In a stunning press release “Embracing Our Jeffersonian Principles and Transparency… we are disclosing donor and membership lists and legislation models”… well, not quite.
This ANALYSIS is on the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) reaction to public scrutiny and exposure and building pressures about public awareness of their true nature. ALEC which was been described as the “most powerful lobbyist no one has ever heard of” that is “ghostwriting the law” for American corporations and associations, has issued another press release responding to a number of blogs, articles and reports on ALEC, it’s roots and funders, and current events in Wisconsin and elsewhere. All Americans should be concerned about ALEC subversion of basic democratic principles through activities producing content for bills and draft legislation, and influencing hundreds of elected officials in multiple states across the Country.
"I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations, which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength and bid defiance to the laws of our country."
- Thomas Jefferson in a letter to his friend George Logan, 1816
Our ‘moneyed corporations’ are writing our Nation’s laws. The advent of ALEC appears to be one of the most serious challenges to citizen driven democracy in US history, while only part of a national strategy or movement, ALEC is providing the content and materials for the execution of shaping America into something other than democracy, or even traditional capitalism, into something new.
ALEC is the execution arm of a conservative ‘industry’ or the conservative political power-for-profit environment (some call this the “vast ring wing conspiracy”) created and funded by mega-wealthy ideologues, right wing organizations, and finds it roots in the Council for National Policy and the Heritage Foundation, with which it is associated. Leaders in the GOP and conservative moment have been working on a stated national strategy to take their ‘revolution’ to the States.
While awareness of ALEC is starting to grow and action plans are starting to emerge, we will continue down our original path tracking ALEC through recent events.
This is a Line-by-Line examination of the ALEC’s most recent press release with related information and links for the informed reader.
Analysis continues below the fold….
Dedicated to those that have joined together to take on exposing ALEC’s recent activities to the American public in this State-by-State fight racking up many sleepless nights… Thank You, and see you in Cincinnati April 28, 2011.
NOTE: This analysis is written for individuals that already have an idea what ALEC is and what they having been doing in State Houses across the country and not meant to be a comprehensive description of ALEC operations and relationships.
If you have never heard of ALEC, or only in passing, we would suggest these reports and articles on ALEC prior to current events in Wisconsin (below), Michigan and Ohio and other states. Or just Google “American Legislative Exchange Council”.
ARTICLES: Ghostwriting the Law (Mother Jones 2002) - Outing Alec: The most powerful lobby you've never heard of. (American Prospect 2002) - ALEC Meets is Match: State Activists Are Learning How To Fight Back Against The Right's Powerhouse (Nation 2003) - What makes ALEC so Smart (Governing 2003) - Creating a Right-Wing Nation, State by State (Alternet 2005) - Big Political Player you’ve never heard of (Fortune 2011) - The Power Brokers Behind Health Care Repeal Legislation (Wash. Indep. 2010) - ALEC Behind Voter Disenfranchisement Efforts (Campus Progress 2011)
Recent unrest in Wisconsin led to investigations that revealed that the billionaire Koch Brothers funded Heritage associated organizations such as Americans for Prosperity tied to localized Tea Party Movements, ALEC, and state-level Heritage affiliated conservative think tanks were behind the dozens of law focused on eliminating political opposition by anti-collective bargaining (union) and privatization and corporate special interest ‘loop holes’ inserted into legislation in WI.
ALEC creates ‘model’ or ‘template’ legislation and support materials which have been demonstrated to be in the driving force of dozens, perhaps now hundreds, of bills being introduced this political cycle. While ALEC has been in existence for decades, the efficiency and pace with which ALEC is now operating is alarming even the most experienced ALEC watchers.
ALEC is part of a SYSTEM and a well-developed PROCESS funded and supported by hundreds of corporations and business associations for the shaping of legislation on a multitude of issues in State Legislatures across the Nation. ALEC’s descriptions of it’s self are as a ‘bipartisan’ ‘educational’ ‘non-profit’ ‘charity’ or professional ‘association’ for State Legislators of “like minds”. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The facts are that ALEC is 99% funded by corporations and lobbies, has 45% of its membership in the ‘private sector’ and mounting evidence shows ALEC ‘model’ legislation has been, and continues to be adopted in Republican controlled States, pushing an agenda only their board members and funders know.
Right Wing Watch has one of the better descriptions of ALEC’s core objectives:
"…challenging government restrictions on corporate pollution, limiting government regulations of commerce, privatizing public services, and representing the interests of the corporations that make up its supporters."
A growing pile of data points, facts and observations about ALEC have been bubbling up across an increasing broader spectrum of media and information networks.
In reaction to this scrutiny, ALEC issued the follow Press Release “Setting the record Straight – Much ado about nothing” on March 30, 2011 (Short & Full Versions - Released Version - Web Site Version).
This ANALYSIS is a line-by-line examination of that Press Release.
TITLE: Setting the record Straight – Much ado about nothing
AUTHOR: By Ms. Raegan Weber, ALEC
Ms. Weber is the senior director for public affairs at ALEC. She has been a professional communicator for nearly 14 years and was a public employee in the State of Georgia and in the federal government with the George W. Bush Administration.
From “Behind The Scenes at Pfizer Animal Health” August 13, 2007:
How many companies allow journalists to go behind the scenes and see the whole process of how a product is conceived and brought to market? Not many but that’s what Pfizer Animal Health did last week. (break)
The coordinator for our event was Raegan Weber, Pfizer Marketing Communications Manager (pictured). Raegan was very helpful and agreed to let me do an interview while we were on tour to discuss why Pfizer did this and what they hoped to gain by it. I think you’ll be interested to hear her perspective and especially what it takes to make an event like this happen. As you can imagine security was a major concern and I think Pfizer handled it very well.
Press Release verifying Weber was working in Georgia in the Direct (State) Senate Press Office in August 2008.
One thing ALEC claims is that they are a non-profit 'charity' educational only organization that does not ‘lobby’. From “Opponents attack health care reform one year later” March 23, 2011 in Illinois media quoting Weber:
The American Legislative Exchange Council, also known as ALEC, took its campaign against health care reform to Twitter on Wednesday. Spokeswoman Raegan Weber said 43 states have introduced legislation to allow for legal challenges to parts of the law, including the requirement to buy health insurance.
"We are tweeting messages on the successes of the states and pushing back against the unconstitutional federal mandate, as well as the damaging effects of the Obamacare legislation on the states," Weber said.
‘Tweeting’ or ‘pushing’ or ‘campaigning’ or “whatever-they-do-that-is-not-lobbying-or-writing-legislation” what’s the big deal about that?
We are not trying to pick on Ms. Weber here, who certainly is making a lot more that those over paid public sector workers (ALEC salaries are not part of their concept of transparency evidently), the road to personal enlightenment is a personal choice, but are showing these to make a point.
The biography of Weber shows a very common pattern found in the biographies of many of the couple dozen staffers directly employed by ALEC. Most have both significant corporate business experience in a variety of industries, and state legislative work experience. Many have also time early on as interns or staffers in Republican organizations or directly at the Heritage Foundation, or one of many of the state-level conservative think tanks and conservative colleges with close relationships to Heritage. Tracking biographies, publications and personal timelines is difficult, particularly in many cases papers and reports are ‘coauthored’ by ALEC and a third party or organization such as the Tax Foundation and the State Policy Network, or other issue focused organizations, and still others come form a long list of foundations primarily controlled by mega-wealth conservatives and families like the Koch brothers, DeVos/Prince, Coors, Olin and Saife.
“An aristocracy of wealth is of more harm and danger than benefit to society”
- Thomas Jefferson in his autobiography, 1821
At the board room level, most ‘private sector’ board members have past ties, affiliation or work experience at one or more of the network of CNP and Heritage related organizations (see chart above), or from a even longer list of major US and foreign corporations.
In this Press Release done by Weber, we see the influence of the Healthcare and Pharmaceutical industries on repealing recent national health care legislation “ALEC Applauds Repeal of ObamaCare and Provides a ‘Repeal Blueprint’ for State Legislators” January 19, 2011:
“ALEC has played a key role in galvanizing state pushback against ObamaCare. In 2010, legislators in 42 states have introduced or announced their intention to introduce ALEC's Freedom of Choice in Health Care Act, model legislation mirrored on Arizona Proposition 101 and designed to block an individual mandate…”
Shows direct introduction of ALEC content, written by corporate interests, in multiple states, and often these national lightening rod issues are merely a vehicle to more complete legislative ‘cocktails’ introduced into States on a much broader range of issues and corporate objectives, in some cases for just one or two ‘donors’ or companies.
But let’s not get sidetracked, back to the Press Release in question.
The INTRODUCTORY paragraph of the ALEC PRESS RELEASE:
(EMAILWIRE.COM, March 30, 2011 ) Washington, D.C. (Mar. 30, 2011) - Over the past several weeks, there has been great speculation, poor reporting, and gross misrepresentation of the American Legislative Exchange Council’s (ALEC) positions on pension reform and collective bargaining. The erroneous claims have traveled through the blogosphere and grabbed the attention of mainstream media. Unfortunately, due to little or no fact-checking, ALEC’s positions and activities have been misreported. ALEC is setting the record straight.
The initial source of the attention that ALEC is now receiving started with the fact that the Koch brothers were financing ALEC and Americans for Prosperity in Wisconsin. The fact that special favors were inserted into Wisconsin legislation allowing for the no-bid acquisition of Wisconsin public assets is what got many investigators ranging from multiple WI news teams, to bloggers and some more national media.
The mainstream media (MSM) for the most part has NOT covered the ALEC story in any depth, in fact many stories have carefully skirted mentioning ALEC at all, including the Wall Street Journal and New York Times which did stories on the request of WI professor Dr. Bill Cronon’s email after just one blog entry on ALEC. They never mentioned ‘why’ the WI GOP was after Cronon.
More on this as we continue… to ‘set the record straight’.
With more than 2,000 members, ALEC is the nation's largest, non-partisan, individual public-private membership association of state legislators. ALEC’s legislative members are comprised of both Democrats and Republicans who share the same ideals.
By ALEC’s own statements “45%” of ALEC members are ‘private sector’ members, and ‘public sector’ members, who pay minimal annual dues are only 1% of ALEC
revenue 'donations' of their $7 Million budget, all paid for 'donated' by major US corporations, and the mega-rich like the Koch brothers.
ALEC claims to be ‘bipartisan’ with both “Democrats and Republicans who share the same ideals”, however they will not provide any membership lists or data on this. In the past 85-90% are Republican in a count from 2002 and its’ now 95% or more Republican these days from the limited records currently available.
Often times looking through the history ALEC, if a Democrat appears, they are often already out of office and serve on the ALEC Board, where they like to have a token Democrat, presumably joining ALEC by the lure of big salaries and future ‘private’ opportunities.
If they made the membership lists public and that is for both the state legislators, alumni AND private corporate members, which they have refused on numerous occasions according to news reports and investigations, this could be put to rest.
“Enough wealthy men will find their way into every branch of the legislature to protect themselves.”
- Thomas Jefferson in a letter to John Adams 1813
“Sharing the same ideals” is one thing, a lot of organizations do that, the issue with ALEC is that their ‘model’ legislation content has been identified in multiple Republican controlled states on multiple issues on a scale never seem before, some are calling it a ‘national GOP strategy’ in at least 19 State Houses or more, across the entire County.
In one case in Kansas, the ‘cut and paste’ of ALEC content was so clear the vote on the bill was delayed while changes were made to the language to remove ALEC slogan’s and descriptions.
ALEC does not coordinate with any political party. ALEC is a state legislative organization with the goal of promoting Thomas Jefferson’s principles of limited government, free markets, and federalism through sound policy solutions. This goal is shared by like-minded lawmakers across the United States.
“ALEC does not coordinate with any political party” – This is just nonsensical, by ALEC’s own admission over ‘100 legislators’ that are members of ALEC hold ‘leadership positions’ in State Legislators in just about every state. In many Republican controlled States, as we discovered in Michigan, ALEC members ARE the party.
“ALEC is a state legislative organization” is at the core of what no doubt will even come as a surprise to many of ALEC’s state legislator members, who think ALEC is just a ‘professional association’ for legislators. ALEC is nearly entirely funded by the private sector, events, materials and services are paid for by that funding. Only 1.3% is from these state legislators, and according to ALEC own statements the nine (now ten – they added “Federal Relations” which claims to have over 300 former state politicians that are now in the US Legislative Branch) task forces are comprised of both ‘public’ and ‘private; members and are chaired by both ‘public’ and ‘private’ sector executives.
From one investigator into ALEC, and that of the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) which is also associated with the Heritage Foundation, also ALEC’s mother ship, activities in education related legislation:
“Through the work of numerous organizations such as ALEC and NCSL the plan is to STANDARDIZE all states through legislation –– interlocking laws which are aligned: the federal, to the state, to the local level. ALEC and NCSL work harmoniously to effect ‘necessary’ change.”
As for ‘Jeffersonian principals’ that’s just more flim-flam, but what might Jefferson have to say about outfits like ALEC?
"I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations, which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength and bid defiance to the laws of our country."
- Thomas Jefferson, 1816
They are crushing us alright. We as a Nation are right there, if not past, what Jefferson likely never could have imagined a new form of Corporate America similar in so many ways to the pre-revolutionary France he described so often in detail in discussion of the issues of excessive wealth in the hands of the few. The writing of law by corporations on a scale so large and pervasive it is impossible to miss once one knows it’s there.
Would Jefferson be one of the radicals outside a corporate headquarters with a bullhorn in his hand? Probably, most likely it would be a major bank.
"If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their money, first by inflation and then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around them, will deprive the people of their property until their children will wake up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered."
- Thomas Jefferson, 1812
They have causes our Country any trouble have they? The crash was terrorists, the latest myth. Back to ALEC a ‘Jeffersonian’ nightmare…
ALEC provides an opportunity for its members to learn from each other and policy experts representing a variety of issue areas affecting our citizens and our economy. This interaction enables legislators to learn best practices and successes from other states.
Nobody really has a problem with State Legislators getting together and exchanging ideas on improving government. The problem is when that is done in forums and events, attended with travel and expense ‘scholarships’ to elected public officials, 99% sponsored with funding from corporations, conservative foundations and organizations with focused for profit and political power objectives.
The term ‘best practices’ comes from the business world and is associated with benchmarking processes and analysis, as is (or was?) the case with new Republican Governor, self-proclaimed ‘moderate’, Rick Snyder. Within ALEC reports one will find a number of state ‘rankings’ not based on commonly accepted benchmarking practices or statistical analysis tools, but on weighed ‘indexes’ or ‘report cards’. These reports, which do not, as a rule, including any of the hard data or analysis included in their content but just the ‘results’, index States on a range of topics as government efficiency, regulation, education, environment and the recently popular business environment. These rankings, once one examines the content, are based largely on ‘subjective’ or ‘overly simplified’ measurements such as ‘per capita’ this and that, designed to show target states lagging in the rankings. There is seldom any peer review, as in scientific or academic papers, and if there is any references list they tend to be ‘circular’ (see below).
Legislators present, suggest and debate sound policies, which may be adopted as ALEC model legislation. Legislators should have the best information possible when making policy decisions.
There are debates at ALEC conferences and events, there are numerous videos available on these discussions, what is hidden from the public eye are the task force meetings and session in which ‘model’ legislation is work out, ‘voted’ on and finalized.
As for ‘best information’, ALEC distributes and ‘sells’ their content and reports that have no peer review or fact checking by scholars or third parties. The references they cite are usually circular in nature, linking back to other Heritage Foundation associated organizations and state level think tanks, the origins of their data could best be described as ‘cherry-picked’ to prove whatever outcome they are interested in promoting to get satisfaction from corporate members that pay all their bills.
Our policies and initiatives are public and we are proud to support our legislators as they carry out ALEC principles. The complexity and diversity of ALEC’s public and private sector members logically suggest that there are differing opinions on almost every policy position.
ALEC legislation ‘models’ are NOT PUBLIC and they guard them well. Although there is occasionally a misstep and models are posted publicly, no source has yet been identified that has a set of actual ALEC models (if you do post them up) outside of ALEC.
‘Differing opinions’ may exist within the ALEC communities, both public and private memberships, however, in the end designated ‘models’ are approved by ALEC through a process that creates a united position of its legislative members presumably supporting corporate objectives of their ‘private’ membership.
ALEC is also pleased to provide an environment of education to help them find sensible policy solutions to today’s complex issues.
“Environment of Education” - This is the key phase that the 501(3)(C) ALEC hides behind. They and their loaded tax deducting financiers hope that will continue to support their IRS and FEC status as a non-profit charity, and allows legislators to get reimbursement for travel and expenses, at the tax-payers expense in many cases, to attend ALEC events and conferences, from which they return with ALEC content to their home states.
How does pension reform and collective bargaining fit in? ALEC has been educating its members for years on sound budget practices; this includes pension reform and transparency in collective bargaining. Unsustainable cost drivers threaten the financial solvency of the states. ALEC encourages states to explore every option possible to balance budgets, including pension reform and utilizing new approaches for pension funding, such as defined benefit plans.
In terms of ALEC activity on “pension reform and transparency in collective bargaining” we have a great example of the ALEC cycle coming from Arkansas.
Not only are there close relationships and contacts directly between ALEC staff and legislators shown below, but also the fact that even though many of States are facing deficits, ALEC is pushing capital gains and other major business tax cuts in those States.
And when the Arkansas Department of Finance & Administration opposed the ALEC bill and said it would cost the state millions of dollars, ALEC sent out an "Issue Alert" to "ALEC Arkansas Public Sector Members" -- the state legislators who are members of ALEC -- telling them to ignore the estimated revenue losses as "severely misguided."
In this case an ALEC representative came on a visit to AR legislators and just days later we find this from the FB page of State Representative Ed Garner (R-AR) on February 23, 2011 in “American Legislative Exchange Council endorses HB1002, the Capital Gains Reduction Act” a note directly from ALEC staff on his legislation:
“It has come to our attention that the Arkansas Senate will soon consider HB 1002, The Arkansas Capital Gains Reduction Act of 2011. The American Legislative Exchange Council’s Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force has endorsed model legislation to repeal state capital gains taxes. HB 1002 follows ALEC model legislation by eliminating anti-growth state capital gains taxes on businesses and properties throughout the state of Arkansas.”
Static revenue scoring is an inaccurate method to determine HB 1002’s true impact on Arkansas’ economy. We believe the static revenue loss estimates of $44.5 million in FY 2013 and $68.5 million in future years are severely misguided. By overestimating the total amount of projected revenue loss, this static scoring unfairly distorts HB 1002’s impact on the state’s finances.
ALEC solution to the short fall, the tax cuts will magically generate revenue and all will be saved. A similar situation occurred in Michigan where use of ALEC models has been documented where facing a $1.7 Billion shortfall, Republican Governor Rick Snyder cut business taxes by 86% for a total of $1.8 Billion for big business (Snyder is a former CEO) by cutting EITC for the poor, massive cuts to education, shortening unemployment benefits and so forth. The goal is some sort of low wage, high profit America. Great of ALEC’s business partners, disaster for working people and what is left of the middle class.
“If once the people become inattentive to the public affairs, you and I, and Congress and Assemblies, Judges and Governors, shall all become wolves… I can apply no milder term… .to the general prey of the rich on the poor”
- Thomas Jefferson in a letter to Edward Carrington, 1787
So how sound is this theory of business utopia will create a stronger economy? Cutting services and funding to those who spend it immediately, in order to give massive breaks to business has been demonstrated as a very poor option for turning around an economic crisis. But this ALEC approach is no surprise, ALEC has had basically the same mantra for tax cuts for businesses for decades, this from an ALEC report in 2002 entitled “Show me the Money”:
The most aggressive budget cutting has been in the Midwest, a region particularly hard hit by the economic downturn. Illinois Governor George Ryan proposed over half a billion dollars in cuts, including closing a medium-security prison, shutting down a mental health center, reducing college scholarships, and paring down state aid to schools. In neighboring Iowa, Governor Tom Vilsak signed a budget that included furloughs for state workers and eliminated or suspended 27 state programs. In Michigan, Governor John Engler cut about $1 billion in discretionary items, including bilingual education, parenting skills training, and youth violence prevention programs.
These Republican Governors are described as role models and heroes in ALEC materials pushed out at the time. Nothing has changed, except for the fact ALEC is better at the services they provide to their corporate funders and
customers donors. This press release also states that ALEC hasn’t talked to Governors. Yeah, right. John Engler was one of the founders of ALEC and the Michigan satellite of Heritage, the Mackinac Center that has co-authored reports and articles with ALEC.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics at the U.S. Department of Labor, as of December 2010, state and local government employees received benefits that were 69 percent higher than those in the private sector.
This 69% higher number in pay has been already debunked by a number of sources, chiefly due to the fact that educational levels and nature of assignments were not used in the criteria to create with vastly oversimplified comparison, a common tool in the ALEC toolbox kits on a range of issues.
Taxpayer dollars are currently subsidizing the majority of state public employee pensions and benefits (9 states have defined-contribution plans). Defined-contribution 401(k) style plans allow employees to contribute as much or as little as they want while still receiving some support from the state. They also give employees the opportunity to invest in what’s best for them, and if public employees change jobs or relocate, their funds are portable.
The trend nationally is to go to ‘defined-contribution’ (401k) style pensions, there is little argument about that except most peoples 401k have tanked in the last 10-15 years (another issue), and ALEC and their cronies will nix that next too perhaps, except for the financial folks make money on those transactions.
But, remember the attempts to privatize Social Security? ALEC ties behind that too. From a piece in The Nation “The Real Threat to Social Security” by Robert Dreyfuss February 8, 1999:
“…a brand-new coalition in Washington [DC] called the Alliance for Worker Retirement Security, which is expressly dedicated to free-market reform of Social Security. Launched last September with the backing of the National Association of Manufacturers [NAM], the alliance unites most of the business community in the nation's capital, including the US Chamber of Commerce, the Business Roundtable, the National Federation of Independent Business and the National Retail Federation.
Virtually the entire conservative movement showed up at a press conference organized by the alliance, from the National Taxpayers Union to Grover Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform, and including a handful of ersatz senior citizens' groups opposed to the AARP. A key participant is the American Legislative Exchange Council, a conservative group pushing privatization measures in state legislatures around the nation.
The current head of NAM is John Engler, and as just mentioned was ‘key figures’ in the founding of ALEC. There are plenty of cross-over member corporations and associations to ALEC mentioned in this article as well.
State legislators are entrusted with the enormous responsibility of appropriating citizens’ funds. ALEC supports budget transparency in the proper use of taxpayer dollars. When state employee unions collectively bargain with the people’s money, this should be a transparent process. Citizens have the right to know where their money is going and how it is being used.
From a previous posting on a Michigan Legislator denying his membership in ALEC:
One of ALEC’s latest pushes has been the concept of “Performance-based (or ‘Results-based’) Government” and ‘Transparency”. They are seeking to put as much information about local government and school district operations on-line as possible. Why? So they can sort out who get what in terms of new privatization contracts and public assets. Once the privatization, which is at the core of many of the ALEC-based bills recently, of course the transparency disappears just as quickly, creating a situation where citizens will have no visibility whatsoever into the private corporate contracts running everything from schools and major infrastructure like roads and ports,, but also facilities like libraries, pools and any other public asset from which profits can be harvested.
One of the core concepts that needs more attention is the fact that conservatives say “Government spending is taxpayer money” but nobody says “Taxes and Operating Expenses that Businesses pay are paid by Consumers (Taxpayer) money less corporate Excessive Executive Pay & Profits”.
Also “taxpayer” money is being used for travel and expenses to ALEC events, and probably to purchase ALEC ‘products’ and ‘services’ (i.e. publication purchases and services like having an ALEC staffer come to your state (or Corporation) to present), which has been documents in a number of articles in several states.
ALEC has a policy initiative on pension reform and balancing budgets. The Budget Reform Toolkit and Other Post Employee Benefits publications were both nationally announced and mailed to all our legislative members. Rich States, Poor States is used by state legislators throughout the country to find sound, conservative, successful budgeting practices. Each of these publications discusses pension reform.
This Solon Street team has a follow-up posting on this whole budget related activity of ALEC in process as it occurred in Michigan, but in the meantime, see if Jonathan Williams or Bob Williams has been in your state since 2009, or how many of your state level Heritage Foundation satellite organizations are pushing “Rich States, Poor States”. Odds are they have.
Our policy initiatives, publications and press releases on these issues can all be found on ALEC’s website for anyone’s use. These are hardly the actions of a secretive organization.
Again, membership and ‘donor’ lists are not made available, and the ALEC ‘model’ legislation as well as working documents that are being used to write content for legislation across the Country is NOT PUBLIC.
If ALEC was transparent as they call on local governments and organizations to be (so they can more easily be looted by privateers), people would stop using the term ‘secretive’ or ‘lobbyist’ to describe ALEC. Open up, or shut up.
Legal Disclaimer for ALEC Legal Team: The authors of this piece are not saying that ALEC is a “lobbyist” or “secretive”, but merely pointing out the documented fact that every time someone calls ALEC ‘secretive’ or a ‘lobbyist’, your team goes after them. No contributor or member of this team is in the employ of any political party, media outlet, think tank / activist group, union or lobbying (charitable) entity. – Solon Street pro bono Legal Advisor
NOTE: These TWO PARAGRPAHS are on the on ALEC Web site version of the “truth” and were OMMITTED from Press Release.
This brings the discussion to Voter ID. ALEC recently received an inquiry from a liberal blogger asking only about our position on Voter ID. Unfortunately, the “reporter” had his own agenda and chose to write a story with many false accusations and statements that had nothing to do with Voter ID. ALEC supports citizens providing a photo ID when voting in order to reduce voter fraud. A photo ID is required to rent a video from the store, so why not to vote? Each election cycle, statistics show that convicted felons and even the deceased are still voting. Showing a photo ID would help this immensely. The model legislation that was posted with this story does not specifically address what states should use for ID. ALEC leaves this to the decision to each state. This information was omitted from the “article.”
The article this probably referring to is the one done by Campus Progress entitled “Conservative Corporate Advocacy Group ALEC Behind Voter Disenfranchisement Efforts” by Tobin Van Ostern March 8, 2011, just a clip:
The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a conservative organization linked to corporate and right-wing donors, including the billionaire Koch brothers, has drafted and distributed model legislation, obtained by Campus Progress, that appears to be the inspiration for bills proposed by state legislators this year and promoted by Tea Party activists, bills that would limit access of young people to vote.
Readers can go to that article and judge for themselves about the case and evidence, or read their response to the ALEC PR in “The American Legislative Exchange Council’s Indignant Retort Dodges Questions About Their Policies” posted March 31, 2011. Here is a clip from Campus Progress:
ALEC’s defense mischaracterizes its own work. Referring to the Campus Progress report, ALEC claims, “The [ALEC] model legislation that was posted with this story does not specifically address what states should use for ID.” But the very first section of the ALEC model legislation, entitled “Definitions,” states exactly what the requirements should be for an acceptable ID. Upon examining the requirements listed, lawyers consulted by Campus Progress confirmed that student IDs would be prohibited because the institutions that issue student IDs are excluded from the list of accepted issuers.
With this response, ALEC is clearly attempting to shift the focus from its own nefarious record. ALEC has not taken this opportunity to support the rights of all students (in-state or out-of-state) to vote, and the fact remains that the model legislation it is proposing would make it more difficult for students to vote. Despite Ms. Weber’s attempts to quell it, ALEC’s anti-voting stance can be heard loud and clear.
Wonder if Thomas Jefferson had ID when he voted? He wanted to be remembered as the president of a university. His voice on citizen government remained crystal clear throughout his life.
“Governments are republican only in proportion as they embody the will of their people, and execute it.”
- Thomas Jefferson in a letter to Samuel Kercheval July 12, 1816
ALEC for all practical purposes is the embodiment of the will of many corporations and mega-wealth special interests. But Jefferson times were those in our history when only rich, white guys could vote. Maybe ALEC wants to return to that.
The environment ALEC and its political allies seek is one that is taking America down a twisted new path where elected officials are just rubber stamps of what ALEC would have in their America: “government in a box”, with no public assemblies required.
ALEC does not have “a concerted national effort to stop people from voting.” Citizens should exercise their right to vote. The most disappointing aspect of this poorly reported story is the follow up stories from mainstream media. Rachel Maddow of MSNBC chose to report that ALEC is behind a movement to limit people from voting.
Just seconds of a screen shot of the ALEC website appeared on Rachel Maddow on March 10, 2011 is what this is talking about, the rest was the interview of a person from Campus Progress on their findings. We will see if the legal and executive teams at MSNBC let any more coverage on any of their programs as this ‘no story’ continues to settle into the minds of many Americans alarmed and sickened by what ALEC stands for and the corporatist future they seek to create.
A columnist from the National Journal also chose to write an editorial based on a liberal blogger’s misrepresentation of information. Neither MSNBC nor the National Journal conducted any legitimate fact checking by going to the original source. NPR has run similar stories regarding ALEC’s position on Voter ID,...
The article by the National Journal referenced here was one of their ‘Rules of the Game’ features entitled “Voting: The Rising Degree of Difficulty” on March 13, 2011 with the subtitle “There are new efforts across the country, led mostly by conservative activists, aimed at making it more difficult for people to vote.” Here is the offending clip:
“We seem to be drifting backward,” said Robert Brandon, president of the Fair Elections Legal Network. Photo ID provisions seem like a simple fix, said Brandon, but overlook that a disproportionate percentage of elderly, minority, student, and disabled voters lack photo IDs.
Many GOP-controlled legislatures are working from model legislation produced by the American Legislative Exchange Council, a conservative group that has received funding from the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation, the progressive group Campus Progress recently disclosed. That link points to “a concerted national effort” that is less about fraud than “about stopping people from voting,” charged Brandon.
In this case just an attribution for ‘producing’ model legislation associated with actions and results of the actions of the legislation created give ALEC heart burn, or was one of only four other pieces on ALEC they did?
The National Journal has also been tracking ALEC activities on the environmental front in “A New Front: The battle for a national climate-change policy is over. The fight has moved to the states” by Coral Davenport on February 24, 2011:
State legislators aren’t acting alone. Many are receiving guidance from national groups such as the conservative, free-market American Legislative Exchange Council, which is approaching lawmakers with ready-to-go proposals to attack climate regulations at every level.
Unfair reporting? Really? As many know, ‘receiving guidance’ is a huge understatement.
Many environmental groups have been very vocal about ALEC and national activities related to global warming and environmental protection, one of the core focuses of ALEC ‘model’ legislation and materials.
…but the most egregious offense by NPR was the misrepresentation of ALEC's positions on prison overcrowding and the nature of our organization. ALEC will certainly be hesitant to accept any future interviews from these media sources.
One of the only national new organizations to do any real examination of ALEC was an investigative team from National Public Radio that spent ‘weeks’ working on their two part series on ALEC and their role in the privatization of corrections or prison operations, with a focus on Arizona and has since lead to follow-on investigations into prison privatization across the Country.
The NPR story that raddled ALEC was on their relationships and connection with Arizona’s controversial Immigration Law in Part 1 “Prison Economics Help Drive Ariz. Immigration Law” on October 28, 2010 and Part 2 “Shaping State Laws With Little Scrutiny” on October 29, 2010. Just a couple clips from this “weeks long” investigation by NPR:
NPR spent the past several months analyzing hundreds of pages of campaign finance reports, lobbying documents and corporate records. What they show is a quiet, behind-the-scenes effort to help draft and pass Arizona Senate Bill 1070 by an industry that stands to benefit from it: the private prison industry. The law could send hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants to prison in a way never done before. And it could mean hundreds of millions of dollars in profits to private prison companies responsible for housing them.
Arizona State Sen. Russell Pearce… was instrumental in drafting the state's immigration law. He also sits on a American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) task force, a group that helped shape the law.
It was last December  at the Grand Hyatt in Washington, D.C. Inside, there was a meeting of a secretive group called the American Legislative Exchange Council. Insiders call it ALEC.
In the conference room, the group decided they would turn the immigration idea into a model bill. They discussed and debated language. Then, they voted on it.
Four months later, that model legislation became, almost word for word, Arizona's immigration law. They even named it. They called it the "Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act."
As soon as Pearce's bill hit the Arizona statehouse floor in January, there were signs of ALEC's influence. Thirty-six co-sponsors jumped on, a number almost unheard of in the capitol. According to records obtained by NPR, two-thirds of them either went to that December meeting or are ALEC members.
Those are clips only from PART 1, PART 2 gives even more details. The fact that ALEC choose to bring this story up again just doesn’t make sense now, particularly since the story appeared long before the events in Wisconsin led to their current PR nightmare, not just for ALEC and ALEC funders, but hundreds of ALEC (nearly all Republican) State Legislators to answer uncomfortable questions about their membership and their introduction of ALEC model bills into the their States.
End of WEB SITE version and BACK to the RELEASED Version of the ALEC Press Release
Accusations of ALEC secretly meeting with governors, ALEC running and coordinating ground campaigns against public employee unions, and ALEC wanting to eliminate public employee unions are first and foremost not true. ALEC’s States and Nation Policy Summit coincided with newly-elected governors’ meetings at the White House in December, but there were no meetings between governors and ALEC staff on any policy. If a governor’s policies fall under the Jeffersonian principles of limited government, free markets and federalism, and ALEC has policies similar to those being proposed, then ALEC proudly supports those policies.
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s predecessor Former Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson, a major force in ALEC’s rebirth as a corporate front, outlined the process, saying put it this in 2010:
“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.”
This is a gift. One of the areas least explored by many ALEC investigators has been on the Republican Governors Association’s connections with ALEC. With Scott Walker as a node, there has been some exploration, but Newt Gingrich is his tour defining the new state-level strategy made three key speeches ALEC, the AEI and the RGA.
More focus should be made on these connections. Thanks.
ALEC does not have satellite offices. We have 27 full-time employees that work in Washington, D.C. ALEC has not sent out “ground troops” to Wisconsin. ALEC is not coordinating a ground campaign on collective bargaining.
Really love this section. Although ALEC has a small staff, nobody at this juncture is arguing they have not been very effective in their activities however one chooses to define them. Just like Republican State Legislators showed up 6-7 weeks into their terms in with dozens of new bills, in Michigan it started at 39 bills, 10 could be called recycled from previous sessions, but then 42, 46 and now 50+ bills. It seems impossible for Legislator to just read the material, much less produce it.
That is one of the key questions here all along: Where did all these bills and resolutions come from so quickly?
What is not mentioned in this PR is the fact that 45% of ALEC membership are ‘private sector’ and it has been reported that many corporations donate their staff time along with 99% of ALEC’s funding. This means that ALEC is able to field in it nine, now ten Tasks Forces and awful lot of FTE hours to generate they products and services.
“Ground troops” – will have to give this one to them. There have been mentioned of ALEC having teams, but we know that most of the coverage is just bleeding over from the Koch brothers funded American for Prosperity, whose ties and interactions with local Tea Party groups is well documented. And it is clear that a number of ALEC driven messages are being plastered on Tea Party signs across the Country. Sorry for the fact that the ALEC funders are so involved in so many other organizations, bleed over is just the interest ALEC will have to pay for their choice of funding sources.
These wild accusations have caught the attention of the mainstream media. Quite a few reporters from state and local media have called or emailed with an unfortunate biased agenda.
What can anyone say to that? The whole ALEC story is ‘wild’, so wild in fact it is hard to get most people to believe just how pervasive, and how far back in history, the influences and dealings of ALEC in our state and federal governments go. Free press has also has free agenda, not suppose to in a perfect world, but hiding from ‘agendas’ is just part of a free society and free thought that seeks to maintain and improve on this Jeffersonian experiment called America.
“Reason and free enquiry are the only effectual agents against error.”
- Thomas Jefferson in Notes on the State of Virginia, 1781
ALEC has been working with the New York Times and Wall Street Journal over the past couple of weeks to satisfy their inquiries. Both nationally renowned, leading papers have decided after extensive research, interviews and fact checking that there is no story. ALEC appreciates their fact-finding missions and will continue to enjoy good relationship with both newspapers.
This is very interesting. The fact is that coverage from both the Wall Street Journal (now owned by Rupert Murdoch) and the New York Times has been very gentle on ALEC. In the NYT coverage of the email dust up over Dr. Bill Cronon, no mention of why the WI GOP was after Cronon in the first place, his blog posting on ALEC was made all. Other coverage of the Cronon incident also has left ALEC out.
It is very unclear here what story about ALEC is “no story”. As the rest of the world, and in particular, those the blogosphere know, there is no end of stories related to ALEC, it’s the intriguing wild no story that just keeps on giving, no matter how far down the rabbit hole one chooses to dig.
ALEC legislators and ALEC employees are proud of our positions and policies. ALEC is for effective and efficient use of taxpayer dollars with transparency in budgeting and collective bargaining. ALEC is for public employees having flexible, manageable and sustainable pension and health plans. ALEC is proud to be the only state legislative organization that embraces the Jeffersonian principles of limited government, free markets and federalism with the policy solutions to support these ideals.
This is a repeat of standard “Jeffersonian” and slogan/marketing material, just space filler. But it is interesting to speculate what ALEC folks think about Jefferson.
This is the Jefferson of ALEC’s “Jeffersonian Principle”:
“Money, and not morality, is the principle of commerce and commercial nations.”
- Thomas Jefferson in a letter to Governor John Langdon, March 5, 1810
This quote was actually from a criticism of England at the time in a discussion foreign policy and flaws in the English way of thinking. The year before he wrote:
“The selfish spirit of commerce knows no country, and feels no passion or principle but that of gain.”
- Thomas Jefferson in a letter to Larkin Smith, 1809
"I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations, which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength and bid defiance to the laws of our country."
- Thomas Jefferson in a letter to a friend George Logan in 1816
“The time to guard against corruption and tyranny is before they have gotten hold of us. It is better to keep the wolf out of the fold, than to trust drawing his teeth and talons after he shall have entered.”
- Thomas Jefferson in Notes on Virginia, 1782
“Single acts of tyranny may be ascribed to the accidental opinion of a day; but a series of oppressions, begun at a distinguished period and pursued unalterably through every change of ministers, too plainly prove a deliberate, systematic plan of reducing us to slavery.”
- Thomas Jefferson from his autobiography, 1821
We will not permit ALEC and its sponsors destroy the American Experiment, and since this is happening now, on our watch, this generation of Americans is standing up to say "not here, not ever".