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Negin writes: "Since its founding in 1973, ALEC has ghostwritten state legislation across the country on a wide range of issues, from voter ID laws to prison policy to worker protections, as a number of press accounts have pointed out."

Most of ALEC's money comes from corporate and foundation grants. (photo: Adbusters)
Most of ALEC's money comes from corporate and foundation grants. (photo: Adbusters)

ALEC's Other 'Deadly Force' Campaign

By Elliott Negin, Reader Supported News

22 April 12


he relatively unknown American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) got a black eye recently when news stories revealed it was a prime mover behind "Stand Your Ground" laws in Florida and 24 other states that temporarily shielded the man who shot 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.

But the secretive group's influence in statehouses goes a lot further than deadly force, self-defense laws. Since its founding in 1973, ALEC has ghostwritten state legislation across the country on a wide range of issues, from voter ID laws to prison policy to worker protections, as a number of press accounts have pointed out.

What has gone unmentioned, however, is ALEC's longtime stealth campaign to scuttle state-and federal-climate change initiatives, despite the fact that a number of its corporate members publicly acknowledge that global warming is a serious problem. They include General Motors; oil giants BP America, Chevron, ExxonMobil and Shell Oil; and electric utilities Duke Energy, Entergy and Progress Energy.

By ALEC's own count, it has nearly 2,000 state legislator members who pay a token fee of $100 for two years. Most of its money comes from corporate and foundation grants, and the approximately 110 corporations, 40 trade associations, 67 nonprofits and 23 corporate law firms that pay annual membership dues of $7,000, $12,000 or $25,000. That fee not only gives corporations direct access to ALEC legislators, it gives them the opportunity to craft model bills that serve as templates for state legislatures without any public awareness of their role.

"ALEC provides the private sector with an unparalleled opportunity to have its voice heard, and its perspective appreciated, by the legislative members," an ALEC brochure explains. ALEC legislators then do the rest. According to ALEC, they have on average introduced more than a thousand bills based on the group's corporate-approved model legislation every legislative cycle, and the organization claims that about 17 percent of those bills have been enacted.

Until last year, not much was known about ALEC. But thanks to a whistleblower who provided internal ALEC documents to the Center for Media and Democracy, a nonprofit public interest group, we now have a list of former and current ALEC members and copies of more than 800 model bills that have been introduced in statehouses across the country. The center, which publishes the PRWatch and SourceWatch websites, posted the documents on a website it named ALEC Exposed.

ALEC Exposed lists nearly 100 model energy and environmental bills that ALEC legislators have introduced over the last decade or so. They include legislation undermining regional initiatives to combat climate change, opposing a national standard requiring utilities to increase their use of renewable energy, and blocking federal standards for vehicle carbon pollution.

After a cap-and-trade bill to reduce carbon emissions failed in the U.S. Senate in 2010, for example, ALEC, industry groups and their allies trained their sights on comparable state efforts, specifically the regional market-based, cap-and-trade systems in the Northeast, Midwest and West that collectively included 32 states. In a March 2011 story in Grist, Dave Anderson-who now works at the Union of Concerned Scientists-reported that ALEC legislators in at least seven states-Michigan, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon and Washington-introduced an ALEC resolution urging their governors to pull out of their regional compact.

That model resolution has been quite successful. Last year, Arizona, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah and Washington quit the Western Climate Initiative, leaving only California and four Canadian provinces. Gov. Chris Christie announced New Jersey was dropping out of the 10-member Northeast Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), although he has yet to issue a rulemaking to make it official. And the New Hampshire Senate fell one vote short of overriding Gov. John Lynch's veto of a bill that would have ended the Granite State's involvement in RGGI. Meanwhile, the Midwestern Greenhouse Gas Reduction Accord-a collaboration of six states and one Canadian province-fell apart on its own when the governors who signed it left office.

In February, press reports revealed that one of ALEC's nonprofit group members, the Heartland Institute, was developing a K-12 curriculum guide that falsely characterized climate science as controversial and uncertain. It turns out ALEC beat Heartland to the punch a long time ago. In 2000, ALEC issued a model state bill with the Orwellian title "The Environmental Literacy Improvement Act," which would enable public primary and secondary schools to teach climate change denial, or "skepticism," as a valid scientific position.

Steve Horn, who writes for DeSmogBlog, a Canadian nonprofit that monitors climate disinformation campaigns, has been tracking the "environmental literacy" bill. In January, he reported that since 2008, ALEC-affiliated legislators have introduced it in Kentucky, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee and Texas. It passed in four of those states-Louisiana and Texas in 2009, South Dakota in 2010, and Tennessee just last month.

In Tennessee, Horn reported last month, the bill was opposed by a wide range of national and state science and education organizations, including the American Association for the Advancement of Science, American Institute for Biological Sciences, National Association of Geoscience Teachers, Tennessee Science Teachers Association, and the eight Tennessee members of the National Academy of Sciences. Even two major state newspapers-the Knoxville News Sentinel and the Nashville Tennessean-condemned the law. No matter, there was little opposition in the statehouse.

ALEC's recent bad press sent 10 high-profile ALEC members, mostly in the food business, scurrying for cover. American Traffic Solutions, Arizona Public Service, Coca-Cola, Kraft Foods, Intuit, Mars, McDonald's, PepsiCo, Reed Elsevier and Wendy's all have severed their ties to the group. But so far, energy and auto industry members are sticking to their guns, even though many of them disagree-at least publicly-with ALEC's climate agenda.

ExxonMobil is a prime example. In January 2007, after the Union of Concerned Scientists, among others, revealed that between 1998 and 2005 the company funneled millions of dollars to more than 40 climate denier policy groups, the company announced that it had stopped funding them. More recently, I found the following unambiguous statement on the company website: "Rising greenhouse gas emissions pose significant risks to society and ecosystems."

Regardless, an ExxonMobil representative sits on ALEC's corporate board, the company cosponsored ALEC's 2010 annual conference, and between 1998 and 2010, it contributed nearly $1.5 million to ALEC. And when a Bloomberg reporter contacted the company earlier this week, spokesman Alan Jeffers said ExxonMobil would remain a member because "we just value the ability to work on issues related to energy and business competitiveness."

Another example is General Motors. Ford and Chrysler used to be ALEC members; GM is still on board. But there may be cracks in the company's resolve. Last month, succumbing to pressure from Forecast the Facts, a meteorology advocacy group, GM announced it would stop funding the Heartland Institute because it "downplays the risks of climate disruption." "GM's operating its business as if climate change is real," GM spokesman Greg Martin told the Los Angeles Times.

Heartland, as I mentioned above, was outed in February for, among other things, planning to disseminate educational materials questioning the reality of climate change. Will GM cut its support for ALEC for the same reason? Perhaps if the automaker gets some unwanted publicity, but that hasn't happened-yet. your social media marketing partner


A note of caution regarding our comment sections:

For months a stream of media reports have warned of coordinated propaganda efforts targeting political websites based in the U.S., particularly in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.

We too were alarmed at the patterns we were, and still are, seeing. It is clear that the provocateurs are far more savvy, disciplined, and purposeful than anything we have ever experienced before.

It is also clear that we still have elements of the same activity in our article discussion forums at this time.

We have hosted and encouraged reader expression since the turn of the century. The comments of our readers are the most vibrant, best-used interactive feature at Reader Supported News. Accordingly, we are strongly resistant to interrupting those services.

It is, however, important to note that in all likelihood hardened operatives are attempting to shape the dialog our community seeks to engage in.

Adapt and overcome.

Marc Ash
Founder, Reader Supported News

+14 # Alexis Fecteau 2012-04-22 10:48
Every republitard should be imprisoned, every one of these "people", and in the case of what the 5 radical politicians on the Supreme Court label "corporate persons", put to corporate death...
+30 # hutlee 2012-04-22 11:27
The concentrated power of ALEC is over whelming the rest of America. Having the power to buy politicians to carry out their agenda leaves the direction of the country in their hands. Needless to say that democracy under such conditions does not exist.

Friends, we can not let our country's direction be determined by a hand full of corporate fascists.
+8 # jwb110 2012-04-22 11:57
And those same sorts of people pointed a finger at the old Soviet Union for their propaganda. Maybe they just took a page from the Marxist/Leninis t texts and used it to their own advantage.
Lets use the Stand Your Ground on them.
+21 # dyannne 2012-04-22 12:18
Those who dismantled ACORN got the wrong acronym. Should have been ALEC.
+11 # chizables 2012-04-22 20:48
Boycott! I don't care if these huge corporations withdrew their funding from ALEC or not. The damage has been done, and I am sure there is more to come.

I have drunk my last Coke, used my last bottle of Kraft salad dressing and mayo, didn't go to McDonald's anyway, my kids like Pepsi but I will not be buying it for them anymore, I did like Wendy's but will never go there again, and I am looking to see which candy bars Mars makes that I will NEVER buy again. Boycott!! Hit them in the only place they have feeling: their profit margin.
0 # Feral Dogz 2012-04-23 13:16
ALEC is the heart of American fascism. Boycott and spread the word. If your representatives in congress or state legislatures are members, call and write them to express your opposition to ALEC's goals.

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