The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is the most powerful corporate front group you’ve never heard of. The organization, funded mostly by large corporations, writes model legislation and then sends these bills to state legislators across the country. It has successfully passed scores of laws on various issues.
ALEC has come under scrutiny lately for writing and helping to pass “Stand Your Ground” laws, which allow for an expansive definition of self defense that lets individuals use deadly force if they feel threatened. It is a law like this in Florida which may allow Trayvon Martin’s killer to go free. The National Rifle Association, which is partly funded by the gun industry, worked closely with ALEC to pass the law. (It also sponsors ALEC’s conferences.)
But ALEC’s “Stand Your Ground” is far from the only deadly law that this corporate front group has pushed. ALEC’s network of laws have endangered every area of American life, from the air we breathe to the water we drink to the education our children receive in our schools. Here are five despicable laws that ALEC has helped pass in states nationwide:
1. Banning Living Wages: ALEC claims to be a conservative group that stands for “limited government.” But the organization has worked to ban local and city governments from setting their own wage laws. ALEC used the model legislation known as the “Living Wage Mandate Preemption Act” to stop cities from deciding how they spend their own taxpayer money by declaring that contracts with government contractors must pay living wages. After Atlanta, Georgia, passed a law saying that it will only use its taxpayer money to hire contractors who pay living wages, the state legislature passed an ALEC bill to ban the city from being able to control its own wage limits.
2. Crippling Collective Bargaining: When state legislatures around the country started introducing “right to work” bills that would cripple unions, they weren’t acting alone. These bills mirrored model legislation pushed by ALEC to undermine labor rights and crush the unions that middle class Americans rely on for good wages and benefits.
3. Privatizing Our Schools: School vouchers — a system where public taxpayer money is used to line the pockets of private schools — are so unpopular that they only exist in a handful of school systems nationwide, while the idea is repeatedly shot down in national polling. Yet in 2011, there was a huge push in various state legislatures for the expansion of school voucher systems. This push was coordinated largely by ALEC and other Big Money financiers. This push for public money for private schools came at the very same time that these legislatures were cutting money for public schools
4. Attacking Voting Rights: ALEC authored the model law, inspiring numerous bills to enact onerous “voter ID” requirements that effectively disenfranchise millions of Americans who do not possess these special IDs for voting, yet are fully eligible to vote. The U.S. Department of Justice recently blocked a Texas voter ID law pushed by ALEC that it deemed discriminatory.
5. Selling Prisons To The Highest Bidder: ALEC has worked closely with its private prison industry sponsors to increasingly privatize the U.S. prison system. It has also pushed harsh laws related to illegal immigration that would put more immigrants in the jails of the very same private prisons that fund ALEC.
As a reminder, the only reason ALEC has so much influence with state legislatures and is able to get these laws passed all over the country is because of its roster of corporate sponsors. These companies should be held accountable for the laws that are passed thanks to the funding and prestige they lend to the organization.
Filed under: Lobbying