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Cristina Francisco-McGuire on December 2, 2011 - 1:06am
This week, as the corporate-funded American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) convened its annual States & Nation Policy Summit in Scottsdale, Arizona, labor, civil rights, and activist groups took advantage of the opportunity to highlight ALEC’s role in advancing conservative legislation on everything from voter ID to SB 1070 copycat bills. National groups such as Common Cause and MoveOn joined the state AFL-CIO, Occupy Phoenix, and others to plan five days’ worth of events during the duration of the conference to highlight the detrimental effects that ALEC-backed policies have had on the economic security of families in both Arizona and states across the country — and to warn about elements of their destructive agenda that may be introduced in coming legislative sessions.
"ALEC is the mechanism companies use to control public policy," said former Arizona State Rep. John Loredo at a press conference held outside the state house with other community members highlighting the effects of right-wing legislation in Arizona. "This is policy designed to enrich the richest corporations in the country at the expense of the middle class and the voters.”
ALEC’s close ties to corporations — who pay hefty membership dues and provided nearly 85% of their funding stream in 2010 — have been highlighted by many observers as the real motivation behind their extreme, right-wing efforts to limit government and curb industry regulations. Its partnership with the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), for example, was widely reported as a main impetus behind Arizona’s notorious anti-immigrant SB 1070, which, by sending thousands of undocumented immigrants to prison, would equate to millions of dollars in profits for CCA and its cohorts in the private prison industry. While similar anti-immigrant bills were filed in dozens of states this year, the vast majority failed to advance. Meanwhile, the few states that did see passage of SB1070 copycat legislation — including Utah, Indiana, Georgia, Alabama, and South Carolina — have seen their laws challenged in costly court battles and their state economies teeter from the impact of reduced tourism and taxpayers fleeing to other states.
Similarly, ALEC’s cozy relationship with Blue Cross Blue Shield, which sits on their Health and Human Services Task Force, has ensured that insurance industry representatives have a captive audience to whom they can pitch legislation designed to increase their own bottom lines while undermining the effectiveness of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) for families. As former insurance executive turned industry watchdog Wendell Potter wrote in The Nation this summer, ALEC’s health care policies over the years have aimed to “not only undermine the consumer protections in the Affordable Care Act,” but to “shred the social safety net for the most vulnerable among us: older, disabled and poorer Americans, and those who become victims of a system that is supposed to heal, not harm.” The threat from ALEC to the health security of families will continue in sessions next year, after the group adopted model legislation this week that would further weaken the ACA.
Another ALEC policy priority failed this week in New Hampshire, where a months-long drama orchestrated by conservative House Speaker William O’Brien ended as the state House of Representatives called a vote on but failed to override Governor John Lynch’s veto of anti-worker “right-to-work” legislation. Republican State Rep. Gary Daniels spoke out against the bill, saying, "Let those who wish to associate with unions to freely do so, but let's also show compassion for those who choose not to associate with unions." Despite the widespread failure of ALEC-backed “right-to-work” bills intended to weaken private sector unions this year, and despite the election results earlier this month that indicated a backlash against attacks on workers, Indiana conservatives indicated their intention to press ahead with similar legislation next session.
Common Cause and People For the American Way Foundation released a report this week highlighting the specific effects that ALEC policies have had on Arizona families, finding that the 22 major companies represented on the group’s Private Enterprise Board have spent a total of $16 million in Arizona state political campaigns over the past decade. As legislators and citizens alike learn more about the secretive group’s agenda, they are seeing that ALEC’s narrow-minded, corporate-directed priorities are increasingly out of line with the needs of working families and the 99%.
Full Resources from this Article
People for the American Way Foundation and Common Cause — ALEC in Arizona: The Voice of Corporate Special Interests in the Halls of Arizona’s Legislature
This article is part of PSN's email newsletter, The Stateside Dispatch.
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