Today's release of more than 800 "model" bills and resolutions drafted and promoted by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) opens a window to the workings of a powerful and secretive corporate front group that has enlisted thousands of state lawmakers to pass legislation on its behalf, often in conflict with the public good, Common Cause said today.
"This is a real eye-opener," said Bob Edgar, president of the non-partisan government watchdog group. "Dozens of corporations are paying millions of dollars a year to write business-friendly legislation that is becoming law in state houses from coast to coast, with no regard for the public interest. This is proof positive of the depth and scope of corporate influence on our democratic processes; it's no wonder that many Americans feel disenfranchised from their government and wonder why the rich keep getting richer and the middle class is stuck in an economic ditch.
"The ALEC documents reveal an organization in which corporate executives sit side-by-side with elected representatives behind closed doors, drafting and then voting as equals on `model' bills that once approved by ALEC are introduced in legislatures around the country," Edgar said. "I'm sure millions of voters will be interested to learn that their state senators and representatives are working to enhance the bottom lines of ALEC-connected companies and trade groups, all of which spend millions of dollars annually to bankroll legislative campaigns. Our preliminary analysis indicates companies in ALEC's leadership put about $330 million into state politics from 2001-10."
Edgar said ALEC allows firms to play a direct role in writing and advancing legislation that enhances their bottom lines. For example, one member, the Corrections Corporation of America, was part of the drafting process for a "model" immigration law that makes it easier for state and local authorities to lock up suspected illegal immigrants; CCA would house many of those detainees at prisons it runs under contract with state governments.
In other cases, ALEC's corporate members are lending their support to legislation far removed from their legitimate business interests.
"Consumers, and stockholders, may wonder why part of the money they put into Coca-Cola and its products is being used to push legislation that would give tax subsidies to private schools, or why the proceeds of their purchases from Intuit, a software company, are helping to advance legislation that would block local governments from regulating pesticides, " Edgar asserted.
Edgar said Americans owe debt of gratitude to the Wisconsin-based Center for Media and Democracy, which obtained the ALEC bills and posted them today on a website, ALECexposed.org.
"At Common Cause, we're particularly interested in ALEC's advocacy of legislation that would make it more difficult for millions of Americans to exercise their right to vote, as well as bills that would enable corporations - already empowered by the Citizens United decision to pump millions of dollars into our elections - to hide their political spending from voters and stockholders. I'm sure it's not a coincidence that most of ALEC's legislative members are Republicans and that the people their corporate-backed legislation would disenfranchise tend to vote for Democrats. We'll be studying the data released today closely."
Office: Common Cause National
Issues: More Democracy Reforms
Common Cause is a nonpartisan grassroots organization dedicated to upholding the core values of American democracy. We work to create open, honest, and accountable government that serves the public interest; promote equal rights, opportunity, and representation for all; and empower all people to make their voices heard in the political process.