Posted 2 years ago on Feb. 21, 2012, 7:52 a.m. EST by bensdad
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Occupy movement targets ALEC with ties to many legislators.
Protest planned against the American Legislative Exchange Council, which has influence on US lawmakers. Arizona's controversial immigration law, SB 1070, was modeled on ALEC's No Sanctuary Cities for Illegal Immigrants Act.
Co-ordinated protests are planned in some 60 cities later this month against a right wing group which activists say has a hand in writing state legislation that favors corporate interests. Working under the banner Shut Down the Corporations, activists plan to target corporate members of the American Legislative Exchange Council (Alec) with nationwide protests on 29 February.
ALEC, a nonprofit free-market policy group whose membership includes some 2,000 state legislators, wields undue influence by drafting legislation beneficial to its corporate members, which in some cases is then used as a model for legislation in states across America.
ALEC is also a prime mover pushing for an “Article V” Constitutional Convention .
The nationwide protest is being co-ordinated by Occupy Portland, with activists across the country due to take part – including from Occupy Wall Street and Occupy Oakland.
"We call on people to target corporations that are part of the American Legislative Exchange Council which is a prime example of the way corporations buy off legislators and craft legislation that serves the interests of corporations and not people," reads a statement on Shut Down the Corporations' website.
David Osborn, from Occupy Portland, said "non-violent direct action" was being encouraged, including protests, rallies and sit-ins. "In different places it's going to look really different," he said. "In some places it's going to be more of a rally, or a protest outside a corporation that's involved with ALEC, whether that's Bank of America, or Pfizer, Altria, or whatever. In other places, and certainly here in Portland, it's going to take more of the form of civil disobedience or direct action, where people will be doing a sit-in or other creative things to disrupt business as usual."
ALEC was founded in September 1973 as a "nonpartisan membership association for conservative state lawmakers". The organization, which counts the conservative billionaire Koch brothers among its financial backers, has a membership some of the largest companies in America. One of the better known examples of Alec's influence can be found in Arizona's SB 1070 bill. The legislation, seen as one of the strictest anti-illegal immigrant laws in America's history and criticised by Barack Obama, was modelled on ALEC's "No Sanctuary Cities for Illegal Immigrants Act", which had been approved by an ALEC task force made up, in part, of prison companies that stood to benefit from the act being passed.
Democratic lawmakers in Arizona and Wisconsin are seeking to introduce the Alec Accountability Act in their states, which would require ALEC to register as a lobbying organization and subsequently disclose its financiers. Mark Pocan, a Democratic member of the Wisconsin state assembly who is gunning for Congress in in Wisconsin's 2nd Congressional District, is behind the proposed Wisconsin legislation. "ALEC is like a giant corporate dating service [for] lonely legislators and their special interest corporate allies," Pocan told the Guardian. "ALEC operates best when it operates in the shadows. Once people find out that it's really nothing but a front for corporate special interests you start to know that the ideas they put forward aren't in the public good."
Occupy Wall Street has been involved in planning the February 29 protests, which will take place in New York on the day, said Ed Needham, who acts as a spokesman for the group. "People really see it as an incredible example of the type of corrosive relationship between money and politics," he said. "It's really to shine a focus on what ALEC is and how it's very much an instrument of the corporations in terms of buying off state and federal legislators and crafting legislation that is strictly within the 1% interest."
Last year the Center for Media and Democracy and The Nation magazine published a leak of more than 800 pieces of ALEC model legislation, which can be found on the
ALEC Exposed website. The list includes legislation that ALEC Exposed and Shut Down the Corporations say was used to draft Wisconsin anti-Labor legislation and the controversial Arizona immigration law.
Kaitlyn Buss, director of communications at ALEC, said the protests were "not embarrassing in the slightest". "ALEC feels that we understand that not everyone agrees with the principles that were founded on, which is to promote free markets, limited government and federalism throughout American government," she said. "We fully respect the right and expression of those who are protesting but it's not going to distract us from what our mission is." Buss claims legislation that originates with ALEC is "brought to us by state legislatures" and then "approved by their legislative board of directors. What we do value is the energy and the job creation of the private sector and argue very strongly that they should be part of conversation of what our laws are, what our regulations are. Most of these regulations end up very strongly affecting the private sector of our economy, so ALEC, as we promote free markets and limited government, it all works together that we value the private sector, but the actual legislation is very legislative driven."
ALEC's website says that "each year, close to 1,000 bills, based at least in part on Alec model legislation, are introduced in the states. "Of these, an average of 20 percent become law."