The American Legislative Exchange Committee, familiarly known as ALEC, has come in for substantial criticism as its formerly-secretive operations have become more public. Most of those criticisms have focused upon its success in working with Republican legislators to create state-level policies that benefit businesses and corporations–often at the expense of working Americans and the poor.
Formed in 1973, ALEC was virtually invisible until 2011, when media reports on its activities and priorities–reducing regulation and individual and corporate taxation, combating illegal immigration, loosening environmental regulations, tightening voter identification rules, weakening labor unions, and opposing gun control–brought it unwanted attention, and prompted the departure of several corporate members.
AlEC, the rightwing network that brings conservative lawmakers together with corporate lobbyists to create model legislation that is cloned across the US, has been accused of spreading racist and white supremacist policies targeted at minority communities.
A report published on Tuesday by the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and other advocacy groups charges Alec with propagating white supremacy.
In one of the sharpest criticisms yet levelled at the controversial “bill mill”, the authors warn that “conservative and corporate interests have captured our political process to harness profit, further entrench white supremacy in the law, and target the safety, human rights and self-governance of marginalised communities”
The report came as ALEC was preparing for its four-day Policy Summit in Scottsdale, Arizona. The agenda for that meeting included sessions on several of ALEC’s “core principles” including “election integrity” (more properly called vote suppression), privatization of education and support for homeschooling, and protection for pharmaceutical companies (because Big Pharma needs so much protection….)
The event’s dinner was jointly hosted with the Alliance Defending Freedom, which the Guardian identified as “an anti-LGBT coalition devoted to re-criminalizing homosexuality in the US in the name of Christianity.”
ALEC was also responsible for the passage of 2010 Arizona law SB1070, which initiated what was then the most extreme crackdown on undocumented migrants in the entire country. The measure was patterned after a “model bill” drafted at the ALEC conference the previous year.
The CCR report characterized ALEC as a “shadow state apparatus” in which “private industry seizes control of the authority of the state, writing legislation and public policy for the general public behind the closed doors of a CEO suite,” and it identified four policy interventions that work to advance White Supremacy: “Stand Your Ground” laws (studies show that states having such laws are much more likely than states without them to rule homicides justifiable in cases of white-on-black killings); voter ID laws (overwhelmingly shown to disproportionately disenfranchise minority and poor voters); “critical infrastructure” bills (these bills criminalize efforts to protest contested infrastructure construction like the Dakota Access pipeline); and efforts to ban criticisms of Israel on college campuses.
These positions would be cause for concern coming from any organization, but they are truly dangerous coming from ALEC, because its partnership with state-level Republicans has been both secretive and wildly successful.
Bill Meierling, ALEC’s head of External Relations, boasts that
“Alec is routinely targeted because its member legislators are nearly 300% as effective as any other group of elected officials. In fact, this year, USA Today reported that of 10,000 bills analyzed in state legislatures from 2010-2018, 2,900 were based on Alec model policy and more than 600 became law.”
That’s a statistic that makes the hair on my neck stand up.