Companies giving at least $2 million to the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation — nearly half of its reported 2010 donations — also backed an organization championing voter identification laws that caucus members say “suppress” minorities’ right to vote. The group, the American Legislative Exchange Council, lists 22 corporate and trade association members on its private enterprise board. Thirteen of those firms also contributed to the black caucus foundation in 2010, according to Internal Revenue Service records and the latest available data on the websites of both organizations. The dual support puts companies, including Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT) (WMT), AT&T Inc. and Johnson & Johnson, in the position of financing both sides in a political dispute over state laws that the U.S. Justice Department said in some cases are biased against minority voters. “Corporations should be conscious of how their advocacy money is being spent by organizations that they contribute to,” said U.S. Representative Hank Johnson, a Georgia Democrat and a member of the black caucus. “This is a wakeup call for corporate interests to be more responsible for how they spend their money.” A spokeswoman for the black caucus foundation, Traci Hughes, didn’t respond to phone calls and e-mails seeking comment.
… “Voter-ID bills have been kicking around for years,” said Lisa Graves, executive director of the Center for Media and Democracy, a Madison, Wisconsin-based group that drew attention to the ALEC model bills. “A member of ALEC dusted off one of those bills and brought it to ALEC as a priority. Republicans took over states. Suddenly those bills were flying through statehouses.” Eight states enacted voter-ID laws since the 2010 elections, in which Republicans made significant gains in state legislatures. The U.S. Justice Department blocked legislation in South Carolina and Texas under the Voting Rights Act, saying the measures unfairly burdened minority voters. A state judge stopped enforcement of similar legislation in Wisconsin.