By Barry O’Neal Castillo
The U.S. Government creates bills and passes them by voting through Congress. In this process, there are certain checks to assure that only bills that rightfully navigate this Democratic process will become law. Although the system should ideally be fair, many people believe that certain organizations have acquired the power to swing members of Congress into passing their proposed laws. The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is a group of corporate leaders, congressmen, and politicians who are brought together to form and talk about model bills. These model bills are then brought home by participating legislators and introduced as there own ideas, not the corporate interests that they are in reality. ALEC receives donations from corporations and pays fees to involved legislators just like a scholarship; it spends 250 thousand in childcare expenses, and also supplies campaign funds for the upcoming election candidates.
Calvin Sloan, an adversary of the council, states that “ALEC is a mechanism: it’s a powerful organization that is based on one idea.” He represents the average American, but just has a small amount of more insight. He believes that the idea of having a powerful influence that is able to skew the U.S. political system only allows corruption. Sloan details that corporations are being called to back out, so that ALEC loses its funding and power, and the government can regain its principle and fundamental values, without the restriction of other powerful political groups.
On the other hand, ALEC describes themselves as providing “a forum for experts to discuss business and economic issues facing the states.” They say that they are nonpartisan, and offer solutions to state issues. Their standpoint is mainly on providing more knowledge for legislators by discussing ideas and solutions with each other, although they do not mention corporate involvement.
The Center for Media and Democracy would disagree with this view and argues that “ALEC is not just a corporate bill mill. It’s not just a lobby or a front group; it’s much more powerful than that.” They believe that ALEC is hiding how powerful they really are and suggest that ALEC’s power is not recognized in the public and that they should not be underestimated because “these so-called ‘model bills’ reach into almost every area of American life and often directly benefit huge corporations.” The Center for Media and Democracy also details that the Koch brothers back ALEC and have likely donated more than one million dollars, which they say has “been an effective investment in advancing their worldview.” This appears to the Center as a larger issue because corporate interests, such as these, are gaining a large amount of power in outsider political groups, like ALEC, that really have an effect on legislation and policies, although they are not directly a part of the government. They believe that ALEC is an obstruction of democracy.
The Who & The Why
Weyrich is an American religious political activist and commentator, most notable as a figurehead of the the Second New Right founded in 1964, a populist, conservative movement. (WIKIPEDIA)
He believes in conservative and populist values. This means he values traditional ideologies and the interest of the people in the United States.
Weyrich is the founder of ALEC, as well as owning Heritage Foundation, a Koch-funded “conservative think tank” that holds ALEC meetings and contributes to their money. Paul Weyrich believes in corporation rights more than people, he uses suspicious tactics to help corporations get the bills they wish were real, a reality.
Center for Media and Democracy
The Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) was founded by John Stauber, a progressive writer who focuses on government propaganda. CMD is a nonprofit organization that follows public relations put out by corporations and politicians. Lisa Graves now runs the organization. She was Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the U.S. department of Justice.
CMD is known as a Liberal, progressive and activist group. They often watch and expose right-wing corporations and politicians. They believe in the Grass Roots movement, being honest, and delivering truth to the people.
CMD has been exposing malpractice techniques that hinder politicians and corporations. They are a well known organization that has been a great influence on journalism and companies. (PRWATCH).
The Koch Brothers
The Koch brothers, Bill and David, come from a family dynasty that started in the oil business. They own Koch Industries, “the second largest privately owned company in the United States” and made around $155 billion
The Foundations controlled by the billionaire Koch brothers gave ALEC over $200,200 in 2009. The Claude R. Lambe Foundation, which Charles Koch and his kids help run, donated $125,000 to ALEC. His own Charles G. Koch foundation kicked in an additional $75,000.
Shell Oil is one of the greatest manufacture of oil and gas. It is the United States chapter of Royal Dutch Shell.
Shell Oil is a company “based on our core values of honesty, integrity and respect for people and are part of everything we do.” they believe in the same values ALEC holds on economic growth. They want the US to lean to if not become a free market, where they can set their own prices for their goods without government regulations.
Shell decided to follow other companies and stop renewing their ALEC membership on the basis that ALEC didn’t acknowledge the existence of climate change.
Although Shell isn’t the first to leave, they are setting an example for other companies to quit funding ALEC because of their limited values. A company this big definitely can get set the stage for others to quit the organization in years to come.
(The Koch Brothers)
ALEC creates “model” bills in their meetings that are supposedly just ideological but somehow get passed is state and federal legislatures. However, NPR has spent several months analyzing hundreds of pages of campaign finance lobbying and corporation records surrounding one bill to find that several big corporations have been participating behind the scenes to help write model bills that become laws. They found one example that clearly shows the corrupt processes ALEC practices.
ALEC early on wrote a model bill, “7K5 No Sanctuary Cities for Illegal Immigrants” which mapped out a proposal in which private citizens and police have the right to challenge legal status of neighbors and sue if the city isn’t responding. A little after this model bill was written, Arizona’s famous “SB 1070” immigration bill was written and passed. This bill had extreme similarity to ALEC’s model one. After some digging, NPR found that Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), who benefits off of the arresting of illegal immigrants, are themselves in ALEC, and members of ALEC’s “Public Safety and Elections Task Force” (SOURCEWATCH). Arizona state Sen. Russell Pearce who wrote SB 1070 says the bill was his idea, yet he failed to mention that he was also apart of The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and was also, like CCA, on the public sector executive committee of its Public Safety and Elections Task Force (SOURCEWATCH).
This example shows how powerful ALEC is when it comes to making laws. They are able to get corporations and congressmen together to make “model” bills that benefit the corporations who fund ALEC. Then a real bill, that consequently shows great similarity to the original “model bill,” is proposed by these legislators and gets passed. This process shows the real influence ALEC has on our government and its political processes.
ALEC is a very powerful organization. Because of their influence on politicians, they make sure corporations get what they want. The “model” bills that committees within ALEC make to benefit the rich end up becoming real life laws in our government. Ever since researching ALEC, I have noticed that they underhandedly get what they want. Certain corporations have been cutting ties with ALEC because of their conservative views, but there are still many companies who need to back out and stop funding ALEC.
The good news is more and more corporations are stepping away. Corporations like Google, Microsoft, and Kraft all decided not to renew their memberships in 2012. These corporations are becoming more aware of the disdain ALEC holds with the public. If ALEC holds true to its corrupt nature and small minded beliefs, the organization won’t hold.