American Legislative Exchange Council

Shilling For Profit: A Case Study Of ALEC's Campaign Against Divestment From Apartheid South Africa

In the 1980s, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) aggressively mobilized against divestment from apartheid South Africa.

Newly Uncovered Documents Expose ALEC's Anti-Gay Past

Once upon a time, ALEC called homosexuality an "abomination," defended "the liberty of an employer to refuse to hire homosexuals," called basic rights for gay people "privileges" and even identified six distinct categories of gay people.

'Choice' School Accountability in the Eye of the Beholder – or Big Donor

Right-wing political strategists have invested huge sums in recent decades to undermine public support for public schools.

Kansas' Kobach Pushes Plan that Would Disenfranchise Alaska Natives

Back in April, two Alaska House committees approved a bill that would require voters to show a photo ID at the polls – a particularly damaging measure in a state where many rural communities don’t even require photos on drivers’ licenses. Now, the Anchorage Daily News is reporting that there is a familiar face behind the measure. Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, the driving force behind voter suppression and anti-immigrant measures around the country, reportedly coordinated with Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell to push the bill in what looks like an effort to damage Democratic Sen. Mark Begich in his 2014 reelection bid. (Treadwell denies that he worked with Kobach on the bill, which he says he opposes.)

Alaska Natives say a photo ID rule would be a roadblock to voting in the Bush. A decline in turnout there, with its traditionally heavy Democratic vote, could affect the 2014 reelection hopes of U.S. Sen. Mark Begich, a Democrat running in a Republican-leaning state. One of his potential rivals is Alaska's top election official, Republican Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell.

Treadwell says he doesn't support the voter ID bill, but Kobach says Treadwell was instrumental in getting him involved in promoting the Alaska legislation.

In an April statement to reporters that didn't mention Kobach or Kansas, Treadwell touted the cross-checking as having found 14 people suspected of "actually voting in both Alaska and another state" in 2012. Treadwell threatened to prosecute the voters if the allegations were confirmed.

Alaska elections director Gail Fenumiai recently said 12 of the 14 voters cited in Treadwell's April statement were wrongly identified as duplicate voters and actually voted only in Alaska.



Kobach told the Daily News it was he who suggested to Treadwell that Alaska get involved in the Kansas project. "I personally talked to Mead Treadwell, your lieutenant governor, and encouraged him to join, and he did so," Kobach said.

And his testimony on the photo ID bill, Kobach said, was the result of a conversation with Treadwell.

"I spoke to Mead about it at one of our national conferences -- he mentioned that you guys were considering a photo ID law," Kobach said. "I said I'd be happy to share some of the experiences we've had in Kansas."

Treadwell, who said he doesn't support the Alaska bill because of the difficulty for Bush residents to get photo identification, said he didn't recall talking to Kobach about it.

As the Daily News explains, a photo ID bill would be especially damaging to Alaska Natives living in rural communities where DMVs are hard to access and where many towns don’t even require photographs on drivers’ licenses:

Photo ID measures are controversial across the country. Advocates say they help prevent fraud. Opponents say they make it more difficult for particular groups of people to vote: the elderly, students and the poor who don't own cars. In Alaska, the situation is compounded by the difficulty of getting to a Division of Motor Vehicles office in a regional hub like Nome or Bethel from a small village. Alaska doesn't even require a photograph on a driver's license in dozens of Bush communities.

Democratic activists say photo ID bills have the effect of disenfranchising more Democratic voters than Republicans. In his annual address to the Alaska Legislature this year, Begich criticized the bill as making it more difficult for Alaska Natives and Hispanics -- two traditional Democratic groups -- to vote.

The sponsor of Alaska’s bill, who has acknowledged that he drafted the measure using materials from the corporate-funded conservative group ALEC, had odd words of consolation for those concerned about the suppressive impact of the bill: at least it wouldn’t be as bad as Iraq!

Rep. Bob Lynn, an Anchorage Republican who is prime sponsor of the voter ID bill, said he wasn't trying to disenfranchise anyone. He dismissed opponents as complainers who should be happy they don't face the kind of obstacles voters do in places like Iraq.

"Terrorists have threatened to kill anyone who voted, but they voted anyway, and then these voters put ink in their finger to prove they had voted -- evidence that could have gotten them killed. Now that's a hassle, to say the least. Needing a photo ID to vote in Alaska wouldn't even come close to that," Lynn said when his State Affairs Committee first heard the bill in February.
 

Gates Foundation Raises Eyebrows with Grant to Right-Wing Lobbying Group

“We don’t want to be part of the controversy.” That’s what Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Gates Foundation, told NPR when asked why the foundation’s work on reproductive health avoided support for abortion care. While this was a grave disappointment to global women’s health advocates, it wasn’t altogether surprising. Despite the Gates Foundation’s staggering wealth and influence and willingness to try new – sometimes controversial – approaches, it steadfastly steers clear of political fights.

That’s why a recent award of $376,635 to a right-wing lobbying group, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), is raising eyebrows, and more, in progressive and philanthropy circles. Knowingly or not, the Gates Foundation has just stepped on a political landmine.
ALEC is engaged in all of the fiercest political fights of our day – working hand-in-hand with companies seeking to roll back healthcare reform, environmental protections, workers’ rights, corporate accountability, and taxes on the wealthy. The Gates Foundation, which is “dedicated to the idea that all people deserve the chance to live a healthy and productive life,” should know that those aims are incompatible with ALEC’s efforts to undermine Americans’ health, safety, and economic security to benefit the bottom line of its corporate backers.
 
The stated purpose of the Gates Foundation grant to ALEC is “to educate and engage its membership on more efficient state budget approaches to drive greater student outcomes, as well as educate them on beneficial ways to recruit, retain, evaluate and compensate effective teaching based upon merit and achievement.” On the face of it, this pales in comparison to ALEC’s other education work, which promotes large-scale voucher and privatization schemes that would destroy, not improve, the public education system.
 
Interestingly, Lee Fang recently reported in The Nation on the various ways that the Gates Foundation and ALEC are working – independently – to promote for-profit distance learning. These programs typically undermine public schools while benefiting technology and software companies, including Microsoft. The educational value of such programs is also highly contested.
 
But the bigger issue here is that the Gates Foundation – a grant-making behemoth – is legitimizing ALEC and all of its egregious lobbying by directly supporting a portion of the group’s work. One can only hope that the Gates Foundation staff responsible for the grant were narrowly focused on education policy and unaware of ALEC’s broader agenda. Either way, the foundation seems headed into the middle of a controversy, which is remarkable for an organization that took pains to avoid “the controversy” in the reproductive health arena.
 
For a primer on ALEC, see People For the American Way’s recent report:
When state legislators across the nation introduce similar or identical bills designed to boost corporate power and profits, reduce workers rights, limit corporate accountability for pollution, or restrict voting by minorities, odds are good that the legislation was not written by a state lawmaker but by corporate lobbyists working through the American Legislative Exchange Council.  ALEC is a one-stop shop for corporations looking to identify friendly state legislators and work with them to get special-interest legislation introduced. It’s win-win for corporations, their lobbyists, and right-wing legislators. But the big losers are citizens whose rights and interests are sold off to the highest bidder.

 

Public Policy, Private Corporations: Detaining Immigrants for Profit

People For the American Way has been documenting the ways in which corporate interests, with a big boost from the Supreme Court, are pouring unprecedented sums of money into this year’s elections to buy themselves an even more corporation-friendly government. This morning, National Public Radio reported on another way that corporate interests are shaping public policy. Remember that controversial anti-immigrant law in Arizona? Turns out it was drafted at a conference of right-wing legislators with help from private prison corporations that see the detention of immigrants as a new profit center.

According to Corrections Corporation of America reports reviewed by NPR, executives believe immigrant detention is their next big market. Last year, they wrote that they expect to bring in "a significant portion of our revenues" from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the agency that detains illegal immigrants….
 
NPR also notes that as soon as the bill was introduced in Arizona, prison industry money followed:
 
Thirty-six co-sponsors jumped on, a number almost unheard of in the capitol.  According to records obtained by NPR, two-thirds of them either went to that December meeting or are ALEC members....
 
At the state Capitol, campaign donations started to appear.
 
Thirty of the 36 co-sponsors received donations over the next six months, from prison lobbyists or prison companies — Corrections Corporation of America, Management and Training Corporation and The Geo Group. 
 
By April, the bill was on Gov. Jan Brewer's desk.
 
On a May conference call with investors, NPR reports, one prison industry official expressed hope for more help from the federal level:
 
" Those people coming across the border and getting caught are going to have to be detained and that for me, at least I think, there's going to be enhanced opportunities for what we do."
 
Here’s some more information about the American Legislative Exchange Council, a group that brings corporate donors together with conservative state lawmakers to push anti-regulatory legislation on a range of issues.
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American Legislative Exchange Council Posts Archive

Calvin Sloan, Monday 12/09/2013, 6:27pm
In the 1980s, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) aggressively mobilized against divestment from apartheid South Africa. MORE >
Calvin Sloan, Wednesday 12/04/2013, 11:45am
Once upon a time, ALEC called homosexuality an "abomination," defended "the liberty of an employer to refuse to hire homosexuals," called basic rights for gay people "privileges" and even identified six distinct categories of gay people. MORE >
Peter Montgomery, Tuesday 07/30/2013, 3:27pm
Right-wing political strategists have invested huge sums in recent decades to undermine public support for public schools. MORE >
Miranda Blue, Wednesday 06/05/2013, 2:55pm
Back in April, two Alaska House committees approved a bill that would require voters to show a photo ID at the polls – a particularly damaging measure in a state where many rural communities don’t even require photos on drivers’ licenses. Now, the Anchorage Daily News is reporting that there is a familiar face behind the measure. Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, the driving force behind voter suppression and anti-immigrant measures around the country, reportedly coordinated with Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell to push the bill in what looks like an effort to damage Democratic... MORE >
Josh Glasstetter, Wednesday 12/07/2011, 2:18pm
“We don’t want to be part of the controversy.” That’s what Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Gates Foundation, told NPR when asked why the foundation’s work on reproductive health avoided support for abortion care. While this was a grave disappointment to global women’s health advocates, it wasn’t altogether surprising. Despite the Gates Foundation’s staggering wealth and influence and willingness to try new – sometimes controversial – approaches, it steadfastly steers clear of political fights. That’s why a recent award of $376,... MORE >
Peter Montgomery, Thursday 10/28/2010, 12:17pm
People For the American Way has been documenting the ways in which corporate interests, with a big boost from the Supreme Court, are pouring unprecedented sums of money into this year’s elections to buy themselves an even more corporation-friendly government. This morning, National Public Radio reported on another way that corporate interests are shaping public policy. Remember that controversial anti-immigrant law in Arizona? Turns out it was drafted at a conference of right-wing legislators with help from private prison corporations that see the detention of immigrants as a... MORE >