It’s well known that to recover from addiction, the first step is admitting to the problem.
There’s a addiction “problem” that we’ve covered here many times at ThePopTort called ALEC – the American Legislative Exchange Council. For example, here (ALEC …is a secretive organization made up of conservative state legislators [who pay little to join], and corporations who pay hefty membership fees - up to $25,000. Together, they draft model legislation and shop bills to state legislatures across the country without identifying that these bills are written by national corporate lobbyists). And here (The Center for Media and Democracy calls ALEC “little more than a bill factory for corporate-friendly legislation that often repeals people’s rights or fattens the corporate bottom line”).
There have been bits and starts to admitting to the country's ALEC addiction thanks to the work of the Center for Media and Democracy’s ALEC Exposed project and coverage, and particularly ALEC’s “tort reform" addiction.
And some mainstream news outlets have tried to break through with articles like Forbe’s, “The big political player you've never heard of; The American Legislative Exchange Council is quietly having an enormous influence on how state laws are made.”
But while all this has been circulating, we haven’t seen anyone in power really admit to ALEC’s negative influence on the country – until now.
Last week, Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton did an extraordinary thing. Instead of boasting about ALEC’s connection to legislation in his state (as sometimes happens in some states), he vetoed several bills that would limit people’s access to the courts, saying “the measures were a ‘sop’ for the insurance industry and three of the four tort-related measures came directly from the conservative American Exchange Legislative Council. The governor said the measures fell on the side of wrong-doers, not on the side of Minnesotans.”
Then today, the country’s most influential newspaper, the New York Times, finally took notice, publishing an editorial called “The Big Money Behind State Laws,” which states as follows:
The American Legislative Exchange Council was founded in 1973 by the right-wing activist Paul Weyrich; its big funders include Exxon Mobil, the Olin and Scaife families and foundations tied to Koch Industries. Many of the largest corporations are represented on its board.
ALEC has written model legislation on a host of subjects dear to corporate and conservative interests, and supporting lawmakers have introduced these bills in dozens of states. A recent study of the group’s impact in Virginia showed that more than 50 of its bills were introduced there, many practically word for word. …
ALEC’s influence in the Virginia statehouse is pervasive, the study showed. The House of Delegates speaker, William Howell, has been on the board since 2003 and was national chairman in 2009. He has sponsored or pushed many of the group’s bills, including several benefiting specific companies that support ALEC financially, like one that would reduce a single company’s asbestos liability. At least 115 other state legislators have ties to the group, including paying membership dues, attending meetings and sponsoring bills. The state has spent more than $230,000 sending lawmakers to ALEC conferences since 2001.…
There is nothing illegal or unethical about ALEC’s work, except that it further demonstrates the pervasive influence of corporate money and right-wing groups on the state legislative process. There is no group with any comparable influence on the left. Lawmakers who eagerly do ALEC’s bidding have much to answer for. Voters have a right to know whether the representatives they elect are actually writing the laws, or whether the job has been outsourced to big corporate interests.
Talk about a breakthrough! Sobriety may be just around the corner.