Crash the Party – Expose the American Legislative Exchange Council

Folks in Arizona are calling for “creative diversity of tactics” during five days of protest November 29 – December 3 against the American Legislative Exchange Council’s (ALEC) “States and Nation Policy Summit” in the Phoenix suburb of Scottsdale. ALEC helps corporations pass laws to increase their profits. The protest and day of direct action on November 30 aim to expose the cozy relationships between big-name corporate interests and the right-wing politicians who service them.

The Council is a non-profit forum where corporations work with legislators to write model laws to strengthen corporate power through deregulation, attacks on labor and immigrants, and by weakening environmental and health laws. The model legislation coming out of ALEC is introduced in state legislatures nationwide by thousands of state representatives and other politicians — and ALEC claims that roughly 17 percent of the proposed bills are signed into law. ALEC claims to have almost 2,000 legislator-members — about 1/3 of all state legislators from all 50 states, the vast majority of whom are conservative. 98 percent of its income comes from corporate sources representing a Who’s Who of 300 major US companies, trade groups and law firms.

Despite ALEC’s bold-faced role in putting government at the service of corporations, most people haven’t known about ALEC until recently. There were small protests at ALEC’s spring meeting in Cincinnati and its annual meeting in New Orleans. In July, the Center for Media and Democracy released roughly 800 leaked model bills developed by the Council that are now on-line and subject to public scrutiny. If thousands of people disrupt ALEC’s Phoenix meeting, it will help expose ALEC and make it a household name.

Twelve years after 50,000 demonstrators shut down the World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle on November 30 using a “diversity of tactics” to expose the way the WTO puts government at the service of corporations to exploit the Earth and her people, could history repeat itself in Phoenix on November 30, 2011? By pushing state and local governments to serve corporate interests, ALEC is like an internal-US version of the WTO. Many folks around the country are making plans to be in Phoenix in late November, and solidarity protests are planned for November 30 nationwide.

American Legislative Exchange Council Exposed

ALEC’s mission statement explains that it exists “to advance the Jeffersonian principles of free markets, limited government, federalism, and individual liberty, through a nonpartisan public-private partnership of America’s state legislators, members of the private sector, the federal government, and general public.”

ALEC currently has 9 task forces on different topics, each co-chaired by one elected official and one or more representatives of the “private sector” i.e. a corporate representative. Together, corporations and elected officials develop model legislation. Task forces include: Public Safety and Elections; Civil Justice; Commerce, Insurance and Economic Development; Education; Energy, Environment and Agriculture; Health and Human Services; International Relations; Tax and Fiscal Policy; Telecommunications and Information Technology.

ALEC has a board of directors composed of elected officials, plus a “private enterprise board” composed of corporate representatives. The private enterprise board includes representatives from (among others) the right-wing Koch brothers (Koch Companies Public Sector, LLC – Mike Morgan), ExxonMobil Corporation (Randy Smith), Peabody Energy (Kelly Mader), AT&T (Bill Leahy), Wal-Mart Stores (Maggie Sans), Coca-Cola (Gene Rackley), Kraft Foods, Inc. (Derek Crawford), State Farm Insurance Co. (Roland Spies), UPS (Richard McArdle), Intuit, Inc. (Bernie McKay), Bayer Corp. (Sandra Oliver), GlaxoSmithKline (John Del Giorno), Pfizer Inc (Michael Hubert), Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) (Jeffrey Bond) and the American Bail Coalition (William Carmichael).

The 800 model laws drafted by ALEC are mind-boggling in their pro-corporate scope. They cover school privatization, green house gas emissions, union busting, industrial farming, biotech, fracking, pesticides, liquified natural gas, childhood lead exposure, health insurance, coal ash, international trade, water, banking, consumer protection, auto insurance, credit cards, tort reform, voter ID, guns, death and taxes. ALEC provided inspiration for Wisconsin Governor Walker’s bill stripping public union of collective bargaining rights that led to massive protests in early 2011.

ALEC’s corporate members pay $7,000 to $25,000 a year, plus thousands more to participate on task forces. Legislative members pay $50 a year. Besides getting access to model legislation written by ALEC, legislators and their families receive all-expense-paid trips to ALEC meetings (read: free vacation) where they can network with wealthy corporate representatives — potential campaign contributors. ALEC spent $251,873 for childcare during 2009 so its guests could enjoy themselves. The November Summit meeting, for instance, will be at the luxurious Westin Kierland Hotel in the wealthy Phoenix suburb of Scottsdale.

Criminal Injustice

It is either fitting — or ironic — that ALEC is having their meeting in Arizona given ALEC’s involvement in drafting Arizona Senate Bill 1070, the harsh anti-immigrant law passed in 2010 that sparked massive protests and a boycott against Arizona. SB 1070 requires Arizona police to attempt to determine an individual’s immigration status during a “lawful stop, detention or arrest” when there is reasonable suspicion that the individual is undocumented. The law makes it a misdemeanor for any alien 14-years old or older to be in Arizona without carrying federal registration papers. SB 1070 also makes it illegal to give rides to immigrants or “conceal, harbor or shield” them if they are in the US illegally. The law, which almost requires racial profiling, is on hold after a federal judge issued an injunction blocking its enforcement.

During a December, 2009 meeting in Washington DC ALEC developed a model act with provisions that would become SB 1070 known as the “No Sanctuary Cities for Illegal Immigrants Act.” At the time, Arizona Senator Russell Pearce, who introduced SB 1070 in Arizona, was an executive member of ALEC’s task force on Public Safety and Elections. The private enterprise executive members of the task force included Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the largest private prison company in the US, as well as the American Bail Coalition, representing bail bondsmen and bounty hunters. The National Rifle Association was the private enterprise chair of the task force.

It is significant that corporations which stand to profit when more people are arrested and imprisoned are pushing laws that will accomplish that goal. For example, CCA was expected to earn $74 million for operating private immigration detention centers during 2010.

SB 1070 is not the first law-and-order bill linked to ALEC. ALEC and its partners in the private prison business were behind the dozens of Three Strikes, truth-in-sentencing and mandatory minimum laws passed by states over the last 20 years. ALEC’s model Three Strikes law was called the “Habitual Violent Offender Incarceration Act.” These laws have helped double the number of people imprisoned in the US in the last generation, particularly decimating communities of color. The US has the highest rate of incarceration in the world — over 2 million people. ALEC’s corporate partners have made millions off human suffering.

ALEC has tried to focus the war on terrorism against non-violent environmental protestors by drafting “The Animal and Ecological Terrorism Act” (a broader version of the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act) and the “Environmental Corrupt Organizations-Preventative Legislation and Neutralization” act which treats activists like organ
ized crime syndicates. Even publishing this article could be illegal under the act. These laws have been proposed in at least 16 states.

Because of ALEC’s role in drafting SB 1070, Arizona activists in Project Baldwin describing themselves as “a group of people in occupied Indigenous lands” are organizing the protest in November. Their call to action notes “Whether maintained by the state or corporations, we’re against all systems of control. We are for freedom of movement for all people. ALEC should know there are a million better things to do with their time than plotting mass incarceration. But there’s nowhere we’d rather be than confronting their meeting. We’re calling for four days of action here in occupied Onk Akimel O’odham lands from November 29th – December 3rd, 2011, with an emphasis for action on November 30th (N30!). We encourage a creative diversity of tactics on N30, the 12th anniversary of the Seattle uprising against the WTO. No matter the acronym, ALEC is no different than all the other gangs of businessmen, politicians, and bureaucrats that we’ve been resisting for over 500 years.”


Project Baldwin puts ALEC in the context of colonialism: “Ultimately, there is nothing particularly remarkable about ALEC – everywhere those who benefit most from capitalism meet to devise ways to tweak the existing systems of economic exploitation to work more effectively in their interest.

“Internationally, institutions like the WTO and the IMF are the mechanisms of neo-colonialism, manipulating international markets and rewriting national laws to more efficiently channel the flow of resources from south to north, from poor states to wealthy ones, from marginalized peoples to the global ruling class. ALEC, in turn, represents the collusion of capital and the state to orchestrate the same process at the domestic level in the U.S.

“The policies that ALEC promotes are fundamentally designed to maintain control over marginalized populations upon whose exploitation the nation’s corporations and ruling class depend to maintain their economic and political domination. For instance, ALEC’s work on the behalf of the prison industry has targeted communities of color for criminalization and incarceration, creating a constant flow of human fodder for the prison industry and reinforcing the racialized and class-based hierarchies that underpin capitalism.

“It is important to articulate resistance to ALEC in terms of what it represents on a global scale and the role it plays in the over 500 year process of colonization in the Americas. ALEC presents the unique opportunity to resist colonialism by directly confronting capital and the state while illustrating the ways in which each institution supports and defends the other.

“ALEC is the perfect example of how hollow and false social democracy is. ALEC and every one of the policies it promotes deserve to be directly confronted with fierce and uncompromising resistance to interrupt their ability to destroy lives and promote misery.”

For more information about ALEC and how you can go to Arizona to shut it down, check out: or or email To plug into the November 30 solidarity action in the Bay Area, contact:,

Leap Day Action Night – February 29, 2012

Leap Day — February 29, 2012 — is the perfect opportunity for decentralized, spontaneous, uprisings and unrest against the dreary business as usual of global industrial capitalism and for a new world organized around human happiness, beauty, justice and ecological sustainability. Can you and your friends organize an event in your town to create a large and geographically diverse Leap Day revolt?

Leap Day is an extra day — a blank slate waiting to be transformed. Leaping is an uplifting, explosive, hopeful action. Put down this paper and try it right now –you’ll feel different and maybe better. Leaping can move you from an isolated, inconvenient spot surrounded by mud or snakes or a chasm to the next solid ground. When you leap, you leave the ground and fly free into the unknown.

The stability of the corporate / technological system is more fragile than it has been for decades. The stagnant recession and the increasingly wide gap between the super rich and the declining middle class have been undermining the legitimacy of the system for billions of people in new emotionally powerful ways.

The economic crisis is unfolding just as 200 years of industrialization and rapid population growth have pushed the ecological costs of our unsustainable lifestyle to the breaking-point. Normally during a recession, prices tend to fall as demand decreases. This time, prices for food, fossil fuels and other resources are still going up as a result of climate change-related crop failures and the depletion of easily produced oil and minerals. Clean air, clean water and topsoil are all endangered while toxic chemicals concentrate in our body tissues.

All around the world, people are responding through beautiful, creative, powerful revolts. Each situation is unique but generally what unites the Arab spring, the London riots, unrest in Greece, the M15 movement in Spain, student revolts in Chile and mass occupations in Israel are oppressive political and economic relations coupled with an utter failure of the system to offer any sanctioned alternative.

That same dynamic perfectly describes the US as we move to 2012. Obama, the Tea Party, the non-profit-industrial complex, religion, the media, consumer society — none of them offer a way out of the economic injustice, meaninglessness and environmental devastation of day-to-day normality. To the contrary, they all seek to maintain and enlarge the very systems that are not working.

The most striking thing about the current moment is the relative lack of unrest in the US in the streets, schools, workplaces and throughout society. There aren’t significant, broad-based US movements organizing resistance nor is there a lot of unorganized, spontaneous disorder.

But just like a tiny spark can ignite an inferno on a hot windy afternoon in a dry forest, it is easy to imagine a popular uprising spreading through the US — it’s just hard to say what might touch it off.

Which is why it’s so important to poke and prod the system by creating new, visible and destabilizing situations — throwing snowballs at banks, organizing unsanctioned parties at rush hour, unruly bike rides with illegal sculptures on the interstate, and rowdy, exciting, engaging protests.

It’s time to stop letting our rulers define the limits of what is possible by always protesting against the latest austerity measure, police crackdown or oil spill. Revolts are successful because they create their own energy and inspiration — a precious sense of creativity and possibility that comes through collective action.

We have to check-in with what we’re struggling for and appreciate the humbling beauty of the world and other people around us. Our gratitude and love make life meaningful and give us strength and courage to take on the inhuman forces of blind obedience, unjust order and the computerized death machine. In the chaotic, terrifying confrontations to come, remember to tell those around you how you love and appreciate them.

Revolting on Leap Day is arbitrary — high time and yet it could be any other time just as well. In 2000, in the wake of the huge protests against the World Trade Organization in Seattle, some of us in Berkeley created what we think was the first Leap Day Action Night. The size, radicalism and rebellious success of Seattle was a welcome surprise to many its participants — the energy we shared there is a great model for what we need now.

For 2000 Leap Day, one tiny meeting led to a night of mobile disruptive tactics with music blaring from a bike mounted sound system in front of banks and chainstores throughout downtown Berkeley — long on action and inspiration, short on tired protest rituals. We deployed finger puppets, not the huge puppets you sometimes see at tamer protests, because you can run while wearing one. Confused businesses just shut down and the police didn’t know how to react.

Leap Day 2004 saw decentralized protests in Berkeley, Houston, New York, and Manchester, England. In Berkeley, black clad marchers carrying a “closing” sign threw glitter, foam “bricks” and popcorn at dozens of chainstores and banks while using a pretty red bow to tie doors shut. The action was festive yet determined, with no arrests.

The call for decentralized revolt on Leap Day 2012 is open-ended in terms of tactics, goals and strategy. The broader the critique of social institutions and the farther from single-issue-activism-as-usual, the better. It is up to you and each other local community to figure out how to use this extra day for something exciting and new. Decentralization and openness are a key strength and necessary if unrest is to expand and engage the larger community.

Leap day can be a kind of laboratory to see what actions feel relevant and engaging in view of local conditions. It’s useful to take time to let your imagination run free from time-to-time and go beyond single issues and well-worn patterns of radical activity. Why does every action have to take the same form with similar signs, chants, etc.? How can we articulate our vision for the future now in dynamic, emotionally resonant, new ways? While unrest can be militant, its also important to maintain a sense of humor and avoid grim self-seriousness. How can we reach beyond the same folks we typically see at radical events? Leap Day at its best can help break down the artificial separation between “activism” and living our lives full of enjoyment and freedom. Living full joyful lives must ultimately be the same as building a new world.

You don’t need permission to celebrate Leap Day, and there is no organization, no structure and no email list. There is no success or failure. This is about taking matters into your own two hands and seeing what might happen.

Check out to post ideas, resources, local action callouts, and report-backs. Leap for it!