To: Editorial Boards
Fr: Rep. Mark Pocan, D-WI; Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers; and Lisa Graves, Executive Director of the Center for Media and Democracy;
Re: The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the State Policy Network and Coordinated Efforts to Undermine Our Democratic Process
Date: December 19, 2013
Recently, a major international news outlet published a multi-part series including leaked internal strategy documents that reveal how ALEC - the American Legislative Exchange Council – manipulates the legislative process in New Hampshire while evading taxes and training New Hampshire state lawmakers to serve the interests of corporations and conservative special interests instead of the people they were elected to represent.
ALEC is perhaps best known for its role advancing in more than 30 states the “Stand Your Ground” law that contributed to the shooting death of unarmed Florida teenager, Trayvon Martin. ALEC is also well-known for its structural support and advancement of laws that privatize education, weaken environmental protections, undo safety regulations and restrict voting access in ways that disproportionately affect minorities and disadvantaged communities, among other things.
Recent ALEC models pushed in New Hampshire include:
- · SB 129 (2011), a “Voter ID” bill, makes it harder for Americans to vote through restrictive ID requirements that suppress the vote and disproportionately affect the voting rights of the elderly, college students, and African Americans
- · HB 1180 (2013) restricts New Hampshire citizens’ right to hold a corporation fully accountable when a corporate product or practice kills or injures Americans
The new revelations include a particularly insidious item – a loyalty oath the organization has proposed for the state chairs of its legislative member that reads “I will act with care and loyalty and put the interests of the organization first.” ALEC has said that oath did not pass and one ALEC lawmaker (Leah Vukmir) said it was “unnecessary” -- ALEC lawmakers have already repeatedly demonstrated that they put ALEC first, ahead of their constituents.
We each come to this work with an overriding commitment to see that ALEC and its subsidiaries such as the Josiah Bartlett Center are prevented from executing a wholesale manipulation of our democratic processes against the interests of everyday Americans. We believe that ALEC thrives in secrecy, and we are committed to making its actions and its intentions more transparent to the general public so that engaged citizens can stand up to special interests.
Below is more general information about ALEC and the State Policy Network, as well as ALEC’s reach into the state legislature.
What Is ALEC?
The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has been called a “‘dating service’ for politicians and corporations.” It is a well-funded entity with benefactors including the Koch brothers, and right-wing groups like the Bradley Foundation and Donors Trust/Donors Capital Fund. ALEC is funded by corporate and conservative interests and has pushed a legislative agenda focused on attacking workers’ rights, blocking access to affordable healthcare, defunding and privatizing public education, suppressing voting rights, lowering taxes for corporations and the ultra wealthy, cutting essential public spending, and destroying the environment.
ALEC has been active in our statehouses for decades, but in recent years it has faced increased public scrutiny due to its controversial agenda and undisclosed lobbying activity. In July 2011, www.ALECexposed.org was launched after the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) was given nearly one thousand bills that CMD discovered had been secretly voted on by corporate lobbyists in ALEC. More whistleblower documents were obtained by Common Cause and CMD, revealing further evidence of ALEC’s undisclosed corporate lobbying and influence. This has resulted in at least four official complaints to the IRS against ALEC and a campaign to further expose ALEC’s destructive agenda and undisclosed corporate influence.
Over the last two years, more than 50 corporations have dropped their ALEC membership, largely in response to public concerns about ALEC pushing “Stand Your Ground” legislation and voter suppression bills and its shadowy pay-to-play operations. In addition, more than 71 lawmakers publicly stated they were leaving ALEC, and overall ALEC lost more than 400 legislative members due to losses in the general or primary elections in addition to ALEC’s controversy.
How Does ALEC Operate?
ALEC works by bringing local lawmakers together to vote in secret with corporate leaders from companies like Comcast, ExxonMobil, and Koch Industries who underwrite the wining and dining of lawmakers and their travel to luxurious resorts. The lawmakers and the corporations actually sit in the same room drafting and amending the bills that the lawmakers will then present as their own. At closed door ALEC task force meetings, the corporations vote alongside the elected officials, as equals, on what bills to put forward.
ALEC does all of this lobbying without disclosing it or corporate-funded trips for lawmakers, under the guise of a charity, operating as a 501(c)(3) tax exempt organization that is working for the common good, like a local food pantry or Boys and Girls Club. The ALEC documents that were recently brought to light by The Guardian once and for all put an end to that fiction. The documents show conclusively how ALEC is a pay-to-play operation, with its plan to ask lawmaker members to raise even more money directly from corporate interests and create more task forces to push more corporate legislation from more industries.
What Is the State Policy Network?
The State Policy Network (SPN) is one of ALEC’s biggest sponsors and allies. Unsurprising, since ALEC was instrumental in its founding. SPN is a web of 64 right-wing “think tanks” in every state across the country. The Center for Media and Democracy and Progress Now recently launched www.StinkTanks.org, which houses a national report on SPN and published reports and information on these ALEC-allied operations in every state.
We would be happy to walk you through these documents and provide more details about the history of ALEC in your state. We believe your readership deserves to know if officials they elected to represent their interests are actively betraying their trust.
We appreciate your time and interest and hope that you will cover this important story so the citizens of your state are aware of ALEC’s attempts to buy the New Hampshire legislature. For more information please contact Lisa Graves at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rep. Mark Pocan, D-WI
Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers
Lisa Graves, Executive Director of the Center for Media and Democracy, publisher of ALECexposed.org and PRwatch.org