BILL MOYERS: Welcome, to a story that's been unfolding for more than 30 years but has gone largely untold. That's the way the central characters wanted it. They were smart and understood something very important: that they might more easily get what they wanted from state capitals than from Washington, DC. So they started putting their money in places like Raleigh, North Carolina; Nashville, Tennessee; Phoenix, Arizona; and Madison, Wisconsin. That’s because what happens in our state legislatures directly affects our taxes, schools, roads, the quality of our air and water -- even our right to vote.

Politicians and lobbyists at the core of this clever enterprise figured out how to pull it off in an organized, camouflaged way -- covering their tracks while they put one over on an unsuspecting public. This is the story of how and why it worked. Our report was many months in the making. It's collaboration between Tom Casciato and Kathleen Hughes, the filmmakers at Okapi Productions; and the Schumann Media Center that I head. Schumann supports independent journalism and public watchdog groups like the Center for Media and Democracy, whose investigators have been tracking the footprints of ALEC, an organization hiding in plain sight, yet one of the most influential and powerful in American politics.

ARIZONA DEM. REP. STEVE FARLEY: I’ve often told people that I talk to out on the campaign trail when they say “state what?” when I say I’m running for the state legislature. I tell them that the decisions that are made here in the state legislature are often more important for your everyday life than the decisions the president makes.

JOHN NICHOLS: If you really want to influence the politics of this country you don’t just give money to presidential campaigns, you don’t just give money to congressional campaign committees. The smart players put their money in states.

FORMER PRESIDENT RONALD REAGAN: ALEC has forged a unique partnership between state legislators and leaders from the corporate and business community. This partnership offers businessmen the extraordinary opportunity to apply their talents to solve our nation’s problems and build on our opportunities…

LISA GRAVES: I was stunned at the notion that politicians and corporate representatives, corporate lobbyists were actually voting behind closed doors on these changes to the law before they were introduced in statehouses across the country.

HOUSE SPEAKER JOHN BOEHNER: ALEC, has been I think a wonderful organization. Not only does it bring like-minded legislators together. But the private sector engagement in partnership in ALEC is really what I think makes it the organization that it is.

BILL MOYERS: Have heard the name ALEC in the news lately.

CHRIS MATTHEWS: The American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC for short.

FOX NEWS REPORTER: The American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC.

BILL MOYERS: ALEC is a nationwide consortium of elected state legislators working side by side with some of America’s most powerful corporations. They have an agenda you should know about, a mission to remake America, changing the country by, changing its laws, one state at a time. ALEC creates what it calls “model legislation,” pro-corporate laws its members push in statehouses across the nation. ALEC says close to a thousand bills, based at least in part on its models, are introduced each year. And an average of 200 pass. This has been going on for decades. But somehow, ALEC managed to remain the most influential corporate-funded political organization you’d never heard of--until a gunshot sounded in the Florida night.

RACHEL MADDOW: Trayvon Martin unarmed but for a bag of candy and iced tea that he was carrying.

BILL MOYERS: You’ll recall that the shooter in Trayvon Martin’s death was protected at first by Florida’s so-called Stand Your Ground law. That law was the work of the National Rifle Association. There’s its lobbyist standing right beside Governor Jeb Bush when he signed it into law in 2005. Although ALEC didn’t originate the Florida law, it seized on it for the Stand Your Ground model it would circulate in other states. Twenty-four of them have passed a version of it.

RASHAD ROBINSON: How did this law not only get in place in Florida but around the country? And all the fingers kept pointing back to ALEC.

BILL MOYERS: When civil rights and grassroots groups learned about ALEC's connection to Stand Your Ground laws, they were outraged.

RASHAD ROBINSON: ALEC doesn’t do its work alone, they do it with some of the biggest corporate brands in America.

BILL MOYERS: Before long, corporations were pulling out of ALEC, including Coca-Cola, Kraft Foods, McDonald’s, Mars, Proctor & Gamble, Johnson & Johnson. Caught in the glare of the national spotlight, ALEC tried to change the subject.

KAITLYN BUSS: You know, I think the entire debate needs to be reframed, and really what ALEC is, is a bipartisan association of state legislators -- we have legislators of all political stripes coming together to talk about the most critical issues facing the states […] and trying to come up with the best solutions to face some of the problems that we’re having.

MEGYN KELLY: Alright, so your point is it’s not a partisan organization.

BILL MOYERS: But ALEC is partisan. And then some.

LISA GRAVES: In the spring I got a call from a person who said that all of the ALEC bills were available and was I interested in looking at them. And I said I was.

BILL MOYERS Lisa Graves, a former Justice Department attorney, runs the center for media and democracy, a nonprofit investigative reporting group in Madison, Wisconsin. In 2011 by way of an ALEC insider, Graves got her hands on a virtual library of internal ALEC documents. She was amazed by its contents: a treasure trove of actual ALEC model bills.

LISA GRAVES: These are the bills that were provided by the whistleblower. That’s just the index.

BILL MOYERS: There were more than 850 of them -- 850 boilerplate laws that ALEC legislators could introduce as their own in any state in the union.

LISA GRAVES: Bills to change the law to make it harder for American citizens to vote, those were ALEC bills. Bills to dramatically change the rights of Americans who were killed or injured by corporations, those were ALEC bills.

Bills to make it harder for unions to do their work were ALEC bills. Bills to basically block climate change agreements, those were ALEC bills.

When I looked at them I was really shocked. I didn’t know how incredibly extensive and deep and far-reaching this effort to rework our laws was.

BILL MOYERS: She and her team began to plow through ALEC documents, as well as public sources, to compile a list of the organizations and people who were or had been ALEC members.

They found hundreds of corporations, from Coca-Cola and Koch Industries to Exxon Mobil, Pfizer, and Wal-Mart; dozens of right-wing think tanks and foundations; two dozen corporate law firms and lobbying firms; and some thousand state legislators a few of them democrats, the majority of them republican.

WISCONSIN DEM. REP. MARK POCAN: ALEC is a corporate dating service for lonely legislators and corporate special interests that eventually the relationship culminates with some special interest legislation and hopefully that lives happily ever after as the ALEC model. Unfortunately what’s excluded from that equation is the public.

BILL MOYERS: In the Wisconsin Statehouse, Democratic Representative Mark Pocan is trying to expose ALEC’s fingerprints whenever he can. By one count, over a third of Pocan’s fellow Wisconsin lawmakers are ALEC members.

WISCONSIN DEM. REP. MARK POCAN: When you look around especially on the Republican side of the aisle, a lot of members of ALEC, front row, ALEC, when you start going down to the chair of finance and some of the other members are all ALEC members, in fact the ALEC co-chair of the state, row by row you can point out people who have been members of ALEC over the years.

There's two main categories they have. One is how to reduce the size of government, and the other half of it is this model legislation that's in the corporate good. In other words, there's a profit driven legislation. How can you open up a new market? How can you privatize something that can open up a market for a company? And between those two divisions you are kind of getting to the same end goal which is really kind of ultimate privatization of everything.

BILL MOYERS: Mark Pocan is something of an expert on ALEC. In fact, to learn as much about it as he could, he became a member.

WISCONSIN DEM. REP. MARK POCAN: What I realized is if you join ALEC for a mere hundred dollars as a legislator you have the full access like any corporate member.

BILL MOYERS: He also took himself to an ALEC conference for a first-hand look.

WISCONSIN DEM. REP. MARK POCAN: Hi, I’m state representative Mark Pocan, I’m outside the Marriott on Canal Street in New Orleans at the ALEC convention, American Legislative Exchange Council.

That was where you watch the interaction of a room full of lobbyists—free drinks, free cigars, wining, dining, many people just came from a dinner that was sponsored by some special interests, coming to a party that’s sponsored by special interests, so they can continue to talk about special interests.

LISA GRAVES: This is from the New Orleans convention. This includes a number of seminars that they held for legislators including one called “Warming up to Climate Change: The Many Benefits of Increased Atmospheric CO2."

BILL MOYERS: That 2011 ALEC conference, lo and behold, was sponsored by BP, Exxon Mobil, Chevron, and Shell, among others. Another of its events featured guns.

LISA GRAVES: And this is the NRA sponsored shooting event. For legislators and for lobbyists. Free.

BILL MOYERS: There was even one offering free cigars.

LISA GRAVES: Sponsored by Reynolds American which is one of the biggest tobacco companies in the world and the Cigar Association of America.

BILL MOYERS: It sounds like lobbying. It looks like lobbying. It smells like lobbying. But ALEC says it’s not lobbying. In fact, ALEC operates not as a lobby group, but as a nonprofit … a charity. In its filing with the I.R.S. filing ALEC says its mission is “education.” Which means it pays no taxes, and its corporate members get a tax write-off. Its legislators get a lot too.

WISCONSIN DEM. REP. MARK POCAN: In Wisconsin, I can't take anything of value from a lobbyist. I can't take a cup of coffee from a lobbyist. At ALEC, it's just the opposite. You know, you get there and you're being wined and dined by corporate interests, I can go down there,

And be wined and dined for days in order to hear about their special legislation. I mean, the head of Shell Oil flew in on his private jet to come to this conference. The head of one the largest utility companies in the country was there on a panel. Utility company in 13 states and here he is presenting to legislators. I mean, they clearly brought in some of the biggest corporate names in “special interestdom” and had that meeting with legislators because a lot of business transpires at these events.

BILL MOYERS: The most important business happens in what ALEC calls “task forces.” There are currently eight of them, with a corporate take on every important issue in American life, from health and safety to the environment to taxation. In ALEC task forces, elected state officials and corporate representatives close the doors to press and public, and together approve the bills that will be sent out to America. But Americans have no idea they come from ALEC. Unless someone like a Mark Pocan exposes it.

WISCONSIN DEM. REP. MARK POCAN: When I went down to New Orleans, to the ALEC convention last August, I remember going to a workshop and hearing a little bit about a bill they did in Florida and some other states and there was a proposal to provide special needs scholarships. And lo and behold I come back to Wisconsin and what gets introduced? Get ready I know you’re going to have a shocked look on your face: a bill to do just that.

BILL MOYERS: Twenty-six ALEC members in the Wisconsin legislature sponsored that special needs bill, but the real sponsor was ALEC. Pocan knew because the bill bore a striking resemblance to ALEC’s model. Have a look.

But Pocan isn’t only concerned that ALEC sneaks bills into the state legislature. The intent behind the bills troubles him too.

WISCONSIN DEM. REP. MARK POCAN: Some of their legislation sounds so innocuous, but when you start to read about why they're doing it, you know there's a far different reason why something's coming forward and that's important.

I think if the average person knew that a bill like this came from some group like ALEC you'll look at the bill very differently and you might look at that legislator a little differently about why they introduced it.

This is not about education this is not about helping kids with special needs, this is about privatization, this is about corporate profits, and this is about dismantling public education.

BILL MOYERS: The bill passed in the Wisconsin House but failed to make it through the senate. However, in its “Education Report Card,” ALEC boasts that similar bills have passed in Oklahoma, Louisiana, North Carolina and Ohio. ALEC’s education agenda includes online schooling as well. Take a careful look, and you’ll find the profit motive there, too.

LISA GRAVES: What you see is, corporations that have a direct benefit, whose bottom line directly benefits from these bills, voting on these bills in the ALEC taskforce. And so corporations like Connections Academy, corporations like K12, they have a direct financial interest in advancing this agenda.

BILL MOYERS: Those corporations -- Connections Academy and K12, which specialize in online education – can profit handsomely from laws that direct taxpayer money toward businesses like theirs. In 2011 both sat on ALEC's education task force. But the two companies didn’t just approve the model bill. They helped craft it. The proof is in one of ALEC’s own documents. And there’s more to the story.

TENNESSEE SEN. DOLORES GRESHAM: Thank you Mr. Speaker […] House Bill 1030 has to do with the establishment of virtual public schools.

BILL MOYERS: Last year an online schooling bill based on the ALEC model turned up in another state where ALEC has a powerful influence: Tennessee. It was introduced in both the state senate and house by ALEC members. The bill passed, making private corporations eligible for public money for online education. Then within weeks the k-12 corporation got what amounted to a no-bid contract to provide online education to any Tennessee student from kindergarten through 8th grade.

So let’s review: The ALEC member corporations help craft the bill, ALEC legislators introduce it and vote on it, and now there’s a state law on the books that enables one of those corporations to get state money. Game, set, match. But remember: this story isn’t about one company in the education industry and one law in Tennessee. It’s about hundreds of corporations in most every industry, influencing lawmakers in state after state using ALEC as a front.

Here’s another example. The American Bail Coalition, which represents the bail bond industry, pulls no punches about writing ALEC’s model bills itself. In a newsletter a few years back, the coalition boasted that it had written 12 ALEC model bills “fortifying the commercial bail industry.” Here’s Jerry Watson, senior legal counsel for the coalition, speaking at an ALEC meeting in 2007. He has a law to offer.

JERRY WATSON: There is a model bill for you to review if you might be interested in introducing such a measure.

BILL MOYERS: He’ll even help legislators amend it.

JERRY WATSON: Now if you don't like the precise language of these suggested documents, can they be tweaked by your legislative counsel? Well absolutely. And will we work with them on that and work with you and your staff on that? Absolutely.

BILL MOYERS: All the lawmakers have to do is ring him up.

JERRY WATSON: There is a phone number there for our executive offices in Washington D.C. We are prepared to help you and your staff and support this legislation in any way that we can.

BILL MOYERS: And guess what? There’s gold at the end of the rainbow.

JERRY WATSON: But I'm not so crazy so as not to know that you've already figured out that If I can talk you into doing this bill, my clients are going to make some money on the bond premiums.

BILL MOYERS: And corporate interest conflated with the public interest.

JERRY WATSON: But if we can help you save crime victims in your legislative district and generate positive revenue for your state, and help solve your prison overcrowding problem, you don't mind me making a dollar.

BILL MOYERS: ALEC members are seldom as upfront as the American Bail Coalition. In fact, ordinarily ALEC’s hand is very hard to see at all. But if you know where to look, you’ll often find ALEC hiding in plain sight.

LISA GRAVES: ALEC has, in addition to its regular vacation resort trips, it also has special, what it calls boot camps on particular substantive issues.

BILL MOYERS: In March, 2011, ALEC held one of those ‘boot camps’ for legislators at the North Carolina capitol in Raleigh. The subject was so-called “tort reform”: how to keep the average Joe from successfully suing a corporation for damages.

The day after the boot camp two state representatives presented the draft version of a house bill chock full of ALEC priorities. It would, among other things, limit corporate product-liability in North Carolina. One of the representatives, Johnathan Rhyne, was quoted in the Raleigh News Observer saying of ALEC: “I really don’t know much about them.” That’s odd, because Rhyne had been listed as a featured speaker at the ALEC tort reform boot camp. The paper also reported that Rhyne said the bill wasn’t copied from ALEC model legislation. That too, is odd, given how the sections covering product liability could have passed as twins. The bill was controversial; it passed, but only after the product-liability sections were taken out of it. But the tort reformers didn’t give up. They were back a year later. This time with a draft bill aimed only to limit the liability of drug manufacturers. When the public was allowed to comment before a legislative panel, people who had lost loved ones came to testify against the bill. A son who had lost a father.

SURVIVING SON: You know, my dad’s gone. All I can do is be a voice for him, he can’t speak any longer.

BILL MOYERS: A grandfather mourning his granddaughter.

SURVIVING GRANDFATHER: If this bill passes, an innocent victim in NC like Brittany could not hold the manufacturer accountable. Everyone needs to be accountable for their actions.

BILL MOYERS: Unmentioned to those in the room, ALEC was present too, in the form of a lobbyist with drug manufacturing giant GlaxoSmithKline. His name is John Del Giorno.

JOHN DEL GIORNO: Several of the opposing testifiers today brought up very compelling sad, empathetic stories about.

BILL MOYERS: Not only is Glaxo an ALEC corporate member, Del Giorno himself is also a Vice Chairman of ALEC’s national Private Enterprise Board. The North Carolina bill has been tabled for now. So now you’ve seen how it works for corporations. How about for the politicians?

ANDERSON COOPER: Last night was as the President finally acknowledged to day, a shellacking. Republicans gain control of the house picking up 60 seats so far.

BILL MOYERS: When all of the returns were counted on election night 2010, ALEC was a big winner. Eight of the Republican governors elected or re-elected that night had ties to the group.

OHIO GOV. JOHN KASICH: Guess what, I’m going to be governor of Ohio.

SOUTH CAROLINA GOV. NIKKI HALEY: There’s going to be a lot of news, and a lot of observers, that say that we made history.

ARIZONA GOV. JAN BREWER: A clean sweep for Republicans!

BILL MOYERS: And a star was born that election night -- Wisconsin’s new governor, a son of ALEC named Scott Walker.

WISCONSIN GOV. SCOTT WALKER: Wisconsin is open for business!

JOHN NICHOLS: I've known Scott Walker, the governor of Wisconsin for the better part of 20 years and Scott is a classic career politician, and I don't say that in a negative way.

BILL MOYERS: Journalist and Wisconsinite John Nichols has tracked Scott Walker’s career since the 90s, when Walker was a state legislator and an ALEC member.

JOHN NICHOLS: And in 2010 he ran not presenting himself as an ALEC alumni or as an ally of big corporations or big business people outside the state. He ran a very down-home campaign.

WISCONSIN GOV. SCOTT WALKER: This is my lunch. I pack a brown bag each day so I can spend money on the more important things in life, like sending my kids to college.

BILL MOYERS: Nichols says that despite the folksy image, in the years leading up to Walker’s 2010 campaign, he had become a master political fundraiser.

JOHN NICHOLS: And he began to forge incredibly close ties with a lot of corporate interests that he had first been introduced to in ALEC, individuals and groups like the Koch brothers

BILL MOYERS: David and Charles Koch, the billionaire businessmen behind a vast industrial empire are also political activists with an agenda. Their companies and foundations have been ALEC members and funders for years.

JOHN NICHOLS: The Koch brothers were among the two or three largest contributors to Scott Walker's campaign for governor of Wisconsin.

And The Koch brothers get that if you really want to influence the politics of this country, you don’t just give money to presidential campaigns. You don’t just give money to congressional campaign committees. The smart ones, the smart players put their money in the states.


JOHN NICHOLS … It’s state government that funds education, social services. And it taxes.

WISCONSIN GOV. SCOTT WALKER: If you want lower taxes and less government I’m Scott Walker, and I know how to get the job done.

JOHN NICHOLS: And so the smart donors can change the whole country without ever going to Washington, without ever having to go through a Congressional hearing, without ever having to lobby on Capitol Hill, without ever having to talk to a President.

WISCONSIN SUPREME COURT JUSTICE SHIRLEY ABRAHAMSON: Please raise your right hand and repeat after me.

BILL MOYERS: The new governor moved quickly with a raft of ALEC-inspired bills. They included one similar to Florida’s Stand Your Ground. Another made it easier to carry concealed weapons. There was a resolution opposing the mandated purchase of health insurance. And of course there was limiting corporate liability. The Wisconsin legislature passed a so-called tort reform measure that included parts of eight different ALEC models. ALEC was elated, praising walker and the legislature in a press release for their, quote -- “immediate attention to reforming the state’s legal system.” But Scott Walker was also shooting for another big ALEC prize.

WISCONSIN GOV. SCOTT WALKER: Now some have questioned why we have to reform collective bargaining.

BILL MOYERS: Taking away workers’ collective bargaining rights. That had long been an ALEC goal. A candid video caught him talking about it with one of his financial backers, a billionaire businesswoman, Diane Hendricks.

WISCONSIN GOV. SCOTT WALKER: We’re going to start in a couple weeks with our budget adjustment bill. The first step is we’re going to deal with collective bargaining for all public employee unions. Because you just divide and conquer.

BILL MOYERS: Despite an extraordinary public outcry, and after a brief but intense political struggle, walker’s anti-collective bargaining measures became state law.

JOHN NICHOLS: It was ALEC's ideas, ALEC's values that permeated the bill and un-did almost 50 years, more than 50 years of collective bargaining law in Wisconsin.

BILL MOYERS: But again, remember, this isn’t just about one state. It’s about every state. Take Arizona – it’s practically an ALEC subsidiary. One report this year found that 49 of Arizona’s 90 legislators are members. And two thirds of the republican leadership are on ALEC taskforces. And of course the governor, Jan Brewer, was an ALEC member too. So not surprising, Arizona is among the states passing ALEC-inspired laws to privatize education at taxpayer expense. And no surprise again, Arizona is also getting ALEC-like laws to limit corporate liability. And Arizona, you’ll recall, made news last year, with a law allowing police to stop someone for looking Hispanic, and detaining them if they weren’t carrying proper papers. Laws that create more arrests can create more revenue for-profit prison companies.

So it probably won’t shock you to learn that Arizona’s immigration law inspired an ALEC model, a version of which was passed in five other states.

ARIZONA DEM. REP. STEVE FARLEY: All of us here are very familiar with ALEC and the influence that ALEC has with many of the members here.

BILL MOYERS: ALEC’s domination of Arizona proved too much for State Representative Steve Farley:

ARIZONA DEM. REP. STEVE FARLEY: I just want to emphasize it’s fine for corporations to be involved in the process. Corporations have the right to present their arguments, but they don’t have the right to do it secretly. They don’t have the right to lobby people and not register as lobbyists. They don’t have the right to take people away on trips, convince them of it, send them back here, and then nobody has seen what’s gone on and how that legislator had gotten that idea and where is it coming from.

BILL MOYERS: Farley has introduced a bill to force legislators to disclose their ALEC ties, just as the law already requires them to do with any lobbyist.

ARIZONA DEM. REP. STEVE FARLEY: All I’m asking in the ALEC Accountability Act is to make sure that all of those expenses are reported as if they are lobbying expenses and all those gifts that legislators received are reported as if they’re receiving gifts from lobbyists. So the public can find out and make up their own minds about who is influencing what.

BILL MOYERS: Steve Farley’s bill has gone nowhere. ALEC, on the other hand, is still everywhere. Still hiding in plain sight. Watch for it. Coming soon to a statehouse near you.

In reporting this story we wanted to talk to ALEC and some of its legislative members as well as to some of its former corporate members. Our requests were either turned down or went unanswered. At one point, we were told that the chairman of ALEC had agreed to an interview. We pursued it but never received a response. Meanwhile, ALEC continues to make news.

You’ve heard about all those bills passed in state after state by republican legislatures to prevent people from voting unless they can produce a government-issued photo id. Many of those voter id laws are based in part on – you guessed it – an ALEC model bill. As you saw in our report, such groups as Color of Change have questioned whether ALEC is an organization with which businesses want to be associated. So far, about 40 corporations have decided their answer was, “no, thanks,” and pulled out of ALEC.

Still, many companies remain ALEC members. And ALEC continues to strengthen its ties to conservatives. Earlier this month ALEC held a high-level, closed door meeting with congressional conservatives in the nation’s capital. The watchdog group Common Cause, has filed a complaint asking the IRS to end ALEC's tax exempt status and force it to register instead as a high powered lobby. Many legislators would then have to tell their constituents what they’ve mostly been able to hide up till now – that via ALEC they’ve been wined and dined by high-powered corporate lobbyists who took a hand in shaping laws in the state where you live.

Here’s an example of what’s at stake. The American Chemistry Council – that’s the trade group for the chemical industry – has used ALEC to press for changes in health and safety rules on toxic chemicals. Earlier this fall the council poured nearly 650,000 dollars into supporting Wisconsin republican Tommy Thompson’s bid for the U.S. Senate this November. By now it won’t surprise you to learn that Wisconsin’s former governor has been a friend of ALEC going all the way back to his days as a state legislator, when he himself was an ALEC member. Take a listen to a speech Thompson made at an ALEC conference in 2002:

FORMER WISCONSIN GOV. TOMMY THOMPSON: I always loved going to those meetings because I always found new ideas. Then I’d take them back to Wisconsin, disguise them a little bit, and declare that’s mine.

BILL MOYERS: Ah yes, Tommy Thompson and so many others. Finally: ALEC, meet ALICE. That’s right, ALEC now has some competition. Inspired by professor Joel Rogers, the Wisconsin champion of open democracy, ALICE is a transparent, non-corporate, out-in-the-open, web-based library of model laws on a range of public interest issues. Alice doesn’t have corporate or billionaire backers. The work is done by volunteers -- so in the constant struggle for democracy is still David versus Goliath. But as you’ll remember from that ancient story, giants don’t always win.

United States of ALEC

Moyers & Company presents “United States of ALEC,” a report 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 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.

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  • lostsouls remembrd11

    I saw this first yesterday am on Democracy Now. I am so concerned over this basic take over of our country. I will see you Mr. Moyer on Monday for the live chat. I do so hope I can find some direction in order to do my part in stopping this ………….cough, cough………non profit organization.

    Excellent show tonight Sir!

  • rrebold

    Superb and well researched reporting on a vital issue. Thank you!

  • delia ruhe

    Corruption is legal in the USA.

  • Ed Browne

    As I listen to this, it seems to me that this should be attacked under its 501(c)3 status. Education is allowed as is some advocacy (<20%), but it is very difficult to deny that this is education when verbatim bills are introduced. The Justice Department should be involved. Never Mind – your commentary just said that.

  • Ed Browne

    very difficult to deny that this is **advocacy**

  • Anonymous

    Yet another reason to not vote in the November election, a large majority of non-votes will be a message to the current leadership that we want an end to the current Pay-to-Play system with the removal of all private money from our system of government and our country and Constitution back under the control of it’s citizens ! Your vote has little to do with anything when the blitzkrieg of Corporate and Investment Banking Dollars are the only votes that are even counted in what passes now for State and Federal Public Elections. I guarantee you that 200 Million + registered non-votes will get the attention of everybody in Washington who have been selling out the American people and embolden those who have been fighting the tide of corruption for years with little support !

  • katie anderson

    No, a reason to find out which state legislators on your ballot are ALEC members and to vote for their strongest non-ALEC opposition.

  • jmadler

    Many of the suggestions that are claimed to originate with ALEC make sense. One in particular, voter ID, is one that I have argued for through the years after seeing sloppy voter verification and fraud where I live and stricter requirements for less important functions than voting.
    Bills based on ALEC suggestions should be evaluated on their merit and not dismissed out of hand because ALEC is involved. This is no different than bills from Washington based on input from lobbyists or individuals. If our politicians are not sufficiently bright to come up with appropriate, timely legislation then lobbyists and individuals will fill the void.
    As to whether ALEC should be treated as any other lobbyist that is a different matter and one that on the surface I am sympathic to although more in depth analysis is needed about constitutionality, etc. Not a simple black or white problem, in my opinion, but one that should be explored.

  • ANKoTP

    It’s why I care most about the use of American forms of Proportional Representation in state house of representative elections and the use of Instant Runoff Voting in state senate elections, possibly with elections every 2 eyars.

    We need to value more making state legislative elections meaningful so there’d be more checks and balances against this sort of thing.

    See FairVote.

  • ANKoTP

    This is why we need American forms of Representation in state assembly elections, not unlike what we had in IL from 1870-1980. We need more eyeballs paying attn to state legislation and that’ll require more competitive elections, which will in turn require winner-doesn’t-take-all multi-seat elections.

  • Anonymous

    Good point, something specific to look for that will determine the morale qualifications of the candidate. Betterr than looking for questionable actions that are often hidden to protect the guility !

  • bab

    Every newspaper in every community in America needs to make the public aware of who among their elected officials is tied to ALEC and the costly consequencesof supporting the ALEC agenda. America cannot wake up fast enough. Corporate coups are occurring in state houses all over this nation.

  • Christine McCormick

    I am flabbergasted after watching this show!! I have never felt so disenfranchised. I hope this “non-profit” status of ALEC is challenged immediately!! How can people go into “public service” and do this?? I guess everything IS for sale!!

  • Greg Duerden

    Great work Mr. Moyers. I am a candidate for the Utah State Senate and my opponent is one of the State Co-Chairs of ALEC, is even on the National Bd. of Directors. I mention ALEC and voters don’t seem to realize the danger, but the United States of ALEC is ‘spot on’ and excellent journalism. Bravo!

  • MWWolfe

    I would like to see a story about the Trans-Pacific Partnership and how connected they might be to ALEC…

  • Brad Wooden

    I find discussion of ALEC’s undue influence on Congress in D.C. absent. Please address this in a second part of the story. That’s probably how The Patriot Act blew into that town, and all the unpublished, undisclosed sections of it. And, please look up the crime of construction in Black’s Law dictionary if you’re doing a month’s long effort on a story about it.

  • AZindependent

    Bill Moyers, shame on you. So much for fair and balanced reporting – don’t you think Democrats have equivalent lobbyists to ALEC that push their agenda, just like ALEC does? I guess you believe Democrats write all their own legislation? Wake up!

    Every issue I heard in your Democratic propaganda laced “expose” is exactly what America needs to do to regain its competitiveness in the world, and bring jobs and prosperity back to this country. If you continue to discourage corporations from doing business here, then you and your Democratic friends are directly responsible for demise of America. Government is not the solution – its the problem.

    This is the last time I listen to anything you have to say.

  • Pele Snodgrass

    Yes, me too. Did you see the BP logo on one of the brochures. There was also Shell, Exxon… etc.

  • Seabury Lyon

    Just got the DVD by mail… creepy and knockout stuff!

  • Trae

    Agree! Thanks increasing awareness.

  • Michael Thomas Stewart

    you will remain anonymous by not voting. Get a sign, work a phone bank, buy a pie at a bake sale. Do what you can to participate and be heard! VOTE 2012!

  • C Ann G

    Great coverage and insight. Thanks for continuing to post and report on very important stories. Our whole family continue to be your fans. Excellente!

  • David F., N.A.

    Excellent show. I hope it gets more and more people talking about ALEC. If ALEC can fly under the radar for 30 or 40 years before being uncovered, I wonder what other shenanigans we are not aware of (it’s almost like, we won’t know what hits us…).

  • ollady

    I became aware of ALEC earlier this year. Almost all the companies I support quit ALEC. Not State Farm. So after over 40 years of insurance from them, I let my policies lapse. They know why – and don’t care.

  • Josiah Bacon

    I am having difficulty playing this and other videos of the shows. All I am getting is a white box. I don’t always have time to read the transcript. I have been able to play the show on other occasions. I want tell others to watch, but if I cannot get through I am hesitant. In any event, Your interviews are first rate and I watch as I can. Keep up the good work. I have been aware of the corruptive influence of ALEC’s efforts for sometime. illegitimi non carborundum.

  • votingsince1964

    Contrary to your statement, this provides us all a good reason to vote, especially after one learns whether or not the candidate is affiliated with ALEC. Of course, there are those politicians that won’t admit membership in ALEC.

  • Votingsince1964

    AZindependent: Did you not watch the program? He stated that an organization has started to attempt to offer insight and influence voters about the truth, You Mr. Moyer’s program propaganda but you offer nothing to prove it is not true. You call yourself an independent, but you sound more like of Mitt’s advocates.

  • Mona

    the money interests of ALEC is undermining our democracy. when we are unaware of the big money organized to undermine our democracy all of society looses. ALEC interests remind me of the monied interests influencing politics around 1900. those monied interests were only interested in citizens to consume and produce. those industrial oligarchs influenced what was eaten, thought, how people lived – a persons whole life. our parents hoped education would keep the middle class safe – but more and more people seem to be going along to get by. lets hope this reporting will alert people to what is happening and something can happen.

  • Chris Logan

    So, should I consider myself naive, believing all these years that we elect our representatives to write and pass laws? If they aren’t actually writing those laws, what in God’s name are they spending their time doing? I guess one great result for the politicians is they no longer have to spend so much time with those pesky law writing responsibilitites leaving them more time to raise money.

  • Charles Gee

    Thank you Bill Moyers, Please send a tape of your show on ALEC to every news person at CNN and MSNBC. This information needs to be seen by a many voters as possible before November 6th…Charles Gee

  • BG

    How can we get more information about ALICE?

  • Anonymous

    Is ALEC proof that it is cheaper to buy 30 statehouses than the Whitehouse? Jefferson warned us about these corporate royals.

  • Elsie Collins

    Dirty rotten scoundrels!! They are well on their way to taking over our legal system, and in effect, controlling our lives and economy with their own greedy, narrow minded agendas!! If corporations are allowed to continue on this path, the future of America will be bleak, (UPDATE: Bleaker!!) if not downright deadly for the rest of us!! How many more BP disasters can the oceans take? How can this Earth survive without the Arctic ice caps, or the oxygen producing rainforests? Imagine, no controls on polluters, no oversight to the quality of education, NO healthcare, No help for the disabled, and veterans who’ve sacrificed so much for THEM!!! NO gun control, no regulations on drug companies, no control of companies like Monsanto who have been sneaking genetically modified foods into our food chain, from farm to table, AND, ALEC is registered with the IRS as a 501K organization!! Are you %$#$^&@ kidding me?? That’s code for non-profit/tax exempt!! And constant wars in the Middle East!! I guess they don’t hate us enough!! Foreign policy, you ask? War is good businees!! For the war profiteers!! Just ask Dick Cheny!! And that’s just the tip of the iceberg!! Well, what’s left of it!! Are you feeling just a little nauseous yet???

  • BM fans

    I salute to Bill Moyers, try to educate us as informed citizen. And thank you for NPR mission, for informing public, not selling public, that keep journalism alive today.
    USA is broke because the organization like ALEC, systematically find the loophole to corporate America’s agenda based on greed, wall-street style.
    When corporation is allowed to get non-bidding contract, and write their own lay, this is not a capitalism.
    This is about rigging the systems, to CEO’s advantages.

  • James Bandy

    If democrats were really so interested in collective bargaining rights, they would not be ok with unchecked illegal immigrants flooding the workforce. I am for immigration personally however in times of recession your(D) not doing anyone any favors having twenty people apply for one opening. Its not fair to the natives, and it is not fair to the people who come here and end up being exploited or not finding work at all. In short, you cannot be Pro working man and pro unchecked immigration. The hypocrisy is really killing me. That being said transparency is must in all areas notwithstanding matters of N.S.

  • Ruth

    Like a lot of people, I first heard of ALEC through Occupy Wall Street.

  • Wendy Johns

    This has been going on for over 30 yrs. now. ALEC is so entrenched and hidden in our lives that it will take a long time to get them even noticed, but the more we all learn about ALEC, the more people can begin to take back our country. ALEC is about corporate profits and the Corporations running our government. They write the laws and get Republican legislatures to pass the laws and screw the American public so the corporations get richer and the common man feeds the corporate piggy bank. I hope we see it in our lifetime and I’m in my late 50’s.

  • Wendy Johns

    When you have the fox writing the laws, the hens will never know. Only when enough people stand up for what is right, then laws will get changed and “non-profit” status will be “NON-PROFIT” again.

  • Wendy Johns

    This where it all started. They get the state legislatures to write and change the laws and ergo the whole country! You hit the nail on the head.

  • Thomas M. Kelly

    Thank you, Bill Moyers!

  • Dipsydoo

    But David needs to be awakened to the fact that there is a Goliath out there! Thank you for this investigative show.

  • John Antinora

    Knowledge is power. The sad part is that our citizens care more about replacement refs blowing a call on Monday Night Football than ALEC dismantling our democracy. But I guess that is expected when the same corps control the message i.e. media companies.

  • Jed

    Wow, are PEOPLE really that stupid. Do you realy believe there are no groups supporting liberal causes? Did anyone hear of LOBBYISTS? There is a reason people who get elected to public office, when they file their taxes using the 1040 short form, then after 10 years are millionaires. Look at what is going on in New York with their legislative leaders. All involved are Liberal Democrats. Using TAXPAYER MONEY TO SETTLE SEXUAL HARRASSMENT CLAIMS.

  • PJ

    Well, now I know why the Republicans are so hot to shut down public broadcasting. So far, it’s the only media outlet it can’t control.

  • kodowdus

    >>In short, you cannot be Pro working man and pro unchecked immigration.<<

    This is a false choice. Stop employers from knowingly hiring (and exploiting) "illegal" aliens and/or getting tax breaks to ship our jobs overseas and unfair competition will become a non-issue.

  • Gail Tewalt

    What’s a newspaper?

  • Pkerber

    ALEC, meet ALICE…

  • nasaighneain

    There is an ongoing investigation into the transatlantic corruption promoted by ALEC at showing how ALEC IS A LOBBYING organisation.

  • Frank

    I wonder if all legislators, democrats and republicans joined ALEC and some may choose to publish the information for all to see and review and discuss openly.

  • John Mitchell

    May God Bless You for enlightening the American peolple to this corruption of our government.
    It is obvious to me that the government of our country is for sale, and that is the reason for all our problems!
    Keep up the good work my Patriotic Brother , and lets work together to take back our country and tax dollars for the good of our country. We all need to remember one nation under God,Indivisible with Liberty and Justicc for all!!!!!
    Peace and Prosperity for all Americans through working together for the good of all American’s!!!
    I hope you have helped open the door to changing this type of decieptful behavior in our country that I believe will lead to it’s contiued downfall!
    Thank You
    John a Patriot

  • lyrita59

    Mr. Moyers, you and your works are a veritable fount of information and insight. If I require well-researched news and articles of import concerning the American perspective, I choose you. Thanks for the ideas!

  • Maryann O’Connell Gaul

    I just viewed the rerun of this edition of Moyers&Co. The influence of ALEC is mind boggling. They are involved in so many legislative issues throughout the country, but, their influence in the education of our children, is probably one of the most frightening of all. Online education, K-12, has the potential to eliminate the formal classroom, altogether, thereby, eliminating student-teacher discussion, which is most important in encouraging the student to question facts. This creates “Critical Thinking”. Eventually, eliminating the need for the teacher, altogether…..a literal “GOODBYE MR/MRS. CHIPS”..The most frightening of all is the probability of ” CONTROLLED EDUCATION…” This would create a population of people who resemble robots. A possible goal of ALEC. We must be alert to some of the laws that our states are putting into place, if you get a GUT feeling that there is something not quite right, then there is probably “something not quite right.”

  • Anonymous

    If ALEC introduced progressive leaning laws, would Bill Moyers have this expose? Food for thought.

  • George Bailey

    There’s a perverse insane brilliance in also making ALEC a non-profit, with tax benefits. Genius! The only appropriate response is to finally, fundamentally, spiritually, morally, conceptually, institutionally, economically, rethink corporatism.

  • Anonymous

    The dems are roughly half of the govt. and have complicity too, unless you are saying they’re too dumb to know what is going on or are too weak to stand up.

  • t

    you need to rewatch this show. they talked about the Dems. there just not the majority of the ALEC society..

  • ossiron

    Anybody knows if Mitch McConnell is a member of ALEC? where one can find a list of ALEC’s members?

  • Jer Littrell

    Ok, here’s my question. ALEC seems to be a public policy institute or “think tank”. There’s are dozens of “think tanks” in the US from all over the political ideological spectrum. Why is ALEC being singled out?

  • cfin

    the jobs the undocumented immigrants take are jobs legal citizens and legal residents dont want. they are hazardous,back breaking jobs nobody else will do. the legal, high skilled labor,college graduates coming into the country are the ones taking the jobs normally held by americans. someone wants you to look the other way while they get engeneers, it workers from China and India to come take your high paying jobs. They are lovely people,my neighborhood is full of them but they are the ones taking the good jobs away,not those poor migrant workers you loathe.

  • Kawanna Konnie Rice Ridout

    If a progressive organization backed by unlimited funds tried to dismantle the bedrock American institution of Public Education, and divert tax dollars to for profit corporations, Bill Moyers & Co. would be all over it! and we would know about it. Bill Moyers is the only incorpruptable trustworthy voice and conscience this country has.

  • Georga Grivois

    ALEC should have been called out a long time ago. Where has the Liberal Press been?

  • Tori Harmon-Dultz

    They’re not being singled out because they’re a think tank….they’re being singled out because of their actions and who they represent….I guess if you have to ask that question after viewing the video then I’m really wasting my time by answering.

  • Tori Harmon-Dultz

    People who lack the ability to think for themselves are easier to train and control.

  • Anonymous

    I think since losing the presidential election,the new strategy has been to focus on more local and state elections and “reform”. Here,in North Carolina,they’re working on a tax reform that will,of course,benefit the wealthy. They are cutting the taxes for corporations and thinking of raising food taxes from 2% to 6% or 8%.They are also loosening gun laws. You can now carry your gun into places where they serve alcohol. The unemployment rate in NC is over 9% but they’ve cut unemployment benefits from 26 weeks to 12. Someone might suspect the people are really not cared about,they are certainly not cared for. People who’ve paid taxes but when they need the help of the government they’ve paid for,they realize their taxes are going to already full pockets.

  • Daniel Lowe

    ALEC is trying to steal North Carolina and give it to the big corporations. I’m watching it happen right before my eyes. I’ll be voting against all incumbents next time around.

  • magnet teacher

    Alec should not be introducing any laws, period. They are not elected by anyone.

  • Anonymous

    One more from NC :green cars,electric and hybrids, are going to be charged $50 to $100 a year in taxes. It’s a wonderful way to say thank you for taking care of the planet by politicians who know that odds are these people didn’t and wouldn’t vote for them.

  • Sherry

    you are so right!

  • Sherry

    I agree!

  • Sherry

    I agree. The “deceitful behavior” is the issue, not their beliefs.

  • Anonymous

    “ALEC seems to be a public policy institute or “think tank”…. Why is ALEC being singled out?”

    The operative word here, is “seems.” ALEC engages in a concerted form of legislative camouflage, to enable it to camp out inside of the very legislative bodies it influences.

    It is NOT just a think tank; but functions as an in-house caucus and Bill-mill, in every Statehouse in the country, with its own cadre of bought-out lawmakers to do its bidding. It is an artfully-inserted adendum to the legislative process; a powerful Bill-crafting Committee, that is answerable ONLY to its CORPORATE sponsors.

    ALEC is really just a klatch of businesses, who not only draft the legislation they want to see, and submit it to THEIR legislators, but link up with Reich Wing Lobbying efforts to reward or punish those legislators; a lesson swiftly learned, trust me. They obtain “commitments” from legislators that they will follow ALEC’s lead to vote their agenda in. And more and more lawmakers are following ALEC’s agenda.

    In effect, they have set themselves up as Legislative Auxiliary Houses, that channel their own preferred legislation to their own coached Representatives.

    Bills are now being passed all the time, that were WRITTEN by ALEC, and passed verbatim.

  • Anonymous

    If he’s a Reich Winger (and he sure is), then he is a member or signatory of ALEC’s agenda.

  • Anonymous

    And I’ll add my personal thanks to Moyers, for reconsidering his retirement, in our interests.

  • Anonymous

    One has to wonder where people like this get their news…

    Sure, Jed, there are a few corrupt liberals to point at. But the only reason, in this climate, to point at such examples, is because doing so means NOT pointing at the CASCADE of corrupt Reich Wingers over your other shoulder.

    So, sadly, such pointing is a clear sign that you are either getting your news from the wrong sources, or that you yourself are in bed with that same corrupt Reich Wing…

    There is truth, there are lies, and there’s simple common sense — which is where I am.

    And that common sense tells me to let the Liberals go (for the moment), because the Reich is far and away the greater threat to us.

    Taking our eyes off of the Reich for even a moment, even to justly criticize someone else, means that the Reich will steal yet another march on us.

    Distraction is their PLAN. Do not support that plan.

  • Caroline Rock lists the names of 25 VA Senators &
    93 VA Delegates as ALEC members—SHOCKING!!!

  • flambeau608

    No, but you can be damn sure that Faux News and Tush Limbaugh would try hard. The point is there is NO corporate interest in progrressive-leaning laws. Would that there were.

  • Anonymous

    Former Dem Assemblyman Mark Pocan of Wisconsin joined, and knows what the score is. He was recently elected to Congress. He’s featured on the recent update to this show.

  • Flygirl77

    I’d never heard of ALEC until about 3 months ago and immediately informed all my friends and relatives about it with links to responsible information. Including of course “The United States of ALEC.” I think that many of them were also ignorant. I have been keeping them up to date on what ALEC is up to and inviting them to pass the word on. One couple asked me not to send them any more political e-mails, but I have also been pleased to note some increased awareness in others. It’s just one more way of getting the message across, even if it’s only a small way. Hopefully awareness will grow exponentially, as there are many organizations fighting the totally anti-democratic results of ALEC “model legislation.” ALEC has bulldozed into Texas and the poor and hungry adults and children are being crushed with new laws sprouting like weeds. And Perry is ramming his ALEC anti-abortion bill through the legislature. It defies logic. Pro-fetuses but anti children. Thank you Bill Moyers for being such a powerful catalyst for the anti-ALEC movement!

  • Turn Ky Blue

    #StopTheGOP #CleanHouse2014 #DitchMitch2014

  • Maximum_207

    And Bill Maher!

  • Maximum_207

    They are jobs Americans would do if they were forced to pay better wages which is contradictory to allowing immigrant workers from third world nations in! How many Canadians are lining up for these horrible jobs? None because Canada isn’t a third world nation that would keep driving wages downward.

  • Maximum_207

    To do that we would need “liveable wage” legislation which in the greedy world will never pass.

  • truthseeker

    LOL…how do the words you Reap what you sow allude the american people, how do you cling to words like Karma and justice and NOT think that you will be reduced to the condition you placed upon 100 million native americans and a Billion africans and offer them no share in your dream. The Home alone face is shown by all “good americans” and they as k what has happened to “our” country… will be what you forced others to live with very soon, you necessarily must endure it in order to again be able to relate, without defending horror and accepting blind privilege. Take your medicine

  • Anonymous

    Don’t attempt to blame all Americans for the actions of the government. It is infantile and beneath this discussion of concerned and fair-minded individuals. All your “lol’s” show exactly how devoid of character you are. It is a lot easier to hate people when you don’t even know them! The only truth you seek is whatever fits your twisted ideology.

  • Anonymous

    They don’t like educated people starting with pre-schoolers…

  • truthseeker

    Which word was a mistruth and which words spoke of Hate. I speak of love, Loved my Veteran Father who gave all for inclusion and his father and his. It is hate when the very thing forced upon the overwhelming majority is visited upon the privilledged?

    It is not hate to relay true words except in this watered down society, if I am wrong demonstrate that, if you cannot, take your hurt feelings and keep moving.

  • Anonymous

    no nation is without sin and it’s not all american who are paying for them. the biggest culprits are still enjoying their privilege,in fact they enjoy more of it than ever. i think it’s more about class than nationality. it is class warfare and its been going on for a long time,everywhere,not just in the US. up until recently they kept us fed and content so we wouldnt complain,it was an easy way to control us. now that consumers are found all over the world and we lost our clout they treat us like everyone else.

  • truthseeker

    You have nailed it, so people Hear african americans speak and they oh so naturally say “Your a hater, get over it” what they never hear in this position is not a hater but a Harbinger. I am telling you our lives have been reduced to chattel and while american fingers plug the ears, they are slowly being reduced to the same position. My Guess is it must happen in order for the majority to realize the privilege they enjoy in their lives is not enjoyed by everyone.

    The Capital in Capitalism was MY father and his and his, today its your children and theirs and theirs.

    Silly rabbit said my words were hate.

    Tell me, which square inch of america is outside of her history?

    So which people or person is NOT affected by her collective history, with the comfortable backstep of “Not me”..

  • Anonymous

    Instead of being a habitual critic why don’t you do something to make this place better? There are lots of people working for change include Mr. Bill Moyer. Why do you think he gave up his retirement to come and help this country in a time of moral crisis? Just vilifying Americans people doesn’t cut it.

  • truthseeker

    Again, the ability to articulate REAL facts, no matter how your logic would like to twist it doesnt make me negative. Instead I am more palatable with blinders on my eyes, Giving my life and death like 10 generations of mine for your social mobility carrot huh?

    I Run Free Training courses on 4 continents from Entry level to advanced amd have made a difference in countless lives, those lives that your Grand American dream doesnt see or address, while your focus on those who have ALWAYS HAD, mine works from the bottom up.

    Your ability to string together a few words does not necessarily make yours correct and mine wrong.

  • I. Spoke Umbra

    Bring pitchforks to the state house next time.

  • Nexus Arcana


  • Anonymous

    libéral près? you mean Daily show and Colbert report(and Bill)