ALEC will be in Scottsdale, Arizona, on Wednesday, and so will Arizonans determined to shut down the group’s “States and Nation Policy Summit.” ALEC is the American Legislative Exchange Council, a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization with approximately $6.5 million in annual revenue. ALEC describes itself as a “nonpartisan national association of state legislators” and does count about 2,000 legislators (nearly one-third of state legislators) among its members — but these are almost all Republican. ALEC’s other members include some 300 corporations: Amazon.com, BP, AT&T, Chevron, UPS, Wall-Mart, Fed-Ex, Visa, TimeWarner, just to name a few whom you very likely patronize.
Two progressive advocacy groups including the Washington D.C,-based People for the American Way Foundation have released a report that shows just how deeply ALEC has entwined itself in Arizona’s legislature. The report, “ALEC in Arizona: The Voice of Corporate Special Interests in the Halls of Arizona’s Legislature,” points out that nearly 50 Arizona lawmakers belong to ALEC:
Arizona corporations that provide financial support to ALEC include the Salt River Project, Taser International, and Pinnacle West Capital Corp., the parent company of Arizona Public Services Co., the state’s largest utility company.
“There’s no way ordinary citizens can match the level of access and influence that ALEC provides to these corporations,” Baker said. “So Arizonans are subjected to laws that serve the interests of the rich and powerful.”
In the report are side-by-side comparisons of dozens of “model bills” that were created at ALEC conferences and actual bills that have appeared in the Arizona legislature. ALEC officials indeed note that 19 out of 36 such “model bills” introduced into the Arizona legislature have become law. ALEC spokeswoman Kaitlyn Buss describes ALEC as a “resource” for legislators, though one with an admittedly particular focus, on promoting “free market, limited government and federalism (ideals).”
ALEC’s “model” legislation indeed has particular traits: It is anti-immigration, anti-union, and anti-federal health-care reform initiatives. You can thank ALEC for the growth of the private prison industry and for the continued attempts to privatize government functions, from public schools, utilities and transportation to the “regulation of public health, consumer safety and environmental quality.” Arizona corporations that support ALEC include Taser International and the Pinnacle West Capital Corp.,which is the parent company of the state’s largest utility company, Arizona Public Services Co.. ALEC also receives significant funding from the Charles Koch Foundation (CFK) and other hard-right groups.
Occupy ALEC is just one group planning to protest excessive corporation influence in the Arizona state legislature by rallying at the ALEC conference in Scottsdale. On Wednesday, the first day of conference, there are plans for a noise protest, a “Business Suit bloc” and other tactics; Thursday will see a march at Freeport McMoran, a number of decentralized actions, and a speaking event with the publisher of ALECexposed.org. More about the protest can be seen via this schedule.
In Arizona, ALEC is in danger of taking over the state legislature and the state’s laws, if it hasn’t already. High time to occupy ALEC and expose the connections among corporate greed, corporate legislation and community oppression.
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Photo by Elvert Barnes