DALLAS -- With three swimming pools, a sculpture garden, one of the largest private art collections in North America, a lavish spa room, and a rooftop restaurant with $70 steaks and $40 glasses of wine, the Hilton Anatole is one the most luxurious hotels in Dallas – and maybe in all of Texas.
And this week, the Anatole is providing a comfortable – though entirely inappropriate -- setting for the writing of state laws at the American Legislative Exchange Council’s (ALEC) 41st annual convention.
Most of the conference of corporate lobbyists and state legislators is closed to the press and public. ALEC even barred local reporters from a keynote speech by Texas Gov. Rick Perry. Behind those closed doors, lobbyists and lawmakers whose airfares to Dallas and rooms at the Anatole were paid for by corporate-funded “scholarships,” are meeting and voting as equals on bills to privatize public schools, repeal environmental protections, and promote a proposed constitutional convention to pass a balanced budget amendment.
Endorsed by ALEC, many of the bills likely will re-appear at statehouses with elected officials listed as their sponsors and no acknowledgement of their ALEC DNA.
ALEC also is using the Dallas meeting to launch a subsidiary, the American City/County Exchange. The new group will attempt to extend ALEC’s corporate influence from the statehouse to local county and municipal governments.
Outside the Anatole, hundreds of activists from across Texas gathered on Wednesday to spotlight ALEC and discuss ways citizens can reclaim their government.
ALEC’s convention continues through Saturday. Inside the Anatole, the smell of cigars waffs through the halls as politicians and lobbyists mingle at the bar and plot strategies to advance their legislative agendas. All the while, ALEC continues to claim that it’s not a lobby. To say ALEC is a pay-to-play scheme is an understatement. ALEC is one of the biggest threats to democracy Americans face today.
Office: Common Cause National
Issues: More Democracy Reforms