ALEC Exposed

CMD asks Wisconsin Candidates: What Would You Do About ALEC?

The Center for Media Democracy contacted Governor Scott Walker and the four candidates who have filed to run in the recall election against him. We asked them all to comment on the influence of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) on the state of Wisconsin and what they might do about it as governor.

Three Democrats and one Independent have announced that they are running against Governor Walker; a primary is likely May 8. There is speculation that other candidates may still announce their intentions to run. The general election is expected to be June 5.

Governor Walker did not respond to our request, but the other candidates did. Below we reprint their comments in full.

Second Judge Strikes Down WI's ALEC-Inspired Voter ID Law

A state judge has declared Wisconsin's American Legislative Exchange Council-inspired voter ID law unconstitutional, making him the second judge in one week to block the law's unnecessary burdens on the right to vote.

"The people's fundamental right of suffrage preceded and gave birth to our Constitution," wrote Dane County District Judge Richard Niess, "not the other way around."

The judge rebuffed assertions by Governor Scott Walker and legislative Republicans that they possessed the authority to impose new burdens on voting. "[D]efendants' argument that the fundamental right to vote must yield to legislative fiat turns our constitutional scheme of democratic government squarely on its head," he wrote.

Why Did PhRMA Spend $356K on ALEC in Wisconsin?

The pharmaceutical drug lobby PhRMA gave $356,075 to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) "scholarship fund" in 2010, but listed the recipient's address at a lobbying firm steps away from the Wisconsin State Capitol, rather than ALEC's Washington, D.C. offices, according to filings with the Internal Revenue Service. The PhRMA contribution is leading to calls for greater transparency about how the ALEC scholarship fund operates.

ALEC Exposed logoIn its 2010 IRS filings, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, better known as PhRMA, listed a $356,075 contribution to the "ALEC Scholarship Fund." That fund pays for flights and hotels for state legislators to attend ALEC conferences in places like New Orleans or Florida.

Atrazine and the Roots of ALEC's State Data Quality Act

The herbicide atrazine, one of the most heavily used herbicides in the United States has been found in almost 94 percent of U.S. groundwater and can harm human health in multiple ways. ALEC has promoted "model" legislation friendly to Syngenta, atrazine's primary manufacturer, across the country. At least once, this legislation was introduced to ALEC by a lobbyist paid by Syngenta.

WI Judge Halts "Extremely Broad and Largely Needless" Voter ID Law

A Wisconsin judge has issued a temporary injunction against Wisconsin's new voter ID law, calling it "the single most restrictive voter eligibility law in the United States." Wisconsin's voter ID law, like many others introduced in 2011 and 2012, is based on an American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) model bill.

Dane County Circuit Judge David Flanagan halted the voter ID law in time for the April 3 presidential primary and local general election, saying the law "is addressed to a problem which is very limited" and "fails to account for the difficulty its demands impose upon indigent, elderly and disabled citizens."

CMD Receives an "Izzy Award" for ALEC Exposed

The Park Center for Independent Media at Ithaca College has selected the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) for its annual "Izzy Award," which recognizes outstanding achievement in independent media. CMD was recognized for its ALEC Exposed project, and shares this year's award with Democracy Now! correspondent Sharif Abdel Kouddous, who was recognized for his exceptional reporting from Tahir Square. The award is named for the legendary I.F. Stone, the maverick investigative journalist who challenged Joe McCarthy's scare campaign and was the first to question the Gulf of Tonkin hoax.

Wisconsin Education Reform Only ALEC Could Love

After months of talking about "reforming" Wisconsin's public schools, Republican state legislators are starting to move on a number of proposals. The greatly anticipated bills bear the marks of having been poured through the filter of the American Legislative Exchange Council's agenda for school reform before they were exposed to the light of day.

ALEC Exposed - A project of CMDThis week, for instance, there is a hearing on a voucher bill for special needs children that appears to be modeled on the ALEC Special Needs Scholarship Program Act. Other measures are in the works to hold teachers "accountable" for the performance of their students, but not at voucher schools of the type supported by ALEC.

"Shameful" WI Redistricting Awaits Final Ruling

A federal court will rule in coming weeks on Wisconsin's redistricting plan, after sharply criticizing Republican lawmakers for developing the maps under a veil of secrecy and shutting the public out of the process. Along with voter ID legislation inspired by an American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) model, GOP legislators in Wisconsin appear to be reshaping elections for partisan political advantage.

Occupy Movement Set to Target ALEC Corporate Members F29

On February 29th, Occupy groups in over 70 cities will be targeting corporate members of the highly-influential American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). ALEC is best described as a "bill mill" for corporate special interest legislation. Through ALEC, corporations vote behind closed doors with state legislators on changes to the law they desire that often directly benefit their bottom line. Along with right-wing legislators from across the country, corporations are given "a voice and a vote" on "model" bills to change the law in almost every area affecting people's rights. Corporations sit on all nine ALEC task forces. They fund almost all of ALEC's operations. They have their own corporate governing board. They vote as equals with legislators to pre-approve legislation. Participating politicians then bring these bills home and introduce them in statehouses across the land as their own brilliant ideas and important public policy innovations—without disclosing their origins in ALEC. ALEC boasts that it has over 1,000 bills introduced by legislative members every year, with one in every five of them enacted into law. ALEC describes itself as a "unique," "unparalleled" and "unmatched" organization. It is as if a state legislature had been reconstituted, yet corporations had pushed the people out the door. This is not what democracy is supposed to look like.

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