The New York Times ran an editorial Sunday that provided some of the most in-depth coverage of the American Legislative Exchange Council ("ALEC") yet. I've mentioned ALEC on Cottonmouth before (here and here), but I've never really explained who they are, why they matter, and how they are now affecting every Mississippian.
If you've spent time over the past few years paying attention to what is happening with legislatures in other states (especially in the South), then the first six weeks of action at the corner of Mississippi and North Congress Streets in Downtown Jackson probably isn't much of a surprise to you. That's because Mississippi Republican legislators aren't exactly blazing new trails with their legislative proposals concerning charter schools, virtual schools, and limiting the power of the Attorney General. They'd love for you to believe that they are crafting unique solutions to Mississippi's problems, but all they're doing is following their marching orders from the American Legislative Exchange Council.
For example, the hottest topic at the Capitol so far this session is limiting the power of the Attorney General. ALEC has an entire section of their website devoted to this. And what's the name of that section? "Sunshine in State Attorney Contracts." Sound familiar?
So why should you care about ALEC? Well, ALEC was founded by, and is funded by, the largest corporations in America. ALEC's "Private Enterprise Board", as they call the money folks behind their operation, is made up of representatives from the following: Centerpoint360 (headed by a former US Tobacco executive), Bayer Corporation, GlaxoSmithKline, Reynolds American, Wal-Mart, Energy Future Holdings, Johnson & Johnson, PhRMA, American Bail Coalition, Kraft Foods, Inc., Pfizer, Inc., Reed Elsevier, Inc., DIAGEO, AT&T, Peabody Energy, UPS, Koch Companies Public Sector, LLC, Coca-Cola Refreshments, Altria Client Services, ExxonMobil, Salt River Project, and State Farm Insurance Co.
And it's this Private Enterprise Board that drives the ALEC agenda and puts model bills into the hands of Mississippi legislators. These companies are the ones paying for Mississippi legislators to attend conferences around the country, where the attendees are handed the model legislation written by said companies. That's why you should care.
So which legislators are members of ALEC, you ask? Which legislators are pushing Wall Street's agenda rather than Main Street's? I'll provide that information in a future post.
***UPDATE 2/23/2012*** - The list of Mississippi legislators in ALEC has bee posted here.