February 7, 2012

Florida Rep. Rachel Burgin Exposes ALEC

It's the nation’s largest, non-partisan, public-private membership association of state legislators. The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) sounds like it might be contributing to the functioning of a genuine democracy. Not so. With nearly 2,000 legislator members and almost 300 corporate partners, they allow large corporations the opportunity to shape policy in many states. Policies that cover environmental deregulation, privatization of prisons and education, undercutting of unions, voter suppression, and much more. And who funds ALEC? Major donors include Exxon Mobil, Koch Industries, and the Coors family. Members of ALEC's board include representatives of AT&T, GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, Kraft, Walmart, and State Farm.

From Bob Edgar of Common Cause -

Dozens of corporations are investing millions of dollars a year to write business-friendly legislation that is being made into law in statehouses coast to coast, with no regard for the public interest. This is proof positive of the depth and scope of the corporate reach into our democratic processes.
But, since ALEC operates somewhat secretively, there is more assumption than proof. It was assumed that participating legislators, who are generally conservative Republicans, took ALEC model bills back to their state legislatures to introduce them as their own bills. The secrecy was inadvertently lifted a bit, when Florida Representative Rachel Burgin (R) introduced a bill written by the Tax Foundation, a corporate member of ALEC's Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force with a word-for-word boilerplate reference to ALEC and its mission. The bill itself calls for the lowering of the federal corporate tax rate, a mere gesture, since Florida has no control over this. Representative Burgin introduced the bill last November, withdrew it the next day, and then reintroduced the bill without any references to ALEC. But she was just recently caught out by Common Cause.

Through ALEC, corporations hide their involvement in drafting legislation. They also avoid the requirements of lobbying disclosure. ALEC is part of the underpinnings of corporate control of our democracy. Occupy Portland has called for a national day of action on Februrary 29 to Shut Down Corporations - a bit of a misnomer, since they intend to specifically target those corporations that are part of ALEC. They invite you to participate in your city and/or with your organization.

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