If anyone thinks that the 850+ bills active on Utah’s Capitol Hill were all drafted from scratch by honest, well-intentioned, public servants that heard the needs of their constituents — they are fooling themselves.
The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) provides a venue for private individuals and corporations to assist politicians in developing what it considers model laws serving the economic and political aims of its members. ALEC also serves as a networking tool among state legislators, allowing them to research the handling and “best practices” of policy in other states. Almost 98% of ALEC’s cash is from sources other than legislative dues, such as corporations, trade associations, and corporate foundations.
ALEC was founded in September 1973, when a small group of conservative state legislators and policy advocates met in Chicago with the stated purpose of founding “A nonpartisan membership association for conservative state lawmakers who shared a common belief in limited government, free markets, federalism, and individual liberty.” ALEC offers scholarships to cover travels and accommodations for legislators to attend several luxurious conventions they hold each year. The conventions also provide ALEC with a vehicle to indoctrinate legislators with so-called “experts” on issues related to ALEC’s model legislation as well as introduces legislators to wealthy potential donors.
ALEC is the conduit through which the policy aims of corporations get drafted into legislation. In July of 2011, over 800 of ALEC’s “model” bills were leaked and posted online. The Center for Media and Democracy made a new website to house the bills which were previously unavailable to the public. It developed dozens of tools to enable citizens to track ALEC politicians, ALEC corporations, and ALEC bills moving in their states.
Here in Utah, ALEC’s influence can be seen from school voucher legislation to health policy to voter ID laws. Arizona’s HB1070 immigration bill? ALEC. The bill was approved by an ALEC task force that included the private prison corporations Corrections Corporation of America and the American Bail Coalition, both of which stand to benefit from an increase in immigrant detention and imprisonment. The Arizona resolution to de-fund ACORN? ALEC.
These ideas are not new. They are a result of years of carefully crafted language that exclusively benefits the corporations that bankroll the drafting of the model bills. ALEC’s model legislation reflects long-term goals: downsizing government, removing regulations on corporations and making it harder to hold the economically and politically powerful to account.
This summer, for only $7,000 (though $25,000 gets you better access!) you can attend their annual meeting here in Salt Lake City.
Legislators can attend the meeting for $50.
See the list of Utah Legislators with ALEC ties.
For information about SLC’s movement to plan actions directed at raising awareness and challenging how the American Legislative Exchange Council affects our political system, get updates here.