American Legislative Exchange Council
Acting as a sort of consortium, the American Legislative Exchange Council brings together state legislators and private-sector businesses to discuss public policy and draft model state-level legislation. ALEC’s lawmaker members often introduce those model bills, sometimes word-for-word, in their home states. Although it purports to be “non-partisan,” code words like “limited government” and the fact that Republican state legislators dominate its board of directors broadcast ALEC’s political perspective.
Many of the initiatives pushed by ALEC align with a plainly conservative agenda. In addition to legislation that would deprive the government of revenue, a notable chunk of ALEC’s model bills seek to edge everything from prisons to public schools to health care toward privatization, turning them into new streams of private-sector revenue for its corporate members. A number of Voter ID laws and other electoral restrictions are also tied to ALEC. The most notorious legislation generated by the group, brought to light in the wake of the death of 15-year-old Trayvon Martin, is Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law, versions of which have been pushed in dozens of other states. The resulting controversy prompted a number of high-profile businesses to withdraw from ALEC, and shortly thereafter, ALEC issued a statement pledging to focus on economic issues.
Although ALEC does not have to disclose its donors, among its prominent sources of cash are the Scaife-linked Allegheny and Scaife Family Foundations; Exxon Mobile, PhRMA, Searle Freedom Trust, the Castle Rock Foundation, the Koch-controlled Claude R. Lambe and Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundations, and the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation. Foundation contributions and corporate member account for the majority of ALEC’s budget.
- Since the Center for Media and Democracy obtained an archive of ALEC-drafted legislation and launched the website ALECExposed.org in 2011, shedding light on the secretive organization’s role in voter ID and “stand your ground” laws, many corporations have left and publicly distanced themselves from ALEC, including General Motors, Walgreens, Johnson & Johnson, Wal-Mart, Amazon, McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, and GE.
- In 2013, ALEC began adding a disclaimer to the bottom of all its documents stating: “Because this is an internal ALEC document, ALEC believes it is not subject to disclosure under any state Freedom of Information or Public Records Act.” This move seems to be an attempt to avoid state public records laws. ALEC has also started using the internet drop box website Box.com, allowing ALEC members to share materials via hyperlink.
- A study by the Brookings Institution found that during the 2012 legislative session 132 bills based on ALEC models were introduced in the states, and that Republicans sponsored over 90 percent of them. In addition, the ALEC bills’ likelihood of passing was “strikingly high compared to the dismal rate at which all other bills are enacted into law.”
- While ALEC disbanded its “Public Safety and Elections” taskforce after growing criticism of its role in stand your ground and voter ID laws, according to the Center for Media and Democracy, 10 “stand your ground” bills and 52 bills “to enact or tighten voter-ID restrictions” based on ALEC model legislation were introduced in 2013.
- ALEC has close ties to the Koch brothers. Since 2007, foundations associated with the Kochs have given ALEC around $600,000, and Koch Industries has donated an “untold amount.” Koch Industries has also chaired ALEC’s corporate board and has had a seat on its board for over a decade.