At last a response to questions my friend Sergie and I puzzled over in my March 27 post: Why doesn’t the New York Times write an investigative piece about that extremely effective stealth lobbying group called the American Legislative Exchange Council? Why didn’t it write this piece years ago?
I’ll bet you’ve already heard of ALEC, unless you only read newspapers. The furtive, pro-corporate, tax-exempt group not only spends taxpayer money to persuade state legislators to pass right-wing bills — it often writes “model bills” used by legislators all over the country. Which isn’t surprising once you know ALEC’s members include not only corporations but also almost 2,000 state legislators. Almost all of the legislators are Republicans.
The horse is out of the barn and halfway across the valley, but better late than never for the story to be in a “newspaper of record.” And who cares that the Sunday NYT piece relied heavily on materials obtained by the watchdog group Common Cause, which is hoping to have ALEC busted for not meeting the criteria for tax-exempt status?
But I kid you, NYT. You did manage to dig up, or at least choose to use, some good anecdotal material that helps illustrate how thoroughly sleazy ALEC is. I liked this:
Last December, ALEC adopted model legislation, based on a Texas law, addressing the public disclosure of chemicals in drilling fluids used to extract natural gas through hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. The ALEC legislation, which has since provided the basis for similar bills submitted in five states, has been promoted as a victory for consumers’ right to know about potential drinking water contaminants.
A close reading of the bill, however, reveals loopholes that would allow energy companies to withhold the names of certain fluid contents, for reasons including that they have been deemed trade secrets. Most telling, perhaps, the bill was sponsored within ALEC by ExxonMobil, one of the largest practitioners of fracking — something not explained when ALEC lawmakers introduced their bills back home.
Footnote: Wouldn’t it be nice if President Obama could take the high ground and politely denounce ALEC for working to destroy the democratic process by putting crooked politicians in bed with corporate skunks? But he can’t do that because he too is in bed with skunks, especially those of the Wall Street variety.