Monday, August 15, 2011

The Most Insidious Group in America

Now that's a mighty claim to make, I know, but I do firmly believe that ALEC (The American Legislative Exchange Council) fits that bill to a tee.  ALEC is technically a nonprofit, which develops and promotes model legislation. It is a membership-based organization, with nearly 2/3 of state legislators and leaders of practically every major corporation in this country comprising its membership base.  It holds conferences a few times per year, in which they invite state legislators to sit with corporate chairpersons and lobbyists to develop model legislation that is shipped to state houses around the country and enacted with alarming frequency.

So basically, corporations pay to have direct access to state lawmakers, then literally craft corporate-friendly legislation with them, and bring it home to get it enacted.  Now you may think that legislation written and promoted by corporate leaders would not be very kind to the interests of the majority of American citizens.  You'd be right.

ALEC is the group behind the anti-union laws that have swept the nation, trying to undercut a base of liberal political support.  They are behind attacks on the EPA, and every other movement to stifle government regulation.  ALEC, along with CCA, helped write and pass 3-strikes laws and "truth in sentencing" legislation during the 90s, which contributed to our skyrocketing rate of incarceration, and our country having the largest prison population, in both rate and real numbers, in the entire world.

It turns out they also have a heavy hand in promoting privatized prisons, and even promote privatizing parole systems (because if there's one thing our criminal justice system needs, it's another profit-driven corporation trying to exploit poor people).  ALEC has also been very aggressive in pushing for private corrections industries, basically laws that permit for private prisons to operate industries.  Unfortunately for prisoners, these private prisons take a large cut of the income produced by prison labor, turning the whole scheme into a big money-making racket. Of course, the proliferation of such operations was made possible by ALEC's influence, particularly in the state of Texas.

A program was developed for Texas' prisons by Rep. Ray Allen, an ALEC member, and passed in the early 90's.   Coincidentally enough (or not coincidental at all, if you know anything of the conflicts of interest inherent to conservative political gamesmanship), oversight of this program was changed from the DOJ to a trade organization represented by Rep. Allen's lobbying firm.  Allen became chair of the Texas legislatures' corrections commission in 2003 and started pushing for ALEC's Prison Industries Act.  He then even took a seat as the chair of ALEC's task force on criminal justice.  So the chair of the nonprofit agency that wrote an act designed to allow private prison operators to take obscene amounts of cash in overhead expenses for prison industries directed the corrections commission in a state with one of the largest prison, and private prison, populations in the country.  The current director of that task force, Jerry Madden, also happens to be the chair of the corrections committee in Texas.

So the next time someone says that claims of a corporate takeover of our government are just a "conspiracy," you can simply tell them to take a look at ALEC, the embodiment of everything that's wrong with capitalism in this country.


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