JUAN GONZALEZ: The Internal Revenue Service has been asked to investigate the nonprofit tax status of a Washington-based organization that its critics say has played a key role in helping corporations secretly draft model pro-business legislation that has been used by state lawmakers across the country. The American Legislative Exchange Council was formed nearly four decades ago and has become, in its own words, “the nation’s largest, non-partisan, individual public-private membership association of state legislators.”
But the organization, often known simply as ALEC, has come under increasing scrutiny in recent months for its role in drafting bills to attack workers’ rights, roll back environmental regulations, privatize education, deregulate major industries, and pass voter ID laws. Thanks to ALEC, at least a dozen states have recently adopted a nearly identical resolution asking Congress to compel the Environmental Protection Agency to stop regulating carbon emissions.
AMY GOODMAN: Earlier this week, the Center for Media and Democracy released 800 model bills approved by companies and lawmakers at recent ALEC meetings. Unlike many other organizations, ALEC’s membership includes both state lawmakers and corporate executives. At its meetings, the corporations and politicians gather behind closed doors to discuss and vote on model legislation. Before the bills are publicly introduced in state legislatures, they’re cleansed of any reference to who actually wrote them.
According to the Center, beneficiaries of recent model bills by ALEC include the tobacco firm Altria/Philip Morris; the health insurance firm Humana; the pharmaceutical company Bayer; and the private prison company Corrections Corporation of America, CCA.
For more, we go to Madison, Wisconsin, to speak with Lisa Graves, executive director of the Center for Media and Democracy. We invited a member from ALEC on to join us, but they did not return our phone calls or emails.
Lisa, talk about your findings.
LISA GRAVES: Well, this week, the Center for Media and Democracy made available to the public a wide array of bills from the secretive ALEC, from the secretive American Legislative Exchange Council. And what these model bills, these wish lists for corporations, show is that corporations and politicians, state politicians, voted behind closed doors through ALEC task forces on a set of radical proposals to rewrite our rights in almost every area of the law. And so, this trove of documents that came to us by way of a whistleblower, we felt it was very important for the American people to see these bills, to be able to analyze these bills, to see what was happening in their own legislatures, and to trace these bills back to ALEC and to the corporations that actually voted for them behind closed doors. We were astonished, in these documents, that ALEC touts to its members that corporations have a, quote, “voice and a vote.” They have a voice and a vote, through ALEC task forces, on our lives, on bills before—in many instances, they are introduced in any legislature across the country.
These bills have published, these resolutions, against things like windfall taxes—windfall taxes for the oil companies, resolutions on all sorts of things involving the budget, to try to stop any revenue increases to help address spending crises—or, pardon me, to help address the crises that we’re seeing in terms of the budgets, so that we can deal with the needs of our country. And so, what you see in bill after bill, resolution after resolution, is this radical agenda that has been put forth since the 1970s, funded by some of the wealthiest, wealthiest people and corporations in the world. Corporations like Koch Industries, billionaires Charles and David Koch, who run that company, many other companies, Exxon, the wealthiest of the wealthiest on the planet, have been part ALEC and part of this agenda.
Continue Reading »