Posted by Brendan Fischer on August 22, 2011

ALEC Exposed logoIn the midst of corporations voting with state politicians on corporate wishlists to rewrite the law, some messages at the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) Annual Meeting in New Orleans got a little mixed up. Here are two examples.

America is Driving Biotech Away ... and Attracting It

Different pharmaceutical industry interests presented contradictory views about America's regulatory climate in efforts to influence and gain the esteem of ALEC legislators.

The pharmaceutical trade association PhRMA sponsored Wednesday's lunch (where Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal extolled the political power of obstinance). PhRMA's Executive Vice President, Chip Davis, touted the pharmaceutical industry's "vital" role in creating jobs and keeping people healthy. Davis said the industry will locate "where economic growth and rewarding innovation matters," but warned ALEC members that competition for biotech investment is no longer between states, but with other countries. He asked,"will the U.S. enact policies that drive biotech elsewhere?"

In contrast, the following morning a representative from the Japanese pharmaceutical company Takeda praised America's "manageable tax and regulatory environment that attracts [foreign] companies to locate in this country." Takeda sponsored ALEC's Thursday breakfast and was one of the highest-spending corporate sponsors at the 2011 ALEC conference. Takeda's head of government and external affairs, David Dieter, wrapped the Japanese company in the American flag, citing its founder's apparently unconscious belief in "Jeffersonian principles," even though the company started in Japan 200 years ago -- well before Commodore Perry opened Japan to western investment -- and started its American branch only 13 years ago. Rather than threaten legislators that failing to support the biotech industry will drive Takeda back to Japan, Dieter encouraged legislators to "reinforce the Jeffersonian principles that make us the greatest country in the world."

Unelected, Unaccountable Bodies Making Law is Bad ... Unless We are Doing It

While diverse corporate interests at times collided at the ALEC conference, some statements made in the ALEC workshops were also incongruous.

Panelists at the "Rationing by Any Other Name" workshop took issue with the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), an agency created by the 2010 federal healthcare reforms with authority to make changes to Medicare payments. Between accusations that the IPAB constituted government "rationing," Diane Cohen of the Koch-funded Goldwater Institute discussed her organization's lawsuit against the IPAB. Cohen claimed the IPAB was unconstitutional because it was an unelected, unrepresentative body with the authority to make laws. Few seemed to notice the irony that ALEC might also fit that description.

The workshop took place in the midst of ALEC task force meetings where unelected, unaccountable corporations work behind closed doors with state legislators to vote on "model" bills to advance the corporate agenda, bills which legislators often pass without alteration. ALEC boasts that corporations have both a "voice and a vote" in drafting and approving this model legislation. ALEC "model bills" are almost always introduced in the legislator's own name--cleansed of any reference to the corporations that secretly voted for the legislation or drafted it--prohibiting the public from knowing the true origin of the law and holding the appropriate parties accountable.

In criticizing the IPAB, Cohen quoted from parts of Justice Antonin Scalia's dissenting opinion in the U.S. Supreme Court decision Mistretta v. United States, which analyzed a delegation of lawmaking authority by Congress to an unelected board. Scalia's dissent asserted that "the basic policy decisions governing society are to be made by the Legislature" and warned of the threat to our constitutional system if laws are made by "a new Branch altogether, a sort of junior-varsity Congress."

Might that logic apply to ALEC?

Comments

You don't get it, do you? The trouble with the IPAB board, and others like it, is that the members are not elected and therefore can't be chosen by those who matter--the corporate "persons." Of course, those who choose the members of such boards are themselves chosen by the corporations, but this indirect control is irritating to those used to direct manipulation of puppet strings. There is a threat that board members might be influenced by that contemptible mass of organic, animal-type persons, the humans.

One doesn't have to look too deeply to see the perversion of principles already infecting the body politic. Any member of congress who has the nerve to propose legislation from ALEC is simply a fraud. While he may reconcile this in his own mind it simply cannot be tolerated by other members of congress or the public in general. Members who do so in the future or have in the past should be impeached immediately. The same goes for any governor as well. It should go without saying that congress has no authority to allow unelected bodies any right to create or change law. It seems to be evident that the qualifications once required to be a member of congress has now fallen to such a low standard that personal fraud and delegation of duty have become commonplace within our democratic institutions in order to facilitate the corporate dictatorship of the American people. A truly sad commentary regardless of your social stature.

The lunacy of this argument is hysterical. Agency such as the IPAB have the actual authority to make regulations that have the same power as law. Congress has in all practicality no veto over these regulations whatsoever, nor does the President. The boards are almost universally penetrated by special interest lobby groups, whether private corporations, businesses, union or environmental lobbyists. Yes, they are special interests too. Any group who advocates an agenda, whether you agree with them and therefore think they should be heard or not, are special interest. This is purely put, unconsitutional. This board has the power to create law with no check on it by the people through elections.

ALEC is an organization that brings together legislatures who debate model legislation, and then pass items they agree with. They then have to bring it back and have it voted on by their OWN legislatures and signed by their Governors. There they are put through strict hearing processes and debates on chamber floors. Guess what, if people don't like it or it is a bad idea, the chance of it being held up or voted down is extremely high. Here poses an actual checking power versus the administrative board. You pretend to claim the people are supreme yet you continue to ignore their intelligence and power.

The hypocrisy of the right and left on such issues is revolting. Get reality straight here folks. People have a say in things. That means corporations too, since stockholders are people. Guess what though, that also means labor unions get a say in things too! However, the only real check on government power (and so the power of business and labor)is through the careful consideration by the voters in elections. You get what you vote for. However, ALEC poses the chance for people to throw out what they don't like. IPAB does not. Refuted. Please get a clue now.

Bill Moyers presents "United States of ALEC," a report on the most influential corporate-funded political force most of America has never heard of -- ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council.