What is ALEC? Corporations are Bypassing Legislative Process and Fast-Tracking Legislation in Every State

“The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public’s money.”— Alexis de Tocqueville
No, really, they actually are buying legislation and bypassing the legislative process.
I write this because I was talking to my friend the other day, and he had no idea what ALEC was, and I realized, well, even though this type of thing is not really my expertise, I have some knowledge of American union history, the history of capitalism, economic theory, social science, human behavior, and American cultural paradigms, and the American citizen should know what ALEC is. Since they just wrapped up their annual meeting in the face of protesting concerned citizens in Utah, it seemed timely.
“The history of the twentieth century was dominated by the struggle against totalitarian systems of state power.  The twenty-first will no doubt be marked by a struggle to curtail excessive corporate power.”  ―  Eric Schlosser, Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal
The American Legislative Exchange Commission is a 98% corporate funded “charity” where corporations, lobbyists, and politicians fast-track bills to benefit corporations. Lobbyists, legislators and industry reps vote as equals on “model” bills that (are finalized by the legislators and) are then presented, pre-packaged, to be voted on during legislative session and passed into law. ALEC says no lobbying takes place during the process because, “laws are not passed, debated or adopted during this process and therefore no lobbying takes place. That process is done at the state legislature.” Yet, the bills themselves are written with the input and wording of corporations and lobbyists…

ALEC says it introduces nearly 1000 bills into statehouses and every year, 20% of which pass into law.

“In short, ALEC is ghostwriting the law for state legislators across the country on behalf of its corporate clients,” says Ray De Lorenzi, communications director for the American Association for Justice. “On the surface, their membership comprises thousands of state legislators from around the country, but in reality ALEC is not serving the state legislators. It’s serving corporate contributors who are giving thousands, if not millions of dollars to gain access to these legislators and distribute legislation they’ve crafted that will push their corporate interests.”

“The real problem is that there’s no transparency around who is drafting what,” said De Lorenzi. “These state legislators are introducing bills, and they’re of course not revealing that it was sponsored by ExxonMobil, Wall Street or a drug company. It looks like the legislator has come up with their own idea, when in fact the same bill has been introduced in dozens of states, all sponsored by that same corporation.”

This cute little cartoon video describes it succinctly:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NXUPDAMc_6o

“I know of no country in which there is so little independence of mind and real freedom of discussion as in America.” — Alexis de Tocqueville

ALEC is basically a way for industry to bypass the legislative process and pass bills that they want to see passed. It’s a way corporations can directly influence law in the name of profit. ALEC’s members are corporations and mostly Republican legislators (104 legislators, 103 are Republican, 1 Democrat). ALEC collects fees from corporations ($7,000 is the lowest fee rate for an individual from a corporation), and nominal fees from legislators ($50) and direct grants from corporations including, $1.4 million from ExxonMobil from 1998-2009.
ALEC has 2,000 legislative members and more than 300 corporate members.

http://alecexposed.org/wiki/What_is_ALEC%3F

“In politics shared hatreds are almost always the basis of friendships.” — Alexis de Tocqueville

What does ALEC want?

“You still could go to some industry or some university or the government and if you could persuade them you had something on the ball—why, then, they might put up the cash after cutting themselves in on just about all of the profits. And, naturally, they’d run the show because it was their money and all you had done was the sweating and the bleeding.” —  Clifford D. Simak,  All the Traps of Earth

ALEC’s agenda is privatizing schools and prisons for profit, stricter voter ID laws so less people can vote, the so-called “stand your ground” laws, business-friendly tort reform, and recent controversial immigration laws.

Some recent legislation:

1. Altria/Philip Morris USA benefits from ALEC’s newest tobacco legislation — an extremely narrow tax break for moist tobacco that would make fruit flavored tobacco products cheaper and more attractive to youngsters.

2. Health insurance companies such as Humana and Golden Rule Insurance (United Healthcare), benefit directly from ALEC model bills, such as the Health Savings Account bill that just passed in Wisconsin.

3. Tobacco firms such as Reynolds and pharmaceutical firms such as Bayer benefit directly from ALEC tort reform measures that make it harder for Americans to sue when injured by dangerous products.

4. Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) benefits directly from the anti-immigrant legislation introduced in Arizona and other states that requires expanded incarceration and housing of immigrants, along with other bills from ALEC’s crime task force. (While CCA has stated that it left ALEC in late 2010 after years of membership on the Criminal Justice Task Force and even co-chairing it, its prison privatization bills remain ALEC “models.”)

5. Connections Academy, a large online education corporation and co-chair of the Education Task Force, benefits from ALEC measures to privatize public education and promote private on-line schools.

The new voter-ID laws are funded and crafted by ALEC, who has a direct financial interest in keeping the disenfranchised off of the voter rolls. When minorities and the poor have an opportunity to vote, it makes it more difficult to pass things like drug laws, the California three-strikes law, undermine unions and employ cheap prison labor, or pass legislation allowing more subsidies or tax breaks for corporations or the prison industrial complex (one of the major supporters and beneficiaries of ALEC vetted legislation).

“Gov. Scott Walker followed up the signing of the state’s voter-ID law with plans to shut down 10 DMV offices in Democratic districts.” –The Root http://www.theroot.com/views/who-alec-and-why-are-they-so-powerful Here is another ALEC bill, the Wisconsin Health Savings Account Bill: http://docs.legis.wisconsin.gov/2011/related/acts/1.pdf which allows the IRS to levy Health Savings Accounts in Wisconsin to pay for back taxes owed.

“I think there are components of ALEC that are worth replicating from a different ideological standpoint,” said Laura Murphy, Director, ACLU Washington Legislative Office, adding that the nonprofit ALEC has a First Amendment right to promote proposals that it wants enacted (even if those proposals infringe on the constitutional rights of individuals). “There’s nothing illegal about pushing out model legislation, and ALEC has done it very effectively and been very well-funded. But progressive forces need to have a counteroffensive.”

That’s right, there is nothing like it and nothing to counter it on behalf of the average citizen except citizen activist groups and public protest.

What does this mean for Alaskans? Alaska has seen a handful of ALEC bills and passed one, and several of our legislators are in the proverbial pockets of ALEC and have spent state funds on dinners, hotel rooms and travel out of state to attend ALEC meetings.

This is an ALEC bill that passed the Alaska State House in 2011:
HB 1 (passed House 4/11/11) “Alaska Health Freedom Act.” Compare to ALEC’s “Freedom of Choice in Health Care Act.

Besides our illustrious Governor, Sean Parnell, Alaska has several ALEC members:
House of Representatives
1. Rep. Wes Keller (R-14), State Chairman, Education Task Force member and attendee at 2011 ALEC Annual Meeting
2. Rep. Anna I. Fairclough (R-27); Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force
3. Rep. Cathy E. Munoz (R-4); Commerce, Insurance and Economic Development Task Force 4. Rep. Bob Lynn (R-31); Public Safety and Elections Task Force
5. Rep. Mia Costello (R-27); Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force
6. Rep. Carl J. Gatto (R-13), ALEC Civil Justice Task Force member, cited ALEC’s “Freedom of Choice in Health Care Act,” when he introduced his “Alaska Health Freedom Act” in 2011

Senate
1. Sen. Catherine A. Giessel (R-P); Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force
2. Sen. Lesil McGuire (R-N); Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force
3. Sen. Fred Dyson (R-I), ALEC Health and Human Services Task Force member , attended 2011 ALEC Annual Meeting
4. Sen. John B. Coghill, Jr. (R-F); International Relations Task Force
5. Sen. Bettye Davis (D-K)

Former Legislators
1.Sen. Robin L. Taylor

From http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Alaska_ALEC_Politicians

Sen. Fred Dyson, R-Eagle River and Rep. Wes Keller, R-Wasilla, attended the Augus, 2011 ALEC conference at the New Orleans Marriott.  Keller, the Alaska state chairman for ALEC, said, “I think it’s a fabulous organization, it has really helped me. ” Incidentally, our state legislators ran up a  2010 travel bill of  $710,300, not including relocation costs and the cost of going to and from sessions. In fall, 2011, Bert Stedman was reimbursed $5,544,  for a conference in Hawaii, an average of $924 a night. Not your average hotel costs, in fact, nearly ten times average. Must be nice… http://www.adn.com/2011/08/21/2025190/legislators-run-up-the-bills-during.html

Alaska is a very small state, with a population of 722,718 at the last census. Even in Alaska ALEC has already been cited as the cause for changes and blocking of legislation. Most of the funders of ALEC are major corporations who do not do business in Alaska. The two exceptions, the Corrections Corporation of America and ExxonMobil seem to be doing just fine here in Alaska without the assistance of, “vetting,” and the model legislation that ALEC propagates in the name of profit.

Allowing state funds to pay for vacations, hotels, food and entertainment in the name of corporate vote buying is certainly not the best allotment of our tax money, but what can we expect from a government run by Sean Parnell, a supporter of ALEC himself, a man who has wasted state funds on much more shady propositions during his brief tenure… like spending millions of dollars in failed lawsuits suing to remove the Critically Endangered Cook Inlet Beluga Whale from the Endangered Species List despite drastically declining numbers and a population that has dwindled to a handful, ostensibly to assist oil and gas exploration companies in the Cook Inlet.

Why should we resist at all? Well, do we value freedom? Do we value education? Do we value democracy? Do we value human rights?Do we value our Constitution? Do we value our health and our communities? Then we really have no choice but to resist.
http://www.alecwc.org/why/

What can we do?
1. Boycott and put pressure on the companies that support and fund ALEC. So far, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Kraft Foods, Walmart, and Intuit have ended their relationships with ALEC thanks to these boycotts. Coca-Cola Co. (the monetary amounts indicate spending each year on vetting through ALEC) $9,390,000 $7,352,795 $3,450,000, Kraft Foods $3,390,000 $3,000,000 $1,450,000, Wal-Mart Stores $7,390,000 $6,160,000 $4,070,000, Intuit Inc. $2,142,000 $2,249,000 $1,589,000.

Organization name is followed by the money they paid for legislation in:  2009  2010  2011 (partial list)
Altria Group $12,770,000 $10,360,000 $5,480,000
American Bail Coalition $0 $80,000 $35,000
AT&T Inc. $14,729,673 $15,395,078 $11,690,000
Bayer AG $8,478,512 $4,903,640 $3,380,000
Diageo PLC $2,250,000 $2,620,000 $1,100,000
Energy Future Holdings Corp. $3,974,014 $4,731,228 $2,770,000
Exxon Mobil $27,430,000 $12,450,000 $6,820,000
GlaxoSmithKline $8,760,000 $6,070,000 $2,650,000
Johnson & Johnson $6,560,000 $6,700,000 $3,106,000
Koch Industries $12,450,000 $8,070,000 $4,060,000
Peabody Energy $5,835,000 $6,591,000 $3,727,000
Pfizer Inc. $25,819,268 $13,380,000 $7,440,000
PhRMA $26,150,520 $21,740,000 $9,290,000
Reed Elsevier Inc. $2,130,000 $1,670,000 $810,000
Reynolds American $4,556,215 $4,323,293 $1,728,305
Salt River Project $1,170,000 $870,000 $370,000
State Farm Insurance $3,420,000 $3,620,000 $1,540,000
United Parcel Service $8,430,526 $5,587,349 $2,642,399

2. Don’t re-elect ALEC legislators.
3. Contact your legislators and express your opinion.
4. Publicly voice your opinion.
5. Address greed.  Greed is an imbalance. It can be addressed with meditation, diet, mindfulness and visualization. We route out the attachments of greed in ourselves and our environments and set an example for those weak minded ones who don’t know any better. Once they see that non-greed is more valuable than greed, and brings much more happiness for self and others, they should change their tunes very quickly.

6. Pray?

As one digs deeper into the national character of the Americans, one sees that they have sought the value of everything in this world only in the answer to this single question: how much money will it bring in?” –Alexis de Tocqueville

I have to ask myself, “how much greed is too much greed? When will the individual learn that greed is not only immoral but blind and tasteless too? We are already seeing the predictable results of this greed, the, “dumbing down of America,” and the celebration of vain mediocrity, greedy self-interest and petty infighting. When will the corporate leaders and those legislators elected by the people, to serve the people, who take corporate money and serve the mindless and sightless greedy corporations, and give the shaft to the very people who elected them, learn how ugly, horribly callous and hatefully inhuman, and disrespectful to basic rights and freedoms of individuals the attachment of avaraciousness has made them? When Americans wake up, and everyone sees that greed breeds ignorance and removes freedom, it will finally carry over to our corporations here in the United States. Open all hearts. Again, the only answer, and it has to happen NOW. 

from: http://www.alecwc.org/2012/07/
http://www.cityweekly.net/utah/blog-25-8024-anti-alec-protest-and-rally-for-public-education-thursday.html

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7 thoughts on “What is ALEC? Corporations are Bypassing Legislative Process and Fast-Tracking Legislation in Every State

  1. Your first de Tocqueville quotation doesn’t apply to the situation you’re describing in this piece. That quotation describes situations in which governments bestow benefits to curry political favor.

    • Thanks Donkey for your kind words. Thanks for reading. Bestowing benefits to curry political favor, yes. Government and industry are not so separate as many believe these days, however. So say what you will, it stands.

  2. That’s the whole point. It won’t make sense until you think about it. You are not supposed to see how money changes hands. But it works like this:
    1. Our Alaskan Legislators spent almost $1,000,000 of our state money last year just to travel to events like ALEC.
    2. ALEC businesses receive big tax breaks, and big monetary benefits as a result of ALEC vetting and their fast-food style pre-packaged legislation.
    3. That government funded underpayment of tax, and modern union-busting tactics and pro-prison, anti-free-thinking and anti-individual agenda removes ALEC company tax burden and burden of responsibility for their actions (be it financial or environmental, etc.), and guess who pays?
    A. Who has to take up the slack and pay more taxes and work longer hours, and pay more for ALEC company products to make up for it?
    B. Who’s labor powers the ALEC member businesses?
    C. Whose labor gives money value?
    D. Whose money is spent on ALEC businesses and their products?
    E. Who suffers as a result from ALEC pro-big business, anti-“little guy” legislation?
    F. Who buys into it? Those who can’t see the connection, and don’t see they’re being bribed with their own tax money and labor.
    4. Here in Alaska, Exxon’s ALEC “donations”appear well spent because most conservatives are industry mouthpieces and are happy to give free advertising to Exxon as often as possibe, ironically, in the name of, “jobs.”
    5. 1 in 5 familes has someone suffering from a chronic health condition or disability, and that unfortunate statistic is even higher in Alaska. This also benefits one of our very few major industries here, the health consortium and Pfizer, PhRMA, Bayer etc.
    6. A huge proportion of our state population has spent time in prisons, and our state coffers and legislators benefit immensely from the industrial-prison complex.
    7. Paying more taxes, not earning much, and not feeling valued for their labor, suffering from ill health is the sad state of the Average Alaskan citizen. Fox News and Rush Limbagh are very popular here. These media outlets (which spew pro-ALEC, anti-environment, anti-woman and anti-smart person hate speech, blaming every individual and lauding these wonderful benefactors like Exxon and the prisons) stir up hatred and enmity. Mindless anger and frustration coupled with a lack of education hurts the ability to learn and see clearly the source of the problem. People like to insult one another rather than discuss things it seems. As a result, the dumbed-down “working stiffs” are even willing to fight for these companies and prisons because they don’t want to lose thieir jobs or see the economy suffer any more.
    Yes, it’s not exactly overt, but when examined, it’s clear. Public money is spent on ALEC events to influence legislation that bribes the public into working for less than they’re worth and quarreling with one another about petty things that are not worth our time, like dogs in a garbage heap.

  3. The public is being bribed (and duped) into accepting something much less than they deserve, and the process is paid for with the public’s money and hard-earned labor. Legislators, and companies who are members of ALEC, benefit by receiving more political power and profit, thereby garnering political favors like donations to re-election campaigns, and anti-environment laws and voter ID laws, and other laws that fit with the Republican/corporate agenda, like HB1, the Alaska Health Freedom Act. This kind of legislation, not crafted for the people or by the people, removes power from the individual and gives it to corporate interests, while kick-backs and perks are given to the legislators; in essence, actually bribing the public with just the promise that the public will receive a portion of the public’s own money and the ability to work at a job in return.

    [Our Congress has a lot of power these days. If you haven’t noticed, the American public did not vote on the recent wars and did not vote for the bailouts — the biggest expenditures of our public money our country has ever made – given (in part) to a banking industry that has proven only that it can fail and lose more money in the future.]

    So, yes Donkey, I actually thought that too originally, and almost didn’t use it. Then I thought about it and realized it fit perfectly. Sometimes cognitive dissonance is good for us. It’s the first step toward free thought and opening the mind. Hopefully we both have actually read Democracy in America by Alexis de Tocqueville. Hopefully more people will.

    To wit, as you must be aware, there are much larger matters here to be concerned with than taking issue with the application or relevance of a quotation. Isn’t nit-picking the use of a quotation just another display of imbalanced American “middling” values, mediocrity and greed that are at the very roots of our current crisis? Isn’t that type of superficially low-academic conversation; and with the presumption of ignorance it implies, a little bit condescending, and just the limited and confining world that de Tocqueville predicted would exist for educated or talented people? We either focus on making money and being greedy or arguing the excruciating details of pointless dogma that most don’t even care to understand. I would appreciate some actual feedback on the piece itself or a real conversation about economics or economic theory or social theory or anything else. Thank you.

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