by Joye Barksdale and Olivia Sandbothe | December 06, 2013
Turning 40 can be a downer, especially when people protest at your party, a well-regarded newspaper airs your dirty laundry and the deep-pocketed friends you count on turn “mean girl” on you.
That’s how ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, “celebrated” its birthday this week.
ALEC is the business-backed, extremist group that promotes legislation that advances corporate interests and the super wealthy at the expense of working families. Its members are state legislators across the country who sponsor model bills that undercut voting rights and workers’ rights and push corporate tax cuts and deregulation.
This week, The Guardian revealed that many of ALEC’s corporate members pulled out of the organization because they didn’t want to be associated with the Stand Your Ground controversy. According to the article, ALEC has lost 60 of the corporations that fund its operations over the past two years, costing it a third of its projected income. The corporate funders who’ve abandoned ship include Coca-Cola, General Electric, Walmart and McDonald’s.
However, the article, based on documents obtained by the newspaper, also revealed that ALEC has created a special project – “Prodigal Son” – to lure those funders back. It’s also setting up a sister organization called the “Jeffersonian Project” to shield it from possible governmental inquiries about whether some of its activities constitute lobbying. Engaging in lobbying could endanger ALEC’s tax-exempt status.
One of the documents included a proposed agreement that ALEC board members discussed having state chairs, who are elected legislators, to sign. The agreement included this pledge: “I will act with care and loyalty and put the interests of the organization first.” This might surprise those who thought legislators should put the interests of voters first.
The lengthy Guardian article was only part of the fun for ALEC. This week the group is marking its anniversary with a secret policy summit in the basement of a Washington, D.C. hotel. The organization was called out by protestors who showed up en masse to counter their corporate agenda with a working-class perspective. Over 100 people demonstrated, many of them holding picket signs that read “Stop the War on Workers!”
The demonstration didn’t pull ALEC and its legislative lackeys out of hiding, but it did highlight the increasing heat that the organization is facing as a result of its greed-driven agenda. As more details emerge about the reach of corporate dollars in our state capitols, ALEC and its allies are increasingly on the defensive. It’s time to get them out of politics for good.
“Sisters and brothers, as a trade unionist, I stand here appalled. As an African-American man, I stand here angry. As a father of two young men, I stand here heartbroken,” President Saunders began.
He went on to remind the young AFSCME members that this is about more than one trial, “it’s about a broken system.”
The room fell silent.
He continued, “We take these moments of silence, but we can’t afford to remain silent. We must gather our energy, our passion and, yes, our anger. The struggle continues, sisters and brothers.”
When President Saunders announced that AFSCME would join with the NAACP and the National Action Network in pursuing civil rights charges through the Justice Department, the room erupted in applause.
Later, Van Jones, host of CNN’s Crossfire, gave the conference’s closing keynote address. He began, “I want to apologize to your generation. You all should not have to be dealing with this kind of stuff.”
He called “Stand Your Ground” legislation – put forth by the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC – “the privatization of racial violence.”
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