April 5, 2012
What is ALEC?
ALEC, otherwise known as the American Legislative Exchange Council, is an organization which functions as a vehicle for getting state legislatures across the country to pass laws written by corporations. ALEC is funded by more than 300 corporate members who pay up to $25,000 annually to be a member. Many companies pay significantly more each year in order to write the legislation ALEC works to pass. In order to turn the bills corporations write into the laws that govern your life, ALEC has recruited an army of more than 2,000 state legislators across the country. Here in New Jersey, ALEC is slipping its bills to Sen. Steven Oroho and Assemblyman Jay Webber, its state co-chairs, as well as ALEC members Sens. Kip Bateman, Anthony Bucco, Gerald Cardinale and Assemblywoman Pat Angelini. Legislators receive all-expenses-paid trips to ALEC junkets where corporations discuss their proposed bills. These trips often take the form of otherwise unaffordable vacations for the legislators who are also free to raise campaign contributions and rub elbows with wealthy heads of major companies. In return legislators outsource the writing of laws to ALEC and shun their responsibility to represent the people who elected them.
What does ALEC do?
Let’s say there was a company, let’s call them LawCo, which wanted to take over New Jersey’s prison system and try to run them while turning a profit. LawCo would write a $25,000 check to ALEC to join the group then write another $10,000 check so it could write legislation that ALEC would try to turn into law. LawCo would write a bill allowing it to do exactly what it wanted to do, then pass it along to a member of the New Jersey Legislator at one of its all-expenses-paid conferences. LawCo would suggest that the lawmaker submit the bill and try to have it passed into law. In the end, New Jersey gets a company running its prisons that’s more concerned with turning a profit than keeping criminals behind bars.
Why is ALEC bad?
ALEC doesn’t advocate any particular vision for New Jersey or for our country as a whole. The legislation it pushes is already stripping resources from thousands of communities that no one from ALEC will ever set foot in. ALEC’s only concerned though with the profits of the companies that pay it, not how its legislation will affect you. That’s why ALEC is working in New Jersey and across the nation to end the protections for workers and consumers that are costing its corporations money. Some companies love what ALEC is doing so much that they give it more money than they have to. Between 1998 and 2009, ExxonMobile gave ALEC more than $1.4 million in the form of grants. Corporations don’t usually give a dollar away unless they think it will help them make 2 dollars down the road. If ExxonMobile has given away that much money to ALEC, how much do you think it’s helped them make in return?
But the worst part about ALEC is that it operates in secret. What little we know about ALEC comes from what ALEC is willing to share. What’s discussed behind the closed doors of ALEC’s conferences is between its corporate backers and the lawmakers it’s wining and dining. It’s up to us to shine a light on ALEC’s practices and discover how it’s attempting to change our laws. Call your legislator and tell them you don’t approve of ALEC interfering in New Jerseyan’s lives. Tell them they owe it to their constituents to find out if a bill is being backed by ALEC and if any specific companies are going to make money off of it. It’s time to put an end to ALEC’s efforts to privatize our democracy.