Common Cause examines money, power of corporate-legislative alliance
- Dale Eisman
Report documents ALEC’s investment of nearly $400 million in state elections
Some of the nation’s largest and richest companies have joined forces to invest millions of dollars each year in state elections, promoting the careers of thousands of state legislators and securing passage of legislation that puts corporate interests ahead of the interests of ordinary Americans, Common Cause said in a new report released today.
Led by such firms as Wal-Mart, Coca-Cola, Koch Industries, AT&T, Altria and ExxonMobil, the American Legislative Exchange Council has quietly made itself a force in all 50 state capitols. The 22 companies that make up ALEC’s “private enterprise board,” their executives and affiliated political action committees, put more than $38 million into state elections in the 2009-10 election cycle and have invested more than $370 million in state politics since 2001, according to the report, “Money, Power and the American Legislative Exchange Council.”
“ALEC is a stunning example of how deeply corporate influence penetrates our democracy and undermines the public interest,” said Common Cause President Bob Edgar. “Its corporate sponsors underwrite annual meetings, often at lavish resorts, where their executives sit side-by-side with state legislators – in meetings closed to the public and press — to draft ‘model’ bills designed to enhance the companies’ profits, often at a cost to the public interest.
“Then the companies put their muscle behind that legislation at state capitols and invest millions of dollars to elect and re-elect lawmakers who support it.”
ALEC’s agenda includes support of public subsidies for private schools, the development of privately-owned prisons, restrictions on voting rights and unlimited, secret corporate spending on behalf of political candidates and parties. ALEC opposes federal and state environmental regulations, the new federal health care reform law, state minimum wage laws, and trade and public employee unions.
ALEC’s leaders claim that about 180 of the group’s bills are enacted each year in various states. Common Cause asked the Internal Revenue Service last month to examine whether the group is engaged in lobbying that goes outside the bounds of its tax-exempt status.
ALEC convenes its 2011 annual meeting this week in New Orleans.
For the report released today, Common Cause examined campaign finance reports collected by the National Institute on Money in State Politics. The study included political spending linked to the 22 firms represented on ALEC’s “private enterprise board,” the organization’s corporate governing body.
Those companies and their affiliates have donated more than $141 million since 2001 to state candidates and political parties and another $229 million in support of or opposition to state ballot issues.
The report was limited to those 22 firms because ALEC does not release its full list of corporate members. The National Institute on Money in State Politics, which drew on published reports to compile a partial list of additional ALEC-affiliated companies, reported last month that those firms have put more than $500 million into state elections since 1990.
The 22 firms are: Altria, American Bail Coalition, AT&T, Bayer, centerpoint360, Coca-Cola, DIAGEO, Energy Future Holdings, ExxonMobil, GlaxoSmithKline, Intuit, Johnson & Johnson, Koch Industries, Kraft Foods, Peabody Energy, Pfizer, PhRMA, Reynolds American, Salt River Project. State Farm Insurance, UPS, and Wal-Mart. Because Kraft Foods is an Altria subsidiary, data for those firms was combined in the text and charts in the report. One firm represented on the board, centerpoint360 , reported no political spending and so it was not included in the charts; centerpoint is a lobbying firm headed by W. Preston Baldwin, a former tobacco company executive who during 2010 served as chairman of ALEC’s private enterprise board.
Below is a state-by-state breakdown of the ALEC board’s political spending for 2001-10.