Many of you know what ALEC is by now: the powerful, secretive organization where Republican state legislators sit down with corporations (who have paid big bucks to be at the table) and write legislation between them. This "model legislation" goes into a secret database, out of which copies pop up in statehouses across the country, whenever Republicans gain ascendancy. The legislators introduce it as their own, without acknowledging ALEC provenance.
In Wisconsin, there has been an absolute flood of ALEC legislation since the Walker administration took office in January. But we couldn't prove it, because the ALEC model bills were for members' eyes only.
Now we've got the proof. On July 13, the Center for Media and Democracy, a progressive watchdog organization, unveiled the ALEC Exposed website. This site reveals the core of the ALEC documents: the secret database of over 800 leaked model-legislation bills. (I understand that members of DKos Exposing ALEC have been closely involved in this effort!)
Confronted by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel later that day, what did Wisconsin state ALEC chairman Robin Vos (R - Burlington) have to say about our state's all-too-cozy legislative relationship with ALEC?
State Rep. Robin Vos, state chairman for ALEC, said he's unaware of any model ALEC bills or resolutions that have made it through the state Legislature so far this year, though he acknowledged that he could have missed one.
Representative Vos? Don't lie to us!
You're the state ALEC chairman. You know the exact status of every ALEC bill in our legislature. And the bills are there, and have passed (with others in various stages of the process). The proof is now just a mouse-click away.
The extensive ALEC underpinnings of 2011's legislative assault on Wisconsin have been thoroughly dissected by the Center for Media & Democracy's Mary Bottari, in a July 14 article on PR Watch called ALEC Bills in Wisconsin. The article is long, but it is tremendously important when it comes to understanding what has been wreaked upon our state, and by whom.
Bottari characterizes recent legislative events in this way:
It is almost as if a pipeline in the basement of these state capitols ruptured simultaneously, and a flood of special interest legislation poured out. The blowout preventer –- political power-sharing –- was disabled. The source of the contamination? The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).
Bottari methodically examines ALEC ties of top Republican politicians in Wisconsin: former governor Tommy Thompson, current governor Scott Walker, and the Fitzgerald brothers who lead the two houses of our legislature. (They've all been deeply involved in ALEC for years).
Then she takes on the ALEC-sourced legislation itself, in the following areas:
-- Tort Reform: Making it Harder for Injured Americans to Sue
-- Telecommunications Deregulation
-- Attacking Democracy, Voter Rights and Public Financing
-- Defunding Unions and Attacking Collective Bargaining
-- Privatizing Public Schools
-- ALEC Specials in the State Budget (tax break for Altria/Phillip Morris, the "Las Vegas Loophole," capital gains tax cut, bounty hunters, promoting predatory lending)
-- Road-builders to Get Special Protection in the Constitution
-- Protecting the Health Insurance Industry From Reform
-- Promoting Racial Profiling and Harassing Immigrants
-- Concealed Carry
-- Making it Harder to Raise Revenue
Bottari documents it all with links to the legislation itself and with links to ALEC model bills and guidance documents. Again, all of this has exploded upon Wisconsin in half a year! Some of this legislation is signed into law, some is introduced, some is drafted: but all of it is to the benefit of the corporations rather than the people.
If you have a Republican majority in your state legislature, it's probably happening in your state too. The ALEC Exposed site has an invitation for us:
Read these corporate-backed "model bills" NOW and cross-check them with bills in your state legislature. Ask your local media to report on what you have found and write your local newspaper.... Tell us what you uncovered! Tweet what you learn with the hashtag #ALECexposed, join a discussion on this site (discussion at ALEC Exposed) or email us a confidential tip via editor AT ALECexposed.org.
To which I'd add... blog about it here too!
I've been active in exposing two of the bills that Bottari highlights: LRB0373, a not-yet-introduced measure that would torpedo every single one of Wisconsin's health insurance mandates; and AB110, the so-called Special Needs Scholarship Act, a school-privatization bill. Wisconsin state senator Leah Vukmir (R - Wauwatosa), former ALEC Legislator of the Year in 2009, is leading the charge on both of these in the state senate. Both bills touch my family personally: LRB0373 would attack my 7-year-old daughter by going after Wisconsin's autism insurance mandate, while AB110 would drain special-education resources from our already-strapped public schools into private-school hands. LRB0373 may yet die unintroduced, but Rep. Vos has announced an upcoming push on AB110 in the fall session, despite a recent expose on how Florida's similar program has been riddled with abuse and fraud.
I've written about AB110 several times here, and was proud to discover that the Education page on the ALEC Exposed site links to my diary Piratizing Special Education in Wisconsin: AB110, using it as a source for their AB110 information.
The supposed "author" of AB110 in the Wisconsin Assembly, Rep. Michelle Litjens (R - Oshkosh), has not been forthcoming about the bill's ALEC sourcing. In fact, she flat-out denied its ALEC provenance in a town-hall meeting, as documented in WI Rep. Litjens Co-Sponsors ALEC Bill, Denies It's ALEC.
Representative Litjens? Don't lie to us!
Your AB110 bill is ALEC model legislation boilerplate, and the proof is more available than ever now.
It's been said that sunlight is the best disinfectant. In Wisconsin right now, RECALLS are what will give that disinfectant a chance to work. Today Democratic State Senator Dave Hansen successfully defended his seat in a blowout victory over recall-challenger David VanderLeest. In the upcoming weeks, Democratic Senators Wirch and Holperin will be defending their seats as well, while we take down up to six Republican senators who've marched in lock-step to ALEC's piping this year. We only need to flip three seats to regain control of the Senate and stop the ALEC flow!
Please support our excellent candidates -- donate via the DKos Orange to Blue page.
h/t to plankbob in the comments for the link to this! Photo credit Nicole Desautels Schulte.
ALEC-laced legislators everywhere -- Don't lie to us!
We are on to you. We will expose your ALEC machinations. We will remember your lies. And we will fight to sweep you out of office, whenever and wherever we can.