ALEC stands for the American Legislative Executive Council, but what it really stands for is corporate conservatives corrupting democracy. As I wrote awhile back, ALEC creates turnkey legislation which is then disseminated to elected officials who are also members via their very secretive organization after it has been approved by corporate members. Only, we really never knew who those corporate members were or who the lawmakers were, either.
But now, thanks to someone inside who leaked documents recently, there is much more information, and more to be gleaned. I cannot emphasize enough how important this is. Here are some examples of work (and damage) ALEC has done.
Single Payer Stillbirth - Wendell Potter reports for The Nation:
Reviewing ALEC’s healthcare-related bills and resolutions from the past few years makes it clear that insurers realized early on that the best way to block the profit-threatening provisions of any federal reform would be to attack them at the state level through ALEC. With Democrats in control of both houses of Congress and the White House in 2009, insurers assumed some kind of healthcare reform was inevitable, so they adopted a strategy to shape rather than stop reform.
Earlier in that piece Potter steps through the reasons that single payer wasn't going to be put on the table, but this paragraph right here tells you all you need to know about it: They were one step ahead and had been before any proposals went out on the table. That's also, by the way, how the public option was killed.
There's more, too. They approved legislation for tort reform, block grant funding for Medicaid, and selling insurance across state lines. You recognize these policies as the current conservative platform, I'm sure. However, what's new about this is that the platform was dictated, agreed to, drafted and disseminated by a small group of corporations, right-wing supporting think tanks and their conservative legislative partners and we can finally prove it.
Who are these people?
- Corporations - Here is a list of corporate members of ALEC. They're the same names you see on the top of the Dow and NASDAQ lists, with some exceptions, like Koch Industries. Notable members include Altria (formerly RJR Tobacco), Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) - the private prison operator, DuPont, Exxon-Mobil, McDonalds, Intuit, and Coca-Cola. But they are just a few. I doubt there are many names on the list that aren't recognizable.
- Corporate Trade Groups - Groups like the American Bail Association, American Bankers Association, PhrMA, National Association of Charter School Organizers, and more.
- Non-profit organizations - Those oh-so-nonpartisan groups (yes, that's sarcasm) like The Mackinac Center for Freedom and Democracy (ha!), Goldwater Institute, and Reason Foundation are or have been members. You know, the organizations that write legislation and hand it off to people like Scott Walker to ram through Wisconsin, or who shut down the government like they have in Minnesota (for nearly 2 weeks now).
And now we come to the footsoldiers who actually carry this stuff back to their states like ants swarming a spot of honey on the countertop. John Nichols reports:
“Never has the time been so right,” Louisiana State Representative Noble Ellington told conservative legislators gathered in Washington to plan the radical remaking of policies in the states. It was one month after the 2010 midterm elections. Republicans had grabbed 680 legislative seats and secured a power trifecta—control of both legislative chambers and the governorship—in twenty-one states. Ellington was speaking for hundreds of attendees at a “States and Nation Policy Summit,” featuring GOP stars like Texas Governor Rick Perry, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. Convened by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)—“the nation’s largest, non-partisan, individual public-private membership association of state legislators,” as the spin-savvy group describes itself—the meeting did not intend to draw up an agenda for the upcoming legislative session. That had already been done by ALEC’s elite task forces of lawmakers and corporate representatives. The new legislators were there to grab their weapons: carefully crafted model bills seeking to impose a one-size-fits-all agenda on the states.
Which is, of course, what I wrote about back in February when I put together a list of what those newly-elected conservative governors were doing in their states.
This is why, by the way, idiots like Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann can actually run for office and get serious support. They're just the marionettes behind the real policymakers, just like Governor Bighair in Texas and Governor Gollum in Florida.
The good news
ALECExposed.org has all of the leaked documents posted online. If you have time, grab some and start looking at them. Drop a comment here or by email with anything you might find that's interesting. If you don't have time for that, just go ahead and share that site with everyone you know. If you have media contacts, get their attention and encourage them to explore and report.
Whatever you do, make noise. The only way we are going to resist and marginalize groups like this is to expose them to the sunlight. Consider putting pressure on those corporate members. Corporate PR reps really hate being associated with efforts like this, at least, in public.
We have an opportunity. It's time to use it.
PS. Worthy crowdsource projects: 1) Matching up legislators who sponsored this model legislation to identify them as associated with ALEC; 2) Matching up those legislators' appearances on FOX News
Update: Via AlterNet:
Interestingly, as of May 2010, Wisconsin's long-serving Republican Sen. Scott L. Fitzgerald, now the state's Senate Majority Leader, the man who has led the charge in the Wisconsin state senate against the state's workers on behalf of Governor Scott Walker, was listed as an ALEC State Chairman. This year, ALEC lists Assembly Rep. Robin J. Vos as its Wisconsin State Chairman. Vos is the co-chair of the Wisconsin budget-writing Joint Finance Committee.
Interestingly enough, former Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson, widely known as a major initiator of welfare reform - also known as the wholesale privatization of welfare services -- was a "major force in ALEC's rebirth as a corporate front." In a 2002 piece for The American Prospect, Nick Penniman noted that Thompson once said that, "I always found new ideas and then I'd take them back to Wisconsin, disguise them a little bit, and declare that it's mine."