Here’s how ALEC works: A small group of wealthy, powerful men meet in secret and write a law that would bring lots of money to them and their friends. Then they fly a bunch of state legislators to a big shindig, wine and dine them, put them in a fancy hotel, wow them with speakers such as Milton Friedman and Dick Cheney. Then they share the laws with the legislators, who maybe tweak them a bit and then take them home and introduce them as their own. There must be a word for this. It’s not “representative,” and it’s not “democracy.” It might be “lobbying,” but ALEC’s lawyers evade this definition to slip through a loophole in anti-corruption laws. Anyway, “lobbying” is too weak a word. I’d say ALEC is more of an outsourcing of the most basic function of government. Our elected politicians aren’t lawmakers, they’re lawfetchers.
ALEC calls itself nonpartisan. Some people question this, and point to the fact that over 99% of their members belong to the same party. But I think “nonpartisan” is quite right. To be partisan, you have to believe in a set of political principles. And on every major issue, ALEC is all over the political map, sometimes favoring progressive principles, sometimes conservative. Sometimes they’re libertarians, sometimes they’re champions of the welfare state. Like some Democrats, they crave enormous and ever-growing public spending. They lie on their backs with their mouths open under the great federal spigot and only pause when they have to laugh.
ALEC is vehemently opposed to many core Republican principles. They will fight to the death against states’ rights: they think every state’s policy should be set by a small, secret committee of bureaucrats (them).
What about other issues, say, immigration? Well, if their companies can build the fence and provide the private border security, then they’re all about keeping the illegal immigrants out. But more commonly, as in the notorious Arizona law they wrote, ALEC wants to let the illegals in so that they can be arrested and put into the private prisons built by the taxpayer and operated, at a tidy profit, by ALEC members. Prisons for profit are an ALEC staple. In fact, their privatization strategy is pretty much the same for prisons and for schools: they get government money for each inmate or student; they supply the inmates or students with as little as they can get away with; they pay the guards or teachers as close to minimum wage as possible; they pocket the change. And the change, in both cases, runs into the hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars. Two things America produces in great quantity are children and prisoners.
Republicans claim to be all in favor of small business. ALEC eats three small businesses over easy every morning. There are no ALEC members who run small businesses. The annual dues are 25 grand!
Most Republican state legislators are opposed to Affirmative Action which might help poor and downtrodden students attend state universities. But luckily for these principled politicians, ALEC is all for Affirmative Action. A portion of their corporate fees is set aside for what they actually call “scholarships” for poor and downtrodden state lawfetchers to attend the conferences.
ALEC adores government regulations. They write thousands of pages of the stuff every year. They are a factory for red tape.
Mitt Romney mocked Obama for his statement: “You didn’t build that.” And Republicans claim to be on the side of the people who build things, the people who do the real work that keeps the economy moving. ALEC is not interested in building. They’re into destroying and mooching. They are attempting to dismantle American public education, a huge and mostly successful institution that took a hundred and fifty years to build. And they mooch. The reason they target state houses is that they want public money. The for-profit universities want more government-sponsored loans that students will never be able to pay back, the online education providers want more local funding for their teacherless schools, the for-profit schools want more vouchers for wealthy families. ALEC doesn’t build anything, and they have nothing but contempt for the suckers who do.
And ALEC certainly isn’t Tea Party, though they like to direct the populist rage toward teachers. Tea Partiers froth at the mouth at the thought of any redistribution of wealth. ALEC is all about redistribution of wealth: from the taxpayers, from the workers, from the urban poor, from the country rednecks, from the suburban middle class, from the 99% … to them.
This year in Ohio, teachers and administrators across the state are pulling our hair out dealing with the latest abomination from the lawfetchers in Columbus: it’s 57,000 words of new government regulations known as House Bill 555. Its two sponsors are ALEC members. Six of its seven co-sponsors are ALEC members. It’s not an Ohio law. It’s an ALEC law.