Before 1981, a hierarchy existed in America that set the "order" within our society that can simply be described as: citizens, workers/labor, Government, corporations then small business. As members of our society we chose jobs and occupations that fit our education and interests. We elected those we trusted to political office. Once there they were responsible for the smooth operation of government. These individuals from our communities enacted legislation that set our laws (Legislative), enforced those laws (Judicial) and administrated our government (Executive). This is a simplistic description as to how our society worked.
Beginning in the mid 80's things began to change. As I stated earlier, those changes were subtle, hardly noticeable at first. Little things were "fixed", taxes were manipulated and our lawmakers began to listen more and more to large corporations that "donated" contributions to election campaigns. Following a successful run for office, those who had been assisted by corporate donors and supporters, began voting favorably on Legislation that benefited those donors. Instead of voting their consciences or the will of their constituents these men and women ignored both in favor of the "money" that put them in office.
Sure there was some of that going on prior to 1981 and none of us liked it. There was no organization to it then, just a few Legislators looking out for themselves over the wishes of their district or state. That changed also. Laws were passed that began to change things like environmental protection. In response to "smog" from factories in places like Los Angeles and other large urban manufacturing cities, society began to seek laws to protect them from contaminants in our air and water. Other laws were passed to protect our resources, change tax codes, reduce government regulations and oversight of important agencies and departments run by our government. At the center of most of these changes sat a new group of elected officials side by side with their corporate sponsors, donors and supporters.
This was the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). ALEC was formed back in 1973 but it took them seven years to become fully empowered under the Reagan administration. Original members included: Illinois State Rep. Henry Hyde, conservative activist Paul Weyrich, and Lou Barnett, a veteran of then Gov. Ronald Reagan's 1968 presidential campaign, together with a handful of other state legislators. In 1981 President Reagan formed a national Task Force on Federalism, which was headed by U.S. Senator Paul Laxalt of Nevada. Also on the President's Task Force was ALEC National Chairman Tom Stivers of Idaho. Reagan's Task Force on Federalism would come to rely heavily upon members of ALEC. State Senator John Kasich of Ohio and Senate President Robert Monier of New Hampshire regularly met in front of the committee. As a result of the interaction between ALEC members and Reagan Administration officials, ALEC established seven first-generation Task Forces, then called Cabinet Task Forces, which worked directly with the administration on policy development issues.
In 1981, ALEC published and distributed 10,000 copies of Reagan and the States, detailing methods for decentralizing government from the federal to the state level. In 1982, ALEC began developing its first health care initiatives. In 1983, ALEC responded to the Reagan Administration's landmark study, "A Nation at Risk", with a two-part report on Education which placed blame for our nation's educational decline on centralization, declining values, and a liberal social agenda that had infected schools since the 1960s. ALEC's report proposed radical ideas like the voucher system, merit pay for teachers and increased academic and behavioral standards for students as possible solutions to the problems.
Following the end of the Reagan Administration, the Task Forces began to change from submission of ideas into think tanks that proposed model legislative bills. They started to actively seek more and more input from their private sector corporate membership, following ALEC's original philosophy that their private sector "partners" should be an ally rather than an adversary in developing sound public policy.
From that time, ALEC's Task Forces have proposed, written and approved thousands of model legislation on important issues. These model "bills" resulted in moving corporations from below that of citizens and workers in the hierarchy mentioned above. Each year, of the 1,000+ bills proposed as ALEC Model Legislation, an average of 20 percent become law.
ALEC has nine of these "Task Forces" devoted to developing model legislation beneficial to their Private Enterprise Board (consisting of corporate representatives) and their conservative "values". Huge corporations are members of ALEC and the way in which ALEC is set up, no proposed or "model legislation" can leave a task force without the explicit approval of those corporate members of individual task forces. This is a very important aspect of their PAC.
Due to the foregoing policy of disallowing any proposed legislation from leaving a task force without the approval of the corporations sitting on those committees, model legislation cannot move forward to be proposed at the state level unless it has corporate support. Thus, it doesn't matter whether legislation is beneficial to conservatives, liberals, moderates or we as a society, it goes no where unless allowed and approved by the corporations!
Tomorrow I'll discuss some of the historic laws ALEC claims responsibility for. Laws that increase sentences, disallow parole, reduce gain time, provide mandatory minimum sentencing and or course, truth in sentencing that calls for a prisoner to complete 85% of his/her imposed sentence. All of this was explained to us as "protecting" us from crime and hardened criminals, but in actuality they are designed to provide a labor force for ALEC's corporate partners and other corporations, that work for pennies on the dollar to make the products you use today.
In addition we'll look at the impact these laws - proposed and sold to other state legislators by ALEC legislative members - have had upon us and our society. I'll trace the laws ALEC is responsible for that have brought us to where we are today.