Secretive legislative organization pushes interests of corporations
Most Americans had never heard of the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, until the shooting of Trayvon Martin exposed the close relationship between ALEC and the NRA. Together they sold state legislatures on the idea that “Stand Your Ground” laws were the next big thing in protecting our freedom.
In Colorado we have long had the “Make My Day” law. It allows the use of deadly force against home invaders. But when a “Make My Day Better” law, expanding self-defense laws for businesses, was introduced it failed because it gave too much leeway for the use of deadly force. ALEC and the NRA provided the template for the most recent legislation.
But gun laws were only one interest of the corporate leaders who sit on the ALEC Board of Directors, and provide its funding. Their closed meetings with thousands of Republican state and federal legislators produce as many as 1,000 bills each year. About 20 percent of these are passed, according to ALEC’s website.
The model legislation ALEC has provided to state legislators “reach(es) 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,” according to the Center for Media and Democracy.
The wall of silence behind which ALEC has operated since it was founded in 1973 first began to erode last July when the Center for Media and Democracy released their “ALEC Exposed” report. The report unveiled a “trove of over 800 ‘model’ bills and resolutions secretly voted on by corporations and politicians through the American Legislative Exchange Council. These bills reveal the corporate collaboration reshaping our democracy, state by state.”
Until a hapless Florida state legislator recently submitted a bill under her own name, but failed to remove the ALEC preamble from the document, the link between conservative legislation and ALEC was largely circumstantial.
Legislators are expected to make the text of the bill reflect specific state conditions. This tweaking often obscures the origin of the bill, preserving the cloak of anonymity that ALEC uses to shield itself as the source of the legislation.
The careless legislator was chagrined; but ALEC was exposed as the author of laws to protect corporations from the people.
In states where Republicans control all three branches of government, radical anti-labor bills, privatization of education, tort reform, oil and gas deregulation and weakened gun laws have passed. None has been proved to have a connection to ALEC.
After the Florida revelation, it became clear why similar conservative bills favoring corporations and the wealthy were popping up simultaneously in Republican-controlled legislatures around the country.
Thanks to a resolute Democrat-controlled state Senate, the most extreme bills and resolutions to emerge from the Republican House in Colorado never became law. However, the alliance between the Republican Party and ALEC continues to undermine the democratic process.
If Colorado is not to have government of the corporations, for the corporations and by the corporations, Coloradoans of both parties need to stand firm against the growing threat of corporate power.