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Website Exposes Big Business' Influence Over WV Legislation

July 28, 2011

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - A new website exposes what it says is one national organization's "big-business" influence over legislation in West Virginia and around the country. The site is www.ALECexposed.org.

"ALEC" is short for the American Legislative Exchange Council, a powerful group funded by some lawmakers and at least 300 corporations. The new website shows hundreds of model bills, which served as blueprints.

Mary Bottari is with Center for Media and Democracy, a non-partisan, nonprofit investigative reporting group that created the ALECexposed website as a tool for citizens. She says ALEC is unique, because lawmakers and corporations meet behind closed doors in task forces to discuss and vote on model bills.

"The public never knows that the bill was drafted by a corporation and approved by a corporation, because that process takes place behind the scenes at ALEC."

According to the ALECexposed website, more than 98 percent of ALEC's revenues come from sources other than lawmakers' dues, and each corporate member pays between $7,000 and $25,000 a year, with additional amounts accepted. ALEC calls itself the nation's largest nonpartisan, individual public-private membership association of state legislators.

The ALECexposed website includes a list of legislators involved with ALEC, as well as the 300 corporations that provide the bulk of ALEC's funding, Bottari adds.

"They aren't just the Koch industries and the big tobacco companies, but mainstream corporations like Kraft Foods, Coca Cola, UPS and AT&T."

According to Bottari, a whistle-blower with access to the model bills turned them over to her organization.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - WV