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.
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.”
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.
“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.”
“United States of ALEC” is a collaboration between Okapi Productions LLC (the 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, whose investigators are featured in the report.
Also on the Moyers & Company broadcast — making a timely return appearance — is master media decoder Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg Public Policy Center and founder of FactCheck.org. Jamieson joins Bill to discuss deception and truth in the 2012 campaign.