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Happy Holidays from ALEC

Lobbyists continue program of drafting corporate-supported bills

By Michael King, Fri., Dec. 27, 2013

Happy Holidays from ALEC

As we've reported before (e.g., "Point Austin," July 26), the American Legislative Exchange Council – better known as "ALEC" – is a major-corporation lobbying consortium masquerading as a nonpartisan nonprofit, with heavy influence on state legislatures, particular their Republican members. After bad publicity generated by ALEC's initial promotion of the "Stand Your Ground" law that figured centrally in the Florida Trayvon Mar­tin killing by George Zimmerman, some legislators – including the handful of Texas Dem­ocratic members – fled ALEC, and a few image-sensitive corporations dropped their sustaining support.

But ALEC soldiers on, and recent research by the Brookings Institution, a progressive think tank, reflects that the organization continues its successful program of drafting corporate-supported bills, presenting them whole to legislators, and promoting their passage, often under bland headings suggesting nothing more than good government. All the while, ALEC's managers do their best to conceal both their sponsorship and their process, like the femme fatale in Elvis Costello's "Watching the Detectives": "She's filing her nails while they're dragging the lake."

Molly Jackman of Brookings performed a national search -- no small task -- on ALEC-sponsored legislation by tracking identifying language in drafted legislation. Here are some of her main conclusions: "First, ALEC model bills are, word-for-word, introduced in our state legislatures at a non-trivial rate. Second, they have a good chance – better than most legislation – of being enacted into law. Finally, the bills that pass are most often linked to controversial social and economic issues." In detail:

Of 132 ALEC model bills introduced, 12 were enacted – a 9% survival rate nearly five times that of the average bill in Congress.

Republicans sponsored more than 90% of the ALEC bills, Democrats less than 10%.

The five most common ALEC bill subjects were: 1) No Sanctuary Cities for Illegal Immigrants; 2) Disclosure of Hydraulic Fracturing Fluid Composition; 3) Castle Doctrine; 4) State Withdrawal From Regional Climate Change Initiative; 5) Consistency of Firearm Regulation.

Some headers (e.g., No Sanctuary Cities) baldly state their intent; others like the Hydraulic Fracturing Fluid Composition Disclosure Act, disguise their actual purpose – in this case, protecting fracking corporations from revealing "trade secrets" and from lawsuits to force disclosure. In Texas, HB 3328 was introduced by then-ALEC member Jim Keffer, R-Eastland, and was one of the 12 enacted ALEC bills studied by Jackman.

For more, see Jackman's "ALEC's Influence over Law­making in State Legislatures" at www.brookings.edu, and also www.alecexposed.org. A good introduction is the video report "United States of ALEC" by Moyers & Company, viewable at www.billmoyers.com.

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