The St. Louis Post-Dispatch had a prominent story today on the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Their write-up was careful to strive for balance in the face of facts that paint a damming picture of unbalanced corporate influence in the legislative process. Consider, for instance, that, as the Post-Dispatch noted:
State lawmakers pay $50 a year to join. Corporate members pay as much as $25,000. According to ALEC’s IRS filings, over the past three years it has raised nearly $22 million from corporations, foundations and other sources, and just $250,000 in dues paid by state legislators.
We’re expected to believe that down-and-dirty-bottom-line corporate CEOs are ponying up $22 million for, as State Senator Jane Cunningham puts it, “a clearinghouse of ideas from like-minded lawmakers around the country … that helps elected officials get perspective they otherwise couldn’t”?
I bet I can describe that perspective down to a tee without ever attending an ALEC gathering. Of course, if I wanted to incorporate my insights into the “model” legislation produced by the special interest task forces – consisting of equal numbers of legislators and ALEC’s corporate representatives – I’d have to fork over the big bucks. Essentially, ALEC’s corporate members put up a massive chunk of change and get a big say about what goes into our laws. And supporters call it “research” assistance!
Just look at ALEC’s role in Missouri politics – take, for example, Senator Cunningham herself. The Post-Dispatch cites Cunningham for her role as a standard bearer for ALEC’s signature effort to gut the Affordable Care Act (ACA) by eliminating the individual mandate. Cunningham also came out swinging when it appeared that more reasonable Missouri legislators were going to get down to business and form a Missouri health insurance exchange as mandated by the ACA. Nor should we forget Cunningham’s effort to gut child labor protections or eliminate teacher tenure, not perhaps directly modeled on ALEC’s model initiatives, but definitely right in line with ALEC’s anti-government, free market fundamentalist approach.
Cunningham has been very busy doing ALEC’s business – and she is not alone. Just take a look at what ALEC’s little flock has been up to in Jefferson City – and then sit down and think very carefully about who is running our government and for whom.