In the 2010 elections, Republicans emerged with seven more governor’s mansions. They also won control of 26 state legislatures, up from 14. In many trifecta states, where a new Republican majority won control of both houses and the governorship, an odd thing happened. A steady stream of almost identical bills — bills to defund unions, require Photo ID’s make it harder for democratic constituencies to vote, bills to privatize schools and public assets, bills to enshrine corporate tax loopholes while crippling the government’s ability to raise revenue, bills to round up immigrants — were introduced and passed. An almost identical set of corporations benefited from these measures.
It is almost as if a pipeline in the basement of these state capitols ruptured simultaneously, and a flood of special interest legislation poured out. The blowout preventer — political power-sharing — was disabled. The source of the contamination? The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).
What is ALEC?
ALEC is not a lobby; it is not a front group. It is much more powerful than that. It is a secretive collaboration between Big Business and Conservative Legislators. The purpose of ALEC is to “ghost-write” model legislation (that typically directly benefits the bottom line of member corporations) for introduction into state governments. Membership in ALEC includes corporations and legislators (primarily of state offices, but some national). There are nine Task Forces within ALEC, each with a legislative and corporate chair and each with specific areas of responsibility. Corporations and legislators sit on all nine ALEC task forces. Together they vote, in non-public sessions, to approve “model” bills. Participating legislators then bring those proposals home and introduce them in statehouses across the U.S. as their personal creations. The organization is overseen by a corporate governing board, which, however, meets with the legislative board. ALEC claims 1,000 of these bills are introduced by legislative members every year, with 20% of them enacted into law. Corporations fund almost all of ALEC’s operations.
Who Are ALEC’s Members?
- Hundreds of former and current corporate members/supporters have been identified by ALEC EXPOSED. A few of the names you will recognize are:
- Bayer Corp
- Wal-Mart Stores
- Johnson & Johnson
- Pfizer Inc.
- Koch Companies
- ExxonMobil Corp
- State Farm Insurance
- Shell Oil Company
ALEC EXPOSED has identified over 2000 state legislators (almost exclusively Republican) as members or participants of ALEC, 35 of whom are from Wisconsin including
- Rep. Andre Jacque (R-2), Bellevue
- Rep. John Klenke (R-88), Green Bay
- Rep. Karl Van Roy (R-90), Green Bay
- Rep. Chad Weininger (R-4), Green Bay
- Rep. Mike Endsley (R-26), Sheboygan
- Former Speaker Scott Jensen
- Sen. Frank Lasee (R-1), DePere (represents Door County)
- Sen. Scott Fitzgerald (R-13), Juneau
- Sen. Glenn Grothman (R-20), West Bend
- Sen. Alberta Darling (R-8), River Hills
- Former Sen. Randy Hopper (R-18), Fond du Lac
Who funds ALEC?
More than 98% of ALEC’s revenues come from sources other than legislative dues, such as corporations, corporate trade groups, and corporate foundations. Each corporate member pays an annual fee of between $7,000 and $25,000 a year, and if a corporation participates in any of the nine task forces, additional fees apply, from $2,500 to $10,000 each year. ALEC also receives direct grants from corporations, such as $1.4 million from ExxonMobil from 1998-2009. It has also received grants from some of the biggest foundations funded by corporate CEOs in the country, such as: the Koch family Charles G. Koch Foundation, the Koch-managed Claude R. Lambe Foundation, the Scaife family Allegheny Foundation, the Coors family Castle Rock Foundation, to name a few. Less than 2% of ALEC’s funding comes from “Membership Dues” of $50 per year paid by state legislators, a steeply discounted price that may run afoul of state gift bans.
The information above is condensed from pages of PRWatch and ALEC Exposed, two websites of The Center for Media and Democracy. The opening paragraph is copied verbatim from their “ALEC in Wisconsin” page and the paragraph “Who Funds ALEC?” is from their What is ALEC page.