Privatizing Government Services in the Era of ALEC and the Great Recession – Section II, ALEC

note:  this is the third in a series of articles published by the University of Toledo Law Review written by Ellen Dannin

PRIVATIZING GOVERNMENT SERVICES IN THE ERA OF ALEC AND THE GREAT RECESSION

II.   THE AMERICAN LEGISLATIVE EXCHANGE COUNCIL (ALEC)

The American Legislative Exchange Council was, until recently, a little-known but very powerful and influential organization.  ALEC’s most important role is drafting model legislation. 20   According to ALEC, it “has nearly 1,000 pieces of model legislation.” 21   More than 200 of ALEC’s model bills were enacted in 2009. 22   Until April 17, 2012, ALEC’s model legislation was developed and promoted by nine national task forces.  On that date, ALEC announced that it was eliminating its Public Safety and Elections task force in order to focus on economic issues.23   The remaining task forces are Civil Justice; Commerce, Insurance and Economic Development; Communications and Technology; Education; Energy, Environment and Agriculture; Health and Human Services; International Relations; and Tax and Fiscal Policy. 24

According to ALEC, its task forces “also commission research, publish issue papers, convene workshops and issue briefings, and serve as clearinghouses of information on free market policies in the states.” 25

In July 2011, ALEC’s work was brought to national attention when the Center for Media and Democracy “obtained copies of more than 800 model bills approved by companies through ALEC meetings, after one of the thousands of people with access shared them, and a whistleblower provided a copy to the Center.  Those bills, which the Center has analyzed and marked-up, are now
available at ALEC Exposed.” 26   National Public Radio Reporter Laura Sullivan describes ALEC as “a membership organization of state legislators and powerful corporations and associations, such as the tobacco company Reynolds American Inc., ExxonMobil and the National Rifle Association.  Another member is the billion-dollar Corrections Corporation of America—the largest private prison
company in the country.” 27   According to Sullivan:

State legislators pay $50 a year to belong.  Private corporations can join, too.  The State legislators pay $50 a year to belong.  Private corporations can join, too.  The tobacco company Reynolds American Inc., Exxon Mobil Corp. and drug-maker Pfizer Inc. are among the members.  They pay tens of thousands of dollars a year. Tax records show that corporations collectively pay as much as $6 million a year … [which is used to] throw three annual conferences.  The companies get to sit around a table and write “model bills” with the state legislators, who then take them home to their states. 28

The legislators receive “scholarships” to fund their attendance at those conferences and are encouraged to bring their families.  Entertainment for the legislators’ families is funded by ALEC. 29

During these conferences, ALEC members draft model legislation on a wide variety of subjects that track the range of ideological views and interests of its corporate and legislative members.  For example, ALEC, state legislators, and representatives of the Corrections Corporation of America predicted that detaining immigrants would be their next big market, so the group drafted a model bill that, four months later, became, “almost word for word, Arizona’s immigration law.” 30   These bills can often produce economic benefits for ALEC members, such as the Corrections Corporation of America.  Criminalizing acts such as not producing proof of citizenship increases the imprisoned population and the need for more prisons, which potentially creates more business for the Corrections Corporation of America.  In a similar fashion buy Adderall online, ALEC members that provide private education can benefit from legislation that uses tax dollars to support private schools.

ALEC has been building on its state legislative successes by creating a federal relations program of state representatives who have been elected to the U.S. House and Senate.  Ninety ALEC alumni now serve in the U.S. House of Representatives and nine in the U.S. Senate. 31   However, more recently, ALEC and its members have come under attack for a number of reasons, including
dodging taxes. 32   In addition, as information about ALEC’s conduct has been made public, many ALEC members have dropped their membership. 33

next installment:  III.  ALEC AND PUBLIC EDUCATION

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FOOTNOTES:

20. Legislative Membership, AM. LEGISLATIVE EXCH. COUNCIL (ALEC),
http://www.alec.org/membership/legislative-membership/ (last visited Jan. 8, 2012)
.
21. Id.

22. Laura Sullivan, Morning Edition: Shaping State Laws with Little Scrutiny (NPR radio
broadcast Oct. 29, 2010), http://www.npr.org/2010/10/29/130891396/shaping-state-laws-withlittle-scrutiny.

23. Press Release, Am. Legislative Exch. Council, ALEC Sharpens Focus on Jobs, Free
Markets and Growth—Announces the End of the Task Force that Dealt with Non-Economic Issues
(Apr. 17, 2012), http://www.alec.org/2012/04/alec-sharpens-focus-on-jobs-free-markets-andgrowth-announces-the-end-of-the-task-force-that-dealt-with-non-economic-issues/.

24. Task Forces, ALEC, http://www.alec.org/task-forces/ (last visited Apr. 21, 2012)
.
25. Id.

26. Lisa Graves, About ALEC Exposed, PRWatch, CENTER FOR MEDIA & DEMOCRACY (July
13, 2011, 8:00 AM), http://www.prwatch.org/news/2011/07/10883/about-alec-exposed.  ALEC
Exposed may be found at http://www.alecexposed.org/wiki/ALEC_Exposed (last visited Apr. 23,
2012).

27. Laura Sullivan, Morning Edition: Prison Economics Help Drive Arizona Immigration Law
(NPR radio broadcast Oct. 28, 2010), http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=130833741.
See also Conservative Transparency—American Legislative Exchange Council, MEDIA MATTERS
ACTION NETWORK, http://mediamattersaction.org/transparency/organization/American_Legislative_Exchange_Council/overview (last visited Jan. 8, 2012).

28. Sullivan, Shaping State Laws with Little Scrutiny, supra note 22.

29. Id.; Governor’s Commission on Privatization Recommends…Privatization, TUCSON
CITIZEN.com (Dec. 8, 2010, 10:17 AM), http://tucsoncitizen.com/cell-out-arizona/2010/12/08/governor%e2%80%99scommissionon-privatization-recommends%e2%80%a6privatiza
tion/.

30. Sullivan, Prison Economics Help Drive Arizona Immigration Law, supra note 27.

31. Federal Relations, ALEC, http://www.alec.org/initiatives/federal-relations/ (last visited
Jan. 8, 2012).

32. Corporate Tax Dodging in the Fifty States, 2008–2010, CITIZENS FOR TAX JUSTICE,
http://www.ctj.org/corporatetaxdodgers50states/ (last visited Apr. 20, 2012); ALEC Supporters
Dodging State Taxes, IN THE PUBLIC INTEREST, http://www.inthepublicinterest.org/sites/default/
files/ALEC%20Supporters%20Dodging%20State%20Taxes.pdf (last visited Apr. 20, 2012).

33. Peter Overby, Morning Edition: Companies Flee Group Behind ‘Stand Your Ground,’
(NPR radio broadcast Apr. 19, 2012), http://www.npr.org/2012/04/13/150528572/as-pressuremounts-companies-flee-coalition; Peter Overby, All Things Considered: Conservative Group’s Charity Status Draws Questions (NPR radio broadcast Apr.19, 2012), http://www.npr.org/2012/04/19/150984876/conservative-group-criticized-for-tax-exempt-status.