Preview: United States of ALEC

September 25, 2012

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 Jamieson joins Bill to discuss deception and truth in the 2012 campaign.

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  • Matthew Dunham

    SICK very sick.

  • Jane Sargent

    It was a little more than obvsious that the repug governors had an agenda. Time to expose these traitors.

  • nineinchbride

    Who doesn’t know what the problem is? Can’t we get “beyond the choir?” Become a revolutionary. Support, join, fund Occupy Wall Street.

  • jan

    Question. Where have the companies that have pulled their funding of ALEC shifted that money to? Is it another ALEC-like organization or is it something a little more worthy?

  • JCC

    Tea Party?

  • Lyle Hill

    I wonder who started the procedure of having “music” playing in the background while the text is being read?
    This is very annoying and caused me to turn off what promised to be a very informative report. Sorry . . .

  • jan

    I’m thinking they have simply found another ALEC-type organization, not the Tea Party, who will help them push their overall goals; sort of like the heads of the hydra monster.

  • Jean Pierre de Lutz

    The real issue? is America undergoing a modern coup d’état in which in which its institutions and values are slowly being subverted in favor of a plutocracy? Citizen’s United is no doubt a major part of what cannot be refuted as a conspiracy, Alec is but one more part of the puzzle. America wake up!

  • Kathleen

    This is covered int the film, “I Am” I hope now that people will take notice. It takes 1 to make a change.

  • Oblio

    Another important fine film that needs to get out into the mainstream BEFORE an election. Unfortunately the profit interests of this and many other like minded films, takes a front seat to the needs of the nation. The film is circulating among the moneyed few and the masses have no access until long after the vote has been taken. After suffering another 4 years of corporate oligarchy, this film will also be long gone forgotten when it could have stood the test of time had it been released to the masses in a timely inexpensive manner.

  • Anonymous

    volume control is manual…!

  • Catherine

    Corporations are amoral, often unethical, and most definitely not the least bit concerned with human beings or their quality of life. If it isn’t about $$ then the corporation turns a deaf ear. The only principles a corporation focuses on are bottom line on a spread sheet and insane compensation packages to top management. If we do not band together and protest their encroachment into our democratic system things will continue to get worse and worse. But this time if it is an Occupy Movement or something else, we must have clearly defined goals, a clear message and demands, and leaders, not just a rag tag band of well meaning people doing random things. The time is NOW!!

  • Susan Lynn

    This program is a joke. ALEC is an excellent, state legislator
    led organization that will soon celebrate its 40th anniversary. The organization supports federalism and liberty. I was chairman of the Commerce task force for four years – I
    am proud to say that the work of the task force was my work and that of others
    who asked to present to the group which I allowed – both public sector
    or private sector. The votes – up or down – were real.

    is one ALEC producing legislation to promote liberty in the United
    States – but there are a slew of left leaning organizations that are staff driven and produce liberal legislation which they distribute to state legislators through conferences, mailings to our legislative offices and unrequested emails sent to our legislative accounts weekly,

    National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), Progressive States Network,
    the Council of State Governments and others ought to be investigated to learn from where their funding comes.

    Legislators that belong to ALEC voluntarily pay their own dues to belong. NCSL long ago arranged to have nearly every state legislature in the country pay the dues for the legislators – whether the member wants to belong or not.

    Unlike the groups I
    mentioned above, ALEC doesn’t address social issues. A few years ago when NCSL had their
    national conference in Nashville it was “free” because my dues were paid without my consent. The presenters very liberal views were bad enough but when one of them tried to hand me a condom lollypop I could take no more. What a joke!

    Mr. Moyers all you do is obfuscate
    for the left – you have no issue here.

  • Barrettsh

    More about ALEC – ALEC Exposed, the Koch Connection:

    ALEC Exposed:

    This is an insidious, sneaky, greedy, self-serving, underhanded, unelected body of big corporations which seeks to usurp Democracy, rule the country for themselves to the exclusion of everyone else and to pre-empt and prevent the voices of the people from being heard. As if Citizens United wasn’t bad enough by itself, there’s ALEC

  • Ron

    I live in WA. State. Is our current governor a member of ALEC, and are either of the candidates running for governor members of Alec? Thank you,

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  • Roberta

    Occupy is a waste of time and energy unless you collectively demand campaign finance reform.

  • Guest

    Agreed, but that choir has been singing to itself for decades now.

  • Sheila Sikorski

    ALEC reminds me of the Citibank memorandum a few years back that discussed the takeover of power in this nation and how “one man, one vote” prevents that takeover. I guess ALEC figured out how to get rid of “one man, one vote” with its ID laws and its voter roll purges and its “True the Vote” jerks challenging the voting rights of perfectly good citizens. That is why we CANNOT stay home this election. Voting is a an automatic RIGHT of a citizen 18 years and older, not the “privilege” that ALEC allies Heritage Foundation and others claim, then try to excuse by saying, “Well, people need IDs to drive cars and get on planes.” It’s not the same; our Constitution does not guarantee driving or airplane boarding rights. It does guarantee our RIGHT to vote. Also, by the way, our RIGHT to be considered innocent until proven guilty is explicit in the Constitution, which should imply that the GOVERNMENT has to prove that we’re NOT citizens; we should not have to prove we are.

  • Reality

    Shorter Susan Lynn: I’ve got my snout deep in that trough of sweet, sweet corporate cash, and I love it! To hell with democracy!

  • db

    one word…Fascism.

  • jan

    I’ve seen too much information from too many independent sources to believe anything you’re saying Susan Lynn.

  • Marc Mollan

    This is exactly how the marijuana prohibition was enacted in the 30’s. The rich and powerful writing things out in their own favor and passing them secretly. Nothing has changed or looks as if it can as long as the playing field is so tilted.

  • Viken

    Mr Moyer, The Unites States of Alec is a gamechanger, like the movie Milk was for gay right in US- I think this wil change the face of the 2016 election. Thank you!

  • Raymond Fristrom


  • Raymond Fristrom

    it amazes me that this being a wealthy country and we have a 50% illeteracy in our schools. what is wrong with this picture.? if you do not educate the masses they will be sheep and we are almost there now

  • Blake

    Is there a list of names from each state so that we know which representatives belong to ALEC?

  • Guest

    Corporations are not destroying our country it is the greedy people who work for, own stock and lobby for these entities that are lacking morals and love for our nation and it’s people. The people in charge of the corporations are the enemy.

  • Knot a Smart ALEC…

    aye sea ewe misspelled “illiteracy”… classic…
    eye dew knot no four sure, butt aye think their are knot any misspellings in mien… homonymns, heteronymns and the such, maybe…

  • Iceneedle

    I believe Susan is accurate on a number of points. For example, ALEC does not get into social issues. Would a person say having corporate run prisons be a saving grace or a loss? What if you could get at least get a population of 70-90% filled by law breakers. For example, detention of illegal aliens perhaps. Where does the social action and law mix ? Or perhaps I am missing something.

  • Susan Lynn

    Really Jan – you cannot believe anything I say? Is that because if it were true – ALEC would appear to be a much better organization in your eyes? Well Jan, what I’ve stated is true.

    Jan – have you not ever wondered why you might read an article in the NYT, Wash Post or WSJ about an issue and the legislation that just happens to be running in multiple states at the same time? How do you think that happens Jan? Do you imagine that the legislators somehow all at the same time decided to file bills with the same or substantially similar language? That would be really amazing Jan.

    I can tell you that I did not want to belong to NCSL – I told my Speaker – but he told me that the legislature’s budget, which as Speaker he controlled, pays the dues for all members whether we know it or want it. Looking into the matter further I found out that NCSL has a similar arrangement with almost all of the state legislatures.

    I can show you years of checks for my membership dues to ALEC – the state did not pay them for me.

    And you don’t believe that I ran the task force for which I was in charge? Really? All of the content of the conference for the task force was my idea and or my decision to allow a hearing before the members of the full task force. We took role and only members of the task force could vote; public sector members first then private sector. The debate was thoughtful – amendments were voted upon – often legislation was sent to a subcommittee for more detailed review and consideration – often legislation was killed.

    NCSL deals with abortion, condoms etc. ALEC does not address those issues.

  • 4mothernature2

    ALEC members include “For-Profit Prisons”, Drug Companies, Banks, For-Profit Bail Bondsmen, Rep.Steve McDaniels, and Rep. Marsha Blackburn. I never heard of these two people until I was arrested for ONE hydrocodone in my first aid kit *(OUT of the prescription bottle, IN an Aleve bottle) in the back of my car, *(which is a felony in some states like Tennessee). The cop said a single woman like me, traveling by car with knives or protection would be understandable, but he couldn’t ‘validate’ the pill. It wasn’t even on my person. I later contacted the politicians noted above, and no help. Then I found out the pharmaceuticals and Board of Pharmacy and ALEC passed these stupid drug laws WITHOUT putting warnings on the bottles, inserts or TV Advertisements. Isn’t that entrapment? Passing a law and not advertising it so innocent people GET arrested? Locus Standi: Any
    law harmful to citizens. Thanks for exposing this awful group. I learned a lot when I was finally “proven” Innocent.

  • 4mothernature2

    I know at least Marsha Blackburn and Steve McDaniels, from Tennessee, where I was arrested for the first time in my life at age 47 (case dismissed and expunged). They are members of ALEC and didn’t want to help prevent the arrest of innocent people for unadvertised drug laws. (Schedule 1,2,3 out of prescription bottle is a felony). I had one hydrocodone (tylenol with codeine) and it wasn’t ‘baggied up’ like a drug dealer would do…it was in the back of my car in a first aid kit. Cost me $5,000.00 for a lawyer since I’m from Missouri and had to get back from spring break in college. THATS how I first read up about ALEC.

  • Carole DeAngeli

    Thank you, Bill for taking on this subject. I have been writing letters like crazy to my representatives, all of whom are ALEC supporters or members. Wasting my time.

  • Susan Cunningham

    Susan Cunningham

  • John Allison

    The real reason the repubs want to murder Big Bird , P.B.S. Exposes Corruption……Not Owned By Corporate Stooges !~

  • Johnny L Waller

    We Need to Do what was done in France!

  • Virginia Nancarvis

    Why are laws being crafted outside of our state Congress/Assemblies? Isn’t this what we elected politicians to do?..I could care less that you are voting for legislation in a conference room of an organization. Creating laws and introducing them should occur in one place and that is in Congress. While organizations such as Alec work in the background and at their leisure draft our laws with all the debates and arguments in place, it stymies the opposition, is underhanded and unfair. I find it more than telling that many of these “model” laws have been introduced by Alec politician members (majority Republican) in their state Congress/Assemblies. Voter suppression laws as one example..have been introduced in over thirty states in the last two years. Others are Stand Your Ground laws, workers bargaining rights and women’s reproductive right laws. Nor is Alec state legislators led…many members are corporate heads of large companies…Here is the bottom line…While legislators and corporations promote their agendas there is no representation of the working class. Do not pretend it does not affect your decisions sitting around a table full of “big wigs” and moneyed influence!

  • Mike Lorrey

    Moyers and company are just butthurt that the for profit world has finally come up with a legislative group to counter the Urban League and League of Cities nonprofits and their government employee union supporters that are the real source of corruption in government.

  • Jeanne

    Just what they want Raymond

  • DesertSun59

    Teatards are unaware that they regularly support, endorse and vote for corporate interests that will make sure they can never be part of the 1% ranks that are controlling them.

  • ozarkbreeze

    Susan I think you are missing the point. Most people do not really care if you were forced to pay dues to NCSL, although I am sure it bothered you a great deal, and would have bothered anyone in your position. You were forced to do something against your will and against your principles. So imagine that feeling magnified a thousand-fold, when we, the people, see corporate America ramming through legislation that is good for “business,” i.e., profit for corporate America, knowing very well that trickle down economics NEVER trickles down … against OUR will. You think you were frustrated? You and the other fine folks at ALEC need to wake up. You are living in a fantasy world, thinking that nobody out here could possibly object to what you are doing. We know, we object, and we are pissed.

    Oh, and if it is true ALEC is associated with prisons for profit … I had not heard that one before … I am intimately aware of how prisons for profit are destroying our social fabric, as an attorney in a small-town chronically underemployed region. Children are being sent to jail for infractions that used to get them sent to the principal’s office. One more thing for me to investigate. If it is true, and ALEC is involved, there is a place in hell for people who put profit before children.

  • P-Funk

    North Korea has a literacy rate of about 98%; still sheep.

  • David Lubic

    I’ve commented before that I think corporations, particularly large ones, are a potential threat to our democracy. Corporations, as artificial persons, have no natural limit on age, and no natural limit on size; if they are defined as “persons,” they are thus or can be a form of “superperson,” or as my old fashioned self would put it, a form of “superman.” Some of them are so large as to be larger, in GDP terms, than some countries. Voting is by a form of “might makes right” (“might” being shares of stock). A corporation’s main goal is simply profit–and nothing else. No real moral entity, no soul, nothing to control its excesses but the limits of whatever restraints its directors may place upon it–and one must question, given either their ambitions or their pressures from stockholders, whether the directors place any limits on the companies under their charge at all. Perhaps they can’t, even if they want to; some other outfit wouldn’t have their scruples, if there are any, and that would put them out of business.

    Catherine below has suggested some sort of solid goal is needed. I would suggest we look at changing how voting is performed in corporations. Currently, voting is usually by shares of stock. Tell me, would a person or owning body, such as a pension fund, with 10,000 shares of stock, be 10 times more moral or more intelligent than a person or body with 1,000 shares, or 100 times more so than a person or body with only 100 shares? The answer is “not very likely.” So explain why we give someone 10 times or 100 times more power than the smaller owner?

    I would suggest we change corporate voting from shares to individual shareholders. Each shareholder would get but one vote, no matter how many shares he or she or it, as an owning body, may own. Shares of profit or loss would still be proportional to ownership, and the limited liability provisions would remain as well.

    This is not an alien form of corporate charter. We know it well and call it a cooperative. Cooperatives include grain elevators, power companies, insurance companies (the ones with “mutual” in their names, which are owned, at least technically, by the policy holders), at least one food processing firm that I know about and have audited (I’m an auditor for a state agency), certain stores or chains of stores (Southern States is one, and I believe Cabella’s and IGA–Independent Grocers’ Association–are two others), and even banks (we call those “credit unions”).

    Now, how to get the corporate world to change to the cooperative voting pattern is, I fear, up to others who are better at persuasion than I am. I have long found out I have no voice of authority in this world; I can’t even get my wife to listen to me! At the same time, though, if any people in the corporate world are at all decent, might they be interested in avoiding scandals and troubles–especially if they knew they could do so without some other unrestrained body taking advantage of their limitations? Might at least some be interested in voting as men instead of as bags of money?

    Of course, others would not give up their current power so easily. . .

  • Randy Attwood

    And this is one dystopia that shows where it can lead if the religious right is in control.

  • Elaine Galindo

    Broken laws are overlooked in favor of corporate policies. We the people need to wake up, our way of life is being STOLEN from us!

    The Silent Majority needs to stand up and shout! “We are not Deadbeats!”

  • David Smith

    You are a great American patriot! Hopefully a ground swell of Americans will come to understand that the corporate takeover of our country is really happening.

  • Richard Hicks

    ALEC = pouring oil on the slide of Plutocracy, to get to Fascism faster. Mussolini would be proud!

  • Catherine

    If you figure out a way to push corporations back into the corner where they belong then count me in. Your words are a reflection of mine that I have oft stated. There must be a balance — no one says people should not make a profit, but when that $$ becomes the whole driving force and the god to them then it needs to be curbed. The Christmas story with Scrooge is a cautionary tale for the heartless, money-driven top execs at corporations….

  • Susan Kay Pateracki

    ALEC is ran by Ralph Reed and are extreme Anti Choice people. They are the cause of Romney and Ryan saying they will outlaw abortion. They will outlaw stem cell research and treatment. They are a horrible group of people that tries to control our country. The next thing that ALEC is doing, since they fund the Republicans. No they aren’t for either party as they say they are. They are for and always have been the Republicans because they can control them. These people have been a direct reason that stem cell research was held back for 15 years and not legal in the United States. Until President Obama was elected and cared enough to get this research going forward. All of the children suffering with Cerebral Palsy, Autism, Muscular Dystrophy and more have become the most abused people when it comes to ALEC. President Obama changed that. I am a Stem Cell Research and Treatment Advocate and it has been a long fight. Stem Cell doctors existed but had to get patients to Mexico, where it was legal. ALEC controlled President Bush. They have been my enemy and the enemy of all the children and families praying for cures. I hate these people for what they have done. I know you aren’t suppose to hate but they are horrible. Now ALEC’s plan is to amend the constitution to get PersonHood rights for a fertilized egg. Giving a fertilized egg all rights that people have. These horrible group of people that turned their back on all the children suffering with no childhood and a research that could have resulted in the cures by now. They need to be kicked out of our White House now. Romney said in front of camera that he is a Pro Life person and talked about the amending the constitution to give these rights. ALEC is evil, although they think they are good people. They have to be stopped now. No more of their crap.

  • George

    What were you stopped for?

  • Patrick McLaughlin

    Please take a look at this proposal for a new constitutional amendment to limit the influence of money in our political process:

    Here is the text of the proposed amendment:


    I. All political campaign contributions should derive solely from registered voters within the district, territory or state that the candidate is seeking to represent.

    II. Contributions from registered voters shall be limited to a single candidate per office in each primary or general election

    III. The total value of all political contributions, monetary or of material value, given by a registered voter during a calendar year shall not exceed 10% of the average per capita income, as determined by the most recent United States census.

    IV.. This limit on monetary and material contributions shall not be construed to limit a registered voter, or any other citizen, from contributing any amount of their personal time or labor to any political cause or candidate of their choosing, or in any other way limit the rights of speech or assembly.


  • Think.

    Research ALEC and relentlessly spread the
    word to others through Facebook, Twitter, BLOGs, LTEs, and other social media- we cannot
    count on our news media to inform the public.
    ALEC is a powerful threat to our democracy and needs to be taken down!

  • Jesse Parent

    Alec is a big deal; the public needs to be aware of who is driving legislate developments. I’m doing a small report on them here: