About ALEC Exposed

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The Center for Media and Democracy has obtained copies of more than 800 model bills approved by corporations through ALEC meetings, after one of the thousands of people with access shared them, and a whistleblower provided a copy to the Center. We have analyzed and marked-up those bills and made them available at ALEC Exposed. This article has been updated. For press inquiries, please contact Nikolina Lazic at 608-260-9713 or lisa@prwatch.org.

About ALEC Exposed

ALEC Exposed (A Project of CMD)An open letter from CMD's Executive Director, Lisa Graves

In April 2011, some of the biggest corporations in the U.S. met behind closed doors in Cincinnati about their wish lists for changing state laws. This exchange was part of a series of corporate meetings nurtured and fueled by the Koch Industries family fortune and other corporate funding.

At an extravagant hotel gilded just before the Great Depression, corporate executives from the tobacco giant R.J. Reynolds, State Farm Insurance, and other corporations were joined by their "task force" co-chairs -- all Republican state legislators -- to approve "model" legislation. They jointly head task forces of what is called the "American Legislative Exchange Council" (ALEC).

There, as the Center for Media and Democracy has learned, these corporate-politician committees secretly voted on bills to rewrite numerous state laws. According to the documents we have posted to ALEC Exposed, corporations vote as equals with elected politicians on these bills. These task forces target legal rules that reach into almost every area of American life: worker and consumer rights, education, the rights of Americans injured or killed by corporations, taxes, health care, immigration, and the quality of the air we breathe and the water we drink.

The Center obtained copies of more than 800 model bills approved by companies through ALEC meetings, after one of the thousands of people with access shared them, and a whistleblower provided a copy to the Center. Those bills, which the Center has analyzed and marked-up, are now available at ALEC Exposed.

The bills that ALEC corporate leaders, companies and politicians voted on this spring now head to a luxury hotel in New Orleans' French Quarter for ALEC's national retreat on August 3rd. In New Orleans, Koch Industries -- through its chief lobbyist -- and lobbyists of other global companies are slated for a "joint board meeting" with a rookery of Republican legislators who are on ALEC's public board. (ALEC says only the legislators have a final say on all model bills. ALEC has previously said that "The policies are debated and voted on by all members. Public and private members vote separately on policy.")

On ALEC Task Forces, unelected corporate lobbyists and elected state legislators act as "equals" and both get "a VOICE and a VOTE" on bills or templates to change U.S. law in countless ways. And ALEC's state legislative leaders are tasked with a "duty" under ALEC's public by-laws to get ALEC "model" bills introduced and passed in their home states.

Before the bills are publicly introduced in state legislatures by ALEC politicians or alumni in the governor's offices, they will be cleansed of any reference to the secret corporate voting or who really wrote them.

With CMD's revelation and detailed analysis of the bills, the public can now pierce through some of the subterfuge about ALEC, and see beyond the names of the bills to what the bills really do, alongside the names of corporations that lead or have helped lead ALEC's agenda and accompanied by analysis to help decode the bills.

Many of the bills have obvious financial benefits for corporations but little or no direct benefit to the constituents that a particular legislator was elected to represent. Still, it may be tempting to dismiss ALEC as merely institutionalizing business as usual for lobbyists, except that ALEC's tax-free donations are linked to it not spending a substantial amount of time on lobbying to change the law. ALEC has publicly claimed its "unparalleled" success in terms of the number of model bills introduced and enacted. But seeing the text of the bills helps reveal the actual language of legal changes ALEC corporations desire, beyond what can be known by the PR in their titles. ALEC says it has created a "unique" partnership between corporations and politicians. And it has.

It is a worrisome marriage of corporations and politicians, which seems to normalize a kind of corruption of the legislative process -- of the democratic process -- in a nation of free people where the government is supposed to be of, by, and for the people, not the corporations.

The full sweep of the bills and their implications for America's future, the corporate voting, and the extent of the corporate subsidy of ALEC's legislation laundering all raise substantial questions. These questions should concern all Americans. They go to the heart of the health of our democracy and the direction of our country. When politicians -- no matter their party -- put corporate profits above the real needs of the people who elected them, something has gone very awry.

As President Teddy Roosevelt observed in response to corporate money corrupting the democratic process a century ago, "The true friend of property, the true conservative, is he who insists that property shall be the servant and not the master of the commonwealth ... The citizens of the United States must effectively control the mighty commercial forces which they have called into being."

-- Lisa Graves, Executive Director, Center for Media and Democracy

P.S. ALEC anointed the billionaire Koch Brothers as two of the first few recipients of its "Adam Smith Free Enterprise Award." Smith argued that self-interest promoted more good in society than those who intend to do good. "Greed is good!" is how Oliver Stone translated this concept to fiction on screen.

On that score, perhaps, the award was apt, except that ALEC apparently ignores Smith's caution that bills and regulations from business must be viewed with the deepest skepticism. In his book, "Wealth of Nations," Smith urged that any law proposed by businessmen "ought always to be listened to with great precaution ... It comes from an order of men, whose interest is never exactly the same with that of the public, who have generally an interest to deceive and even to oppress the public, and who accordingly have, upon many occasions, both deceived and oppressed it."

One need not look far in the ALEC bills to find reasons to be deeply concerned and skeptical.Take a look for yourself.


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Grover Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform

Grover Norquist's organization, "Americans for Tax Reform," is indeed a private sector member of ALEC, according to the current National Chairman, Rep. Noble Ellington of Louisiana, in a recent NPR interview. Please see the SourceWatch list of [[ALEC Corporations]] for an incomplete list of these members. We're discovering more members every day, so check back frequently, and please let us know if you find out any other corporate members.


I just put my money where my mouth is:
1. I have not set foot in a Walmart store in over 3 years now.
2. I don't drink coca cola products
3. I just canceled my AT&T wireless account after 10 years ... a welcome byproduct of this is that no one knows my new number.
4. I shop at small local stores whenever possible even if it costs a few pennies more.
5. I purchase the store brand cheese (and other products) instead of Kraft
6. etc...

Coca Cola

They don't manufacturer Coca Cola, but their name sound like the word Coke, feel free to start drinking Coca Cola again.

Coca Cola is an ALEC member

Coca Cola is actually an ALEC member, check out our ALEC corporations page: http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=ALEC_Corporations

You had me at not setting

You had me at not setting foot in a Walmart. The rest is right on, too. Thank you and God bless!

any violations of Open Meetings Acts?

Illinois has an Open Meetings Act; Illinois legislators attending these meetings would be subject to its provisions. Under Illinois law, for example, if a majority of a quorum of any elected government body meets to discuss public business, there must be public notice of the meeting and it must be open to the public and news media, regardless of where the meeting takes place. Presumably other states have similar legislation. Is there any indication that any state's Open Meetings Act may have been violated?

Who are these corporations?

In addition to suggesting that we loudly complain to our legislators, why not publish a list of ALEC participating corporations? I would think twice before giving them my business, and I bet some pension and mutual fund managers may be inclined to not buy their stock.

Thank you, Bert!

Here's a partial list:


More information on the bills is available here, at Who Is Behind ALEC:


Alec Exposé

You've done an amazing job of exposing this outrageous organization, one of the mechanisms that has been used to undermine our democratic process (Lisa Graves, the Center for Media & Democracy and the heroic Alec insider who shared the documents). Thanks so much!

I have to wonder, though. Your "Action!" recommendations don't include bombarding legislators with loud vehement protest about their unethical participation in such a secret backdoor legislative process (corporations and legislators alone, voting on policies!). I don't understand why that wouldn't be the first action, unless you feel as cynical as I often do - that there's no point.
Say it ain't so!

public officials sworn to uphold constitution & other interests?

If people sign a pledge to some individual like Norquist, or some group of individuals or corporations, to never raise taxes then swear to uphold the Constitution when taking an elected office with responsibilities like keeping our nation's infrastructure intact, our nation's debts paid, enacting & adjusting taxes etc., doesn't the latter sworn promise supersede a pledge to a private citizen? If they continue to treat both pledges as equal, or the former as a priority, how is that not a violation of the public trust? [Also, is it just me, or when an elected politician goes to TV saying that these people in Washington must be restrained from spending as if they're talking about a 3rd party, doesn't that politician sound like an idiot?]

Are the people of America so unaware of the United States' history that the fact that the Constitution replaced the Articles of Confederation for the pressing reason that the Articles didn't include the power to tax, which, uncorrected, would have left this country unable to pay back the debts incurred during the Revolution? Without the power to enact & collect taxes, America would have been the moral & political equivalent of Port Royal - a haven for pirates & renegade privateers. Without the power to collect taxes, we wouldn't have survived as a real nation.

Also, have the corporations & their lapdogs not noticed that the periods of the 20th century when taxes were highest were also the times of greatest prosperity - including nice, fat revenues for corporations?

Right now the corporations, the Republicans & the teavangelists are like the dragon sitting on a pile of gold in a medieval romance - the dragon can't eat the gold & without being used as a medium of trade, what value does gold even have?