ALEC:  A Legislator for Every Corporation

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Ever notice how when something particularly butt-headed, laughable or creepy happens out in the state “laboratories of democracy,” it is usually accompanied by the unsettling sound of ALEC flapping its leathery wings overhead?

For those of you who are blissfully ignorant of ALEC and its doings, ALEC is a corporate-sponsored lobby shop and “bill mill” dressed up as a non-profit charitable organization.  Corporations pay huge annual dues to sit on ALEC task forces, in each state, and hold state legislators hands throughout the law-making process.  So, it is far from surprising that the resulting state laws are exceedingly corporate-friendly.

And the reason this happens on a state level rather than the federal level? because it CAN.  Here’s a good explanation of how this works from progressivestates.org:

Even as state legislatures make spending decisions of the same order as federal legislators, they generally lack any comparable staffing or support. Most state legislatures are made up of poorly paid, part-time lawmakers with few if any staff to research or evaluate the laws they are asked to approve.

So when ALEC delivers “model legislation” to its legislative allies to promote, there are few staff members in the legislature to challenge the expertise presented or uncover the hidden payoffs for corporate interests contained in the legislation.

Moderate legislators appreciate the attention to their needs served by ALEC, so in times of political crisis (“crises” often created by the drumbeat of local media stories generated by ALEC corporate allies), they often feel they need to sign onto some legislation to solve the crisis.

And if there is no alternative legislation available, ALEC can create majority support for its legislation just by being the only serious legislation being discussed on the matter. Since states have little or no public reporting requirements that would require disclosure of junkets and gifts awarded to legislators, ALEC can spirit key state legislators off to luxury “conferences” to win them over to their legislation. And the lack in most states of public disclosure laws for lobbying means that ALEC and its allies can usually operate under the radar of any serious media or political scrutiny.

SWEET!

And one of ALEC’s perennial hot issues?  Western states’ public lands transfers. 

The private sector individuals sitting on that task force?  See if you can guess?  If you said the energy and mining sector of American industry, you’d be correct. 

Just think of it, a world with no endangered species, no brittle environments, no historical significance to get in the way of maximizing returns for shareholders of companies that add value by fracking and digging and drilling and mountain-leveling. 

And the states? well sir, the states would be rolling in great green gobs of American dollars, just for selling off the sagebrush beneath their feet that isn’t getting used now anyway.  THEIR land!  Oh the places they’d go! the schools they’d build! the good they’d do for their citizens!!!

And, clearly, ALEC has thought a lot about how great it would be for the federal government to turn over public lands to corporations the states because they have all sorts of “model bills” in the hopper to help state legislators take a crack at that.

Why, just last year, the Utah Legislature proposed or passed a dozen bills during its 2012–2013 session modeled on ALEC’s vision of state sovereignty over federal lands.  Of course, the Utah legislature’s own legal counsel has warned that the Transfer of Public Lands Act is probably unconstitutional and will not survive a lawsuit.

Fortunately, for the rest of us, ALEC’s staff still seem to be singularly bad at churning out legislative boilerplate.  Rarely do ALEC laws survive court challenge.  Nevertheless, I suspect that part of their strategy is to simply inundate states with non-controversial business-friendly laws that might go unchallenged at least, for a while.

Which brings me to the fun part of all of this.  Guess what Cliven Bundy does when he’s not a-ropin’, a-brandin’, kickin’ cow pies or holding press conferences and prayer meetings?

Well, he saddles up his cayuse and moseys on over to Nevada State Assembly meetings to cheerlead for ALEC:

Just last year, on March 21, 2013, Mr. Bundy spoke before the Nevada Assembly Committee on Legislative Operations and Elections on AB 227, an ALEC-backed bill that paved the way for transfers of federal land to state control. As Bundy said on that occasion, “I must say that I am glad to see you people stand for state sovereignty today.  ‘The State of Nevada has a strong moral claim upon the public land retained by the Federal Government within Nevada’s borders.’ Let us strengthen that bill and go on and claim this land and our sovereignty.”

That little nugget crossed my desk as part of a letter that Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) has written to Mary Kendall, Acting Inspector General of the U.S. Department of the Interior, requesting that she:

. . . investigate the role of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) in efforts to pass bills at the state level that directly contradict federal land management policies and directives, and to assess the extent to which these efforts have affected Department of the Interior personnel.

Good on you, Rep. Grijalva!  I wish you, and IG Kendall, godspeed. And may the force be with you . . .

Posted by Bette Noir on 04/24/14 at 12:16 PM • Permalink

Categories: PoliticsBqhatevwrOur Stupid Media

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Hmmm.  Bundy makes a lot of hay in the press and to his conspiratorially-minded friends over how the Federal Goverment doesn’t actually own the land, yet here he is talking to a State Assembly meeting stating only that the State has a ‘moral claim’ upon land retained by the Federal Government.

Methinks a lot of his supporters may take up gymnastics very soon to try and explain this one.

I wish the media had done a better job pointing out that while Bundy doesn’t recognize the federal government, he’s been more than willing to take ranching-related subsidies from it in the past.

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