Report exposes ‘Corporate America’s Trojan Horse in the states’
WASHINGTON -- Major corporations are operating behind-the-scenes in state capitals across the country through a purported “good government” group that pushes an industry-friendly agenda, according to a report to be released by Defenders of Wildlife and the Natural Resources Defense Council. In addition to financing gifts and free trips for elected officials, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) acts as a conduit for special-interest legislation from corporations to key state legislators on issues that range from rolling back environmental and consumer protections to privatizing government services such as prisons and schools.
"Influence peddling to shape government laws to suit corporate special interests is not just a Washington phenomenon," Defenders of Wildlife President Rodger Schlickeisen said. "It is just as aggressive if not as visible in the states. It's time to shine the public spotlight on state influence peddling, beginning with the American Legislative Exchange Council. ALEC has a carefully cultivated 'good government' image, but the masters it serves are its corporate sponsors and funders, not the nation's hard-working but vulnerable state legislators."
The report – titled “Corporate America’s Trojan Horse in the States: The Untold Story Behind the American Legislative Exchange Council” – is available on the Internet at www.alecwatch.org. It is based on thousands of pages of primary financial documents and other source material, including tax returns filed by ALEC and its major underwriters.
“While the Congressional debate over campaign finance reform has focused the nation’s attention on corporate influence over politics at the federal level, ALEC provides a chilling example of even more brazen manipulation involving state legislatures,” said Gregory Wetstone, NRDC’s director of advocacy. “ALEC is the ultimate ‘Trojan Horse’ for industry forces seeking to bend state laws to maximize corporate profits, often at the expense of citizens and the environment.”
The report has been endorsed by public-interest organizations that include the Center for Policy Alternatives, U.S. Public Interest Research Group, the League of Conservation Voters, and Public Citizen.
ALEC touts itself as a membership association of state legislators. But large corporations and trade associations finance virtually all of ALEC’s activities. One of ALEC’s largest benefactors has been Enron Corp. The report details how the now-bankrupt energy giant sought to buy influence not just at the federal level but – secretively through ALEC – in the 50 states as well.
ALEC’s underwriters represent almost a who’s who of corporate America. In addition to Enron, they include Amoco, Chevron, Texaco, R.J. Reynolds, AT&T, the American Nuclear Energy Council, the Chlorine Chemistry Council, the American Petroleum Institute, and the Pharmaceutical Research & Manufacturers of America, to name just a handful.
These organizations have used ALEC to mount a wide-ranging effort to mold to their liking laws safeguarding public health and the environment. For example, ALEC boasts of seeing hundreds of its “model” state bills become law each year. But many of these bills undermine the public interest on subjects including health care, tobacco restrictions, employee benefits, utility regulation, tax policy, and education.
“ALEC allows these corporations to do what they couldn’t attempt to do directly or openly without risking public criticism. They funnel cash through ALEC to curry favor with state lawmakers through junkets and other largesse in the hopes of enacting special-interest legislation – all the while keeping safely outside the public eye,” according to the report.
Defenders of Wildlife is a leading nonprofit environmental advocacy organization with more than 500,000 members and supporters, especially recognized as one of the nation’s most progressive advocates for endangered wildlife, its habitat and biodiversity. Defenders uses education, litigation, research and innovation to advance its mission over the opposition of special interests. Visit our Web site at www.defenders.org.
The Natural Resources Defense Council is a national, non-profit organization
of scientists, lawyers and environmental specialists dedicated to protecting
public health and the environment. Founded in 1970, NRDC has more than
500,000 members nationwide. Learn more about NRDC by visiting our Web site