ALEC, or American Legislative Exchange Council, is a collaboration between politicians and corporations who work together to push forward legislation that benefits business (and fills campaign coffers). ALEC calls itself a “nonpartisan public-private partnership.” You may have heard that ALEC was influential
Most of us who know who our president and vice president are, and a little bit about the political parties and their platforms. Few of us, however, pay much attention to state politics, and most of us probably can’t name our state representatives. The irony of this is that state politics and legislation affect us more in our day to day lives than most federal laws and policies. ALEC takes advantage of this ignorance by enacting changes at the state level, where the level of attention by the public is very low, but the impact to both the business and the private sector is very high.
Politicians, corporate representatives and unofficial lobbyists meet behind closed doors to vote on what legislation they will propose in statehouses. ALEC crafts model legislation for individual politicians to introduce in their own states. This is how Stand Your Ground proliferated through the country without much notice until Trayvon Martin’s murder exposed ALEC’s role in the legislation. Suddenly, many large corporations, such as Coca-Cola and Kraft foods, were caught in the harsh light of public opinion, causing many to withdraw support from ALEC.
Attorney Lisa Graves, with the Center for Media and Democracy, received hundreds of internal ALEC documents from a whistle blower. The documents highlighted how deeply ALEC was involved in the “democratic” process. Hundreds of model bills provided templates for ALEC-associated politicians to use in their own states. Bills blocking climate change agreements, voter suppression measures, tort-reform laws, anti-union legislation…all directly attributed to ALEC efforts. Hundreds of corporations, including Koch Industries, Wal-Mart and Exxon Mobil, along with thousands of state legislators, mostly republican were collaborating in secrecy to introduce legislation without public input or knowledge. For a mere one hundred dollars, politicians can join this insider group that opens the door to lavish parties and potential donors with deep pockets. At conventions, attendees learn all about such things as the benefits of increased atmospheric CO2 on the environment (sound familiar)? NRA-sponsored shooting events, free cigars from Reynolds, a myriad other fun and free perks for legislators adds up to free face-time with special interests. And to top it all off, it’s all tax-free, because ALEC is classified as a educational CHARITY. The laws that prohibit lobbyists from bribing politicians with free trips and swag don’t apply to members of ALEC.
What this all boils down to is corporate interests having full access to legislators, the ability to legally bribe them tax-free and without public knowledge to introduce aggressively pro-corporate agendas that have taken away any resemblance to a democratic system of governance. This hearkens back to the days when only wealthy, white landowners had the right to vote. The people may sometimes have a choice in whether or not to support the legislation, but not until after it has been introduced.
ALEC drives the agenda, the narrative, and the process of legislation, leaving we the people with virtually no choice at all. For example, the NRA vehemently opposes “gun control” of any sort. The organization opposes background checks, waiting periods, closing the gun show loophole, etc. To impose any restriction whatsoever is to trample the second amendment rights of AMERICANS, dammit! Many have swallowed this lopsided opinion hook, line, and sinker, despite historical evidence that gun control has always been around, even supported by the NRA in the past. So-called “gun nuts” want to be able to carry their arms right up the steps of the White House, because ‘MERICA! The United States is tops in nearly every benchmark for gun violence, gun-related crimes and deaths in the whole freaking world, but many of us still believe that guns make us safer. This is directly caused by pro-gun entities such as the NRA and ALEC sponsoring propaganda and misinformation that has made arming ourselves PATRIOTIC. There is a false choice here: banning guns completely (what they SAY Obama wants to do, despite ZERO evidence) or carrying your gun into a preschool “just because.” There is no room for common-sense reform here. Any attempt to introduce such reforms is shouted down with the most divisive rhetoric imaginable.
ALEC’s agenda includes dismantling the public education system, privatizing prisons, eliminating the EPA and environmental protections, imposing restrictions on damages awarded to people who are injured or killed due to corporate negligence, stripping away collective bargaining rights, increasing “papers please” and “stop and frisk” practices (more to fill those private prisons), privatizing Medicare, all that trickle down economics stuff…basically if there is a possible corporate profit angle to a piece of legislation, ALEC probably has a hand in it. That sounds like a conspiracy theory, but for the fact that it is demonstrably and undeniably true. There is a shadowy cooperative of lawmakers and businessmen that have been driving public policy for decades, under the radar and without oversight. According to Justice.org:
ALEC’s campaigns and model legislation have run the gamut of issues, but all have either protected or promoted a corporate revenue stream, often at the expense of consumers. For example, ALEC has worked on behalf of:
- Oil companies to undermine climate change proponents;
- Pharmaceutical manufacturers, arguing that states should be banned from importing prescription drugs;
- Telecom firms to block local authorities from offering cheap or free municipally-owned broadband;
- Insurance companies to prevent state insurance commissioners from requiring insurers to meet strengthened accounting and auditing rules;
- Big banks, recommending that seniors be forced to give up their homes via reverse mortgages in order to receive Medicaid;
- The asbestos industry, trying to shut the courthouse door to Americans suffering from mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases; and,
- Enron to deregulate the utility industries, which eventually caused the U.S. to lose what the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) estimated as $5 trillion in market value.
ALEC-affiliated politicians and corporations are engaging in the undermining of American deomcracy. This has gone on for far too long. So much damage has been done, but your votes and your voice can change this. Take time to educate yourself on how ALEC legislation affects you and your state.
Bill Moyers has a great investigative report on ALEC that’s worth an hour of your time:
Find out who in your state is involved with ALEC.
Find out more about ALEC activities and sponsored legislation.
The Nation sponsored an investigative reporting series to explore the influence of ALEC.