As corporate lobbyists and state legislators from across the country meet in Salt Lake City for the 39th annual meeting of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a group of open government advocates have released a report called "ALEC in Florida" that sheds further light on ALEC's "unprecedented influence over Florida."
The report was released by Progress Florida, Florida Watch Action, People for the American Way, Common Cause and the Center for Media and Democracy's ALEC Exposed. The new report details the influence the corporate front group has over Florida's policy makers.
Key findings from the release:
- ALEC model bills introduced across the country have devastating impacts upon public education, consumer protections, environmental protections, workers' rights, equitable healthcare systems, just tax policy, and voting rights.
- ALEC has a strong and growing presence in Florida. Out of Florida's 160 state legislators, 60 have had ties with ALEC since 2010. Florida lawmakers' attendance at ALEC's 2011 annual conference held in New Orleans was "one of the strongest delegations in years."
- ALEC's corporate-funded scholarship fund contained, as of January 1, 2011, $46,467. This fund is used to sponsor ALEC members to attend ALEC conferences, and is also spent -- as documented in the report -- to wine and dine ALEC Florida members alongside corporate lobbyists. Corporations' expenditures for the fund can be written off as 501(c)(3) charitable donations on their tax returns.
- ALEC provides Florida members with "issue alerts," "talking points," and "press release templates" expressing support or opposition to state legislation, despite its claims that ALEC "does not lobby in any state." The organization also tracks the status of its model bills in legislatures and bills it does not like, and sends its employees to testify in support of its bills in state houses across the country. ALEC model legislation has been introduced in Florida's legislature, at times word for word, with devastating results. Last year, ALEC member Rep. Rachel Burgin (R-56) made an embarrassing and revealing mistake when she introduced HM 685 -- she forgot to remove ALEC's insignia on the bill, leaving the ALEC's footprint fully intact.
- After Florida lawmakers passed the NRA-sponsored Stand Your Ground law in 2005, ALEC took it and ran with it. The dangerous law was made notorious in Florida by the 2012 shooting death of Trayvon Martin. Today, due to the influence of ALEC and the gun lobby, "Stand Your Ground" laws are on the books in over 24 states. In response to ALEC's extreme agenda, 28 for-profit corporations -- including Wal-Mart, McDonalds, and Kraft -- four non-profit groups and over 50 lawmakers have dropped ALEC in recent months. This report concludes that Florida-based corporations and Florida ALEC members should do the same.
The ALEC in Florida report is the newest addition to a growing body of evidence that documents how ALEC is subverting our democracy. Read the full report here.