The American Legislative Exchange Council, a controversial group that brings corporate lobbyists together with state legislators to formulate business- and Republican-friendly policies, will host its 45th anniversary gala next year at the Trump International Hotel — a Washington hotel owned by the president himself .
The controversial known for bringing corporate lobbyists together with conservative legislators to draft and share model legislation for distribution among state governments in the United States.
ALEC produced model bills on a broad range of issues, such as reducing regulation and individual and corporate taxation, combating illegal immigration, loosening environmental regulations, tightening voter identification rules, weakening labor unions, and opposing gun control.
Some of these bills dominate legislative agendas in states such as Arizona, Wisconsin, Colorado, Michigan, New Hampshire, and Maine, where about 200 ALEC bills become law each year.
ALEC has much to celebrate with a strategy of growing its ranks among state-level politicians to affect local change, ALEC has made strides on the national stage, too. Its alumni occupy several leading posts in the Trump administration, and the group boasts more than 80 former members among the Republican majority in Congress.
“This administration does have the potential to be an ALEC administration,” Lisa Nelson, chief executive of ALEC, said in a message to members after the inauguration. “It is full of the people and ideas we’ve advanced since 1973.”
The decision by ALEC to bring its conference to the Trump International Hotel comes as an array of special-interest groups hoping to curry favor with President Donald Trump have selected properties owned by the president and his family as venues for their events.
ALEC was founded in 1973 in Chicago as the Conservative Caucus of State Legislators a project initiated by Mark Rhoads, an Illinois state house staffer, to counter the Environmental Protection Agency, wage, and price controls, and to respond to the defeat of Barry Goldwater in the 1964 presidential election.
In the 1980s, ALEC opposed U.S. disinvestment from South Africa, a movement to put pressure on the South African government to embark on negotiations with a goal of dismantling apartheid.
In 1985, ALEC also published a memo that opposed “the current homosexual movement”, portrayed homosexuality as a result of a conscious choice, and said that pedophilia was “one of the more dominant practices within the homosexual world”.
In July 2011, The Nation published a series of articles produced in collaboration with the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) that showcased some of the ALEC model bills and described ties to the Koch family, and CMD launched a website “ALEC Exposed” that documented more than 800 of ALEC model bills, the legislators and corporations that had helped to draft them, and the states that enacted them.
The joint effort, and particularly its coverage of ALEC’s push for tough voter ID laws, prompted the advocacy group Color of Change to launch a public campaign to pressure corporations to withdraw their ALEC memberships.
Dozens of lawmakers and more than sixty corporations or foundations, including Coca-Cola, Wendy’s, Kraft Foods, McDonald’s, Amazon.com, General Electric, Apple, Procter & Gamble, Walmart, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and Blue Cross and Blue Shield quit ALEC or let their memberships lapse in the wake of that exposure.
In late 2014, a number of technology-oriented companies such as Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Ebay, and Yahoo!, as well as Uber, Lyft, Occidental Petroleum and Northrop Grumman announced they were ending their ties with ALEC. T-Mobile and BP severed ties with ALEC in 2015.
An association representing some of America’s largest coal and mining companies, as well as other foreign and domestic special-interest groups, have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars hosting events at the Trump International and other Trump family hotels and resorts.
The hotel charged over $800 a night for the days scheduled for the two-day meeting of the National Mining Association (NMA), an event attended by three members of President Trump’s Cabinet — Interior Deputy Secretary David Bernhardt, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta — plus several Republican lawmakers from Western states.
“President Trump has refused to divest from the Trump Organization, so money spent at the president’s D.C. hotel will make it into the president’s pocket,” says Brendan Fischer, an election law expert with the Campaign Legal Center.
“The National Mining Association or any other lobbying group has likely concluded that spending money at the Trump International Hotel in D.C. is a solid way of currying favor with the administration — and that spending money anywhere else runs the risk of offending our very sensitive president,” Fischer said.
The Guardian described ALEC as “a dating agency for Republican state legislators and big corporations, bringing them together to frame rightwing legislative agendas in the form of ‘model bills'” while The New York Times said, “special interests effectively turn ALEC’s lawmaker members into stealth lobbyists, providing them with talking points, signaling how they should vote, and collaborating on bills affecting hundreds of issues like school vouchers and tobacco taxes.”
The convergence of Trump’s administration, his personal business interests and the vast, conspiratorial agency of groups like ALEC confirms allegations in a 2014 study by Princeton University’s Martin Gilens and Northwestern University’s Benjamin I Page that concludes the US is an oligarchy, not a democracy.
The professors determined that America has devolved into an oligarchy where “policymaking is dominated by powerful business organizations and a small number of affluent Americans” especially when the desires of average people is at odds with those of the wealthy elite.
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