Editor's note: This contribution by the late journalist I.F. Stone first appeared in our January 1975 magazine.
All men (and corporations) are created equal
While the Declaration of Independence recognizes that all men are created equal, the motto for the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) goes a bit further.
All men and corporations are created equal.
Just look at their task force structure. They break down their issue areas into task forces.
Every issue task force (ie Tax and Fiscal Policy, Health and Human Services, etc.) is made up of two equal parts. Half is the public sector part (state legislators), and half is the private sector part (corporations). In order for model legislation to move forward, each task force must garner a majority of votes from each HALF. For example, if the legislator half likes an idea, but the corporate half doesn’t, the bill does NOT move forward. I saw that happen today.
That’s a lot of power for the corporate sponsorship of an organization. Maybe too much, many would say.
But that is ALEC. Fully funded by, sponsored by, and driven by its much wealthier corporate interests.
One only need look at the convention booklet to see the “Who’s Who” of corporate partners. British Petroleum, Reynolds American, Takeda, UnitedHealthcare, Walmart, the Walton Family Foundation, Chevron, ExxonMobil, American Electric Power, Allergan, PhRMA, Bayer, VISA, Shell, Koch Industries, Inc. and State Farm Insurance for starters. And there are dozens more.
For your partnership in ALEC, you get to write legislation, promote it, vote for it, and all too often, watch it become law. Not bad for a few days work.
The corporate partners even lead discussions in task force meetings about legislation, providing no cover for who is actually promoting certain policies.
But I guess you can get that brazen when you are surrounded by your friends, both other corporations and your legislative allies.
And it isn’t just ALEC that benefits from the corporate largesse. So do many of the “think tanks” that are here promoting legislation.
Just this morning I sat through an extensive program run by “think tank” presenters about how increased levels of CO2 are GOOD for you. That’s not a typo.
They gave 55 reasons why having greenhouse gases via increased CO2 is good, from helping leaf growth to being good for earthworms. And my favorite logic: CO2 increases human longevity. Their argument is that CO2 has increased over the last 100 years, but so has human longevity therefore increased CO2 is good for the human race. I kid you not.
People don’t question too much what they are told here. That’s exactly what the corporate half of the organization likes.
So the bottom line: If you are a single, somewhat unattractive corporation (maybe you have a chemical dumping problem or something), and you need a little love only a state legislature can give, you need ALEC. They will match you up with eligible “free market” legislators who’ve been waiting all their lives for a corporation just as special as you are. Of course, it will cost you a few bucks, but ah, the happiness.
You’ll share special moments together. Like listening to uber-conservative economist Art Laffer (of the infamous, accurately named “Laffer Curve”) at breakfast together. Sit down and talk about your common interests. Share a drink or two at a reception (NOTE: only corporations are allowed to pay on this first date). And eventually, that romance will blossom into something real.
Like special interest legislation.
All brought to you by the corporations that fund ALEC.
Wisconsin State Representative Mark Pocan (D-Madison), who coined the term FitzWalkerstan on the floor of the State Assembly, served three terms on the state’s budget committee, including one as its co-chair. He also served as the vice-chair of the non-partisan National Council on State Legislature’s Budget and Policy committee. Pocan’s Assembly district includes both the State Capitol and the Governor’s Mansion, making Governor Scott Walker his most infamous constituent.