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Occupy Movement Targets Corporate Interest Group with Ties to Legislators
American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) will face ire of the 99%
A coalition of Occupy groups, led by Occupy Portland in Oregon, is calling on people "to target corporations that are part of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)" with direct actions and public events later this month. The Occupy groups, organizing under the banner Shut Down the Corporations, sees ALEC as the "prime example of the way corporations buy off legislators and craft legislation that serves the interests of corporations and not people." ALEC was instrumental in creating the anti-labor legislation in Wisconsin last year and the racist bill SB 1070 in Arizona, among many other measures pushed or passed in state houses across the country. ALEC uses its large coffers and wealthy membership to spread free-market, corporate-friendly laws around the country.
The day of action is slated for Leap Day, February 29th.
According to their call to action:
Occupy Portland calls for a national day of non-violent direct action to reclaim our voices and challenge our society’s obsession with profit and greed by shutting down the corporations. We are rejecting a society that does not allow us control of our future. We will reclaim our ability to shape our world in a democratic, cooperative, just and sustainable direction.
We call on the Occupy Movement and everyone seeking freedom and justice to join us in this day of action.
There has been a theft by the 1% of our democratic ability to shape and form the society in which we live and our society is steered toward the destructive pursuit of consumption, profit and greed at the expense of all else.
What is ALEC?
ALEC describes itself as a “unique,” “unparalleled” and “unmatched” organization. The Center for Media and Democracy (CMD), which studies and tracks the group at its ALEC Exposed website, agrees. They say that ALEC should not be considered a lobbyist group or a corporate front group, but something altogether worse. "It is as if a state legislature had been reconstituted," ALEC Exposed explains on their website, "yet corporations had pushed the people out the door."
Through ALEC, behind closed doors, corporations hand state legislators the changes to the law they desire that directly benefit their bottom line. Along with legislators, corporations have membership in ALEC. Corporations sit on all nine ALEC task forces and vote with legislators to approve “model” bills. They have their own corporate governing board which meets jointly with the legislative board. (ALEC says that corporations do not vote on the board.) Corporations fund almost all of ALEC's operations. Participating legislators, overwhelmingly conservative Republicans, then bring those proposals home and introduce them in statehouses across the land as their own brilliant ideas and important public policy innovations—without disclosing that corporations crafted and voted on the bills. ALEC boasts that it has over 1,000 of these bills introduced by legislative members every year, with one in every five of them enacted into law.
You can search for and review ALEC-influenced bills in your state by using the ALEC Exposed wiki here.
According to a report in The Guardian:
Alec was founded in September 1973 as a "nonpartisan membership association for conservative state lawmakers". The organisation, which counts the conservative billionaire Koch brothers among its financial backers, has a membership some of the largest companies in America.
One of the better known examples of Alec's influence can be found in Arizona's SB 1070 bill. The legislation, seen as one of the strictest anti-illegal immigrant laws in America's history and criticised by Barack Obama, was modelled on Alec's "No Sanctuary Cities for Illegal Immigrants Act", which had been approved by an Alec task force made up, in part, of prison companies that stood to benefit from the act being passed.
Democratic lawmakers in Arizona and Wisconsin are seeking to introduce the Alec Accountability Act in their states, which would require Alec to register as a lobbying organisation and subsequently disclose its financiers.
Mark Pocan, a Democratic member of the Wisconsin state assembly who is gunning for Congress in in Wisconsin's 2nd Congressional District, is behind the proposed Wisconsin legislation.
"Alec is like a giant corporate dating service [for] lonely legislators and their special interest corporate allies," Pocan told the Guardian. "Alec operates best when it operates in the shadows. Once people find out that it's really nothing but a front for corporate special interests you start to know that the ideas they put forward aren't in the public good."
According to The Guardian, the nationwide protest at the end of the month
... is being co-ordinated by Occupy Portland, with activists across the country due to take part – including from Occupy Wall Street and Occupy Oakland. [...]
David Osborn, from Occupy Portland, said "non-violent direct action" was being encouraged, including protests, rallies and sit-ins.
"In different places it's going to look really different," he said. "In some places it's going to be more of a rally, or a protest outside a corporation that's involved with Alec, whether that's Bank of America, or Pfizer, Altria, or whatever. In other places, and certainly here in Portland, it's going to take more of the form of civil disobedience or direct action, where people will be doing a sit-in or other creative things to disrupt business as usual."