Democracy Has Prevailed.

June 17, 2011

ALEC - The American Legislative Exchange Council

Yesterday I happened across this posting at Crooksandliars. It's about something called the American Legislative Exchange Council:
If you're not familiar with ALEC, here's the high-level overview. ALEC is the acronym for American Legislative Exchange Council, a secret right-wing consortium created to write boilerplate legislation for states to use to advance the right-wing agenda. Some of ALEC's handiwork can be seen in Ohio, Wisconsin, Arizona, and Florida, to name a few.

ALEC has a new game called Publicopoly. Some of the "properties" include government operations, health, environment, telecommunications, infrastructure, education and public safety. But of course, it's not such a new game after all. The object of the game is to privatize everything. To that end, they have aggregated the reports of think tanks like the Mackinac Center, the Reason Foundation, the Platte Institute, and the Heartland Institute. [Emphasis added.]
The "secret" isn't the website but who's writing this legislation for the right wing legislators to use. Here's what ALEC has to say about it's legislation:
One of the most important resources ALEC provides to its members is model legislation. Through the combined effort and unique partnership of public and private sector members, model legislation is drafted, deliberated and approved by one of ALEC's nine Task Forces. These bills provide a valuable framework for developing effective policy ideas aimed at protecting and expanding our free society.

While ALEC provides the resources, our members, long known for their legislative activism, introduced hundreds of bills based on ALEC model legislation. During the latest legislative cycle, dozens of ALEC model bills were enacted into law.
And guess, JUST GUESS who's got all this started? According to the mediamatters transparency project, the Richard Mellon Scaife controlled Allegheny Foundation has given $1.7 to ALEC over the years.

That's even more than the $1.25 million Exxon gave to ALEC.

Of all the foundation donations, Allegheny Foundation is the biggest.

And these numbers may be low. In 1999 the Washington Post published:
Another form of proselytizing is conducted by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), founded in 1973 by Paul Weyrich. ALEC's members are predominantly conservative state legislators. The organization provides training, information and draft legislation to make them more effective. Of the country's 6,500 state legislators, 3,000 belong to ALEC, including dozens of leaders of state legislatures and senates. Twelve sitting governors are ALEC graduates, as are 77 members of Congress. The group's first president was a then-member of the Illinois House named Henry Hyde.

ALEC makes a mark with its model legislation. The last time it counted (1995-96), 132 ALEC bills were enacted in various states, from charter school legislation to pro-business bills on environmental and regulatory topics. Many states used its version of welfare reform legislation.

ALEC is unabashedly pro-business. Its expert task forces, which write the model legislation, are composed of legislators and business representatives. About two-thirds of ALEC's $6 million budget comes from corporate contributions.

Scaife has given ALEC more than $2 million since 1975, keeping the group alive in its early years. Now his donations ($75,000 last year) are an insignificant part of its budget.
The "insignificant" support of between $15K and $75K per year has continued since then.

I wonder how much ALEC legislation has oozed into Harrisburg? I wonder how much commentary Scaife's braintrust has written about it? I wonder if ANYONE knew that without Scaife's millions, ALEC probably wouldn't be the organization it is today.


rich10e said...

"I wonder how much ALEC legislation has oozed into Harrisburg? Not enough!!

Conservative Mountaineer said...

And, this is different from the AFL-CIO allocating funds and resources in their attempts to effect legislation promoting leftist causes how?

The difference is that, apparently, private money is (most likely) willingly being used as funding for ALEC versus coerced union dues from all union members, including many that disagree and have no choice in the matter.

EdHeath said...

CM, is that your idea of contributing to an adult conversation? Just 11% of workers belong to unions. 85% of wealth in the US is concentrated in the hands of the top 20%. Tell us how this is not a major league false equivalency (perhaps you could cite some statistics from a University or the BLS) to support your assertion. Or you can just pretend your opinion doesn't need facts to back up, you are just right (because of your graduate degree and ill-defined experience).

By the way, would you agree that the work of Paul Samuelson could serve as a baseline for economic definitions and theory? You never answered when I asked before.

Ol' Froth said...

Oh come on Ed, you know that $100 in union money IS EXACTLY THE SAME as $1 million in corporate cash!

EdHeath said...

Yeah Froth, those union thousandaires throwing their weight around.

Conservative Mountaineer said...

@Ed.. Actually, I think bringing up the issue of using Union dues to advance an agenda against (most likely) the wishes of a large portion of a Union's membership is intellectual. I'd have much less or no problem with this *if* the Beck decision were fully complied with... but that has not been the case.

Now, compare using funds that all have been forced to give (willingly or unwillingly; union dues are mandantory) to support causes and/or legislation that some do not support with using funds that (apparently) were given to support causes and/or legislation that (apparently) the giver of those funds wants or desires to support.

Ed, there is a huge world of difference. Leave it to you to advance a straw argument concerning the number of or percentage of union workers.

Concerning Samuelson.. never heard of or studied where I received MBA.. we were most influenced (as I recall) by Milton Freidman. Now, I'm not a economics wonk except that I strongly believe in basic concepts such as supply/demand, elasticity of prices, etc. I know what I can charge my customers, how much of price increases I can pass on, how much premium I can charge for the quality/reliabilty of our products, how much I can charge for the quality of my professional consulting services versus the competition and considering market conditions. Basic economics.

From what I've been able to discern, some have asserted that Samuelson believed 'some must fail'. Not sure I agree with that... depends on the emphasis one places on 'must'. Some will fail. That is without dispute. Heck, I've failed in a few business ventures. The career hasn't been all roses, either.

I think you and I would have a real hoot over some ice-cold Yuenglings or any other beverage of your choice. We're on opposite sides, though, of many issues. I'm just a business person not a government bureaucrat or policy wonk.

The policies expoused by this Administration are dangerous and misguided. The power and tactics employed by government unions is dangerous.

Want a beer? I'm going to the 'fridge to get another Yuengling. [snark comment - A non-union beer.]

EdHeath said...

1 of 2
Well, all right, CM. Again, you are somewhat selectively reading (or responding to) my comment. Even if an evil union leadership is going against the wishes of 99% of their membership, my point was that an organization like ALEC can draw on a whole lot more wealth that the unions can. You want to say that I'm wrong, that unions have more money than industry does, I once again say - prove it.

I mean, I am fine with sitting around, chatting over a couple beers (union or not, doesn't particularly matter to me). But if you want me to accept ah argument, I may ask for some facts. I think that matters in part because our discussion is public. I think an adult discussion between people with different political philosophies should try to see the world as it is, not as we would like it to be. And we have this wonderful internet where we can research our thoughts, and post the source of our facts (for others to read for themselves and consider). Anyone can be an amateur policy wonk if they so choose.

But to respond to your point, it must be the case that some workers disagree with the political activities of their unions. There wouldn't have been a Supreme Court decision if that weren't so. Besides, considering human nature, it is inconceivable that all union workers always agree the union's political stuff. On the other hand, I simply don't know what percentage of union workers might fall into this category. Maybe there is some University study that investigates this issue.

But then to go a bit further down the road of your intellectual exercise, when you say the Beck decision has not been fully complied with, I wonder if you are being fair to the complexity of the issue. Let's say I belong to a union (which in real life I do not), and let's say the union endorses and give money to Barack Obama and I personally support Hillary Clinton. Now there might be a question about whether I know about the Beck decision, but assuming I do, am I really going to decide to leave the union over this? Some people might feel that strongly, but some people might think about the history of unions, about how if you leave the union you are weakening it for your co-workers and eventually the union might be dissolved. At that point, management would be free to implement what ever compensation package and work rules it would want to. Sure, there are OSHA rules to prevent excesses, except that OSHA has repeatedly been gutted, and is much less effective at protecting worker's safety than in the past.

You know, further, I suspect there are no rules that management can not post information about the Beck decision in the work place. I rather suspect the Chamber of Commerce does it's best to make sure companies small and large know about Beck.

I gotta say, I think your emphasis on the Beck decision is something of a red herring in refuting my argument. But even more, there is something a little disturbing at the essence of your first assertion. As someone who did study economics in the early eighties, I actually don’t have that much of a problem with the idea of privatizing certain government functions. But I think the case needs to be made that the private company will be able to perform the function just as well and with lower costs. I think that privatizing just for it’s own sake is a horrible idea, and will hurt the population.

EdHeath said...

2 of 2
But as far as I can tell, you are saying that some people do support the idea of blindly privatizing any and all government functions simply as something to do. That there are people out there who think the furtherance of business (profits) is more important than the welfare of citizens, even if the business in question is supposed to promote the welfare of citizens. I’d rather be in a group that thinks about what kind of things it supports and maybe has mixed feelings about the activities than be in a group that blindly follows a philosophy without caring about the real world consequences.

And again, I would ask you to back your statements about the policies espoused by the current administration being “dangerous and misguided” and the power employed by government unions being “dangerous”. Do you have any examples or any facts?

It’s a pity you have no more than a limited knowledge of economic theory. Friedman was of course a great thinker and made huge and valuable contributions to economic theory, but having an appreciation of Freidman is like knowing how to make a car that handle windy roads with great ability. That’s great until someone says they need a drag strip racer. Your agile car will be unable to compete in this context, yet both are part of the universe of auto racing.