The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) -- described by some observers as a “Trojan Horse” for the corporate agenda in statehouses -- might have been dumped by 26 corporations and four non-profit organizations. That, though, hasn’t stopped 21 of these corporations and two of the non-profits from continuing to promote the corporate agenda via “The Other ALECs.”
Put another way, the romantic relationship between state legislators and corporate lobbyists doesn’t end with ALEC. Neither does the agenda of the corporations using ALEC as merely a single vehicle, of many, through which to drive it.
Our research shows that of the 26 corporations that have “dumped” ALEC, 21 still pay dues to one or more of “The Other ALECs.” These “Other ALECs” include the Council of State Governments (CSG), the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), the State Legislative Leaders Foundation (SLLF), State Government Affairs Council (SGAC), and the National Governors Association (NGA).
All of these groups facilitate Corporate America’s Legislative Playbook for pushing their agenda in statehouses nationwide.
Further, two of the four non-profit organizations who have fled the ALEC scene still pay membership dues for prime access to a bipartisan consortium of politicians in “The Other ALECs.”
The Playbook, then, hasn’t ended with the dumping of ALEC. The corporate players in the game merely have flocked to different teams.
The 26th and most recent corporation to dump ALEC, Express-Scripts, is a case in point. The pharmaceutical giant still pays dues to one of the "Other ALECs," CSG, as part of its "Associates Program."
The Express-Scripts announcement comes in the immediate aftermath of five other corporations “dumping ALEC” this past week, making it six total for the week. The other five: John Deere, CVS Caremark, MillerCoors, HP, and Best Buy.
Four of the five of these corporations still pay dues to the following organizations, the only asterisk being MillerCoors:
John Deere - SGAC
CVS - SGAC, NCSL, SLLF, NGA
Hewlett-Packard - SGAC, CSG, NGA
Best Buy - SGAC, NCSL, NGA
"We want to thank these companies for making the right decision, and we continue to call on all major corporations to stop funding ALEC given its involvement in voter suppression and its work pushing policies designed to benefit rich and powerful corporations at the expense of people of color, workers, and the environment," said Rashad Robinson, Executive Director of ColorOfChange.org, of the recent ALEC dumpings.
Robinson is right about one thing: by dumping ALEC, corporations will no longer be subsidizing Voter ID legislation. But promoting ideological policies is not the reason corporations like Coca-Cola sponsored ALEC in the first place.
This fact wasn’t lost on ColorOfChange.org. In reporting Coca-Cola’s dumping of ALEC, it quoted a company spokesperson saying, “Our involvement with ALEC was focused on efforts to oppose discriminatory food and beverage taxes, not on issues that have no direct bearing on our business. We have a long-standing policy of only taking positions on issues that impact our Company and industry.”
Notably, Coca-Cola still pays $12,500/year to NCSL.This small down payment gains its lobbyists VIP access to the biggest conferences for state legislators hosted annually. It also sponsors NGA, SGAC and SLLF.
Like, Coca-Cola, rich and powerful corporations that have dumped ALEC will continue to utilize “The Other ALECs” to push an agenda harmful not only to people of color, workers, and the environment/energy, but also to students, civil liberties, civil justice, et al.
"It appears any political access or model legislation the ALEC-member corporations want, they can likely get through membership in the 'Other ALECs,’” said John Stauber, author of numerous books and expert on corporate propaganda. “Progressive activists need to deal with this fact or risk whitewashing the corporations now exiting ALEC. These corporations are not in any way being politically responsible, but just PR smart. Clearly the problem goes way beyond just ALEC to the other similar business-funded cabals."
Alas, for multinational corporations and the lobbyist firms that serve them, ALEC is seen merely as one of many “Groups” through which to facilitate the Corporate Playbook. For them, it’s all a big game of speed dating.
But as the old adage goes, “Don’t hate the player, hate the game.”
Steve Horn is a Madison, WI-based freelance investigative journalist, and a Research Fellow at DeSmogBlog. This piece was earlier published at Common Dreams.