ALEC Exposed in Texas: ALEC 101
Here at Progress Texas, we are proud to announce a new project: ALEC Exposed in Texas. Nationally, the Center for Media and Democracy has launched ALEC Exposed with the goal of tracking the ways that corporations rewrite state laws behind closed doors that cause direct harm to Americans’ way of life. In the coming weeks and months, Progress Texas will launch an effort to expose ALEC’s corporate influence right here at home.
We’ve put together this overview to explain who ALEC is and what the ALEC Exposed in Texas project hopes to achieve.
Who Is ALEC?
For those who don’t know already, ALEC stands for the American Legislative Exchange Council. They’re a conservative group of some 300 corporations and 2,000 legislators who work in coalition to draft model bills designed to help corporate bottom lines.
ALEC started in 1973 as a small group of conservative legislators and policy advocates who wanted to push conservative agendas through the legislature. They got a boost in 1981, heavily assisting Ronald Reagan’s national Task Force on Federalism. By 1986, ALEC had grown to 12 very powerful task forces. After the Reagan Administration, many broke off to become their own independent think tanks. During this time, they actively began seeking more corporate input, acting on their philosophy which sees corporations as allies in policy-making.
Although they proclaim themselves as a nonpartisan, nonprofit institution, their legislative base is comprised almost entirely of Republicans, and ALEC receives 98% of their funding from corporations. In the past 20 years, ALEC has donated $228.3 million to campaigns, $202.1 million to candidates, and an additional $85.8 million to Republican committees, totaling $516.2 million.
To put things in perspective, some ALEC notables are:
ALEC AWARD WINNERS:
- Ronald Reagan
- Geroge H.Walker Bush
- Rick Perry (2010 Thomas Jefferson Freedom Award)
- William Bennet
- Wayne Christian (2008 state legislator of the year)
- Troy Fraser (2006 state senator of the year)
- President George W. Bush
- Dick Cheney
- Dan Quayle, Trent Lott
- Tom DeLay
- Andrew Card (Bush Admin)
- Congress members Kevin Brady, John Culberson, Sam Johnson, Kenny Marchant
What is ALEC’s Corporate Influence?
The corporations sit on all nine of ALEC’s task force committees and even have their own governing board, which meets with their legislative board. Essentially, they’re a super-lobbying organization that works by drafting model bills and sending them off with legislators to introduce as their own into law. They are responsible for introducing 1,000 pieces of legislation annually, as many as 200 of which get passed into law.
Although they say no lobbying takes place, it’s an obvious cover-up. For example, the chairman of their Private Enterprise Board, W. Preston Baldwin, is a long-time lobbyist and President and CEO of lobbying firm Centerpoint 360. Ovearll, 20 out of 24 corporate representatives on the board are lobbyists, representing corporations such as Koch Industries, ExxonMobil, State Farm, Altria, Walmart, and Bayer to name a few.
ALEC membership is very attractive for Republican Legislators, who get a free all-expenses-paid vacation (travel usually paid by taxpayers) where they get to attend huge corporate parties and forge connections with industry titans. The legality of these events, however, is questionable. Their free vacations, childcare, “scholarships” and discounted memberships may be in violation of some state ethics codes.
What is ALEC Exposed?
ALEC is a very powerful and very unethical institution that is borderline illegal. They have a strong influence over important legislative policy throughout the country. For a long time they’ve been operating behind closed doors, but have recently been exposed. In Texas, their existence is so omnipresent that most Austin insiders will likely scoff at the mere mention that we’re trying to expose their influence. To a frighteningly realistic degree, exposing ALEC’s influence in Texas is like exposing all the work of Republicans in our State Legislature.
Exposing the corporate influence of ALEC in Texas is a challenge we embrace with fervor.
Over the next few months we’ll be keeping you posted on ALEC model bills and comparing them to actual pieces of legislature that affects all of our lives. In the meantime, check out ALEC Exposed and let us know if you’d like to help in our efforts to reclaim the Texas lawmaking process from corporate influence.