The corporate front group the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) brings together legislators and powerful corporations. Drawing the vast majority of its funding from Big Business, ALEC serves as a conduit for corporations to write legislation and then pass it off to state legislatures to be secretly passed without citizens ever knowing that these laws came from corporate boardrooms. These bills affect the safety of your food and water, the quality of your health care and the earth’s environment, even your right to vote.
Thanks to a massive leak of internal ALEC documents to the reform group Common Cause, we now know exactly how corporations are able to use ALEC to manipulate legislation.
Take this passage from an ALEC document showing how votes on model bills occurred at the organization’s 2011 annual meeting in New Orleans. The powerful U.S. Chamber of Commerce suggested a resolution to the Telecommunications & Information Technology Task Force. 17 of the 18 legislators on the task force voted in favor of the resolution. However, the corporations present on the task force were equally split over the resolution, so it was not adopted because it “failed to achieve a majority of support from the private sector [read: corporations]”:
Mark Elliott of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce offered a Resolution in Support of Federal
Efforts to Address Rogue Internet Sites that Sell Counterfeit Products and Facilitate Digital Theft
that was dually referred from the International Relations Task Force. After Mr. Elliott’s
presentation, there was discussion. Will Castleberry of AOL moved to amend the resolution by
striking and adding language […] On final passage of the resolution as amended, the public sector voted 17-1 in favor of the resolution, but the private sector voted 8-8 in favor; thus, the resolution failed on final passage because it failed to achieve a majority of support from the private sector.
It should be noted that, yes, there are also examples where corporate members of ALEC supported a certain policy or resolution and were out-voted by legislators. But it’s important to note how this works. Corporations and legislators get almost equal power over what sort of legislation the group supports. If the big corporations who comprise the private sector components of these task forces do not agree with the bills, they will not be passed on to legislators. That is an enormous amount of power that Corporate America has over the laws we all live under, and ALEC allows them to have it.
Filed under: Lobbying