This week, Moyers & Company reports on the most influential corporate-funded political force most of America has never heard of — ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council. A national consortium of state politicians and powerful corporations, ALEC presents itself as a “nonpartisan public-private partnership”. But behind that mantra lies a vast network of corporate lobbying and political action aimed to increase corporate profits at public expense without public knowledge.
“All of us here are very familiar with ALEC and the influence that ALEC has with many of the [legislative] members,” says Arizona State Senator Steve Farley. “Corporations have the right to present their arguments, but they don’t have the right to do it secretly.”In state houses around the country, hundreds of pieces of boilerplate ALEC legislation are proposed or enacted that would, among other things, dilute collective bargaining rights, make it harder for some Americans to vote, and limit corporate liability for harm caused to consumers — each accomplished without the public ever knowing who’s behind it. Using interviews, documents, and field reporting, the episode explores ALEC’s self-serving machine at work, acting in a way one Wisconsin politician describes as “a corporate dating service for lonely legislators and corporate special interests.”
Updated coverage includes new examples of corporate influence on state legislation and lawmakers, the growing public protest against ALEC’s big business-serving agenda, and internal tactics ALEC is instituting to further shroud its actions and intentions.
Executive Producer Tom Casciato says people who saw the first report “might be surprised to learn that, despite more than 40 companies having dropped out of ALEC, the organization is still going very strong… ALEC doesn’t publish a list of its members, so covering will always be hard.”
“In a democracy it’s a good idea for people to know where their laws originate. If your local legislator introduces a bill as his or her own, and it turns out the bill actually came from a national organization in which corporations have already voted as to whether or not they approve of it, and it also turns out that those corporations stand to profit by its passage, you ought to know that. It’ll never stop being important for journalists to cover the lawmaking process as it’s practiced not only in broad daylight but also behind closed doors.”
“United States of ALEC” is a collaboration between Okapi Productions LLC (filmmakers Tom Casciato and Kathleen Hughes) and the Schumann Media Center, headed by Bill Moyers, which supports independent journalism and public watchdogs including the Center for Media and Democracy, and Common Cause, whose investigators are featured in the report.