Tuesday, July 19, 2011

ALEC exposed

I recently came across an article about Milton Friedman and the corporate-funded American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). ALEC is the source of nearly identical radical state legislative measures which have been introduced or which have passed in many states through GOP efforts.

ALEC has over 800 "model" bills on worker and consumer rights, tort reform, injured Americans, school privitization, higher education, health, pharmaceuticals, safety net programs, the environment, energy, agriculture, democracy, voter rights, federal power, taxes & budgets, guns, prisons, crime, and immigration.

I decided to check into just one of the ALEC ghostwriter bills, the Charter Schools Act. It turns out that Minnesota statute 124D10, Charter Schools, is based on that ALEC bill.

According to the Center for Media and Democracy, "This 'model' legislation would allow for charters from the state to create and operate schools outside of traditional public schools. These schools would be exempt from state laws and regulations that apply to public schools. These schools would be funded on a per-pupil rate, the same as public schools, even if they lack the facilities and other services that traditional public schools provide."

From What is ALEC?:
"Through ALEC, behind closed doors, corporations hand state legislators the changes to the law they desire that directly benefit their bottom line...

"ALEC describes itself as a non-partisan, non-profit organization. The facts show that it currently has one Democrat out of 104 legislators in leadership positions...

"The long-term representation of Koch Industries on the governing board means that Koch has had influence over an untold number of ALEC bills...

"Although ALEC claims to take an ideological stance (of supposedly "Jeffersonian principles of free markets, limited government, federalism, and individual liberty"), many of the model bills benefit the corporations whose agents write them, shape them, and/or vote to approve them...

"ALEC’s appeal rests largely on the fact that legislators receive an all-expenses-paid trip that provides many part-time legislators with vacations...along with the opportunity to rub shoulders with wealthy captains of industry...

"In most ordinary people's view, handing bills to legislators so they can introduce them is the very definition of lobbying. ALEC says 'no lobbying takes place.'...

"20 of the 24 corporate representatives on ALEC’s 'Private Enterprise Board' are lobbyists representing major firms such as Koch Industries, Bayer, GlaxoSmithKline, Wal-Mart and Johnson and Johnson...

"ALEC enjoys a 501(c)(3) classification, which allows it to keep its tax-exempt status while accepting grants from foundations, corporations, and other donors."
With Republican majorities in both houses and the governorship in 21 states, Republicans are busy with almost identical solutions to states' financial woes: "massive tax breaks for big corporations, constitutional amendments to prevent states from raising revenue, the slashing of critical public services, the busting of unions and the privatization of every possible aspect of government including public schools." It may be interesting to find out who among our legislators is working to enact this "disaster capitalism" agenda.

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