Shameless shilling for their corporate benefactors
The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has been around for 37 years. They are listed as a charitable organization, a 501(c)(3), and yet their entire goal in life is help pass laws around the country that favor corporations and wealthy individuals while harming their political enemies. Their model legislative bills are aimed at destroying unions, expanding voter suppression, restricting women’s access to abortion services, imposing harsh anti-immigrant rules, weakening gun control and expanding “stand your ground” laws, and limiting corporate liability when people are harmed by a product or in their workplace.
Across the country, ALEC is having an impact. Their model legislation is being passed into law at an alarming rate, aided and abetted by the influx of tea party lawmakers. Conservative and dogmatic, they are easy targets for ALEC’s cookie cutter laws. They simply make a few changes (or not, in some cases) and sponsor the bill. No need to write the law themselves; all of the hard work has been done for them.
Myself, I always loved going to these meetings because I always found new ideas. Then I’d take them back to Wisconsin, disguise them a little bit, and declare that ‘it’s mine.’”
-Former Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson
[From a luncheon speech to ALEC, April 2002,Corporate-Sponsored Crime Laws, American RadioWorks, April 2002]
This week, Progress Michigan published a 73-page report on ALEC in Michigan. Here’s a sampling of what they found:
- At least 12 state Representatives belong to ALEC
- At least 12 State Senators belong to ALEC
- 13 known ALEC members are chairs of legislative committees
- Two current members of the Snyder administration, Jason Allen, Senior Deputy Director for Veterans Affairs, and Patricia Birkholz, director of the Michigan Office of the Great Lakes in the Department of Environmental Quality.
- At least $7,600 in taxpayer money has been used for ALEC memberships since 2005
- At least 20 corporation-friendly bills recently introduced in the Michigan legislature closely echo ALEC model bills. House Bill 5221, for example, which was introduced by Rep. Dave Agema (R-Grandville), requires voters to provide proof of citizenship when registering to vote. The legislation is a blatant cut-and-paste job from ALEC’s “Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act”.
The list of legislators in ALEC includes Dave Agema, Jud Gilbert, Gail Haines, Ken Horn, Eileen Kowall, Ken Kurtz, Matt Lori, Pete Lund, Tom McMillin, Aric Nesbitt, Amanda Price & Mike Shirkey. The list of Senators includes: Darwin Booher, Bruce Caswell, Mike Green, Geoff Hansen, Dave Hildenbrand, Rick Jones, Mike Kowall, Arlan Meekhoff, John Moolenaar, Mike Nofs, David Robertson & Tonya Schuitmaker. Keep in mind, there may be others. These are just the ones we know about.
On a conference call with reporters this week, Progress Michigan Executive Director Zack Pohl said that one of the biggest problems with ALEC and the involvement of our state legislators is that they don’t see it as a problem to belong to the blatantly conservative, pro-business, anti-progressive group. To them, he said, it’s just a resource. When asked about it by the Detroit News, Senator Rick Jones, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee from Grand Ledge, said as much:
“In my first term, my new staff signed me up … automatically,” Jones said.
“Although there’s nothing wrong with it, I thought (attending ALEC conferences) would be looked at by my constituents as a junket.”
Jones said there is nothing wrong with using a template to write a bill.
“I think this is simply political rhetoric,” Jones said. “I don’t think there’s anything wrong with legislatures around the country sharing resources.”
But there IS a problem with this. ALEC is not writing legislation to benefit our country’s citizens. It’s writing laws to benefit corporations and to achieve conservative goals across the USA. Often written by corporate lobbyists, these bills aren’t “sharing resources”. These bills are basically regulated groups writing the laws that affect them. It’s not just the fox guarding the hen house, it’s the fox moving into the hen house and kicking out all the hens.
Fortunately, ALEC’s reputation is beginning to impact its membership. Across the country, companies are beginning to abandon ALEC. Here in Michigan, General Motors recently bailed after ALEC-sponsored “Stand Your Ground” legislation was a bridge to far from them.
For more on which Michigan lawmakers are part of this shadowy, pro-business, extreme conservative group in Michigan, check out the full report by Progress Michigan HERE. For more information about the group’s activities across the country and what’s being done to thwart their efforts, go to ALECExposed.org.
As Progress Michigan’s Zack Pohl said, “Michigan citizens have a right to know who is writing our laws. It’s time for Michigan legislators to cut ties with ALEC and focus on rebuilding our economy and strengthening the middle class.”