The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is meeting in New Orleans this week, August 1 to 6. Since this is a secretive organization only very little is known about what goes on in their meetings or who attends them. What we do know is that whatever is discussed, passed and prepared there will be for the wealthy and the corporations.
We also know that their output will be coming to the states in the form of “model legislation” to answer whatever ails a state. Are taxes too high? They have a law that will fix that. Too many people voting? Wrong kind of people voting? They have a law to fix it. Unions giving you pain? They have a law. Too many utilities held in the public realm? They can help.
Along with the model legislation will be the talking points and media campaign that will sell their legislation as the great answers like they were so much toothpaste and deodorant.
The point here is that people meeting behind closed doors, out of the light will have a huge amount of influence on public policy because of the influence they have on politicians. So, if they have such influence why are they not meeting in the light where people can see them and hear their discussions? This is worse back room dealing than the backroom dealings that eventually led to things like open meeting laws in the 1960s and 1970s.
Many will probably argue with me on this, but with the influence of think tanks, lobbying groups and however you classify ALEC, I think it is time for some light to be shed on them. I will admit that I do not know a whole lot about how lobbying is done. The impression given by the press is that much of it is done in private meetings and at very expensive “dinner” parties. Let’s face it, regular people can’t contend with that.
Last week’s “debt crisis” drama was interesting more for what was not said about the players than what was. One person who was seldom commented on was Grover Norquist.
While never being elected to anything nor being attached to any governmental body or being, Mr. Norquist appears to be the most powerful man in the nation. By virtue of having signed documents from every Republican in Congress but 5 or so, Mr. Norquist becomes the man who controls elected officials by waving the “Pledge” in their faces and threatening to primary them. This is just about the ultimate lobbying situation.
Since their power and influence is so great, may I modestly propose that the dealings of lobbying groups, lobbying firms or any group that seeks to influence legislation be subject to the same open meetings laws that all other legislative bodies are subject to. If they are working for the public good, I see no reason why their business could not be conducted in the light of day.
And of course this proposal has a snow ball’s chance in hell of ever advancing beyond this page. The ones who would have to approve such a law are those who benefit most by the current situation. ‘Nuff said.
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Dave Bradley is a self-described retired observer of American politics “trying to figure out how we got so screwed up.” An Iowa City native currently living in West Liberty, Dave and his wife Carol have two grown children who “sadly had to leave the state to find decent paying jobs.”