WASHINGTON (February 28, 2002) -- Major corporations are operating behind-the-scenes in state capitals across the country through a purported "good government" group that pushes an industry-friendly agenda, according to a report to be released by Defenders of Wildlife and the Natural Resources Defense Council. In addition to financing gifts and junkets for elected officials, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) acts as a conduit for special-interest legislation from corporations to key state legislators on issues that range from rolling back environmental and consumer protections to privatizing government services such as prisons and schools.
"It's time to shine the public spotlight on the American Legislative Exchange Council," Defenders of Wildlife President Rodger Schlickeisen said. "ALEC's sole mission is to advance special-interest legislation across the nation on behalf of its corporate sponsors and funders. Polluters, developers and their big business allies will use their extensive resources to finance a corporate takeover of state government if we continue to turn a blind eye to this deceptive organization's work."
The report -- entitled "Corporate America's Trojan Horse in the States: The Untold Story Behind the American Legislative Exchange Council" -- is available on the Internet at www.alecwatch.org. It is based on thousands of pages of primary financial documents and other source material, including tax returns filed by ALEC and its major underwriters.
"While the Congressional debate over campaign finance reform has focused the nation's attention on corporate influence over politics at the federal level, ALEC provides a chilling example of even more brazen manipulation involving state legislatures," said Gregory Wetstone, NRDC's director of advocacy. "ALEC is the ultimate 'Trojan Horse' for industry forces seeking to bend state laws to maximize corporate profits, often at the expense of citizens and the environment."
ALEC touts itself as a membership association of state legislators. But corporations and trade associations finance virtually all of ALEC's activities. One of ALEC's largest benefactors has been Enron Corp. The report details how the now-defunct energy giant sought to buy influence not just at the federal level but -- secretly through ALEC -- in the 50 states as well.
ALEC's underwriters represent a who's who of corporate America. In addition to Enron, they include Amoco, Chevron, Texaco, R.J. Reynolds, AT&T, the American Nuclear Energy Council, the Chlorine Chemistry Council, the American Petroleum Institute, and the Pharmaceutical Research & Manufacturers of America.
These organizations have used ALEC to mount a wide-ranging assault against laws safeguarding public health and the environment. For example, ALEC boasts of enacting hundreds of pieces of "model" state legislation. But many of these bills undermine the public interest on subjects including health care, tobacco restrictions, employee benefits, utility regulation, tax policy, and education.
"ALEC allows these corporations to do what they couldn't attempt to do directly or openly without risking public criticism. They funnel cash through ALEC to curry favor with state lawmakers through junkets and other largesse in the hopes of enacting special-interest legislation -- all the while keeping safely outside the public eye," according to the report.
The Natural Resources Defense Council is a national, non-profit organization of scientists, lawyers and environmental specialists dedicated to protecting public health and the environment. Founded in 1970, NRDC has more than 500,000 members nationwide, served from offices in New York, Washington, Los Angeles and San Francisco.
Defenders of Wildlife is a leading nonprofit environmental advocacy organization with more than 500,000 members and supporters, especially recognized as one of the nation's most progressive advocates for endangered wildlife, its habitat and biodiversity. Defenders uses education, litigation, research and innovation to advance its mission over the opposition of special interests.