ALEC——NOT TO BE TRUSTED

No, not Alec Baldwin. Despite his occasional public outbursts, he poses nary a threat to your rights as an American. But ALEC does.

ALEC is the American Legislative Exchange Council. Sounds innocent enough, even boring. But ALEC is out to get you. That is unless you are one of the chosen, which most of us are not.

ALEC operates in an ostensibly open world. It is a coalition of politicians, primarily state legislators, and a broad assortment of conservatives, largely from the corporate community.

Its main purpose appears to be promoting legislation in the various states that favors its decidely conservative philosophy.

ALEC’s mission statement describes the organization’s purpose as the advancement of free-market principles, limited government, federalism, and individual liberty. Among other activities, the group provides a venue for private individuals and corporations to assist politicians in developing what it considers model laws serving the economic and political aims of its members. ALEC also serves as a networking tool among state legislators, allowing them to research the handling and “best practices” of policy in other states.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Legislative_Exchange_Council

However, this agenda, which conceivably would justify far-ranging support from most Americans, in reality, attacks long held ideals for fairness in the workplace, seeks to limit voter participation by segments of society perceived to be antithetical to ALEC’s positions, promotes legislation such as the so-called “Stand Your Ground law” which has become a focus of criticism after the recent murder of Trayvon Martin, and attempts to weaken environmental and consumer protection laws.

Why?

Well ALEC is mostly funded by large corporate interests and is a special pet project of the Koch Brothers.

Despite its enormous impact on state legislatures, ALEC was relatively unknown to the public until the Center for Media and Democracy released a major expose of the group last fall.

While portraying itself as a membership group for conservative legislators, ALEC is in fact largely corporate funded, CMD found — and is a particular favorite of the far-right Koch Brothers.

CMD described how corporations, when they want to change a law, use ALEC to supply state legislators with those legal changes during all-expense paid trips to swank hotels. Then the legislators “bring those proposals home and introduce them in statehouses across the land as their own brilliant ideas and important public policy innovations.”

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/05/american-legislative-exchange-council-coke-pepsi_n_1406016.html?ref=topbar

This expose by the CMD is quite extensive and delves into various aspects of ALEC’s work and details the nature of many of its legislative efforts. The entire report can be accessed here.

http://www.alecexposed.org/wiki/ALEC_Exposed

Over the years, ALEC model legislation has followed two primary bents: those pieces that are ideologically motivated and those that are motivated by profit.

Predictably enough, profit-motivated pieces of model legislation drafted by ALEC member corporations and lobby firms (and/or think tanks funded by corporate interests) have sought four primary ends: a decreased tax burden, deregulation, privatization of public services and tort reform.

The ideologically-driven pieces of ALEC model legislation tend to follow a less cogent pattern. Some of these bills are aimed at limiting reproductive rights for women, while other bills follow a more xenophobic logic– such bills have included model legislation distributed at ALEC events intended to outlaw Sharia law in state court systems, and the ALEC “Voter ID Act,” which critics say is intended to limit the voting rights of minority groups and the poor.

And, occasionally ALEC produces a piece of model legislation that is a hybrid of both the profit and ideological motives. One example of such a product is the “No More Sanctuary Cities for Illegal Immigrants Act,” a piece of model legislation based on a version of Arizona’s controversial anti-illegal immigrant bill, SB 1070. Given the ALEC involvement of for-profit immigrant detention center operators such as Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), Geo Group and Management and Training Corporation, as well as the involvement of immigration reform true believer Kris Kobach (Immigration Law Reform Institute counsel and current Kansas Secretary of State) in the drafting of the Arizona language, this bill was something of a perfect storm.

It appears to be important to ALEC, though, for these legislative movements in various states to not resemble the highly co-ordinated programs they are. In fact, where state law is not strong on public disclosure of what shenanigans lawmakers are up to, when these propositions emerge as actual bills to be debated and voted on, the individual lawmakers are wont to leave the impression they are the ones on alert to problems and brilliant in their conception of solutions.

Regardless of whether you are a citizen whose state legislature is mulling over a packet of particularly disturbing legislation, or an activist concerned with immigrants’ or women’s rights, the overarching problem with ALEC is one of transparency. Simply put, as things stand now, there is no requirement in any state that calls for ALEC members to disclose the true sources of funds they receive through ALEC, or any reliable way of determining whether a piece of legislation introduced in a public body originated with an ALEC private sector member.

Similarly, ALEC has consistently refused to make any full list of its legislative members or private sector members/donors public. Furthermore, ALEC does not make its model legislation available to the general public– which of course is ironic, as the general public has to live with the consequences of this legislative product after it is enacted into law.

(CMD ibid)

The CMD report highlights a number of areas in which legislation has been proposed or even adopted in which we, the people, have had little voice. I will name these areas and give the link to the page where these bills can be found.

Bills on this page limit workers rights and drain labor unions of resources for protecting employees, undermine consumer protections, favor the Wall Street financial agenda, limit the ability to cap exorbitant interest rates on credit cards and big bank fees. The bills and resolutions here also attempt to funnel tax dollars to for-profit corporations through privatization schemes and push the “free trade” agenda that has shipped good-paying American jobs overseas.

http://www.alecexposed.org/wiki/Worker_Rights_and_Consumer_Rights

Through the corporate-funded American Legislative Exchange Council, global corporations and state politicians VOTE BEHIND CLOSED DOORS to change the laws to limit the rights and remedies of Americans injured or killed by corporations. These so-called “model bills” erode the rights of an injured person, or that person’s family, who files a complaint alleging that a corporation caused injury or death and should be held responsible for all the damages its actions caused.

http://www.alecexposed.org/wiki/Tort_Reform,_Corporate_Liability_and_the_Rights_of_Injured_Americans

This page reveals how ALEC bills would privatize public education, crush teacher’s unions, and push American universities to the right. Among other things, these bills make education a private commodity rather than a public good, and reverse America’s modern innovation of promoting learning and civic virtue through public schools staffed with professional teachers for children from all backgrounds.

http://www.alecexposed.org/wiki/Privatizing_Public_Education,_Higher_Ed_Policy,_and_Teachers

The bills on this page reveal how ALEC corporations and their legislative partners would privatize Medicare, deregulate health insurers, protect negligent doctors, and cut holes in the safety net. These anti-patient “model bills” advance the interests of global drug companies and the health insurance industry, while eroding the rights and health of Americans.

http://www.alecexposed.org/wiki/Health,_Pharmaceuticals,_and_Safety_Net_Programs

This page shows how bills pushed by ALEC corporations work to undermine environmental protections, limit the ability of local government to manage land use, and protect corporate polluters. These “model bills” and resolutions thwart efforts to address climate change, streamline siting of nuclear power plants, and oppose efforts to address hazardous coal waste.

http://www.alecexposed.org/wiki/Environment,_Energy,_and_Agriculture

This page shows how ALEC bills or resolutions would disenfranchise Americans and give corporations even more power to use their vast financial resources to influence elections in our democracy. These “model bills” include the infamous “Voter ID” bills pushed through this year by new governors, many of whom have ties to ALEC.

http://www.alecexposed.org/wiki/Democracy,_Voter_Rights,_and_Federal_Power

This page documents how bills pushed by ALEC corporations would create tax giveaways to Big Business, give tax breaks to the richest, and eviscerate state legislatures’ ability to raise revenue through tax increases. These “model bills” and resolutions also push for extending the Bush tax cuts and attempt to use temporary legislative majorities to tie the hands of future majorities to raise taxes to meet citizens’ needs.

http://www.alecexposed.org/wiki/Taxes_and_Budgets

This page documents how bills pushed by ALEC corporations result in taxpayers subsidizing the profits of the private prison industry by putting more people in for-profit prisons and keeping them in jail for longer. The bills also would put more guns on streets and interfere with local law enforcement decisions about how best to interact with immigrant communities.

http://www.alecexposed.org/wiki/Guns,_Prisons,_Crime,_and_Immigration

There is a wealth of information here leaving much to digest. In a follow up I will address a few of these legislative proposals and explain why they are unneeded and damaging to individuals and to our Democracy.

Unfortunately many of these proposals are couched in language or arguments that may be appealing to many, even a majority of people. While in principle, majority rules, there still exists the tyranny of the majority which must always be guarded against.

Hope you come along for part 2.

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Comments

  • Deke  On April 6, 2012 at 10:40 AM

    I think it was the Think Progress website where I read about Coke dropping ALEC. The article quoted a ALEC spokesperson telling NPR that ALEC holds meetings away from the press and prying eyes.
    My concern is ALEC was not elected to do the peoples business, the elected reps were. I would like to see ALEC and other lobbyist banned from writing laws and providing cookie cutter bills. We elected reps to do our work not corporate sills.

  • little_minx  On April 6, 2012 at 11:35 AM

    Heard this on NPR too, Deke. As Justice Louis Brandeis famously said, Sunshine is among the best of disinfectants.

  • little_minx  On April 10, 2012 at 2:35 PM

    Katrina vanden Heuvel proposes ALICE (an anti-Alec counterpart for liberals):
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/deepening-the-progressive-bench/2012/04/09/gIQAQXlp7S_story.html

    • umoc193  On April 10, 2012 at 3:56 PM

      Thanks for the heads up on ALICE. I already posted to FB. I’m working right now on my follow up to this. The problem is there are so many legislative proposals that it is difficult to cull a few to provide the best examples of their danger. In fact, some of them may even be viable and beneficial.

      What do you think about Santorum suspending his campaign?

  • little_minx  On April 10, 2012 at 5:45 PM

    UMOC, I’m trying to repress my immature jokes about Rick pulling out — and clearly not succeeding 😉

    • umoc193  On April 10, 2012 at 11:18 PM

      Repression of that nature is not your strong suit.

      In my FB post I noted that one of the reasons, even if not the main one, for his withdrawal was his daughter’s health. I remarked that no child deserves such problems and no parents deserve having such a child, and I wished them all well. Then I added that Santorum will not be missed as a candidate due to his odd and even dangerous views.

  • little_minx  On April 11, 2012 at 2:30 PM

    Am listening to “Political Junkie” Ken Rudin on NPR’s “Talk of the Nation” this hour. Get the impression it was more the discouraging messages that Santorum received from consultations with politicos this past weekend that made up his mind to (snicker) withdraw.

    After all, Rick’s spent nearly half that poor child’s life trotting all over the nation campaigning, so I don’t believe for one moment that caring about her medical situation can trump his (and Karen’s) overweaning political ambition. I DO feel for poor little Isabella, but regard her parents as exploiting her plight — indeed her mere existence, as I believe most folks would’ve terminated such a doomed pregnancy, whereas the Santora (like Palin with her late-in-life Down Syndrome baby in 2008) are just shameless demagogues trying to sway people’s emotions.

    • umoc193  On April 11, 2012 at 3:52 PM

      I was looking at the timing and perhaps giving Santorum too much credit. But I had thought of how much time he and his wife had to spend apart from the dear child while campaigning. I find it hard to condemn too strongly because a politician’s family always suffers while she/he hits the trail. But, then again, even when not campaigning today’s politicos consume much of their “off” time with fundraising. And that entails even the best family oriented people.

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