Do you know Alec? You probably do, even though you never heard of it.
Yes, "it." Not a person, ALEC is the acronym for a secretive, corporate-funded, state policy front group: American Legislative Exchange Council. ALEC's "exchange" is very straightforward – it takes about $6 million a year from corporate powers in exchange for linking them directly to hundreds of right-wing state legislators. Like a speed-dating service, ALEC convenes two-to-three dozen private confabs each year, putting corporate executives face to face with lawmakers. In these closed-door sessions, the special needs of corporations are matched with eager-to-please legislators who go back home to push the corporate agenda into state law.
If your legislature is suddenly trying to take away workers' bargaining rights, outlaw citizen lawsuits against abusive corporations, privatize public schools, reduce corporate income taxes while raising taxes on retirees, and otherwise advance extremist, special-interest notions that go against the public will and the common good – chances are you have lawmakers who're carrying bills handed to them in one of ALEC's backroom tête-à-têtes.
The organization brags that it has some 2,000 state legislators on its membership rolls and that members introduce about 1,000 ALEC bills each legislative session, passing about 200 of them a year. ALEC's insidious agenda is driven by a "private enterprise board" made up of such giants as AT&T, ExxonMobil, Koch Industries, Pfizer, and WalMart.
Meanwhile, don't bother asking ALEC for a list of the legislators who play in its corporate bawdy house. That's a secret, it says. But it's only kept secret from you. The corporate powers know all of ALEC's members intimately. Is your own legislator one of them? Ask him or her – and see if they have the integrity to blush.
"Billionaires' front groups attack workers, public schools, and young voters," The Hightower Lowdown, www.hightowerlowdown.org, June 2011.