ALEC

Inside ALEC 2011

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ALEC: Free Market Think Tank or Right-Wing Puppet Master?

A couple of years ago The New Mexico Legislature passed and the governor signed  a bill that some now say sprang from model legislation developed by a controversial right-wing organization.

The group: the American Legislative Exchange, aka ALEC.

The bill? The one that established the state Sunshine Portal.

The Sunshine Portal, of course, was supported by an overwhelming majority of lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. Former Lt. Gov. Diane Denish, the 2010 Democratic gubernatorial candidate, was one of its main champions.

But, as  talk[sic] about in an article in today’sNew Mexican, a handful of other bills that might have originated with ALEC have been introduced in this state in, but none of those has passed. (An anti-ALEC website, ALEC Exposed, has a list of such bills HERE.)

Full Story on Roundhouse Round-Up

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Report highlights cozy relationship between corporate-backed ALEC and Texas laws, lawmakers

By 
Thursday, January 19, 2012 at 1:17 pm Texas legislators have raked in millions over the past decade from a clandestine lobby group backed by the nation’s largest corporations, according to a recent ongoing investigative report by Progress Texas. Several of the state’s most controversial and infamous bills filed this past legislative session appear to mimic legislation the group crafted.

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)– a highly influential and largely under the radar corporate lobbying coalition comprised of thousands of state lawmakers and representatives from major companies like Wal-Mart, Pfizer, ExxonMobil and Koch Industries– draft “model” legislation for lawmakers with no indication to the public that the bills were written with the aid of the corporations that stand to benefit. ALEC, which dubs itself a “nonpartisan public-private partnership,” boasts introducing 1,000 corporate-backed bills in state houses across the country, with roughly 200 pieces of legislation becoming law so far.

Blasted open by a whistleblower last year, troves of ALEC insider documents were made available via The Nation magazine and the Center for Media and Democracy in July.

The Texas Independent previously reported on ALEC’s influence and its model bills that match Texas legislation in areas of higher education reform and tobacco law. ALEC also has ties to controversial conservative think tank, the Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF)– which serves as an ALEC-bill advocate in the state, as the Texas Independent reported. An August Think Progress analysiscomprehensively highlights the striking impact ALEC has on Texas legislation. Full Story Here on The Texas Independent

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Nation Magazine Writer John Nichols Discusses the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)

Since 1973, the American Legislative Exchange Council (a foundation created by large corporations, including Walmart, Kraft, Koch Industries, and others) has been writing model legislation which, obviously, is designed to favour their interests. In 2009, 826 of these model bills were introduced in state legislatures across America, and 115 were signed into law. ALEC also played a key role in the crafting of Arizona’s tough new immigration law. They have finally been exposed by a new report from People For The American Way, after decades of working behind the scenes to influence legislation. Andrew Gillum of People For The American Way is interviewed about the report. From the May 17th, 2011 edition of The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell.

Thanks to ALEC, at least a dozen states have recently adopted a nearly identical resolution asking Congress to compel the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to stop regulating carbon emissions. Democracy Now! interviews Lisa Graves, executive director of the Center for Media Democracy.

 
 

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Corporations Writing Laws For Profit

It is common knowledge that today in the United States millions of people are incarcerated in detention centers, county jails and prisons. What is not such common knowledge are the deep and insidious ties between those who write our laws and those who profit from them. Connections run to much deeper levels than the majority of Americans are aware of, far beyond what seems to have become acceptable by way of contributions and corruption within our government.
In a very brief nutshell, this is how the US prison system currently operates:
There are two major Corporations that run privately operated prison facilities and detention centers; GEO and CCA. There are other, smaller players but these are the two largest. Both trade on the NYSE and their value is determined by the number of beds they keep filled.
The GEO Group, Inc. was initially founded as a division of The Wackenhut Corporation in 1984 under the name of Wackenhut Corrections (WCC). They have acquired a few other companies along the way and today they operate facilities across the globe including Australia, Africa and the UK. They are the folks that run the ICE Detention Center in CO as well as GITMO.
From GEO’s webpage, “We design, construct, finance and manage jails, state and federal prisons, special-purpose institutions, and immigration and detention centers.”  Their profit? Well, according to their page, “Our revenue at year-end 2007 was $1.024 billion, and net income was $41.845 million.”
CCA founded the private corrections management industry more than 25 years ago, establishing industry standards for future-focused, forward-thinking correctional solutions…or so they say.
From CCA’s webpage, “We manage, design, build and own more than 66 correctional facilities and detention centers from coast to coast, in small cities, metropolitan areas and destinations in between.”
What few people realize is that GEO and CCA are both members of ALEC.
ALEC is the American Legislative Exchange Council.
According to their webpage,
“For more than 30 years, ALEC has been the ideal means of creating and delivering public policy ideas aimed at protecting and expanding our free society. Thanks to ALEC’s membership, the duly elected leaders of their state legislatures, Jeffersonian principles advise and inform legislative action across the country. Literally hundreds of dedicated ALEC members have worked together to create, develop, introduce and guide to enactment many of the cutting-edge, conservative policies that have now become the law in the states.  Since its founding, ALEC has amassed an unmatched record of achieving ground-breaking changes in public policy. ALEC’s far-reaching national network of state legislators that crosses geographic and political boundaries, and affects all levels of government, is without equal. [Emphasis mine] No other organization in America today can claim as many valuable assets – both people and ideas – that have influence on as many key decision-making centers.”
ALEC also files amicus briefs with the Supreme Court advising them how to rule on certain cases. They help form guidelines for educational funding and other legislative actions in this country as well. Studies have shown that there is a direct correlation between education and incarceration rates and there have been claims made that privatized prison corporations use the statistics of children who cannot read by 4th grade to estimate the number of beds needed in the future; and yet we allow those who gain from incarceration to have influence over our educational policies and funding? Surely I cannot be the only one to see a slight conflict of interest?
A quick recap:
Together, the two biggest prison profiteering corporations help fund a very large group of people, over a 1,000 of who are legislators, to come up with the very laws that incarcerate us. They also are a major contributors to our educational policies in spite of a rather serious conflict of interest.

They conspire to lock up American citizens and then profit from doing so.

There are a myriad of smaller feeders into the system of course. ALEC is comprised of more than just board members from prison corporations; other corporations are involved and are allowed to sit with our legislators and write policies on everything from environmental issues (Think Exxon writing laws concerning oil spills) to public policies nationwide. For a price, the profit mongers are guaranteed equal say in our laws and policies as they work with our represented officials.
Until such time as American voters decide to cast well educated and carefully researched votes for officials instead of voting on the basis of who has the nicest suit, best hair-do and catchiest campaign soundbytes sadly, nothing is likely to change…unless of course by “change” a person happens to mean a continuous greed-profit driven assault on our personal freedoms and liberty until none of us even remember what the word “freedom” ever meant in any pure and undistorted form…
 
*There is dispute as to whether or not the statistical data is actually gathered and used by prison corporations. Since the time this article was written, new information has been produced that the claim might have been one erroneously made during an election campaign.
© R.McFarland 2010 All Rights Reserved

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Using Taxpayer Funds to Destroy Government

Aug 12, 2011

A few weeks ago, the Center for Media and Democracy along with The Nation published a series of articles exposing the nasty truth about the American Legislative Exchange Council. They published over 800 different laws that the organization has written for Republicans across the country — laws that will benefit their members’ industries and provide nothing for consumers. But that’s not the end of the story. As it turns out, ALEC is actually using taxpayer’s money to help push their small-government, pro-corporate agenda.

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Writing Laws For Profit; ALEC – PT. 2

My last article covered a few of the “acts” that ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council; a special interest conservative right leaning organization) has helped our legislators to write and implement across the country. What I outlined previously were merely a few examples of their good works put out by their Criminal Justice/Homeland Security task forces. While I focus on ALEC in much of my writing, please keep in mind that ALEC is but one of a hundred or so groups who work behind the scenes in D.C. to buy off our politicians and force policies that meet their own political and profit driven agendas. I tend to single out ALEC only because they are one of the most prominent groups and there are numerous connections between ALEC, private prison corporations, declining education and our ever tightening and restrictive ‘tough on crime’ laws…but I cannot emphasize enough that they are just one of the players and takers of the big profit pie that our lawmakers gorge themselves on.

For this article, I am going to highlight some of the ways ALEC (and other outside influences) has helped our educational system along. Since there seems to be a direct connection between education and incarceration, this is an important piece of how politicians and CEOs are legislating profits for prison industry. Let’s face it, very few ‘hardened criminals’ have college degrees and if our government wanted high achievements from our schools, we’d damn well have high achieving schools, don’t you think?

From ALEC’s webpage on their education task force:

Each year, the Task Force releases an annual Report Card on American Education. One of ALEC’s flagship publications, the Report Card takes a comprehensive look at the state of public education all across our country. Based on a variety of indicators, the Report Card consistently shows no direct correlation between conventional measures of education inputs, such as expenditures per pupil and teacher salaries, and educational outputs, such as average scores on standardized tests.

As always, the Task Force will continue to focus on those policies that hold teachers accountable for the education they are providing as well as developing new ideas on how businesses can become partners in educating the next generations of our children.

We’ve already seen the wonders of bringing businesses into our prisons, now they want to do the same to our schools? Pardon me if I don’t jump up and down in excitement over this idea.

Here is more from ALEC’s page:

“Our Model Legislation

Resolution Supporting the Principles of No Child Left Behind”

Apparently NCLB has been a smashing success for those who profit from filling up cellblocks. Pink said it best with, “No child gets left behind, we’re not dumb and we’re not blind; they’re all sitting in your cells, while you pave the road to hell…”

When you read more closely into parts of NCLB here is what is written into the fine print, and again, this is straight off of ALEC’s page:

“Focus on Achievement: NCLB not only promotes—and fully funds—innovative reforms in public education, but the law also holds schools accountable for their own success. For the first time in history, states must prove that they are yielding academic results before the federal government hands over the money. When achievement is not up to standard, the federal and state governments expect them to focus on how they can improve public education standards.”

Back the hell up. Schools that are doing poorly get cut off from federal aid.

How in the world was this supposed to help schools improve? There must be some sort of complicated economic theory here that I just don’t understand. Take poor schools that are not doing well, most likely due to lack of resources, decent teacher salaries, etc. and give them less money for resources… then they will improve and bring test scores up and then they’ll qualify for federal funding again. Makes perfect sense, doesn’t it?

Obama’s new initiative, Race To The Top, is nothing more than a fluffed up version of NCLB and the only difference in policies is that conservative corporate profiteers helped to draft NCLB while liberal corporate profiteers helped draft RTTT. Please note that both Al Sharpton AND Newt Gingrich support RTTT; if that unholy alliance doesn’t make it obvious that what is happening in our country has less to do with right vs. left ideology than it does the rich creating ways to get richer while pissing on the heads of the poor citizens below them, I don’t think anything will.

ALEC also promotes tax credits for sending your kids to private schools. Another fine idea – in theory; wouldn’t you first have to have the money to afford the private school before you qualify for a tax break?  I bet that works out swell for the impoverished parents struggling to provide things like shelter and food for their families and having nothing left over paycheck to paycheck.  Obviously, they’ll have no problem coming up with the thousands it costs to keep their kids in private schools just so they can get a tax break once a year.

We, the people, are the ones being sold out, and sold cheaply. The poor uneducated masses are an ever multiplying commodity for the powers that be to sell. It isn’t going to end, it is going to keep getting worse and corporations are going to keep selling us to line their own pockets. Of this, I am 100% sure.

There is no other reason for the laws that they have passed to cut funding for schools other than to guarantee the supply of uneducated and poor masses. Now, with the so-called financial crisis and mess we’re in, even more funding is being cut from our education system.

An article from the NYTimes on 11-10-08 stated, ““When regular legislative sessions resume in many states in January, other states will be more likely to look to rainy-day funds, when they are available, and deeper cuts to services, most notably to K-12 education, which is generally a last-resort option among lawmakers.”We’ve cut universities, we’ve cut our infrastructure spending, we’ve prorated schools and asked employees for concessions twice,” said Leslee Fritz, the spokeswoman for the Michigan State Budget Office.”

That was in 2008, mind you. State governments across the country have sliced into educational funding and budgets even more in the time since this recession began. ALEC must be jumping up and down in glee. Public schooling is going to take another nosedive, prison populations will increase and, as a bonus, more people will begin to accept letting schools become privatized. The school voucher program ALEC and other corporate-political special interest groups have long pushed for will gain acceptance.

If we look deeper into the school voucher/privatization push though, it is easy to see that ALEC will not be the only ones jumping for joy over the dismal failure of our public education system: The Family Research Council will also be rather pleased and I’m sure that The Center for Reclaiming America will be spitting happy all over the place, too.

These are more special interest political groups that happen to share a common connection as a woman named Betsy DeVos serves on the board of directors for both groups. She’s also involved with -

CEO America. (Children’s Educational Opportunity Fund; promotes vouchers)

She’s founder of National Right to Life.

She’s on the advisory committee for Susan B Anthony List, yet another right to life group.

Oh yes…let’s not forget that she was also chairwoman of the Michigan Republican Party and finance chairwoman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

Busy lady, Mrs. DeVos; a real philanthropist, I suppose. Let’s don’t overlook her integrity and honesty, either: In a 1997 op-ed she wrote for the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call, Betsy DeVos was brutally candid about her views on money in politics: “My family is the largest single contributor of soft money to the national Republican party…. I have decided, however, to stop taking offense at the suggestion that we are buying influence. Now, I simply concede the point. We expect to foster a conservative governing philosophy consisting of limited government and respect for traditional American virtues. We expect a return on our investment; we expect a good and honest government. Furthermore, we expect the Republican party to use the money to promote these policies, and yes, to win elections.”

She says her family is “the largest single contributor of soft money to the national Republican party” …so who is her family? Well, the DeVos family would be none other than the founders of Amway Corporation, you know, the nice folks who put out all those ‘down home, we love the planet, use our products’ commercials and creators of the largest pyramid scam in the country. Betsy’s maiden name however, is Prince; she is the sister of Blackwater/Xe founder and military privatization promoter, Erik Prince.

One branch of the family is looking to privatize our schools; the other wants to privatize our military. Both make money from contracts with prisons for profit. Both wish to push our government out of the hands of the people and into the hands of the corporations and both spend enormous amounts of money making it happen.  This family is only one of hundreds that push their personal and financial agendas; they are likely not even the most influential; they only get mention here because their names kept turning up in searches I while I was looking into ALEC/prison corporation and school privatization activities.

They’re succeeding, by the way. On all counts, they are winning victory after victory and come November, regardless of the overall outcome of the elections, they will be another step closer to making their goal an actual reality. ALEC and their corporate interests have spent billions on campaigns nationwide to ensure that friendly (re: owned) politicians are in place to further promote their profiteering agendas.

Here in NM, ALEC contributed more to our democratic governor than to any other single politician in the country. Why spend so much on Bill Richardson and NM? Easy to answer: Private prison and nursing home contracts worth millions. No sooner was Richardson re-elected than CCA was handed the contract to build and manage a new facility to replace the very same nursing home contract they lost after they were sued and found responsible for multiple deaths. They donated $49,000 to his campaign (in obvious donations, the amount is higher once CEO and personal donations are traced) in one cycle alone… and in return, they got a several year multi-million dollar return on their investment.

This election cycle they are going all out and funding the campaign to put an unknown, inexperienced woman in office here as a republican governor. One of her first campaign soundbytes was in support of school vouchers for NM schools but that goes largely unheard as she drives home her platform of being ‘tough on crime’ and ‘a defender of our border’ and mortal enemy of the drug cartels. We have more private prison contracts pending; piss poor schools & education along with miles of empty and untapped oil country… but sadly, too few of our voters will see the bigger picture or question the outrageous contributions from a Houston oil company before pushing the button and casting their vote for the candidate who is playing on fear and who promises more government protection from crime and evil.

It’s likely this scene will play out across the country while voters remain blind to the fact that the only interest politicians have in immigration is to build more private facilities to push illegals through them for profit and there is no real interest in protecting our borders or shoring up the gaping holes where thousands of people continue to cross over.

The connections that surfaced briefly in the media about CCA staff members working for Jan Brewer’s office in AZ will be forgotten; no one will remember that CCA/ALEC had a hand in drafting AZ’s immigration bill. With legislation like what ALEC drafted for AZ, politicians can show their concern for national safety in public while stuffing their back pockets with the benefits of ill gotten gains behind the scenes.

No one will notice here in NM or in other states as more federal money gets shifted from public schools in need of improvement over to new and untested privately owned charter schools under the “Race To The Top”. It will take years for the negative impact to be noticed and by the time it is, it will be too late. There won’t be enough educated voters to change a damn thing while we slide ever closer to becoming the Incarcerated States of McAmerica…

R. McFarland
©2009

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ALEC Thugs Try To Oust Reporters from Conference

Why is it not surprising that members of ALEC don’t want to risk any members of the press being around? If you’ve got nothing to hide, why have paid rent-a-cops tossing people out? Don’t ya like transparency, ALEC? And think about it folks…half of ALEC is composed of our elected officials!

Don’t we have the right to demand transparency at ANY event they attend that impact our lives, laws and freedoms?

Excerpt From Think Progress -

Yesterday, at a conference in New Orleans, two ThinkProgress reporters were attacked by security guards for no apparent reason. Reporters Scott Keyes and Lee Fang were at the Marriott Hotel for the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) annual meeting, an event that brings together state lawmakers with corporate lobbyists to draft “model” legislation.

While we stood by the second floor lobby of the conference hotel, security guards surrounded us, demanding that we leave. As we were leaving, they approached us, violently pushed us and twisted our arms. A guard approached Fang from behind, tackling him and later bending his arm to take his camera. Keyes, faced similar treatment: two security guards roughed him up on the escalator, taking his video camera, and cutting Keyes’ hand as he attempted to leave the premises. As Keyes asked why he was being forced to leave, he was shoved from the back.

Asked why they were being so belligerent, the security guards said they were acting on instructions from ALEC. At certain points during the incident, they were able to turn on their video cameras and record it:

Continue reading full story on Think Progress

ALEC IN ARIZONA:

The Voice of Corporate Special Interests in the Halls of Arizona’s Legislature

A joint report by People For the American Way Foundation and Common Cause

KEY FINDINGS

ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, serves as a voice for corporate special interests in state legislatures across the country. Its corporate executives, lawyers and lobbyists, along with member legislators, draft, lobby for, and secure passage of a wide array of bills designed to promote corporate interests.
Arizona has one of the highest concentrations of ALEC legislators of any state in the United States – at least 50 of the 90 legislators now serving are ALEC members.  Two-thirds of the Republican leadership in the Arizona House and Senate are on ALEC “task forces” that write  “model” legislation for state legislators around the nation. The last three Arizona Senate Presidents have all served in ALEC leadership roles:  Senator Robert L. Burns (International/Federal Relations task force), Senator Russell Pearce (Public Safety and Elections task force) and Senator Steve Pierce (Energy Environment and Agriculture task force).

Major corporations including Coca-Cola, Kraft, ExxonMobil and GlaxoSmithKline are key players in Arizona politics, and members of ALEC’s “Private Enterprise Board.” Over the past 10 years, the 22 companies represented on the Private Enterprise Board have spent $16 million in Arizona state political campaigns.

Close analysis of AZ legislation on a range of subjects shows remarkably similar – if not identical – provisions to ALEC “model” bills, including:

  • Draconian anti-immigrant measures that criminalize undocumented workers and penalize their employers, strip native-born Americans of their citizenship rights and require that all publications and materials disseminated by state agencies be written in English only
  • Measures encouraging the privatization of state prisons to the benefit of the private prison industry
  • Voter suppression bills that potentially disenfranchise tens of thousands of Arizonans
  • Attacks on workers, their unions, and collective bargaining and the elimination of public employment through outsourcing and privatizing of government functions
  • Attacks on public education through private school voucher programs
  • Measures to prevent implementation of healthcare reform, and
  • Attacks on federal environmental regulation by attempting to deny the federal government the ability to supersede weak state environmental legislation.

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Phoenix protesters pepper-sprayed at Westin Kierland Resort

Phoenix police dressed in riot gear made seven arrests and twice used pepper spray against knots of people among more than 400 protesters Wednesday at the latest ALEC Convention at the Westin Kierland Resort and Spa in northeast Phoenix.

Protesters, many loosely affiliated with the “Occupy” movement, said they want to call public attention to the American Legislative Exchange Council, an organization, meeting at the resort, that brings together large corporations and conservative state lawmakers to draft model bills.

“These people are writing laws that are rubber-stamped and passed in state legislatures all around the country,” said one protester, Rob Smith, 36, of Phoenix, adding that laws “should not be written behind closed doors, particularly by corporations.”

Another protester, Phoenix resident Pam Boyd, said ALEC “is not representing our communities, they’re represents a constituency that is not elected. I want my representation back.”

Protesters and police for the most part were orderly.

“Unfortunately, a few anarchists have joined the Occupy movement, and crowds tried to push their way through the police line on to the resort property,” police spokesman Sgt. Trent Crump said. “OC spray was deployed twice on aggressive groups, which was effective in stopping their actions.”

Gov. Jan Brewer, who was scheduled to speak at the conference, did so without incident, police said.

Some 900 predominantly Republican lawmakers from around the country are taking part in the three-day ALEC conference, which is sponsored by ExxonMobil, AT&T, SRP, Altria, Novartis, Aetna and Freeport-McMoran, among other corporations. Lawmakers were aware of the protests but dismissed the protesters’ concerns of undue influence.

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Speaker Newt Gingrich speaks to ALEC members at the American Legislative Exchange Council’s States and Nation Policy Summit, December 4-6, 2008 in Washington, D.C.

Newt Gingrich speaks at ALEC’s 2009 Annual Meeting

Uploaded by on Aug 5, 2009

The Honorable Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, speaks at the American Legislative Exchange Council’s 2009 Annual Meeting in Atlanta, GA on Friday, July 17, 2009.

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