To start at the beginning, a wise (and long-time) reader sent me this note in which he mentioned a corporate non-profit that exists to design government programs just so. You know – that function which is supposed to live in the legislative branches of the state and federal governments?
I was impressed with this long-form article on the most extensive corporate corruption clearing house at work in America. I never knew, for example, that the corporate sponsors of ALEC have 100% veto power over any language in the model bills they send to state legislatures. I also didn’t know that they take contributions from the corporations, and give those corporations full tax deductibility and protection of anonymity of the millions they spend entertaining their state legislator puppets.
Notice who was speaking at their “convention” near the end of last month.
ALEC? Who the hell is ALEC and how have they become a sort of defacto branch of state government, supported by tax-deductible money from Big Corporations, and how is it they get to write “model legislation” and pass it around?
A check of Wikipedia:
“The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is a nonprofit organization of conservative state legislators and private sector representatives that drafts and shares model state-level legislation for distribution among state governments in the United States. According to its website, ALEC “works to advance the fundamental principles of free-market enterprise, limited government, and federalism at the state level through a nonpartisan public-private partnership of America’s state legislators, members of the private sector and the general public”.
ALEC provides a forum for state legislators and private sector members to collaborate on model bills—draft legislation that members may customize and introduce for debate in their own state legislatures. ALEC has produced model bills on a broad range of issues, such as reducing corporate regulation and taxation, combating illegal immigration, loosening environmental regulations, tightening voter identification rules, weakening labor unions and promoting gun rights. ALEC also serves as a networking tool among state legislators, allowing them to research conservative policies implemented in other states. Some of these bills dominate legislative agendas in states such as Arizona, Wisconsin, Colorado, Michigan, New Hampshire, and Maine. Approximately 200 model bills become law each year. Many ALEC legislators say the organization converts campaign rhetoric and nascent policy ideas into legislative language.
ALEC’s activities, while legal, received public scrutiny after being publicized by liberal groups in 2011 and news reports from outlets such as the The New York Times and Bloomberg Businessweek described ALEC as an organization that gave corporate interests outsized influence. Resulting public pressure led to a number of legislators and corporations to withdraw from the organization…
Well, I’ll be damned.
I have long held that corporations have taken over government and here we are with an organization with does the interstate coordination through “Model Laws.”
But that Wikipedia summary sort of leaves us hanging about how this organization has been operating since being “outed” in the major right coast media. I mean it’s all about money and influence, right?
“In April 2012, Common Cause filed a complaint with the Internal Revenue Service objecting to ALEC’s tax status as a nonprofit organization and alleged that lobbying accounted for more than 60% of its expenditures. ALEC formally denied lobbying, although Delores Mertz, who had previously served as chairwoman of the ALEC board, said she was “concerned about the lobbying that’s going on, especially with [ALEC’s] 501(c)3 status”. Reporting on the allegations, Bloomberg Businessweek compared ALEC’s work to that of lobbyists, noting, “part of ALEC’s mission is to present industry-backed legislation as grass-roots work,” and that being a nonprofit rather than a lobby group allows deductibility of membership dues, and the freedom not to disclose the names of legislators who attend its educational seminars or the executives who give presentations to those legislators. William Schluter, vice chairman of the New Jersey Ethics Commission and a former Republican state senator, said of ALEC’s activities, “When you get right down to it, this is not different from lobbying. It is lobbying… Any kind of large organization that adds to public policy or has initiatives involving public policy should be disclosed—not only their name, but who is backing them.” According to Governing magazine, ALEC legislators often have their travel expenses paid as “scholarships” and are “wined and dined and golf-coursed” by private sector members. In July 2013 Common Cause submitted a supplemental brief to the IRS complaining about these practices.
ALEC responded to the original Common Cause complaint by denying it engaged in lobbying, while saying that liberal groups were attacking ALEC because “they don’t have a comparable group that is as effective as ALEC in enacting policies into law.” In 2013 ALEC created a 501(c)(4) organization called the “Jeffersonian Project” that, according to The Guardian, “would allow Alec to be far more overt in its lobbying activities than its current charitable status as a 501(c)(3)”.
Ever wonder where the “for profit prison model” came from?
“According to Governing magazine, “ALEC has been a major force behind both privatizing state prison space and keeping prisons filled.” ALEC has developed model bills advancing “tough on crime” initiatives, including “truth in sentencing” and “three strikes” laws. Critics argue that by funding and participating in ALEC’s Criminal Justice Task Force, private prison companies directly influence legislation for tougher, longer sentences. Corrections Corporation of America and Wackenhut Corrections, two of the largest for-profit prison companies in the U.S. (as of 2004[update]), have been contributors to ALEC. ALEC has also worked to pass state laws to allow the creation of private-sector for-profit prisons”
ALEC is not the only group of its type out there – and their meetings where “model laws” are hashed out tend to be close to the non-paying class (like the public). There are others.
On the liberal/progressive front you can find the State Innovation Exchange as well as other moderate to left groups.
What’s particularly interesting is that despite the conservative right going to great lengths to point out the political activities of George Soros, for example, is that the conservative right has already locked up most of the major corporate contributions to be had. And as any denizen of the mahogany foxholes knows, when corporations work together to increase and shovel laws through state legislatures, the Moneyed Class always wins.
Oh, and the quality of overall government declines..
You see, the idea of “prisons for profit” is horrific. It violates the concept of “clean hands” that once figured prominently in American jurisprudence. Would you, for example, like to be “sentenced” by a “judge” who just received a “campaign contribution” from an organization in whose financial interest it is to lock you away for life because you are a key contributor to their revenue stream?
This is only one bad idea. There are lots of others, including leaving a for-profit layer of greedsters (in the form of the “insurance industry”) as “processors” in healthcare.
Other than data entry – which could be done with a retinal scan and Social Security number – what is their value? Zero. At least it would be zero if we had an honest government-run healthcare system instead of the worst (and did I mention most expensive?) of both worlds?
Thus, this morning’s thinkling.
The conservative right is very proud of its accomplishments in union busting and other anti-working folks legislation. Much of America’s decline – from a country where one person working could support a car, house, wife, and couple of kids – has been led by the Boardroom Barbarians who continue to encroach into the provinces once the exclusive domain of elective government.
It’s easy to demonize teachers (don’t get me started on them) and their retirement groups because they are a ready target.
But somewhere along the way, let’s not forget that the 40-hour work week came from somewhere.
And so did the corporate backed healthcare mess which has ensured that not only is the average work week declining from 40-hours a week to a couple of dozen hours to avoid paying healthcare, but the minimum was is staying at absurd levels, too. Such that if you had to live – just one person – working 40-hours a week in the MinWageWorld, you couldn’t do it.
Just wanted to point out a few realities here, so that the next time I refer to the “corporate takeover of government” you won’t think I’m completely nuts. (Partly, I could agree with.)
If you really want to see the comatose giant of American potential awakened, its actually very simple.
Close down every “law firm” in Washington and set up something akin to the bipartisan Congressional Research Service in order to keep state legislatures from being seized by the corporate greedsters who think they know what’s best for us little people.
America has never been involved in more wars at once.
We have the wars in the sandbox, standoff tensions in eastern Europe, Chinese military islands being planted, and an administration with a socialist bent ignoring the clearly articulated immigration laws and deliberately failing at border control for a crooked political agenda, wrapped up in drug-running kids.
At the same time, however, corporate opportunists are staging attacks on state laws to hoodwink the American public into a delusion of progress.
Think the passage of marijuana reform in Washington was a liberal move? No. It is a corporate test bed to see how many drivers with a trace of TCH from three weeks earlier can be generated for corporate run rehab programs…that’s how low the threshold was set. One doobie, one month.
I like to sum things up with a thought problem, so here’s one to noodle on.
Pretend you are going to buy a home. You can buy any one you want, but each house has a problematic neighbor.
- The house next door to one contains an illegal immigrant family from South America.
- The house next door to another property is a meth lab.
- Another one that looks good has a recently arrive Muslim family.
- Here’s a peach, but next to a half-way house.
- Two of your housing choices are in Ferguson and Baltimore.
- And your last choice is to live next door to a lobbyist.
The lobbyist may seem like the easy choice. It clearly be the smart investment move based on real estate values. But trust me when I tell you, aspects of all the other problems can be directly laid at the feet of your new lobbyist neighbor.
Say! That makes you an accomplice, does it not? And a willing one, whether you vote, or not.
I promise a lighter-hearted article on Thursday. But we are not what we talk and not what we claim to walk. We is what we spend in the end.
Write when you break-even,