Is the American Legislative Exchange Council the ‘New Michigan?’
The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is a right-wing ultra-conservative “bill mill.” It is not just a lobby or a front group; it is much more powerful than that. Through ALEC, corporations hand state legislators their wish lists to benefit their corporate profit line. Corporations pay for a seat on ALEC task forces where corporate lobbyists and special interest representatives vote with elected officials to approve “model” bills. ALEC receives direct grants from corporations, such as $1.4 million from ExxonMobil from 1998-2009. It has also received financial support from some of the biggest corporations in the country, such as: the Koch family Charles G. Koch Foundation, the Koch-managed Claude R. Lambe Foundation, Walmart, Johnson and Johnson, and Bayer, to name a few.
How do corporations benefit? Altria/Philip Morris USA benefited from ALEC’s newest tobacco legislation – an extremely narrow tax break for moist tobacco that would make fruit flavored tobacco products cheaper and more attractive to youngsters. Tobacco firms such as Reynolds and pharmaceutical firms such as Bayer benefit directly from ALEC tort reform measures that make it harder for Americans to sue when injured by dangerous products.
Health insurance companies, such as Humana and United Healthcare, benefit directly from ALEC model bills, such as the Health Savings Account bill that passed in Wisconsin. Corrections Corporation of America benefits directly from the anti-immigrant legislation introduced in many states that require expanded incarceration and housing of immigrants, along with other bills from ALEC’s crime task force, which currently owns 60 plus prisons. Moreover, Connections Academy, a large online education corporation, benefits from ALEC measures to privatize national public education and promote private on-line schools. They are already running two schools in Michigan.
No sooner had the GOP secured total control of Michigan in 2010, holding majorities in both houses and winning the governorship, than ALEC leapt into action. ALEC wasted no time in sending many of their most onerous “model legislation” bills to Michigan, namely the Emergency Manager law, privatization of public schools, expansion of charter schools, HB 5221 (Voter ID Act), which required voters to provide proof of citizenship when registering to vote, and HB 4305 with language similar to ALEC’s model “Immigration Law Enforcement Act,” plus others.
ALEC alumni include: Speaker of the House John Boehner, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Congressman Joe Wilson, (who called President Obama a “liar” during the State of the Union address), former House Speaker Dennis Hastert, former House Speaker Tom DeLay, Donald Rumsfeld (1985 chair of ALEC’s Business Policy Board), Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, Arizona Governor Janice Brewer, and more.
Former Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson summed his ALEC experience with this statement: “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.'”
Currently, 25 Michigan legislators are ALEC members. This is dangerous because it is obvious they can’t think for themselves.