Bill Moyers: The United States of ALEC

Lobbying isn’t just a Beltway phenomenon. Big businesses take their fights to the states, where they can get their way with far less fuss and expense than on the national stage.

Even though the corporate-backed American Legislative Exchange Council lost important sponsors in 2012 as a result of supporting voter ID and Stand Your Ground legislation, a new Bill Moyers investigation finds it remains a powerhouse.

From the opening segment of this show:

What if you were a corporation that stood to make a bundle if oil from the Canadian tar sands was imported by the United States?

And what if you thought federal laws to protect the environment were going to stop that oil-importing from happening?

You’d set your sights on Washington, spread some money around inside the beltway, hire big gun lobbyists to wine and dine the politicians, and stroke the regulators to let the “free market” work, right? Right. You would do all that, but you wouldn’t stop there.

You’d also take your battle to the states, because if you can get laws that serve your interest in one state capitol after another, it might not matter much what Washington has to say about it. Especially in a time like this when our national government is polarized, paralyzed, and dysfunctional and an obstinate minority is determined to keep it that way…

This is how ALEC has worked for years, pushing changes state by state that could never have been achieved if they had been put to the test of open and broad popular support. ALEC has been so successful working its will behind closed doors in secret, that most Americans had never even heard of it until recently.

Moyers also has an interactive map that allows you to put in your address and see if your state legislator is a member of ALEC.

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  1. rob

    Bravo Bill Moyers!
    Another great piece of journalism.

    Alec is just one of the little franknstiens eminating from the articulation of the 1971″powell memo”.As was highlighted in the movie,”Heist,who stole the American dream”

    The heritage foundation,the american enterprise institute,ALEC,the cato institute,the mercatus center,americans for prosperity,americans for tax reform,the federalist society,etc.These are all here to screw americans.
    They must be held together, and thrown out.The people who choose to be a part of any of them should be thrown out of any public office, and the companies they work for should be banned from getting any public contracts.
    Screw us!, NO. I say SCREW YOU!

    Then we can see where these “new” upstarts learned their ways from. Like the council on foreign relations and the like…The powers that be. The establishment, has used propaganda and everything else to subvert the people.The good of the people as been forgotten for too long.

    The monied intrests are the enemy of the people.They are the enemy of freedom.they are the enemy of the american dream.They are even the enemy of capitalism.They are fascists….tried and true.
    They are the seeming friend of the daylight ,who sets your house on fire during the night.

  2. from Mexico

    Fake humility and fake austerity: It’s the latest scam to dupe the voters, and ALEC and Gov. Scott Walker are playing it to the hilt. As the pro-capitalist magazine Business Week put it: “Part of ALEC’s mission is to present industry-backed legislation as grass-roots work.” And in his down-home campaign, the austere Walker can be heard saying, as he waves his brown-bag lunch: “This is my lunch. I pack a brown bag each day so I can save some money to spend on the more important things in life, like sending my kids to college.”

    But according to a group of Marxist Catholics, ALEC and Gov. Walker have a strange bedfellow in their game of deceit: the new Catholic Pope, Francis.

    Born Jorge Mario Bergoglio, Pope Francis chose his papal designation in honor of Saint Francis de Assisi, the 13th-century monk best known for his poverty vows. As pope Francis’ manner has been less formal than that of his predecessors: a style that news coverage has lauded as “no frills,” noting that it is “his common touch and accessibility that is proving the greatest inspiration.” He avoids elaborate vestments, opted for a ring and cross of silver, wears old black shoes and refused a luxurious apartment. At his first media audience, the Pope said of Saint Francis of Assisi: “The man who gives us this spirit of peace, the poor man,” and he added “How I would like a poor Church, and for the poor.”

    But according to Maciek Wisniewski, that’s where the similarities between Pope Francis and Saint Francis end. The “papal austerity,” he charges, “instead of exposing the mechanisms of the dominant order, conceals them.”

    The exact opposite of Saint Francis, who formulated a subversive, revolutionary, and anarchistic theology that defied the ecclesiastical and social hierarchy and shook the foundaitons of the feudal order, Pope Francis has always been allied with the rich and the powerful of Argentina, Wisniewski notes. “By not talking about the ‘Argentina lesson’ (the decision about the debt, the importance of social investment),” Wisniewski continues, “or the movements which today oppose austerity, with his ‘cult of poverty’ Francis only offers the spiritual equivalent of ‘authoritarian austerity’.”

    As Wisniewski goes on to explain:

    The new Pope continues in the traditional doctrine of the Church, where the poor are only objects of charity and compassion, not subjects of their own history that should be liberated, and is far from, for instance, the thinking of Hugo Assmann or Franz Hinkelammert. These, synthesizing Catholicism with Marxism, developed a criticism of capitalism as a “false religion,” where the idols are money, profit and debt…

    Francis’ neo-Franciscan theology is not a tool of liberation, but a new strategy of discipline; it is not directed at the system, nor the bankers, but at the common people… The “papal austerity,” like the “politics of detail” of Foucault, seeks to teach us the virtues of “living with less” and of “asking for less” (salary, benefits, rights, services), to content ourselves “with the little that is,” and to neutralize the political potential of poverty.

    The original article can be found here:

    “Capitalism as religion and the neo-Franciscan doctrine as its discipline”

    translations from the original Spanish are mine

    1. citalopram

      Mexico, if you haven’t already, you should start your own blog. Your writing is way more interesting that say, Lambert’s.

  3. Patriot Snowden

    Phew, this is mild: “Lobbying isn’t just a Beltway phenomenon. Big businesses take their fights to the states.”
    So whenever we see the MoveOns, the progressive tanks de jour, all we need do is remember the financial crisis, to suggest big money doesn’t rule the day already is delicately assembled propaganda. The “laws” in states when it came to pushing homeowners to the streets, to bankruptcy or suicide are just as Wall Street and their associated riff raff has written them. (Incidentally the know YOU don’t know about the law, so the law of the jungle is what matters most in the publics’ mind.)

    There are so many bad laws now on the books, it’s the proles duty to ask why those are less frequently the subject of progressive Inc.’s outrage. ALEC is a threat, so let’s get the NSA on it.

    1. Patriot Snowden

      The map is interesting. Noticably, most of the “bad guys” are Republican. That’s interesting because a lot of the “good guys” Democrats will empty the public’s coffers on behalf of Big Defense Contractors or Bankstas. They are also big on jails and other forms of social control. No – this ALEC outrage simply scratches the surface of how outright corrupt things are at the state level.

      1. rob

        So what is your point?Most republicans ARE bad guys.You really have to be, to adhere to the backwards logic of that parties platform.To outright lie to normal people every day pretending you care about ANYTHING.Whereas, democrats are MOSTLY bad guys.They pretend to believe in something not necessarily bad, but then do whatever the money says.(and to be honest, I’m only trying to keep an open mind.I don’t know of any “good”guys in either party…but just in case someone out there actually is.I don’t want to be just a “naysayer”)

        What does that have to do with this story?ALEC is Alec.ARE you disputing what they are doing?Are you saying those things they are doing are good?
        And Moyers never said it was a “republican” thing.He (and all the others) were pretty clear it was a corporate control/business “thing”.
        After all, bill clinton is a DLC democrat.Another koch bros creation.And david koch ran as a democrat, when he was running for office.And Obama.. well.. what can one say. He obviously is a jive-ass fascist.People here don’t tend to drum on republicans.Anyone watching knows they are scum,liars…with their hands in everyones pocket…but we know that about democrats too…
        So again, What is your point?

        1. Jack Downladder

          Political parties are superfluous. The State Attorney Generals allowed Banks to get away with everything, regardless of party. The Governor of Maryland, Martin O’Malley has shown contempt for labor, support for casinos and went out of his way to help banks take back houses even after widespread problems were discovered. Their is no state legislation that I know of being introduced by any State level stoogfe anywhere that really corrects what Banks did, do, and will continue to get away with. Wall Street has threatened to cut ’em off, they obey.
          In other words, it doesn’t matter if you aren’t officially an ALEC foot soldier, you are still beholden to business interests.

          1. Carla

            You said, man! It ain’t about the good party and the bad party — it’s about the “2-party” system — a false dichotomy that has lurched along, destroying the middle class, and therefore the only unique thing this country ever had going for it, other than an ocean on each side.

            Give it up, people! No one is going to save us. Neither the Democrats nor the Republicans are going to save us.

            WE have to do it. So check out the “We the People” amendment at and get busy!

        2. Tax Lawyer

          Only one good guy, or well gal, I can see out there, Elizabeth Warren. She has yet to prove me wrong.

  4. Eureka Springs

    The show hasn’t aired here yet, but I hope Bill mentions how AR state House and Senate Democrats just voted in larger percentages than Republicans to give ALEC/ the Koch brothers several hundred million in money and tax breaks for a new steel mill.

  5. rob

    Bravo Bill Moyers!
    Another real piece of journalism.

    This ought to go in conjuction with the movie”heist,who stole the american dream.”
    To look at the “powell Memo” of 1971.Shows that what bill moyers is reporting about is ONE of the fruits,of the tree that was planted when those who sought to undo the “new deal”,were set together on a path.
    The powell memo, is one of those things.A manifesto where people come out and outlined their desires.Forty years later, we see the results.We also see how closely they have kept to their original intent.
    ALEC,like :the american enterprise institute,the heritage foundation,the cato institute,the mercatus center,americans for tax reform,americans for prosperity,etc… are all fronts on an attack.the class war has been waged.The battles are lost.But the survivors have no choice but to continue to resist.For movements like the occupy movement to keep up momentum, the public needs to know, things didn’t just “get this way”.Someone MADE them this way.The forces of resistance need to meet the forces of oppression.Rather than be re-directed by false fronts.

    When people now talk about anything.Be it politics,money,or power.Republican or democrat.They are using ideas shaped by decades of propaganda.They are using history that was rigged in the first place.
    To look around now, and see things as hopeless.Is exactly what we are supposed to see.Like any bad dream, the way to stop it ,is to wake up.

    1. be'emet

      life principle: effects have causes! not always discernible, but this effort is the business of intelligence. contra religion, education, propaganda, etc…

      1. Jack Downladder

        Or MoveOn, which was strangely anti-war then pro-war, and served more as a distraction to the financial crisis than anything else.

  6. Isaac

    Couple of years ago I contacted the communications director of ALEC and asked if the organization were going to get offices into Canada, specifically, Ontario, Canada. His response was that there were no immediate plans but they had people providing advice to their politicians.
    So, I figured that ALEC would be providing advice to the Conservative Party of Ontario (There are 3 primary parties in Ontario, and Canada: Conservative, Liberal and New Democrats.) I was wrong. They were not interested in a particular party as much as working the members of the ruling party. The Premier, McGuinty, was ousted out of office and who knows what is next.

  7. Salieri82

    “Tonight, on PBS: a scathing expose of corporate America’s takeover of the machinery of government!

    But first, a list of our wealthy sponsors…”

    1. Montanamaven

      Yup! PBS is part of “managed democracy”. Yes ALEC is well funded and is shaping our state legislatures. Not news. But what are the Democrats doing about it? Shaking their fists a lot and spending money on national electoral politics. They abandoned labor issues a long time ago. Their environmental efforts are weak to non-existent. They have kept bankers safe. And they continue the long standing Democratic tradition of starting wars and engaging in “humanitarian intervention”. They have ceded the local battles to their capitalist right wing comrades so that we are screwed from above and below.

      1. diane

        Yup, and not only are:

        Their environmental efforts are weak to non-existent.

        but the few they have seem deliberately set up to exclusively punish those who cannot even afford to follow them, or greatly benefit from them.

        The Tesla (there was a swinefest of tax and other breaks for the teeny eeny weeny handful of UZ Tesla Buyers, the last group of persons who actually needed $ome break$), is a perfect example (and even then one has to ignore the fact of what an electricity sucker it is), in a country where most need an automobile, or far, far better public transit in order to make a daily income, and see to daily needs; especially in those more than abundant areas where a bike just doesn’t serve that all around purpose, especially for those taking care of others who cannot ride bikes, and those areas where the roads, distance and weather make all year bike riding to work, an absolute impossibility.

        1. diane

          sorry, meant to end the blockquote after:

          Their environmental efforts are weak to non-existent.

  8. AbyNormal

    alec meet ALICE

    The ALICE website now allows you to rate all the model and exemplary laws in the library! Which state has the most comprehensive gun control law? Which municipality has the best employer-provided sick leave policy? Sign up now to start rating, so you can let policymakers and advocates know which laws are most worthy of replication. Once enough ratings are submitted we will publish dynamically-generated lists of the top ten rated laws in each policy area.

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