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The Power Behind the Throne - Should Corporate Proxies like ALEC Write America's Laws?

Updated on February 9, 2014
The evil Wormtongue controls the bewitched King of Rohan through "subtle poisons" and whispered suggestions.
The evil Wormtongue controls the bewitched King of Rohan through "subtle poisons" and whispered suggestions. | Source

Wormtongue

Do you remember those scenes in The Lord of the Rings - The Two Towers in which the good King of Rohan is being held under a spell by a creepy, sinister, deranged magician named Wormtongue who whispers evil ideas into the ears of the King to get him take actions that will ultimately lead to the defeat of his kingdom and the enslavement of his people? Perhaps you suppose that this is simply a fantasy tale that is irrelevant to real world and has no parallel in American politics. We're supposed to be a free country, after all, a country in which the voters via their legislators ultimately create the laws that govern the land. But I think JRR Tolkien was trying to do more than tell us an adventure story about Hobbits and magic rings and evil wizards. This was a man who had been through two world wars put in motion by corrupt, self-serving powers, after all, and when he put the character of Wormtongue down on paper he knew quite well that there are always evil, insidious, shadowy figures that lurk behind the seats of power and cast a malignant influence upon governments and those being governed.

This article will deal with one of these secretive, insidious entities in particular, which is ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council). Hiding behind a folksy, wholesome, grass-roots facade ALEC writes and promotes legislation that is mandated by the corporate interests that finance the group. By preaching a phony love for traditional American values it then force feeds these laws down the throats of Americans who are deceived into believing that the legislation benefits the long term prosperity of the nation, while in reality the new laws only serve to line the pockets of the corporate benefactors that dictated them. So you think Wormtongue is irrelevant, eh?

What is ALEC?

In its own words, the mission statement of ALEC is "...to advance the fundamental principles of free-market enterprise, limited government, and federalism at the state level through a non-partisan public-private partnership of America's state legislators, members of the private sector and the general public." Notice right off the bat that the general public part is included last, as sort of an afterthought in the mission statement, almost as if somebody in the back of the board room shouted out at the last minute "Hey - we better put something about the general public in here!" and everybody anxiously nodded their heads in agreement.

In reality ALEC is basically a "Bill-Mill," a scheming coven of corporate lobbyists and legislators that produce legislation which is often enacted into law by the bought and paid for politicians it helps elect into office. Approximately 200 ALEC written bills are voted into law each year.

ALEC came into being at the time that the conservative movement in the United States was being molded under the facade of a folksy, homespun, God and country upswelling, even while being seeded by powerful people with deep corporate connections. It was Supreme Court Justice Lewis F. Powell Jr., a former tobacco company lawyer, who turned the Conservative movement into a double-headed monster with his "Powell Memorandum," a document that advocated that corporations should become more aggressive in molding American Laws. Approximately two years after the release of the Powell Memorandum, in 1973 ALEC was brought into being by Illinois legislator Mark Rhoads. Many have suggested a strong connections between the Powell Memorandum and the creation of this group.


Needless to say, the ranks of ALEC are not composed of rank and file Americans.
Needless to say, the ranks of ALEC are not composed of rank and file Americans. | Source

Who Is ALEC?

The membership roster of ALEC reflects an unholy matrimony between corporations and politicians. There are about 1800 legislative members in the group, a number that includes 85 Congressmen and 14 current or former governors. In addition there are also approximately 300 corporate, foundation, or private sector members. The corporate membership contains some of the biggest names in American business, including Ebay, DuPont, Dow Chemical, ExxonMobil, Facebook, FedEx, News Corporation (Parent of Fox News), Pfizer, United Parcel Service (UPS), and Visa. Former members include corporations such as Amazon, Best Buy, Coca-Cola, Dell, General Motors, and Wal Mart. Several of these former constituents pulled out because of the public outcry from the ALEC-sponsored stand your ground law that was one of the factors behind the shooting of Trayvon Martin in Florida and the subsequent exoneration of his killer, George Zimmerman.

Of those included in the ALEC role call perhaps the most notorious are its long time corporate board members Charles and David Koch, collectively known as the Koch Brothers. The Koch Brothers have poured untold millions into the coffers of ALEC in an attempt to influence legislation that brings advantages to Koch Industries, a conglomerate that is heavily invested in the oil business. The Koch Brothers have used ALEC to help wiggle their way out of environmental violations and also to attack the institution of public education, which they perceive to be a socialist-fueled crusade designed to infect the delicate psyches of our children with communist propaganda.

I'm just a bill, yes I'm only a bill, and ALEC put me here on Capitol hill...

Children do not play with the friendly looking bills that ALEC dumps here on the steps of the Capitol building.
Children do not play with the friendly looking bills that ALEC dumps here on the steps of the Capitol building. | Source

Model Bills

While masquerading under the guise of "freedom," which its free-enterprise friendly mission statement would surely seem to promote, ALEC becomes decidedly anti-freedom and anti-Constitution where certain Constitutionally guaranteed freedoms run counter to corporate interests. An example of this would be ALEC's efforts to have eco-activists and animal rights activists classified as terrorists. One of ALEC's model bills is the "Animal and Ecological Terrorist Act," which classifies acts of civil disobedience by pro-environment and pro-animal protesters as terrorism. Under this proposed law people caught filming or taking photographs at a livestock farm would be put in the federal terrorist registry. I'm the first one to support putting people in jail when they cross the line from peaceful protest to acts of violence and sabotage, but arbitrarily depriving people of their civil rights by declaring them a terrorist, especially when they are only taking pictures, smells too much like North Korea and Red China to me, and tends to curl my nose. North Korean dictator King Jong Un, who specializes in jailing tourists who take unauthorized photographs, would certainly delight in ALEC's methods.

ALEC has also fought against greenhouse gas emissions restrictions. It has pushed legislation that would allow corporations to keep from disclosing potential drinking water contaminants in fluids used in the "fracking" process of oil extraction. Basically, the purpose of ALEC is to promote the interests of its corporate members, even if that means health risks to the consumers who could be harmed by the byproducts that these members pump into the environment.

In other words, human rights only go as far as ALEC defines them. And in case you remain unconvinced about the underlying motives of ALEC where human rights are concerned, the fact that this group opposed disinvestment in South Africa during the height of apartheid should give you an idea about how much they really value individual freedom.

Thomas Jefferson and many of the founding fathers feared corporations as a threat to democracy, as do many modern day advocates for free enterprise.
Thomas Jefferson and many of the founding fathers feared corporations as a threat to democracy, as do many modern day advocates for free enterprise. | Source

Is Left or Right an Issue?

Opposing the sometimes nefarious activities of corporations should not automatically get the "commie" label stuck upon you" This article is being produced from a non-partisan perspective, and I propose that it is possible to believe in the sanctity of free enterprise without being overly fond of the institution of the corporation. In fact, many influential classical and even what could be called right-wing philosophers were not fond of corporations at all, viewing them as the enemies of rather than the foundation behind free enterprise, as the ALEC board members would style it.

Thomas Jefferson, third President and author of the Declaration of Independence said that "The end of democracy and the defeat of the American Revolution will occur when government falls into the hands of lending institutions and moneyed incorporations." But being opposed to the often corrupt corporate practice of pursuing profits to the detriment of the public good did not make Jefferson an enemy of free enterprise. In Jefferson's times the "liberalism" of the founding fathers was associated with capitalism. Capitalism was seen as a relatively untested liberating influence, a force of positive change whereby each individual, unfettered by the onerous burdens imposed by nobility, could work to advance one's individual welfare.

Thomas Jefferson's sense of free enterprise was centered around the idea of the "yeoman farmer." His ideal yeoman was defined as a small, independent landowner dedicated to his individual prosperity but who also would fight to preserve his individual rights from the residual elements of British-style nobility that would reduce him to serfdom and peonage. Under the Jeffersonian view all individuals, including the yeoman, were certainly free to buy and trade to their advantage, but he warned against "...the aristocracy of our monied corporations which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength, and to bid defiance to the laws of their country." Even in its nascent stages, the American democratic experiment was already being challenged by "monied corporations.".

Perhaps the influence of the "yeoman farmer" has been significantly reduced in modern times, having been mostly replaced by the white and blue collar worker and the small businessman, but Jefferson's underlying principle is the same. And just as Jefferson warned us, the guarantees of individual freedom outlined in the first ten amendments to the Constitution are being assaulted by "monied incorporations" under the umbrella of ALEC, where laws are being written that would deprive us of our right to protest assaults upon our health, standard of living, and freedom of speech in exchange for driving the black ink of the corporate bottom line.

Even the believers in unfettered, laissez-faire style capitalism are not all on board with ALEC's methods. For instance, philosopher and novelist Ayn Rand, the mention of whose name would undoubtedly raise a chorus of groans in a room full of ALEC detractors, would nonetheless flop over in her grave once or twice if she became aware that the advocates of ALEC were using her words to support their objectives.

Ayn Rand was not a fan of the corporate model. It is interesting that the main characters in her novels were not corporate CEOs, but instead were the sole proprietors of their businesses. In her book Atlas Shrugged Ayn Rand decries corporate influence peddling, and the CEOs who engage in it are clearly identified as the villains of the piece. Because Ayn Rand believed in limited government, she would certainly not advocate the kind of corporate trading favors for government concessions that ALEC is all about.

My point here is not to make you a fan of Ayn Rand or even Thomas Jefferson, for that matter. My point is to illustrate that opposition to ALEC and its methods is not a left-right issue, but a freedom issue. "We the People," so boldly outlined in the preamble to the Constitution, should be creating the laws that America is governed by; corporations should not.

Source

Postal Perspective

I admit I have a personal ax to grind with ALEC. Just in case you had not been able to infer this from my fancy nom de plume I am a postal worker, and my continued employment with the United States Postal Service has been imperiled by the machinations of ALEC. All the same, adding my voice to the crusade against ALEC has not been undertaken from purely personal motivations. The Post Office is an institution that is guaranteed by the Constitution, and your right to reliable and economical mail delivery has also been endangered by ALEC's insidious, unspoken agenda.

In 2006 the Postal Service was still profitable. It was an increasingly threatening competitive alternative to its arch rivals UPS (United Parcel Service) and FedEx, both ALEC board members. In response to the threat ALEC stepped up to the plate to benefit these influential subscribers, and card carrying ALEC member Congressman John McHugh brought forward the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act (PAEA), which was passed into law. PAEA required the USPS to pre-fund its pension fund for the next seven decades to the tune of 5.5 billion annually, a backbreaking and unprecedented requirement that has never been imposed on any other institution, public or private.

The results were predictable. Postal finances went into a tailspin. Yes, even from where I sit in California I can hear you repeating the monotonous mantra that email, reduced mail volume, etc. were responsible, but that is true only to a limited degree. If not for PAEA the Postal Service would again be a profitable institution today in 2014, having netted a pre-PAEA 1 billion dollars in the last quarter of 2013, and at least 70% of the losses it has endured since 2006 can be attributed to the PAEA extortion payment.

As a result mail processing plants and post offices across the country have been closed, leading to significant mail delays and increased inconvenience for Americans who have to drive or perhaps take a bus a few additional miles to mail a package or buy a book of stamps. ALEC has done its best to destroy your Postal Service, and is not done yet.

Who should write America's laws?
Who should write America's laws? | Source

Conclusion - Should Corporations Write Laws?

ALEC is the manufactured voice box through which corporations write laws. Corporations do not think, they do not feel, they do not suffer, they do not raise children to adulthood, they do not take care of elderly parents, they do not feel passion and indignation in the presence of wrongdoing, they do not get sick and they do not bleed. A corporation is simply an abstract entity that has no objectives other than to enrich its stockholders. Corporations are not human beings, so should they be able to write laws that affect the lives of human beings?

Wormtongue is alive and well folks,. His name is ALEC, and he slinks silently in the shadows behind the seats of power, quietly dictating laws that would return us to serfdom. The time has come to pull the plug on this corrupt organization and return law-making authority into the hands of the people.

Should Corporations Write Your Laws?

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    • profile image

      Howard Schneider 3 years ago from Parsippany, New Jersey

      The Koch Brothers are the insidious force behind sending ALEC into overdrive. They are behind all the conservative machinations in this country including the Tea Party. They do it all to lower or eliminate their taxes, lower or eliminate regulations on them, and to give themselves rightful control over this country. They are evil and narcissistic monsters. Excellent Hub, Mel.

    • Mel Carriere profile image
      Author

      Mel Carriere 3 years ago from San Diego California

      Thank you for the nice words. I agree on all counts. These people are enemies of human freedom and wish to enslave us.

    • mperrottet profile image

      Margaret Perrottet 3 years ago from Pennsauken, NJ

      Excellent clearly written argument against this organization. Although I'm strongly in favor of getting rid of corporations controlling our legislation, I wasn't aware of this particular group. Now that I am, I'll certainly be investigating what they're up to. Voting this up, interesting and useful.

    • Mel Carriere profile image
      Author

      Mel Carriere 3 years ago from San Diego California

      I am certainly gratified that I could enlighten you about Alec, which was unknown to me until just a couple months ago. Once I found out about them a lot of things I had been wondering about started to make sense. Thank you.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      You know, you just raised an issue that I had forgotten about, or never realized....and for God's sake, I taught political science. LOL The postal service is guaranteed in the Constitution....that raises up some interesting questions, doesn't it? What a can of worms that would be if they tried to close down the postal service and turned it into a private enterprise. Very interesting, Mel....carry on my friend....pun intended.

    • profile image

      sheilamyers 3 years ago

      Thanks for providing this information. I was aware of ALEC and some of what it was doing, but didn't realize to what a large degree they affect the laws. As you mentioned, it is never a good thing for corporations to have so much influence they can have laws passed which have a positive impact on their bottom line to the detriment of the health and welfare of everyone else. As a side note, I love the way you compare ALEC to Wormtongue. That's a great analogy.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 3 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      This is new to me and interesting to me to have learned about The Power Behind the Throne - Should Corporate Proxies like ALEC Write America's Laws? An informative and helpful hub indeed.

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 3 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Interesting article Mel. We are seeing similar situations here with corporations having too much control over the Government and it's decisions. Our Government no longer cares about the average Joe, just making corporations richer. Our postal service Australia Post has been constantly raising the cost of postage that it is too expensive to send anything overseas, postage often being higher than the value of the item. Now they are discussing either charging customers a yearly fee to have their mail delivered or alternatively only delivering mail three days per week. Anyway, voted up.

    • Mel Carriere profile image
      Author

      Mel Carriere 3 years ago from San Diego California

      Thank you billybuc. Even now our postmaster general, who seems to have an evil agenda of his own, is busy trying to sell off chunks of America's postal service. Fortunately we still have a few friends in Congress who have temporarily put a halt to it. Thanks for reading!

    • Mel Carriere profile image
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      Mel Carriere 3 years ago from San Diego California

      sheilamyers I am really glad you enjoyed the Wormtongue analogy. I thought it was very appropriate. We'll all be the slaves of Mordor if we continue to let groups like ALEC decide what is best for us. By the way, sorry I have been so neglectful of my hub pages friends like you. I've been a little bit preoccupied by other pursuits. Thanks for dropping in!

    • Mel Carriere profile image
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      Mel Carriere 3 years ago from San Diego California

      Thank you DDE for your nice comment. I am glad I could inform you a little.

    • Mel Carriere profile image
      Author

      Mel Carriere 3 years ago from San Diego California

      Sorry Jodah to here about the problems you are having down there with your Australian postal service. It does not bode well for our own postal service here once they set a precedent elsewhere. I understand Great Britain is also in the process of privatizing. I don't know much about the Constitution of Australia or that of other countries, but our Constitution actually guarantees the postal service, which may be why we're still afloat. Despite our recent difficulties caused mostly by the machinations of ALEC we are still reasonably priced and increasingly competitive with our private industry rivals. Thanks for dropping in!

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 3 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      This was a real eye-opener, Mel. Thanks for sending Wormtongue out for us all to see.,

    • Mel Carriere profile image
      Author

      Mel Carriere 3 years ago from San Diego California

      There is always a Wormtongue lurking in the shadows and I make it my mission to expose them. Thanks for reading!

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 3 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      I run out my door when I am working from home. And smile and wave and say thanks to our postal workers. My great momma also had food and drink for them. We were taught respect for these workers. Today I will hand write some notes to buddies and send them out. Folk just love to get a hand scribbled note. I will include some horrible drawings from my four year old and they will go on refrigerators.

      This cannot be done with love over our internet.

      I want to hold bills and such matters in my hand. If they double the price of postage it is worth it for me if they spend that on the workers.

      Let me end with your words of wisdom and precede it with "Amen":

      Capitalism was seen as a relatively untested liberating influence, a force of positive change whereby each individual, unfettered by the onerous burdens imposed by nobility, could work to advance one's individual welfare.

    • Mel Carriere profile image
      Author

      Mel Carriere 3 years ago from San Diego California

      Very wise and moving words sir. Our vast postal army in blue thanks you for your patronage of our institution, which actually belongs to you via constitutional guarantee. Thank you for reminding the readers here what an important spiritual role the post office still plays in people's lives, one that cannot be replaced by heartless electrons zipping down a pipe.

    • bethperry profile image

      Beth Perry 3 years ago from Tennesee

      Fascinating and eye-opening article! I had no idea ALEC brandished this much power over legislation.

      Apparently my views on capitalism sync with Jefferson's, which by the way, we see illustrated -and with surprising realism- in Tolkien's writings about Hobbit society. I think it is an intrinsic practice of our species to buy, trade and practice commerce; but once we let any activity dominate our lives or sense of what we are, it becomes a power hungry master.

      Great article and thanks for sharing. Voted up.

    • Mel Carriere profile image
      Author

      Mel Carriere 3 years ago from San Diego California

      @bethperry I am gratified to make your aquaintance, and thank you for dusting off this largely ignored hub of mine. Hope you wore a face mask because the dust was on there a little thick, which might represent another small victory for ALEC.

      Anyhow, I think we all support free enterprise, or we wouldn't be doing online writing at all, but what ALEC represents is not free enterprise, but monopolistic, autocratic control over our economy. Thanks for dropping by and cleaning up a little.

    • B. Leekley profile image

      Brian Leekley 3 years ago from Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA

      I think many of the assumptions underlying the philosophies underlying the capitalist economic-political-legal system are lies and should be exposed and tossed out. That includes raising public awareness of and opposition to ALEC. I'm sharing this hub with followers and on social networking sites.

      I was in agreement with you on the PAEA issue, based on petitions I've seen, but this evening I read the CNBC online article The Truth About The Post Office's Financial Mess by Lori Ann LaRocco that refutes the postal union's claims. Now I'm unsure what to believe about that issue.

    • Mel Carriere profile image
      Author

      Mel Carriere 3 years ago from San Diego California

      I think the bottom line is in the bottom line. Without the PAEA deduction we would have cleared a profit the last 2 quarters. Yes we had a bad time during the recession but a lot of businesses did, and none of them had to make this extortion payment to Congress to pay for the retirement of workers 75 years into the future.

      Thanks for dropping in and I really appreciate the social media share.

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