What’s the source of these anti-union measures? Meet ALEC, a right-wing group that writes state laws for Republicans

If it seems that all of this state-by-state union-stripping legislation is coordinated … that’s because it is coordinated. Also pre-written, gift-wrapped and hand-delivered.

Meet ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, a national right-wing group that writes “model” legislation for its members. Who are its members? Republican state legislators and private organizations (think ExxonMobil).

Because ALEC is very secretive, only members get to know who its members are, what goes on at meetings, and what legislation is being authored and pushed. But sometimes the light shines through, and sometimes they own up.

About the union-busting laws, ALEC owned up. The New York Times, in the (next-to-last) paragraph of this story, fingers ALEC as the anti-union coordinating group (my emphasis throughout):

A group composed of Republican state lawmakers and corporate executives, the American Legislative Exchange Council, is quietly spreading these proposals from state to state, sending e-mails about the latest efforts as well as suggested legislative language.

Michael Hough, director of the council’s commerce task force, said the aim of these measures was not political[.]

NPR has a nice report on ALEC (h/t commenter SCLiberal):

When you walk into the offices of the American Legislative Exchange Council, it’s hard to imagine it is the birthplace of a thousand pieces of legislation introduced in statehouses across the county.

Only 28 people work in ALEC’s dark, quiet headquarters in Washington, D.C. And Michael Bowman, senior director of policy, explains that the little-known organization’s staff is not the ones writing the bills. The real authors are the group’s members — a mix of state legislators and some of the biggest corporations in the country.

“Most of the bills are written by outside sources and companies, attorneys, [and legislative] counsels,” Bowman says.

Here’s how it works: ALEC is a membership organization. State legislators pay $50 a year to belong. Private corporations can join, too. The tobacco company Reynolds American Inc., Exxon Mobil Corp. and drug-maker Pfizer Inc. are among the members. They pay tens of thousands of dollars a year. Tax records show that corporations collectively pay as much as $6 million a year.

With that money, the 28 people in the ALEC offices throw three annual conferences. The companies get to sit around a table and write “model bills” with the state legislators, who then take them home to their states.

The Arizona Send-Browns-to-Prison-for-Profit law (sorry, the “SB-1070 immigration law”) is a good example. Thanks to that law, prisons-for-profit companies like Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) stand to make out like, er, banditos.

Guess who helped write that law? CCA. Guess where that law was written? In the dark bowels of ALEC:

The largest prison company in the country, the Corrections Corporation of America, was present when the model immigration legislation was drafted at an ALEC conference last year. … ALEC’s Bowman says that is not unusual; more than 200 of the organization’s model bills became actual laws over the past year.

Goal ThermometerI’ll say it again; these guys are playing a whole different game than we are. Thank god for their hybris. I’ll have more on ALEC later. Despite their furtiveness, there’s info available on them, including this by a Univ. of Wisconsin history professor (h/t a really nice blog called Dictynna’s Net). Stay tuned.

Side note: Congratulations to AMERICAblog readers on reaching the goal for contributions to the Wisconsin Recall. A great showing. May I suggest we push that number even higher?

I’ll keep putting the link up next to Wisconsin posts. We can win these fights, but only if we persist.


Gaius Publius is a professional writer living on the West Coast of the United States.

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