Recently, a reader asked me to write something about ALEC–the American Legislative Exchange Council. I didn’t know much about the organization, so I consulted Dr. Google.
Here’s how ALEC’s official site describes the organization:
The American Legislative Exchange Council is America’s largest nonpartisan, voluntary membership organization of state legislators. Comprised of nearly one-quarter of the country’s state legislators, business and thought leaders, think tank scholars and individuals, ALEC provides a unique forum for diverse groups to exchange ideas and develop real, state-based solutions that encourage growth, preserve economic security and protect hardworking taxpayers.
Sounds good. But as it turns out, a wee bit inaccurate. A significant number of ALEC members are not legislators, but corporations, and virtually all of its funding comes from those corporations, whose interests–unsurprisingly– it serves.
ALEC is neither “diverse” or non-partisan. There is one Democrat out of the 104 legislators holding “leadership” positions, and Its website listed speakers at a recent meeting: Mike Huckabee, Scott Walker and Ted Cruz. Other featured speakers at ALEC events have included: Milton Friedman, Newt Gingrich, Dick Cheney, Dan Quayle, George Allen, Jessie Helms, Pete Coors, and Mitch Daniels.
The site listed people to whom ALEC has given awards: Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, George H.W. Bush, Charles and David Koch, Richard de Vos, Tommy Thompson, Gov. John Kasich (currently portrayed as the “moderate” running for President), Gov. Rick Perry, Congressman Mark Foley, and Congressman Billy Tauzin.
So much for diverse opinions…
All that was from ALEC’s own site. Other sources described the organization as a corporate bill mill.
Through ALEC, corporations hand state legislators their wishlists to benefit their bottom line. Corporations fund almost all of ALEC’s operations. They pay for a seat on ALEC task forces where corporate lobbyists and special interest reps vote with elected officials to approve “model” bills. Learn more at the Center for Media and Democracy’s ALECexposed.org, and check out breaking news on our PRWatch.org site.
Heavily funded by the Koch brothers, ALEC’s bills undermine environmental regulations and deny climate change; support school privatization; undercut health care reform; defund unions and limit their political influence; restrain legislatures’ abilities to raise revenue through taxes; mandate strict election laws that disenfranchise voters; increase incarceration to benefit the private prison industry, among many other issues.
The good news is that after the 2010 elections, ALEC’s success in getting GOP legislators to introduce bills written to benefit their corporate members raised the organization’s profile. In the ensuing public outrage, a number of major corporations severed their ties with ALEC. Google, Microsoft, Visa, Merck, General Motors, Walgreens, Amazon, McDonalds, Coca Cola…even Walmart has left. And the exodus continues.
I wonder how many would have left if the organization had remained in the shadows.