This is something I never thought I’d see happen: a politician actually standing up publicly to the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, the shadowy, corporate funded organization –involving the Koch brothers– that is attempting to alter just about every aspect of American law.
If you’re not familiar with ALEC, they are super-secret council, funded by several of America’s corporate overlords, namely the Koch brothers, as well as companies in the food, tobacco, insurance, health care, and energy sectors. Their method of operation is to write what’s called “model legislation” behind closed doors, and then filter that legislation out to the state level, where an ALEC-backed politician can claim “authorship” of the bill and introduce it to the legislature for voting.
ALEC bills span the spectrum of issues from prison reform to worker’s rights, from tort reform to education. On issues like prison reform and education, their legislation almost always involves the privatization of government run facilities and programs, turning them over to the private sector for profit, usually at considerable cost to the taxpayers. If your state has recently passed or considered restrictive voter ID laws, there’s a very good chance that ALEC was behind that legislation.
While the Center for Media and Democracy has done a magnificent job in exposing ALEC by making many of their model bills and strategies available online, the fact that anybody knows anything about them has really been because of independent and citizen journalism and blogs. I have yet to see an investigative report on ALEC by any of the mainstream networks or cable channels, because no one wants to touch it with a 10-foot poll.
That being said, it seems that Governor Mark Dayton (D-MN) is more than aware of ALEC and their pernicious influence on legislatures around the country, and he’s having none of it. Last week Dayton put his foot down and called ALEC out by name during a press conference, where he announced he would be vetoing legislation on tort reform, which would limit the rights of people to sue large corporations for damages from either wrong-doing or physical injury. His statement was one for the record books:
“Exactly who did the Republicans in the legislature listen to? Well, three of the four bills come right from this manual, Tort Reform Boot Camp, published by the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC. This is the same group who reportedly provided legislators last week with all-expense paid trips to a posh Florida hotel for what they call an “education policy conference.” It is an extremely conservative group, funded largely by large corporations, big business associations, insurance companies and very wealthy individuals. I’ve found that Minnesotans do not want their laws written by the lobbyists of big corporations.
Since these Republican bills so closely follow ALEC’s instructions on tort reform, and since ALEC’s opinion on these subjects are evidently more important to Republican legislators than mine, their fellow legislator’s or the Supreme Court’s, perhaps they would share with us all of the other ALEC boot camp manuals, so we can know in advance what to expect from them for the rest of this session. If Republicans want to continue to prove to Minnesotans that they are too extreme to lead, they should continue to throw ALEC’s ideology at us. If they want to begin to govern responsibly, and work collaboratively, pass real jobs legislation – and my three measures have not even been taken up – real jobs legislations that will put Minnesotans back to work, then I’m ready to work with them. And I’m waiting.”
This is what we need. We need more lawmakers willing to call ALEC out and bring greater public awareness to this organization that is trying to change the very fabric of this country through destructive legislation around the country.
Dayton has set the example and I hope that more lawmakers will have the guts to follow in his footsteps.
WATCH Governor Dayton’s press conference: