As the eyes of the nation are focused on lawmakers in Washington this week, hundreds of right-wing state legislators are quietly meeting with corporate lobbyists behind closed doors in a New Orleans hotel to draft far-reaching legislation. The secret meetings, underwritten by powerful special interests – including the insurance and banking industries, big oil and the pharmaceutical giants – are part of an on-going effort to subvert the public interest by an industry backed-group shamelessly called the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). This hidden collusion between well-financed lobbyists and elected legislators undermines the basic American values of public debate and full-disclosure that Americans rightly expect when our laws are made.
Through ALEC, big corporations lay out more than $6 million a year to wine and dine state legislators, and pay for expensive vacations and junkets, while at the same time drafting corporate-friendly legislation that the politicians then push when they return to their statehouses. This covert coalition of state legislators and Wall Street moneymen has been surreptitiously working out of the view of Main Street Americans to dismantle health, safety and environmental regulations, privatize vital public services, restrict the ability of working men and women to make a fair wage, and reduce the ability of seniors, students, minorities and the poor to vote. All done behind closed doors without the press or public seeing whose palm is greased.
More than 2,000 state legislators are in on the game. Over the years, with corporate backing in their campaigns, they often go for higher office, like former ALEC members Speaker of the House John Boehner and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. More than 70 members of Congress and governors have attended the closed-to-the public get-togethers where corporate CEOs lay out the agenda for the year ahead. It is no coincidence that Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin and Gov. John Kasich of Ohio made attacks on the middle class and collective bargaining rights their top priorities, rather than find real solutions and focus on job creation, when they took power earlier this year. They are both ALEC alumni. Read the rest of this entry →