ALEC: Planting Seeds of Domination

A secretive alliance has been percolating for years between representatives of major US-based corporations and far right Republican state legislators.  Its real purpose is to stack the legislative deck in favor of corporate-agenda profits and against the interests of the voting public.  Its members meet off-the-record to develop ideas and model language for legislation that weakens democratic government by promoting the privatizing of public services such as education and prisons.  The bills then flood state legislatures throughout the country. 

The alliance has a name: the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).  The August 1/8 2011 issue of The Nation magazine featured it in several insightful articles on the theme “ALEC Exposed,” one of which refers to it as “Business Domination Inc.”    Major transnational corporations are out to dominate by shredding the social contract that has held this nation together—and ALEC is their vehicle for it.  Readers can keep abreast of the ALEC threat by checking into the Center for Media and Democracy’s ALEC exposed website.  The theme in The Nation, noted above, uses its name and references the website.

Founded in 1973, ALEC has ramped up its power since the 2010 mid-term elections.  In that election, as John Nichols notes in his Nation article, 680 Republicans were elected to state House and Senate seats.  In twenty-one states Republicans now control both legislative bodies and the governorship, making it possible for rightwing, corporate-agenda legislation to pass ALEC-defined laws.  Nichols describes ALEC’s board as including an equal number of legislators and corporate representatives, but that “Corporate donors retain veto power over the language which is developed by secretive task forces.”

Actors on the corporate side include the billionaire Koch brothers, David and Charles, heirs of the Koch Industries’ fortune, an oil sector business founded by their rightwing father, Fred.  In addition to their extensive funding of ALEC through the years, the Kochs have supported the Tea Party movement and the “tutoring of judges” in their “free market” view of the world, as reported by Lisa Graves in the same Nation issue.  ALEC now gets funding from significant fees paid by its 300 corporate members ($7500-$25,000—small change for them) and a token form of membership dues ($50) paid by its 2000 legislator members.

As part of ALEC’s agenda to privatize every public service, public education is one of its targets.  Julie Underwood, in her Nation article, (“Starving Public Schools”), describes its take-no-prisoners strategy by bulleting ALEC provision that pave the way to privatization through laws that authorize charter schools, school vouchers and tax incentives—and influencing the curriculum to fit its ideology.  She underscores the research findings in her native state of Wisconsin (where she is Dean of the School of Education at the University of Wisconsin, Madison) that the voucher schools, privatized religious or secular, offer no school skill-advancement advantages, as promised.

And, most damaging, they offer no sense of responsible public citizenship, which binds us as a communal people.  She pinpoints the threat to schooling in naming several other states that have passed versions of ALEC education bills, including Georgia, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Florida, Utah and Indiana.  ALEC likens its own strategy, she reports, to a “whack-a-mole” game in which so many pieces of legislation are introduced in so many places of the country, that the ones with the mallet, like unions, can’t hit all of them.

Underwood poses a powerful question: “What happens to our democracy when we return to an educational system whose access is defined by corporate interests and divided by class, language, ability, race and religion?  In a push to free-market education, who pays in the end?”

Through ALEC-defined education legislation, thus, corporations are planting seeds of domination.  In privatized schools students will not be getting the thinking tools that empower them to critique their society and the corporations that increasingly dominate their lives.

One response to this post.

  1. Posted by Jay Arena on August 5, 2011 at 11:41 pm

    check out the protests in new orleans against ALEC


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