Ever wonder how the anti-worker, anti-immigrant, anti-woman legislation sweeping through states like Arizona, Wisconsin, Alabama, Minnesota, Ohio and Florida ended up in front of legislatures all around the same time and with strikingly similar language? Thank ALEC.
ALEC, or the American Legislative Exchange Council is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization with approximately $6.5 million in annual revenue. ALEC members include corporations, trade groups, think tanks and nearly one-third of the nation’s state legislators (almost all Republican) who share a common mission: to “advance the Jeffersonian principles of free markets, limited government, federalism and individual liberty.”
ALEC members have one simple common belief uniting them, and that is that the government has an unfair monopoly on public goods and services. ALEC members believe simply in the privatization of all government function, including public schools, utilities, transportation and the regulation of public health, consumer safety and environmental quality.
The group claims to be a non-partisan and independent organization, but as a reported by Beau Hodai in In These Times, ALEC is in fact heavily funded by the Koch brothers and corporate allies and, despite their status as a 501(c)(3), a status that directly prohibits groups like ALEC from taking part in the formation of legislation, has taken to providing “model legislation” to legislators.
Legislative members, like Arizona Senate president Russell Pearce then use these model bills to draft and introduce in their states.
According to Hodai’s report, ALEC spends more than $1 million annually for retreats where corporate lobbyists meet with state lawmakers. These retreats serve as opportunities for corporate interests to “educate” lawmakers on their model bills.
ALEC avoids disclosures of these gifts to lawmakers and the corporate donations that make them possible largely by accounting slight-of-hands but, as Hodai’s work shows, ALEC receives significant funding from the Charles Koch Foundation (CFK) and other hard-right groups affiliated not only with the notorious Koch brothers but with Tea Party astroturf king Dick Armey.
The destructive nature of ALEC and its manipulation, if not outright disregard and violation of its nonprofit status cannot be over-stated. The Koch brothers have but one goal in mind and that is the dismantling of state government for the benefit of their own personal private enterprises. They don’t care about the people, they only care about profit.
And that means that services like schools, prisons, roads and utilities that serve the common good will be, if ALEC has its way, siphoned into the private sector. We’ve seen the corruption of the private prison movement in Pennsylvania, Arizona, and a host of other states where for-profit facilities operate outside of public accountability.
Unless ALEC loses its 503(c)(4) status there’s no reason to think the tide of corruption and greed and the total and flat out looting of public safety net will cease. We’re not talking about a return to the days of the Great Depression. We’re talking about a return to the life and times of Charles Dickens.
Photo from tracyo via flickr.