Ever since the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens Uniteddecision overturned decades of settled campaign finance law in January 2010 and declared that corporate political spending does not corrupt elected officials, American democracy has been for sale to the highest bidder. ALEC – the American Legislative Exchange Council – has been one vehicle used by big corporations to make sure laws passed by state legislatures directly benefit their bottom line at the expense of the 99%.
Here’s how ALEC works: Behind closed doors, corporations hand state legislators changes to laws that they desire. These legislators, mostly conservative Republicans, bring these proposals home and introduce them as their own ideas and important policy innovations, without disclosing that corporations crafted and voted on the bills. Mega-companies and organizations like Walmart, Koch Industries, Pfizer, ExxonMobil, the National Rifle Association, and State Farm Insurance pour millions of dollars into ALEC’s coffers. It has also received grants from the Allegheny Foundation under the direction of reclusive Pittsburgh billionaire Richard Mellon Scaife, whose home was paid a visit by One Pittsburgh Christmas carolers in December.
The “model legislation” introduced in state legislatures are bills which attack worker rights, deregulate major industries, and work toward the privatization of educational and correctional facilities. At least six bills introduced in Pennsylvania in 2011 were linked to ALEC model legislation, including HB 934, the voter identification law signed by Governor Corbett in March. This law, making Pennsylvania home to one of the nation’s toughest voter ID measures, was the subject of a One Pittsburgh action in April.
And here’s the kicker – ALEC is incorporated as a charitable organization, meaning donations to it are tax-deductible, making ALEC a Citizens United sanctioned funding source “on steroids” for the right wing. But One Pittsburgh is not alone in our efforts to bring the consequences of this sleazy operation to the public’s attention.
According to Common Cause president Bob Edgar, a former Democratic Pennsylvania congressman, “ALEC is a corporate lobby front group masquerading as a public charity. It tells the IRS in its tax returns that it does no lobbying, yet it exists to pass profit-driven legislation in statehouses all over the country that benefits its corporate members.” Last month Common Cause filed a complaint to the IRS, accusing ALEC of violating its tax-exempt status by lobbying state legislatures.
These efforts have had in effect. Since January 25, on 14 corporations, including Coca-Cola, McDonalds, and Blue Cross Blue Shield, and at least 30 Pennsylvania legislators have publicly rejected or renounced connections with ALEC. Some corporations disassociated themselves from ALEC after Trayvon Martin’s death in Florida – the organization had endorsed and promoted Florida’s ‘Stand Your Ground’ law which might be used in the defense of Martin’s accused killer.
Our efforts to bring to light the consequences of the right wing’s efforts to use our rights, livelihoods and security as poker chips to increase the wealth and power of the 1% DO make a difference!
“ALEC Exposed” Sourcewatch.org
“ALEC Running Tax Scam for Big Companies” HuffingtonPost.com
“Legislative Policy Group ALEC Faces IRS Complaint” Post-Gazette.com
“Alec Should Support Repeal of ‘Kill at Will” NewPittsburghCourierOnline.com
John Pilecki is a guest blogger for One Pittsburgh. John and his wife Laura moved to the Pittsburgh area in 2008 after his retirement from a 35-year career as a high school special education and English teacher. He grew up in the Philadelphia suburbs and earned undergraduate and graduate degrees from Temple University. John’s interests include reading, running, music of all kinds, and travel.