Smart ALEC: How corporations screw you over behind closed doors
The Nation and the Center for Media and Democracy recently blew the lid off a creepy corporate-backed group called the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, which has been feeding biz-friendly legislation to conservative state legislators for decades. Since 1973, corporations like ExxonMobil, Kraft, Walmart, and the infamous Koch Industries have been using ALEC as a VIP shortcut to state legislative processes.
The “exchange” consists of corporate reps working with legislators to draft paint-by-number bills that serve their interests and are then made available for download by state lawmakers, who can fill in the blanks with appropriate local language and then introduce the measures in statehouses under their own names. Lawmakers pay a nominal $50 annual fee to participate, while corporations cough up $7,000 to $25,000 a year, and up to $10,000 more to participate in one of the group’s nine task forces. ALEC calls itself nonpartisan, but it counts only one Democrat out of the 104 legislators currently in leadership positions. And although it receives direct grants from corporations ($1.4 million from ExxonMobil from 1998 to 2009), the group is 501(c)(3) tax-exempt.
If it ever seemed like local politicians were pandering more to corporate interests than to you and your neighbors’ well-being … well, you didn’t know how right you were.
ALEC has been in the news before — for example, in March, when Grist reported how it had pushed a measure calling for states to withdraw from regional climate initiatives. But thanks to a whistleblower with access to ALEC’s files, almost 1,000 bills from their archive are now available online. This nausea-inducing treasure trove includes over 100 templates related to agriculture, energy, and the environment, all drafted in the kind of verbose, convoluted language industry shills are so good at using to spin perceptions to their advantage.
Here are some highlights [PDFs] — with handy translations:
From “Resolution to Retain State Authority over Hydraulic Fracturing“: “Whereas, Hydraulic fracturing is a proven technology with a long history of environmentally safe use in the completion of oil and gas wells” … “The regulation of hydraulic fracturing under the Federal Safe Drinking Water Act would add burdensome and unnecessary regulatory requirements to the drilling and completion of oil and gas wells … without any ancillary benefit to public health, safety or the environment”
Translation: “Regulating fracking would be such a buzzkill, guys. Seriously, it is sooo burdensome. Just let us do our thing. It’s totally safe. Look at its long history of safeness.”
From “Resolution in Opposition to Carbon Dioxide Emission Standards“: “Whereas, carbon dioxide … is a beneficial gas that contributes to the ecological health of all natural resources”
Translation: “If you want your kids to grow up big and strong, put carbon dioxide on their corn flakes. A huff a day keeps the doctor away.”
From “Resolution to Retain State Authority over Coal Ash as Non-Hazardous Waste“: “Whereas, in EPA’s 2000 determination, the agency concluded that hazardous waste regulation of [coal combustion byproducts] would be environmentally counterproductive because it would unnecessarily stigmatize coal ash and impede its beneficial use in sustainable construction practices”
Translation: “Poor coal ash. So bullied and picked on. It could have a bright future as siding on a one-bedroom ranch, but not if you keep lowering its self-esteem by trying to regulate it.”
From “State Pesticide Preemption Act“: “No city, town, county or other political subdivision of this state shall adopt or continue in effect any ordinance … regarding pesticide sale or use, including without limitation: registration, notification of use, advertising and marketing, distribution, applicator training and certification, storage, transportation …”
Translation: “Do whatever the hell you want with pesticides. Bathe in them, spike the punch with them, start a thriving black-market pesticide trade, for all we care.”
From “Uniform State Environmental Audit Privilege Act“: “An environmental Audit Report shall be privileged and shall not be admissible as evidence in any legal action in any civil, criminal or administrative proceeding”
Translation: “Oh, you thought you could take us down through the courts? Using, like, evidence? SIKE”
For more information on ALEC and to see the full database of bills, check out ALEC Exposed. Then spread the word!