For decades, a discreet nonprofit has brought together state legislators and corporate representatives to produce business-friendly “model” legislation. These “model” bills form the basis of hundreds of pieces of legislation each year, and they often end up as laws. As media scrutiny of the nonprofit–the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC–has grown, we’ve built both a guide and a searchable database so you can see for yourself how ALEC’s model bills make their way to statehouses.
The Institute examined American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) member information recently posted at ALECexposed.org by the Center for Media and Democracy. Researchers cross-checked these names against our unique state-level donor database to see how much ALEC members contributed and received in state-level campaigns. Our compelling findings are listed in the report.
When state legislators across the nation introduce similar or identical bills designed to boost corporate power and profits, reduce workers rights, limit corporate accountability for pollution, or restrict voting by minorities, odds are good that the legislation was not written by a state lawmaker but by corporate lobbyists working through the American Legislative Exchange Council. ALEC is a one-stop shop for corporations looking to identify friendly state legislators and work with them to get special-interest legislation introduced. It’s win-win for corporations, their lobbyists, and right-wing legislators. But the big losers are citizens whose rights and interests are sold off to the highest bidder….
… ALEC’s major funders include Exxon Mobil, the Scaife family (Allegheny Foundation and the Scaife Family Foundation), the Coors family (Castle Rock Foundation), Charles Koch (Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation and the Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation), the Bradley family (The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation) and the Olin family (John M. Olin Foundation). These organizations consistently finance right-wing think tanks and political groups.
Members of ALEC’s board represent major corporations such as Altria, AT&T, GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, Koch Industries, Kraft, PhRMA, Wal-Mart, Peabody Energy, and State Farm. Such corporations represent just a fraction of ALEC’s approximately three hundred corporate partners. According to the American Association for Justice, over eighty percent of ALEC’s finances come from corporate contributions….
…The Issues ALEC Lobbies For:
– Undercutting Health Care Reform: Pulling out all the stops to weaken the health care reform law.
– Corporate Power and Workers’ Rights: Curbing protections for workers while eliminating checks and regulations on corporations.
– Voter ID and Election LawsBoosting corporate clout by making it harder for young and low-income Americans to exercise their right to vote.
– Tax Policy: Encouraging tax cuts for the rich that exacerbate state budget problems.
– Private School Vouchers: Taking aim at public education by bolstering risky, wasteful, and ineffective private school voucher programs.
– Obstructing Environmental Protection: Using energy industry dollars to fight climate change policies and regulations on polluters.
Angry voters are increasingly using recall elections to remove local leaders.
From the summary:
Members of Los Angeles’ city council draw the biggest salaries, those in San Antonio the smallest. Philadelphia’s city council members have been in office the longest and San Diego’s and Houston’s the shortest. The council in Detroit spends the highest percentage of the overall city budget on its own operations, the one in New York the lowest.
These are just some of the findings of City Councils in Philadelphia and Other Major Cities: Who Holds Office, How Long They Serve, and How Much It All Costs. The report compares 15 city councils, including the 10 largest, along a number quantifiable measures. Among these items are council budgets, staffing, salaries, certain electoral conditions, tenure and the representation of historically underrepresented groups.
Source: Stateline.org, January 2011
Stateline takes its annual look at the trends and issues that will be the most discussed topics in state government in the coming year.
– As state budgets, payrolls shrink, so do ambitions
– States adjust to a more frugal Washington
– Republicans face obstacles in redistricting
– State budget outlook: the worst isn’t over
– Health care budgets in critical condition
– New balance of power – Stateline’s map details the new 2011 political landscape from governors’ offices to the legislatures.
From the blog post:
Keeping track of local government just got easier with today’s beta launch of OpenGovernment.org, a joint project of the Sunlight Foundation and the Participatory Politics Foundation. The project is a free, open-source web application that allows users to dig into local, city and state level government with unparalleled transparency. This inaugural launch debuts with data from five state legislatures: California, Louisiana, Maryland, Texas and Wisconsin. Residents in these five states can now easily watchdog their state legislators through an online portal of public information. An engaged community is key to creating greater awareness on the importance of transparency in state and local government and infusing greater trust in our elected officials.
Source: Peter H. Stone and Michael Isikoff, Center for Public Integrity, January 05, 2011
A small network of hedge fund executives pumped at least $10 million into Republican campaign committees and allied groups in last year’s elections, helping bankroll GOP victories that changed the balance of power in Washington, according to a review of campaign records and interviews with industry insiders.
The review by the Center for Public Integrity and NBC found that some of the heaviest contributions from industry leaders came late in the campaign or were funneled through obscure “joint fundraising committees” and other independent GOP allies — some of which were set up to maximize campaign fundraising or to avoid disclosing the names of big donors. The Center and NBC analyzed campaign data compiled by CQ Moneyline and the Internal Revenue Service.
From the abstract:
America stands at a moment in history when advances in the understanding of human decision-making are increasing the strategic efficacy of political strategy. As campaign spending for the presidential race reaches hundreds of millions of dollars, the potential for harnessing the power of psychological tactics becomes considerable. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court has characterized campaign money as “speech” and has required evidence of corruption or the appearance of corruption in order to uphold restrictions on campaign expenditures. Ultimately, the Court has rejected virtually all restrictions on campaign spending on the ground that expenditures, unlike contributions, do not contribute to corruption or the appearance of corruption. However, behavioral decision research and theory provide strong support for the notion that expenditures do corrupt the political process, because there is a nexus between campaign spending, strategic manipulation, and sub-optimal voting decisions. This Article applies behavioral research and theory to advance a new definition of “corruption,” arguing that there is a vital governmental interest in regulating campaign expenditures in order to limit manipulative campaign tactics and to reduce the existing inequities in access to channels of communication and persuasion.
Source: Lauren Cohen, Christopher J. Malloy, NBER Working Paper No. w16437, October 2010
From the abstract:
In this paper we demonstrate that personal connections amongst politicians, and between politicians and firms, have a significant impact on the voting behavior of U.S. politicians. We exploit a unique database linking politicians to other politicians, and linking politicians to firms, and find both channels to be influential. Networks based on alumni connections between politicians, as well as common seat locations on the chamber floor, are consistent predictors of voting behavior. For the former, we estimate sharp measures that control for common characteristics of the network, as well as heterogeneous impacts of a common network characteristic across votes. For common seat locations, we identify a set of plausibly exogenously assigned seats (e.g., Freshman Senators), and find a strong impact of seat location networks on voting. Further, we show that connections between firms and politicians influence Congressional votes on bills that affect these firms. These network effects are stronger for more tightly linked networks, and at times when votes are most valuable.