It looks like we are seeing the beginnings of the breakup of one of the most anti-democratic groups ever to foist itself on the American public. Slowly but surely the wheels are coming off the behind the curtain, under the rock organization known as ALEC as major corporations like Pepsi, Coke and Kraft Foods leave the group. Billing itself as the American Legislative Exchange Council, ALEC has done its best to stay out of the light because the work they do is best done in the dark and behind the scenes. Much like any group that pushes an anti-democratic agenda, they know that once exposed, they will not last long.
For a democracy to work, the work of those in power in a democracy must do their work in public. Such work of the governing must be done in the open so the people can examine and evaluate it. ALEC’s mode of working is in the dark with no open meetings, video or minutes to examine. Truly, they are not a part of the government, but the fact that their membership contains a large number of elected officials who formulate policy at their meetings should make it mandatory that their meetings be open and recordable.
For those who do not know, ALEC was formed nearly 40 years ago. It has operated as a group financed by major corporations to advance their agenda. As one could almost guess, one of the largest contributors to ALEC is Koch Industries, headed by David and Charles Koch. Membership is made up of representatives of these corporations and state legislative members, mostly Republican. Ostensibly , model legislation is prepared by all members. In reality, model legislation is given from the corporations to their legislative members. This legislation is then brought back to the various states and often with little modification, proposed as legislation in the legislatures. Often, such legislation has little relevance to any problems that states may be encountering. Such proposals are answers looking for problems. The voter-ID laws that are sweeping the nation are the best example of this ass-backward approach.
I believe it is well past time for some of the law enforcement wings of the states and federal government to begin some investigations. The first investigation could be concerning the violations of open meetings laws. ALEC is meeting with the expressed purpose of their members to take legislation prepared in private back to the states and propose them as legislation. Such work should be done in the light of day, with the chance for input from citizens.
Second, much of the model legislation is a gift to specific industries. The “stand your ground” bill was a gift to the gun industry. Model legislation that privatizes prisons is a gift specifically to Corrections Corporation of America (CCA). And of course in states like Arizona, other legislation such as the anti-immigration laws help fill those privatized prisons.
Third, one would think that with legislators so eager to do the bidding of corporations that there may be some favors in return. The infamous backdoor of “campaign contributions” is a great way help those who help the corporations.
I am sure that once investigations started other potential questionable activities would surface. But it will be hard for any elected official or officials to stand against those who have become the major source of cash for ever more expensive campaigns. And of course should any official dare take them on, the corporations can muster the power of their money and their ownership of 95% of the American media to launch a blistering intimidation campaign. If you haven’t noticed few elected officials have yet to take on the banks for their part in crashing our economy 5 years ago.
Iowa has more than its share of elected officials who are beholden to the corporations through ALEC. The first in line is the governor. Terry Branstad was a founding member of ALEC. In a correspondence with Charles Smithson, Iowa House Secretary, it was revealed that all Republican House members are members of ALEC. Representative Tom Sands (R-87) is a member of the ALEC Tax and fiscal policy committee. Linda Upmeyer is (or was) the head of the ALEC group in Iowa.
These folks are in for the long game. They can’t trash the education system in every state in one legislative session. So slowly the education system is starved for money, slowly opening niches where a profitized education system can slowly take over. Continue to starve the public system and offer vouchers to profitized schools. Starve the public schools more and more and they become the very last place a parent would want to send their child and the profitized corporate system becomes the norm.
Other long term goals: starve the cities of revenue by capping property taxes – this is a poison pill in the Republican property tax bill currently in the legislature. Slowly libraries are closed, swimming pools and parks are closed. Corporations take over these functions for a profit. Or if there is no profit, cities lose these amenities.
And of course an underlying cause is the busting and elimination of all types of unions. Public schools go, so goes the teachers unions, as does the prison guards unions if prisons are profitized. On and on.
Sadly, ALEC is nearly half way done with their profitizing the country. Much of what was once a great country with many public facilities available to all has already been profitized with the trend picking up. Trying to turn this trend back will be an awesome task.
We need to expose ALEC at every forum, at every debate or any other appearance of a Republican legislator.
LINK to Blog for Iowa coverage of ALEC since 2011. This is a sample; type “ALEC” in the search box on the main page for more.