The links between the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and "voter ID" legislation have been well-documented, but newspapers in the states impacted most severely by the voter suppression legislation have been largely silent on this connection. A new analysis by Media Matters finds that "the largest newspapers in the seven states that enacted voter ID laws in 2011 have largely ignored ALEC's influence." ALEC is a group that brings together right-wing state legislators and corporations to vote on cookie-cutter "model" bills behind closed doors. The bills largely benefit corporations and Republican political interests.
A Florida law that may protect the man who shot and killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in February is the template for an American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) "model bill" that has been pushed in other states. The bill was brought to ALEC by the National Rifle Association (NRA), and fits into a pattern of ALEC bills that disproportionately impact communities of color.
Florida's "stand your ground," or "castle doctrine," law could prevent the prosecution of George Zimmerman, the 28-year-old "neighborhood watch" vigilante who shot the unarmed Martin as the teen returned from a trip to 7-11 with an iced tea and a pack of Skittles. The law, also pushed by its supporters under the name the "Castle Doctrine," changes state criminal justice and civil law codes by giving legal immunity to a person who uses "deadly force if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony." It also bars the deceased's family from bringing a civil suit.
The Center for Media Democracy contacted Governor Scott Walker and the four candidates who have filed to run in the recall election against him. We asked them all to comment on the influence of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) on the state of Wisconsin and what they might do about it as governor.
Three Democrats and one Independent have announced that they are running against Governor Walker; a primary is likely May 8. There is speculation that other candidates may still announce their intentions to run. The general election is expected to be June 5.
Governor Walker did not respond to our request, but the other candidates did. Below we reprint their comments in full.
A state judge has declared Wisconsin's American Legislative Exchange Council-inspired voter ID law unconstitutional, making him the second judge in one week to block the law's unnecessary burdens on the right to vote.
"The people's fundamental right of suffrage preceded and gave birth to our Constitution," wrote Dane County District Judge Richard Niess, "not the other way around."
The judge rebuffed assertions by Governor Scott Walker and legislative Republicans that they possessed the authority to impose new burdens on voting. "[D]efendants' argument that the fundamental right to vote must yield to legislative fiat turns our constitutional scheme of democratic government squarely on its head," he wrote.
The pharmaceutical drug lobby PhRMA gave $356,075 to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) "scholarship fund" in 2010, but listed the recipient's address at a lobbying firm steps away from the Wisconsin State Capitol, rather than ALEC's Washington, D.C. offices, according to filings with the Internal Revenue Service. The PhRMA contribution is leading to calls for greater transparency about how the ALEC scholarship fund operates.
In its 2010 IRS filings, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, better known as PhRMA, listed a $356,075 contribution to the "ALEC Scholarship Fund." That fund pays for flights and hotels for state legislators to attend ALEC conferences in places like New Orleans or Florida.
The herbicide atrazine, one of the most heavily used herbicides in the United States has been found in almost 94 percent of U.S. groundwater and can harm human health in multiple ways. ALEC has promoted "model" legislation friendly to Syngenta, atrazine's primary manufacturer, across the country. At least once, this legislation was introduced to ALEC by a lobbyist paid by Syngenta.
A Wisconsin judge has issued a temporary injunction against Wisconsin's new voter ID law, calling it "the single most restrictive voter eligibility law in the United States." Wisconsin's voter ID law, like many others introduced in 2011 and 2012, is based on an American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) model bill.
Dane County Circuit Judge David Flanagan halted the voter ID law in time for the April 3 presidential primary and local general election, saying the law "is addressed to a problem which is very limited" and "fails to account for the difficulty its demands impose upon indigent, elderly and disabled citizens."
The Park Center for Independent Media at Ithaca College has selected the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) for its annual "Izzy Award," which recognizes outstanding achievement in independent media. CMD was recognized for its ALEC Exposed project, and shares this year's award with Democracy Now! correspondent Sharif Abdel Kouddous, who was recognized for his exceptional reporting from Tahir Square. The award is named for the legendary I.F. Stone, the maverick investigative journalist who challenged Joe McCarthy's scare campaign and was the first to question the Gulf of Tonkin hoax.
By Harriet Rowan and Sara Jerving
After months of talking about "reforming" Wisconsin's public schools, Republican state legislators are starting to move on a number of proposals. The greatly anticipated bills bear the marks of having been poured through the filter of the American Legislative Exchange Council's agenda for school reform before they were exposed to the light of day.
This week, for instance, there is a hearing on a voucher bill for special needs children that appears to be modeled on the ALEC Special Needs Scholarship Program Act. Other measures are in the works to hold teachers "accountable" for the performance of their students, but not at voucher schools of the type supported by ALEC.