Anyone who is confounded about what’s been happening in the Texas legislature, especially why the corporations get coddled and the taxpayers keep getting the shaft, must get to know and understand ALEC (the American Legislative Exchange Council). In the current issue of The Nation John Nichols headlines a series of articles, ALEC Exposed, and introduces ALEC this way.
Founded in 1973 by Paul Weyrich and other conservative activists frustrated by recent electoral setbacks, ALEC is a critical arm of the right-wing network of policy shops that, with infusions of corporate cash, has evolved to shape American politics. Inspired by Milton Friedman’s call for conservatives to “develop alternatives to existing policies [and] keep them alive and available,” ALEC’s model legislation reflects long-term goals: downsizing government, removing regulations on corporations and making it harder to hold the economically and politically powerful to account. Corporate donors retain veto power over the language, which is developed by the secretive task forces. The task forces cover issues from education to health policy. ALEC’s priorities for the 2011 session included bills to privatize education, break unions, deregulate major industries, pass voter ID laws and more. In states across the country they succeeded, with stacks of new laws signed by GOP governors like Ohio’s John Kasich and Wisconsin’s Scott Walker, both ALEC alums. [Emphasis added]
Does that sound like a legislature in Texas to you? Of course ALEC has allies in Texas. Chief among them currently are Charlie Howard and Jim Jackson in the House, and Kel Seliger in the Senate. And former Texas House Speaker Tom Craddick is the former Chair of the ALEC Board of Directors. All Republicans, by the way.
This has prompted a new effort and Wiki called AlecExposed.org. They highilght ALEC’s areas of focus as:
- Worker and Consumer Rights
- Tort Reform and Injured Americans
- Privatizing Schools and Higher Education
- Health, Big Pharma, and Social Welfare
- Environment, Energy, and Agriculture
- Democracy, Voting, and Federal Relations
- Tax & Budget
- Guns, Prisons, Crime and Immigration
All extremely high on corporations, and the elected officials they support, wish lists and campaign promises. Just look at this, from Rep. Charles Scswertner’s (R-Georgetown) list of so-called session accomplishments.
One place where this is really instructive is when looking at the Photo Voter ID law passed by the legislature this session. It’s easy to see from this summary of how ALEC’s recommended tactics for a Voter ID bill are in the bill passed in Texas (SB 14).
- Disenfranchise many low-income, minority elderly, and student voters.
- Allows a voter to cast a provisional ballot without an ID, voter must present and ID within a week, by that time most elections are already decided.
- Must have current “unexpired” ID – expiration of a driver’s license shouldn’t take away the right to vote.
Of course this leaves out one aspect, that is the most heinous of these laws, is to keep a certain amount of people from showing up to vote in the first place.
ALEC essentially has it’s hand up the back of you state legislator if they’re Republicans. Notice there’s very little in the list of their areas of focus that are on the religious conservative/theocratic GOP agenda. If they converge in any way it’s strictly accidental. ALEC’s main goal is cutting back on the government social safety, and funneling that taxpayer money to corporations. By insuring the “right” people keep getting elected and privatization keeps moving forward.
In These Times has a great article on how ALEC works directly with state legislators to craft legislation, Publicopoly Exposed.
But two weeks later Dorworth’s office delivered 87 pages of documents, mostly bill drafts and emails, detailing the evolution of what was to become HB 1021. Buried at the bottom of the stack was an 11-page bundle of neatly typed material, labeled “Paycheck Protection,” which consisted of three pieces of model legislation, with the words “Copyright, ALEC” at the end of each.
Dorworth legislative assistant Carolyn Johnson claims that, although Dorworth is an ALEC member, neither she nor her boss have any idea how the ALEC model legislation found its way into Dorworth’s office. Dorworth could not be reached for comment.
In that article is also a side bar titled, ALEC and Its Tea Party Sugar Daddies, which shows ALEC’s strong ties to tea party mega-funders the Koch Brothers.
This is critical information for voters to understand that what’s been happening in Texas over the past 10 years, at least, has been in the planning stages for decades. These things were not dreamed up overnight. The corporations have just been waiting for the day when they finally had enough political power to implement it. Wisconsin fought back, Texas so far has not, and that’s what needs to change.
Where the Texas Photo Voter ID law stands.
Republicans in the Legislature passed a strict voter ID law that will almost certainly be challenged as unconstitutional. Declared an “emergency” item by Gov. Rick Perry, the law requires voters to present government IDs at the polls—a hurdle for some elderly, poor and minority voters, especially in areas where proper ID is hard to get. Democrats and voting-rights groups contend that voter ID is a partisan trick to disenfranchise Democratic-leaning voters. Republicans and Tea Party groups say it prevents voter fraud, though there is little evidence of such a problem.
At least eight other states have strict requirements for identification at the polls. Texas’ guidelines are the most stringent, with Indiana and Georgia the closest comparisons. The fact that the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Indiana’s 2005 law buoyed hopes of Texas’ voter ID backers that their law will also pass muster. Texas, unlike Indiana, faces a higher bar because the state’s history of voting discrimination makes any new voting measures subject to pre-clearance by the U.S. Department of Justice. Georgia, in a similar position, had its voter ID law OK’d by the Bush DOJ. The Obama administration might not be so accommodating. The state can either ask the DOJ to pre-clear the voter ID law or take it to federal court. If pre-clearance were granted, organizations like the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Education Fund would almost surely begin preparing a federal lawsuit challenging Texas for violating either the Constitution or the Voting Rights Act, or both.
Florida League Of Women Voters Drops Registration Plan Over Restrictive Laws.
House Dems Slam ‘Racist,’ ‘Rovian’ Voter ID Laws; Says DOJ Isn’t Doing Enough (VIDEO).
Rev. Jesse Jackson: Voting Rights Still Under Attack – calls it a vote shaving effort.
Challenging Voter ID Laws.