American Legislative Exchange Council

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“Our members join for the purpose of having a seat at the table. That’s just what we do, that’s the service we offer. The organisation is supported by money from the corporate sector, and, by paying to be members, corporations are allowed the opportunity to sit down at the table and discuss the issues that they have an interest in.” Dennis Bartlett, ALEC, 1997 [1]

American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is a unique organisation. It is a membership organisation of state legislators across the US that drafts "model legislation” that is then often drafted into law. ALEC is an ultra-conservative lobby group that pushes legislation that favours big business and rolls back environmental regulations. Examples include the so-called Stand Your Ground gun legislation and voter-identification bills through state legislatures across the US. [2] Its goal “is to advance the Jeffersonian Principles of free markets, limited government, federalism and individual liberty among America’s State Legislators[3]

Contents

Members

Although in its Annual Report, ALEC says that its membership exceeds 2,400 state legislators from both political parties, which is over 30 percent of all state lawmakers in America[2], in reality it is a conservative organisation. Founded by Paul Weyrich, the godfather of the religious / new right in the US, it works at the state level in the US pushing forward conservative legislation that favours its corporate backers or it blocks progressive legislation. Protecting corporate polluters is a major goal,[4] including

In early 2012 intense public pressure led to firms such as Pepsi, Coca Cola and Kraft pulling out of ALEC. A major expose of the group by the Center for Media and Democracy revealed that despite ALEC's portrayal of itself as a membership group for it was in fact largely corporate funded, and a particular favourite of the far right Koch Brothers.[2]

A powerful and pivotal player

Such is its power and influence, the two environmental groups Defenders of Wildlife and the Natural Resources Defense Council published a report on the “corrosive, secretive and highly influential” ALEC, which is “tax-exempt screen for major U.S. corporations and trade associations that use it to influence legislative activities at the state level[4].

ALEC, their report noted “would have the public believe that it’s an association of elected members of the 50 state legislatures with varying political and public policy philosophies. However, ALEC is nothing less than a tax-exempt facade for the country’s largest corporations and kindred entities. Companies likes Enron, Amoco, Chevron, Shell, Texaco, Coors Brewing, Koch Industries, Nationwide Insurance, Pfizer, National Energy Group, Philip Morris, and R. J. Reynolds pay for essentially all of ALEC’s expenses”[5].

From an external perspective, because Alec is mainly working at the state level it could be dismissed as a minor player in the coordinated backlash against the environmental movement. This would be wrong. According to People for the American Way and Defenders of Wildlife: “ALEC’s power can only be understood when viewed within the context of the well coordinated network of right wing think tanks with which they share a free-market, anti-government ideology. Indeed, ALEC is the corporate-funded pivotal point where this network—ranging from national organizations like the Heritage Foundation to state-based think tanks that comprise the State Policy Network—connects”[6].

Alec is a pivotal player between state and federal right-wing think tanks and works with many. Representatives from the Cato Institute, U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance, Evergreen Freedom Foundation, Competitive Enterprise Institute, the Heritage Foundation, the American Enterprise Institute, were all at the 2003 Annual meeting.

Funding

Alec’s budget for 2002 was: $5,025,388[7]

According to Defenders of Wildlife and NRDC: “Over the years, ALEC has taken in more than $1.3 million from foundations controlled by ultraconservative philanthropist Richard Scaife, along with sizable amounts from the Coors-related Castle Rock Foundation, the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation, the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, and the John M. Olin Foundation. In addition, ALEC reportedly has more than three hundred corporate sponsors that pay annual membership fees ranging from $5,000 to $50,000 to be part of the action, plus additional fees of $1,500 to $5,000 a year to participate in ALEC’s various task forces”[8].

Between 1985 and 2002, Alec received some $2,806,000 in 52 grants from the following foundations[9]:

Alec’s funders also have included:

And many other major corporations and trade associations, including Tech Central Station[10]. Between 1998 and 2002, Exxon donated $358,200 to ALEC[11].

Links to the Republicans

ALEC boasts that its Annual Meeting is the “the largest gathering of conservatives held each year”. Last year’s was no exception, and showed its close ties to senior Republicans. Featured speakers included Vice President Dick Cheney; U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge; Colorado Governor Bill Owens; former U.S. Congressman J.C. Watts, Jr.; Washington, DC, Mayor Anthony Williams; and David Horowitz[12].

Security Secretary Tom Ridge appointed Oklahoma Senator Jim Dunlap, ALEC’s 2002 National Chairman, to serve as a member of the State and Local Officials Senior Advisory Committee to the President’s Homeland Security Advisory Council[13].

In 2002, Education Secretary Rod Paige; Labor Secretary Elaine Chao; Housing and Urban Development Secretary Mel Martinez; Congressman Mark Green, ALEC Alumni Chairman; Florida Governor Jeb Bush; and Florida’s Speaker of the House Tom Feeney all addressed the Annual Meeting [14] .

People

Staff

National Board of Directors

Officers:

Private Enterprise Board, whose “officers” are:

The members of the Private Enterprise Board include

Alec’s 2002 Private Sector Member of the Year recipients include:

Issues of Concern

Environment Task Force / climate

Alec has a Task Force on Energy, Environment, Natural Resources, headed by Alexandra Liddy Bourne, which affects many areas of domestic US environmental policy including in relation to climate. In the late nineties, the Task Force’s Director on Earth Day said: “ “The best chance we have to improve the environment is to break the stranglehold of the command-and-control policies promoted by the EPA and the extremist environmental lobby[18].”

At its Annual meeting in 2003, the Task Force “heard presentations on the Endangered Species Act by Myron Ebell, CEI and a representative from the Fish and Wildlife Division of the Department of Interior. Joe Bast, Heartland Institute, outlined his study on carbon sequestration in agriculture. Rob Sexton, from the Sportsman Alliance, gave an update on eco-terrorism, and Tom Brown, with API, sponsored a presentation on gasoline pricing”[19].

Alec is against Kyoto. “Ten years ago, an ill-founded international agreement to reduce hydrocarbon fuel consumption was conceived, named the Kyoto Protocol, and its issue is resulting in the consideration of carbon dioxide emission standards in the states. Although it is still unclear whether global warming is occurring or, even if it is occurring, whether it would have a major impact on our climate, environmental activists are pushing the states and our economy towards an energy starvation diet[20]”.

Domestically it says it has to “to guard against proposed “back-door Kyoto Protocol” regulations that would significantly increase energy costs but yield negligible environmental benefits[21].

During Alec’s 2002 Spring Task Force Summit in Las Vegas, the group released the report “Global Warming and the Kyoto Protocol: Paper Tiger, Economic Dragon,” written by climate skeptic, Patrick J. Michaels from the Cato Institute (see below), who “exposed the economic and scientific poverty of the Kyoto Protocol on global warming.[22]”

In January 2004, Alec issued a press release on the “Myth of Global Warming and “Sons-Of-Kyoto’ Legislation”. It read: --- With the failure of the Kyoto Protocol at the federal level, several states are advancing so-called “Sons-of-Kyoto” legislation to eliminate affordable fossil fuels --- such as coal, petroleum, and natural gas --- from the nation’s energy mix, according to the second edition of “Energy, Environment, and Economics Guidebook for State Legislators” prepared by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) [23].”

Sandy Liddy Bourne, ALEC's Environment, Natural Resources, and Agriculture Task Force Director then went on to make some interesting comments on climate change given the overwhelming scientific consensus on the evidence of climate change and rising carbon dioxide levels. “Carbon dioxide, the inescapable by-product of burning fossil fuels, is beneficial to plant and human life alike. The effort to regulate it as a greenhouse gas is an attempt to tax energy”.

“States should reject every form of Kyoto legislation for the very same reasons as our leaders in Washington, D.C.,” said Bourne. “The Kyoto Protocol is just another highly regressive energy tax on America's working families, with no measurable benefit to environmental or human health[24]."

The report itself also makes startling claims that “Climate change policy and global warming” have become “the new mantra for environmentalists and non-governmental organizations in their quest to redistribute international and domestic wealth”.

Also: “This agreement, known as the Kyoto Protocol, did not have a scientific standing nor did it reflect economic realities. Instead, the agreement was driven by public advocacy and supported by foreign governments seeking competitive edge in the global market place. As one observer noted: “The driving force behind this movement is not any theoretical harm associated with carbon dioxide; it is the real economic value associated with carbon-containing fuels… The legacy that we may hand over to future generations is not one of individual choices in a free market system, but one of lost opportunities in a global market controlled by a carbon cartel.”[25]

Criminalising dissent

Seen by its critics as one of its most worrying actions to date. In early 2003, The US Sportsman’s Alliance, a leading hunting organisation, prepared The Animal and Ecological Terrorism Act, supposedly draft legislation to combat animal rights terrorism, and started promoting the bill to legislators in all 50 states. It was soon taken up and promoted by ALEC[26].

ALEC helped draft the legislation, which it wants to become law at state level throughout the US. Versions of the proposed law have already been introduced in Texas in February and in New York in March.

Seen by the Centre for Constitutional Rights as the most draconian legislation ever introduced in the US, it criminalizes virtually all forms of environmental or animal-rights advocacy[27]. The Definition of the Animal Rights or Ecological Terrorist Organization under the bill, as entered in Texas is totally draconian

"Animal rights or ecological terrorist organization" means two or more persons organized for the purpose of supporting any politically motivated activity intended to obstruct or deter any person from participating in an activity involving animals or an activity involving natural resources. "Political motivation" means an intent to influence a governmental entity or the public to take a specific political action”[28]

Contact

Notes

  1. People for the American Way Right Wing Organisations accessed 25th August 2008
  2. 2.0 2.1 American Legislative Exchange Council, Ultra-Conservative Lobby, Loses 2 Major Funders, 4 April 2012, accessed 11 April 2012.
  3. The American Legislative Exchange Council, 2002 Annual Report
  4. Defenders of Wildlife & Natural Resources Defense Council (2002) Corporate America’s Trojan Horse in the States - The Untold Story Behind the American Legislative Exchange Council, p5
  1. the American Legislative Exchange Council, 2002 Annual Report, p3
  2. Defenders of Wildlife & Natural Resources Defense Council (2002) Corporate America’s Trojan Horse in the States - The Untold Story Behind the American Legislative Exchange Council, p1,4
  3. Defenders of Wildlife & Natural Resources Defense Council (2002) Corporate America’s Trojan Horse in the States - The Untold Story Behind the American Legislative Exchange Council, p1
  4. People for the American Way & Defenders of Wildlife (2003) ALEC and the Battle of the StatesRight Wing & Corporate Ascendancy: The Challenge for Progressive Collaboration, p2
  5. the American Legislative Exchange Council, 2002 Annual Report
  6. Defenders of Wildlife & Natural Resources Defense Council (2002) Corporate America’s Trojan Horse in the States - The Untold Story Behind the American Legislative Exchange Council, p21
  7. http://www.mediatransparency.org/search_results/info_on_any_recipient.php?585
  8. Defenders of Wildlife & Natural Resources Defense Council (2002) Corporate America’s Trojan Horse in the States - The Untold Story Behind the American Legislative Exchange Council, p4, 22-24
  9. Source Greenpeace - data from company reports for 98, 00, 01, 02 – data not available for 99 and pre-98.
  10. U.S. Newswire (2003) “ALEC to Hold 30th Annual Meeting in Washington, DC; Schedule of Events”, 30 July
  11. the American Legislative Exchange Council, 2002 Annual Report, p10
  12. the American Legislative Exchange Council, 2002 Annual Report, p11.
  13. http://www.Tech Central Station.com/biobournealexandra.html
  14. the American Legislative Exchange Council, 2002 Annual Report, p30
  15. the American Legislative Exchange Council, 2002 Annual Report, p19
  16. Defenders of Wildlife & Natural Resources Defense Council (2002) Corporate America’s Trojan Horse in the States - The Untold Story Behind the American Legislative Exchange Council, p9-10
  17. the American Legislative Exchange Council (2003) Inside Alec, October, Volume 5, Number 6, p6
  18. the American Legislative Exchange Council, 2002 Annual Report, p21
  19. the American Legislative Exchange Council, 2002 Annual Report, p4
  20. the American Legislative Exchange Council, 2002 Annual Report, p12-13
  21. ALEC (2004) 'Sons-of-Kyoto' Legislation: States React to the Myth of Global Warming, Press Release, Washington, 21 January.
  22. ALEC (2004) 'Sons-of-Kyoto' Legislation: States React to the Myth of Global Warming, Press Release, Washington, 21 January.
  23. A. Liddy Bourne (2004) Sons of Kyoto: Greenhouse Gas Regulation in the States, ALEC, Washington,
  24. K. Moran (2003) “Sportsmen's Group Targets Anti-Hunters”, The New York Post, 10 January, p 86
  25. K. Charman (2003) “Environmentalists = Terrorists The New Math”, Tom Paine Magazine, 8 May.
  26. http://www.capitol.state.tx.us/tlo/78R/billtext/HB00433I.HTM

References

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