To the extent the occupy movement wants to expand its focus beyond local occupations onto the national stage, exposing and disrupting the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and its member companies offers an amazing opportunity because of the way ALEC combines corporate economic domination with political control. ALEC is a non-profit funded by the largest corporations where industry representatives work with conservative legislators to write pro-corporate model legislation which is then introduced into state legislatures across the country by elected officials who are ALEC. ALEC’s model laws focus on deregulation, attacks on labor and immigrants, and weakening environmental and health laws. 98 percent of ALEC’s income comes from 300 major corporate sources — companies like ExxonMobil, Coca-Cola, Wal-Mart, Bayer. Around 1/3 of US legislators from all 50 states — 2000 in all — belong to ALEC.
Following a spirited multi-day protest and direct action against the national ALEC meeting in Scottsdale, Arizona November 30-December 3 that led to the arrest of 25 people and police use of pepper spray, Occupy Portland has called for a national day of action against the corporations that fund ALEC on leap day, February 29. They are calling for “creative direct actions” to “shut down the corporations that are part of ALEC . . . shut down corporate headquarters and stop business as usual.” ALEC member companies have corporate outposts in almost every city and village across the country, so there’s no way for ALEC to hide from the hundreds of decentralized occupations.
Occupy Salt Lake is already discussing how to protest the 39th annual meeting of ALEC July 25 – 28 in Salt Lake City. Like the historic protests against the 1999 World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle, WA that brought together activists from all over the continent and shut down the meeting as well as the whole city, folks from occupations across the land could potentially converge on Salt Lake City to make the connections between the way the 1% use ALEC to write laws to serve corporate interests, not the public interests.
A key feature of the occupy phenomenon has been opening up dialog and debate on subjects like economic inequality that, for too long, weren’t discussed much. A secret to ALEC’s effectiveness has been the way it has exerted so much influence with so little public attention. Exposing ALEC and the boldfaced way corporations literally write the laws that increase their power is a key in the struggle against corporate domination.
In July, 2011 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. Everyone should check out their website to understand what an octopus ALEC really is. The proposed laws 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 was behind the anti-immigrant SB 1070 law in Arizona as well as Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s attack on public union organizing rights there.
In many ways, in many places, and with many voices, ALEC is being exposed.
To see the leaked 800 bills, check alecexposed.org. To plug into the Feb. 29 protest, check shutdownthecorporations.org. For a report about the Arizona protest and how to support those arrested, check azresistsalec.wordpress.com. Check out Occupy Salt Lake City at occupyslc.org.