About ALEC Exposed

The Center for Media and Democracy has obtained copies of more than 800 model bills approved by corporations through ALEC meetings, after one of the thousands of people with access shared them, and a whistleblower provided a copy to the Center. We have analyzed and marked-up those bills and made them available at ALEC Exposed. This article has been updated. For press inquiries, please contact Nikolina Lazic at 608-260-9713 or lisa@prwatch.org.

About ALEC Exposed

ALEC Exposed - a project of CMDAn open letter from CMD's Executive Director, Lisa Graves

In April 2011, some of the biggest corporations in the U.S. met behind closed doors in Cincinnati about their wish lists for changing state laws. This exchange was part of a series of corporate meetings nurtured and fueled by the Koch Industries family fortune and other corporate funding.

At an extravagant hotel gilded just before the Great Depression, corporate executives from the tobacco giant R.J. Reynolds, State Farm Insurance, and other corporations were joined by their "task force" co-chairs -- all Republican state legislators -- to approve "model" legislation. They jointly head task forces of what is called the "American Legislative Exchange Council" (ALEC).

There, as the Center for Media and Democracy has learned, these corporate-politician committees secretly voted on bills to rewrite numerous state laws. According to the documents we have posted to ALEC Exposed, corporations vote as equals with elected politicians on these bills. These task forces target legal rules that reach into almost every area of American life: worker and consumer rights, education, the rights of Americans injured or killed by corporations, taxes, health care, immigration, and the quality of the air we breathe and the water we drink.

The Center obtained copies of more than 800 model bills approved by companies through ALEC meetings, after one of the thousands of people with access shared them, and a whistleblower provided a copy to the Center. Those bills, which the Center has analyzed and marked-up, are now available at ALEC Exposed.

The bills that ALEC corporate leaders, companies and politicians voted on this spring now head to a luxury hotel in New Orleans' French Quarter for ALEC's national retreat on August 3rd. In New Orleans, Koch Industries -- through its chief lobbyist -- and lobbyists of other global companies are slated for a "joint board meeting" with a rookery of Republican legislators who are on ALEC's public board. (ALEC says only the legislators have a final say on all model bills. ALEC has previously said that "The policies are debated and voted on by all members. Public and private members vote separately on policy.")

On ALEC Task Forces, unelected corporate lobbyists and elected state legislators act as "equals" and both get "a VOICE and a VOTE" on bills or templates to change U.S. law in countless ways. And ALEC's state legislative leaders are tasked with a "duty" under ALEC's public by-laws to get ALEC "model" bills introduced and passed in their home states.

Before the bills are publicly introduced in state legislatures by ALEC politicians or alumni in the governor's offices, they will be cleansed of any reference to the secret corporate voting or who really wrote them.

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With CMD's revelation and detailed analysis of the bills, the public can now pierce through some of the subterfuge about ALEC, and see beyond the names of the bills to what the bills really do, alongside the names of corporations that lead or have helped lead ALEC's agenda and accompanied by analysis to help decode the bills.

Many of the bills have obvious financial benefits for corporations but little or no direct benefit to the constituents that a particular legislator was elected to represent. Still, it may be tempting to dismiss ALEC as merely institutionalizing business as usual for lobbyists, except that ALEC's tax-free donations are linked to it not spending a substantial amount of time on lobbying to change the law. ALEC has publicly claimed its "unparalleled" success in terms of the number of model bills introduced and enacted. But seeing the text of the bills helps reveal the actual language of legal changes ALEC corporations desire, beyond what can be known by the PR in their titles. ALEC says it has created a "unique" partnership between corporations and politicians. And it has.

It is a worrisome marriage of corporations and politicians, which seems to normalize a kind of corruption of the legislative process -- of the democratic process -- in a nation of free people where the government is supposed to be of, by, and for the people, not the corporations.

The full sweep of the bills and their implications for America's future, the corporate voting, and the extent of the corporate subsidy of ALEC's legislation laundering all raise substantial questions. These questions should concern all Americans. They go to the heart of the health of our democracy and the direction of our country. When politicians -- no matter their party -- put corporate profits above the real needs of the people who elected them, something has gone very awry.

As President Teddy Roosevelt observed in response to corporate money corrupting the democratic process a century ago, "The true friend of property, the true conservative, is he who insists that property shall be the servant and not the master of the commonwealth ... The citizens of the United States must effectively control the mighty commercial forces which they have called into being."

-- Lisa Graves, Executive Director, Center for Media and Democracy

P.S. ALEC anointed the billionaire Koch Brothers as two of the first few recipients of its "Adam Smith Free Enterprise Award." Smith argued that self-interest promoted more good in society than those who intend to do good. "Greed is good!" is how Oliver Stone translated this concept to fiction on screen.

On that score, perhaps, the award was apt, except that ALEC apparently ignores Smith's caution that bills and regulations from business must be viewed with the deepest skepticism. In his book, "Wealth of Nations," Smith urged that any law proposed by businessmen "ought always to be listened to with great precaution ... It comes from an order of men, whose interest is never exactly the same with that of the public, who have generally an interest to deceive and even to oppress the public, and who accordingly have, upon many occasions, both deceived and oppressed it."

One need not look far in the ALEC bills to find reasons to be deeply concerned and skeptical.Take a look for yourself.

Lisa Graves

Lisa Graves is the Executive Director of the Center for Media and Democracy, a national watchdog group. CMD's niche is investigating and exposing the undue influence of corporations on public policy. She previously served as Deputy Assistant Attorney General at the U.S. Department of Justice and in other posts.

Comments

Try Progressive Insurance. They chose their name to reflect their political leanings.

John, that was my initial reaction after reading this information on ALEC. How does one send a message like this. The local state farm guy has no idea the significance as he is a franchisee... I have insurance with state farm and this is a huge issue for me.

Just scanned the list of Bills listed under Guns, etc. One such "Bill" caught my eye; that being the Castle Doctrine Bill. We already have the Castle Doctrine Statute here in Florida and it works. We no longer have to retreat from some thug who invades our space and may have rape, robbery or killing on his mind. I see no problem with every State in the United States enacting Castle Doctrine for their citizens to protect themselves. I fully support the National Rifle Association's every legal move to spread the word about the Second Amendment to the Constitution; an Amendment which has been supported and upheld on several occasions by the Supreme Court. IF we are to become a Nation of cowards, then by all means let us follow Obama, Clinton, Holder, Bloomberg, John Kerry and the rest of the gun haters in political positions to work for US and throw away our guns (except the criminals, of course) and burn the Constitution. However, if we are to defend our right to be safe in our homes, place of worship and our cars, then let us elect some REAL leaders to work for US and send those who are intent on destroying our freedoms packing quick, fast and in a hurry in 2012.

It's my experience that people who keep, carry and advocate guns are fearful as well as hostile. Although it is hard to imagine being afraid to go to church without the security of your gun...maybe Red goes to one of the grand Prosperity Gospel churches, too large to know your fellow congregants and too distant from Christ to inspire good behavior. The victims of law-abiding gun folk are usually their wives and girlfriends. The gun IS about The King and His Castle, and controlling the women.

Anybody can pull a trigger and claim to be a man. If you're so afraid to walk out your door that you need a gun to carry out your daily duties then who's really a coward. I spent the better part of the 90s in one of the most gang infested areas in our country, Aurora/Naperville, Il. I was there for college after joining the Marines as a Scout/Sniper. I saw combat in 1990 with Operation Desert Shield/Storm. When I left the service I vowed to never shoot, kill, or maime another, however I still don't back down from someone threatening family, friend, or me. While attending school, I happened upon a gang controlled area of East Aurora. As I left a gas station a banger tried to carjack me. I looked him straight in the face and dared him to pull the trigger after a few more threats from him garnering the same rebuttal he backed down. If I had a gun on me I probably could have gotten a few off, since that is what I was trained for but I would have been arrested. Though I was afraid I stood my ground, that's true bravery. So keep talking, keep living in fear, and keep being a coward; people like me will always be there to show real bravery. Next, the second amendment begins with necessity of maintaining a militia, and though I have no problem with guns as I am an avid hunter, I do not defend the right of people to carry. Obama 2012!!!

WOW Do you really believe that gang member would have backed down to your grandmother or your daughter? Maybe an ex marine but not everyone is that able to stand ther ground when face to face with a gun. I live in los angeles and work night shift in areas like Compton, East L.A. and Lennox (and I'm white) so I know what most gang memebers do when someone tries to back them down, ex marine or regular civilian or even a cop in uniform. Must be a different kind of gangmember in "Aurora" Il? Dont get me wrong, I agree with you on the carring of guns in public and I also have enjoyed hunting and own a few guns myself. But It bothers me when people start saying your a coward because you have enough sense to see the world for what it can really be. I dont live in fear but I know some people have no conscience and no concern for anyone else but themselves and you'd be a fool to believe you are gonna back them down, especially a gang member with a gun in your face, with a threat and a meaningful stare. Try that in Compton man!!! Lastly, thank you for service to this country. Its people like you that kept me from ever having to serve and I do recognize that. And I appreciate it like nothing else.

I completely agree with you. Semper Fi.

You are, at least in my eyes, absolutely correct! I've seen what happens when idiots with a gun fire, miss their mark, and hit innocents. Bravery is what you chose to do!

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