What the little fuck-pigs are doing is nothing short of an act of war and I say give them what they want.

        Ragspierre in reply to jdkchem. | August 19, 2012 at 8:09 pm

        First, my query was to Chuck.

        Second, you either support the First Amendment or you don’t.

        Third, it is completely different to say, “Do what I want, or I’ll bomb your business”, than to say, “We oppose what ALEC does, and will put pressure on you to NOT support them”.

        Fourth, just damn, that was silly.

        Fifth, it takes us (or you) no closer to a counter-strategy that works

        does it?

          jdkchem in reply to Ragspierre. | August 20, 2012 at 11:20 pm

          So you’re perfectly ok with liberal fuck monkeys hiding behind the 1st Amendment in order to get their way. They do exactly what I said they do to get what they want and when they’re not given what they want they gather the mob and start threatening families and customers. When the fuck monkeys get in my face and start screaming they’ve given up their 1st Amendment skirts to hide behind and they get the beating they’ve earned. It is that simple.

          jdkchem in reply to Ragspierre. | August 20, 2012 at 11:27 pm

          And what about the business owners 1st Amendment rights? Does Amazon or Target or Walmart not have the right to exercise free speech? Who the fuck are these scumbags to dictate how anyone exercises their rights? The fact is the fuck monkeys don’t give a rat’s ass about the 1st Amendment until they’ve gone Joan Rivers and start screaming they’re being censored because nobody will give them the time of day.

      Hi Rags,

      As the individual state laws very widely, this is somewhat squishy depending on where the charge would be brought, but for the sake of discussion, let’s see if we can make this work under Texas law. (for non-lawyers, some general info will also be included [sorry Rags]).

      Under Texas law, extortion is a form of Theft. Generally Extortion is when a person gains something of value by some type of force or threat of violence, property damage, harm to reputation or unfavorable government action. It’s codified under Title 7, Chapter 31 of the Texas Penal Code. Section 31.02 consolidated all the prior offenses into “Theft” (including Extortion, but no longer defined there).

      The first thing I would suggest is that you have a property right in your reputation. Without that the whole conversation is moot because there’s nothing to damage.

      The specific elements I think are here would be (in bold):

      – The “Threat” – pretty self explanatory; of

      “Deception” (creating or confirming by words or conduct a false impression of law or fact that is likely to affect the judgment of another in the transaction, and that the actor does not believe to be true). Here, I would suggest that the public is a party to the transaction, because they would be the necessary recipient of the information should the Business fail to comply and that Color of Change does not believe that ALEC’s actual intent is to suppress votes; with an intent to

      “Deprive” (to withhold property from the owner permanently or for so extended a period of time that a major portion of the value or enjoyment of the property is lost to the owner). If you have a property right in your reputation not being damaged by a false light presentation, then the damages you would suffer would be the loss of that reputation and the business lost because of that damage. (Misdemeanor up to $20K, Felony above $20K).

      This is where I would start. From the “Color of Change” website: “For years, the right wing has been trying to stop Black people, other people of color, young people, and the elderly from voting — and now some of America’s biggest companies are helping them do it.

      That is a statement of voter suppression hinting at voter intimidation (and I can’t find the federal citation as to where it’s illegal, which is driving me nuts).

      Now, Color of Change tries to put it in context in their next statement by discussing support for voter ID laws, but that doesn’t change the separate sentence on its own which is distinctly designed to give a false impression of ALEC’s purpose and tactics.

      Further in the proposed letter they want individuals to send to the corporations they state “I urge you to immediately stop funding ALEC and issue a public statement making it clear that your company does not support discriminatory voter ID laws and voter suppression. Color of Change states them as two separate ideas giving the representation that there is something going on beyond mere advocacy of change of the law requiring ID to vote.

      As for First Amendment Protections, here I don’t think they wouldn’t apply. This isn’t the government saying “you can’t talk about us that way” (direct state action) but the government saying “you can’t defame another company and steal their reputation by intimating that they are breaking federal law by saying they support an organization engaged in voter suppression (accusation of conspiracy false light defamation). The threat to do so is extortion.

      Maybe a better analogy is this: You can’t call opposing counsel after their client has written a hot check and say “if you don’t send us a valid check by tomorrow, we’re going to report you for writing a hot check.” Except here instead of the threat of the State, you have the threat of loss of business. It’s not a perfect analogy…..

      Anyway, that’s how I’d approach that. It might not fly, but I think that an enterprising prosecutor willing to try to make a name for him or herself could make a good run of it.

      As for the “monopoly” bit, I meant an economic monopoly created by choice of certain businesses to expand into certain markets where the large completion is less and they can overpower the smaller individual chains. It’s not illegal, merely it just happens to be the way the business model shakes out. As an example, in El Paso we have Walgreens pharmacies and Walmart pharmacies as chains, and something like 2 or 3 stand-alone independent pharmacies. The other, smaller chains have either been bought out or forced out of business. Some particular business models just happen to ‘carve-up’ sections of the country and don’t compete with each other because the “break in” costs are just too high to overcome an entrenched business competitor.

        Ragspierre in reply to Chuck Skinner. | August 20, 2012 at 10:03 am

        Yeah, Chuck, I understand, but don’t agree.

        The criminal route would be a VERY long stretch, IMNHO. And we’ve talked here about the dangers of creative prosecutors, have we not? Here, you are calling for that very thing.

        I prefer the civil law approach, where the burdens are lighter and the full power of the state is not invoked.

        In Texas, the tort of business disparagement seems to offer some potential. With the right jury, I think that would have a chance.

          I concur that making a criminal case stick is a pretty big stretch. On the other hand, I do see this as a pretty clear case of outright Extortion through threat of false light defamation.

          I suppose what is chafing the most is the intimation Color of Change is making that ALEC is engaged in criminal activity (voter suppression).

          Color of Change is trying to be cute and lean as far as they can over that Extortion line without crossing it. In this action I think they have failed to do so and I think they should get whacked for it. Here I think it would be simply poetic that by threatening to make their claim to the public, Color of Change itself would be involved in a criminal act.

          On the civil side of the coin, Business disparagement works rather comfortably. I can easily see a jury finding that. I see it as slightly less effective from cutting off Color of Change’s money flow because you can’t then whack Color of Change’s donors by publicly flogging them for supporting an organization under criminal indictment.

          Ragspierre in reply to Ragspierre. | August 20, 2012 at 1:44 pm

          I think we agree on most of what you just said.

          I’m still not sanguine of the implicit support for “creative prosecution”, and I do see a major problem with First Amendment precedent. Again, when you bring such an action under criminal law, I think it DOES directly involve sanctioning political speech via the power of the state, and I think that would be a killer to the prosecution.

          I agree, also, that COC tried to dance on the line and tripped gracelessly over it. I also assert that a business plaintiff in a civil action could rather handily prove special damages, and perhaps malice. That would work to do what you suggest the criminal prosecution would do, would it not?

    State isn’t what they have to worry about.

    Stop giving to ALEC or we’ll find a dozen employees to file “hostile work environment” complaints with EEOC (Federal) because you support discrimination.

    Stop giving to ALEC or Jesse Jackson and 1000 of his closest friends will picket your stores this holiday season.

    Stop giving to ALEC or the DEA might decide that you need a few extra compliance audits and maybe some prosecuted pharmacists.

    Don’t think it won’t work that way? Ask Gibson Guitars.

Those who do not push back, cannot complain.

Regardless of the moral appropriateness of what Color of Change is doing, what they are doing doesn’t constitute criminal extortion. Even if they explicitly said “If you don’t stop supporting ALEC, I’m telling everyone you’re supporting ALEC and what ALEC stands for” they would not be committing criminal extortion in any state.

It’s simply not extortion to say “If you don’t stop doing X, I’m going to tell everyone you are doing X.”

    I think you could make a case for misrepresentation extortion if the organization knowingly and willfully misrepresented that what ALEC was doing was criminal (which is exactly what Color of Change has done).

    Claiming that you’re going to tell the public that a person/group support an organization that is actively engaged in “voter suppression tactics” (an illegal act) I think would qualify for criminal extortion liability.

    The climate change denial thing is much more of a “opinion” matter. The “voter suppression” claim is not.

      That would be a very tough argument to make, I couldn’t see any judge accepting it, because the allegation is about policies ALEC supports, rather than physical actions ALEC takes, and supporting a policy, even if its end is currently illegal, is never a crime.

        Even if the suit is dismissed, it drains the swap and reveals these snakes.

        So even a loss, would be a win. And the suits should continue. Eventually, these malignant clowns will pay the price of their extortion.

        We must push back.

          We should never, EVER, lower ourselves to their level. Claiming criminal conduct just because you don’t like it, when there is no evidence it is actually criminal, is the province of liberals. To suggest we should lower ourselves to them is to suggest that we have no real arguments left.

The quality of Amazon’s deals has declined so I do less business with them than I used to, but I still do quite a bit grocery-wise.

Some widely read conservative blogs criticize Amazon for caving to leftist pressure. If those blogs stopped accepting Amazon advertising, it would create an ethical challenge for me.

How? No one seems to know. But it is the question, the challenge, of our time.

Bryan, do you have a complete list of all the companies who have apparently caved up to this point? Thank you…

Helen, don’t know if this is up to date.

This is a list of corporations that still have ties to ALEC

Might be a good idea to form a counter-group, called the “Smart ALECs.”

Any way we can trademark as “Color of Chains”. Then link anything with color of change/Joe Biden/Obama, etc to the video of dumb *ss Joe making his remarks? Just a thought. When he said those remarks, the first thing i thought of was ALEC and what commie Van Jones and company are trying to do to them.

All of the previous comments have focused on how the corporations that support ALEC might fight back against the threats issued by Color of Change. CofC vows to reveal a corporation’s support of ALEC if the corporation doesn’t stop supporting ALEC, with the intended result that the public will stop buying the corporation’s product and thereby inflict a financial penalty upon the corporation. The comments here have discussed laws covering extortion, First Amendment rights, etc., in an effort to explain how corporations that have been warned might wage a defensive or an offensive response to stop Color of Change.

It seems to me that a second avenue of action would be equally, if not more, important. The threat to corporations is of a secondary nature: the potential for loss of customers. However, we have seen in recent days that threats to conservative businesses can backfire — Chick-fil-A experienced record sales, and the companies that bailed out on Rush suffered losses while Rush did not — so Color of Change might not be able to cause as much financial loss to the targeted corporations through declining sales as they think. Color of Change would have to influence the buying decisions of hundreds of thousands of individuals who have already shown that they are sick to death of these bullying tactics.

In contrast, the threat to ALEC is of a primary nature: shutting down its financial support. Color of Change need influence the donation decisions of only a small number of corporations to do great damage to ALEC’s ability to fund its operations. It therefore makes perfect sense for Color of Change to focus its efforts on changing the behavior of ALEC’s donors, rather than on an indirect and possibly ineffective effort to change the behavior of the donors’ customers. The damage to ALEC is much more immediate than the potential for damage to its corporate donors, so I think that ALEC might have the better case to bring against Color of Change, particularly since ALEC is being singled out not for doing anything for illegal, but simply for acting to promote political ideas that differ from Color of Change’s. I am not a lawyer, however, and have no knowledge that would allow me to assess, refine, or reject an approach that seems to be common sense to a non-lawyer.

I would be interested in learning more from other commenters on this thread about ways that ALEC could fight back more effectively.

    From an effectiveness standpoint, the only way I see ALEC fighting back directly would be to contact the organizations who are considering or have actually left the organization and basically make a counter-threat to what Color of Change has made.

    Basically for ALEC to say to their former members “If you decide to leave the organization, we will take out radio and TV ads in major markets that say you caved to Liberal-Marxist pressure to abandon support of sound, well thought out Voter ID laws designed to prevent voter fraud. And we have MUCH more support among the American People for OUR ideas than they do for their ideas. Choose wisely.”

    While limiting the decision to pure economics (which group is going to cause you to lose less business), that threat doesn’t do much for you in getting companies or groups to like you or support your cause.

    As for a court case on behalf of ALEC directly: ALEC probably doesn’t have “standing” to go after Color of Change directly in a Court action, because ALEC isn’t the one being extorted. Yes, they feel the effects of that extortion in the form of smaller membership and less money, but that is a secondary effect.

    They might have a civil claim for “tortious interference with business relations.” The problems with that start to arise with definitions of if the transactions involved require a “profit motive” (ALEC is a 501(c)(3) non-profit) and if it requires “contractual relations” (in order to be able to deduct donations there cannot be a “contractual requirement” of a donation).

    Those are my initial thoughts. Rags? Any of the other lawyers here have input?

      Ragspierre in reply to Chuck Skinner. | August 20, 2012 at 2:51 pm

      I have some reservations…as a true capitalist…about putting companies in this kind of nutcracker.

      From a pure Friedman standpoint, a company has but one mission…to maximize long-term returns on owner equity. They have no business (heh!) in any other pursuit.

      ALEC has, seemingly, acknowledged that they succumbed to mission-creep, and have dialed back their focus, which I think is good.

      Now, what to do about COC? This may seem way too tame for some of the more red-in-the-tooth (and delusional) here, but maybe the best response is the Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day response. Which is NOT constrained by the inadequacies of law, does not ask the criminal law to FURTHER invade our general culture, is effective, and makes a statement that even MOST of the public recognize.

      That, of course is not the SOLE response that I think would be effective. ALEC could easily mount a PR campaign…much of it involving free exposure via the news media…to expose the ugly tactic here.

      Van Jones is WONDERFULLY attack-able in the public arena, and VOTERS support voter integrity laws BY FAR.

theyjustcantstop | August 20, 2012 at 5:34 pm

i’m no lawyer but can’t alec do like the democrat pacs do change your 501c,to another 501 status where donors are anoymous?