ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, is a secretive association of corporations and state legislators that has been crafting public policy to suit corporate interests since 1973. The organization is not new, but the opportunity to review approximately 800 of its internal documents, thanks to a leak published by the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) and The Nation magazine last month, is.
Each of those files contains a piece of model legislation handed to lawmakers in recent decades, documents that were previously available only to the group’s 2,000 legislative and 300 corporate members, and policy experts have been busy analyzing them. They include proposals for laws governing nearly all aspects of social organization, including health care, education and telecommunications.
To get acquainted with the basics of ALEC, read John Nichols’ introduction to The Nation’s reports here. Next, study the Center for Media and Democracy’s FAQ section. Then read Joel Rogers and Laura Dresser’s profile below on how the organization has blunted states’ revenue, pushed for the privatization of public services and savagely attacked labor unions. And if you’re feeling especially ambitious, read this introductory letter from Lisa Graves, the executive director of the CMD, then dive into the files yourself.
If anything like the conspiracy theorists’ Illuminati exists, this is it. —ARK
ALEC has long sought to limit the ability of states to raise or collect taxes or fees. Before this spring, it had already succeeded in getting more than thirty to adopt such limits, often hard-wired into their constitutions or requiring supermajorities to change. Its varied model legislation to this end includes the Capital Gains Tax Elimination Act, Use Tax Elimination Act, Super Majority Act, Taxpayer Protection Act and Automatic Income Tax Rate Adjustment Act. Its model resolutions oppose such things as mandatory unitary combined reporting (the chief way states get corporations to pay any taxes at all) while supporting such things as the federal flat tax and efforts to extend the Bush tax cuts permanently.
... Privatization is so central to ALEC’s agenda that it has built a fake board game, Publicopoly, on its website, where the curious can find model legislation and other resources on privatizing basically everything, from transportation (Competitive Contracting of the Department of Motor Vehicles Act) to the environment (Environmental Services Public-Private Partnership Act). Critical to ALEC’s agenda are the foundational bills that set up the rationale for privatizing government services: the Public-Private Fair Competition Act creates a committee to review “whether state agencies unfairly compete with the private sector,” and the Competitive Contracting of Public Services Act requires “make or buy” decisions to encourage privatization.
... The fiercest attacks this session were reserved for public sector unions, especially in the once labor-friendly Midwest states of Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin that went deep red in November. ALEC has a sweeping range of model antiunion laws, the broad aim of which is to make it harder to be a union and easier for workers not to pay the costs of collective bargaining or union political activity. The Right to Work Act eliminates employee obligation to pay the costs of collective bargaining; the Public Employee Freedom Act bars almost any action to induce it; the Public Employer Payroll Deduction Act bars automatic dues collection; the Voluntary Contribution Act bars the use of dues for political activity.