Exposing ALEC: How Conservative-Backed State Laws Are All Connected - Nancy Scola - Politics - The Atlantic
To itself, ALEC is an organization dedicated to the advancement of free market and limited government principles through a unique "public-private partnership" between state legislators and the corporate sector. To its critics, it's a shadowy back-room arrangement where corporations pay good money to get friendly legislators to introduce pre-packaged bills in state houses across the country. Started in the mid-1970s, ALEC's existence has been long known but its practices, largely, have not; the group hasn't been eager to tie its bills in Wisconsin to those in Ohio to those in North Carolina.
Nine months ago, though, a website called ALEC Exposed went live, showcasing more than 800 so-called model bills contributed by, the site's creators say, a still-anonymous whistleblower. Beyond the bills themselves, the group built out a wide-ranging, sometimes confusing wiki aimed at documenting which legislators take part in the group, which corporations support it, and where the bills go once they leave ALEC.
Lisa Graves is executive director of the Center for Media and Democracy, the group that built ALEC Exposed. She's also a former Justice Department official in both the Clinton and Bush administrations. Said Graves on a call this week, "We built out the material using Google, the Internet Archive and the Wayback Machine, primary records that were previously on ALEC's website, old old Lexis news clips, and the tobacco library," as in the digital archive run by the University of California of San Francisco as part of the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement of the late '90s. "There was a lot of material out there that was just not widely known."
Having the bills all in one place painted a certain picture. "If it's voter ID, it's ALEC," observed Doug Clopp, deputy director of programs at Common Cause. "If it's anti-immigration bills written hand-in-glove with private prison corporations, it's ALEC. If it's working with the N.R.A. on 'Shoot to Kill' laws, it's ALEC. When you start peeling back state efforts to opt out of the regional greenhouse gas initiative, it's ALEC." Adopted first in the states, by the time these laws bubble up to the national level, they're the conventional wisdom on policy.
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