NEW YORK (AP) — Drugstore operator CVS Caremark and tractor maker Deere & Co. are the latest companies to withdraw from conservative political group the American Legislative Exchange Council.
Many major corporations have had ties with the group, known as ALEC, for years. But the group became a lightning rod for political debate following the Trayvon Martin case.
Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Amazon.com, Coca-Cola Co., Kraft Foods Inc., McDonald's Corp., PepsiCo Inc. and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have also withdrawn this year.
Liberal activists complain that ALEC improperly influences legislation around the country by allowing corporate leaders to develop model legislation alongside state lawmakers. Its previous support of so-called "Stand Your Ground" self-defense laws drew fire after the Florida case in which teenager Martin was killed.
For its part, ALEC has said that it is being unfairly targeted as part of a broader campaign against its conservative agenda. It also says efforts to tie it into the Martin case are unfair. In April it said it would it was eliminating its public safety task force that had dealt with the "Stand Your Ground" law and said it was refocusing those resources on economic matters.
CVS Caremark and Deere on Tuesday confirmed they have left ALEC.
CVS said it closely followed the issues surrounding ALEC and left after careful consideration. John Deere said its departure is part of a process of regularly evaluating its affiliations.
ALEC says membership is up 20 percent in the past year, and that some departures from its ranks are the result of companies' own financial realities and other considerations.
Associated Press Writer Michelle R. Smith in Providence, R.I., contributed to this report.