Who's behind those crazy bills?

Last modified: 8/6/2011 12:00:00 AM
It is time to shine the bright light of publicity on the American Legislative Exchange Council, more commonly known as ALEC. The group refers to itself as "the nation's largest nonpartisan individual public-private membership association of state legislators." Its business is basically to recruit state legislators to buy into its extreme right-wing agenda and, through them, present legislation that favors a corporate agenda. The legislative segment of this organization is made up of more than 2,000 state legislators recruited from every state, including New Hampshire.

ALEC is made up of corporate donors interested in downsizing government, removing regulations on corporate activities and building political power to control government at all levels. Members include Exxon/Mobile, AT&T, Time Warner Cable, Wal-Mart, Phillip Morris and Koch Industries - plus assorted think tanks and other right-wing advocacy groups. It takes in approximately $6.5 million from the dues it charges its corporate members.

On the other side of its membership ledger are legislators, virtually all Republican, recruited to attend its conventions (most expenses paid) where they are given model legislation to introduce back home. It is from ALEC that New Hampshire receives such bills as the recent one requiring a photo ID in order to vote.

Here are three areas in which the New Hampshire Legislature was impacted by ALEC this session:

 Photo ID

ALEC is convinced that voter fraud, not lack of public support, is the reason its policies have gone down to defeat again and again. To ensure outcomes its members prefer, ALEC has made the passage of Photo ID laws a priority in all 50 states. This is directly targeted toward citizens ALEC would like to see disenfranchised: seniors, students and the marginalized of all sorts.

The law introduced and passed by the Legislature last spring was drafted by ALEC and supported by right-wing conservatives. Rigging elections used to be done with literacy tests and poll taxes. ALEC is redefining this practice for the 21st century. It is nothing less than an effort to control who gets to vote in the United States. Voter fraud is not a problem in New Hampshire.

 Education

New Hampshire has a longstanding challenge in the funding of education. We are constantly crunching numbers in an effort to make education cost less to taxpayers. Not surprisingly, ALEC has some ideas on how we should fund education. Basically, ALEC is opposed to public education.

A better system, according to its perspective "would foster educational freedom and equality" by the use of "vouchers, privatization and tax incentives for sending children to unregulated private schools."

ALEC has its own lingo. When it says "choice," it means unregulated private and charter schools. When it refers to "scholarships," it's really referring to vouchers from the public purse.

The Brookings Institute has said, "Taken seriously, choice is not a system-preserving reform. It is a revolutionary reform that introduces a new system of public education."

Whether this revolutionary reform is what the American public truly wants is open to question.

 Right to work

ALEC has wide-ranging model legislation that aims to destroy unions' capability to inhibit a corporation's decisions or business practices in any way. During the just-completed legislative season governors and legislatures across the country introduced over 500 pieces of model legislation written by ALEC designed to strip unions of all collective bargaining rights. All but two of the 23 states that have adopted this legislation have higher unemployment rates than New Hampshire does. Workers in right-to-work states have lower annual salaries, are more likely to get hurt on the job and to have no health insurance. The New Hampshire right-to-work bill is based on ALEC model legislation with help from the National Right To Work committee in Virginia, and distributed to state legislators. It is a one-size-fits all bill that is being promoted nationwide to ALEC member legislators.

Vetoed by Gov. John Lynch, this is a special favorite of House Speaker William O'Brien, who is using every legislative trick in the book to make New Hampshire the 24th right-to-work state and the only such state in the Northeast.

We are beginning to get a glimpse of this super secret organization as a result of a leak of over 800 memos, documents and model legislation being made available to the general public at alecexposed.org.

As more of this information is processed and published, we should begin to see more information in various media outlets. The August edition of In These Times magazine and the Aug. 18 edition of The Nation both contain a far more in-depth discussion of this group than I can undertake here, but if you are wondering just where some of this crazy stuff comes from, these sources are a good places to find important information.

(State Rep. Cynthia Chase is a Democrat from Keene.)




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