ALEC crafts state laws, including for private prisons and big oil

ALEC writes laws for big oil and for private prison companies. In the first LAKE post about the proposed private prison in Lowndes County, I pointed out that ALEC helped CCA lobby for that Arizona “anti-immigration” law that actually is stuffed with new jail, misdemeanor, and felony penalties that bring more “customers” to CCA private prisons. Georgia was just the first of 24 states lobbied by ALEC to pass such bogus bills for CCA’s private profit. Since then other people have dug into ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, and found its tentacles everywhere, promoting profits for big business at taxpayer expense.

Alison Fitzgerald wrote for Bloomberg 21 July 2011, Koch, Exxon Mobil Among Corporations Helping Write State Laws:

Koch Industries Inc. and Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM) are among companies that would benefit from almost identical energy legislation introduced in state capitals from Oregon to New Mexico to New Hampshire — and that’s by design.

The energy companies helped write the legislation at a meeting organized by a group they finance, the American Legislative Exchange Council, a Washington-based policy institute known as ALEC.

The corporations, both ALEC members, took a seat at the legislative drafting table beside elected officials and policy analysts by paying a fee between $3,000 and $10,000, according to documents obtained by Bloomberg News.

The opportunity for corporations to become co-authors of state laws legally

through ALEC covers a wide range of issues from energy to taxes to agriculture. The price for participation is an ALEC membership fee of as much as $25,000 — and the few extra thousands to join one of the group’s legislative-writing task forces. Once the “model legislation” is complete, it’s up to ALEC’s legislator members to shepherd it into law.

“This is just another hidden way for corporations to buy their way into the legislative process,” said Bob Edgar, president of Common Cause, a Washington-based group that advocates for limits on money in politics.

Nost so much just another, as one of the most effective, because effectively secretive. ALEC’s activities have not been well known until recently. As a private company, it doesn’t have to file reports on its members, funding, or activities.
Bloomberg used tax records, interviews, and ALEC materials provided by an attendee at an ALEC conference to shed some light on the organization, which promotes state legislative action that at times is aimed at undercutting federal government authority.

So what does ALEC do?

To join ALEC, legislators pay $100 for a two-year membership. Corporate members seeking to hold sway on legislative language can pay as much as $35,000 or more to get a seat on an issues task force. Beyond energy and environment, ALEC also has task forces devoted to civil justice, commerce, education, international relations, public safety, taxes and telecommunications.
Among this wide array of lobbying activities, the Orwellian topics of “civil justice” and “public safety” include lobbying for private prisons, even though privatization of justice is no justice at all and cutting costs by decreasing prison guards makes the public less safe.

ALEC isn’t just a lobbying group, it’s a shadow national government:

Legislators and private-sector task force members must vote to endorse any model legislation — and each group must deliver a majority before it is officially adopted, Weber said.
How can poorly paid state legislators afford to go to ALEC meetings?
Companies can also donate to “scholarship funds,” which pay for transportation, hotel and meals for lawmakers attending ALEC meetings.
I wonder how much of that gets reported by legislators. Transparency isn’t a big feature of ALEC:
Corporations are “paying for an opportunity to connect directly with legislators,” said Jeremy Kalin, a former Democratic Minnesota state representative. “It’s an end-run around transparency and disclosure laws. Corporate interests that would otherwise be required to register as lobbyists are writing legislation behind closed doors.”
I wonder which Georgia state legislators are ALEC members?

Anyway, we don’t need a private prison in Lowndes County, Georgia, so CCA can profit from ALEC-lobbied bills. Spend that tax mony on rehabilitation and education instead.


PS: Owed to Garry Gentry.