A new study details the way ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, is wining and dining conservative legislators while handing them model legislation to cut-and-paste into their bills. The report, ALEC in Michigan, was released last week by Progress Michigan and it looks at the 24-plus members of the highly influential nonprofit and the 20-plus bills that have been introduced in Michigan which have ALEC-like roots. ALEC also has been influential in pushing for corporate-friendly legislation all across the country, with Wisconsin and Arizona being prime examples.
The legislation aims at the end of labor rights. The financial starvation of local and state governments as a way to force consolidation and privatization. Lessened environmental regulations. Less accountability for corporate liability. Corporate control of schools, prisons and other institutions without public input and oversight. Dangerous gun laws. Barriers to voting. Campaign finance laws that give unlimited power to corporate spending.
Zack Pohl, executive director of Progress Michigan, explained the way ALEC works, calling it a “secret bill mill,” and stating that elected officials get to “travel to a big glitzy conference to meet behind closed doors.” There they are given model bills that the organization, made up of the world’s most powerful corporations, would like to see implemented. At ALEC’s conferences and other events, corporate members and legislators mingle, campaign contributions are given by corporations to the legislators, and legislators get the model bills to bring back to their states to introduce.
Researchers were about to identify 24 Michigan lawmakers, all Republican, who are ALEC members. Two of the Representatives listed are also currently being highlighted in the Hungry4Equality movement in the “Equality Rights Hall of Shame,” Tom McMillin (R-Rochester Hills) and Dave Agema (R- Grandville).
The list of bills McMillin has introduced takes up nearly three pages in the ALEC Michigan report. Among them was HR277, which urged the Governor to withdraw Michigan from the Midwestern Greenhouse Gas Reduction Accord (which did not pass), anti-union bills HB5025 (would require annual consent to have union dues deducted from payroll checks), and HB5024 (limitations on picketing). HB 4453 would prohibit government agencies from engaging in commercial activity that involves the construction or rehabilitation of public works infrastructure in competition against private enterprise. The report states that “such legislation forces more tax dollars to be spent on funding private corporations at public expense.”
Agema has six pages in the report, including HB 5221 which requires proof of citizenship to register to vote, HB 4409 which sets a 48-month limit on welfare, and HB 4305 which requires state law enforcement agencies to verify immigration status of all adults they stop, arrest or detain. It requires state agencies to verify immigration status for applications for food assistance, and it would require law enforcement agents to transfer undocumented people to the custody of Federal officials. HB 5522, which did not pass, would have eliminated the minimum wage and HB 4454 would limit unions rights to organize and collectively bargain.
The danger isn’t just the bills themselves. Investigations into ALEC reveal hundreds of model bills designed to move America in a more conservative, corporate-ruled direction, through an ever-growing machine to get their bills passed. Legislators all over the country are pushing for the same conservative bills. According to http://www.ALECExposed.org, “ALEC boasts that it has over 1,000 of these bills introduced by legislative members every year, with one in every five of them enacted into law.”
“The public does not want our public officials to practice their cut-and-paste skills to introduce bad legislation,” Pohl said. He also expressed dismay at those who support this practice, saying it was “hardly what the founding fathers intended.”
There are over 2,000 elected officials who are members of ALEC, and over 300 large corporations including AT&T, AOL, Pfizer, UPS, FedEx, GE, Proctor and Gamble, American Express, Exxon Mobil, Koch Companies, Enron, FrioLay, Phillip Morris, RJ Reynolds, and State Farm Insurance. Of the elected officials, some paid for their membership using money from their tax-payer funded office account. Politicians not listed in the report could still be members without it being public record if they paid for their memberships out of personal funds.
Apart from a detailed 2011 series by The Nation and the release of leaked ALEC documents that are on the ALEC Exposed website http://www.alecexposed.org/wiki/About_ALEC_Exposed, not much public attention was given to the powerful nonprofit which claims not to be involved in lobbying. But the April 2012 shooting death of Trayvon Martin by a neighborhood watchman brought attention to Florida’s “Stand Your Ground Law,” and eventually to ALEC, which created the bill. Over thirty corporations cut ties with ALEC or “temporarily suspended” their membership in the group, including Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Walmart and GM. Pohl is calling on other companies to join in the un-joining, and for politicians to give up their membership as well.
An Executive Summary of the report can be viewed here: http://www.scribd.com/doc/102481652/ALEC-Exposed-in-Michigan-Executive-Summary
The full report may be viewed here: http://www.scribd.com/doc/102566092/Who-is-Writing-Our-Laws-ALEC-Exposed-in-Michigan
Learn more about Progress Michigan at http://progressmichigan.org.
Learn more about ALEC Exposed at http://www.alecexposed.org.
Read the series in The Nation go to http://www.thenation.com/article/161978/alec-exposed#.
For the list of companies who are part of ALEC go to http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=ALEC_Corporations.