The damage the Heritage Foundation has done at the national level can only be equaled by what the American Legislative Exchange Council has done at the state level. While Conservative activist Paul Weyrich was active in establishing both organizations, the two work very differently. In a sense, ALEC is much more dangerous.
Unlike the Heritage Foundation, ALEC is not a think tank or a lobbying group. It is a council presently made up of 1810 state legislators, 85 members of congress, 14 sitting or former state governors and more than 200 corporations. Republicans make up most of the individuals sitting on the council.
The corporations involved with ALEC sit on nine different task forces and vote with these legislators to approve “model” bills. The bills are then brought back home by the state 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 molded it.
No one can say for sure which law makers are responsible for voting on these model bills. ALEC does not disclose its origins. On top of it all, legislative members frequently deny being influenced by the organization. While these politicians are perfectly fine having corporations dictate their policy, nobody wants to be seen doing it.
All of ALEC’s “model bills” have one thing in common, they all have corporate interests at heart. After all, the corporations are the ones writing them. The list of businesses involved with ALEC are a who’s who of the corporate world. It would be easier to list those who aren’t involved.
The price of admission for legislators into the American Legislative Exchange Council is a whopping $100 per year. Corporate dues can range from $7000 to $25000. However, companies like Koch Industries have given as much as $150,000, all tax deductible. ALEC considers themselves a non-profit organization and is therefore a “charity” in the eyes of the IRS. Just like in our elections, the more influence a company wants, the more money it will give.
If you want examples of the laws ALEC is getting passed, you don’t have to look too far. The infamous “stand your ground” law that has suddenly blanketed half the United States is one such law. Most progressives found out about ALEC’s influence after the tragic shooting death of Trayvon Martin.
As damaging as the stand your ground law has been, it is only the tip of the iceberg. ALEC is not only responsible for the privatization of our prison system, but they are largely responsible for making sure the prisons stay full. SB 1070, the highly controversial anti-immigration bill that passed in Arizona was crafted at an ALEC meeting.
Another example of ALEC’s model bills is the “Animal and Ecological Terrorism Act.” Sounds good on paper doesn’t it? Sounds like they want to protect animals and our environment. Quite the opposite in fact. This bill actually categorizes acts of intimidation and civil disobedience by environmental and animal rights activists as terrorism.
Speaking of the environment, ALEC has not been friendly toward our Mother Earth. ALEC supported efforts by states to withdraw from regional climate change agreements. ALEC has also promoted a model bill that would call on the federal government to approve the Keystone XL Pipeline Project.
If that wasn’t bad enough. The Guardian reported late last year that ALEC seeks to weaken state clean energy regulations and penalize homeowners who install their own solar panels. According to ALEC, they are “free-riders.”
Prior to 2012, ALEC was largely accountable for voter suppression laws in certain states. They backed off due to public outcry, but it seems the Supreme Court picked up where they left off.
The American Legislative Exchange Council is opposed to the individual mandate in Obamacare. They drafted an assortment of model bills designed to block the law’s implementation. It might explain why Medicaid has not been expanded in certain states.
Most of the examples of model legislation I’ve mentioned have been enacted or pushed for fairly recently. According to governing.com, approximately 1,000 bills based on ALEC language is being introduced in state legislatures every year, with about 20% of those bills being enacted. If that’s true, consider ALEC has been around since the mid 1970’s.
No progressive group will ever be able to compete with an organization that contains the likes of Koch Industries, Exxon Mobil, Ford Motors and hundreds of others like them. But all hope is not lost, thanks to organizations like ALEC exposed and Color of Change.
Since 2012, 72 corporations have cut their ties with ALEC, including Coca-Cola, Kraft, Procter & Gamble, McDonald’s and even Walmart. In addition, 77 legislators have left ALEC as well. It appears some companies and politicians fear being associated with far-right government/corporate policies, even if some still support them.
The American Legislative Exchange Council is further evidence that democracy in the United States is slipping away. We have but a few elected officials that govern on behalf of the people that elect them these days.
Politicians use corporate money to get elected. Soon afterwards they sit down with these corporations to figure out how best to serve them. Those meetings take place at the American Legislative Exchange Council.