People (and that includes journalists!) are starting to catch on to the political toxicity of the billionaire Koch brothers. But the crucial next step in opening people's eyes to how these guys work is to show them just how Koch brothers schemes get turned into the bat-$#*@ crazy legislation that just happens to pop up, seemingly out of nowhere, in virtually identical form, in 15 states at once.
The answer is ALEC. The American Legislative Exchange Council, an organization paid for by corporate sponsors, and hosting regular national gatherings of conservative state legislators from around the country. The purpose: drafting and then handing out ready-made, cheat sheet legislation that can be carried back to home legislatures and introduced as distributed, and all curiously geared to benefit ... the corporate sponsors who pay for the gatherings.
How does that happen? Well, for one thing, ALEC's organizational structure is somewhat unique in that when members get together to write "model legislation," the corporate sponsors get to vote on it, right alongside the legislators themselves.
And what's the result of putting corporate sponsors in bed with legislators right from the get-go? Well, it's stuff like this:
That right there (thanks to Cuéntame
) is just about the best two minutes you can spend on finding out just how insidious the ALEC model can be. And it wasn't even designed to target ALEC, per se. Though admittedly, it's next to impossible to wade into ALEC business without coming away with the feeling that you really need to know more about these guys. And probably like you need a shower, to boot.
Want a good jumping-off point to start digging deeper? The Nation's John Nichols lays out the dynamics of ALEC's current run of "luck" with the country's crop of crazy freshman governors.
Nichols explains that ALEC is working in all facets of public policy, not just prison privatization and immigrant-bashing-for-profit. And he points to a new resource out there that'll help you see just how extensive their reach really is. ALECexposed.org, a project of the Center for Media and Democracy, has a truly astounding compilation of ALEC's model legislation available for review. Divided into distinct issue areas, you can easily identify, read and track how these model bills end up getting mirrored—sometimes word for word—in legislation introduced back in the home state legislatures of ALEC members. And of course, there's plenty more on the names, sponsors and funding sources behind the whole effort.
Fun suggestion: Browse model legislation text, then Google key phrases to spot where they've turned up verbatim in state legislatures.
And by the way, if you prefer your ALEC exposing "home grown," there's a previously existing (and unconnected) "Exposing ALEC" group blog right here at Daily Kos, which I suggest you check out post haste.
Yes, I really do suggest you take time out to get up to speed ASAP. Why? Because the very next ALEC annual meeting is coming up, from August 3-6, in New Orleans. That's where the country's most conservative legislators and their closest corporate friends will be getting together to decide the precise particulars of how their money should dominate your future.
I suggest you check it out.