For those of you who don’t know what the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is, the folks at The Nation succinctly summarize the group’s activities:
ALEC practices stealth advocacy; it writes bills for legislators, refines that legislation through task forces where its business members wield veto power, then quietly shepherds the finished “model” bills to passage. Their mission accomplished, ALEC’s business members reward the group with massive contributions – nearly $400 million from 2000-10, according to Common Cause.
ALEC is one of the tools developed by corporate interests in order to purchase the government corporations want – which rarely seems to coincide with what’s good for the rest of us. ALEC wants to bust unions, repeal minimum wages, privatize public lands and public services, cut corporate taxes and corporate accountability – you get the picture.
Progress Missouri has reported extensively on ALEC’s influence in Missouri and has issued a comprehensive report identifying ALEC sponsored legislation that has been introduced in Jefferson City, as well as the names of state lawmakers who are known to be associated with ALEC. The authors caution us, though, that:
Identifying the list of Missouri legislators who are part of ALEC is a difficult task, because ALEC operates largely in secret. Even though they claim to be a legislative membership organization, there is no full list of members made public by the organization.
It’s not surprising that ALEC and its legislator protégés prefer to operate in the dark. In fact, after organizations like Progress Missouri and Common Cause, among others, started shining a light on ALEC, several of its corporate partners began to pull their support (find a list here), and some lawmakers have dropped their membership – including Missouri Rep. Mike Colona. ALEC itself has disbanded a few of its more controversial “non-economic” task forces.
But there are still numerous corporations willing to pony up outsize gobs of cash so that ALEC can buy itself some government, and the organization still has lots of active task forces. Common Cause has made public a complete list of ALEC contributors and their task force involvement. Needless to say, it makes for interesting reading – I’m going to think twice before I buy from Amazon again.
In case you’re interested, three of the corporations listed are headquartered here in Missouri. The fact that Peabody Energy is on the list isn’t much of a surprise; nor did the presence of Anheuser-Busch Companies, Inc. shock me too much. But I was a bit annoyed to find that my own Internet provider, Charter Communications, was paying to play with with such lowlifes.
As a matter of fact, I’m so disturbed that I’m going to let Charter know about it. As I’ve noted above, pressure does work. Peabody Energy is a lost cause probably, but here is contact information along with the contact page for Anheuser Busch.
Common Cause is also putting together a petition to the IRS asking that the ALEC’s tax status be investigated. Losing its tax-exempt status could really put a crimp in its activities. You can sign the petition here. Another petition asking corporations to withdraw from ALEC can be signed here.