Chances are, you’ve never heard of ALEC. You might just know him as a Trump impersonator from SNL. Unfortunately, in this context, ALEC is much, much more.
The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is a lobbyist group that outlines laws for legislators to introduce, often at public expense. ALEC allows corporations to give their requests to legislators, who then create model bills that outline those requests. In turn, corporations fund ALEC by paying for a seat on the councils that vote on these model bills. Additionally, ALEC claims to be a bipartisan organization, yet there is currently only one Democrat out of the 104 leading legislators. Almost every single bill they create can be traced back to a corporate interest.
For example, the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) sat on a council that voted for a model bill that expanded immigration incarceration as well as privatized prisons. This directly benefits them because it sends more people to prisons they profit from. The same goes for tobacco giant Reynolds and pharmaceutical firm Bayer, who both counseled on reforms that make it more difficult for injured Americans to sue after they use harmful products. There are countless more examples.
“If it’s anti-immigration bills written hand-in-glove with private prison corporations, it’s ALEC. If it’s working with the N.R.A. on ‘Shoot to Kill’ laws, it’s ALEC. When you start peeling back state efforts to opt out of the regional greenhouse gas initiative, it’s ALEC.” – Doug Clopp, deputy director of programs at Common Cause, via The Atlantic
But how do legislators benefit? Well, ALEC Exposed reports that ALEC provides lavish accommodations for their committees, and they provide opportunities for legislators to make connections with big corporations who may later donate to their campaigns. During their free vacations that include the legislator’s whole family staying in five-star hotels, ALEC will even pay for after-hours partying. In 2009, they paid over $250,000 in child care and may have reimbursed a governor who visited a strip club during the 2011 trip. It seems that, at least, legislators should be required to disclose what they receive from ALEC.
ALEC presents a major ethical problem for the American legislature, because corporate influences mess with the public’s well-being in a major way. Companies find ways to profit off of bad laws, and legislators are happy to help them do it for free weekend trips and donations. Under ALEC, model bills are turned into real laws and reforms, and those laws effect our everyday lives. We can no longer afford to let big money influence our legislation.