The Atlantic Bridge, the British affiliate organization to the American Legislative Exchange Council, is quickly erupting into a scandal that may force the public to scrutinize the practices of both right-wing groups.
The Center for Media and Democracy is joining with more than fifty other organizations to address two critical threats to our democratic system: the distorting effect of money in U.S. elections and the wave of efforts to make it harder for Americans to vote. Under the banner "Money Out, Voters In" the organizations announced that they would be jointly working to mobilize after Election Day to challenge dark money in elections and restore Americans' voting rights.
This week, we report on the most influential corporate-funded political force most Americans have never heard of -- ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council. A national consortium of state politicians and powerful corporations, ALEC presents itself as a "nonpartisan public-private partnership". But behind that mantra lies a vast network of corporate lobbying and political action aimed to increase corporate profits at public expense without public knowledge.
In state houses around the country, hundreds of pieces of boilerplate ALEC legislation are proposed or enacted that would, among other things, dilute collective bargaining rights, make it harder for some Americans to vote, and limit corporate liability for harm caused to consumers -- each accomplished without the public ever knowing who's behind it.
This article defines ALEC and makes suggestions for a progressive counter balance or push back of these extreme right wing ideals.
Progressive States Network's mission is to drive public policy debates and change the political landscape in the United States by focusing on attainable and progressive state level actions. It does this by providing coordinated research support for a network of State legislators, their staffs and constituencies, in order to equip them with coherent logistical and strategic advocacy tools necessary for advancing key progressive economic and social policies. About the Author Return to Table of Contents Nathan Newman, Progressive States Policy Director, is a lawyer and Ph.D. with an extensive history of supporting local policy campaigns, from coalition organizing work to drafting legislation. Previous to coming to Progressive States, he was Associate Counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice, Program Director of NetAction's Consumer Choice Campaign, co-director of the UC-Berkeley Center for Community Economic Research, and a labor and employment lawyer. He received his J.D. from Yale Law School and his Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of California at Berkeley and has written extensively about public policy and the legal system in a range of academic and popular journals.
PFAW Foundation Report: ALEC—The Voice of Corporate Special Interests in State Legislatures
When state legislatures around the country passed virtually identical bills to deregulate specific industries, dismantle unions or award massive tax cuts to corporations, one might wonder if such pro-special interest, pro-corporate legislation originates organically from the people’s elected representatives.
Andrew Ujifusa covers state education policy for Education Week, from new legislation and trends to eye-catching political battles. He previously worked at newspapers in Maryland and Mississippi, and taught high school English in Japan.
A new report by the Sierra Club follows the money trail behind the “attack on renewable energy.” A few of the key points are as follows:
The tremendous growth in clean energy in recent years has made it a threat, and therefore a target, from “oil, coal, and gas interests.” Those interests have launched a coordinated, well-funded, multi-pronged assault at the federal level (e.g., Congressional attacks on the Production Tax Credit, and also harping on the Solyndra non-”scandal”), and also in the states, by groups like the dirty-energy-funded American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which “provide[s] state lawmakers with ‘model legislation’ that will carry out the goals of its corporate members.” Many of the “self-appointed experts” and anti-clean-energy groups “masquerade as think tanks,” maintaining a veneer of impartiality while being funded by oil and gas interests, people like the Koch brothers, etc. (see the graphic above for a schematic of how the money flows). Key “think tanks” involved in the dirty-energy-funded assault on clean energy include the Heartland Institute, Americans for Prosperity, the American Tradition Institute, and many others. In addition, “John Droz Jr. of the American Tradition Institute, Lisa Linowes of the Industrial Wind Action Group, and Robert Bryce of the Manhattan Institute form an eclectic snapshot of the anti-renewable Merchants of Doubt.” “The oil and gas message is now focused on touting the benefits of fossil fuels — including a veritable fountain of cheap natural gas from hydrofracking — while constantly pushing out tired and inaccurate lines about clean energy being too expensive, unworkable because of intermittency, and the like.” The bottom line is that, while clean energy “is truly under siege,” it continues to maintain high approval ratings among the American people. It also ”retains its inherent advantage as the best set of solutions to help us face a warming world and its attendant challenges.”
Opulent chandeliers. A 5 Diamond resort. And corporate lobbyists everywhere. The legislators attending the American Legislative Exchange Council's annual conference in Salt Lake City sure weren't roughing it.
The annual ALEC conference last week at the Grand America Resort in Salt Lake City Utah featured legislators and corporate lobbyists coming together behind closed doors to craft and vote on model legislation to them be introduced in state houses across the country, like Virginia, with no disclosure of from whence it came. The corporate largesse was evident early, with scattered signs thanking (Koch-brothers funded) Americans for Prosperity and the American Insurance Association for providing snacks at the bar. ALEC definitely doesn't miss an opportunity to squeeze corporate sponsors for money.
Representative Tim Scott (R-SC), who was a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) as a state legislator and was voted into Congress in the Tea Party wave of 2010, has been nominated to replace Jim DeMint in the U.S. Senate.
"I was a member of ALEC," Rep. Scott told the right-wing Washington Times earlier this year.
South Carolina Rep. Tim ScottAs a Congressman, Rep. Scott discussed impeaching President Obama over the debt ceiling negotiations and said he believes the federal government should "never" regulate guns "in any way." He has also been described as one of the most anti-union members of Congress, proposing a bill to strip the National Labor Relations Board of its power to limit employers' union-busting activities and co-sponsoring legislation that would kick families off food stamps if one member went on strike.
As the Center for Media and Democracy has documented, ALEC has been a key avenue for the National Rifle Association to advance its pro-gun agenda in the states, and has been a major proponent of anti-union legislation, with Michigan copying ALEC language verbatim for its recently enacted "right to work" laws.
"They were very receptive when I was a member of [ALEC]," Scott told the Washington Times.
When the NRA advocated for more guns in school in a press conference responding to the recent Newtown, Connecticut school shootings today, Color of Change's Rashaad Robinson called it the organization's "latest attempt to profit from tragedy, death and suffering." But, he told The Root, the NRA doesn't do its work alone. He linked the gun rights organization to American Legislative Exchange Council ("ALEC"), which recently lost over 40 member companies because of its role in crafting voter suppression laws, anti-immigration laws like Arizona’s SB 1070.
Despite that setback, Robinson says, ALEC is still "fueled by major corporations has moved NRA's legislation through statehouses around the country."
In an earlier statement, Color of Change said:
ALEC and the NRA create and push laws that make it easy for people to get high-powered assault weapons like the ones used in Newtown and so many of the tragic mass shootings that have plagued our nation. The NRA still plays a key role in crafting ALEC's model gun-access legislation and these laws destroy families and erode public safety, putting us all in harm’s way.
A prominent tax attorney has accused an organization of state lawmakers and corporations officials with improperly claiming nonprofit status, alleging the group’s role is to benefit businesses, the Republican Party, and legislators and not the public.
The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) “elevates commercial gain for a few over the well-being of society’s less fortunate,” says a complaint penned by Marcus Owens, the former chief of the Internal Revenue Service’s nonprofit corporations division, on behalf of Clergy VOICE, a group of ministers from progressive churches in Ohio.
ALEC has attracted attention recently for its model “stand your ground” and voter ID laws which led major corporate backers like Coca Cola and Kraft Foods Inc. to drop their membership in the face of a threatened boycott by activists. The Florida gun law became a hot topic following the slaying of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed teen, by a neighborhood watch volunteer in February.
Until recently, ALEC has enjoyed a low profile, despite its substantial influence over legislation in the nation’s statehouses. The group claims on its website that it has helped craft close to 1,000 bills introduced by state lawmakers and that “an average of 20 percent become law.”
Excerpt from article by PAUL ABOWD, The Center for Pubilc Integrity
Then ALEC announced in April it would shelve the task force that approved controversial voter identification laws and “stand your ground” gun laws that spread quickly in the states. And on April 20 Common Cause submitted awhistleblower complaint to the IRS, claiming ALEC is “a corporate lobbying group masquerading as a charity” that promises its donors a tax deduction.
It could take several years for the IRS to decide whether ALEC is indeed a lobbyist required to register with that label and disclose how much it spends on influencing legislation. But in three states — South Carolina, Indiana and Colorado — it turns out that ALEC has quietly, and by name, been specifically exempted from lobbyist status.
This article was posted pre-Sandy. Wonder if Sandy will change some minds?
In the past year, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has lost over 40 member companies because of its role in crafting voter suppression laws, anti-immigration laws like Arizona’s SB 1070, and other conservative causes. Still, the group continues to be popular among lawmakers in Republican-controlled states. According to a report released Monday, ALEC has even made inroads in Democratic-leaning New Jersey, where Gov. Chris Christie (R) and other New Jersey lawmakers have apparently introduced 22 bills since 2010 based on ALEC model legislation. Christie denied the connection in April, when another report found many similarities between his legislation and ALEC bills. However, records found Christie’s advisers and conservative lawmakers in New Jersey consulted ALEC on key legislation, including:
In primary and general elections in 2012 and recall elections in 2011 and 2012, a total of 117 members and alumni of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) were voted out of office, according to research and analysis by the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD), ColorOfChange, and others.
Five corporations, Deere & Co., MillerCoors, CVS, Hewlett-Packard (HP) and Best Buy, are calling it quits with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), they announced Tuesday.
Michael Keegan, President of People For the American Way Foundation, welcomed the announcement, stating that “ALEC hurts Americans on a daily basis by promoting policies that suppress the vote, hurt working families, attack public education and destroy the environment." Noting that more and more companies are withdrawing their membership to the bill-factory, Keegan says that "ALEC’s ability to push its dangerous agenda through our statehouses diminishes every day."
The Nation's John Nichols has described ALEC as "a critical arm of the right-wing network of policy shops that, with infusions of corporate cash, has evolved to shape American politics."
Other big corporations to have cut their ties to ALEC recently include the Coca-Cola Company, Kraft and Johnson & Johnson, among others.
"We want to thank these companies for making the right decision, and we continue to call on all major corporations to stop funding ALEC given its involvement in voter suppression and its work pushing policies designed to benefit rich and powerful corporations at the expense of people of color, workers, and the environment," said Rashad Robinson, Executive Director of ColorOfChange.org, which has campaigned with the Center for Media and Democracy, Common Cause, People for the American Way, and other groups to urge corporations to end their support of ALEC.