ALEC Exposed, ALEC Diminished: A Special Report from Salt Lake

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ALEC Exposed, ALEC Diminished: A Special Report from Salt Lake

SALT LAKE CITY -- American Legislative Exchange Council legislators, corporate lobbyists, and special interest group staffers awoke Thursday morning to bad news about ALEC delivered to every room at the "five diamond" Grand America hotel. Although the print edition of the Salt Lake Tribune's headline read "ALEC says it won't be threatened," the news story in the state's leading paper featured two prominent critiques of ALEC.

The Trib's investigative reporter, Robert Gehrke, quoted the Center for Media and Democracy's observation: "Through ALEC, corporate lobbyists actually sit behind closed doors ... and vote as equals with our elected representatives on model bills that change our rights." Common Cause is quoted as saying: "ALEC is the poster child for non-transparent political infrastructure that puts corporate profits ahead of the public interest."

But that was not the worst of it, from ALEC's PR perspective.

ALEC Is Exposed as Wooing Legislators for Global Corporations

Inside, the opinion page included a massive editorial cartoon by Pat Bagley featuring the punch line to the joke: "A Legislator Walks Into a Bar." The commentary made the most of the idea that ALEC is like a "dating service" (a notion popularized by Wisconsin state Rep. Mark Pocan, who joined ALEC to help expose it.)

But in this instance, ALEC was a hot redhead flirting with out-of-state legislators while a lobbyist for "Big Mega-Huge Corporations" tells ALEC, "Now tell the rube he reminds you of George Washington and you want to go up to show him our legislative agenda."

And that was not the worst of it.

Local FOX Affiliate Reports the Truth about ALEC

As ALEC legislators turned for comfort to Fox News, the local Fox affiliate filed an investigative report by Max Roth, detailing what CMD has uncovered about ALEC's task forces -- that corporate lobbyists and legislators vote as equals on "model" legislation -- and quoting from ALEC's public bylaws that say state legislative leaders of ALEC have a "duty" to get ALEC bills introduced into law, all while ALEC claims it does not lobby.

At the end of that news segment, Arizona state Rep. Peggy Judd admitted she is lobbied at the ALEC conferences, despite ALEC's repeated assertions that no lobbying occurs and the lack of lobby disclosure reports filed by ALEC's corporate members on the lobbying, wining and dining of legislators at ALEC events.

But even that was not the worst of it.

Two More Major Corporate Underwriters Drop Out

After days of protest and teach-ins spearheaded by Alliance for a Better Utah and other local groups, the release of a new report on ALEC's undue influence on Utah, and the unleashing of a viral new cartoon by Mark Fiori on how a bill becomes a law -- ALEC-style, the worst was yet to come. On Thursday morning, Color of Change announced that two more huge corporations had left ALEC: General Motors and Walgreens.

And despite ALEC's PR spin, there is little doubt that the effort CMD launched a year ago this month to focus some serious sunshine on ALEC's shadowy operations, through ALECexposed.org, has opened many eyes to the way ALEC's closed-door votes, corporate-funded "scholarships," and corporate bill mill operations are distorting the democratic process.

ALEC Diminished, By the Numbers

A comparison of ALEC's annual convention brochures shows what a difference a year makes, and reveals the corporations still paying a pretty penny for the one-stop shopping that ALEC conventions provide their lobbyists for pushing their wish list into law.

A year ago, ALEC's "private sector" board featured 24 corporations; today, they have 18. The former ALEC corporate board directors who have left are: Johnson & Johnson, Kraft Foods, Reed Elsevier, Intuit, and Coca Cola, all of which publicly announced this year they were leaving ALEC.

Quite a Party: Cigarettes, Drugs, Booze, Bail, Oil, and a Little Insurance?

Like a scene from the satire "Thank You for Not Smoking," which parodied tobacco, alcohol, and firearms lobbyists who called themselves "the MOD Squad," standing for "merchants of death," ALEC's corporate board is just missing the guns.

Who has stood by ALEC as directors despite the revelations of ALEC's extreme agenda and legally suspect claims to the IRS and ethics boards? Big Oil & Coal: Koch Industries, Peabody Energy, Exxon Mobil,Salt River Project, and Energy Future Holdings; Big Tobacco: Reynolds, Altria/Philip Morris, and CenterPoint 360; Big Drugs: PhRMA (the drug companies' trade group); Bayer, and Glaxo Smith Kline: Big Insurance: State Farm; Big Alcohol: Diageo; Big Bail: the American Bail Association; and Big Telecomm: AT&T.

Plus, for some yet to be discovered reason, UPS. One wonders, what is Brown doing at ALEC?

Lisa Graves

Lisa Graves is Executive Director of the Center for Media and Democracy, the publisher of PRWatch.org, SourceWatch.org, and BanksterUSA.org. She formerly served as Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Office of Legal Policy at the U.S. Department of Justice, as Chief Counsel for Nominations for the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, and as Deputy Chief of the Article III Judges Division of the U.S. Courts.

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