With the current activity of the Legislature on the budget, this update of a post from March is more relevant than ever. The influence of The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and its corporatic policy pushers need to be exposed for what it is. A dawning of a new “Robber Baron” age, where huge corporations use their financial hold on lawmakers to drive their consolidation and privatization agenda – making it open season on state resources and working families.
As background to an upcoming Badger Democracy post later this week – revealing Governor Walker’s direct ties and activity with ALEC, as well as the corporate sponsors (Koch Industries, etc.) supporting Walker and ALEC “model legislation,” read and share this crucial information about this “semi secret” organization.
Merriam Webster’s primary definition of ”anarchy” is a) ”absence of government” and b) “a state of lawlessness or political disorder due to the absence of governmental authority.”
Liberty is defined as a : the power to do as one pleases b : freedom from physical restraint c : freedom from arbitrary or despotic control d : the positive enjoyment of various social, political, or economic rights and privileges e : the power of choice. The definition liberty invokes is the ability to excercise those freedoms and choices free from despotic control, and with individual rights protected under the law (i.e. a Constitution).
The group ALEC – or “American Legislative Exchange Council” was a virtually unknown prior to a few months ago. That’s the way they wanted it. Thanks to historical scholar William Cronon at The University of Wisconsin, the functions of this group are becoming widely known, and that is a good thing for democracy. The group’s home page can be used as a great source of information for who they are and the policies they hope to forward. It also posts their meeting schedules for co-ordinating protests! Their “Budget Toolkit” outlines policies and legislation for implementing their plans, including selected “model legislation.”
ALEC is a semi-secretive group formed in 1973 by Henry Hyde, Lou Barnett, and Paul M. Weyrich. The visible, front membership is composed of thousands of state legislators, who pay a small fee for membership and conference attendance. In the past, this has given the group an image of looking non-partisan with broad public support – in truth, its corporate members pay large fees for membership, sponsorship, and access to member legislators. Almost 82% of its income is paid by these large corporations, only about 2% comes from legislator members. In 2009, over 100 ALEC- authored bills were passed in statehouses across the country, including the controversial 2010 Arizona Immigration bill. The list of ALEC supporters reads like a who’s who of big American business and political influence. Koch Industries, Exxon, Enron, Wal Mart, Shell, Pfizer, Philip Morris, RJ Reynolds, AT&T, the list goes on. The legislation drafted and proposed by ALEC serves one purpose – the advancement of interests profitable to these corporate entities. Their documented legislation is proof of their motives – solidify the position of corporate America as the only remaining political influence, eliminating the competition.
The group specializes in research and drafting legislation to consolidate power. Creating a form of corporate management, with reduction of legislative oversight to drastically cut services they consider ”low priority.” Members are taught at expense – paid conventions and seminars to “prioritize” spending as necessary functions of government. The group admits in their “toolkit” that this will bring about ideological battles – an intentional action that will pit middle class workers against each other. These seminars are attended by legislators who are given “cut-and-paste” bills ready for enacting in their state. Under current political donation statutes, these “donations” in the form of “education” do not need to be reported, even though they amount to hundreds of millions of dollars (NPR Report). Resolutions such as this have appeared almost simultaneously in multiple states; this one calling for a resolution to withdraw said state from Regional Climate Initiatives based on the groups denial of climate change science:
- WHEREAS, there has been no credible economic analysis of the costs associated with carbon reduction mandates and the consequential effect of the increasing costs of doing business in the State of ______;
- WHEREAS, forcing business, industry, and food producers to reduce carbon emissions through government mandates and cap-and-trade policies under consideration for the regional climate initiative will increase the cost of doing business, push companies to do business with other states or nations, and increase consumer costs for electricity, fuel, and food;
- WHEREAS, the Congressional Budget Office warns that the cost of cap-and-trade policies will be borne by consumers and will place a disproportionately high burden on poorer families;
- WHEREAS, simply reducing carbon emissions in the State of ______ will not have a significant impact on international carbon reduction, especially while countries like China, Russia, Mexico, and India emit an ever-increasing amount of carbon into the atmosphere;
- WHEREAS, a tremendous amount of economic growth would be sacrificed for a reduction in carbon emissions that would have no appreciable impact on global concentrations of CO2;
- WHEREAS, no state or nation has enhanced economic opportunities for its citizens or increased Gross Domestic Product through cap and trade or other carbon reduction policies; and
- WHEREAS, Europe’s cap and trade system has been undermined by political favoritism, accounting tricks and has failed to achieve the carbon reduction targets,
- THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the legislature of the State of ______ urges the Governor to withdraw [state] from the regional climate initiative.
The group’s initiatives have influenced legislation in Health Care Reform (“Repeal Obamacare” movement), Anti-Environmentalism, Climate Change, Telecom fronting (legislation prohibiting municipalities from offering broadband service), Tobbacco Policy, and Immigration reform. Looking at the list of corporate sponsors, it is not hard to draw the line to who benefits from this legislation – and who is harmed.
Up until a few months ago this grouped functioned under a cloak of partial secrecy. Millions of dollars being spent to further the profiteering goals of a select group of companies, creating a myth of “junk science” to discredit climate change data, feeding self-serving legislation to easily manipulated lawmakers – all without any public oversight or accountability. It is imperative to understand what is at stake. The success of ALEC means the death of democracy as we know it. A single party controlled government, elections funded by big corporations for their own interests, no corporate regulation or oversight, private profiteers performing essential services at the lowest bottom line (again no oversight or public accountability). Also, these corporations paying no taxes, with people being employed at the whim of the employer (it’s happening already – as in the case of GE showing record profits and paying no taxes). The tax burden on the working middle class will increase, and the middle class will disappear. 98% of the population working at a barely living wage because they have to – working for the benefit of the other 2% – how far away from this vision are we today? That is corporate anarchy – a small group of wealthy individuals divesting any oversight power and authority away from the government for the corporate benefit. Taking away, little by little, the balance of power previously afforded individuals protecting their rights to participate in a fair and representative republic.
Here’s the good news – in their greed and arrogance, they forgot a crucial factor in the equation. The people of Wisconsin. This is still a state and nation of laws and rights. We are still one person, one vote. And we are greater in number than they – that needs to be the moral of the story. The knowledge of this group and the ability to defend and protect Wisconsin from the Corporate Anarchists is thanks to William Cronon; who will undoubtedly energe as one of the heroes of this movement. Spread the information, freedom is knowledge – and knowledge is power.