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Gates Foundation Stop Grants to Conservative Nonprofit

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The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation today became the latest backer to withdraw financial support for the American Legislative Exchange Council.

A foundation spokesman told Roll Call that it does not plan to make future grants to the conservative nonprofit, which has come under fire from progressive activists for its support of voter identification laws and other contentious measures.

The foundation, run by the co-founder of Microsoft Corp. and his wife, contributed more than $375,000 to ALEC in the past two years and was the target of an online petition launched today by the liberal Progressive Change Campaign Committee that garnered more than 23,000 signatures in a matter of hours.

“We have made a single grant, narrowly and specifically focused on providing information to ALEC-affiliated state legislators on teacher effectiveness and school finance,” said Chris Williams, the spokesman, noting that the foundation was never a dues-paying member. The foundation advocates for global health initiatives and efforts to reduce poverty.

It’s the latest in a string of victories for groups bent on persuading corporations and foundations to cut ties with ALEC, which helps corporations advance their public-policy agenda in state legislatures.

Last week, Kraft Foods Inc., Coca-Cola Co. and Intuit Inc. each said they would withdraw support. The announcements came after months of behind-the-scenes pressure from another liberal group, Color of Change, an African-American advocacy group.

Color of Change went public today with demands that AT&T Corp., one of ALEC’s 21 corporate board members, also sever ties with the organization. Over the past year, the group has reached out to 15 consumer product companies that back ALEC, highlighting the organization’s connections to voter ID laws passed in at least a half-dozen states.

Civil rights activists say the laws disproportionately target minority, student and elderly voters, who tend to vote Democratic, and could bar up to 5 million voters from the polls this fall. In recent weeks, other liberal groups have joined the effort.

Continue Reading on www.rollcall.com
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