The American Legislative Exchange Committee, familiarly known as ALEC, has come in for substantial criticism as its formerly-secretive operations have become more public. Most of those criticisms have focused upon its success in working with Republican legislators to create state-level policies that benefit businesses and corporations–often at the expense of working Americans and the poor.
Formed in 1973, ALEC was virtually invisible until 2011, when media reports on its activities and priorities–reducing regulation and individual and corporate taxation, combating illegal immigration, loosening environmental regulations, tightening voter identification rules, weakening labor unions, and opposing gun control–brought it unwanted attention, and prompted the departure of several corporate members.
The Guardian has recently reported another priority–an accusation that ALEC fosters White Supremacy.
AlEC, the rightwing network that brings conservative lawmakers together with corporate lobbyists to create model legislation that is cloned across the US, has been accused of spreading racist and white supremacist policies targeted at minority communities.
A report published on Tuesday by the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and other advocacy groups charges Alec with propagating white supremacy.
In one of the sharpest criticisms yet levelled at the controversial “bill mill”, the authors warn that “conservative and corporate interests have captured our political process to harness profit, further entrench white supremacy in the law, and target the safety, human rights and self-governance of marginalised communities”
The report came as ALEC was preparing for its four-day Policy Summit in Scottsdale, Arizona. The agenda for that meeting included sessions on several of ALEC’s “core principles” including “election integrity” (more properly called vote suppression), privatization of education and support for homeschooling, and protection for pharmaceutical companies (because Big Pharma needs so much protection….)
The event’s dinner was jointly hosted with the Alliance Defending Freedom, which the Guardian identified as “an anti-LGBT coalition devoted to re-criminalizing homosexuality in the US in the name of Christianity.”
ALEC was also responsible for the passage of 2010 Arizona law SB1070, which initiated what was then the most extreme crackdown on undocumented migrants in the entire country. The measure was patterned after a “model bill” drafted at the ALEC conference the previous year.
The CCR report characterized ALEC as a “shadow state apparatus” in which “private industry seizes control of the authority of the state, writing legislation and public policy for the general public behind the closed doors of a CEO suite,” and it identified four policy interventions that work to advance White Supremacy: “Stand Your Ground” laws (studies show that states having such laws are much more likely than states without them to rule homicides justifiable in cases of white-on-black killings); voter ID laws (overwhelmingly shown to disproportionately disenfranchise minority and poor voters); “critical infrastructure” bills (these bills criminalize efforts to protest contested infrastructure construction like the Dakota Access pipeline); and efforts to ban criticisms of Israel on college campuses.
These positions would be cause for concern coming from any organization, but they are truly dangerous coming from ALEC, because its partnership with state-level Republicans has been both secretive and wildly successful.
Bill Meierling, ALEC’s head of External Relations, boasts that
“Alec is routinely targeted because its member legislators are nearly 300% as effective as any other group of elected officials. In fact, this year, USA Today reported that of 10,000 bills analyzed in state legislatures from 2010-2018, 2,900 were based on Alec model policy and more than 600 became law.”
That’s a statistic that makes the hair on my neck stand up.
22 thoughts on “ALEC Again”
Go back and read the Lewis Powell manifesto written in 1971. In it, he defined specific activities for corporate/banking America executives and investors to literally take over the governing process using vehicles such as ALEC and lots and lots of money.
The Koch brother(s) are, of course, all in on this sort of thing, and have been for decades. Powell’s reward for his “work” in “conservative” politics was a Supreme Court appointment by Nixon…another jewel in our political crown of thorns.
If people want to pursue conspiracies, here’s one that will not only make your neck hair do the mambo, but will lead you straight to Marx’s “Das Kapital” and his even more chilling predictions as to how capitalism will destroy itself and the societies in which it once flourished.
Today’s Republicans are absolutely the perfect foils for ALEC and, much to the surprise of the lobbying industry, they come a lot cheaper than they thought.
ALEC provides a perfect example of the problems associated with “privatization.” But privatizing legislation is even more insidious than privatizing environmental and safety regulations (remember the Volkswagen diesel scandal, and the Boeing 747 Max disasters?)
I see nothing Constitutionally wrong with a private institution or individual writing a proposed bill and lobbying to have it submitted to Congress and subsequently passed. I wish the Democrat Party would do that very thing, and I suspect it has done that very thing.
I do see wrong however in how private institutions lobby for their preferred bills, whether written by Congress, State Legislatures, an outside institution, or even an enemy state. Especially when the private entity writing said bill is so in cahoots with factions of Congress that the work of one is indistinguishable from the work of the other.
A bill is insidious not because of who wrote it but because of its contents.
It always comes back to the same thing. If we want a properly functioning government, we must be a properly functioning electorate. If you have the former without the latter you are just damned lucky. VOTE!
It seems to me that the proponents and supporters of ALEC and similar organizations really understand that their activities are contrary to the best interests of a democracy and as such undermine the foundations of those principles that they claim to support. Has the general population of the US become so thin-skinned and addled that they don’t see through it? It’s frightening to think that we have become such easy and willing targets for the bullshit that these organizations foist upon us.
Maybe I misread your meaning, but it seems as if you contradicted yourself. Besides, we are supposed to elect REPRESENTATIVES to write and legislate bills, not a bunch of billionaire ideologues. When that happens, democracy is replaced by fascism. You do remember how that goes, don’t you?
It’s the Boeing 737 Max that currently suffers from the mismanagement of Boeing’s marketeers, cost accountants and stupid executives. They’re going to pay the most severe penalties of any aircraft manufacturer for taking product decisions away from engineers.
Indiana is one of the top states influenced by ALEC, but look at the Indy Star or their other Gannett newspapers in this state, and you won’t find a word printed about the Koch brothers, ALEC, or the Heartland Institution, or the Heritage Foundation, or CATO Institute.
UnKoch Our Campus has even pointed out the Koch connections to Ball State University, and Michael Hicks, who gets unlimited space in our newspaper to share his Koch branded libertarian economics as Gospel with citizens.
Without checks and balances, we are a flawed democracy.
Furthermore, when the industry uses its influence and money to devise bills that cripple the Working Class in favor of industry, we have become a Fascist country. This requires a considerable amount of propaganda to cover-up, which our industry owned entertainment media complex is more than willing to provide.
The Koch network essentially controls 23-24 state houses (Indiana included) and their congressional representatives. If you want to know why we have a dysfunctional federal government unable to pass anything beneficial to the Working Class, thank the Koch brothers.
It would be helpful if the Democratic National Party worked for the people and democracy, but it does not. It’s a captured institution of Wall Street. So, mostly, we have a choice of unfettered capitalism vs. unrestrained capitalism.
This is why many registered voters stay home on election day, especially in captive states like Indiana. It’s also why the 35 and under crowd supports socialism, and world economic “leaders” are pushing massive corporations to sign the Davos Manifesto before it’s too late.
Indiana’s co-chairs of ALEC are Sen Jim Buck (District 21) and Rep Dave Wolkins (District 18).
ALEC held its Fall meeting in Arizona last week.
For some current info with a list of state politician members of ALEC here is a link:
Is there any shock to this “revelation?” All the GOP conspiracy theorists out there claim, everyone else but them are socialists, that everyone else out there is on the public dole, that everyone else out there is involved in nefarious and unconstitutional shenanigans, but they never realize that the call is coming from inside the house!
During the late 20s and 30s, the Germans had developed a very sophisticated network in the United States called the BUND. When the war started, did they all leave the country? Some were first-generation immigrants, others were born in this country. They took their spy network and ideology, underground. There is a direct correlation between this and the rise of white supremacists in every state of the union.
It’s not only the grunts you see out there shooting up old cars with ungodly amounts of firepower, it’s their in the shadows activity which is extremely powerful. You have to really go back and look at how many American corporations, extremely powerful corporations, were involved, promoted, manufactured for, and agreed with the Adolf Hitler and his Nazi movement.
The correlation between the rise of the Nazi party in Germany and support from the United States is astounding. From eugenics, to racial and ethnic inferiority, and religious involvement in government, all promoted by the Nazis but learned from the United States. The Nazis just organized everything much better, they put a tag on it, they became integrated in American hate groups to work against American government. Besides eugenics, American “Manifest Destiny” was a key I deal adopted by the Nazis. It was called LEIBENSRAUM, the right of the Arians to gain agrarian space at the expense of what they considered the inferior or unhuman races and ethnicities. This was a key tenant, not only in American Manifest Destiny but Nazi-ism.
All this deeply entrenched ideology cannot be rooted out. It is in American genetics. The best anyone could have hoped for, was to keep the genie in the bottle, but, as we can see, they use our own constitutional right of freedom of speech and religion against this government and citizens. My personal opinion is the genie is out of the bottle, and, it’s going to take a lot of bloodletting to put it back in. Although I doubt if it ever will.
ALEC has done a good job in writing up model legislation for Republican politicians who crow that it is their own while waving the flag and putting down liberals as socialists in order to soften public opinion when the resulting bills are leading up for committee hearing, and there appear little countervailing models from underfunded labor unions and liberals to stanch such a well-funded torrent of money and propaganda designed to align public opinion with corporate bottom lines.
It’s working, and as Vern noted here, the infamous Powell memorandum to his friend (a vice president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce) in 1971 opened the door for the formation of such a right wing lobbying group as ALEC a few years later which, when added to the subsequent election of union-hating Reagan in a perfect trifecta marked the beginning of the end of the New Deal, an era where wage increases matched the Dow. Right to work laws then proliferated, and net corporate profits zoomed (along with the Dow) with ALEC tax shielding amendments to the internal revenue code while median wages for minimum wage earners (as adjusted for inflation) have actually gone down, thus leading to a crippling externality to aggregate demand.
So what to do? Elect Democrats to state legislatures, repeal right to work laws, send ALEC’s efforts back to their writers, and in general create a legislative atmosphere more favorable to labor via a doubling of the minimum wage (a wage that hasn’t been increased for a full decade) etc. Can’t be done? That’s what Republicans said when FDR came up with the Wagner Act, the Social Security Act, an end to bank runs, etc. With a drastic change in legislative personnel in state houses around the country, we can match or exceed the success ALEC has enjoyed since 1973 by making this economy work for all of us, not just corporate shareholders and executives. So when do we make our move? Yesterday.
Apparently Lilly Foundation is thick with ALEC Eli Lilly and Company also was third on the top ten federal violation fines list at $1,492 billion dollars. ALEC members pay vastly more fines for these violations than non-ALEC companies. https://www.prwatch.org/news/2017/10/13289/alec-corporate-sponsors-top-nation-lawbreaker-list
ALEC is just a public interest lobbying group which does what public interest lobbying groups all do. They are just better at it.
In the age of Trump, hand-wringing about ALEC seems like worrying about people jaywalking while banks are being robbed.
Since we can’t seem to keep money out of politics, we need to go the full disclosure route. The public should have full access to all financial records and all communications between legislators and lobbying interests. There should be no meetings or calls between legislators and lobbyists unless those meetings are completely recorded and made part of the public record. Any private meetings should result in conspiracy charges for both parties. Any company or organization doing business with the government and/or receiving taxpayer dollars should also be subject to FOIA regulations. Charter schools or schools receiving federal funding directly or in the form of vouchers should be subject to the same reviews and reporting as public schools, including financial audits. Public reporting and adherence to standards should be part of an annual certification process for any private institution receiving public funding. Finally, any organization involved in the promotion of public policy should be subject to FOIA regulation as well. Those organizations should be considered lobbyists even if they do not engage traditional lobbying activities other than promoting public policy. The case can be made for news organizations to be subject to the same FOIA regulations unless they deal strictly with news reporting. Full disclosure may not solve everything, but it will bring more out into the open.
“Most of those criticisms have focused upon its success in working with Republican legislators to create state-level policies that benefit businesses and corporations–often at the expense of working Americans and the poor.”
Paul K. Ogden; businesses and corporations are NOT the public and contrary to Republican beliefs, corporations are NOT people. Citizens United does NOT support or represent the citizens of the United States; it works against 98% of Americans while enriching corporations and the wealthy who now pay a lower tax rate than the poor. Trump and the Republicans, aided by ALEC, while “fostering White Supremacy” has driven our national debt level to over $23 TRILLION while destroying diplomatic relations with our allies of many years and put us in the cross hairs of Russia (as we aid their aggression against our allies) and North Korea who has promised Trump a “Christmas Surprise” if he doesn’t drop the denuclearization demands. We are in greater danger of war than we became on December 7, 1941, because Trump has put us in that position with allies and enemies alike. And now Trump wants the EPA to count our toilet flushes.
ALEC is just like other lobbying groups except what it lobbies for is overthrow of the US Government. Nothing less. The lipstick on that pig of course is that they want to replace government with ALEC. Nothing but good old boys in business suits looking out for the American economy and American investors and American executives and American televangelists and the patriots down at the most successful advertising agency in history, the NRA. And American continued wealth redistribution.
Does America need a functional economy? Of course. Is that all America needs? That wouldn’t even be good for the American economy whose foundation is consumers and workers, not ALEC acolytes.
However it’s just a disguise that is effective enough. The extent of most Americans political thinking is to get up each morning and wonder what threats to comfort will have to be dealt with before bedtime and today most of them begin with the symbol $. I need my job, my spouses job and the income because banks loaned me enough money to be comfortable and that will all go to hell without our jobs. ALEC is therefore my friend. Government which sends us our tax bills regularly must be our enemy.
Americans used to be all about the future. Now we are all about the next debt payment.
ALEC, if nothing else has been very smart about attaching it self to the Reactionary Republican base. ALEC’s Steroid Capitalism of Profit over All, dovetails nicely with the fear of the Reactionary Republican Base of “Big Government”.
The other pillar of the Reactionary Republican Base is the Bible Thumping Evangelicals and Conservative Catholics. This pillar is about Male Authoritarianism and maintaining it’s stranglehold hold on Woman.
Ohio legislator linked to rightwing bill mill despite denying knowledge of it. An Ohio legislator who said he had “no knowledge” of a rightwing Christian bill mill called Project Blitz is, in fact, the co-chair of the state branch of an organization behind the campaign.
The Ohio state representative Timothy Ginter sponsored a bill called the Student Religious Liberties Act. Opponents argued the bill would provide students with a religious exemption to facts, and would frighten teachers and school administrators into including religion in school functions. https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/dec/09/ohio-timothy-ginter-project-blitz
The attempt by some to disengage President Agent Orange from the Right Wing Reactionary Republican Party is bogus. President Agent Orange for his own selfish reasons has seized upon the hot buttons of the Republican Party. President Agent Orange is the Republican Party.
Larry, Paul Ogden, Terry….kudos. There is nothing illegal or unconstitutional here – it is 1st Amendment stuff. Report by media – YES. Be forced to disclose – YES.
There are groups doing similar things on both the left and in the middle. It is nothing new.
Per Peggy – want to stop ALEC’s impact? Vote in servant leaders.
Misread is an understatement. I could care less about who crafts the wording of a bill, and I refuse to go hysterical when someone reports that the words of a bill were written by the Marlboro man while drinking water from a toilet.
What should concern us is the content of a bill and how it garnered the votes to pass, no matter who wrote it.
Paul K Ogden –
I am curious – why did you refer to ALEC as a public interest lobbying group when it is clearly a Corporate Interest lobbying group?
Larry, we pay a lot of money to Congress and their staffs to write our laws. To me them outsourcing the work to the same group that funds their getting the job is a travesty for democracy. Voters are supposed to hire and fire.
We are about to impeach the President for some sort of quid pro quo arrangement with Putin in order to get elected. We certainly don’t need the same with Congress.
It’s in ALEC’s financial interest to propose legislation that protects big pharmaceutical companies like Lilly’s which has been a financial supporter of ALEC for decades.
All things being equal, I would not object to any group proposing legislation, but huge business interests with huge financial resources are writing and proposing legislation to replace democracy with autocratic corporate control to enrich themselves at the expense of the health, safety, education, and incomes of the middle class and the poor.
As the nation discovered in 1929 (and several time since), larger and larger gaps in wealth and power ultimately depress capitalism. The rich, powerful, well-educated folks of corporate America don’t seem to know or learn what’s in their own or the nation’s long-term best interests. They’ve made remarkable progress in gerrymandering state legislative and congressional districts so that middle class and poor folks are denied easy access to registration and voting and protection against the privatizers who endanger health and safety (think Flint), deny access and opportunity to
public school students and the handicapped (think draining public schools to finance discriminatory charter and voucher schools), lower wages and workplace safety (think right-to-work laws and barriers to union organizing) and redress in our courts (think Gorsuch and Kavanaugh).
Treating symptoms is not enough. We must also deal with causes. We need real changes in campaign finance and lobbying laws to at least curb excesses if not to level the playing field. Big money has too big influence.
Lester: Yes they have a perfect right. That does not mean it is the ethically or morally right thing to do. Lilly is a good good example of a corporation doing bad things and trying to make themselves look good by gifting small groups of people in distress while harming the larger public.
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