Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA) recently spoke on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives about the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) "undermining our democracy." In his address, Johnson urged Americans to visit the Center for Media and Democracy's ALECexposed.org site to learn more about the shadowy organization. Johnson also mentioned ALEC on the House floor earlier this month.
Corporations, Johnson noted, are using ALEC to, "install their agenda in the states and in Congress, undermining our basic rights and freedoms." He mentioned "Shoot First and ask questions later" laws pushed by the National Rifle Association as a "model" bill of ALEC, as well as ALEC's long-time role in urging states to divert tax dollars to for-profit prisons through numerous ALEC privatization bills that are pushed in the states by ALEC legislative leaders and members.
These cookie-cutter bills benefit the corporate members who pay for a seat at the table at ALEC task force meetings where corporate lobbyists vote as equals behind closed doors with elected state legislators. Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) was a long-time leader and funder of ALEC until controversy over its benefiting from the Arizona law SB 1070's immigration detention provisions erupted.
CCA previously chaired ALEC's crime task force, which has approved numerous bills to help advance the for-profit prison industry through bills to encourage outsourcing of prisons to corporations, advance the use of low-cost prison labor, and extend sentences for prisoners. The American Bail Coalition (ABC) has an "emeritus" seat on ALEC's board and benefited from bills introduced by numerous ALEC legislators to privatize bail, increasing the profits of the members of its industry through non-refundable fees charged to people who are arrested but not convicted.
Congressman Johnson also noted the benefit to ALEC corporate polluters, such as Peabody Energy and Koch Industries, in deregulating the energy industry and pushing efforts to limit the power of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), through PR offensives such as the "EPA's Regulatory Train Wreck." This includes model resolutions for states calling on the U.S. to reject the Kyoto Protocol and bills banning states from regulating greenhouse gases in any way.
Rep. Johnson also noted the echo of the ALEC agenda in a recent amendment passed by the U.S. House of Representatives that would effectively pre-empt the EPA from regulating toxic coal ash. As reported by CMD, ALEC passed a resolution in early 2010 opposing federal regulation of coal ash (coal combustion residuals or CCRs) under more protective "hazardous waste" rules and asserts that states should be the bodies that make decisions about handling CCRs as non-hazardous waste, meaning the coal ash can be used to make household products like kitchen materials and bowling balls, despite concerns being raised to the EPA.
In working to block a federal response to curb climate change and protect the environment, Johnson noted that the examples he mentioned are "only the tip of the melting iceberg" when it comes to ALEC's influence over the creation of anti-environmental public policy.