It turned out to be the American Legislative Exchange Council - an organization I hadn't heard of. A young man named Clinton Woods was recruiting people for this organization which is a smaller competitor of two other organizations state legislators traditionally belong to:
These are non-partisan organizations dedicated to basic principles of good government such as these:
The National Conference of State Legislatures is a bipartisan organization founded to:
- Improve the quality and effectiveness of state legislatures;
- Promote policy innovation and communication among state legislatures;
- Ensure state legislatures a strong, cohesive voice in the federal system.
The American Legislative Exchange Council (he kept calling it ALEC) clearly states that they are based on Free Market, Jeffersonian Principles and are open to the private sector members as full partners.
I noticed Rep. Carl Gatto there. He reported last year getting $2249.68 to attend a Heartland Institute conference in New York on International Climate Change. Heartland doesn't believe much in Climate Change and pushes market solutions in any case. Also present were Reps. Keller and Tammie Wilson and Sen. Dyson.
Their brochures made their position on the political spectrum fairly clear. This is not a neutral better government organization. It's an anti-government organization.
In his talk, Clinton Woods said they create model legislation for their members to push, "Over 1000 of our model bills spread across the US with 20% enacted."
They have various task forces working on these model bills.
- Civil Justice (working on tort reform, which tries to limit the liability or organizations who have done harm)
- Commerce, Insurance and Economic Development
- Energy, Environment and Agriculture (lots of stuff on fighting the EPA)
- Health and Human Services (repealing Obama's health care legislation)
- International Relations
- Public Safety and Elections
- Tax and Fiscal Policy
- Telecommunications and Information Technology
- Federal Relations
Wikipedia's post on ALEC includes charges that the corporate members call the shots on the kind of policies they pursue:
ALEC has approximately three hundred private sector members including corporations, state and national think tanks, and trade associations. Some corporations and trade groups that have supported ALEC include: American Nuclear Energy Council, American Petroleum Institute, Coors Brewing Company, Texaco, Pharmaceutical Research & Manufacturers of America, Philip Morris, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco, VISA, Exxon Mobil, the National Rifle Association, Amway, Koch Industries, and others. Groups critical of ALEC claim that the organization is controlled by the entities that fund it, subsequently promoting donors' agendas and goals, along with attempting to advance legislation that favors their interests. NPR reported that the Corrections Corporation of America was present at meetings when legislators were introduced to model immigration laws, used for example as the template for Arizona SB 1070, passed in 2010. The report suggested that the group could be used to avoid state laws requiring legislators to disclose meetings with and gifts from politically unpopular corporations. Shortly after the report was published, ALEC released a response statement addressing some of NPR's accusations.
People for the American Way, the self-proclaimed left-wing advocacy group, refers to ALEC as "a right-wing public policy organization with strong ties to major corporations, trade associations and right-wing politicians" with an agenda that includes "challenging government restrictions on corporate pollution, limiting government regulations of commerce, privatizing public services, and representing the interests of the corporations that make up its supporters."
Truthout identifies ALEC as a Koch Industries supported organization that has helped Wisconsin's Governor in his labor busting attempt in Wisconsin:
A Koch-financed front group, the American Legislative Exchange Council, has prepped Wisconsin GOP lawmakers with anti-labor legislative ideas.I haven't been able to verify that. Charity Navigator rates them 49 (out of 70) and got two ** out of four. It says they do not have audit data, nor are IRS 990 forms available so their accountability is low.
You can watch part of Clinton Woods' presentation.
[UPDATE March 19, 2011: Hector Solon at Daily Kos has a more thorough piece on ALEC, links to this post. It would be nice if he also credited the photo of the brochures from here that he posted.]