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A.L.E.C. - American Legislative Exchange Council - ALEC:


History and Philosophy:

  After the "shellacking" the Republicans took in 1964 with conservative Barry Goldwater's defeat in the presidential election, some really smart conservatives got together to form ALEC in 1973 with the intention of changing state laws gradually and, thereby, changing the country from a liberal-leaning mood to an ultra conservative one.  Keep in mind this was the Nixon era when Democrats and Republicans alike were passing things like the EPA, the Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, women's rights, and other liberal programs. (It's only since 1972 that it is illegal for newspapers to print "jobs -female" and "jobs -male" in the want ads.)  Back then, "conservative" had a negative connotation which the Paul Weyrich and friends crowd wanted to change. With huge funding from major corporations, ALEC has grown from just an idea to one of the most influential ultra conservative organizations in the country.

Go to www.alec.org and read the three guiding principles of ALEC on their masthead:  Limited Government, Free Markets and Federalism.  These ultra conservative extremists honestly don't believe it is the government's job to help individuals.  They believe that individuals will make self-serving and therefore good economic decisions and, thereby, contribute to the well-being of society as a whole (the "invisible hand" theory.)  This is why they are anti anything "public."

They believe "markets" should regulate themselves and that states should be allowed to make their own laws without interference from the national government.  (We know how well that worked out with segregation and labor laws.)

The whole "Don't Tread on Me" theme so popular now with a small fringe of voters sums up the ALEC philosophy of federalism.  On the ALEC website, click on "Initiatives" and see how they brag about their "triumph" over the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.  They are the ones putting out the talking points calling health care reform "Obamacare" and doing all the fear-mongering about the effect of health care reform on different constituencies.

Notice also under "Initiatives" that they are the ones who came up with the expression "EPA train wreck" which ultra conservative politicians on all levels of government are using.  They know that a catchy phrase like that, if repeated often enough, burrows its way into voters' brains.  And that people don't vote using rational arguments and facts.  They vote what they "believe."  Ultra conservative extremists have pushed the "global warming hoax" frame so successfully that even rational voters question the facts about climate change.

Membership:  State legislators join ALEC for a nominal fee.  Corporations join by paying anywhere from $5,000 to $50,000 in dues.  This is what they call a "public-private partnership."  Corporations foot the bills for meetings, dinners, retreats, vacations for legislators (and their families if they choose) who then go home and introduce the bills written by ALEC which benefit the corporations.  The website lists the number of bills written by ALEC and which law firm gets to write them.

(The next national ALEC meeting will be August 3-6, 2011 in New Orleans, and states have one night during that conference to themselves which they call "State Night."  Legislators from each state get treated to a nice dinner and a chance to schmooze with corporate staffers.  Ask your state rep and senator where they will be August 3-6.)

Issues: Given their philosophy, it isn't hard to figure out what ALEC's priorities will be.  They are:
  • anti union, anti collective bargaining, anti minimum or living wage laws
  • anti public education
  • anti environmental regulation
  • anti tax ("starve the beast")
  • anti health care reform
  • anti voter participation in elections (Photo ID bills)

Each issue has a "task force" with legislators and corporations that are affected by each particular issue.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/miles-mogulescu/alec-states-unions_b_832428.html

From the above source:

Backed by the oil industry, ALEC has lined up legislators to lower taxes on gasoline and to undermine regulations aimed at curbing carbon dioxide emissions leading to global warming.

Backed by the drug companies, ALEC has mounted a full-scale campaign to defeat initiatives by cities and states to promote importing lower-priced select medicines from Canada.

Backed by low-wage employers, ALEC has promoted legislation to block local governments from raising local minimum wages or even requiring government contractors to pay a fair wage to their employees.

Backed by the telephone companies, ALEC has worked to bar or hamstring cities that have sought to build cheaper or even free Internet services for their residents.

Backed by the insurance companies, ALEC has been promoting a campaign to stop state insurance commissioners from requiring insurance companies to meet the same accountability and auditing rules that were imposed on publicly-traded corporations in the wake of the Enron debacle.

So ALEC's tentacles reach into every part of our lives.  They are well-funded and have been very successful.  "Graduates" of their state legislature programs are now in the U.S. Congress pushing for the same goals.  To their credit, the people who run ALEC and their corporate backers have been very successful.  They started small and have grown into one of the most powerful organizations in the country.

If voters prefer the "Limited Government, Free Markets, Federalism" philosophy, so be it.  But I doubt most voters really understand the implications.  For a look at what our country will be like in a few years, go back and read the chapters about the 19th century in any history textbook.  I doubt this is what the majority of Americans want, but the gap between the rich and poor in our country is now as bad as it was in "the Gilded Age" when robber barons ran the country.

Susan Cunningham
July 4, 2011

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