ALEC is the acronym for the American Legislative Exchange Council, an organization of 300 plus corporate lobbyists and about 2,000 state legislators. It meets secretly to vote on various ‘model bills’ which for the most part benefit corporations at the expense of the rights of individuals.
Corporations are able to promote their interests by purchasing the right to vote. The price of a corporate membership varies from $7,000 to $25,000 each year, with additional fees charged depending on which and how many task forces the corporation participates in. This entitles them to a tax break which means the public ends up footing the bill.
The corporate representatives who attend ALEC meetings are often registered lobbyists. They sit equally with elected legislators on the various task forces and working groups that draft the bills despite their unelected standing in the community at large. ALEC insists that only legislators vote on the ‘model bills’, though both legislators and corporations vote on policy.
Legislators then introduce the ‘model bills’ back to their respective states. The bills are mostly always introduced as the work of the legislator and presented as a way to deal with public policy issues particular to the state itself. This avoids any discussion about the true origin of the bills. Thousands of these ‘model bills’ have been introduced over time with about one in every five becoming state law. The key commonality about the bills is a paucity of information regarding their origin, their language or the extent of corporate involvement in their drafting and approval.
ALEC also has a number of corporate and legislative governing boards that meet annually. For example, Koch industries is a representative on a governing board and has been in that position for a number of years. It has had a very big influence over a large number of bills passed.
Corporations ultimately benefit from the ‘model bills’ as they are both written and voted on with their interests in mind. Legislators also benefit because they get the opportunity to meet potential donors for their political campaigns. Despite this, ALEC claims the organization is not about lobbying. But the reality of having a legislator return to its state to introduce a ‘model bill’ that has been promoted by a particular corporate interest equates to lobbying in the practical sense. There is hardly a better example. One might call it pseudo-lobbying. In any case, 20 or the 24 corporate representatives on the “Private Enterprize Board” are lobbyists and they do represent interests like the Koch Brothers.
Despite the obvious nature of the lobbying functions, ALEC still retains its 501(c)(3) classification. This gives it a tax-exempt status while continuing to be able to accept grants from foundations, corporations, and other donors. Some foundations are funded by corporate CEO’s like the Charles G. Koch Foundation. ALEC is also funded by legislator dues.
ALEC raises concerns over the funding of legislators to participate in its events. Approximately $3 million in public funds is required to attend in any given year. Legislators may also use campaign funds to attend and be reimbursed by ALEC. Under some state’s laws attendance at events is considered a gift which means that it either needs to be disclosed or should should not allowed at all.
ALEC claims it is a non-partisan organization, but it actually represents the views of the extreme right. Some of the names that follow here attest to this. ALEC alumni include Donald Rumsfeld and Governor Scott Walker. It has also presented awards to Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, George H.W. Bush, Charles and David Koch. Past speakers at ALEC include Milton Friedman, Newt Gingrich, and Dick Cheney.