The severity of the COVID -19 pandemic has required a rapid and effective response from our public servants. Instead, Republicans have used it as an opportunity to advance the long-standing agenda of the conservative and corrosive American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).
ALEC’s mission is to advance big business interests through public office. They do this by providing model legislation, crafted by corporations, to state legislators to benefit their bottom line. By sponsoring ALEC’s legislation, electeds enter a pipeline to political ascension. ALEC, along with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, is on a crusade to protect corporations, not people, in federal and local legislatures. We have seen one of ALEC’s long-standing priorities rise to prominence during the COVID relief negotiations: corporate liability shields. Legislative COVID relief has stalled in the U.S. Senate due to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s unwillingness to abandon corporate protections against COVID-related lawsuits.
ALEC is a strong presence at the statewide level. For example, in Iowa, incumbent U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst and Iowa state Rep. Ashley Hinson, both Republicans, have each advanced agendas driven by ALEC. Ernst has been a member of ALEC since 2011, and on at least three occasions, Hinson has used ALEC’s “model legislation” during her short stint as an elected official. In February 2019, Hinson introduced an ALEC-drafted bill that protects private employers from liability in hiring practices. Finding different avenues to push corporate protections is not new for ALEC or its members, but in the midst of the COVID pandemic, McConnell, Ernst and Hinson are using it as cover to push a deeply rooted ulterior agenda and play politics during a close election.
ALEC’s members are protecting corporations, risking front-line workers’ health, abdicating responsibility to protect the public, and delaying our economy’s safe re-opening. McConnell, Ernst, and Hinson have never hidden their true intentions. However, pushing an agenda during one of the most vulnerable times in American history is unforgivable. The voters in Iowa, and the country, have an opportunity on Election Day to break the conservative pipeline of corporation-first politicians and stop the flood of corporate protections from being snuck into our laws. Let’s make sure we use it.