Like the Council for National Policy, the CATO Institute, the Heritage Foundation, Americans for Prosperity, American Crossroads and so many, many more – this week’s article by Susan Cardoza is about the American Legislative Council or ALEC. A group that wields great power, wealth and consequent influence in shaping and molding legislation seemingly from behind the scenes that directly impact our lives while driving an uber-conservative agenda that advances theocratic and plutocratic goals.
by Susan Cardoza
If you were to go to the website Alec.org, you would find a benign site that tells you how the group American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) was founded to “advance the Jeffersonian principles of free markets, limited government, federalism, and individual liberty”. They will tell you they do this through a “nonpartisan public-private partnership of America’s state legislators, members of the private sector, the federal government, and general public”. Then they further tell you they are doing this for us by “developing policies that ensure the powers of government are derived from, and assigned to, first the People, then the States, and finally, the Federal Government”. Further they will do this by “enlisting state legislators from all parties and members of the private sector who share ALEC’s mission”.
But wait, I thought this was for we the people but now they tell us only “we the people” who agree with their mission? I wonder what else they are going to do for we the people? Well, they tell us in a further statement: They will “conduct a policy making program that unites members of the public and private sectors in a dynamic partnership to support research, policy development, and dissemination activities”. And according to them, if we trust them, “they will prepare the next generation of political leadership through educational programs that promote the principles of Jeffersonian democracy, which are necessary for a free society”.
Well that sure sounds like a great organization and I am sure that little part about agreeing with their mission is just an oversight, right? I suppose if you were to peruse their site and not dig any further, you could walk away with that impression. The problem comes into play if you do dig further because what you will find out is that ultimately ALEC is looking after Corporations and not we the people, in any respect. They dress it up to lull the public while in the background they work to ensure legislation is geared toward the benefit of Corporations alone. We may realize some crumbs they deign to throw at us, but make no mistake they are in it to win it for themselves and their corporate masters alone.
A quick note for those of you new to this particular area of muckraking: the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is a 501 (c) (3) tax-exempt not-for-profit organization that bills itself as being the nation’s largest “bipartisan” public-private legislative partnership. As such, ALEC consists of more than 2,000 state lawmakers and more than 300 of the nation’s leading corporations, lobby firms and ‘think tanks.’ Some of those leading corporations are: Bayer, Glaxco,Smith.Kline, Centerpoint360, Exxon/Mobil, Phrma, Kraft Foods, Walmart and Koch Enterprises to name a few.
Of course it would be difficult to name them all here, but you get the general idea. To give you a good idea of the stealthness, watch Real Time with Bill Maher and look for a gentleman who appears as guest from time to time named Stephen Moore on the show. Bill introduces him as a senior economics writer for various publications, mainly the WSJ. (The same Wall Street Journal that is owned by Rupert Murdoch of NewsCorp and FOX News). Never once does he say anything about Mr. Moore’s connection to ALEC. I don’t know about you but it makes me question Bill Maher’s due diligence in investigating his guests’ backgrounds and HBO’s decision to hire someone who would portray this gentleman as just another economics scholar, never mentioning his seat on ALEC’s Board of Scholars. But then again, perhaps that is intentional.
So you are probably wondering exactly what it is that ALEC does and I am thrilled to share what I have learned with you. ALEC has members in nearly every state of the union in Congress, State Legislatures, State Assemblies, Governorships, perhaps even in the White House either in the past or currently. That is not to say our current President is aware of it, but it is only a matter of time.
It is hard to determine all the areas they cover but knowing these people are the ones determining legislation in your state and country is chilling enough. You can email your representatives all you want expressing your views on a particular piece of legislation, if it is not in line with ALEC’s mission, your representative is not going to vote for it, especially if they are Republican. This is partisan Caucus voting on steroids.
It could not be clearer that the interest is devoid of any concern for the voters who put them in office, but for the power behind organizations like ALEC. You can see where their mission, not your needs, comes into play because they and their corporate board members have the money, you do not. You will also probably not be too surprised, at this point, to know most members belong to the Republican party. I have found a few Democrats but not nearly enough to consider them truly “bi-partisan”. Understanding that, you have another problem because who do you think they are going to favor in legislation and at the voting booth? You guessed it, Republicans.
So what are some of the legislation they have sponsored and won? Voter ID laws for one and in the mid-term elections of 2010 you could also guess they were behind the majority Tea Party and Republicans gaining control of the House of Representatives. They knew if they won the house and local elections, they would gain the upper hand in re-districting and that is exactly what happened. Remember the Koch brothers are members and it was the Koch brothers who bankrolled the “grassroots” Tea Party Patriots and by association their candidates.
The “Stand Your Ground Law” is another piece of legislation that was sponsored (always in the background) by ALEC. I am sure you have all heard about the tragedy that befell the Martin family in Florida. In case you have not heard, the shooter, George Zimmerman, of Trayvon Martin, a 17 year old high school senior, is claiming he should be protected by Florida’s stand your ground law. In short, he was a self-appointed “neighborhood watchman”, who, despite being advised by 911 not to follow a “person of interest” in his gated community, did so anyway. An altercation occurred and George Zimmerman (the watchman) shot and killed Trayvon Martin claiming the young man accosted him as he was returning to his vehicle. The “Stand Your Ground Law” protects citizens if they need to use deadly force in the process of defending themselves. In short, it makes you or I a vigilante and it may be coming to a state near you thanks to ALEC.
But where does the encouragement of vigilante (in) justice fit into this picture? It is the same old story, the long-standing exploitation of public fears. Republicans have done this again and again. During the Bush administration they even had a color-coded chart to tell us exactly how afraid we should be, red was terrified and green meant to go out shopping. It should come as no surprise that the NRA and ALEC have been allies for a long time as well. Who benefits from lax gun laws? The NRA and the manufacturers and retailers of weapons.
Many ALEC-drafted bills pursue standard conservative goals: union-busting, undermining environmental protection, tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy. ALEC seems, however, to have a special interest in privatization — that is, on turning the provision of public services, from schools to prisons, over to for-profit corporations. And some of the most prominent beneficiaries of privatization, such as the online education company K12 Inc., EdisonLearning and the prison operator Corrections Corporation of America, are, not surprisingly, very much involved with the organization.
What this tells us, is that ALEC’s claim to stand for limited government and free markets is misleading. To a large extent the organization seeks not limited government but privatized government, in which corporations get their profits from taxpayer dollars, dollars steered their way by friendly politicians.
In short, ALEC isn’t so much about promoting free markets as it is about expanding crony capitalism.
And in case you were wondering, the kind of privatization ALEC promotes isn’t in the public interest; instead of success stories, what we are seeing is a series of scandals. Private charter schools take tax money to operate and seldom show increased educational achievement. In fact, EdisonLearning is being funded by the Florida Teacher’s Pension and the funding was done while Jeb Bush, as governor/trustee, agreed to use the funds to help Liberty Partners prop up the company which, in it’s history, has consistently lost money. And like Bain Capitol, Liberty Partners is in the business of LBO’s. If things go wrong again, they will file Bankruptcy again and most in the Pension fund will never know.
There is one thing these people do not like and that is sunlight. No, I do not mean like vampires although you could see them in that light. Sunlight on their organizations means trouble for them, whenever sunlight is brought to bear they need to refute it, if serious enough.
Next week I will cover a new organization you may have heard of, Americans Elect. Of course I will not be covering that organization in quite the way they would want either. They have positioned themselves as a grassroots organization which is implausible. First, of all they were funded with Wall Street assistance and they have hired a CEO from the CFR (Council for Foreign Relations). How can a member of the CFR possibly understand the everyday problems of the 99%? Second, they have positioned a member of ALEC on their rules board. So a member of ALEC is going to judge and make decisions in the nominating and voting rules? You just finished reading this piece, don’t you just wonder how that could possibly go wrong? Would you question their motives? We are.
Admin Note: Susan has articulately informed us about who ALEC is and now we have to take initiative to keep this discussion going. One of the ways to do that is to talk about them until we are sick of saying the name ALEC. There have been many great articles written about this organization, but too many still have no understanding of who they are.
So here at God’s Own Party, we will continue to bring them up and write about them in our effort to get people talking. One way to begin the push back is to find out who your local legislators are that are bought and paid for by ALEC and work to get them out of office.
I will close with this graphic depicting the connections that I introduced Susan’s article with today, courtesy of Hector Salon at the Daily Kos in his article about ALEC…
ARTICLES: Ghostwriting the Law (Mother Jones 2002) - Outing Alec: The most powerful lobby you’ve never heard of. (American Prospect 2002) - ALEC Meets is Match: State Activists Are Learning How To Fight Back Against The Right’s Powerhouse (Nation 2003)- What makes ALEC so Smart (Governing 2003) - Creating a Right-Wing Nation, State by State (Alternet 2005) - Big Political Player you’ve never heard of (Fortune 2011) -The Power Brokers Behind Health Care Repeal Legislation (Wash. Indep. 2010) - ALEC Behind Voter Disenfranchisement Efforts (Campus Progress 2011)
ALEC response to Krugman also ALEC website: http://www.sacbee.com/2012/03/27/4371134/krugman-lobbyists-firearms-and.html
Krugman on ALEC: http://www.alecexposed.org/wiki/ALEC_Exposed