Politicians, Corporations Turn to ALEC to Find Policy Solutions

By Ed Silverstein August 10, 2011

With U.S. politicians looking for answers to improve the struggling economy, more eyes appear to be turning to the work of the American Legislative Exchange Council. 

Little known by the general public,  ALEC is “non-partisan” but has been labeled as a pro-business advocacy organization that often gets results in state capitals.

ALEC is considered a conservative lobbying group by its critics. It brings together state legislators and private-sector lobbyists. It often develops model laws for state legislatures that seem to represent the interests of its members.

ALEC recently held its 38th annual meeting in New Orleans. More than a thousand state legislators showed up. One proposal being debated would have let states to enact the same sales tax rate on brick-and-mortar retailers and online outlets, Bloomberg News said. The proposal was eventually tabled after a lively debate. The ALEC conference focused on such important topics as: health care, energy and states’ rights.

Because large businesses finance most of ALEC’s operations and reimburse some costs for elected officials who attend the meetings, there are activists who are critical of the group, Bloomberg said.

“Legislators are voting behind closed doors alongside corporations to change our rights,” Lisa Graves, executive director of the Center for Media and Democracy, was quoted by Bloomberg. She says that the Center for Media and Democracy obtained copies of more than 800 model bills approved by corporations through ALEC meetings.

But even if a model bill is adopted by ALEC, it’s far from certain states will enact the bills. Legislators need to get them enacted in each of the states.

Some of the legislators attending the meeting disagreed with Graves, too. Mike Burgess, a Republican who has been in the Kansas state legislature for nine years, confirmed to Bloomberg corporations are “definitely here, but I’ve not been lobbied at all.”

In addition, big businesses such as Wal-Mart, BP and Allergan also showed up. So did United Healthcare Inc., cigarette-maker Altria and pharmaceutical-maker Johnson & Johnson, Bloomberg reported.

In a related matter, ALEC also published reports that have national prominence. For example, TechZone360 reported recently how ALEC listed the top 10 states for economic competitiveness. The group made an index which was made up of 15 variables, and listed ways for states to encourage economic growth, create jobs and improve the standard of living for residents, TechZone360 added.

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Ed Silverstein is a TechZone360 contributor. To read more of his articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Jennifer Russell

TechZone360 Contributor

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