There is a sinister force that is corrupting American politics by
giving the most environmentally destructive elements of Big Business
significant control over state legislatures. The American Legislative Exchange Council
(ALEC) turns 40 this year. This organization is composed of large
corporations and state lawmakers. They draft environmentally harmful
model laws that have been adopted in state legislatures across the
ALEC describes itself as “nonpartisan public-private partnership” and
is registered as a not for profit organization. While the organization
enjoys 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status, many groups see it as little more
than a front for one of the most powerful and influential lobby groups
The threat to America’s democracy from ALEC should not be
underestimated as this is a well-funded and well-coordinated
organization that has a proven track record of successfully manipulating
According to a new report
from the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD), ALEC continues to hold
sway over statehouses across the country. In total, CMD identified 466 ALEC bills
that were introduced in state legislatures during the first seven
months of 2013. At least eighty-four of these measures have become law.
As reviewed in PR Watch,
ALEC’s real mission in state legislatures is, “to allow dirty energy
companies to pollute as much as they want, to attack incentives for
clean energy competitors and to secure government handouts to oil, gas
and coal interests,” says Connor Gibson, a Research Associate at
Fossil fuel lobby
One of the most egregious threats to the public interest comes from
the fossil fuel industry’s involvement with ALEC. “Disregarding science
at every turn, ALEC is willing to simply serve as a front for the fossil
fuel industry,” says Bill McKibben, co-founder of 350.org.
Corporate sponsors of ALEC include the leaders of the fossil fuel
industry. Companies like Koch Industries, ExxonMobil, Duke Energy,
Peabody Energy, BP, Shell, Chevron, TransCanada and American Coalition
for Clean Coal Electricity, as well as industry trade associations and
large corporate foundations provide almost all of ALEC’s funding.
ALEC’s goals are clear, they seek to provide financial rewards and protections to the companies that they work with.
According to Calvin Sloan,
a legislative researcher with People for the American Way, corporations
pay $50,000 each for full membership in ALEC. The purpose of the ALEC
meetings is to instruct lawmakers on policy initiatives, which according
to Sloan is “a fossil fuels-funded agenda.”
“They [ALEC] have participating corporations like fossil
fuel companies drafting legislation that benefits those corporations
directly, and then can get that legislation introduced in 50 states
within a year,” Sloan said. “It’s part of an overall framework of
corporations exerting their will and agenda upon the people.”
ALEC supports some of the most destructive fossil fuel legislation ever tabled including bills supporting coal, fracking and the Keystone XL Pipeline project.
It should come as no surprise that TransCanada Corp., the company that
wants to build the Keystone XL pipeline, is also a member of ALEC. The
company even sponsored an expense-paid trip called “ALEC academy” for
nine ALEC-member state legislators. Following the trip, some of those in
attendance introduced resolutions backing the pipeline in their state
According to CMD, 77 ALEC bills promoting fossil fuels and
undermining environmental protections were introduced in 34 states in
2013. At least seventeen of these measures have become law.
Climate change denial
ALEC’s activities extend beyond support for fossil fuel interests and encompass climate change misinformation. The Environmental Literacy Improvement Act
which passed in at least four states, teaches children that climate
change is a “controversial theory.” (The truth is that with 98 percent
support, there are few theories that have garnered more support from
scientists than anthropogenic climate change).
ALEC is a leading organization that actively denies the veracity of
anthropogenic climate change and opposes limits on climate change
causing emissions. At the 2013 meeting of ALEC, climate change was one
of the items on the agenda.
One of the speakers at this year’s ALEC meeting was Joe Bastardi, he
is a leading climate change denier and television weather forecaster who
frequently comments on Fox News. He has called human-caused global
warming an “obvious fraud.” This year, Bastardi was the speaker at a
plenary breakfast meeting misleadingly titled “A Thoughtful Approach to
Climate Science.” In 2011, he spoke about “The Many Benefits of
Increased Atmospheric CO2″ at ALEC’s annual meeting.
As reported in a May 2013 Forbes article,
Bastardi says that “blaming turbulent weather on global warming is
extreme nonsense.” While many have speculated as to whether he is
willfully ignorant, willful, or just plain ignorant, as a meteorologist
Bastardi should know better.
Opposition to renewable energy
ALEC does not only work in support of dirty hydrocarbons, it also is
working to snuff out renewable energy. “ALEC’s long time role in denying
the science and policy solutions to climate change is shifting into an
evolving roadblock on state and federal clean energy incentives, a
necessary part of global warming mitigation,” says Gibson.
Through legislation called the Electricity Freedom Act,
ALEC sought to prevent states from requiring energy companies to
increase electricity production from renewable energy sources. Because
the Electricity Freedom Act failed to gain the support of state
legislatures, ALEC is modifying its plan of attack against renewable
energy standards. At its August 2013 meeting, ALEC introduced a bill
called the Market Power Renewables Act, which seeks to undermine the
Renewable Portfolio Standard or RPS.
As explained by PR Watch,
this legislation “would phase-out a state’s RPS and instead create a
renewable “market” where consumers can choose to pay for renewable
energy, and allow utilities to purchase energy credits from outside the
state. This thwarts the purpose of RPS policies, which help create the
baseline demand for renewables that will spur the clean energy
investment necessary to continue developing the technology and
infrastructure that will drive costs down.”
Opposition to emissions reduction
ALEC has drafted laws that seek to oppose state efforts to reduce emissions. This includes a model bill titled, “State Withdrawal from Regional Climate Initiatives”, which opposes limiting climate change causing carbon emissions.
ALEC bills have not only opposed efforts from state agencies to
regulate pollution, they even tried to stop the federal Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA) from regulating greenhouse gas emissions.
In essence, ALEC’s goal is to undermine emissions reduction efforts
and to continue our reliance on fossil fuels. Resistance to limiting
atmospheric CO2 represents a serious threat to global health as it is
widely understood that failure to reign in carbon emissions will have
Control of water, land and information
An ALEC bill titled “Environmental Services Public-Private
Partnership Act” would give for-profit companies control over wastewater
treatment and drinking water. Another ALEC law titled “Disposal and
Taxation of Public Lands Act” would give states access to resources in
federal lands that are protected as wilderness preserves.
In addition to promoting anti-environmental bills, and seeking
control over resources, they also craft legislation to control
information and help industry escape public accountability. ALEC’s
Animal and Ecological Terrorism Act would quash the First Amendment
rights of reporters, investigators and videographers by making it harder
for them to document issues associated with food safety and animal
cruelty. This is similar to Utah’s ag-gag law of 2012,
which led to charges against a young woman named Amy Meyer, who filmed
the outside of a slaughterhouse from public land. This ALEC model bill
could also criminalize environmental civil disobedience.
Click here to view the full list of 2013 bills from the ALEC Energy, Environment, and Agriculture Task Force bills.
The American public is increasingly aware of ALEC’s activities. As
ALEC gathered for its 40th annual meeting in Chicago on August 7, they
were met by protesters who marched outside the Palmer House Hotel where
the meeting was held. The thousands who demonstrated included
environmentalists, union members, civil rights activists, and social
justice campaigners. Although this was not the first protest against
ALEC, it was the largest to date.
Groundbreaking news coverage has helped to expose ALEC. Some of the
most inclusive coverage of ALEC was provided by the CMD in the 2011
piece titled “ALEC Exposed.” Another was a documentary from Bill Moyers & Company titled “United States of ALEC”.
One of the ways that ALEC has managed to wield so much power is by
virtue of the fact that they have always functioned in the shadows.
However, people are increasingly coming to terms with the nefarious ways
in which ALEC threatens democracy and efforts to combat climate change.
The normally clandestine activities of ALEC are no longer hidden
under a blanket of secrecy. Companies are increasingly understanding
that involvement with ALEC is a PR liability. Already, there have been a
number of big multinationals that have withdrawn from the organization.
Over the past year-and-a-half, almost 50 global corporations have dropped their ALEC membership and national campaigns are encouraging others to abandon ALEC.
After four decades of covert operations, ALEC is starting to feel the
pressure from public scrutiny. Although ongoing resistance can be
expected from the fossil fuel industry, public awareness can divest ALEC
of its influence over state legislatures.
Shinning a spotlight on ALEC’s activities will kill the succubus that is draining the lifeblood from America’s democracy.
Source: Global Warming is Real
Video – How ALEC Controls US Legislation
Video – ALEC Bill on Capitol Hill
Video – United States of ALEC
Video – United States of ALEC: A Follow-Up
Video – ALEC’s Organized Corruption