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ALEC's 40th Birthday Draws Protests

PHOTO: The Center for Media and Democracy says 139 ALEC-generated bills or state budget provisions to privatize education were introduced in the last six months in 43 states. Courtesy of Center for Media and Democracy
PHOTO: The Center for Media and Democracy says 139 ALEC-generated bills or state budget provisions to privatize education were introduced in the last six months in 43 states. Courtesy of Center for Media and Democracy
August 8, 2013

CHICAGO - A nonprofit group of which some voters may never have heard holds its 40th annual meeting in Chicago this week. Watchdog, labor, religious, and civil rights groups are protesting outside, so that more people learn about the American Legislative Exchange Council.

ALEC says its members discuss "limited government and free-market legislation." However, Brendan Fischer, general counsel for the Center for Media and Democracy, said his group's investigation has identified hundreds of templates for legislation that ALEC gives to state lawmakers to take back to their state capitols. He said ALEC's collection of laws make it easier for corporations to make more money, pollute and keep wages low.

"We call it a 'corporate bill mill.' They bring corporations together with state legislators and push model legislation that benefits those same corporate interests," Fischer said, "those special interests that are bankrolling ALEC."

Some of the ALEC laws have misleading titles, Fischer said. For instance, the "Disclosure of Hydraulic Fluid Composition Act" sounds as though it would help people understand what chemicals might be in fracking fluid that could seep into groundwater. Fischer said that isn't the case.

"It was actually drafted by Exxon-Mobil, brought to ALEC and, even though it has a title of a disclosure bill, the real purpose is to prevent disclosure," Fischer said. "It includes a huge loophole for 'trade secrets.' "

ALEC has been connected with the "stand your ground" laws backed by the National Rifle Association, as well as anti-union laws that passed in the Midwest. In Fischer's view, when big money wines and dines state lawmakers and hands them the word-for-word legislation to introduce, citizens and grassroots organizations can't compete.

More information is online at alecexposed.org and afsc.org.

Rob South, Public News Service - MI