Saturday, February 22, 2014

The ALEC Ponzi Scheme

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is a monument to political cynicism, a lobbying “Ponzi” scheme allowing corporations contributing tax-free dollars to slush funds to ferry legislators to posh resorts, wining and dining them while, as put it, indoctrinating “legislators with skewed statistics and distorted analysis in support of the agenda of these special interests.”

ALEC encourages lawmakers to bring the whole family on ALEC’s tab. Childcare is even provided, what ALEC calls “Kids Congress.” The goal of corporate sponsors isn’t social engagement. A Wisconsin legislator said ALEC “operates like a dating service between legislators and special interests.” 

If you don’t know about ALEC, you must. A long list of Wyoming legislators, all Republicans, belongs. identifies the following Wyoming members: Laramie County House members John Eklund and Dan Zwonitzer as well as Representatives Rosie Berger (R-51), Richard Cannady (R-06), Kathy Davison (R-20), Allen Jaggi (R-18), Thomas Lockhart (R-57), Carl Loucks (R-59), Speaker of the House Tom Lubnau, II (R-31), David Miller, Tim Stubson (R-56), and Matt Teeters (R-05). Rep. Norine Kaspwerik identified herself as a member in a letter-to-the-editor defending her ALEC participation.

Wyoming senate members were identified as Laramie County senator Leslie Nutting, as well as Senators James Anderson (R-02), Eli Bebout (R-26), Bruce Burns (R-21), Cale Case (R-25), Henry Coe (R-18), Stan Cooper (R-14), and Dan Dockstader (R-16).

ALEC is the creature of Paul Weyrich, the Karl Rove of his times. Weyrich co-founded conservative think tanks like the Heritage Foundation, the Free Congress Foundation, and ALEC. Weyrich coined the term "moral majority,” the political action group he co-founded in 1979 with Jerry Falwell.

The Center for Media and Democracy recently issued a report on ALEC entitled “Buying Influence,” providing details of a strategy ALEC has successfully and relentlessly kept from the public eye. Wyoming legislators are featured prominently in the expose. The report “analyzes new information about how some of the biggest corporations in the world fund trips for state lawmakers to meet with their lobbyists at resorts across the country.”

These expensive events are key to ALEC’s success. “Buying Influence” names Wyoming legislators as  “frequent flyers.” ALEC is not forthcoming with answers, as you might imagine so the 2013 report was forced to rely on data from 2006-2008 and 2010. During that time Wyoming ALECs were reportedly the sixth highest recipients of ALEC’s largesse, cashing “scholarship” checks for $111,750.

The ethics law Wyoming’s legislature passed to prevent questionable conduct conveniently exempts reimbursement for this sort of travel.

What does ALEC get for its trouble? These “meetings” give corporate lobbyists exceptionally close access to key lawmakers. The lobbyists and the legislators break bread while agreeing on “model” legislation that lawmakers take home and introduce. At you’ll find a long list of legislation they support.

They encourage legislators to reject Medicaid expansion, “downsize” government, privatize education, fund for-profit prisons, deny climate change, outsource jobs, break unions, reduce workplace safety, and pass voter ID laws. Before ALEC’s “stand-your- ground” proposal, common law “self-defense” doctrines prevented “gun-toters” from killing teenagers for simply playing loud music or wearing hoodies.

ALEC opposes any “tax increase in this time of historic budget gaps before addressing the excessive amount of pay government workers receive in comparison to workers in the private sector” and demanding “accrued retirement benefit obligations to all (public employees) be immediately adjusted to a level comparable to that of private sector workers.”

ALEC opposes minimum wages increases and seeks to have government regulations replaced with “market disciplines.”

If any of that sounds familiar as the current legislative session unfolds, it’s no coincidence. An ALEC executive boasted, “With our success rate at more than 20%, I would say ALEC is a good investment. Nowhere else can you get a return that high.”

ALEC and too many Wyoming legislators quietly make the world a safer place for big Pharma, the Koch Brothers, insurance and chemical companies, big tobacco, and other corporate interests.

And Wyoming voters thought their representatives were dreaming up these crazy bills on their own!

1 comment:

  1. Looks like a rogues gallery of crooked politicians at work (or play?) in Wyoming.
    I fully agree with this writing and I believe it is true and correct as I verily believe. Wyoming isn't the only state where this corruption exist. It's all over the country.