Under Pressure from Watchdog Groups, American Legislative Exchange Council Releases Hundreds of “Model” Bills
By Mel Fabrikant Saturday, March 16, 2013, 03:01 PM EDT
Coalition Calls for Corporate Lobby to Open Meetings, Release Names of Members, Disclose Its Finances
A two-year campaign by a coalition of public interest groups has pushed the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) to release hundreds of pieces of “model” state legislation secretly developed and pushed into law by corporate interests. The coalition includes the Center for Media and Democracy, ColorOfChange, Common Cause, Greenpeace, People For the American Way, Progress Now and a variety of labor organizations.
But ALEC has far more to do before it can legitimately claim to be operating in the sunshine, the watchdog groups said. They urged its leaders to publish the names of ALEC’s legislative members and corporate sponsors, as well as the names of the individuals representing corporations on ALEC committees. In addition, the groups say ALEC must open the task force meetings at which bills are discussed and voted on.
“We’re pleased that after decades of secretly manipulating thousands of elected officials, the corporate bill mill known as ‘ALEC’ has decided to share some of its secrets,” the groups said in a joint statement. “But ALEC continues to hide from the public the identities of the corporations whose representatives wrote and voted on those bills at its meetings. It also has done nothing to reform the way it cozies up to lawmakers by providing them with “scholarships” that cover the cost of their travel and lodging at the posh resorts where it conducts its meetings.”
Almost two years ago, the Center for Media and Democracy received nearly 1,000 ALEC bills from a whistleblower and analyzed those bills and then posted them to ALECexposed.org along with lists of ALEC’s legislative and corporate members. ALEC describes itself as a forum for the exchange of ideas among legislators, but it is largely funded by corporations and corporate-backed non-profit groups, and it touts to corporations that they get an “equal voice and vote.”
The legislative database indicates that ALEC is the force behind state laws designed to turn public schools and prisons into corporate profit centers, weaken the bargaining rights of tens of thousands of working people, roll back clean air and clean water laws, and undermine voting rights.
The campaign to expose ALEC has led 42 for-profit corporations to give up their membership; 71 legislators across the country also have announced their departures and 100 more lost their seats in elections last year or have left office.