ALEC: Traditional values discover corporate funding
Sixth in a series on dominionism and the federal government
The brainchild of Paul Weyrich, ALEC was founded in 1973 as a national network of state legislators working on hot button social issues such as opposition to abortion and the Equal Rights Amendment. Throughout the eighties those issues helped mobilize the newly formed Moral Majority
By the nineties ALEC became an influential pro-business lobbying organization with huge donations from corporations such as Philip Morris, Amoco, Chevron, Enron, and the American Energy Institute. Some of those corporations pay membership dues of $50,000 according to a report issued by Defenders of Wildlife and the Natural Resources Defense Council.
ALEC is a blend of traditional values conservatives with corporate money. The social conservatives have the ability to get legislators elected by mobilizing through the megachurches, and corporations supply big funding and gain the ability to actually draft the bills presented in state assemblies. Groups such as the former giant Christian Coalition built old-fashioned political machine's through evangelical churches. They have been surpassed by organizations such as The Family Research Council, or new organizations such as Ohio's Reformation Project, or James Dobson's Focus on the Family which recently launced a political campaign in eight swing states to mobilize members of evangelical churches for the 2006 elections.
How do corporations write the law?
From Ghostwriting the Law
With more than 2,400 state lawmakers as members -- roughly one third of the nation's total -- ALEC is a year-round clearinghouse for business-friendly legislation.
Corporations that support ALEC "pay to play." In addition to dues of up to $50,000 dollars per year, they also pay as much as $5,000 dollars to sit on the "task force" committees that draft ALEC's legislative templates. You pay, and you get to write state laws to your exquisite advantage.
Not surprisingly, many of the bills benefit the companies that helped write them. Consider ALEC's "Environmental Audit Privilege," a measure that relieves companies of legal responsibility for their own pollution. The bill got its start in 1992, when Colorado regulators fined the Coors Brewing Company for smog-inducing air emissions at several plants. ALEC was quick to respond, drafting a measure to prevent firms from being fined if they report environmental violations at their facilities, and to keep such disclosures secret. Coors is a corporate member of ALEC, and company executive Allan Auger is a past chairman of the group, to which the Coors family's Castle Rock Foundation is also a donor. Last year, Kentucky and Oregon passed audit-privilege laws like the one drawn up by ALEC.
Another go-to issue for ALEC's members is the environment. In 2002, the organization issued a widely read report, "Global Warming and the Kyoto Protocol: Paper Tiger, Economic Dragon" [PDF], written by the CATO institute's "climate skeptic" Patrick Michaels. Exxon - the leading funder of efforts to "debunk" climatology - donated almost one million dollars to ALEC since 1998, according to ExxonWatch. Dupont, Dow and Edison electric are among the other firms that have paid millions to write ALEC's model legislation.
Why are state legislators so important? Because state governments are laboratories for laws that then work their way up to the U.S. Congress.
... states do by far the largest share of governing in America. They write most law and give content to even more through interpretation and administration. Most government that affects us in our everyday social roles--as workers, consumers, taxpayers, owners and citizens--tends first or finally to run through states. Economic development, healthcare and abortion access, privacy rights, marriage and the family, wage standards, public safety, criminal justice, prisons, air and water quality, education and training, consumer protection, transportation, libraries and other community public goods--these are just a few examples. In many of these critical areas, in fact, states shoulder primary responsibility. (The Nation, Desolve This 8/30/04)
Progressives Fight Back
ALICE (the American Legislative Issue Campaign Exchange) is trying to create a similarly broad network at the local level. A collaboration of the Center on Wisconsin Strategy, the Economic Analysis and Research Network and several other progressive groups, ALICE is a clearinghouse of information and legislation that's trying to back up tens of thousands of progressives in local government.
Creating a Right-Wing Nation, State by State Joshua Holland, AlterNet, November 16, 2005
Defenders of Wildlife and Natural Resources Defense Council, Corporate America's Trojan Horse in the States: The Untold Story Behind the American Legislative Exchange Council
Ghostwriting the Law, Mother Jones, Sept.Oct. 2002
The Nation Magazine , Desolve This, Joel Rogers, August 30, 2004 (on progressive state legislation)
George W. Bush Speech to American Legislative Exchange Council, August 3, 2005
Previous articles in the series on Dominionism and The Role of The Federal Government
Paul Weyrich: The Man Who Framed the Republican Party (How he succeeded in getting a huge constituency to vote against their economic interests)
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