By Beth Clayton
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY–From voter identification laws to immigration bills, many states seem to be acting as if from the same agenda in recent years. It’s no secret that lobbying groups impact public policy on all levels, but many states are being influenced by a stronger, more powerful group.
ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, “is the only state legislative organization that adopts policies and creates model legislation for its members to use in their states,” the ALEC website says. “To date, ALEC has nearly 1,000 pieces of model legislation.”
Alabama has seen several pieces of “model legislation” in various forms in the past legislative sessions.
For example, ALEC offers model legislation on “The Parental Choice Scholarship Tax Credit Accountability Act,” which describes a program similar to the one laid out in HB84, the Alabama Accountability Act.
ALEC is built around a public-private partnership, bringing corporate interests to the table next to those of elected officials. The organization boasts over 2,000 state legislative members nationwide, however it does not publish its membership list.
Bill Moyers, of the APT show “Moyers and Company,” “has been exploring — and exposing — the most influential corporate-funded political force most of us have never heard of,” in an attempt to lift the veil from those who work with ALEC.
The website features an interactive map, in partnership with the Center for Media and Democracy, to determine if your elected official is potentially an ALEC member.
The website links to the ALEC Exposed site from the Center for Media and Democracy and allows users to provide information if they believe their representative or senator is an ALEC member.
The website lists three Alabama senators and ten Representatives as supposed ALEC members.
Senator Jabo Waggoner (R-Vestavia Hills), the Senate Majority Leader, is listed as suspected of having ALEC ties. Additionally, Senator Cam Ward (R-Alabaster) and Senator Bryan Taylor (R-Prattville) are also listed.
In the House, Representatives Jim Carns (R-Birmingham) is listed as a potential ALEC member. Carns sponsored HB658, the bill intended to fix portions of the Accountability Act.
Representative Chad Fincher (R-Mobile) is listed, who has entered the race for the special election to fill the first Congressional seat.
Representative Victor Gaston (R-Mobile), the House President Pro Tem, is listed alongside Representative Richard Laird (I-Roanoke), who left the Democratic party to become an Independent and caucus with the Republicans, and Representative Richard Lindsey (D-Centre).
Additionally, the website lists Representative Mary Sue McClurkin (R-Indian Springs) as the ALEC State Chairman, alongside private sector chair Rosemary Elebash, with the National Federation of Independent Business.
Representative Demetrius Newton (D-Birmingham) was listed by the website as “one of the ‘1999 ALEC leaders in the states’ by ALEC.”
Lastly, the website lists Representatives Howard Sanderford (R-Huntsville) and Jack Williams (R-Vestavia Hills) as members of ALEC’s Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force. The website also lists Representative Greg Wren (R- Montgomery) as a member of the ALEC Commerce, Insurance and Economic Development Task Force.
Although the list is clear that these individuals are simply suspected of ALEC involvement, several have stronger ties than others.
For example, Representative Richard Lindsey is listed because he signed a letter, written by ALEC, concerning federal healthcare reform.
Others are listed because of that individual’s own admission of ALEC involvement, such as a Tweet by Senator Bryan Taylor or a line in the House biography of Representative Victor Gaston.
For more information, visit the interactive map at www.billmoyers.com and check the ties of your elected officials.