American Legislative Exchange Council lobbyist being exposed

Published 11:03 am Friday, November 4, 2016

Niccolo Machiavelli would have been proud of the folks who support the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). At the end of September the U.S. Department of Education approved another $245 million in grants to eight states under the federal Charter School Program. That brings to nearly $4 billion in charters in the last two and a half decades.

The Center for Popular Democracy spelled out in its report “Charter School Black Hole” how tax dollars have gone to “ghost schools,” charters that never opened. In the case of schools that did open only to fail, there was no accounting for money spent or assets purchased.

There was no accountability to the school children affected by charter fraud, waste, and incompetence. Virtual charters like the K12 operation performed markedly worse. They are similar to fantasy football games — those that are bet on but are never physically played.

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Scores of major companies have abandoned ALEC after protests from their stockholders and clients. Recently the American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees wrote to the CEO of AARP urging that group to get out of the lobbying group. They asked that the senior citizens group stop “endorsing an organization that brings corporate lobbyists and elected officials from around the country together to write anti-senior, anti-family legislation in a process that locks out the public and subverts our democratic process.” Among other things ALEC has pushed for is repeal of the Affordable Care Act.

Enterprise, the largest car rental company in the world, owns Enterprise Rent-A-Car, National and Alamo, has moved away from the lobbying juggernaut. Part of the push to accomplish that divorce came from a petition by a petition with 89,000 signatures.

The company’s membership in ALEC, which has poured considerable resources into denying and minimizing scientific efforts to quantify climate change, was brought to the Guardian’s attention by the watchdog group the Center for Media and Democracy.

Growing concern about climate change has led many high-tech companies such as eBay, Expedia, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo to abandon the ALEC ship. In 2015, environmental concerns pushed energy-industry giants, Royal Dutch Shell and BP, as well as the American Electric Power and the Canadian National Railway to quit.

A laundry list of model bills proposed in many state legislatures is very long — and very threatening.

For a listing of bills sponsored by ALEC, go to the website for the Center for Media and Democracy: Download the zip files of ALEC model bills for agriculture, energy, and the environment. Consider one such bill aimed at land use controls.

One bill would repeal all land use planning and zoning in rural counties by both county and state governments. Under the bill property could be put to any use, without regard for single-family, agricultural, or industrial zoning, or environmental land use restrictions. Under that restraint, no one could prevent a nude bar or body shop next to a school. Nor could local government prevent polluting industries from building in their jurisdiction.

If you want more information about the machinations of this cabal, simply contact Senator Josh Harkins and Representative Jim Beckett, who are chairmen of the Mississippi chapter.

In closing, consider these words from the ALEC website: “When states resort to tax carve-outs in a misguided attempt to grow their economies, they are ignoring the bigger problem — an uncompetitive tax climate. More fundamentally, government should budget for outcomes. This means identifying the core functions of state government and measuring results.”

Reviewing their handling of budgets and tax give aways in the past year, one can only wish they had taken their own advice.

TJ Ray is a retired professor of English at Ole Miss.