Government By the People

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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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

The American People Reject Citizens United. Whose Representatives are Listening?

Recent polling indicates the vast majority of Americans believe that corporations and special interests have too much sway in our elections – a whopping 85 % of voters said that corporations have too much influence over the political system, and 93% said that average citizens have too little. Across all parties, a full 62% specifically oppose Citizens United, the deeply flawed 2010 Supreme Court Decision that opened the floodgates to massive corporate and special interest spending in our elections.

This deep disapproval is manifest in the growing grassroots movement taking hold across the country fighting for a constitutional amendment to overturn that decision. While there’s a long way to go, the people represented in these polls are making their voice heard, and our elected officials are taking action.

The 89 members of Congress who have endorsed one of the 13 federal resolutions to overturn Citizens United introduced thus far during the 112th Congress are acting on this sentiment. These proposed amendments are diverse, and are reflective of the robust and serious debate Americans are having across the country on what constitutional approach would best solve the problem. In addition, as significant is the groundswell of support at the local and state level that far transcends this total. To name just a few, the City Councils of New York City, NY, Oakland, CA, Los Angeles, CA, Albany, NY, Missoula, MT, and Boulder, CO have all adopted their own resolutions, as have the legislatures of states like Hawaii, New Mexico and Vermont (and in Maryland, where the state Constitution does not permit the passage of non-binding resolutions, a majority of legislators in both houses have signed a letter calling for a constitutional amendment). When given the chance to vote directly, the citizens of 64 towns across the state of Vermont have passed ballot measures supporting a constitutional amendment.

So far, 91 million Americans are represented by public officials who have declared their support for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United. 24 Senators, representing 75 million constituents, have sponsored or cosponsored a version of an amendment. Across the Capitol, 65 members of the House of Representatives, representing an additional 16 million people.

Progress is being made, but there’s still more work to do to fill these maps with dark shades of yellow and green. But this is a “movement moment” – and with the ever-increasing support of public officials, advocacy organizations and citizen activists, it can be done.

PFAW

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

Romney and Bork, a Dangerous Team: People For the American Way Campaign Exposes Romney’s Embrace of Judicial Extremism

Today, People For the American Way launched a major new campaign – including a website, a web ad and an exclusive report – exposing Mitt Romney’s dangerous agenda for America’s courts.

The campaign highlights Romney’s choice of Robert Bork to lead his constitutional and judicial advisory team. By allying with Bork, a jurist so extreme he was rejected by a bipartisan majority of the U.S. Senate 25 years ago, Romney has sent a clear signal that he means to drag America’s courts even farther to the right, endangering many of the civil rights, liberties and economic protections won by the American people over the past five decades.

The ad, Don’t Let Romney Bork America, and the report, Borking America: What Robert Bork Will Mean to the Supreme Court and American Justice, can be viewed at www.RomneyCourt.com.

“The debates over health care and immigration have reinforced the importance of the Supreme Court to all Americans,” said Michael Keegan, President of People For the American Way. “However, few are aware of the extreme agenda Mitt Romney has for the High Court – an agenda exemplified by his close alliance with Robert Bork.

“In 1987, People For the American Way led the fight to keep Judge Bork off the Supreme Court,” Keegan continued. “25 years later, we are as relieved as ever that we succeeded. When Bork was nominated, Americans across the political spectrum rejected the dangerous political agenda that he would have brought to the bench – his disdain for modern civil rights legislation, his acceptance of poll taxes and literacy tests, his defense of contraception bans and criminal sodomy laws, his continued privileging of corporations over individuals. Since then, he has dug his heels even deeper into a view of the law that puts corporations first and individuals far behind.

“It is frightening that a quarter century after Robert Bork’s jurisprudence was deemed too regressive for the Supreme Court, a leading presidential candidate has picked him to shape his legal policy.”

People For the American Way Senior Fellow Jamie Raskin, the author of the report, added: “The return of Robert Bork and his reactionary jurisprudence to national politics should be a three-alarm wake-up call for all Americans. In his work on the bench as a judge and off the bench as a polemicist, Bork has consistently placed corporations above the government and government above the rights of the people. The idea that Bork could be central to shaping the Supreme Court in the 21st century is shocking because he wants to turn the clock back decades in terms of the civil rights and civil liberties. His constitutional politics are even more extreme today than in 1987, when a bipartisan group of 58 senators rejected his nomination to the Supreme Court.”

The new report and ad review Bork’s record from his days as solicitor general to President Richard Nixon to his turn as co-chair of the Romney campaign’s committee on law, the Constitution and the judiciary. Highlights of Bork’s career include:

  • Consistently choosing corporate power over the rights of people. As a judge, Bork regularly took the side of business interests against government regulators trying to hold them accountable, but the side of the government when it was challenged by workers, environmentalists and consumers pressing for more corporate accountability.
  • Opposing civil rights, voting rights, reproductive rights, gay rights and individual free speech. Bork disparaged the Civil Rights Act of 1964; defended the use of undemocratic poll taxes and literacy tests in state elections ; disagrees with the Supreme Court ruling that overturned sodomy laws; and believes that the government should be able to jail people for advocating civil disobedience.
  • Advocating censorship and blaming American culture first. Bork promotes censorship to combat what he calls the “rot and decadence” of American society, saying “I don’t make any fine distinctions; I’m just advocating censorship.” He writes that “the liberal view of human nature” has thrown American culture into “free fall.”
  •  Rejecting the separation of church and state. Bork rejects the science of evolution, advocates legalizing school-sponsored prayer and has written that he wants to see the Constitution’s wall of separation between church and state “crumble.”
  • Turning back the clock on women's rights: Bork has argued against Supreme Court decisions upholding abortion rights and decisions upholding the right to contraception for single people and even married couples. He believes that the heightened protections of the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause don’t apply to women. As a judge, he authored a decision reversing the Secretary of Labor and holding that federal law permits a company to deal with toxic workplace conditions by demanding that female employees be sterilized or lose their jobs.

Learn more at www.RomneyCourt.com.


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Capitol Hill Summit: Overturn Citizens United!

PFAW joined members of Congress, state and local officials, advocacy organizations and concerned citizens for a Capitol Hill summit to amplify the call for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United, the 2010 Supreme Court decision that helped usher in unprecedented levels of corporate spending to influence our elections.

The speakers recounted the toll that Citizens United has taken on our democracy, as their colleagues must contend with the outsized influence that wealthy special interests hold over the political system, and how it is absolutely imperative for Congress to have the authority to regulate campaign contributions and require disclosure. While there are many approaches under consideration, it was clear to all that amending the Constitution is a necessary step to restore our democracy. So far, 13 constitutional amendments have been introduced in the current session.

It’s a long road to ratification, but there is a rapidly growing grassroots movement taking hold across the country to get this done. State Representatives and City Councilmen took to the podium to share their constituents’ enthusiasm for a constitutional amendment, and many states and cities across the country have already adopted resolutions calling for such an amendment.

The summit concluded with a call for public officials to sign the Declaration for Democracy, a simple statement of support for amending the Constitution “to protect the integrity of our elections and limit the corrosive influence of money in our democratic process.”

Here is a video and photos of the event.

 

 

 

PFAW’s Marge Baker opens the Summit as members of Congress, local and state officials and activists look on. “We the people means all the people, not just the powerful and privileged.”

PFAW’s Diallo Brooks introduces several local government officials as Representative Keith Ellison (D-MN) signs the Declaration for Democracy.

Maryland State Senator and PFAW Senior Fellow Jamie Raskin describes the Supreme Court’s flawed logic in the Citizens United decision. Quoting Justice White: “The state need not let its own creature [corporations] devour it.”

Rep. Keith Ellison watches as PFAW’s Marge Baker signs the Declaration.

The Declaration for Democracy: “I declare my support for amending the Constitution of the United States to restore the rights of the American people, undermined by Citizens United and related cases, to protect the integrity of our elections and limit the corrosive influence of money in our democratic process.”

PFAW

The American People Reject Citizens United. Whose Representatives are Listening?

To: Interested Parties

From: Marge Baker, Executive Vice President, People For the American Way

Date: April 18, 2012

Re: The American People Reject Citizens United. Whose Representatives are Listening?

91 million Americans are represented by one of the 89 members of Congress supporting a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United v. FEC, according to a new analysis by People For the American Way. To date, a total of 24 U.S. Senators and 65 U.S. Representatives have sponsored or co-sponsored an amendment to the constitution seeking to undo the damage caused by the flawed decision that paved the way for unprecedented levels of corporate and special interest influence in our elections, as tracked by United For the People.

Over 75 million people live in the states represented by pro-amendment senators, according to 2010 census data. In states still awaiting senatorial support, an additional 16 million people live in congressional districts represented by a member of the House who has signed on to a proposed amendment, bringing the total to 91 million. Considered separately, the 65 supporting members of the House represent 42 million Americans.

The Citizens United decision is immensely unpopular among voters, and a majority of Americans support amending the Constitution to overturn Citizens United. In fact, a 2010 PFAW poll showed that 85% of voters say corporations have too much influence over the political system, while 93% said that average citizens have too little. More recent polling commissioned by Public Campaign shows that these concerns translate to a full 62 percent across all political parties that oppose Citizens United, with nearly half strongly in opposition. The survey also found that more than three-quarters of voters say that it is important for candidates to make campaign finance reform a key election issue, and two-thirds of voters consider reducing the influence of lobbyists and money in politics to be an important factor in their vote.

The 89 members of Congress who have endorsed one of the 13 federal resolutions to overturn Citizens United introduced thus far during the 112th Congress are acting on this sentiment. These proposed amendments are diverse, reflective of the robust and serious debate Americans are having across the country on what constitutional approach would best solve the problem. In addition, as significant is the groundswell of support at the local and state level that far transcends this total. To name just a few, the City Councils of New York City, NY, Oakland, CA, Los Angeles, CA, Albany, NY, Missoula, MT, and Boulder, CO have all adopted their own resolutions, as have the legislatures of states like Hawaii and New Mexico, and when given the chance to vote directly, the citizens of 64 towns across the state of Vermont have passed ballot measures supporting a constitutional amendment.

The groundswell of support for a constitutional amendment among the American people represents a “movement moment,” and members of Congress who are taking action – on behalf of 91 million constituents so far – are on the right track. A constitutional amendment is a profound but necessary measure to restore the balance of influence in our elections to the American people. The issue of undue corporate and special interests in our democracy is a big problem that requires a big solution. Measures that require more disclosure of the sources of the big money in politics, call for public financing of elections or require greater corporate accountability to shareholders for corporate political spending would all mitigate the problems caused by the Court’s radical decision in Citizens United. But because the Court rested its decision in that case on flawed constitutional grounds, the only way to fully remedy the decision is by amending the Constitution to ensure that Americans’ voices are not overwhelmed by massive corporate and special interest spending in elections.

A broad and diverse group of organizations, under the banner of United For the People, are pressing creative ways for activists and public officials to engage on this issue. Activists are encouraging local, state and federal public officials, even those who haven’t yet decided on specific amendment language, to support these efforts by joining the simple call for constitutional remedies to overturn Citizens United and related cases. Officials can sign the simple declaration of support here. Activists across the country are encouraged to take the declaration to the public officials that represent them and encourage them to sign.

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Borking America

Many Presidents leave their most enduring legacy to the nation in the Justices that they name to the Supreme Court and the federal judges that they put on the bench. So what inspired former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney to name former judge Robert Bork to co-chair his presidential campaign advisory committee on law, the Constitution and the judiciary?

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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Media Advisory: Capitol Hill Summit on Overturning Citizens United

FOR PLANNING PURPOSES                                  

House and Senate Members to Host Activists and Advocacy Groups for Congressional Summit on Amending the Constitution

Washington, DC – On Wednesday, April 18, a number of United States Senate and House members will host People For the American Way (PFAW) and other advocacy organizations alongside local and state government representatives and citizen activists for a summit to explore the need for constitutional remedies to overturn Citizens United. As sponsors of proposed constitutional amendments, the Senators and Representatives are highlighting the growing grassroots movement to restore our democracy and amend the Constitution to overturn Citizens United and restore government by the people.

Senators Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Charles E. Schumer (D-NY) and Tom Udall (D-NM) will join Representatives Ted Deutch (D-FL), Donna F. Edwards (D-MD), Keith Ellison (D-MN), and Jim McGovern (D-MA) for the discussion. Other speakers include People For the American Way’s Executive Vice President Marge Baker and Maryland State Senator Jamie Raskin.

 

WHAT : Congressional Summit to Overturn Citizens United

 

WHO:

Senator Bernie Sanders                                       People For the American Way

Senator Charles E. Schumer                                 Public Citizen

Senator Tom Udall                                              Center for Media and Democracy

Representative Ted Deutch                                  Common Cause

Representative Keith Ellison                                  Communication Workers of America

Representative Donna F. Edwards                          Move to Amend

Representative Jim McGovern                                American Sustainable Business Council

                                                                       Free Speech for People    

 

WHEN :          Wednesday, April 18, 2012

                      11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

 

WHERE :        Capitol Visitors Center, HVC 215

  

RSVP :           Please click here to RSVP.

 

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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

PFAW Applauds the Citizens United Resolution Effort of YEO and Newark, Delaware City Councilmember Ezra Temko

Ezra recently put forth a resolution in support of efforts to reverse the Citizens United decision
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 Self-Defense Doesn't Hold Water

Facing unprecedented public scrutiny and the beginnings of a mass corporate exodus, the American Legislative Exchange Council is on defense. This morning, the organization issued a statement explaining that they are a “pro-growth, pro-jobs” policy organization, and really can’t see what all the fuss is about. Here’s a snippet:

"For years, ALEC has partnered with legislators to research and develop better, more effective public policies – legislation that creates a more transparent, accountable government, policies that place a priority on free enterprise and consumer choice, and tax policies that are fair, simple and that spur the kind of competiveness that puts Americans back to work.

"At a time when job creation, real solutions and improved dialogue among political leaders is needed most, ALEC’s mission has never been more important. This is why we are redoubling our commitment to these essential priorities. We are not and will not be defined by ideological special interests who would like to eliminate discourse that leads to economic vitality, jobs and fiscal stability for the states."

Unfortunately for ALEC, these defenses simply don’t hold water. If ALEC’s idea of “discourse” means putting corporate lawyers together with state lawmakers at secret conferences to draft pro-corporate legislation; and “economic vitality” and “jobs” means suppressing the vote, locking up immigrants, busting unions and wrecking the environment – all measures designed to funnel money into the coffers of ALEC’s corporate members regardless of the damage to others – then there’s a lot more fuss headed their way. Here’s part of PFAW Foundation president Michael Keegan’s response:

“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."

The full statement is available here.

PFAW Foundation

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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PFAW to Corporations: Get out of ALEC!

As the American people become more and more aware of the damage caused by the extreme pro-corporate agenda pushed in state legislatures by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the more evident it becomes that this organization is undermining our democracy by advocating for special interest bills that benefit the wealthy few at the expense of the many.

But ALEC can’t do this on their own. They need complicit state legislators to introduce the corporate lobbyist-drafted model bills in state legislatures, but they also rely on the millions of dollars paid annually by major corporations for membership in the organization. That’s why PFAW and a number of other advocacy organization have launched a petition calling on ALEC members like State Farm, Johnson & Johnson and McDonald’s to disassociate from the organization. Over 68,000 people have signed it so far.

ALEC’s agenda is so extreme that the organization is becoming unpalatable even for the corporations that fund it. The Coca-Cola company, PepsiCo, Kraft Foods, and Intuit have already ditched the group, and the Gates Foundation has decided that they will no longer provide grants to ALEC. We need to tell major corporations that funding a secretive organization that hawks legislation that is not in the American people’s interest is not in their interest either. As PFAW Foundation president Michael Keegan said,

“Corporate membership in ALEC isn’t just destructive to democracy, it’s also bad for business. Corporations that currently support ALEC have a choice to make: they can continue to underwrite reckless assaults on our rights and wellbeing, or they can stand up for their customers by leaving ALEC immediately.”

ALEC can be tied to the proliferation of “Stand Your Ground” laws like the one that is hindering bringing justice for Trayvon Martin, as well as tons of model bills that are aimed at increasing corporate profits by privatizing schools and prisons, weakening environmental protections, dismantling unions, disenfranchising voters and making it harder to seek justice in a court of law. The American people want nothing more to do with ALEC, and neither should the corporations we support.

PFAW Foundation

Advocacy Groups Launch Petition Drive Urging Companies to Quit ALEC

State Farm, Johnson & Johnson, McDonald’s targeted by coalition

Washington, D.C -- A  coalition of civil rights and government watchdog groups with members in all 50 states elevated the ongoing campaign to pressure corporations to withdraw from the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) by calling today on three prominent companies to join the list of firms departing ALEC.

Color of Change, Common Cause, People for the American Way Foundation, Progress Now, the Center for Media and Democracy, and CREDO said their members will be petitioning State Farm Insurance, Johnson & Johnson, McDonald’s – all of whom play a prominent leadership role in ALEC to leave the organization immediately.

“Corporate membership in ALEC isn’t just destructive to democracy, it’s also bad for business. Corporations that currently support ALEC have a choice to make: they can continue to underwrite reckless assaults on our rights and wellbeing, or they can stand up for their customers by leaving ALEC immediately,” said Michael Keegan, President of People for the American Way Foundation.

“It’s increasingly clear that ALEC applies the economic clout of some of our country’s largest corporations on behalf of public policies that limit voting rights, undermine our public schools, assault collective bargaining and weaken laws protecting our environment,” said Bob Edgar, president of Common Cause. “This is neither good business nor responsible corporate citizenship.”

Many Americans have learned about ALEC in recent weeks through news stories detailing its role in the proliferation of “Stand Your Ground” laws similar to the Florida statute at issue in the death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.

"Major corporations like Pepsi, Coca-Cola, and Kraft understand that supporting voter suppression efforts and dangerous 'Stand Your Ground' legislation puts their brands at great risk in the Black community," said Rashad Robinson, Executive Director of ColorOfChange.org. "We hope that McDonald's, Johnson and Johnson, and State Farm also get that message. Today, our members are flooding these companies with phone calls to demand that they stop supporting ALEC."

"The funding of these and other corporations makes ALEC's operations and agenda possible, including closed door meetings where corporate and special interest lobbyists actually vote as equals with elected officials on 'model' bills to change gun laws and make it more difficult for American citizens to vote," said Lisa Graves, Executive Director of the Center for Media and Democracy/ALECexposed.org, adding "The American people have a right to know about this corporate bill mill and a right to hold the corporations and politicians to account."

“ALEC’s companies and lobbyists wine-and-dine our elected officials at expense-paid ‘seminars,’ write legislation for them and then fade quietly into the background as that legislation is introduced and passed in statehouses across the country,” said Anna Scholl of Progress Virginia. “People we elect to represent all of us end up representing just a few, driven by their pursuit of profit and/or a radical ideological agenda.” Progress Virginia recently released a report detailing ALEC’s undue influence in the Commonwealth.

"If you're a consumer who believes in civil rights you don't want to give your money to companies that fund the organization leading the attack on voting rights," said Becky Bond, Political Director of CREDO Action. "Our members are prepared to hold companies accountable if they continue funding ALEC."

Coca-Cola, Kraft Foods, PepsiCo and Intuit confirmed last week that they’ve already withdrawn from ALEC. On Monday, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation announced that they will no longer be making grants to ALEC.

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People For the American Way Foundation is dedicated to making the promise of America real for every American: Equality. Freedom of speech. Freedom of religion. The right to seek justice in a court of law. The right to cast a vote that counts. The American Way.

Protesting ALEC’s Deadly “Shoot First” Laws

Over 100 activists rallied in Washington DC today to call for justice for Trayvon Martin. The people gathered had another point to make as well: Americans are fed up with ALEC’s pernicious influence in writing pro-corporate legislation and pushing it through state legislatures across the country. Today, outside ALEC’s headquarters, we made sure we were heard.

People For’s Diallo Brooks spoke at the event, calling attention to role ALEC and the NRA played in setting the stage for this tragic situation. While racial profiling may be at the heart of this case, the laws pushed by ALEC at have hampered Trayvon’s family’s ability to seek justice, just as ALEC legislation has done to so many Americans.

 

Here are some additonal photos from the event:

 

 

People For the American Way also signed and delivered a letter to ALEC demanding that they disclose their financial ties to the National Rifle Association and desist from promoting "Shoot First" laws. You can read the letter here.

PFAW Foundation

The Roberts Court's 2011-12 Term: Is the Roberts Court Really a Court?

This piece originally appeared on Huffington Post.

Eric Segall, a professor of constitutional law at Georgia State University, has just written a provocative book called Supreme Myths: Why the Supreme Court Is Not a Court and Its Justices Are Not Judges. The thesis is that the Supreme Court, unbound by any court above it, unfastened by the vagueness of constitutional text, and uninhibited by the gift of life tenure, operates like a freewheeling political "veto council" and not like any court that we would recognize as doing judicial work. Professor Segall challenges the legitimacy of the Court's decisions and essentially mounts an attack on the whole institution of constitutional judicial review except where the text of the Constitution is perfectly plain and clear.

It is easy to share Professor Segall's exasperation these days, but his argument is not wholly convincing. It understates how often our other courts--federal appeals and district courts and state courts--operate in a political vein and how often they too find themselves in deep ideological conflict. It also understates how clear, coherent, and logical the Warren Court was when it interpreted even vague constitutional language, like "equal protection" or "freedom of speech." Yet, Segall's clarion call to roll back judicial review today will be read by conservative judges as an invitation to negate and undo essential lines of doctrinal development that began in the Warren Court, especially the "right to privacy" decisions under Due Process, like Griswold v. Connecticut and Roe v. Wade, which Professor Segall in no uncertain terms asserts were wrongly decided.

The claim that the Supreme Court is "not a court" distracts us from what is truly at issue today. The Supreme Court is a court alright--indeed, it is the most powerful court in America, perhaps the world, and there's not much getting around that. It takes cases and controversies, writes opinions that refer to precedents and principles, and operates with the full panoply of constitutional powers reserved to the judiciary. The problem is that it is not a court committed to the rights of the people or to strong democracy unencumbered by corporate power. Indeed, it acts with most energy vindicating the rights of the powerful and the unjust. Alas, this hardly makes it an outlier in American history.

With its 2010 decision in Citizens United, the Roberts-led Court essentially cemented the institution's return to a class-bound right-wing judicial activism. Just as the Supreme Court went to war against social reform and President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's New Deal in the 1930s, just as it nullified the meaning of Equal Protection in sanctifying "separate but equal" in Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896, just as it expressed the Supreme Court's pro-slavery and racist jurisprudence in the Dred Scott decision in 1857, the Citizens United decision secured the contemporary Court's unfolding legacy as the unabashed champion of corporate power and class privilege.

The 2011-2012 Supreme Court Term

Several cases currently on the Court's docket will tell us whether the Roberts Court will accelerate its assault on public policies that advance the rights and welfare of the vast majority of "natural persons" in the country. Consider:

Legal War on "Obamacare": Health Care Reform and the Contractible Commerce Clause: Of course, the blockbuster of the Term is the cluster of cases that the Court is hearing on the constitutionality of Obamacare. There are two principal challenges to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The first, and certainly the one with the most political traction on the GOP campaign trail, is the claim that Congress has exceeded its Commerce Clause powers by compelling taxpayers to buy themselves health insurance or else pay a penalty in the program. However, the political ubiquity of this claim contrasts sharply with its feather-like legal force. Commerce Clause jurisprudence is replete with cases of Congress regulating national economic policy by compelling individuals to take actions that they would prefer not to take, such as serving customers in their restaurant that they don't want to serve or recognizing a union in their factory and reinstating workers who they fired for organizing it (see my Report for PFAW Foundation, The True Spirit of the Union: How the Commerce Clause Helped Build America and why the Corporate Right Wants to Shrink It Today, for a detailed accounting).

The ACA comes well within Congress's broad authority to address issues of national importance that affect the lives of millions of people moving and working in the streams of interstate commerce. Despite recent efforts by conservative Justices to constrict Congress's powers under the Commerce Clause, the vast majority of lawyers still believe that such powers are expansive and will be upheld even by the Roberts Court. An ABA poll of legal academics, journalists, and lawyers that allowed respondents to remain anonymous showed that fully 85% believe that the Court will uphold the ACA in full, and with a 6-3 vote seen as the most likely outcome. While the Supreme Court in the Citizens United era has been ready and willing to ignore precedent and defy logic in order to achieve its political goals, this law is so mainstream that even they are not expected to do so in this case.

The second challenge, a bit of a sleeper that saw little success in lower courts but now fascinates conservative lawyers, is that Congress has exceeded its powers under the Spending Clause and violated federalism by tying too many strings to federal Medicaid funding and thereby "coercing" states into accepting federal policies. The idea is that Medicaid has grown so big and pervasive that any conditions attached to it constitute a kind of Godfather offer that the states simply cannot refuse. From a doctrinal standpoint, the claim is somewhere between unlikely and silly, which is why no federal law or program has ever been found to unconstitutionally coerce the states under the Spending Clause . Experts in the ABA poll mentioned above predict that this outlandish argument will be rejected in an 8-1 split. A decision to strike down the ACA on this basis would be a stunning development indeed. As with the Commerce Clause issue, a decision to strike down the Medicaid expansion as unconstitutionally coercive would be recognized instantly as an exercise of political will rather than legal judgment.

Of course, should the Court uphold the ACA, as expected by most lawyers, that should not distract anyone from the damage it is doing in other ways, from the constitutional glorification of corporate political power to the continuing erosion of public health, environmental and workplace standards.

Immigration Law: the Arizona Case: Arizona v. United States addresses Arizona's efforts to develop and enforce an immigration law all its own. The statute in question provides law enforcement officers with the power to arrest someone without a warrant based on probable cause to believe that the person committed a deportable act. It also makes it a criminal offense for an undocumented immigrant to apply for a job without valid immigration papers. This presents a clear case of a law that is preempted by federal laws governing and defining U.S. immigration policy, which is committed by the Naturalization Clause of the Constitution to Congress. This case should offer no dilemma for conservatives on the Court, who almost always side with the Executive branch in preemption controversies relating to national security, police enforcement and immigration law. However, underlying all of the debate is legislation hostile to one of America's most scapegoated populations, the undocumented, and that political reality may change the legal calculus.

Attack on Labor Unions: From the repressive "labor injunctions" of the late-19th and early 20th-centuries to the Supreme Court's decisions undermining the right to organize during the New Deal, periods of judicial reaction have always included judicial assaults on the rights of labor to organize unions and fight for their interests. This period is no different, and the Supreme Court has given itself an opportunity, probably irresistible to the five conservative Justices, to take another whack at labor this Term. The case is Knox v. SEIU. It poses the question whether public sector unions must notify members of the union's political expenditures every time they happen so that employees who pay union agency fees to the union for purposes of collective bargaining only may demand a proportional rebate in advance for political expenditures. Or, alternatively, does it suffice to give an annual budgetary statement with notice of political expenditures and invite the "objectors" to seek a rebate at that point? The case, fairly frivolous on its face, but deadly serious in its political mission and reception on the Roberts Court, is obviously designed to further hobble unions and render them ineffectual political actors. The irony is that, through decisions like Abood v. Detroit Board of Education (1977) and Communication Workers of America v. Beck (1988), the Court has granted muscular rights and powers to dissenting union members that are totally undreamed-of when it comes to dissenting corporate shareholders. Company shareholders who object to corporate political expenditures have no right to a proportional rebate of their corporate shares, much less that they must be told of such corporate treasury political expenditures in advance. While defenders of the Court's decision in the Citizens United case love to observe that the decision opened the floodgates not just on corporate treasury money but on union treasury money too (as if the two were comparable!), they never follow through and make the obvious point that corporate shareholders should, therefore, enjoy the same rebate rights against "compelled speech" as union members presently enjoy. In any event, the war on unions continues and accelerates, with the Supreme Court poised again to undercut the political effectiveness of public sector labor unions, the last meaningful bulwark of labor solidarity in America.

The Surprising Early Return of College Affirmative Action to the Court:
In Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, the Supreme Court has, surprisingly, decided to review its holding in Grutter v. Bollinger and explore dismantling what remains of affirmative action in the next Term. The 2003 Grutter decision preserved a soft form of affirmative action at the college and university level for young people who belong to racial and ethnic minority groups, but only for a period that Justice Sandra Day O'Connor suggested would be 25 years. Now, just nine years later, the ruling bloc is ominously poised to wipe out affirmative action entirely, a prospect we must judge a rather likely prospect given the Court's express loathing of progressive race-conscious measures and its brazen disregard for the original meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment, whose framers clearly contemplated such measures. Justices Scalia, Thomas, Alito, and Roberts insist that the Equal Protection Clause compels government to be "color-blind" even if seeks to remedy the effects of historical and continuing racism. This rhetorical gloss is a fundamental distortion of the meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment, whose framers clearly championed race-conscious measures, like the Freedmen's Bureau, to assist the historical victims of racism. The current project of using the Equal Protection Clause against racial and ethnic minorities seeks to deny any relationship between historical and present-day discrimination and continuing inequalities of opportunity.

Conclusion

The Supreme Court is, of course, still a court, no matter how much certain Justices behave like partisans. Yet, the Court's ideological politics are in full swing these days as the 5-4 conservative majority fleshes out one-sided doctrines in areas from corporate political rights to corporate commercial speech rights to affirmative action to Congressional power to union rights. This is a Court that almost always chooses corporate power over democratic politics and popular freedoms. In a Court of logic and precedent, a Court without aversion to the channels of popular democracy, the challenge to Obamacare would be a total non-starter. But here we are again, waiting to see whether the Court will follow the path of justice or the path of power.

Jamin Raskin is an American University Law Professor, Maryland State Senator and People For the American Way Senior Fellow.

PFAW
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