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'Stand Your Ground' laws backer targeted

'Stand Your Ground' laws backer targeted
This April 11, 2012 Seminole County, Florida, Sheriff's Office booking photograph shows George Zimmerman who on Wednesday was charged with second-degree murder in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin. UPI/Seminole County Sheriff's Office/Handout Photo | License Photo

WASHINGTON, April 13 (UPI) -- Advocacy groups have targeted more than a dozen corporations for their financial support of an organization that urged states to pass "Stand Your Ground" laws.

The organization, the American Legislative Exchange Council, says it wasn't directly involved in the effort to pass the Stand Your Ground law in Florida but its Web site notes similar ALEC-backed legislation has been approved in other states, The Washington Post reported.

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Stand Your Ground, which allows someone to use force, including deadly force, if threatened, has been cited as a possible defense for neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman, who is charged with second-degree murder in the Feb. 26 shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Florida.

Several major food and beverage companies, including Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, McDonald's, Kraft Foods and Wendy's, have severed ties with ALEC but have minimized any connection to the Florida shooting. Several companies said they made the decision before the Florida case.

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The ALEC controversy has raised questions about corporate participation in politics and led some to urge companies to develop clear policies explaining their spending, the Post said.

"I would caution companies to be very aware of where their money is going," said Nell Minow, director of GMI Ratings, which provides corporate governance information to investors, corporate auditors and regulatory agencies. "Companies are going to realize they can take a real reputational hit with this kind of affiliation."

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ALEC has been targeted in recent weeks by the government watchdog Common Cause, the civil rights organization Color of Change and other groups.

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Ron Scheberle, ALEC's executive director, said the critics targeting the organization are part of an "intimidation campaign ... to silence our organization" that he said has been led by left-wing activists who oppose the group's free-market agenda.

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