Beware the influence of ALEC in Oklahoma (Guest Post: J.C. Moore)

business_moneyJ.C. Moore is a retired science teacher, a member of the the American Geophysical Union, and co-founder of OKcitizensfirst.org.

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has a great influence on our state politics, but many Oklahomans have heard little about the organization. On the surface,  ALEC is an organization made up of corporations and state-level elected officials which meets three times a year to write “model legislation” for states. Officials can then take the model legislation back to their state for consideration. That sounds like a good process, except that what goes on under the surface of ALEC is kept secret.

In May of 2013, ALEC met in Oklahoma City. While corporate representatives from ALEC met with our legislators, a group of citizens protested across the street. The protesters, as well as members of the press, had been barred from attending by security guards. The agenda of the meeting was secret and an elaborate drop box system was created to avoid FOIA requests. Now, over a year later, there is still little known about the meeting or its influence on our legislators.

Rep. Gary Banz, who organized the 2013 event, described it as “a giant coaches clinic for legislators” and said that, though ALEC has been criticized for its secrecy, “The bottom line is if it’s not on our website, it’s not an issue or area that we have embraced.” That’s not quite right.  While ALEC’s website lists some of its policies and model laws, a part of the website is off limits for non-members. The public, journalists, and small business owners are excluded from ALEC membership by steep fees and by a screening process which insures new members are in harmony with ALEC’s mission. ALEC’s membership and funding sources are kept secret .

Much of what is known about ALEC has been discovered by leaked documents and by citizen’s watchdog groups, such as SourceWatch.  ALEC is a 501(c)(3) organization which is not required to reveal its donors or its funding. It has 300 corporate and 1,800 legislative members, but it will not release its membership lists. Rep. Banz said 70 Oklahoma legislators are members, but  SourceWatch lists only 38, leaving 32 members’ identities secret. 

Because of the secrecy, it is hard to know what legislation comes from ALEC. Legislators can copy the bills, change them to disguise their source, and present them as their own. Most voters, the press, and even legislative colleagues often do not realize that the legislation came from ALEC. Sponsoring ALEC legislation ensures politicians they will receive support for their re-election campaigns. ALEC’s legislation is often supported by one-sided research, talking points, and op-ed articles designed to convince voters that the politicians are really looking after their best interests.

Many of ALEC’s model laws claim to promote freedom, fairness, and reform, but the end result is often that average citizens lose out in the process.  Citizen’s watchdog groups, such as Common Cause and SourceWatch, are critical of ALEC, saying its bills undercut health care reform, undermine environmental regulations, promote school and prison privatization, limit workers’ rights, restrain legislatures’ abilities to raise revenue through taxes, and mandate strict election laws that disenfranchise some voters, among many other issues.

As Bill Moyers argues in his documentary, United States of ALEC, that ALEC is undermining our system of democracy. The strength of the United States is its unity, but some corporations are working through ALEC to undermine that unity at the state level so they can escape regulation and avoid taxes. ALEC is designed to give more power to corporations, claiming that businesses making decisions in their self-interest will lead to the most good for everyone, but the reality is that it does the most good for the already wealthy. We live in a state with enough resources to ensure that every citizen has food, shelter, medical care, education, and an opportunity to contribute back to society. That won’t happen if our state legislature is unduly influenced by ALEC.

What to do about ALEC is the hard question. ALEC hides its members and its funding sources, and it operates as an educational organization to escape lobbying restrictions. There are apparently 32 ALEC members in our state legislature who have not been identified. My plan is to give ALEC as much publicity as possible and to make it a campaign issue by asking candidates to pledge they will not join any organization which will keep them from representing the best interests of Oklahoma citizens.

The opinions stated above are not necessarily those of OK Policy, its staff, or its board. This blog is a venue to help promote the discussion of ideas from various points of view and we invite your comments and contributions. To see our guidelines for blog submissions, click here.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

The opinions stated in guest articles are not necessarily those of OK Policy, its staff, or its board. To see our guidelines for blog submissions, click here.

6 thoughts on “Beware the influence of ALEC in Oklahoma (Guest Post: J.C. Moore)

  1. The history of ALEC is instructive. It got its financial start with funding from tobacco companies. It authored legislation that was used to delay protections for children and others from tobacco products. Who knows how many got ill or died because ALEC successfully interfered with the public health? But it achieved its mission. Some people made a lot of money.

    The shocking thing is how many legislators get seduced into these bad choices. They literally choose between their constituents and someone else’s profits. Tort “reform”, work comp “reform”, “right to work” are all ideas promoted by ALEC and its minions. Each one of those pits regular citizens against big money. Our Legislators should be there to protect us against Goliath but instead they are on his payroll.

  2. One way to recognize ALEC Legislation is to check other states. With our family being transferred around the country by AFMC, have friends in other states plus was part of several national campaigns. Finding the same wording in bills in OK as there are in KS, AZ, NM, FL, TX, NC and the list goes on — first discovered it when I was complaining a bill on workman’s comp that I thought was against the worker and a friend in FL said he saw the same wording in a bill submitted there. Have worked with his consulting group on campaigns since 1999 so we started looking around and you can tell where legislatures are using ALEC which is pretty much Koch funded today as they carry out the Koch agenda along with Americans for Prosperity which the Koch’s started. The deeper you dig into ALEC, the more you discover the Koch agenda.

    When Jeb Bush came to OK, he was taken to see a charter school which he and his family are pushing as they sell their less then outstanding education material to charter schools. In FL, he is known to support Charter Schools over public schools. When the No Child Left Behind was passed, Neil Bush had advance notice and was already selling what passed for education materials. It looks like a set up for a Bush #43 brother to make a ton of money. Barbara Bush went with her son to sell the material.

    ALEC is bad news — already knew most of the bills were written by lobbyists in Oklahoma, but now it seems with OK being the #2 ALEC state for their legislation that ALEC is the main lobbyist. Believe fully that Oklahoma residents have been sold out in favor of an agenda that most would not agree with if they knew the truth. Republican Party of which I am leaving on 1 Sep after one last primary to vote against Barresi, has sold out to wealthy donors across the Country. Will not be a member of a party that puts ALEC and the Koch Agenda over what is best for residents of Oklahoma. Does the Oklahoma Governor and Legislature want to be like Kansas? Even well known Republicans in Kansas have had it with their hard right Governor and are endorsing the Democrat. When are Oklahomans going to wake up?

    IMHO any group who hides behind secret donations is not a group that you want your state involved with but OK is in with ALEC up to the eyebrows along with Governor Fallin who won the ALEC award. Voters need to wake up and realize the State Legislature and Governor are bought and paid for when OKC oil/gas can blackmail them at the end of session to pass their tax breaks without real hearings. Pushing the Keystone northern pipeline is pushing the Koch agenda as the Koch’s are heavily invested there. Turning back environmental laws so the Koch’s and others can pollute our drinking water is another agenda item of ALEC — they phrase it differently to say we have too many laws on the environment. Execuse me but as a citizens of Oklahoma and the United States I have a right to expect clean water for drinking and clean air to breath. ALEC agenda would also destroy the alternative energy in this Country in favor of oil/gas. Time to demand open records from Republicans and ALEC — bet a lot of Oklahomans would be shocked to see how deep the Republican run Legislature is in with ALEC and the Koch agenda. Time to end tax exempt dark money organizations.

    Received a reply to my complaint on dark money from Senator Coburn who said he is for full disclosure on line for all donations so anyone can see who is giving. Senator Inhofe saw no problem with the way donations are done today. That spoke volumes IMHO!

    My more then two cents!

  3. Another way to check to see if proposed legislation is inspired by ALEC is to google various phrases from the bill, or the title, and add ALEC. Often it pops right up.

    I find it so offensive that our legislators just pick and choose among ALEC’s cookie-cutter bills.

    We should also ask our legislators…let them know we are aware of its influence, and we will be watching.

  4. Two of the OK legislative members showing up on the list are in my District…Rep. Travis Dunlap and John Ford. I’ve known about ALEC and it’s Koch brothers affiliation. Yes…Oklahoma GOP has sold it’s soul to the Kansas Kochs. It’s quite alarming the secret meetings and barring citizens and press during these meetings…seems unconstitutional to me! I will keep informing about Jane Mayer’s book “Dark Money” till I am speechless…an eye opener about the corporate and political billionaire takeover of our government…both at the State and National levels. ALEC is discussed, in-depth and at length!

  5. The website, OKcitizensfirst.org at the top of the article, has a list of the members of ALEC who have been identified by sourcewatch throgh 2015.

  6. I need yo follow the money. How much and how did Alec give yo tolls either as campaign contributions or otherwise.

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