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

Obviously there are too many guns. I mean, I like guns and have too many. I give some away, but more are given to me or I inherit them. How to use them? There aren't many places to use them. In my city I can shoot intruders, but they run away, and when the police grab them it's too late and I can't shoot them. We need to be able to use traps to hold the intruders while we find the right gun out of our collection.

Have you read the second amendment, Red? It says "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." Are you in the militia, Red? Does a militia need to protect you and your home, your place of worship, even your car? The Supreme Court forgot about the first qualifiying part of the second amendment when it allowed vigilantes like you to go forth and wreck mayhem. You have become the evil you fear. Have a nice day.

I READ, I LISTEN, AND I THINK PEOPLE LIKE YOU ARE COMPLETELY NUTS. WHEN OBAMA WAS ELECTED, I KEPT HEARING, GO BUY A BUNCH OF GUNS, YOU WILL NEED THEM TO PROTECT YOURSELF FROM OBAMA. YOU MENTION BILL CLINTON. HE WAS SO AGAINST GUN OWNERSHIP, THAT HE HAD EVERYONE IN AMERICA TAKE ALL THEIR GUNS TO THE TOWN SQUARE AND MADE THEM PUT THEIR GUNS IN A HUGE PILE, AND THEN BILL BURNED THEM. DO YOU REMEMBER THAT. ??? I HEARD ONE REPUBLICAN MAKE THE COMMENT " IT WILL BE A COLD DAY IN HELL WHEN I WILL REGISTER MY GUN." THIS SAME GUY BUYS A LICENSE FOR HIS DOG, AND REGISTERS HIS CAR EVERY YEAR. NUTS, NUTS,NUTS. BANNING ASSAULT WEAPONS IS A GOOD THING. YOU DON'T NEED ONE TO PROTECT YOURSELF. AND YOU DON'T HUNT WITH ONE. IF YOUR AFRAID TO REGISTER YOUR GUN, YOUR INTENT TO USE THE GUN FOR UNLAWFUL MEANS REALLY COME INTO QUESTION. I DON'T KNOW ONE DEMOCRAT THAT EVER TOOK AWAY GUN RIGHTS FROM THE PEOPLE. MAYBE INSTEAD OF WORRYING THAT OBAMA IS COMING TO GET YOU. MAYBE YOU SHOULD WORRY MORE ABOUT WHAT IS REALLY HURTING OUR COUNTRY. THE SENSELESS OUTSOURCING OF OUR JOBS. THAT IS THE REAL THREAT YOU ARE FACING. BECAUSE IT'S JUST A MATTER OF TIME BEFORE WE BECOME THE UNITED STATES OF CHINA. WHEN THAT HAPPENS, BILL CLINTON, AND OBAMA WILL BE THE LEAST OF YOUR WORRIES. THAT IS WHEN YOU WILL REALLY NEED YOUR GUN.

Let's see, in the U.S. around 60% of the population doesn't own a gun or guns. Among the 40% that does own guns, some percentage only owns guns for hunting or target shooting, and when they aren't engaged in those activities, their guns are safely locked away in their homes. So, there's some percentage of Americans who just love to proclaim that everyone else is cowardly, while they are the ones who are so scared all the time that they quiver at the thought of not having a gun on them whether in their house or out on the street. So, who, exactly, is it that makes up that "Nation of cowards"--the minority of Americans who are so scared of everything that they cling to their need for a lethal weapon in the face of all reason or the majority of folks who quietly go about their lives without being such scaredy cats that they think they need to carry? It's just too bad that your little fantasy about who is cowardly and who isn't leads to things like the killing of Trayvon Martin and others.

Suzie314, no disrespect her but you are way off with your numbers on gun owners. Just Google it, and not just from on source and you'll have a much better understanding of the true numbers. All of that aside I am a strong advocate for our Constitution, the Bill of Rights and of coarse The Declaration of Independence, which by the way was indoctrinated by man with full acknowledgment of God as our creator. As for being a coward or nation of cowards, well you don't have to own a gun to be brave and honorable. However the very rights that you enjoy today, at least the ones that we still have would not even be possible for you or anyone else if it were not for our 2nd amendment right to bear arms. And if you feel safe with out a firearm it does not mean you you are a coward but I ask you have you ever been robbed at gunpoint for 12 dollars,have you ever been a bystander when someone innocent was killed by a drive by shooter over drugs,have you ever been in a situation where some lunatic was killing people at a shopping mall and just happen to be one of the lucky ones,do you have any idea how desperate people are getting these days because of what our government and corporate greed has done to our economy. Even an honorable man or woman will do unbelievable things in the face of oppression and starvation to preserve their lives and the lives of their families.Our forefathers were very smart and courageous men and women and they had the wisdom and insight to see that the right to bear arms and to form a militia was paramount and absolutely necessary to keep government within its bounds when it comes to the confiscation of our God given inalienable rights. It is my wish that you may never have to endure any of the aforementioned events in your life but you must look at history closely to see that it repeats itself. I apologize if I have offended you by this reply to your post but you are quite naive if that is the way you truly perceive gun owners. And by the way about 90% of Americans own guns not because they are scared to death but instead because the believe in our heritage. You might also consider getting all of the facts about the killing of Trayvon Martin because unfortunately you are misinformed in that case too.

Until The people realize that griping does nothing.... And take the laws away from those who are in charge....We will continue to see the loop holes that allow things like ALEC to exist. We need to have a Constitutional Convention, take away the retirements and benefits Congress and Senate gave themselves in the 1960's. Take away the lobbyists and corporate rights that grant them the same rights as a U.S> Citizen. And take back the government. It does not state ... We the Corporations of the United states, It says... We The PEOPLE. Dump Every incumbent in 2012.

In order to take away a corporation's right to act as a citizen, we need to overturn the citizens united decisions that provides corporations with personhood. Without this overturn, we will not have any legal grounds to limit corporate influence in our politics.

The last thing we need is a Constitutional convention, there has been a movement to try build support for one but people don't realize a few things. First a constitutional convention opens the entire constitution to revision, such as first and second amendment rights, any portion deemed outdated can be deleted or "rewritten" and who does the rewriting and approving? Not the people, the elected "representatives" who represent nothing more than the interest of big business and themselves. We can remove the pension and benefits for senators representatives and their cronies by introducing and passing legislation or amendments.There is no need for a convention, but until we get out from in front of our big screen t.v.'s, realize that comfort is another way of being enslaved and actually remove our legislators who arent willing to cut their own paychecks and kill their benefits for life, we're going to reap what we deserve.

Everyone has taken the liberty to out date, rewrite and amend the constitution anyway. This has gone on sincee before slavery to supress the rights of slaves.

I absolutely agree that big business and corporation executives being allowed to assemble and write bills that are invasive to the working people of this country should be looked upon as corrosive to our democratic process, especially if these business and corporation owners and or their lobbyist constituents are allowed to not only help write these bills but to also have an equal vote to the elected officials that have been put in place by the voting people in any given district to represent the wishes of those voting people. I will echo the statement that It does not state ... We the Corporations of the United states, It says... We The PEOPLE. In fact it speaks volumes about how our government has surely gone astray. and yes I do agree that the politicians in power should not have their own Cadillac hwealth care program nor should these people be allowed to serve in any political capacity for life. It should be considered an honor to serve your country if you are qualified to do so but term limits are a must to preserve the integrity of the offices held,Yes there must always be new blood so to speak with new ideas and genuine desires to serve We The People.Study your history and you will see the ultimate ramifications of these kinds of actions by big government. As it was well put by The historian and moralist, who was otherwise known simply as Lord Acton, expressed his opinion in a letter to Bishop Mandell Creighton in 1887: "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men." I am sure that there are still a few good elected leaders but the good old boy society still exists so lets boot them all out and start fresh. Only then can we begin to clean up the mess that our great nation is in and take it back. So that as the great President Lincoln so eloquently put it int the Gettysburg address,that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

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