Texas Public Policy Foundation Rushes to Defend ALEC

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is in crisis communications mode. For the first time in (almost) forty years, they have been exposed for serving as a corporate bill factory for conservative legislators across the country, known for crafting and promoting the most controversial legislation in a generation. As a result, 14 corporations and 45 state legislators (as of 5/17/12) from across the country have dumped ALEC in recent weeks. Part of ALEC’s crisis response has been to find someone – anyone – willing to defend ALEC’s pay-to-play operations.

Enter the Texas Public Policy Foundation.

Earlier this week, the Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF) penned an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal that rushed to the defense of ALEC – which is no surprise. As we wrote in our inaugural report, ALEC Exposed in Texas, TPPF is ALEC’s home away from home here in Texas:

The Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF) is a 501(c)(3) whose stated mission is to “promote and defend liberty, personal responsibility, and free enterprise. TPPF is part of ALEC’s state policy network, and regularly promotes model legislation approved and promoted by ALEC. Through its policy work and its fundraising efforts, ALEC and TPPF are closely linked and regularly work hand-in-hand to promote the profits of global corporations over creating better lives for Texans.

A recent story by the Texas Observer laid out the way TPPF enacts its bills, taking directly from the ALEC playbook:

Melinda Hasting—who served as the foundation’s vice president from 1996 to 1998 but has since broken with the conservative movement—says one fundraising tactic involved approaching corporations, wealthy businessmen, and corporate-funded foundations with a pitch. Hasting (formerly Melinda Wheatley) describes it: “We think this is beneficial to your industry and would you consider providing us with a non-profit contribution. … Here’s the timeline for the completion of the research; the parameters of the research are this; we expect it will result in some savings or outsourcing.”

For example, she says, the Associated General Contractors of Texas and the Consulting Engineers Council of Texas helped fund a 1997 TPPF study called “Sundown on Big Government.” The study purported to show that the Texas Department of Transportation and 11 other state agencies could collectively cut more than $737 million from their budgets by, in part, privatizing and outsourcing agency functions—a potentially lucrative proposal for the contractors and engineers that had helped fund the study. “I remember that as the watershed moment for TPPF,” says Hasting, who spearheaded the report. “That set into place that TPPF was a real player.”

The ties between ALEC and TPPF run deep. A quick glance at their financial records shows that foundations who gave to ALEC also gave over $280,000 to TPPF in 2010. This doesn't even include corporate donations, and may be an incomplete list of foundation money.

Beyond the finances, TPPF and ALEC share the same network of corporations pushing talking points around. When you dig into their policy papers, many - if not all - of the sources for their allegedly independent information come from organizations and interest groups that sit on ALEC's boards. As we continue our research on ALEC and begin publishing our issue reports in the coming weeks and months, we will dig deeper into the specific policy ties between the two corporate bill factories.

Our Executive Director, Matt Glazer, issued the following statement about ALEC and TPPF. 

We want good jobs and a strong economy for Texas families, which is why Progress Texas joins 14 corporations and 43 elected officials to reject TPPF and ALEC's harmful and out of touch corporate agenda. 

In 2010, Texas Public Policy Foundation received over a quarter million dollars from the same folks who fund the American Legislative Exchange Council. It's no wonder they are in the Wall Street Journal doing crisis control after ALEC has been buried in an avalanche of bad press in local, state, and national media for pushing bills across the country that includes the shoot first legislation, illegal voter suppression laws, and laws sustaining the right's war on women.

The most controversial legislation in a generation has been written by this national bill factory and lobbied by TPPF. They are setting up Texas to fail because it is in TPPF donors and multi-national corporation's best interest to suppress the economic opportunities of hard working Texas families. Texas can do better and TPPF and every state legislator should denounce ALEC and join the 14 corporations and 43 elected officials across the country who are putting people first.