Monday, 18 July 2011

ALEC is the Real Front Page Story

Amid the breathless, minute-by-minute reporting of a certain media mogul's unfolding troubles, there is a story of far greater importance, one that has been totally ignored by the corporate media.

Look to the major print and television outlets and you will see the coverage dominated by News Corp and the debt ceiling negotiations.  You will not find a single reference to the subjugation of the democratic process by the American Legislative Exchange Council.  ALEC provides pre-packaged legislative templates for right-wing politicians.  Think of it as Legislation for Dummies.

In her very well written article for Truthout, Allison Kilkenny writes: "Thanks to the work from the Center for Media and Democracy and investigative journalists like Beau Hodai, we now know that ALEC, a front group for major corporations, the Koch brothers and right-wing lobbying groups, actively disseminated model bills promoting its agenda to state leaders."

The Truthout story goes on to note that "ALEC creates plausible deniability for state legislators by claiming it's not lobbying, of course, but merely making friendly suggestions and, in turn, the legislators ultimately reap the rewards of being extra nice to ALEC's corporate clients."

And at The Nation, John Nichols provides more excellent coverage.  His recent article begins with the following passage:
Never has the time been so right,” Louisiana State Representative Noble Ellington told conservative legislators gathered in Washington to plan the radical remaking of policies in the states. It was one month after the 2010 midterm elections. Republicans had grabbed 680 legislative seats and secured a power trifecta -- control of both legislative chambers and the governorship -- in twenty-one states. Ellington was speaking for hundreds of attendees at a “States and Nation Policy Summit,” featuring GOP stars like Texas Governor Rick Perry, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. Convened by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) --“the nation’s largest, non-partisan, individual public-private membership association of state legislators,” as the spin-savvy group describes itself -- the meeting did not intend to draw up an agenda for the upcoming legislative session. That had already been done by ALEC’s elite task forces of lawmakers and corporate representatives. The new legislators were there to grab their weapons: carefully crafted model bills seeking to impose a one-size-fits-all agenda on the states.

Finally, you can see in a video from The Ed Show on MSNBC additional material on ALEC.  In the interview with John Nichols of The Nation and Lisa Graves of the Center for Media and Democracy, we learn that the strategy of putting legislators and corporations together in common cause goes back almost 40 years.  We also learn that corporations pay an annual fee of between $7 and $25 thousand to participate in this one-stop marketplace with law makers.

And for that investment, ALEC has generated an enormous return. Corporations and legislators meet to vote on proposed laws before they are sent up to the legislatures, and this arrangement has produced over 500 anti-labor laws of the type seen in Wisconsin and elsewhere. According to the interview on The Ed Show, ALEC was at the fore-front of the highly successful fight against healthcare reform, and particularly against the public option.

And so, whereas News Corp provides us a symptom of our malady, the ALEC story points more accurately to the root cause -- and that is, "money and power in the service of money and power".

It is clear that they are different by degree, but they are two of the many examples of unelected power in our system that are both unrepresentative and unaccountable.

Update #1.  After posting this commentary, I found Ralph Nadar's article on the Supreme Court and its abuse of (unelected) power.  Go to Nadar.org for this must-read on the dominance of unelected, unrepresentative and unaccountable power.

Update #2.  Its Tuesday the 19th and still the top stories in the mainstream media are the debt ceiling negotiations and News Corp. Same is true here in Canada, with much fretting about potential default in the US.  Even in the online sites and blogs, there is more fascination with Murdock than could ever be warranted.  Don't waste your time on this theatre -- go instead to Nadar's site for and read his latest commentary on the Supreme Court.

By David.

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Your musical accompaniment for the day: JS Bach, Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 in F, BWV 1047; English Concert & Trevor Pinnock.  Enjoy.

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