Washington For Sale
Koch Industries Inc. and Exxon Mobil Corp. are looking to benefit from similar energy legislation introduced in various states from New Hampshire to New Mexico, and there's no coincidence. Both energy companies helped write the legislation through a group they finance, the American Legislative Exchange Council, a Washington-based policy institute known as ALEC.
“This is just another hidden way for corporations to buy their way into the legislative process,” said Bob Edgar, president of Common Cause, a Washington-based group that advocates for limits on money in politics.
An ALEC membership fee goes for as much as $25,000 -- but costs thousands more to join one of the group’s legislative-writing task forces. When “model legislation” is completed, ALEC’s legislator members work to bring it into law.
Corporations are “paying for an opportunity to connect directly with legislators,” said Jeremy Kalin, a former Democratic Minnesota state representative. “It’s an end-run around transparency and disclosure laws. Corporate interests that would otherwise be required to register as lobbyists are writing legislation behind closed doors.”
At ALEC’s annual meeting in San Diego last year, three companies -- pharmaceutical manufacturer Allergan Inc., telephone giant AT&T Inc. and cigarette maker Reynolds American Inc. -- each paid $100,000 to be “President Level” sponsors. Another 11 groups, including Pfizer Inc., wrote checks for $50,000
ALEC began writing model bills in the 1990s and says on its website that about 1,000 pieces of legislation based on its bills are introduced each year and about 20 percent become law.
As Ralph Nader said, big business is colliding with American Democracy, and American Democracy is losing.
Image: "US Capitol Sold" by takomabibelot on Flickr courtesy of Creative Commons Licensing.Tweet