Last night was spent revising a paper that will appear as a chapter in an environmental book. I wrote the paper with my girlfriend Abby, who is an Environmental Science and Policy graduate. I have also been taking classes at St. Edward’s University in Environmental Science and Policy, though I have taken this semester off as my gig schedule has gotten too hectic. The paper and the chapter are called Oceans for Sale. It is about the ties between ocean acidification and the group the American Legislative Exchange Council, which is also known as ALEC. The paper was based on a speech that Abby and I gave at an environmental conference in Costa Rica last summer. She handled the complex scientific issues and I handled the politics.
I want to lay down a little about ALEC, although I don’t want to give too much of the paper away as other people have invested a lot of time making this book happen. ALEC is a group that tries to influence politicians, mostly at the state level, with a corporatist right wing agenda. They are not a lobbyist group. We will see why they are able to do away with the traditional notion of lobbyists in a moment. They claim that they are into education and therefore are tax exempt.
ALEC creates model legislation that legislators at the state level can use to base real legislation on once they go back to their respective statehouses. ALEC holds conferences and flies legislators out to these conferences, which are often at nice hotels in nice places. ALEC even goes as far as flying the legislators’ family out and provides them with daycare so a couple can have fun while they are visiting one of these conferences. At these conferences they write this model legislation where the heads of corporations and the politicians have the same level of influence into what goes into them. When the legislators go back to their respective statehouses the legislation they introduce often includes verbatim language from this model legislation. Again this model legislation is written in part by corporations. These corporations want bills that favor their economic interests.
The reason why ALEC is not a lobbyist group is simple. They don’t need lobbyists in the traditional sense. The legislators become the lobbyists when they go back to their statehouses. They are called Super Lobbyists. These are people that are part of our government carrying out the work of corporations.
The paper I wrote focuses on ALEC’s dubious environmental legislation. Often when there is legislation favoring the fossil fuel industry and legislation that tries to stifle renewable energy, ALEC has a hand in it. The fossil fuel industry is a big supporter of ALEC. However, energy policy isn’t the only thing that ALEC has its hands in. It helps past legislation on a whole host of issues that pertain to a corporate right wing agenda. The Stand Your Ground law in Florida, made famous in the Trayvon Martin case, was based on ALEC model legislation. Yep, the gun industry is also a big supporter of ALEC. Anti-union and education legislation has also been influenced by ALEC. I could go on and on.
What this represents is the selling of our democracy. Even if you are a Republican, you should be able to see how these practices are unethical, if not illegal. They subvert the will of the people and give power to those who have the most money. Whether you are a Republican or Democrat I would hope that you would want people in government that are passing legislation that is in the best interest of their constituents and not the corporations.
Corporations at their worst will pillage the land and destroy the rights of workers. They will align themselves with religion so long as religion suits their end goals. However, as soon as they have everything that they want, when there is no more resources to mine, no more markets to exploit, when they can find cheaper labor elsewhere, they will move on. We need legislators which, while not stifling the creativity of the market, protect us from its greatest excesses.