With ALEC Exposed, It's Time to Punish Politicians Who Let Corporations Write Laws

ilikecheese via Wikimidia Commons/CC BY-SA 2.0

Major corporate backers like Coke and Kraft are fleeing the American Legislative Exchange Council—everyone's favorite affront to democracy (you know, the organization that helps corporations take 'model legislation' they've written like the Tennessee climate denial bill and allows them to place it directly into lawmakers' hands)—after the companies were targeted by advocacy campaigns like ALEC Exposed.

Writing at the Nation, John Nichols argues that it's time to hit ALEC-friendly state legislators, too:

just as the challenges to the corporate sponsors of ALEC are essential, so too are challenges to the legislators who maintain membership in the groups.

These legislators are not thinking for themselves. They are taking their cues from an inside-the-beltway, corporate-sponsored group that effectively demands that they dismiss the will of their constituents in favor of the demands of those corporations. It's a dangerous calculus for democracy. And it is time to start asking legislators why they are answering to multinational corporations rather than hometown voters.

Nichols points to an effort led by Maine citizens to draw attention to state politicians that are members of ALEC, in hopes of publicly discouraging them from their democracy-subverting ways.

This is smart; highlighting legislators' ALEC activities should give rise to some powerful political narratives. After all, major conglomerates are literally drafting legislation designed to make them more money, and any politician that blithely accepts such bills becomes the textbook definition of a corporate shill. And everybody hates corporate shills. Politicians that participate in ALEC are outsourcing democracy to powerful moneyed interests—and that should scare the crap out of voters everywhere. Plus:

'State senator XXX XXXXX tried to pass X bills that were written by corporations' is a soundbite-ready denouncement ideal for attack ads and campaign slogans.

In the green sphere, ALEC has already facilitated the spread of model legislation that pushes public school teachers to teach climate change denial in the classroom. Elsewhere, it's done even more damage.

On a conceptual level, you'd be hard-pressed to find something more antithetical to democracy than ALEC—unelected rich people get to pass bills they wrote to the lawmakers you and I don't have access to, because they're rich!—and shutting it down could preserve environmental protections and other science-based policy currently in the crosshairs of corporate polluters. As such, state level politicians should make halting ALEC an election year priority.

Tags: Congress | United States