DEMOCRACY?

by: Blaine Skrainka

July 30, 2011

Last week, Bloomberg News exposed one of the worst aspects of our supposed democracy. The American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, is a Washington-based policy organization that goes beyond lobbying. Rather, representatives from corporations including Koch Industries, Exxon Mobil and BP sit at the table with our legislators and actually write laws.

ALEC has drafted nearly 1,000 model bills, around 20% of which have been enacted as law. The group adopts a national-level policy, and then sets to introduce it to all of the State Legislatures. Little was known about the organization prior to Bloomberg’s exposé; much of their information came via leaked documents. ALEC is a tax-exempt organization and does not have to disclose their corporate donors.

Membership to ALEC can run up to $25,000, along with fees as much as $35,000 to be on a “task force” for specific legislative drafts. The money doesn’t stop there. Event sponsorship can go as high as $100,000. The leaked documents are likely only the tip of the iceberg; there is no way to know what other sponsorship contributions and donations may occur. Legislators on the other hand pay a modest fee of $100 for a two-year membership, and are reimbursed for travel and accommodation to ALEC events. The Republican speaker of the Virginia House received nearly $3,000 for his participation in one event.

Many of the model laws target the EPA and efforts to curb carbon emissions:

“ALEC published a report called ‘EPA’s Regulatory Train Wreck: Strategies for State Legislators.’ The report urges state lawmakers to adopt resolutions asking their members of Congress to stop EPA from regulating greehouse gases ‘by any means necessary.’”

These model bills are written by industry insiders whose only responsibility is to increase shareholder value, regardless of the damage to our environment and society. Corporate lobbying already presents conflict of interest issues, but ALEC provides a platform to avoid registering as a lobbyist and write legislation behind closed doors.

97% of scientists agree that human-caused carbon emissions are contributing to global warming. Climate change aside, we are depleting oil, water and other natural resources at an unsustainable rate. Do you ever wonder why in the face of such crises, we have no comprehensive energy policy reform? This is why. This is our so-called democracy.

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