1. Business

Groups protest Duke Energy's connection with the American Legislative Exchange Council

A coalition of environmentalists and civil rights activists staged protests at Duke Energy offices in St. Petersburg and North Carolina on Friday, urging the utility to stop support for an organization they claim supports voter suppression.

The Southern Energy Network, which includes such groups as Greenpeace and CREDO Action, collected 150,000 signatures as part of their protest of the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, a conservative organization.

About 10 protesters visited the St. Petersburg offices of Duke subsidiary Progress Energy Florida.

Tom Williams, a Duke spokesman, said Duke supports political groups that are Democratic and Republican. "Duke operates in six states and works with state legislators and legislative groups — from all persuasions, liberal, conservative," Williams said.

He noted from a Time magazine article that ALEC disbanded its Public Safety and Elections Task Force, a policy group that drafted model bills for voter-ID requirements and "stand your ground" gun laws, among other things.

In response to the protest, Kaitlyn Buss, a spokeswoman for ALEC, said: "ALEC works on a variety of policies — including energy and environmental issues — that support free markets and limited government throughout the states. This recent attempt to intimidate ALEC members is simply a continuation of a big-government agenda that has resulted in fewer jobs and less economic growth for all Americans."