March 25, 2013, Democratic Perspective hosted Harriet Young, Angela LeFevre and Karen McClelland to discuss the influence of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) on Arizona Politics. It is well worth taking time to listen to the podcast, but following are a few of the highlights.
ALEC is a lobbying organization founded by old-line political operatives from the John Birch Society, who thought Eisenhower was a communist. These ALEC founders, such as Milton Friedman and Paul Weyrich, were determined to counter what they considered growing liberalism and to preserve what they consider “true” democracy. They are for unrestrained free market capitalism and against labor unions. They equate populism with communism.
Having failed to dictate their agenda at the federal level, they chose to focus on taking over state legislatures.
“If you’re a legislative member, you don’t have to think,” said Young. “ALEC will train you, pay for your trips to its meetings and provide you with model legislative bills.” Indeed, ALEC brags that it authors nearly 1,000 such bills a year for state legislatures all across the country. These bills focus on the interests of ALEC’s corporate sponsors and religious interests.
In Arizona, 40 of the 60 representatives are members of ALEC, along with 21 of 30 senators. As a result, much of the proposed legislation is written by ALEC. For example, the anti-immigrant bill, SB 1070, was written by an ALEC attorney in Kansas who worked for Corrections Corporation of America.
“Corporations are taking over our state legislature,” LeFevre stated. “We’re seeing more right wing legislation that seems to provide solutions to problems that don’t exist. We have voter suppression in the name of stopping voter fraud. They’re trying to stop early voting!”
Turning to education, Young mentioned a book written by Milton Friedman in the fifties calling for an end to all public programs, including public education. “The Arizona legislature is all in favor of vouchers for school choice,” McClellan noted. “Yet 90 percent of Arizona kids go to public schools.”
“When did the public stand up and say ‘We want to end public education’,” Young asked. “They didn’t. ALEC did. The legislature does what it’s told to do by ALEC,” Young continued.
The group went on to discuss the effect of ALEC in other areas, including prisons, women’s health, even birth control. LeFevre quoted Rep. Brenda Barton, an ALEC member, “I do not want public funds paying for private decisions.”
To learn more about ALEC, check our ALECWatch.org, Common Cause, and People for the American Way.