WASHINGTON (PAI) – The secretive, right-wing American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) – a business-funded cabal that controls 1,810 state legislators nationwide – “strips away rights” of workers and voters “in the interests of the power they represent,” American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten says.
And thus, in a telephone press conference on Dec. 3, she welcomed the latest exposure of ALEC’s schemes, including ALEC’s plan to require its state lawmaker chairs to pledge their legislative allegiance to ALEC’s goals, not to their constituents.
Weingarten and other ALEC critics spoke as ALEC met for three days, Dec. 4-6, in a hotel in downtown Washington. The conclave brought together, as usual, corporate chieftains and lobbyists who fund ALEC with state lawmakers they influence.
ALEC is a prime mover of anti-worker, anti-voter laws in the states, including legislation stripping teachers of tenure, banning collective bargaining for state and local workers and so-called “voter ID” laws that toss workers, the elderly, young voters and minorities off the rolls.
But it’s been losing corporate members and is running $1 million in the red, due to a nationwide backlash, internal ALEC documents published by The Guardian show.
Corporations dropped out after ALEC was cited as the author of the “stand your ground” Florida state law – copied elsewhere – that let so-called neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman fatally shoot unarmed African-American teenager Trayvon Martin.
One item on ALEC’s agenda, according to the leaked internal board documents, is to reclaim those firms that left due to the flak, such as Walmart and Coca Cola.
“They (ALEC) push legislation to disenfranchise people and to take away workers’ rights,” Weingarten told the conference call. And ALEC’s corporate agenda means “people can’t raise the minimum wage, can’t stay in the middle class and can’t have access to health care,” she added.
ALEC’s latest schemes, according to the internal documents, also envision trying to stop implementation of the Affordable Care Act, through legislation and challenges to groups that help consumers navigate the new law.
And one key ALEC scheme, Weingarten and the other critics added, is forcing the state lawmakers who chair its chapters nationwide to swear fealty to the organization’s goals and legislation, even at the expense of those lawmakers’ voters.
“They’re attempting to put a sledgehammer to the middle class. This is about reducing workers’ rights, voters’ rights and African-Americans’ rights,” she said.
Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Wis., a Wisconsin state legislator for 14 years before joining Congress, said his colleagues “were very aware of ALEC’s influence” in the Badger State. ALEC wrote the legislation that right wing Gov. Scott Walker, R-Wis., used to strip most public workers of collective bargaining rights.
“Corporations and conservative interests are in charge of this organization,” Pocan said of ALEC. “They call the shots, write the legislation and give advice on how to pass it. The public is kept completely in the dark.”
The leaked documents show ALEC’s clout by state. It claimed every Iowa and South Dakota legislator is a member, as are just under a third of Wisconsin’s. ALEC’s worst state is New York, where two out of 212 state legislators (only one percent) are members.
Other groups on the conference call reiterated their request the Internal Revenue Service investigate whether ALEC deserves its tax-exempt status as a non-profit organization. The documents also show ALEC plans to establish a sister non-profit “social service” organization that would let it keep its donors secret.
Photo: Demonstration against ALEC takes place in Chicago. Twitter