Friday, July 15, 2011

ALEC Exposed - And It's Connection To Texas Laws

This week the Center for Media and Democracy rolled out a new web site, ALEC Exposed, to make public information about the American Legislative Exchange Council. ALEC is a powerful coalition of corporations, right wing foundations, and state legislators who have been literally writing the laws at the state level to push their pro-business agenda.

The ALEC has operated in relative secrecy since 1973, avoiding scrutiny from the media and watchdog groups as it has sought to impose a coordinated corporate agenda on all fifty states. ALEC’s scheme is to game the lawmaking process with “model legislation” penned by corporation insiders and billionaire conservatives, which is then passed to Republican state legislators to submit as their own bills in state legislatures in all 50 states. ALEC's "model legislation seeks to protect polluters, privatize public education, break unions and give advantage to Republican candidates through restrictive voter photo ID requirements and other legislation crafted to restrict access to the voting booth.

ALEC counts among its alumni House Speaker John Boehner, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, Ohio Governor John Kasich, Texas Governor Rick Perry and other key players in the current push to restructure federal and state government with tax breaks for the rich, regulatory breaks for corporations, privatization strategies and draconian “Voter ID” laws that threaten to make it harder for millions of Americans to cast ballots.

According to this ALEC watch report, the Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF) is associated with the American Legislative Exchange Council.

The Texas Public Policy Foundation is an Austin-based conservative think tank that lobbied Republicans in the Texas legislature to make deep cuts to K-12 public education funding, college funding and Medicare funding in the 2011-13 state budget Gov. Perry signed into law last month.

TPPF also strongly advocated for the Texas voter photo ID legislation Gov. Perry signed in law in May as well as the Texas' Sanctuary Cities anti-Immigrant legislation and the privatization of public schools in Texas introduced during the 2011 Texas legislative session.
According to the TPPF web site the organization is a “501(c)3 non-profit, non-partisan research institute” who’s mission is to “promote and defend liberty, personal responsibility, and free enterprise in Texas and the nation by educating and affecting policymakers and the Texas public policy debate with academically sound research and outreach.”

TPPF is essentially a conservative think tank that promotes conservative ideology, much like the Heritage Foundation and other national conservative think tanks. TPPF is funded largely through corporate interests and has significant connects to Governor Perry. The President of TPPF, Brooke Rollins, served as Governor Rick Perry’s Deputy General Counsel and later as his Policy Director. Many of the Board of Directors and the staff of the TPPF are supporters of Perry and significant donors to his campaigns.

According to the TPPF 2010 Annual Summary, received $4.49 million in donations last year, which is more than double the $2.05 million in donations received in 2006. The TPPF web site states that it is “funded by thousands of individuals, foundations, and corporations,” but the majority of its funding does not come from those individuals (whose identities it does not disclose). While 38.28% of its funding does come from individuals, 54.87% comes from conservative foundations and corporations.

According to, between 1998 and 2004 from a range of foundations including the Armstrong Foundation, Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation, Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation, Gordon and Mary Cain Foundation, Jaquelin Hume Foundation, JM Foundation, Roe Foundation,the Heritage Foundation and the Ruth and Lovett Peters Foundation.

The TPPF supports the predictable conservative line on a whole host of issues. The TPPF disputes the scientific evidence of climate changes and claims that the “scientific consensus has never been as broad as proclaimed,” and the compromised emails of climate scientists showed “data manipulation and fundamental errors now discredit a once broadly accepted body of science.”

The “private sector can bring innovation and competition to the criminal justice system” is how the TPPF frames its advocacy of the private prison industry, despite that there has been no evidence to support that the privatization of the prison industry has provided any public savings.

The TPPF describes public universities as inefficient bureaucratic institutions. TPPF advocates converting Texas' research universities into "privatized" education systems were the goal is profit rather than the advancement of knowledge. Basically the idea is to turn Texas A&M into the University of Phoenix.

The TPPF even has an entire center dedicate to “Tenth Amendment Studies,” which is a favorite Constitutional Amendment among the Tea Party faithful.
Critics say ALEC is essentially a pay-for-play operation, where state legislators and their families get to go on industry-funded junkets and major corporations get to ghostwrite model laws and pass them on to receptive politicians.

In a multi-part report this week, the Nation profiled ALEC's influence on state legislation related to privatization and anti-union efforts, fighting Obama's health care reform, privatizing public education and enacting voter ID laws, which critics say are designed to disenfranchise voters who are more likely to vote Democratic. The Nation also provides a deeper look at the financial and ideological links between the Koch brothers and ALEC.

The The LA Times, The Nation and Common Cause are exposing the lobbying nation of the nationwide ALEC organization, however, ALEC maintains that it is not a lobbying organization, and thus because of its nonprofit status, it does not have to disclose its donors or the amount of their donations. (The Times says Common Cause is trying to challenge ALEC's nonprofit status.)

Perhaps the most striking example of this process is the involvement of officials from the Corrections Corporation of America, the nation's largest private prison company, in the creation of Arizona's immigration law.

As NPR reported last year, officials from Corrections Corporation were in the room when Arizona State Sen. Russell Pearce discussed his ideas about immigration at a 2009 ALEC conference.

Reports from Corrections Corporation reviewed by NPR indicated that their executives saw immigrant detention as their next big market, and that the company expected to bring in a "significant portion" of their revenue from Immigrations and Custom Enforcement.

What role the corporate officials played in the ALEC discussion is not known, but the "model legislation" that emerged from that session soon became the bill itself—"almost word for word," according to NPR. The influence the private prison industry may have had on the law was not widely reported or discussed during the heated nationwide debate over the bill. (An "In These Times" reporter, whose early findings on the ALEC-Arizona connection were consistent with NPR's later reporting, recently provided a more detailed look at the ALEC scholarships provided to Arizona legislators.)

Portions of the Arizona law are being challenged in federal court and have never been implemented. But, as NPR reported last year, similar anti-immigrant bills have been introduced in eight other states, including Texas and Georgia.

ALEC has been in the media spotlight this week because the Center for Media and Democracy obtained and released an archive of more than 800 of ALEC's model bills and resolutions. Their wiki site, ALEC Exposed, encourages readers to browse ALEC's model bills by topic and share their findings about the documents using the hashtag #ALECexposed.

The Nation: With the public exposure of ALEC’s activities, Common Cause has asked the IRS to investigate evidence that suggests the group has under-reported its lobbying activities and may have engaged in federal tax law violations.

“The American Legislative Exchange Council is the mechanism through which some of America’s largest corporations are seeking to secure legislation designed to advance their bottom lines,” explains Edgar. “They have every right to do so, but they appear to be evading lobbying disclosure laws and the tax breaks they’re exploiting constitute a public subsidy for their profit-driven lobbying. That’s not right.”

Specifically, Common Cause is arguing that, while ALEC has claimed in repeated IRS filings that it does no lobbying, its bylaws state that its goals include the dissemination of model legislation and the promotion of that legislation in Congress and state legislatures.

A letter from Common Cause’s lawyers to the IRS outlines concerns that ALEC—which has more than 2,000 conservative legislators, along with more than 300 corporations and conservative foundations—may have filed false tax returns. The letter raises detailed questions about whether ALEC, which operates under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code (a section that places strict limits lobbying activity) has engaged in activities that put its tax-exempt, charitable status at risk. Corporations, which peovide major funding for ALEC currently take advantage of those tax benefits to deduct contributions to ALEC from their taxable income.

Referencing revelations regarding the extent of ALEC’s activities in the state—more than 850 pieces of “model legislation” are included in the ALEX Exposed archive, along with details of the linking of corporate representatives and legislators on ALEX task forces—as well as tax returns, ALEC publications and correspondence exchanged by legislators and ALEC and obtained by Common Cause through freedom of information requests, the letter to the IRS argues that “it seems incontrovertible that ALEC is substantially and indeed primarily engaged in attempting to influence legislation. All of its efforts are geared toward developing and promoting favored state legislation. These proposals are generated in a private process where the business interests of its corporate members are highlighted, then shared only with the organization’s legislator members so they can take the proposals back to their states and introduce them as their own idea.”

“By claiming to be a charity and calling participating legislators `members,’ ALEC attempts to evade disclosure of its lobbying, allows corporate members to deduct their payments as charitable contributions rather than non-deductible lobbying expenses, and does an end-run around state ethics laws intended to restrict the ability of businesses to buy access to legislators in order to promote their policy agendas,” explains the Common Cause request. “The IRS should stop allowing the continuation of this charade.”

Here just few of ALEC's corporate written legislative initiatives that are popping in states across the nation.

  • Connections Academy, a large online education corporation and co-chair of the Education Task Force, benefits from ALEC measures to privatize public education and promote virtual charter schools, such as the Virtual Public Schools Act.
  • Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) benefits from the anti-immigrant legislation introduced in Arizona and other states based on ALEC models, such as the Immigration Law Enforcement Act, as well as ALEC’s Truth in Sentencing Law.
  • Foreign firms like Macquarie and Cintra benefit from ALEC bills that create special agencies to privatize and sell off public assets like toll roads, bridges and the like, see the Community Transportation Corporation Act and more. [Remember when the State of Texas agreed to sell SH 121 to the Spanish company Cintra Concesiones de Infraestructuras de Transporte SA for $2.1 billion in cash for the rights to operate the lucrative toll project through 2057. Cintra would have bled billions of dollars in toll fees out of Texas and the United States. “What a great day,” said Gov. Rick Perry of the sale.]
  • Altria Group/Philip Morris USA sits on ALEC’s corporate board and benefits from ALEC’s newest tobacco bill -- Taxation of Moist Smokeless Tobacco an extremely narrow tax break that would make fruit flavored “smokeless” tobacco products cheaper and more attractive to youngsters. Four state senators facing recall in Wisconsin, stuck this ALEC tax giveaway into the state’s budget bill.
  • Health insurance companies such as Humana and Golden Rule Insurance (United Healthcare), benefit from ALEC model bills, such as the Health Savings Account bill that just passed in Wisconsin.
  • Tobacco firms such as the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company and pharmaceutical firms such as Bayer benefit from ALEC tort reform measures such as the Product Liability Act which make it harder for Americans to achieve justice when injured by dangerous products.
  • Think Progress reports that according to tax records and other materials acquired by Bloomberg News, Koch Industries, Exxon Mobil, and numerous other corporations paid tens of thousands of dollars to write legislation for lawmakers that would repeal carbon pollution reduction programs in various states around the U.S.

In addition to the Koch Brothers, the NRA and RJ Reynolds, many ALEC firms are trusted household names. Members of ALEC’s governing board include: Bayer, Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline, Wal-Mart, Kraft, Coca-Cola, State Farm, Johnson and Johnson, AT&T, Koch, Altria/Phillip Morris USA, Reynolds Tobacco, Centerpoint 360, American Bail Coalition, Diageo, Energy Future Holdings, Exxon Mobile, Intuit, Peabody Energy, PhRMA, Reed Elsevier, Salt River Project and UPS.

Related Source:

Corporate sponsors of ALEC include:
  • BP
  • Reynolds American
  • Takeda Pharmaceutical
  • Allergan
  • Altria
  • American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity
  • American Electric Power
  • AT&T
  • Bayer
  • Chevron
  • ExxonMobil
  • EZCorp
  • Lumina Foundation
  • Peabody
  • PhRMA
  • Shell
  • State Farm
  • State Policy Network
  • UnitedHealthcare
  • Visa
  • Walmart
  • Walton Family Foundation
  • CashAmerica
  • Entergy
  • FedEx
  • Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity
  • Freepont-McMoran Copper & Gold
  • Intuit
  • Johnson & Johnson
  • Koch Industries
  • LouisDreyfus Commodities
  • Louisiana Seafood
  • McMoran Exploration
  • National Rifle Association
  • Pfizer
  • Sanofi
  • TogetherRX Access
  • UPS
  • Atmos Energy
  • BlueCross BlueShield Association
  • CenturyLink
  • Chesapeake Energy
  • ConocoPhillips
  • Dow
  • Encana
  • Energy Transfer
  • Gulf States Toyota
  • International Paper
  • Jacobs Entertainment
  • NetChoice
  • QEP Resources
  • StateNet
  • TimeWarner
  • WellPoint
  • American Federation for Children
  • BlueCross Blue Shield of Lousiana
  • BNSF
  • Cleco
  • CN
  • Cox
  • CSX
  • Genesee & Wyoming Inc.
  • Harris Deville & Associates
  • HP
  • Kansas City Southern
  • Kraft Foods
  • Lilly
  • Louisiana Clerical Associates
  • Louisiana Railroads Association
  • Louisiana Realtors
  • Merck
  • Norfolk Southern
  • Society of Louisiana CPAs
  • Southern Strategy Group
  • Spectra Energy
  • The Capitol Group
  • Union Pacific
  • USAA
  • Walgreens

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