ALEC

Educators Dismiss ALEC

The National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA) will not renew their membership in the American Legislative Exchange Council, the organization said in a statement released on Tuesday. NACSA is the third major educational organization to drop their association with ALEC, joining Kaplan and the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.

Both ALEC and NACSA support charter schools, but NACSA appears to have decided that ALEC’s extreme vision for charter school systems – which place corporate profitmaking above the needs of students, parents and communities – is out of touch with its mission to “advance excellence in public charters schools as a way to improve public education for all children.”

Rather than proposals designed to improve our public education system, ALEC’s model bills instead transfer public education funds into the hands of private corporations. Such proposals include voucher programs and publicly funded subsidies for religious and other private schools. ALEC’s Education Accountability Act would allow a state to override the elected school board and declare schools “educationally bankrupt,” then divert its funds to private schools. Of course, ALEC’s assault on public education wouldn’t be complete without attacks on teachers, school personnel and basic educational standards.

Just as important, there was never a legitimate reason for NACSA to support an organization that promotes legislation that attacks working families, rolls back consumer rights, blocks access to courts of law and disenfranchises thousands of eligible voters.

It’s not surprising that NACSA and other educators have concluded that ALEC is far more trouble than it’s worth.

PFAW

ALEC's Strategy for Tough Questioning: Evade and Reframe

Since ALEC’s agenda has come to light, the organization has found itself playing defense. So far, 14 corporations and numerous member legislators have withdrawn their support in recent weeks as a result of the intense media scrutiny and public campaigns focused on exposing the organization’s extreme policies and shadowy practices. A newly released ALEC internal memo describes how they plan to deal with the endless onslaught of tough questioning from the press and the American people:

Change the subject.

A memo obtained by Common Cause and published by The Huffington Post, instructs ALEC members to essentially ignore tough questions about ALEC’s workings: “The following information is designed to help you navigate away from those tough questions and get back to talking about policy," says the memo, "If you are asked any of these questions, acceptable responses are provided, but please then direct the conversation back to the policy to which you want to discuss."

The memo also provides a few sample questions from the media that ALEC members can expect to face. They are actually pretty good questions:

• Didn't ALEC actually write this legislation in conjunction with private corporations and then convince state legislators to pass it throughout the country?

• Isn't this just a front for big corporations to push their legislative policies on policy makers?

• Isn't this just another way for big corporations to lobby behind closed doors?

• I see the huge cost for private companies and the minimal cost for legislators. Why the difference and doesn't this jus [sic] prove that big corporations run ALEC?

• How much does __________ contribute to ALEC? I've seen figures in the hundreds of thousands. Reports suggest __________ have been contributed to ALEC.

• Isn't it true that Koch (or insert other members' names) provided ALEC over $500,000 in funding over the past few years?

• Your corporate members are the real ones pushing the issues and controlling ALEC, aren't they? They do give the most money.

The suggested answers, on the other hand, are evasive and disingenuous and are designed to help steer the conversation toward a favorable discussion of ALEC policies. But as ALEC has discovered, the much-deserved scrutiny of their operations and agenda won’t be easily shaken.

PFAW

Beverage Giant Diageo Drops Heartland Institute

Joining the scores of corporations that have recently dropped their support of ultra-conservative organizations that represent shady, undemocratic and disingenuous practices, the London-based beverage giant Diageo, which owns brands such as Guinness, Smirnoff, Johnny Walker and others, announced that they will no longer fund the Heartland Institute, a right-wing think tank. General Motors also discontinued their support for the organization earlier this year.

The decision came after the Heartland Institute ran an unsavory billboard ad showing a picture of the Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski, with a caption that read, “I still believe in global warming. Do you?”

In addition to the Unabomber, the Heartland Institute’s ad campaign also compares climate change scientists and advocates to murderers such as Charles Manson and the Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, and the organization believes that "The people who still believe in man-made global warming are mostly on the radical fringe of society," a statement reads. "This is why the most prominent advocates of global warming aren’t scientists. They are murderers, tyrants, and madmen."

The Institute, which receives funding from the Koch Brothers, has also posted an impassioned defense of the American Legislative Exchange Council on their blog: “The Heartland Institute stands with ALEC in support of free enterprise, limited government, and federalism, and asks that you do so as well.” Apparently, this includes a blatantly disingenuous and hateful ad campaign that calls those who oppose their pro-oil, pro Koch-brothers agenda, even scientists, “murderers” and “tyrants.”

While Diageo should be commended for severing ties with the Heartland Institute, the corporation unfortunately has not joined a number of other corporations, including The Coca-Cola Company, Pepsi and Kraft Foods, who have severed their ties with ALEC.

PFAW Foundation

An ALEC Bill's Journey

Bloomberg Businessweek put together a handy infographic charting the path of one particular piece of ALEC model legislation, the Private Attorney Retention Sunshine Act, on its journey from approval as a model through introduction in 12 states across the country, and eventually becoming law in three. Shielding corporations from liability for causing harm to consumers and the environment is a major ALEC priority, and this legislation makes it harder for states to hire law firms to bring suits against businesses.

ALEC claims that it is just a library for bills and falsely states on its IRS returns that it conducts no lobbying, but documents submitted by Common Cause to the IRS last week all but prove otherwise. Internal documents show that ALEC actively engages in all the hallmarks of lobbying – from advocating for bills to tracking their progress through statehouses nationwide.

PFAW Foundation

Call for ALEC Tax Investigation Spreads to the States

Fresh off of filing a major complaint with the IRS alleging that the American Legislative Exchange Council abused their tax-exempt status by acting primarily as a lobbying organization, the good-government group Common Cause is now pressing for state-level investigations. Yesterday, Common Cause asked New Jersey Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa to investigate whether ALEC’s activities are in violation of state law.

Nine companies based in New Jersey, including Honeywell, Johnson & Johnson and Merck are ALEC members, and an investigation by the Star-Ledger found that a close resemblance between ALEC model bills and several pieces of legislation and executive actions pushed by the Christie Administration. The investigation also noted that ALEC member corporations and their executives have given at least $200,000 to New Jersey officials who are responsible for advancing these bills.

ALEC claims that it only “provides a constructive forum for state legislators and private sector leaders to discuss and exchange practical, state-level policy issues,” and “does not lobby state legislatures.” But it’s difficult to understand how an organization that pays for state legislators to go to exclusive resorts, where they discuss and vote as equals with corporations on model legislation, can be considered anything but a lobbying front. One thing is clear: ALEC certainly is not the “charity” they claim they are on their tax returns.

PFAW Foundation

Educators Ditch ALEC's Corporate-Schools Agenda

Who has ditched ALEC so far?

The rolling tally: 14 Corporations, 33 State Representatives.

A major component of the American Legislative Exchange Council’s agenda to transfer the public’s resources to a few private hands revolves around privatizing our public school systems. From model bills that sanction “Virtual Public Schools” run by for-profit companies to subsidizing private school vouchers with taxpayer money, ALEC places corporate profits above children’s needs.

Perhaps this is why the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS), the national certifying body for teachers in the United States and an organization that is ostensibly dedicated to serving children’s educational needs, announced that they are severing ties with ALEC:

Given recent events, the new NBPTS President and CEO decided to discontinue engagement with ALEC. As a result, NBPTS terminated its membership as an Education Task Force Member of ALEC effective April 18, 2012, and also withdrew from participating in the upcoming ALEC conference....The decision to participate in ALEC had been made by previous NBPTS leadership.

–NBPTS spokesperson Brian Lewis

NBPTS is a non-profit organization, but they take positions on many aspects of education policy, including teacher-certification regulations. Before their departure, the organization sat on ALEC’s Education Task Force, which, as the Center for Media and Democracy reports, boasts private-sector members such as the James Madison Institute of Florida and the Pioneer Institute of Massachusetts, both members of the Koch-funded State Policy Network.

ALEC is too toxic even for some for-profit education companies. Last week, Kaplan announced that they are declining to renew their ALEC membership. 

PFAW Foundation

Leaked ALEC Documents Show Extent of Influence

The American Legislative Exchange Council’s influence over state legislative bodies is well documented. We’ve seen countless examples of corporate lobbyist-drafted model legislation, developed at exclusive retreats at fancy resorts out of the public’s eye, make its way to the statehouse floor, bringing disastrous results to working families, public education, the environment, voting rights and much more.

Last week, Common Cause released a bounty of ALEC’s internal documents as part of an official complaint to the IRS, claiming that ALEC has abused its tax status as a 501c3 organization. As a result, a new window was been opened into the processes responsible for creating these pro-special interest bills, revealing just how much power ALEC’s corporate members enjoy.

One such document, the minutes from ALEC’s 2011 Telecommunications & Information Technology Task Force meeting in New Orleans, reveals how the private sector (ALEC-speak for “corporations”) has equal – and often greater – policy-making power than elected officials through their influence in developing model legislation that can become law. The document describes how the U.S. Chamber of Commerce offered a resolution regarding federal efforts to curtail internet sites that sell counterfeit products, and after discussion amongst the public and private sector members, the resolution was defeated:

The Task Force then proceeded with a vote on the motion to amend by Mr. Castleberry, which was adopted by the private sector 8-1 in favor and by the public sector 19-3 in favor. On final passage of the resolution as amended, the public sector voted 17-1 in favor of the resolution, but the private sector voted 8-8 in favor; thus, the resolution failed on final passage because it failed to achieve a majority of support from the private sector.

In this case, the will of 94% of our elected representatives participating in the discussion was trumped by just half of the task force’s corporate members. To put it simply: unelected corporations are voting as equals with elected officials on model bills that become our laws.

This is how ALEC accomplishes its stated mission to “advance the fundamental principles of free-market enterprise”: by helping free market enterprises literally vote on public policy.

[H/T Republic Report]

PFAW Foundation

Top Lobbyist and ALEC Members Host Emergency Meeting with Arizona Legislators and Staff

Phoenix, AZ – Today, at the request of House Majority Whip Debbie Lesko and the top lobbyist for SRP, a major Arizona utility company, state legislators and their staff held a closed-door meeting to provide an “update on the fight that ALEC is waging in the media against its detractors.” SRP and Lesko are both members of ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, which has come under intense media scrutiny and public criticism for its role in advancing extreme legislation in Arizona and around the country.

On Tuesday, Russell Smoldon, SRP’s Senior Director of Government Relations and a member of the ALEC Private Enterprise Board, sent out the following invitation:

Debbie Lesko and other ALEC legislative members both present and past would like to invite you to a meeting this Thurs. (April 26th), 11:00am at AGC to get the latest update on the fight that ALEC is waging in the media against its detractors. We would really appreciate your attendance.

Marge Baker, Executive Vice President of People For the American Way Foundation, issued the following statement:

“Now that ALEC’s agenda is out of the shadows, they are scrambling to justify their extreme policies to the public. It’s telling that SRP and Representative Lesko promoted this meeting to defend ALEC, which advances policies that benefit corporations’ bottom line at the expense of individual workers and consumers. This meeting demonstrates how the people’s representatives, with ALEC as facilitator, are at the beck and call of corporations and special interests. It’s time to expose those who do ALEC’s bidding and restore the public interest as our elected officials’ top priority.”

People For the American Way Foundation has released two reports in conjunction with Common Cause, Progress Now and the Center for Media and Democracy detailing ALEC’s influence in the Arizona legislature through side-by-side analysis of ALEC model bills and actual Arizona legislation. Following the release of the second report, Arizona Public Service Company (APS), Arizona’s largest utility in the state, announced it was severing ties with ALEC.

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PFAW Supports the U.S. Justice Department in Arizona v. United States

This morning, the Supreme Court heard the oral arguments of Arizona v. United States, a case that will examine key provisions of Arizona’s infamous and draconian immigration law, SB 1070. If implemented, the law, colloquially known as the ‘show me your papers bill,’ would lead to the unjust targeting of Arizonans through racial profiling and increased jail sentencing.

Because of SB 1070’s blatant assault on civil liberties, much of the nation was shocked by its passage. The United States challenged it in court, arguing that the state was unconstitutionally encroaching on the federal government’s responsibility for immigration law. Four sections of the bill were blocked by U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton of Phoenix on July 28, 2010. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco upheld Bolton’s ruling, and after Arizona appealed that decision, the case arrived at the Supreme Court, which has chosen to address yet another politically polarizing issue in this critical election year. Although the threat to the basic rights of people – both citizens and immigrants – is the subject of significant concern, the legal issue before the Supreme Court today addresses whether Arizona’s effort to make life so miserable for immigrants that they leave the state is preempted by federal law.

Below is an analysis of the legislation that People For the American Way published when participating in a statewide boycott of Arizona following the passage of the legislation nearly two years ago.

Question: How does the Arizona law, S.B. 1070, expand racial profiling? Isn't it focused only on migrant workers?

Answer: Under current law, state-local police are authorized to enforce federal immigration laws only in limited circumstances. Even so, law enforcement in Arizona and across the country already is challenged by substantial evidence of wrongful arrests, racial profiling, and discrimination. The new law would dramatically expand the problem. Specifically, the new law:

• Increases the scope of those enforcing immigration laws from a few police departments, or units within departments, to every single law enforcement officer in the entire state.

• Expands the population at risk of being stopped, arrested, and detained from a limited number – those targeted by bona fide immigration enforcement operations, or those already in police custody – to everyone who comes into contact with a law enforcement officer who has a "reasonable suspicion" someone may be undocumented.

• Virtually guarantees that Latinos and other minorities will be asked to provide proof of legal residency, and be subject to arrest and detention if they cannot do so, at far higher rates than non-minorities. Research on racial profiling shows that, not only do minority drivers experience more traffic stops than non-minority drivers, once stopped, minorities are subject to higher rates of searches, arrests, and formal charges than similarly-situated non-minority drivers.

• Provides powerful incentives for wrongful arrests, racial profiling, and other abuse by creating a private right of action against any agency that fails to uphold the new law's provisions, while at the same time indemnifying police officers from litigation brought by those who are wrongfully detained or racially profiled.

Demonstrations in support of the U.S. Justice Department took place this morning, and PFAW staff were able to attend in solidarity.

End Note: Another controversial aspect of SB 1070 is the role that ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, played in adopting the bill as model legislation and pushing it in states across the country. For an analysis of the ALEC connection and SB 1070, please read our report on ALEC in Arizona released in November 2011, “ALEC IN ARIZONA: The Voice of Corporate Special Interests in the Halls of Arizona's Legislature” and the Center for Media and Democracy’s blog post on the issue.

PFAW

ALEC Confirms Shift to Economic Focus Just a PR Move

Responding to pressure from consumers who don’t want the companies they do business with to support an extreme agenda, 13 major corporations have withdrawn their membership from ALEC. The organization has been under pressure from activists outraged at ALEC’s support for draconian immigration policies, vote-suppressing legislation and gun laws like “Stand Your Ground."

 Last week, ALEC released a statement saying that it was disbanding the Public Safety and Elections Task Force responsible for turning these extreme policies into law, instead claiming that the organization would be shifting its focus back to economic issues:

“We are refocusing our commitment to free-market, limited government and pro-growth principles, and have made changes internally to reflect this renewed focus.

“We are eliminating the ALEC Public Safety and Elections task force that dealt with non-economic issues, and reinvesting these resources in the task forces that focus on the economy. The remaining budgetary and economic issues will be reassigned.”

We were skeptical that the decision was anything more than a savvy PR move – and now an ALEC member has confirmed it. This move was just a stunt; the Public Safety and Elections Task Force’s whole portfolio will be reassigned to another committee, according Republican State Rep. Jerry Madden of Texas, the Task Force’s former chair: 

Republican State Rep. Jerry Madden of Texas chairs the Public Safety Task Force and although he is disappointed the committee is disbanding, he said many of the issues will be transferred to other committees.

"ALEC's decision won't impact the important issues we've worked on," Madden told The Christian Post"But I will say this, these groups are targeting ALEC because when conservatives get together, we influence state and federal policy in a major way and these groups are scared of us – and should be."

Considering the ever-growing list of corporations and legislators who have deserted the organization in recent weeks, maybe it’s ALEC that should be worried.

One such defector, State Representative Ted Vick of South Carolina told Ed Schultz his reasons for resigning:

“It started moving to the right and getting very extreme…right now if they continue to do the Right-Wing thing they are doing and pushing agendas that have nothing to do with more efficient government, then it doesn’t have a place in politics in my opinion, and that’s why I’m resigning.”

 

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

PR stunt aside, the fact remains that ALEC’s core agenda is just as extreme and dangerous. Somehow, ALEC’s “jobs agenda” still manages to include attacks on working families, the environment, women, public education – the list goes on. As PFAW president Michael Keegan stated,

The true economic consequences of the ALEC agenda – which includes privatizing public resources such as schools and prisons, dismantling unions and stacking the deck against average people who try to seek justice in a court of law – is that wealthy special interests get even richer while the rest of us are left in the dust. ALEC believes in job creation – unless job elimination is better for the bottom line of a few corporations.

PFAW Foundation

ALEC Double Whammy: Whistleblower Complaint and Another Corporate Departure

It’s been a rough start to the week over at the American Legislative Exchange Council.

Common Cause has submitted a formal whistleblower complaint against ALEC to the IRS this morning, alleging that the organization has flouted federal tax laws by portraying themselves as a tax-exempt charity and misusing their 501c3 status by acting primarily as a lobbying organization, according to a press release.

501c3 organizations have very strict limitations on lobbying, and ALEC consistently states on its tax returns that it does not engage in lobbying. But it’s hard to see how an organization that helps facilitate meetings between corporate representatives and state legislators, produces model legislation and coaches state legislators on how to advocate for and defend such legislation can be considered anything BUT lobbying.

Corporations provide the vast majority of ALEC’s funding. But since their membership dues are written up as donations to a “charitable” organization, they can deduct the dues from their taxes – leaving the American taxpayers to make up the difference, says Common Cause president Bob Edgar. “Corporations that have been funding this organization have, in fact, been lobbying and getting a tax break. The taxpayers of the United States have been paying for a lobbying operation because these corporations can take this off on their taxes.”

The 4,000 pages of internal ALEC documents submitted to the IRS make the case that ALEC is an active lobbying organization, and by law, the IRS is required to launch an investigation.

As if that isn’t headache enough, a thirteenth company, Procter & Gamble, has ended its membership in ALEC. As a P&G spokesperson told Color of Change, the company “made the determination that ALEC does not help P&G compete for consumers’ loyalty and support.”

The pressure is now on Johnson & Johnson, one of the companies still connected to ALEC and a target of a petition drive to get ALEC-member corporations to leave the organization, to explain how ALEC’s extreme agenda benefits their consumers when their major competitor P&G concluded it did not.

PFAW Foundation

ALEC Update: 12th Corporation Drops Out

Yum! Brands, the parent company of fast food chains such as KFC, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut, has decided to leave the American Legislative Exchange Council, according to Color of Change. This makes Yum! The 12th company to disassociate from the organization in recent weeks.

This is a significant decision because it comes after ALEC’s decision to disband the Public Safety and Elections Task Force, the part of the organization responsible for the voter suppression and “Stand Your Ground” laws that exemplify ALEC’s extreme agenda and helped galvanize the recent corporate exodus from the group.

Think Progress notes that Yum! held a leadership position on a different committee: Labor and Business Regulation, which fought to repeal laws guaranteeing paid sick leave to workers. The corporation also was a member of the Commerce, Insurance and Economic Development Task Force.

Responsible members of the business community are realizing with or without the Public Safety and Elections Task Force, ALEC’s extreme agenda is bad for business.

PFAW Foundation

PFAW Vows Continued Vigilance as ALEC Attempts to Whitewash its Extreme Agenda

In response to public outrage, the American Legislative Exchange Council has announced that it is disbanding the “Public Safety and Elections Task Force,” the working group responsible for advancing model legislation like the controversial Voter ID and “Shoot First” gun laws that have proliferated around the country.

“ALEC’s latest move is a transparent effort to stem the recent hemorrhaging they’re facing after the outpouring of grassroots anger over their role pushing extreme legislation that endangers the safety and lives of Americans.” said People For the American Way president Michael Keegan. “They’re right to be worried about public outrage of their support of laws that promote vigilantism, suppress citizens’ right to vote and criminalize immigrants, but this is an empty gesture unless ALEC and its members work to overturn the draconian measures that have caused so much harm to the American people. Their claim that in the future they will only focus on legislation that will ‘put the economy back to work,’ begs the question of how they can use a ‘jobs agenda’ to justify laws that undermine workers’ rights, privatize public education, and make it harder to hold corporations accountable for poisoning our air and water or selling us dangerous and defective products. We will continue to work with our friends to shine a light on ALEC’s agenda and hold members accountable for supporting that agenda.”

Eleven companies, including  McDonalds, Coca-Cola and Kraft Foods severed ties with ALEC under increasing public scrutiny from a number of organizations including People For the American Way, Color of Change, Center for Media and Democracy, Common Cause, and Progress Now. Just this afternoon, Color of Change announced that Blue Cross Blue Shield had also severed its ties with ALEC.

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List of Companies Dropping ALEC hits 10

In the week since the call went out for the corporations on ALEC’s Private Enterprise Board to disassociate from the organization, a whopping TEN companies have publicly announced that they will no longer bankroll the American Legislative Exchange Council’s extreme agenda.

These entities have bid ALEC adieu, and more are sure to follow:

  • Coca-Cola
  • PepsiCo
  • Kraft
  • Intuit
  • Wendy’s
  • Mars, Inc.
  • Arizona Public Service
  • Reed Elsevier
  • American Traffic Solutions
  • McDonald’s

PFAW and other advocacy organizations have launched a petition calling for the remaining companies to leave ALEC, putting increasing pressure on companies like State Farm and Johnson & Johnson to stop funding the organization responsible for so many attacks against workers, public education, the right to vote and so many other fundamental issues.

However, the member-corporations are only one part of the ALEC equation. Slowly but surely, ALEC-member state legislators are beginning to understand that ALEC’s toxic policies are not in the best interests of their constituents, and are backing out of the organization as well:

Missouri State Rep. Mike Colona:

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is not the innocuous, bipartisan organization it purports to be. Their agenda is radical and wrong for Missouri. I was a member and saw firsthand the sort of extreme legislation they push on state legislators around the country. I disagree with ALEC's extremist agenda and encourage my colleagues in the Missouri General Assembly to end their affiliations with the group. If ALEC is too extreme for Coke, Pepsi, McDonald's, Kraft, Wendy's, Intuit and the Gates Foundation, it's too extreme for me and the people of Missouri.

Texas State Rep Alma Allen:

As a legislator, I value the input that non-partisan organizations contribute to various issues. However, I do not believe that the American Legislative Exchange Council is a non-partisan organization. Due to the legislation that ALEC has been involved in forming and promoting, I will not be renewing my membership. I value and listen to all opinions, but ALEC's agenda has become harmful to my constituents, and the people of the State of Texas.

There’s much more work to be done, but the ALEC house of cards is beginning to crumble.

PFAW

ALEC Holds Tight Grip on Arizona Legislature

Updated Report Documents Intensified Influence of American Legislative Exchange Council and its Out-of-State Corporate Donors

PHOENIX -- Legislators in Arizona continue to advance extremist legislation inspired by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and its out-of-state corporate backers, according to a new analysis by People For the American Way Foundation, Common Cause, the Center for Media and Democracy and Progress Now. This report shines a new light on the Arizona Legislature’s unprecedented ties to the secretive organization, which recently drew nationwide fire for its role in implementing radical policies across the country like “Shoot First” laws and voter suppression laws, and anti-worker measures. ALEC’s extreme agenda has recently led companies such as Pepsi, Coca-Cola, McDonalds, Wendy’s, KRAFT and Intuit to withdraw from the organization. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation on Monday also withdrew its support from ALEC.

The comprehensive report found that Arizona’s large concentration of ALEC-member legislators, working hand-in-hand with the corporate leaders who make up ALEC’s membership, are continuing to endorse special interest legislation that harms ordinary people by limiting consumers’ rights, privatizing education and dismantling unions.

The report, ALEC in Arizona: The Voice of Corporate Special Interests in the Halls of Arizona’s Legislature, updated for the Fiftieth Legislature, second regular session is available here.

“Recent polling shows that Arizonans are appalled by the out-of-touch and extremist agenda at their State Legislature. This report shows that agenda is no accident,” said John Loredo, a member of Arizona Working Families and a former Arizona House Minority Leader. “Unfortunately, Arizona has one of the highest concentrations of ALEC legislators in the country, and that makes us a petri dish for anti-worker legislation and a host of other bad ideas.”

“ALEC-member legislators are unabashedly continuing to push legislation straight from corporate headquarters to Arizona’s lawbooks,” said Marge Baker, Executive Vice President at People For the American Way Foundation. “Well-heeled special interests are circumventing the democratic system and bypassing Arizona’s citizens, who can’t match the level of access that ALEC provides. As a result, Arizonans are facing an endless assault from laws that serve the interests of the rich and powerful instead of everyday people.”

“The more Arizonans learn about ALEC, its agenda, and its tactics in advancing that agenda, the more they wonder why their elected representatives and leading corporate citizens would be associated with such an organization,” said Bob Edgar, president of Common Cause. “No business has a legitimate interest in limiting the right to vote or in undermining public education; no legislator can reasonably defend laws that protect the manufacturers of dangerous or defective products. In embracing ALEC, lawmakers and business people embrace these and other policies that betray the public interest.”

"ALEC' state chair, Rep. Debbie Lesko, has claimed she gives equal access to ALEC corporation as Arizona citizens about changing the law, but this report shows how special interests outside of Arizona are crafting massive changes to the rights of state citizens behind closed doors," said Lisa Graves, Executive Director of the Center for Media and Democracy/ALECexposed.org, adding "Public records also document that Rep. Lesko raises funds from ALEC corporations to distribute to ALEC legislators that help advance ALEC's agenda so they can go on resort trips where politicians secretly vote on model bills such as these with corporate lobbyists voting as equals. This is distorting the law in ways that harm Arizona families and should be stopped."

The updated report demonstrates the scope of ALEC’s policymaking influence with a side-by-side comparison of ALEC “model bills” with recently-submitted Arizona legislation, including:

• Anti-worker legislation designed to limit the freedom of public employees to voice their views by making it more difficult to collect professional association and union dues and blocking members from participating in professional association and union functions;

• Bills that make it easier for corporations to get away with wrongdoing and restricting consumers’ ability to seek justice in a court of law; and

• Attacks on public education by replacing real teachers with private, for profit, “virtual classrooms.”

ALEC Exposed, a project of the Center for Media and Democracy, has uncovered and analyzed approximately 800 ALEC “model” bills secretly voted on by corporations and politicians in an effort to reveal the undue influence major corporations hold, with the help of ALEC, in our democracy. Click here for more information.

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ALEC’s Response to Corporate Exodus Hides Their Real Agenda

This morning, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) issued a response to the decisions by The Coca-Cola Company, PepsiCo, McDonald's, Kraft Foods and Intuit to leave the organization in the face of increasing public exposure of – and opposition to – the extreme agenda ALEC has pushed through state legislatures across the country.

People For the American Way Foundation President Michael Keegan issued the following statement:

“ALEC’s statement would have us believe that their policies promote ‘economic vitality,’ but it is difficult to see how policies that disenfranchise thousands of voters, create irrational gun laws like ‘Shoot First,’ promote fast tracks to prison for immigrants and endanger our health and safety by gutting environmental protections make any American better off. The true economic consequences of the ALEC agenda – which includes privatizing public resources such as schools and prisons, dismantling unions and stacking the deck against average people who try to seek justice in a court of law – is that wealthy special interests get even richer while the rest of us are left in the dust. ALEC believes in job creation – unless job elimination is better for the bottom line of a few corporations.

“Americans won't forget that corporate representatives are bypassing the democratic process by drafting these policies in secret and using ALEC to help pass them into law. It’s no wonder that the American people disapprove, and businesses that depend on the American people have no reason to advance such a harmful agenda. We commend the leadership of the companies who have left ALEC thus far.”

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Activists to Rally at ALEC HQ in Honor of Trayvon Martin

Tomorrow, activists and progressive organizations will descend on the headquarters of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) in Washington, DC to protest the NRA-designed “Shoot First” laws that ALEC has shopped to state legislatures around the country. As Calvin posted earlier this week, “When politicians enact ALEC legislation that benefits corporations, real people suffer the consequences. The results are tragic:”

 

 

(Source:  Data issued by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement)

 

Information for the rally is below, and pictures will be posted after the event.

WHAT: Rally in Washington, DC, to protest the ALEC campaign to pass the "Shoot First" laws that protect Trayvon Martin's shooter, and delivery of letter to ALEC headquarters demanding disclosure of NRA funding and immediate cessation of “Shoot First” legislative advocacy:

WHEN: Thursday, March 29, 2012 at Noon

WHERE: ALEC Headquarters, 1100 Vermont Ave., NW Washington, DC

SPEAKERS:

Rep. Corrine Brown (D-FL); Hilary Shelton, NAACP; Marc Morial, National Urban League; Rashad Robinson, ColorOfChange; Lisa Graves, CMD/ALECexposed; Mike Livingston, National Council of Churches; Diallo Brooks, People For the American Way; Doug Clopp, Common Cause.

PFAW Foundation

ALEC Gives Cash to Congressmen?

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) strategy of corporations enact favorable legislation at the state level across the country by wining and dining state legislators at fancy conferences and then presenting them with model bills to shepherd into law is well documented. Apparently, ALEC also sees value in currying favor at the federal level as well.

Common Cause’s Nick Surgey reports that ALEC gave a cash award of $1,350 to Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) in 2009 as part of their Thomas Jefferson Freedom Award, according to an investigation of ALEC’s tax filings. This presents a potential breach of ethics because House members are prohibited by law from receiving any cash gift.

While ALEC’s main focus is on pro-corporate state legislation, common cause notes that ALEC’s influence extends far into the realm of the federal government:

Although ALEC’s primary focus is in promoting corporate-friendly state legislation, the group also has a clear federal agenda. A 2005 ALEC document obtained by Common Cause outlines 42 distinct ALEC model bills that attempt to influence federal policy. Those bills include resolutions calling for lower corporate taxes and supporting construction of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline. In effect, corporations working through ALEC are using state legislators to lobby Congress on their behalf. ALEC boasts of the 91 “ALEC alumni” currently serving in the US House, including both Eric Cantor (R-VA) and House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH).

As Rep. Cantor graciously accepts his award in this 2009 video, it’s not difficult to imagine how flattery and cash gifts can go a long way in winning the favor of powerful people.

 

Rep. Cantor’s office subsequently released a statement denying that he took the cash and that the engraved bust he received was legal. This still doesn’t explain, as Common Cause notes, why ALEC considered the bust to be a cash gift on their tax filings, unless the value of the bust was high enough that disclosure was required.

Regardless, it smells fishy.

PFAW Foundation

ALEC's Grip on Ohio's Legislature Puts Corporations Above People

A new joint report by People For the American Way Foundation, Common Cause, the Center for Media and Democracy and Progress Ohio reveals the deep ties between the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and Ohio's legislature. Through a side-by-side comparison of ALEC legislative models and actual Ohio bills, the report shows how Ohio's legislators are working in tandem with corporate leaders to deregulate key industries, privatize education and dismantle unions.

VOICES OF OHIO Press Conference

FOR PLANNING PURPOSES

Ohioans Harmed By ALEC “Model Bills” Speak Out Against Undue Corporate Influence in Democratic Process

New Report Documents Influence of American Legislative Exchange Council in the Ohio Statehouse

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