The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) Versus Democracy

Some of my habitual readers will recall that I’ve mentioned ALEC in some of my past articles. Now that the shroud of darkness is starting to fall around them, I feel it is necessary to continue the onslaught, it is just that important.

If anything good has come out of the unfortunate death of Trayvon Martin, it has to be the unwanted exposure of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). The non-profit conservative organization that wrote Florida’s “Stand your Ground” law.

The Council is made up of a who’s who of right wing conservatism, including: John Boehner, Eric Cantor, Tom DeLay, Donald Rumsfeld, Scott Walker and more. The corporate board includes Koch Industries, AT &T, Wal-Mart, Johnson & Johnson, UPS, etc.

Like I’ve mentioned before, ALEC is not a lobby, nor is it a front group, it is a council made up of 2000 legislators and 300 corporations. The corporations sit on nine different task forces and vote with these legislators to approve “model” bills.

These bills are then brought back home by the legislators and introduced in statehouses across the country. The politicians set up these bills as if it is their own creation and the public remains unaware that corporate interests help to mold it.

Let me give you a couple of examples on how ALEC works:

Prison privatization bills remain ALEC “models” thanks to Corrections Corporation of America’s work on ALEC’s Criminal Justice Task Force. Of course, private prisons rely on prisoners to make a profit, so the Corrections Corporation (ALEC member until 2010) along with Arizona Governor Jan Brewer (another ALEC member) introduced in Arizona and other states a law that requires the expanded incarceration of immigrants.

ALEC adopted model legislation to address the public disclosure of chemicals in the drilling fluids used to extract natural gas through fracking. The ALEC legislation was promoted as a triumph for consumers’ right to know about potential drinking water contaminants. However, there are loopholes in the bill that allow energy companies to withhold the names of certain fluid contents because they are “trade secrets”. The bill was sponsored within ALEC by Exxon Mobil (a fracking company)!

Following the outcry over tragic death of Trayvon Martin, Florida Governor Rick Scott promised to form a task force to investigate the effects of the state’s “Stand Your Ground” law. This “investigative party” was revealed last week and it just so happens that more than half of the task force is comprised of ALEC members

The price for admission into the American Legislative Exchange Council for legislators is a mere $50 a year. Corporate dues range from $7000 to $25000, but companies such as AT&T and Pfizer have given up to $398000, all tax deductable, ALEC is a “charity” after all.

The council announced last week that it would shut down its “Public Safety and Elections task force,” the ALEC task force responsible for writing the “Stand your Ground” law as well as voter suppression laws across the United States.

The decision to shut down the task force was no doubt a response to a dozen corporations leaving ALEC citing the voter suppression laws as their reason. Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Yum Foods, McDonalds and Wendys among others have left. Some ALEC legislators (Senator Chuck Grassley) are actually calling for a boycott of the companies that quit.

Voter suppression aside, ALEC still remains committed through its other eight task forces to a regressive economic agenda that includes union-busting, repealing the minimum wage and of course cutting taxes on the very rich.

The American Legislative Exchange Council is further evidence that the United States has but a few elected officials that govern on behalf of the people that elect them. Instead, what remains are politicians who use corporate money to buy elections and afterwards sit down with them to figure out how best to serve their corporate masters.

People talk about the US becoming a corporate oligarchy or “corporatocracy.” I’d say it looks like they’re already there, thanks in part to colorofchange and ALEC exposed, people are at least starting to wake up, I implore you once again to do the same.

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