Submitted by Elaine Magliaro, Guest Blogger
I’ve been gathering information for a couple of weeks for a post about ALEC—the American Legislative Exchange Council—an organization that I had never heard of until earlier this year when I was doing research for some of my previous Turley Blawg posts. I wanted to write up an extensive and cohesive post for you—but I’ll be on my way to the hospital shortly. My daughter is due to deliver my first grandchild—and she wants me with her for the momentous event. I thought I’d provide you with excerpts from a few articles, videos, and links to a number of other articles about ALEC, a behind the scenes organization that helps corporations provide state legislators with model legislation at meetings and conferences that the legislators take back to their states.
Recently, The Nation—in collaboration with the Center for Media and Democracy—did a series of investigative reports and developed a website called ALEC Exposed, which has a wealth of information about ALEC.
From John Nichols’s introduction to the ALEC Exposed reports in The Nation:
Founded in 1973 by Paul Weyrich and other conservative activists frustrated by recent electoral setbacks, ALEC is a critical arm of the right-wing network of policy shops that, with infusions of corporate cash, has evolved to shape American politics. Inspired by Milton Friedman’s call for conservatives to “develop alternatives to existing policies [and] keep them alive and available,” ALEC’s model legislation reflects long-term goals: downsizing government, removing regulations on corporations and making it harder to hold the economically and politically powerful to account. Corporate donors retain veto power over the language, which is developed by the secretive task forces. The task forces cover issues from education to health policy. ALEC’s priorities for the 2011 session included bills to privatize education, break unions, deregulate major industries, pass voter ID laws and more. In states across the country they succeeded, with stacks of new laws signed by GOP governors like Ohio’s John Kasich and Wisconsin’s Scott Walker, both ALEC alums.
From NPR Shaping State Laws With Little Scrutiny byLaura Sullivan
Only 28 people work in ALEC’s dark, quiet headquarters in Washington, D.C. Michael Bowman, senior director of policy, explains that the little-known organization’s staff isn’t writing the bills. The real authors are the group’s members — a mix of state legislators and some of the biggest corporations in the country.
“Most of the bills are written by outside sources and companies, attorneys, [and legislative] counsels,” Bowman says.
Here’s how it works: ALEC is a membership organization. State legislators pay $50 a year to belong. Private corporations can join, too. The tobacco company Reynolds American Inc., Exxon Mobil Corp. and drug-maker Pfizer Inc. are among the members. They pay tens of thousands of dollars a year. Tax records show that corporations collectively pay as much as $6 million a year.
With that money, the 28 people in the ALEC offices throw three annual conferences. The companies get to sit around a table and write “model bills” with the state legislators, who then take them home to their states.
Lisa Graves Comments on Legislation Drafted by Secretive Corporate-Lawmaker Coalition, ALEC (Democracy Now)
Links to all of the ALEC Exposed articles in The Nation:
ALEC Exposed Introduction by John Nichols
ALEC Exposed: Business Domination Inc. by Joel Rogers and Laura Dresser
ALEC Exposed: Sabotaging Healthcare by Wendell Potter (The Nation/Wendell Potter)
ALEC Exposed: The Koch Connection by Lisa Graves
ALEC Exposed: Starving Public Schools byJulie Underwood (The Nation/Common Dreams)
ALEC Exposed: Rigging Elections by John Nichols
From ALEC: The Voice of Corporate Special Interests In State Legislatures (People for the American Way)
Who Founded and Funds ALEC?
The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) was founded in 1973 by Paul Weyrich, who helped build a nationwide right-wing political infrastructure following the reelection of Richard Nixon. In the same year, he helped establish the Heritage Foundation, now one of the most prominent right-wing policy institutes in the country. One year later, Weyrich founded the Committee for the Survival of a Free Congress, the predecessor of the Free Congress Foundation. In 1979, he co-founded and coined the Moral Majority with Jerry Falwell, and in 1981 he helped establish the ultraconservative Council on National Policy.
ALEC’s major funders include Exxon Mobil, the Scaife family (Allegheny Foundation and the Scaife Family Foundation), the Coors family (Castle Rock Foundation), Charles Koch (Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation and the Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation), the Bradley family (The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation) and the Olin family (John M. Olin Foundation). These organizations consistently finance right-wing think tanks and political groups.
From ALEC Bills Expose Corporate Drive to Advance Business Over Public Interest (Common Cause)
“The ALEC documents reveal an organization in which corporate executives sit side-by-side with elected representatives behind closed doors, drafting and then voting as equals on `model’ bills that once approved by ALEC are introduced in legislatures around the country,” Edgar said. “I’m sure millions of voters will be interested to learn that their state senators and representatives are working to enhance the bottom lines of ALEC-connected companies and trade groups, all of which spend millions of dollars annually to bankroll legislative campaigns. Our preliminary analysis indicates companies in ALEC’s leadership put about $330 million into state politics from 2001-10.”
Edgar said ALEC allows firms to play a direct role in writing and advancing legislation that enhances their bottom lines. For example, one member, the Corrections Corporation of America, was part of the drafting process for a “model” immigration law that makes it easier for state and local authorities to lock up suspected illegal immigrants; CCA would house many of those detainees at prisons it runs under contract with state governments.
In other cases, ALEC’s corporate members are lending their support to legislation far removed from their legitimate business interests.
“Consumers, and stockholders, may wonder why part of the money they put into Coca-Cola and its products is being used to push legislation that would give tax subsidies to private schools, or why the proceeds of their purchases from Intuit, a software company, are helping to advance legislation that would block local governments from regulating pesticides, “ Edgar asserted.
From Koch, Exxon Mobil Among Corporations Helping Write State Laws by Alison Fitzgerald (Bloomberg):
Koch Industries Inc. and Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM) are among companies that would benefit from almost identical energy legislation introduced in state capitals from Oregon to New Mexico to New Hampshire — and that’s by design.
The energy companies helped write the legislation at a meeting organized by a group they finance, the American Legislative Exchange Council, a Washington-based policy institute known as ALEC.
The corporations, both ALEC members, took a seat at the legislative drafting table beside elected officials and policy analysts by paying a fee between $3,000 and $10,000, according to documents obtained by Bloomberg News.
The opportunity for corporations to become co-authors of state laws legally through ALEC covers a wide range of issues from energy to taxes to agriculture. The price for participation is an ALEC membership fee of as much as $25,000 — and the few extra thousands to join one of the group’s legislative-writing task forces. Once the “model legislation” is complete, it’s up to ALEC’s legislator members to shepherd it into law.
“This is just another hidden way for corporations to buy their way into the legislative process,” said Bob Edgar, president of Common Cause, a Washington-based group that advocates for limits on money in politics.
ALEC, American Legislative Exchange Council
Lawrence O’Donnell on the buying of democracy by major corporations – The Last Word (May 17th, 2011)
Countdown with Keith Olbermann ALEC & Corporate Influence with John Nichols
Nation Magazine Writer John Nichols Discusses the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)
Secretive organization behind pro-corporate legislation [NBC 7-15-2011]
Paul Weyrich, a fonuder of ALEC on the Goo-Goo Syndrome (proper audio/video synchronization)
ALEC Exposed Website (The Center for Media and Democracy)
About Alec Exposed (The Center for Media and Democracy)
NOTE: I apologize if there is some duplication of information.