Friday, June 24, 2011

The Fox in the Statehouse

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) was formed in 1973 to promote conservative social policy and influence legislators on issues like abortion and the equal rights amendment. Its founder, Paul Weyrich, also co-founded the ultra-conservative Heritage Foundation, and is responsible for the catch-phrase "Moral Majority."

Weyrich has pretty much disappeared from ALEC's public face. The organization, with the help of none other than former Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson ("I always found new ideas and then I’d take them back to Wisconsin, disguise them a little bit, and declare that it’s mine."), morphed through the years into the "ultimate smoke-filled room" that it is today, providing access for corporate members to state legislators and writing bills that benefit big business, big pharma, and big oil, which are then taken back to state legislatures and in part passed into law. In 2009, according to their own Legislative Scorecard, there were 826 ALEC bills introduced in statehouses across the U.S., of which 115 were enacted into law.

ALEC holds a number of functions each year, basically opportunities for corporate reps and legislators to meet, and from which each legislator may return with a package of pre-researched and pre-written legislation that makes the lawmaker look diligent, and favors whichever of ALEC's corporate members has an agenda in their home state.

You can see this fascinating process at work right here in Wisconsin. Taking three current or former (as of 2010) corporate members of ALEC (listed in a report by the American Association for Justice, formerly the Association of Trial Lawyers of America (ATLA)), let's take a guess and match up the Wisconsin legislation that has been written for them and passed by our legislature:

National Association of Bail Insurance Companies: language in the budget bill that strikes down a ban on their activities in Wisconsin. Jerry Watson, American Bail Coalition, is also immediate past chair of the ALEC Private Sector Board. Update: This was vetoed by Walker before he signed the bill.

National Beer Wholesalers Association: language in the budget bill that forces local craft breweries to distribute their products through wholesalers and barring smaller breweries from distributing directly to retail outlets.

National Rifle Association: the concealed-carry law recently passed.

Some other interesting facts from the Association for Justice report:

  • On the ALEC Private Sector Board: Mike Morgan, representing Koch Industries.
  • The Public Sector Board is comprised of 23 members, of whom only three are Democrats.
  • ALEC's Wisconsin State Chairmen in 2010:
    Scott L. Fitzgerald and Michael D. Huebsch.

So . . . You thought the Wisconsin Legislature represented your interests? They are way, way too busy for that nonsense.


Comfort is the enemy of growth

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