Hot on the heels of my wasted 10 minutes with South Carolina’s governor that I chronicled earlier on these pages, I thought I’d go into more depth about the subject the governor kept ducking, the American Legislative Exchange Council. Please forgive the tiniest bit of duplication from earlier submissions.
Let me emphasize that this corporate-run organization is the most powerful political force in America. They convene several national meetings of legislators and corporate leaders every year. ALEC oft-times picks up the meals and lodging tabs for the more powerful of the state senators and representatives who attend. They also pay mysterious ‘fees’ for vague services under headings like ‘educational’. At the Task Force meetings or summits or whatever they chose to call them, ALEC herds your elected officials, corporate heavyweights and the occasional ‘foundation’ seeking special favors, into little rooms that we used to call back rooms. Together, with no input from constituents, they hammer out the basics of the model legislation that will be taken back to the legislator’s General Assemblies and often voted into law.
ALEC model legislation dominates most state legislatures. Unlike the precious state’s rights whinnys we hear snorted by the right-wing, there is no such thing as an isolated state legislative monolith. There is a collection of states that are under the aegis of a shadow government of the U.S. with arguably more power as a collective entity than the federal government. Think Vatican here. There are individual Catholic churches throughout the world, but the final and definitive word comes from Rome.
ALEC is Rome.
The ALEC corporate roster, always heavily represented at the gatherings just described, is the who’s who of the corporate world. Serving on the ALEC Corporate Board are 2 of the 3 wealthiest publicly traded companies in the world; the wealthiest privately held company in the world, the 3 top health care companies in the U.S. and 4 of the top 10 pharmaceuticals, including number 1 Johnson & Johnson.
With the invaluable aid of ALEC insiders, a brave whistle blower and the extraordinary research of the Center for Media and Democracy, a list of corporations, trade organizations, law firms and non-profits has emerged for your viewing pleasure. Enter alec exposed wiki in your search engine. The first entry will be the comprehensive report that I’ve been referencing. PR Watch, Source Watch and Common Cause are contributors to this exposure as well. You find no end of other investigative sites targeting ALEC on the Internet.
Well over 350 corporations have claimed ALEC membership over the years. Their numbers include the leaders of every business segment; technology, energy, service industries, health care, pharmaceuticals, insurance, education, food and drink, retail, communications– you name the sector and you’ll find Microsoft, Wal-Mart, Exxon-Mobil, Pfizer, Duke Energy, the Koch brothers, AT & T, State Farm – all the big boys, with one hand extended to ALEC and the other in the taxpayer’s pocket.
The non-profits named as members are a joke. You’ll find the most extreme right-wing foundations, think tanks and institutes on the planet…to wit: the American Enterprise Institute, The Heritage Foundation and the Heartland Institute; it is humanly impossible to be more anti-environment than Heartland. Then there’s the Jeb Bush Foundation for Excellence in Education that I’ve already written about. The Cato Institute is also a proud member.
While I’m on the subject of tax reform and crazies, Americans for Tax Reform is another ALEC member. ATR is headed by Grover Norquist, most famous for his quote (paraphrasing, because there are dozens of versions) that he wanted to…”shrink government down to a size where we can drown it in a bathtub.” This guy is a little creepy. Who thinks of drowning anything in a bathtub? And how about the National Taxpayers Union, anther one of those starve government outfits with certified political crazies, Steve Forbes and J. Kenneth Blackwell on their board.
Considering their laughable non-partisan claim, the ALEC non-profit membership nakedly flaunts partisanship with the inclusion of the National Right to Work Committee in their ranks. Then there’s the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change. This climate-denying outfit founded by a father and his two sons actually thinks global warming will be DAMN GOOD for mankind. Private school and voucher interests are well represented and there’s one group that gives certifiable official lie to any claim that ALEC is non-partisan. Get this title – The Republican Legislative Campaign Committee dedicated to electing more Republicans to State Legislatures. Sure, there are a few blue dog dems, but they’re like the poor kid with his nose pressed against the window of a candy store…just a whiff and no more.
The last of the 93 non-profits I’ll talk about is the Family Research Council, a deeply religious Obama and homosexual-hating far right cheerleader for theocratic government. FRC is holding a ‘values voters’ summit in September where they’ll tell the goobers who to vote for. The remainder of the non-profits are equally ‘non-partisan’.
There are also a number of Trade Group members. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce being perhaps the most prominent. There are other heavy hitting trade groups representing health plans, the petroleum industry, nuclear, cable and telecommunications, tort reform, banks & manufacturers, among many other special interests groups. Am I detecting a trend here?
What to do about this power cult? In an upcoming feature, I’ll include an FOIA request I recently made to the representative who serves as one of the state chairpersons for ALEC South Craolina. You can use that as a model to send to whomever holds the same post in your state. The usually secretive ALEC actually lists the names of their state leaders on their website, www.alec.org. When you get to the site, click ‘about’ on the task bar under the name ALEC. At the bottom of that menu, you’ll find the ‘state chairmen’ prompt.
If you get no response from your FOIA, call the local media and your state Democratic Party chairman. Email your friends about ALEC and tell them to email their friends. Drop a line to the “Letter to the Editor’. Tell the local democratic state rep and senator candidates to make it a campaign issue.
A storm of protest is the best way to flush out the stench of this anti-American embarrassment to democracy. Let’s all crank up a citizen Nor’easter and blow this bunch out of our legislatures.