Smart ALEC: The Organization That May Be Helping Corporations Write Legislation for Your State

 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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Who’s Really Writing States’ Legislation? (NPR)

National Chairman Of ALEC Responds To Report (NPR)

Fiercely Pro-Business Group’s Influence On Statehouses Draws Scrutiny (NPR)

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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)

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ALEC Exposed Website (The Center for Media and Democracy)

About Alec Exposed (The Center for Media and Democracy)

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NOTE: I apologize if there is some duplication of information.

46 thoughts on “Smart ALEC: The Organization That May Be Helping Corporations Write Legislation for Your State”

  1. PROGRESSIVE VICTORY: ALEC Ends Its Guns And Voter Suppression Task Force
    By Scott Keyes on Apr 17, 2012
    http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2012/04/17/465775/alec-retreat-non-economic-issues/

    Excerpt:
    In the face of mounting pressure from progressive activists and its own corporate sponsors, the American Legislative Exchange Council, a right-wing group funded by corporations like ExxonMobil and Koch Industries, announced today that it will shut down a task force that deals with “non-economic issues,” like voter suppression efforts and “stand your ground” gun laws. ALEC came under intense scrutiny over the past few weeks after progressive groups like Color of Change began pressuring corporations that fund ALEC to drop their support. The Center for American Progress also released a report highlighting the right-wing group’s role in pushing voter suppression efforts around the country. As a result, 10 companies, including Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, and Kraft, have pulled out from ALEC.

    In response to the exodus of corporate funding, ALEC made the decision today to scale back its operations and focus on “economic” matters. The group released the following statement:

    “We are eliminating the ALEC Public Safety and Elections task force that dealt with non-economic issues, and reinvesting these resources in the task forces that focus on the economy. The remaining budgetary and economic issues will be reassigned.”

    This is a monumental move. The now defunct ALEC task force helped usher countless reactionary laws through state legislatures. Most prominent among these are “stand your ground” gun laws that came to the forefront in Florida after Trayvon Martin’s tragic death, and new voter ID laws that could suppress millions across the country, predominantly poor people and minorities.

  2. Oops: Florida Republican Forgets To Remove ALEC Mission Statement From Boilerplate Anti-Tax Bill
    By Alex Seitz-Wald on Feb 2, 2012
    http://thinkprogress.org/economy/2012/02/02/417488/florida-gop-alec-forget/

    Excerpt:
    Progressives have long tried to expose the influence the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) wields in state house across the country, but one Florida lawmaker is making it too easy.

    Funded almost entirely by large corporations, ALEC produces “model legislation” favorable to industry that state lawmakers can introduce as their own bills. Usually, the legislators tweak the language of the bills to make them state-specific or to obfuscate their origins. Usually, but apparently not always.

    In November, Florida state Rep. Rachel Burgin (R) introduced a resolution (PDF here) that would officially call on the federal government to reduce corporate taxes, but she apparently forgot to remove ALEC’s mission statement from the top of the bill, which she seems to have copied word-for-word from ALEC’s model bill…

  3. The hidden costs of million-dollar donations
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-hidden-costs-of-million-dollar-donations/2011/12/20/gIQAzpC1QP_story.html

    Excerpt:
    Generous philanthropic gifts in public policy areas can come with controversy. The Gates Foundation saw that in November, when it granted more than $375,000 to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). The conservative nonprofit group comprises state legislators and more than 300 corporate members, including individuals from companies such as Exxon Mobil, Wal-Mart and Koch Industries. It’s a small grant for the Gates Foundation, but it targets legislation that can leverage significant public education money.

    ALEC states on its Web site that “the private sector should be an ally rather than an adversary in developing sound public policy” and that its goal is to create “model legislation” that the group’s legislative members can bring into state chambers. The site boasts that nearly 1,000 bills “based at least in part on ALEC Model Legislation” are introduced every year, and “an average of 20 percent become law.”

    The Gates Foundation described the grant to ALEC as geared toward more efficient budget approaches on education and recruiting and retaining teachers. Critics of the grant, and of the ALEC model, say that it amounts to private industry directly crafting public policy.

  4. ALEC Behind Push to Require Climate Denial Instruction in Schools
    Thursday 26 January 2012
    by: Steve Horn, DeSmogBlog | Report
    http://www.truth-out.org/alec-behind-push-require-climate-denial-instruction-schools/1327678212

    Excerpt:
    On January 16, the Los Angeles Times revealed that anti-science bills have been popping up over the past several years in statehouses across the U.S., mandating the teaching of climate change denial or “skepticism” as a credible “theoretical alternative” to human-caused climate change.

    The L.A. Times’ Neela Banerjee explained,

    “Texas and Louisiana have introduced education standards that require educators to teach climate change denial as a valid scientific position. South Dakota and Utah passed resolutions denying climate change. Tennessee and Oklahoma also have introduced legislation to give climate change skeptics a place in the classroom.”

    What the excellent Times coverage missed is that key language in these anti-science bills all eminated from a single source: the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC.

    ALEC Exposed: No, Not Alec Baldwin*

    In summer 2011, “ALEC Exposed,” a project of the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD)**, taught those alarmed about the power that corporations wield in the American political sphere an important lesson: when bills with a similar DNA pop up in various statehouses nationwide, it’s no coincidence.

    Explaining the nature and origins of the project, CMD wrote, “[CMD] unveiled a trove of over 800 ‘model’ bills and resolutions secretly voted on by corporations and politicians through the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). These bills reveal the corporate collaboration reshaping our democracy, state by state.”

    CMD continued, “Before our publication of this trove of bills, it has been difficult to trace the numerous controversial and extreme provisions popping up in legislatures across the country directly to ALEC and its corporate underwriters.”

    CMD explained that ALEC conducts its operations in the most shadowy of manners (emphases mine):

    “Through ALEC, behind closed doors, corporations hand state legislators the changes to the law they desire that directly benefit their bottom line. Along with legislators, corporations have membership inALEC. Corporations sit on all nine ALEC task forces and vote with legislators to approve ‘model’ bills…Corporations fund almost all ofALEC’s operations. Participating legislators, overwhelmingly conservative Republicans, then bring those proposals home and introduce them in statehouses across the land as their own brilliant ideas and important public policy innovations—without disclosing that corporations crafted and voted on the bills.”

    So, what is the name of the “model bill” this time around?

    The Trojan Horse: The “Environmental Literacy Improvement Act”

    The Trojan Horse in this case is an Orwellian titled model bill, the “Environmental Literacy Improvement Act.”[PDF]

    The bill was adopted by ALEC’s Natural Resources Task Force, today known as the Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force, at ALEC’s Spring Task Force Summit on May 5, 2000 — it was then approved by the full ALEC Board of Directors in June of 2000.

  5. New Hampshire State House Introduces a Shocking 7 ALEC Corporate-Written Pieces of Legislation in One Week Alone

    A list of this week’s ALEC model legislation and the New Hampshire politicians who sold out our state to corporation
    http://www.granitestateprogress.org/news/nh-state-house-introduces-a-shocking-7-alec-corporate-written-pieces-of-legislation-in-one-week-alon.html

    Excerpt:
    Monday

    HB 1607 “Education Tax Credit”

    SPONSORS: Rep. Bettencourt, Rock 4; Rep. Hill, Merr 6; Rep. W. Smith, Rock 18; Rep. D. McGuire, Merr 8; Rep. O’Brien, Hills 4; Rep. Tucker, Rock 17; Rep. Bates, Rock 4; Rep. Silva, Hills 26; Rep. Chandler, Carr 1; Sen. Forsythe, Dist 4; Sen. De Blois, Dist 18

    This bill – including SB 372 heard on Tuesday – creates a tax credit for businesses specifically designed to divert funding for public education to private schools. Neither of these bills will save the state or school districts money; rather it is new way to introduce a voucher system that encourages private education over a strong, functioning public education for all New Hampshire children. An online for-profit school company was the corporate sponsor of this bill in 2011.

    Prime Sponsor and New Hampshire House Majority Leader DJ Bettencourt’s testimony in favor of this corporate-written legislation can be found here. Testifying alongside Rep. Bettencourt were Alan Schaeffer of The Alliance for the Separation of School and State – who testified as a small business owner and did not indicate his organizational affiliation – and Adam Schaeffer (no relation) of an ALEC favorite: the Cato Institute.

    Tuesday

    HB 1560 Health Care Compact

    SPONSORS: Rep. Bettencourt, Rock 4; Sen. Morse, Dist 22

    The interstate health care compact would allow states to jointly opt out of all federal health rules, now and in the future. This would include everything from the Affordable Care Act to Medicare and Medicaid. If passed, New Hampshire could drop seniors from Medicare coverage, eliminate our Medicaid and CHIP protections for vulnerable children, end Medicaid-sponsored long-term care services for elders and people with disabilities, terminate protections for children with pre-existing conditions, and stop the enforcement of laws protecting medical privacy. The state would be free to replace any and all of these previous federal programs and protections with risky and/or inadequate state-based schemes or – worse – not replace them at all.

  6. ALEC’s Latest Actions
    Ben Adler on January 29, 2012
    http://www.thenation.com/blog/165932/alecs-latest-actions

    Excerpt:
    The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a conservative organization that has been leading recent coordinated attempts to move state laws rightward, has some busy minions in the New Hampshire state legislature. In the past week, they introduced seven pieces of ALEC’s model legislation.

    These include bills that are plainly counter-productive, such as the “Eliminating Support Services for Newborn Children” Act. According to Granite Progress, “This legislation would eliminate support services for newborn children whose parents are utilizing TANF (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families).” How that will break the cycle of the poverty or give the disadvantaged children of poor people a more fair shot at becoming productive citizens is unclear.

    Some of the other proposals are just doctrinaire right-wing ideology, such as instituting a tax credit to divert money from public education to private school vouchers.

    The farthest-reaching proposal would impede the people of New Hampshire from tossing out the Republican legislative majority that is trying to impose this agenda. That’s a bill to require voters to present photo identification at the polling place. Such laws are designed to combat a non-existent problem of in-person voter impersonation. But they are very effective at disenfranchising poor people, young people and people of color. In other words, it’s a partisan scheme to stop Democrats from voting.

    It’s similar to the South Carolina law that the Department of Justice denied pre-clearance under the Voting Rights Act. New Hampshire is not subject to pre-clearance under the VRA. But New Hampshire is a key swing state. In 2000 Al Gore would have won if he had carried it.

  7. Brendan Fischer: How the ALEC corporate bill mill works
    Madison.com
    http://host.madison.com/news/opinion/column/article_f4e6bc0f-d3d3-5141-ac31-72b82e9c7482.html

    Excerpt:
    Through the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), corporations pay to bring state legislators to one place, sit them down for a sales pitch on policies that benefit the corporate bottom line, then push “model bills” for legislators to make law in their states. Corporations also vote behind closed doors alongside politicians on this wish list legislation through ALEC task forces. Notably absent from the recent ALEC meeting in New Orleans were the real people who would actually be affected by many of those bills and policies.

    With legislators concentrated in one city, lobbyists descend on the conference to wine and dine elected officials after hours, a process simplified by legislators’ schedules being freed from home and family responsibilities. Multiple Wisconsin lobbyists for Koch Industries, the American Bail Coalition, Competitive Wisconsin, State Farm, Pfizer and Wal-Mart were in New Orleans, as were lobbyists for Milwaukee Charter School Advocates, Alliant Energy, and Johnson & Johnson. Corporations also sponsor invite-only events like the Reynolds American tobacco company’s cigar reception, attended by several Wisconsin legislators including Health and Human Services chair Leah Vukmir.

    ALEC’s power lies not only in generating corporate-sponsored “model bills” for state legislators to make law, but in facilitating multiple levels of influence-peddling. ALEC itself has a $7 million budget and 32 staffers. In addition to this budget, ALEC technically acts as an intermediary for about $1 million in travel “scholarships” that pay for many legislators’ trips to ALEC meetings, with corporate funds for the scholarships held in trust by ALEC. With corporate “sponsorship” of ALEC meetings, a couple million dollars flow through ALEC to put on days of workshops, meetings and festivities. (This does not account for the dollars corporations spend for lobbyists to prepare for and meet with ALEC legislators in pursuit of their legislative agenda, nor does it take into account any campaign contributions that might result from the relationships cultivated at ALEC meetings.)

    Which is why ALEC national chair and Louisiana Rep. Noble Ellington told attendees at the beginning of the conference, “When you see a sponsor, thank them” for their generosity and that “without them, we could not come close to doing the things we are about to do.”

    Corporate-sponsored legislation

    The legislative sausage is ground at the task force meetings, where a body of legislators and corporate lobbyists actually vote on proposed model legislation. The meetings were closed to the press and the public. While legislators can bring proposed bills to the meetings, “the majority of proposed model bills I saw came from corporations,” says Jeff Wright, a Florida teacher’s union member who paid to attend the conference to observe ALEC in action. As task force members discussed and voted on proposed legislation, in the sessions Wright observed “the corporations and think tanks absolutely controlled the debate,” he said. This does not mean corporate members always agree — Wright said a Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force meeting included a dispute between online sellers like Amazon and brick-and-mortar retailers like Best Buy about taxing online sales.

    “In order for model legislation to move forward,” says Wisconsin Rep. Mark Pocan, a Democrat who attended the ALEC meeting and wrote about it for The Progressive magazine, “each task force must garner a majority of votes from each HALF. For example, if the legislator half likes an idea, but the corporate half doesn’t, the bill does NOT move forward,” which actually happened in a task force Rep. Pocan attended.

    ALEC spokeswoman Raegan Weber notes that a piece of model legislation passed by the task force still must be approved by the 22-person board of directors, all of whom are legislators (and all of whom are Republicans). Nothing that the legislative board votes on, however, gets to the board unless the corporate wing of each task force has voted in favor of it. The ALECexposed.org site launched by the Center for Media and Democracy in July demonstrates that over 800 bills and resolutions voted for by corporations have been ratified by the ALEC legislators selected for its board. ALEC’s chair, Ellington, told National Public Radio’s Terry Gross that even if the public (and the press) are not allowed inside the task force and board meetings, “We represent the public, and we are the ones who decide. So the tax-paying public is represented there at the table, because I’m there.”

  8. VIDEO: Corporate Lobbyist Concedes He Does Not Always Register As A Lobbyist For ALEC Bills He Helps Write
    By Lee Fang and Scott Keyes on Aug 17, 2011
    Think Progress
    http://thinkprogress.org/politics/2011/08/17/290713/alec-lobbyist-disclosure/

    The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is a nonprofit that touts itself as a “Jeffersonian” limited government organization for state lawmakers. In reality, the group is little more than a sophisticated front group that allows corporate lobbyists — from companies like Peabody Coal, McDonalds, AT&T, and others — to literally write big business-friendly legislation and pass it off to state-level legislators to be eventually introduced and passed into law. As we have reported, health insurance lobbyists drafted ALEC’s anti-health reform legislation, private prison lobbyists drafted ALEC’s harsh immigrant detention policies, and as the NRDC has documented, multitudes of other corporate giveaways have been drafted as ALEC reform legislation.

    Some have challenged the very model of ALEC, claiming that it is designed to skirt state disclosure laws requiring corporate lobbyists to register. A corporate lobbyist can avoid disclosure by simply writing bills via ALEC, at conventions or other meetings with legislators, so when the bill is introduced it no longer has the fingerprints of whatever corporation is employing the lobbyist who wrote the law.

    At ALEC conference in New Orleans earlier this month, we ran into Victor Schwartz, an attorney with the firm Shook Hardy and chair of an ALEC task force (the committees charged with writing draft legislation). Schwartz runs what he calls “the iron triangle” at Shook Hardy, a business practice comprised of litigation, lobbying, and public relations to limit liability for corporations. We asked Schwartz, who has helped pass tort reform laws across the country, at times using the support of ALEC, about the ethics of the ALEC strategy for passing laws without lobbying disclosure:

    FANG: If Representative Joe Schmoe from Nevada meets with you here in New Orleans, gets a great idea from you, you helped him write this law, he goes to his state and introduces it; you’ve never been to Nevada, let’s say, and he introduces that law, the citizens of Nevada don’t know Victor Schwartz helped write that law.

    SCHWARTZ: Well people don’t know who—I’ve worked with Congress every day. No one knows who writes all the laws in Congress.
    FANG: Isn’t that problematic? For the critics of ALEC, that kind of validates their criticism. […] You understand the criticism that ALEC is just a proxy to get around all the disclosure, the transparency that many states require.
    SCHWARTZ: No. Because people, every Dick, Moe, and Joe knows just the way you found me. I co-chair the civil justice task force.

    FANG: Not every Dick and Joe understands ALEC. […]
    SCHWARTZ: If you all think the laws should be changed, then go and change them. I don’t see any hidden thing. […]

    FANG: But ALEC is a very convenient identity. The person could say ‘I’m a Jeffersonian individual liberty, you know conservative, I’m not here representing Phillip Morris or whatever.’ It’s a front, that’s the accusation and you haven’t really deflected that.

    SCHWARTZ: Well all the people, all the people who sponsor ALEC on the webs and everything say these are the people who sponsor and if in my experience when I’ve testified – I don’t do it too much – if someone is there, they will say well Victor is representing ALEC. And everyone knows who sponsors ALEC, General Motors and everything, and they list them.

    Victor Schwartz insisted to us that ALEC is an open organization with nothing to hide. But it’s not clear who exactly is paying Victor Schwartz (or his law firm) to write tort reform laws, or which legislators around the country are busy passing laws written by Schwartz and his committee. Moreover, there is no information about which corporations pay Schwartz or some the other private sector lobbyists helping him craft model legislation.

    According to the Minnesota Independent, ALEC appears to have broken state lobbying laws in Minnesota. The group hosted an event with lobbyists and state GOP lawmakers without registering its agents as lobbyists.

    Although ALEC has been around since the late 70s, only recently has the group gained national attention for its powerful role in setting public policy at the state level. When we tried to attend the ALEC conference, ThinkProgress reporters were violently attacked by security guards who said they were acting on ALEC’s behalf.

  9. INSTITUTE INDEX: Exposing ALEC’s corporate agenda
    Facing South
    http://www.southernstudies.org/2011/08/institute-index-exposing-alecs-corporate-agenda.html

    Excerpt:

    Number of model bills and resolutions crafted by the American Legislative Exchange Council — a nonprofit that promotes state policies advancing conservative causes — that were released last month by the watchdog Center for Media and Democracy: over 800

    Year in which ALEC was founded by a small group of conservative state lawmakers and free-market advocates: 1973

    Number of state legislators that currently belong to the group: about 2,000

    Number of corporations that are members: about 300

    Number of bills based in whole or in part on ALEC model legislation introduced each year in the states: over 1,000

    Approximate percentage of these introduced bills that become law: 20

    Percent of ALEC’s revenues that come from sources other than legislative dues: more than 98

    Range of annual membership fees for corporations: $7,000-$25,000

    Amount ALEC received in direct grants from ExxonMobil from 1998 to 2009: $1.4 million

    Amount ALEC received from foundations connected to the billionaire Koch brothers, financial backers of the Tea Party movement, in 2009 alone: over $200,000

    Amount that ALEC corporate members have contributed to state candidates who were ALEC members since 1990: $12.2 million

    Of that $12.2 million, amount that went to Republicans: $11.9 million

    Total amount that ALEC corporate members have contributed to state-level politics, including candidates, ballot measures and party committees, over the past seven election cycles: $516.2 million

    Rank of Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R), a possible 2012 presidential contender, among ALEC alumni in terms of donations from ALEC corporate members: 1

  10. Experts say ALEC should register as Minnesota lobbyist
    By Jon Collins | 08.12.11
    The Minnesota Independent
    http://minnesotaindependent.com/86093/experts-say-alec-should-register-as-minnesota-lobbyist

    Excerpt:
    The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is a non-profit organization that brings corporations together with state lawmakers to create and advocate for model legislation. Minnesota experts on lobbyist disclosure say ALEC’s activity here requires the group to register as a lobbyist under state law.

    ALEC denies that the organization lobbies state legislators.

    “We’re not lobbyists because we don’t lobby, none of our staff are registered lobbyists,” ALEC spokesperson Raegan Weber told the Minnesota Independent Wednesday. “We take a policy position. Just as most Americans have an opinion on policy, so do we, but we do not do a call to action, according to the IRS there has to be a call to action.”

    Craig Holman, a lobbyist for the open-government group Public Citizen, agreed that the federal lobbying disclosure requirements likely don’t apply to ALEC because the main focus of the organization is on state lawmakers.

    But Holman said that state lobbying disclosure laws — including Minnesota’s, which are some of the toughest — do apply.

    “A model law falls under an exemption, under nearly all lobby laws, as being just an educational guideline that’s widely distributed,” Holman said. “If it stopped there it wouldn’t pass the threshold, but the fact that ALEC then exercises and then does these direct activities to meet with lawmakers in Minnesota and to proselytize this model law and then help them draft it into actual state legislation, that crosses the line.”

    Two Minnesota lawmakers attended a recent ALEC convention in New Orleans. Other members of the state legislature participated in a meeting in St. Paul with ALEC staff on March 4, 2011, where staff presented ALEC policy “recommendations.” Both events are examples of the sort of activity that helps ALEC cross the threshold of the state’s definition of lobbyists.

    Under the state’s definition of a lobbyist, ALEC clearly qualifies, Holman said, and “should register and disclose their penalties and activities in Minnesota.”

    Hamline University School of Business professor David Schultz agreed with Holman’s assessment.

    “There have been, over the years, several groups that have operated nationally that operate in the state of Minnesota, and they somehow think they don’t have to comply with state law when it comes to trying to affect state elections or lobbying the state legislature. They consistently get this wrong,” Schultz told the Minnesota Independent Wednesday. “They’re not breaking any federal laws but they still have to conform with state law and state registration laws.”

    In Minnesota, ALEC’s private sector chair is Comcast lobbyist John Gibbs, according to records from the Center for Media and Democracy and the Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board. Weber said that lobbyists who are also corporate members, or in Gibbs’ case, a private sector chair of the organization, don’t represent ALEC, and that it’s only the ALEC members’ responsibility to register as lobbyists.

  11. The Hidden History of ALEC and Prison Labor
    Mike Elk and Bob Sloan
    The Nation
    August 1, 2011
    http://www.thenation.com/article/162478/hidden-history-alec-and-prison-labor

    (This article is part of a Nation series exposing the American Legislative Exchange Council, in collaboration with the Center For Media and Democracy. John Nichols introduces the series.)

    Excerpt:
    The breaded chicken patty your child bites into at school may have been made by a worker earning twenty cents an hour, not in a faraway country, but by a member of an invisible American workforce: prisoners. At the Union Correctional Facility, a maximum security prison in Florida, inmates from a nearby lower-security prison manufacture tons of processed beef, chicken and pork for Prison Rehabilitative Industries and Diversified Enterprises (PRIDE), a privately held non-profit corporation that operates the state’s forty-one work programs. In addition to processed food, PRIDE’s website reveals an array of products for sale through contracts with private companies, from eyeglasses to office furniture, to be shipped from a distribution center in Florida to businesses across the US. PRIDE boasts that its work programs are “designed to provide vocational training, to improve prison security, to reduce the cost of state government, and to promote the rehabilitation of the state inmates.”

    Although a wide variety of goods have long been produced by state and federal prisoners for the US government—license plates are the classic example, with more recent contracts including everything from guided missile parts to the solar panels powering government buildings—prison labor for the private sector was legally barred for years, to avoid unfair competition with private companies. But this has changed thanks to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), its Prison Industries Act, and a little-known federal program known as PIE (the Prison Industries Enhancement Certification Program). While much has been written about prison labor in the past several years, these forces, which have driven its expansion, remain largely unknown.

    Somewhat more familiar is ALEC’s instrumental role in the explosion of the US prison population in the past few decades. ALEC helped pioneer some of the toughest sentencing laws on the books today, like mandatory minimums for non-violent drug offenders, “three strikes” laws, and “truth in sentencing” laws. In 1995 alone, ALEC’s Truth in Sentencing Act was signed into law in twenty-five states. (Then State Rep. Scott Walker was an ALEC member when he sponsored Wisconsin’s truth-in-sentencing laws and, according to PR Watch, used its statistics to make the case for the law.) More recently, ALEC has proposed innovative “solutions” to the overcrowding it helped create, such as privatizing the parole process through “the proven success of the private bail bond industry,” as it recommended in 2007. (The American Bail Coalition is an executive member of ALEC’s Public Safety and Elections Task Force.) ALEC has also worked to pass state laws to create private for-profit prisons, a boon to two of its major corporate sponsors: Corrections Corporation of America and Geo Group (formerly Wackenhut Corrections), the largest private prison firms in the country. An In These Times investigation last summer revealed that ALEC arranged secret meetings between Arizona’s state legislators and CCA to draft what became SB 1070, Arizona’s notorious immigration law, to keep CCA prisons flush with immigrant detainees. ALEC has proven expertly capable of devising endless ways to help private corporations benefit from the country’s massive prison population.

    That mass incarceration would create a huge captive workforce was anticipated long before the US prison population reached its peak—and at a time when the concept of “rehabilitation” was still considered part of the mission of prisons. First created by Congress in 1979, the PIE program was designed “to encourage states and units of local government to establish employment opportunities for prisoners that approximate private sector work opportunities,” according to PRIDE’s website. The benefits to big corporations were clear—a “readily available workforce” for the private sector and “a cost-effective way to occupy a portion of the ever-growing offender/inmate population” for prison officials—yet from its founding until the mid-1990s, few states participated in the program.

    This started to change in 1993, when Texas State Representative and ALEC member Ray Allen crafted the Texas Prison Industries Act, which aimed to expand the PIE program. After it passed in Texas, Allen advocated that it be duplicated across the country. In 1995, ALEC’s Prison Industries Act was born.

  12. Jailing Undocumented Immigrants Is Big Business
    Huffington Post, 8/15/2011
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/08/14/undocumented-immigrants-prison-business_n_926542.html

    Excerpt:
    The video states that behind the words and laws, there is an alliance of businesses and politicians called the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC. Some of ALEC’s members are both the most ardent proponents of anti-immigration laws and representatives of the industries that will benefit directly from having more people behind bars. At least 12 companies involved in the corrections industry are members of the alliance.

    ALEC was created in 1978 and is headquartered in Washington, D.C. According to the group’s mission statement, it is “a non-profit, private organization dedicated to principles of free markets, limited government, federalism (the proper balance of federal and state government), and individual liberty.” ALEC achieves these aims through a exchange of ideas between state politicians and business leaders, facilitating the legislative process around certain causes dear to the latter. Through one of ALEC’s eight committees, lawyers and business experts actually write laws that are later enacted almost verbatim.

    Each year, ALEC produces approximately 1000 legislative proposals, 20 percent of which eventually become laws, according to the group. The Center for Media and Democracy’s PR Watch reports: “98% of ALEC’s funding comes from corporations like Exxon Mobil, corporate ‘foundations’ like the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation, or trade associations like the pharmaceutical industry’s PhRMA.”

    Cuéntame focuses on ALEC members’ use of political pressure to achieve more restrictive immigration laws, which require longer detentions and a larger number of detainees.

    Some of ALEC’s model bills include the “three Strikes” law, changes in mandatory minimum sentences and “truth-in-sentencing,” which would further eliminate the possibility of parole for many inmates.

    Yet ALEC rejects the idea that it promotes increased construction of private prisons. In a statement last October, the group said, “ALEC’s position on prison overcrowding … is to reduce the non-violent prison population in order to save taxpayer costs.”

    One of the best known legislative members of ALEC is State Senator Russell Pearce, a proponent of Arizona’s very restrictive immigration law, SB 1070. According to an investigation by NPR, Pearce took his version of the legislation to an ALEC meeting, where it was then revised and adapted by members of the corrections industry, obtaining their unqualified support.

    SB 1070 has been imitated by similar laws — some even stricter and more encompassing — in at least five other states. These include HB 56 in Alabama, Utah’s Compact / HB 497, Indiana’s SB 590, Georgia’s HB 87 and South Carolina’s S 20.

    ALEC is now working on a series of laws concerning prisons, including The Housing Out-of-State Prisoners in a Private Prison Act; The Prison Industries Act; The Inmate Labor Disclosure Act; A Resolution on Prison Expenditures; a Model State Bill Prohibiting Wireless Handsets in Prisons; the Targeted Contracting for Certain Correctional Facilities and Services Act; and the Prevention of Illegal Payments to Inmates Incentives Act, details of which are restricted to ALEC members only.

    One of ALEC’s members is Corrections Corporation of America, the country’s largest for-profit prison company, founded in 1983. CCA designs, builds, manages and operates correctional facilities and detention centers on behalf of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the United States Marshal Service in nearly half of all states, according to the company’s

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