Smart ALEC Models This Year’s Fashionable Conservatism for Lawmakers
Sunday, July 17, 2011
Conservative lawmakers across the country have a friend in ALEC, otherwise known as the American Legislative Exchange Council. The right-wing nonprofit group has crafted legislation for state lawmakers to push key policy ideas and help make conservatives’ agenda seem more mainstream.
ALEC is not technically a lobbying organization, but serves the same purpose of bringing the interests of corporations directly to politicians. The group, fueled by millions of dollars in corporate contributions, bills itself as “the nation’s largest, non-partisan, individual public-private membership association of state legislators” and at its frequent gatherings provides templates of legislation that lawmakers can take back to their states.
The real authors of these model laws are often not revealed to anyone outside the circle of 2,000 legislators and 300 corporate members. But Nation magazine and the Center for Media and Democracy recently obtained and released to the public 800 of the templates. Common Cause claims that a review of ALEC’s tax return’s indicated that most of the model bills are written by just nine task forces made up of corporate representatives and lawmakers.
After release of the documents, Common Cause wrote the Internal Revenue Service to argue that ALEC’s tax exempt, 501(c)(3) status should be revoked due to “excess lobbying or, alternatively, because ALEC appears to operate primarily to further private business interests and not to advance a charitable purpose.”
ALEC played a key role in drafting the template for Arizona’s controversial anti-immigration law giving police officers the authority to detain anyone suspected of being an illegal alien that is being emulated around the country.
Among ALEC’s contributions is a resolution adopted in more than a dozen state legislatures criticizing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s effort to regulate greenhouse gasses, calling it a “train wreck” and asking Congress to slow or stop the regulations. ALEC has been a strong voice for privatizing government work, weakening unions, fighting President Obama’s healthcare reform law and enacting voter ID laws.
ALEC was founded in the 1970s by legendary conservative Paul Weyrich who also founded the Heritage Foundation, a prominent conservative think tank. These days the organization enjoys support from the deep-pocketed Koch brothers, who were recently the first recipients of its Adam Smith Free Enterprise Award.
-Noel Brinkerhoff, Ken Broder
A Discreet Nonprofit Brings Together Politicians and Corporations to Write ‘Model Bills’ (by Lois Beckett, ProPublica)
ALEC Exposed (by John Nichols, The Nation)
State Legislative Bills Raise Conservative Group's Profile (by Tom Hamburger and Neela Banerjee, Los Angeles Times)
Common Cause Accuses Conservative Group of Lobbying, Seeks IRS Probe (by Neela Banerjee, Los Angeles Times)
Common Cause Alleges ALEC Violates Non-Profit Status (by Brendan Fischer, PR Watch)
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