The United States Congress is not the only organization in Washington DC that makes US laws. There is another, more secretive organization in DC that enables representatives of the most powerful global corporations and industry organizations to draft, debate and vote on bills that serve corporate interests and corporate profits. These pro-corporation bills are disseminated to willing state legislators who are trained through boot camps and guideline materials, entertained at conferences, and honored for getting legislation based on these model bills passed into law in their home states.
Sound outrageous, paranoid, conspiratorial? It is nevertheless true and – they tell us – legal.
Thanks to the secretive but highly efficient American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), corporations are paying for the privilege of drafting state laws that, wrapped in patriotic-sounding language, often limit corporations’ liabilities and citizens’ rights. And some state legislators, including a number here in North Carolina, claim to be happy for this legislative “help” (not to mention the chance to be courted by wealthy potential political supporters).
Headquartered on Vermont Avenue in Washington, DC, ALEC has
approximately 300 Private Sector members SourceWatch.org has made a list of these members public. It includes corporations, industry lobbyists and foundations such as the American Bankers Association, the American Gas Association (which lobbies for pro-hydraulic fracking legislation), AT&T, BP, Connections Academy (which lobbies for privatizing education), Duke Energy, ExxonMobil, GlaxoSmithKline, the Heritage Foundation, IBM, Koch Industries, PhRMA, WalMart and many more.
According to the ALEC website, Private Sector members pay $7,000, $12,000 or $25,000 for various levels of access to ALEC benefits, including the ALEC Task Forces, where they can meet with legislators to model laws. ALEC reports that they have nearly 2000 state legislative members from across the county; membership dues for them are $50 annually, and these may be paid by ALEC “scholarships.”
ALEC boasts the following:
To date, ALEC’s Task Forces have considered, written and approved hundreds of model bills on a wide range of issues, model legislation that will frame the debate today and far into the future. Each year, close to 1,000 bills, based at least in part on ALEC Model Legislation, are introduced in the states. Of these, an average of 20 percent become law. (ALEC website)
The truth of these claims became apparent in July 2011, when more than 800 previously secret ALEC model bills and resolutions were leaked to the the Center for Media and Democracy. These documents reveal the astonishing depth and scope of ALEC ‘s influence on state laws.
To find out more, visit ALEC Exposed.
Report from WRAL, May2, 2013.
The NC General Assembly’s Environmental Review Committee has authority over the state’s Division of Environmental Resources (DENR) and tremendous power over the future air, water, land and the health of living beings and ecosystems of our state. For example, the commission is currently considering abolishing the state’s Air Toxics Program which monitors facilities that produce toxic air pollution and evaluates the public health impact. (For a good overview, see a WRAL report from September 2011).
Members of this Environmental Review Committee who belong to ALEC include:
Senator David Rouzer, Co-Chair
Representative Ruth Samuelson, Co-Chair
Representative Chuck McGrady.
The ALEC-influenced S781 bill passed by the NC GOP legislature in 2011 gives the Environmental Review Committee increased powers over DENR and requires DENR to review all its rules, report those that exceed federal standards, and, in keeping with the dictums of ALEC, to repeal those that do.
The Air Toxics Program is said to be more stringent than Federal requirements, but in 2007, North Carolina was ranked 4th highest in the country for hazardous air pollutants. [Oy. No wonder I can't breathe when I'm working in my garden during the summer!]
Last fall, the New Yorker featured North Carolina’s Art Pope in its investigative report “State for Sale: A conservative multimillionaire has taken control in North Carolina . . .” Among other alarming facts, the report documents Pope’s long-standing relationship with the billionaire Koch brothers, who are known to be major backers of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). This article did not note the connection between Pope and ALEC, however. The website Art Pope Exposed, a project of the Institute for Southern Studies, provides some clues.
For example, in “Pope-backed climate deniers fight NC’s renewable energy program ” Art Pope Exposed reports that Daren Bakst, director of legal and regulatory studies and “chief climate-science denier” for Art Pope’s John Locke Foundation, is also ALEC Energy Task Force chairperson.
Also known as the Drill Bill, SB 709 was vetoed by Gov. Perdue in June 2011. As observed by NC Policy Watch,
“[NC environmental groups] worried this piece of legislation would promote offshore drilling, open the door to fracking, and restructure the NC Energy Policy Council into a one-sided panel of industry representatives.”
Fears remain that the NC GOP will over-ride this veto.
Rep. Marilyn Avila (R-40 Wake), attended ALEC 2011 Annual Meeting. NCGA Member info.
Rep. Darrell McCormick (R-92 Iredell, Surry, Yadkin), attended ALEC 2011 Annual Meeting. NCGA Member info.
Rep. Mike Stone (R-51 Harnett, Lee), attended ALEC 2011 Annual Meeting. NCGA Member info.
All these legislators attended the reportedly lavish ALEC 2011 Annual Meeting in New Orleans in August, 2011. As a major highlight, ALEC celebrated the advancement of the whole ALEC agenda in North Carolina during 2011. For more information about that meeting, see ALEC likes Tillis.