On Wednesday, the second anniversary of Trayvon Martin’s death, PFAW’s Director of Outreach and Public Engagement Diallo Brooks joined Thom Hartmann on The Big Picture to discuss how the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has helped promote Stand Your Ground laws in states across the country.
Brooks highlighted how the secretive organization fueled by wealthy right-wing donors and corporations pushes legislation that hurts real people:
Last week ALEC held its annual meeting here in Washington, DC, once again bringing together state legislators and corporate representatives to advance legislation that hurts everyday Americans. But they weren’t alone.
Outside their meeting at the Grand Hyatt, PFAW and ally organizations led a protest to stand up to ALEC’s extreme agenda. Holding signs like “ALEC shoots first… and hits real people” and “Stop the war on workers,” hundreds of advocates from diverse organizations and backgrounds marched, chanted, and made speeches about the real toll ALEC-supported policies have on Americans’ lives.
PFAW’s Diallo Brooks’ speech to the crowd was interrupted many times with cheers and applause. He said:
It doesn’t matter where they meet—here in Washington or any other city. When ALEC comes to town, we need to let them know that it is not okay for them to have private meetings with our legislators and corporations and write legislation that impacts our lives every day. We’re here to let them know—loud and clear—that democracy is still alive. We’re paying attention, and we’re going to call them out wherever they go.
Following last week’s news that ALEC drafted an agreement for their state chairs calling on them to put the interests of ALEC first, Brooks and other protest leaders went into the meeting area and asked attendees to sign an alternative pledge – one asking ALEC legislators to honor the Constitution and their constituents rather than corporate interests. None of the attendees signed.
Last week The Guardian began to shine some light on the shadowy right-wing group ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council), exposing how the organization connecting corporations with conservative legislators to move a legislative agenda supporting special interests is declining in popularity. In the wake of tragedies like Trayvon Martin’s shooting, many former members are attempting to distance themselves from ALEC’s extreme agenda.
Close on the heels of that revelation, we now see that a Koch-funded network of state policy groups with ties to ALEC, the State Policy Network (SPN), plans to launch a coordinated assault on many of the issues and services most important to everyday working Americans. Newly-exposed funding proposal documents obtained by The Guardian outline what they call a “blueprint for the conservative agenda in 2014.”
And what an agenda it is. According to the documents, the proposals take aim at public education, health services, worker’s compensation, environmental protections, and more. A new website (www.stinktanks.org) launched by allies ProgressNow and the Center for Media and Democracy helps to further expose the agenda behind these state policy groups and draw attention to some of SPN’s major funders.
SPN, a member of ALEC, should take heed of ALEC’s declining public image. The American people are tired of the coordinated attack on the services, rights, and protections vital to a thriving middle class.
Apparently not all press is good press, after all.
American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) documents recently obtained by The Guardian show the popularity of ALEC, an organization that connects corporate lobbyists with state legislators to push special interest legislation, to be in sharp decline. In the wake of the national outcry surrounding Trayvon Martin’s death, ALEC saw both its corporate and state legislative membership drop in numbers – experiencing what The Guardian describes as a “donor exodus.”
That’s because among the many damaging pieces of legislation ALEC has pushed over the years are “Stand Your Ground” laws, which became a cornerstone of the national conversation about the Trayvon Martin tragedy. Drafted in part by the National Rifle Association, ALEC promoted these types of laws as “model legislation.” But some legislators and corporations – including Kraft, Coca-Cola, Amazon, and more – decided they didn’t want any part of it.
Ed Pilkington and Suzanne Goldenberg report:
The Guardian has learned that by Alec's own reckoning the network has lost almost 400 state legislators from its membership over the past two years, as well as more than 60 corporations that form the core of its funding. In the first six months of this year it suffered a hole in its budget of more than a third of its projected income.
For forty years, ALEC has helped advance bills that hurt everyday Americans, and PFAW works with allies like the Center for Media and Democracy to expose their extreme agenda.
If you’re in the DC area, you can join us this Thursday for a “DC Stands Up to ALEC” rally to make clear that it’s not only legislators and corporations who have had enough of ALEC – it’s the American people.
On the very same day that the Washington Post reported on Republican presidential hopeful Sen. Rand Paul’s call for more school vouchers and expanded charter programs, the Associated Press exposed a frantic behind-the-scenes operation in Indiana to raise the grade given to a charter school run by a major Republican donor. As Rick Perry might say, “oops.”
Paul’s call to expand vouchers and other “school choice” programs is not surprising. Right-wing political strategists have invested huge sums in recent decades to undermine public support for public schools as a means of outsourcing public education dollars into private hands. Privatizing public education is practically an article of faith in today’s Republican Party and it has been a major project of the corporate-funded American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).
What should be more surprising, but isn’t, is Paul’s seeming lack of concern for accountability in the use of tax dollars. The Post reports that Paul “shrugged off” documented quality control problems in DC’s voucher system and “dismissed” recent research showing that charters, while improving, are still not outperforming traditional public schools. Pushing for expansion in the face of dubious evidence is standard operating procedure for education privatizers.
Many advocates for expanded voucher and charter programs say the problem is that public schools aren’t held accountable for their results, but they resist applying the same kind of accountability to “choice” schools. In Indiana, as the Associated Press reports, former state school superintendent Tony Bennett and his staff “frantically” overhauled his much-ballyhooed “A-F” grading system last year when it turned out that Christel House, a charter school run by a major GOP donor, would receive a “C.”
"They need to understand that anything less than an A for Christel House compromises all of our accountability work," Bennett wrote in a Sept. 12 email to then-chief of staff Heather Neal, who is now Gov. Mike Pence's chief lobbyist.
The emails, which also show Bennett discussed with staff the legality of changing just DeHaan's grade, raise unsettling questions about the validity of a grading system that has broad implications. Indiana uses the A-F grades to determine which schools get taken over by the state and whether students seeking state-funded vouchers to attend private school need to first spend a year in public school. They also help determine how much state funding schools receive….
Though Indiana had had a school ranking system since 1999, Bennett switched to the A-F system and made it a signature item of his education agenda, raising the stakes for schools statewide.
Bennett consistently cited Christel House as a top-performing school as he secured support for the measure from business groups and lawmakers, including House Speaker Brian Bosma and Senate President Pro Tem David Long.
But trouble loomed when Indiana's then-grading director, Jon Gubera, alerted Bennett on Sept 13 that the Christel House Academy had scored a 2.9, or a "C."
"This will be a HUGE problem for us," Bennett wrote in a Sept. 12, 2012 email to Neal.
Neal fired back a few minutes later, "Oh, crap. We cannot release until this is resolved."
A weeklong behind-the-scenes scramble ensued among Bennett, assistant superintendent Dale Chu, Gubera, Neal and other top staff at the Indiana Department of Education. They examined ways to lift Christel House from a "C'' to an "A," including adjusting the presentation of color charts to make a high "B'' look like an "A'' and changing the grade just for Christel House.
It's not clear from the emails exactly how Gubera changed the grading formula, but they do show DeHaan's grade jumping twice….
"I am more than a little miffed about this," Bennett wrote. "I hope we come to the meeting today with solutions and not excuses and/or explanations for me to wiggle myself out of the repeated lies I have told over the past six months."
Bennett told AP that his frustration was with a flawed grading formula and denied that the staff’s frantic changes were designed to give DeHaan’s school an A. But, the AP report says, “the emails clearly show Bennett's staff was intensely focused on Christel House, whose founder has given more than $2.8 million to Republicans since 1998, including $130,000 to Bennett and thousands more to state legislative leaders.”
UPDATE: In the wake of news coverage of the school-grading scandal in Indiana, Bennett resigned as Florida's education commissioner on August 1, just a day after Florida Gov. Rick Scott said Bennett was doing a "great job."
Table of Contents:
On August 7-9th, the American Legislative Exchange Council will be holding its annual policy meeting at the Palmer House Hilton in downtown Chicago, Illinois. Over the course of three days, following standard ALEC protocol, state lawmakers from across the country will be wined and dined by corporate lobbyists; “educated” by climate change deniers and free market doctrinaires; and instructed on what corporate-backed bills they should bring back to their respective statehouses.
In Chicago, ALEC will be celebrating its 40th year of existence. ALEC was founded in the city by a coterie of conservative activists in 1973, and has decided to come back to its roots for its 40th annual celebration. For forty years, ALEC has worked behind closed doors to push its extreme agenda, one that harms the American people and weakens our democratic institutions.
That is why activists are rallying to make sure ALEC receives the proper “welcome” it deserves, and that ALEC lawmakers, ALEC corporate sponsors, and ALEC supporters across the country are called out for backing such a reactionary group.
We hope the following toolkit helps you in your efforts to expose ALEC in Chicago.
On August 8th at 12:00 PM outside the Palmer House Hilton in downtown Chicago, thousands of concerned citizens are holding a protest against ALEC.
[Click HERE for a map]
Palmer House Hilton
17 East Monroe Street
Chicago, IL 60603
People will be driving in from across Illinois and neighboring states to rally against ALEC. If you do not live in the area, please pass this information along to anyone you know in the Chicago-area who may be able to attend. Turnout will be high and every person who can make it should come.
If you can attend the protest, please let us know! Send an email to People For the American Way’s Midwest Coordinator Scott Foval at firstname.lastname@example.org, who will be on site attending the rally and will give you up-to-date information about the event. You can follow him on twitter at @scottfoval.
Taking Action Across The Country:
ALEC’s Chicago meeting provides activists across the country the unique opportunity to raise awareness in local communities about ALEC, ALEC supporters, and the extreme ALEC agenda. People For the American Way is here to help facilitate that advocacy. Below you will find activist tools for amplifying ALEC exposure via social media and drafting and submitting Letters To the Editor.
The ALEC Exposed campaign has utilized social media effectively to encourage lawmakers and corporations to drop ALEC. With the upcoming event in Chicago, PFAW has designed the following social media tools to keep up the pressure.
Click on the following images to share them on Facebook:
Relevant Twitter Handles and Links:
@peoplefor – People For the American Way’s Twitter handle
@PFAW_WI – People For the American Way Midwest’s Twitter handle
@scottfoval – People For the American Way Midwest Coordinator Scott Foval’s Twitter handle
@ALEC_states – ALEC’s Twitter handle
@ALECexposed – the Center for Media and Democracy’s ALEC Exposed Twitter handle
tinyurl.com/ALECinChicago – the link to the August 8th Chicago protest
Writing a Letter To the Editor (LTE) is an effective way of raising awareness on an issue. The following tips and “talking points” will guide you through your ALEC LTE submission.
LTE Submission Logistics
- As a rule of thumb, you will want to keep your LTE under 200 words. However, be sure to find out the LTE guidelines of the paper[s] you are submitting to beforehand to double-check that 200 words is an acceptable length – generally, guidelines are posted online, however you can also find out by calling the newspaper’s office.
- Do not feel obligated to only submit LTE’s to large newspapers. Your local paper is a great place to start the discussion. At the same time, do not feel hesitant to submit to bigger papers even if the chances of acceptance are slimmer.
- To increase your chances of acceptance, submit your letter using two methods – standard mail and email. Writing your letter by hand or printing out your letter and then sending it via the mail shows that you have been intentional about your submission and that you really care about the issue. At the same time, sending your letter via email offers Newspaper Editors – who are already pressed for time and content – a quick way to get material into their publication. So if you have the time, please submit using both methods, and acknowledge in both that you are doing so.
- Be sure to include your contact information in your submission. Many newspapers will require their employees to contact an LTE submitter before publication. If you do not feel comfortable sharing your information publicly in the newspaper print, be sure to specify that stipulation at the bottom of your letter.
What To Write About
- Provide background information on what ALEC is, and what ALEC the agenda is all about. Keep in mind your audience will most likely have never heard of ALEC before, so your LTE should primarily be educational. For information on ALEC and the ALEC agenda, see the Talking Points section below.
- Try to identify a target for your LTE. This could be a particular ALEC lawmaker or an ALEC corporation. By identifying a local target, you can make your LTE relevant to your community.
o To find out which members of your state legislature are in ALEC, cross check these two lists here and here; come up with your own list of ALEC public officials of local interest; and call their offices to see if they are attending the Chicago event and/or if they support the organization. Please note that 1) despite much effort, the two lists are incomplete and that 2) some states have stronger ALEC delegations than others.
o To find out which corporations are ALEC members, click here. Look for corporations that have a large presence and/or headquarters in your community.
- Identify timely information in your LTE, particularly that:
o ALEC is having its annual meeting on August 7-9th in Chicago
o Lawmakers, including ALEC lawmakers in your state, will be traveling to the meeting
o ALEC will also be celebrating its 40th year of existence
- Conclude with an opinion and/or call to action, possibly something along the lines of:
o Asking why State Senator/Representative X cares more about the interests of ALEC’s corporate backers, and not her/his constituents
o Identifying the problem of corporate power in American democracy
o Calling for real democracy in America, not ALEC pay-to-play politics
After Submitting Your LTE
- If your LTE has been printed, PLEASE let us know. We’ll work to amplify your message and will make sure your public officials see it.
- If your LTE is not accepted, do not be deterred. There are many way you can contribute to the movement. A quick way you can make sure your hard work does not go to waste is by repurposing what you wrote and mailing it in to your state representative and state senator.
If you have any questions about the process or content of your LTE, feel free to reach out to us by emailing Calvin Sloan at email@example.com.
ALEC background info
- The American Legislative Exchange Council is an organization that connects corporate lobbyists with state legislators to pass special interest legislation in all fifty states. The organization has roughly 2,000 legislative members and 300 corporate members, and has been called by Bill Moyers the “most influential corporate-funded political force most of America has never heard of.”
- ALEC operates behind closed doors, and is almost exclusively funded by corporations, corporate trade associations, corporate foundations, and sources other than membership dues.
- Most of ALEC’s model bills are written by corporate lawyers, and all of them are pre-approved by corporate lobbyists in ALEC Task Force meetings before becoming ALEC model policy. ALEC model bills are distributed to ALEC lawmakers, who introduce the legislation in statehouse across the country without disclosing their source.
- ALEC is a registered 501c3 charity, and thus ALEC’s corporate donors receive tax deductions for their contributions to the organization.
- To date, 49 corporations, 6 non-profits, and 74 state legislators have publicly cut ties with ALEC.
ALEC in Chicago
- On August 7-9th, ALEC is holding its annual meeting in Chicago, IL. State lawmakers from across the country will be flying into Chicago for three days of wining and dining with corporate lobbyists. The organization will also be celebrating its 40th year of existence.
- In Chicago, ALEC lawmakers will receive corporate-written ALEC model legislation to introduce in their respective states, along with tips on what messaging and PR tactics are the most effective in getting that legislation passed.
For more information on the ALEC agenda, please check out the Center For Media and Democracy's ALEC Fact Sheets.
- Climate denial – ALEC has supported "Environmental Literacy Improvement Acts" which would require the teaching of climate denial in public schools as a valid scientific theory. This model bill has been passed in three states, and introduced in seven; with many of ALEC's corporate constituents involved in the fossil fuel sector, the payoff for public skepticism of global warming is clear.
- Privatizing education – ALEC has supported an army of measures to privatize education, including various voucher programs, private school subsidies through parental tax credits, and ideologically contrived evaluations of public schools.
- Virtual schools – ALEC's model bill, "Virtual Public Schools Act", extends state recognition to virtual schools as equivalent to physical public schools, and unreasonably offers for-profit online providers the same per pupil revenue allocation as brick and mortar schools. Educational experts generally regard the value of virtual schools to children with suspicion, and for-profit virtual school companies, which operate for a fraction of the cost of physical schools, comprise a part of ALEC's constituency.
- Attacking teachers’ unions – ALEC has attacked teachers' right to unionize through prohibiting compensation of time spent on union activities as release time, through requiring teacher unions to disclose how much union staff are being paid, and through pushing a panoply of anti-collective bargaining bills that affect all levels of private and public sector employment.
- Obstructing the Affordable Care Act – ALEC has led efforts to resist implementation of state healthcare exchanges, as well as to pass amendments and bills directly contradicting the individual mandate, setting up 10th Amendment court challenges.
- Privatizing Medicare and Medicaid – ALEC has led privatization efforts with model bills providing a small cash allowance to disabled Medicaid beneficiaries and Children's Health Insurance Program recipients to purchase private care, as well as with resolutions to urge Congress to directly privatize the programs.
- Minimizing overall provision of care – ALEC has advocated for bills that would eliminate all state-funded medical assistance not federally required, as well as bills which would require actuarial review of proposals for any new benefits.
On the Middle Class and Workers’ Rights
- Right-to-work – ALEC has led the national push for so-called right-to-work legislation, which hurts unions by prohibiting mandatory collection of dues. Right-to-work legislation most recently passed in Michigan, and along with other ALEC measures like prohibiting payroll deduction to collect dues, comprises the thrust of ALEC’s anti-union, pro-corporate campaign.
- No paid sick days – ALEC has organized efforts across the nation to align corporate interests against paid sick days, with bills passed in Wisconsin and Louisiana, and bills introduced in Florida, Washington, Mississippi, Michigan, Arizona, Indiana, and Oklahoma. Studies show a lack of access to paid sick days forces workers to go to work sick, risking both their own and co-workers' health.
- Minimizing wages – ALEC has led national efforts to freeze or repeal minimum wage and prevailing wage laws. Minimum wages in many states are so minimal that many residents are forced to work multiple jobs; prevailing wages are those standardly paid by the government in a given field, in accordance with regular payments in the local industry. They are also sometimes called “union wages,” and are typically substantially above minimum wage.
ALEC on Taxes and Privatization
- Repeal of capital gains tax – ALEC has advocated for the repeal of capital gains taxes. Since three-quarters of all capital gains go to the top one percent of the income distribution, the measure is quite clearly another way to exacerbate the inequality in the nation’s distribution of income and wealth.
- Repeal of estate tax – ALEC has supported a repeal of the gift and estate taxes, which together tax the giving and inheritance of large sums of money. By securing the fortunes of the rich and powerful, their repeal would substantially increase the rigidity of national wealth inequalities across generations.
- Public spending limitations – ALEC has also supported legislation to limit all public spending increases to the rate of inflation, or by capping revenue to existing levels, or by automatically reducing taxes if revenue rises.
- Other tax policy favoring the rich – ALEC has passed resolutions against "windfall profits" taxes on oil companies, pushed for single, flat-rate business taxes, and led efforts to require super-majorities for tax increases. The last has contributed to California’s budget difficulties, and has also passed in Wisconsin under Scott Walker.
ALEC on Democracy
- Voter ID requirements – ALEC was a driving force behind the post-2010 push for Voter ID and other undemocratic measures that made it substantially harder for roughly 5 million Americans to vote in the 2012 election. In June, the US Supreme Court struck down a burdensome, ALEC-endorsed Arizona statue that required “proof of citizenship” for voter registration, and that was subsequently passed, with ALEC’s support, in Alabama, Georgia, and Kansas.
- Citizens United and money in politics – ALEC has supported the Citizens United decision and opposes federal, state, and local level efforts to mitigate its impact via disclosure and disclaimer requirements. Thus, ALEC supports the use of limitless, corporate “dark money” spending in elections.
- Partisan politics –As recently as March of 2013, Republican National Committee (RNC) called upon ALEC to help develop and implement model legislation to dismantle campaign finance reform in order to help revive the Republican party through abolishing campaign spending regulations and contribution limits.
ALEC on Consumer Rights
- Withholding consumer finance information – ALEC opposed the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The CFPB promotes financial education for consumers; monitors markets for new risks; restricts unfair, deceptive, or abusive acts or practices that affect consumers; and enforces federal consumer financial protection laws.
-Service charges and interest rates – ALEC has opposed government imposed caps or elimination of ATM service charges on the baseless basis that it violates the principles of free enterprise. ALEC has also opposed caps on credit card interest rates on the basis that it violates the principles of free enterprise. Setting a ceiling on credit card interest rates would protect consumers from sky-high interest rates that could leave them bankrupt.
- Tort Reform – ALEC supports a drove of bills that seek to alter the tort liability system to make it substantially harder – or at times, entirely impossible – for consumers to challenge corporations in court and receive just compensation for corporate malfeasance.
ALEC on Guns, Crime, and Prisons
-Stand Your Ground – ALEC adopted and propagated Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law, which gained national notoriety following the Trayvon Martin tragedy. The law expands the legal definition of “justifiable homicide,” and was lobbied for and partially drafted by the corporate-funded National Rifle Association.
- Deregulation of gun sales – ALEC has opposed efforts to allow law enforcement to use their purchasing power to pursue public safety ends, specifically requiring a pledge from gun manufacturers that they will not market weapons for dangerous uses (such as “cop killer” guns or bullets).
- Prison privatization – ALEC has pushed model legislation for decades that privatizes the prison industry and that rewards its for-profit prison private sector members. Private prison companies, unlike state providers, have a financial incentive in “filling beds,” and have utilized ALEC to lobby for the incarceration of migrant workers, for lengthening prison sentencing, and for selling off state run facilities to the private sector.
- Minimum mandatory sentencing – ALEC has advocated for minimum mandatory incarceration sentences for drug offenses, with the severity of these sentences depending on the type and amount of the drug in question and not on whether the case involved the possession and manufacture, sale or distribution of the drugs.
ALEC on Energy and The Environment
- Keystone XL Pipeline, the Alberta tar sands, and the oil lobby – ALEC lawmakers have passed ALEC’s “Resolution in Support of Keystone Pipeline” in at least four states since ALEC adopted the resolution in December 2011. ALEC also facilitated a trip funded by Transcanada, Shell Oil, and other oil-industry players for ALEC lawmakers to visit the Alberta tar sands, the source of the Keystone XL heavy oil. ALEC later encouraged the legislators to email and thank their corporate sponsors for paying for the trip.
- Renewable energy – ALEC has adopted legislation known as the Electricity Freedom Act that would repeal mandates that electric distribution utilities and electric service companies procure electricity from renewable energy resources.
- Carbon emission deregulation – ALEC has adopted a “model” bill from an oil-industry lobby group that would limit the ability of states to negotiate regional “low-carbon fuel standards.” Low-carbon fuel standards would have a significant impact on the sale of fuels derived from the Alberta tar sands and other “heavy oil” fields.
- EPA deregulation – ALEC has resolved to oppose the 2007 Massachusetts v. EPA decision which held that the EPA has statutory authority to regulate air pollutants from vehicles that “endanger public health and welfare.” The resolution uses unfounded statistics and flimsy rhetoric to dismiss climate change concerns.
People For the American Way is indebted to the Center For Media and Democracy for maintaining ALECexposed.org and PRWatch.org. Both websites provide up-to-date analysis of ALEC, and are integral to exposing it.
Back in April, two Alaska House committees approved a bill that would require voters to show a photo ID at the polls – a particularly damaging measure in a state where many rural communities don’t even require photos on drivers’ licenses. Now, the Anchorage Daily News is reporting that there is a familiar face behind the measure. Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, the driving force behind voter suppression and anti-immigrant measures around the country, reportedly coordinated with Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell to push the bill in what looks like an effort to damage Democratic Sen. Mark Begich in his 2014 reelection bid. (Treadwell denies that he worked with Kobach on the bill, which he says he opposes.)
Alaska Natives say a photo ID rule would be a roadblock to voting in the Bush. A decline in turnout there, with its traditionally heavy Democratic vote, could affect the 2014 reelection hopes of U.S. Sen. Mark Begich, a Democrat running in a Republican-leaning state. One of his potential rivals is Alaska's top election official, Republican Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell.
Treadwell says he doesn't support the voter ID bill, but Kobach says Treadwell was instrumental in getting him involved in promoting the Alaska legislation.
In an April statement to reporters that didn't mention Kobach or Kansas, Treadwell touted the cross-checking as having found 14 people suspected of "actually voting in both Alaska and another state" in 2012. Treadwell threatened to prosecute the voters if the allegations were confirmed.
Alaska elections director Gail Fenumiai recently said 12 of the 14 voters cited in Treadwell's April statement were wrongly identified as duplicate voters and actually voted only in Alaska.
Kobach told the Daily News it was he who suggested to Treadwell that Alaska get involved in the Kansas project. "I personally talked to Mead Treadwell, your lieutenant governor, and encouraged him to join, and he did so," Kobach said.
And his testimony on the photo ID bill, Kobach said, was the result of a conversation with Treadwell.
"I spoke to Mead about it at one of our national conferences -- he mentioned that you guys were considering a photo ID law," Kobach said. "I said I'd be happy to share some of the experiences we've had in Kansas."
Treadwell, who said he doesn't support the Alaska bill because of the difficulty for Bush residents to get photo identification, said he didn't recall talking to Kobach about it.
As the Daily News explains, a photo ID bill would be especially damaging to Alaska Natives living in rural communities where DMVs are hard to access and where many towns don’t even require photographs on drivers’ licenses:
Photo ID measures are controversial across the country. Advocates say they help prevent fraud. Opponents say they make it more difficult for particular groups of people to vote: the elderly, students and the poor who don't own cars. In Alaska, the situation is compounded by the difficulty of getting to a Division of Motor Vehicles office in a regional hub like Nome or Bethel from a small village. Alaska doesn't even require a photograph on a driver's license in dozens of Bush communities.
Democratic activists say photo ID bills have the effect of disenfranchising more Democratic voters than Republicans. In his annual address to the Alaska Legislature this year, Begich criticized the bill as making it more difficult for Alaska Natives and Hispanics -- two traditional Democratic groups -- to vote.
The sponsor of Alaska’s bill, who has acknowledged that he drafted the measure using materials from the corporate-funded conservative group ALEC, had odd words of consolation for those concerned about the suppressive impact of the bill: at least it wouldn’t be as bad as Iraq!
Rep. Bob Lynn, an Anchorage Republican who is prime sponsor of the voter ID bill, said he wasn't trying to disenfranchise anyone. He dismissed opponents as complainers who should be happy they don't face the kind of obstacles voters do in places like Iraq.
"Terrorists have threatened to kill anyone who voted, but they voted anyway, and then these voters put ink in their finger to prove they had voted -- evidence that could have gotten them killed. Now that's a hassle, to say the least. Needing a photo ID to vote in Alaska wouldn't even come close to that," Lynn said when his State Affairs Committee first heard the bill in February.
The powerful right-wing organization, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has long claimed that it “respects diversity of thought” and that it is a “non-partisan policy resource for its members,” Democrats and Republicans alike. Indeed, in a television interview with FOX news, an ALEC spokesperson once stated, “we have legislators of all political stripes coming together to talk about the most critical issues facing the states,” and adamantly defended the non-partisan nature of the organization.
It does not take much examination of ALEC policies, funders, or public-sector membership rolls to put these claims into true perspective. ALEC’ s right wing policies are so extreme that over 43 corporations – from Wal-Mart to General Electric – have cut ties with the organization. As documented by the Center For Media and Democracy, more than 99% of ALEC’s public sector leaders are Republican lawmakers. And a quick perusal of ALEC funding reveals that the same funders who back the network are also major sponsors of many Republican initiatives.
Yet what may be the most telling evidence of ALEC’s ties to the GOP emerged just this morning. Today, the Republican National Committee (RNC) released its wide-ranging “autopsy” report in response to the party’s disastrous 2012 elections. The report, entitled “Growth and Opportunity Project,” outlines a variety of policy recommendations including, among other base ideas, abolishing campaign spending regulations and contribution limits. In the report, the RNC specifically calls on ALEC to help develop and implement model legislation to “improve” these campaign finance laws.
The RNC places ALEC alongside the Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC) and the RNC as an organization that is well-suited to “improve” campaign finance laws and propagate them nationwide:
The RNC has called upon ALEC to do its bidding because it knows that ALEC is 100% in support of its anti-democratic agenda. Beyond pushing for Voter ID laws and adopting restrictive registration requirements – like the registration requirements that ALEC adopted years ago as model policy and that today are being argued over in the Supreme Court – ALEC has a history of opposing campaign finance reform. The organization has consistently opposed public financing of elections and even issued a resolution in favor of the Supreme Court’s disastrous 2010 Citizens United decision.
If ALEC and the GOP were truly interested in “improving” campaign finance laws, they would be pushing for greater oversight, not trying to dismantle what little there is left of campaign finance regulation in America. If they really cared about American democracy, they would join the growing chorus of voices who are calling for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United and enact free and fair elections.
Yet ALEC and the GOP care more about gaming the system and rewarding their corporate constituents than empowering the American people. As today’s report makes perfectly clear, their pro-corporate and anti-voter agendas unmistakably go hand in hand.
** Public Policy Intern Kyler Geoffroy contributed to this blog post