The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has been in the news lately. The Guardian Newspaper managed to get hold of a trove of ALEC documents that have helped to cast more light on the activities of the secretive, corporate-funded group that has sponsored tight relationships with state legislators in order to push preferred rightwing policies. ALEC has gone so far as to actually author “model” legislation it then presents to tame legislators so that they can file it under their own names.
Among the documents the Guardian exposed was, tellingly, a loyalty oath intended for ALEC-recruited representatives in state government. As the Kansas City Star‘s Barbara Shelly describes it:
One of the most interesting documents is a proposed job description for the legislators designated to head up their state delegations. Along with striving to increase membership in ALEC by 10 percent a year and informing the group of all public information requests that include ALEC documents, it was proposed that state chairs take a loyalty oath: “I will act with care and loyalty and put the interests of the organization first.
What? These are elected officials. They are to put the interests of their states and constituents first. Apparently at some level people realized that, because the draft job description was never adopted. But the very suggestion demonstrates ALEC’s eagerness to control these lawmakers.
Shelly goes on to observe that several lawmakers in both Kansas and Missouri are active ALEC collaborators. And, in Missouri at least, one can conjecture with a fair degree of confidence that few state pols known to be complicit with ALEC would have had any qualms about signing a loyalty oath. Even if they balked at the bald statement of priorities in the pledge, most of our Missouri ALEC-ites seem to be spiritually in sync with its intention. When it comes to ALEC and Missouri Republicans, it’s a love match, no pre-nup needed.
Take for instance, Missouri GOP State Senator Ed Emery, the state chairman for ALEC in Missouri. He is, to put it bluntly, upfront about the role that ALEC plays in Missouri government:
… In the world of term-limits, an association like ALEC is invaluable in assisting state legislators by assembling the private and public expertise that can effectively identify and clarify even the most complex issues.
In other words, poorly informed legislators can chillax and let corporate dogsbody ALEC do all the heavy lifting. ALEC surely has the best interests of Missourians at heart after all, no self-interest there.
Of course, ALEC doesn’t stop at doing the legislator’s work for him or her – they’re quite willing to pay for the privilege. Just ask House speaker Tim Jones who, according to blogger Randy Turner, received a total of $2,672.58 from ALEC in
2013 2012. Turner also observes that while other members of the legislature likely received gifts from ALEC, they managed to keep them under wraps. Writing about reports filed by lobbyists in the wake of the 2012 ALEC convention in Salt Lake City, Turner notes:
Not one Democrat and only a handful of Missouri Republicans attended the national American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) meeting in Salt Lake City, Utah, in July, but Missouri Ethics Commission documents that went online Saturday indicate that state lobbyists are crediting most of their expenses to the entire General Assembly.
By doing so, the expenses are not credited to any particular legislator, though those attending the convention may have received as much as hundreds of dollars worth of gifts from lobbyists representing special interests that are trying to curry the favor of the legislators.
The fact that lobbyists and pols alike try to hide the possible quid pro quo says it all. That legislators’ ALEC ties aren’t a statewide scandal would be incomprehensible in a sane political climate. Surely folks who rant and scream about how a moderate health care reform represents a horrific incursion of big government into individual life ought to be up in arms when they learn that state government is being abandoned – maybe even sold – to corporations looking only to enhance their bottom lines.