Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Undercover at the Chicago ALEC conference

Protest at ALEC conference in Chicago last week.
Chris Taylor, a Wisconsin state representative, went behind enemy lines at last week's ALEC conference in Chicago -- you know, the one that sparked a protest by 3,700 union members, environmental activists and fed-up citizens.

Taylor, a Democrat, was picking up the torch passed by former Wisconsin Rep. Mark Pocan, now a member of Congress. Pocan infiltrated an ALEC conference in 2011 and reported:
Corporations and conservative interests are in charge; after all, they fund the organization. They call the shots. They write the legislation. They vote on the legislation. And they give advice on how to pass their bills.
Taylor discovered the same thing -- that powerful corporations are quite confident that they're in charge of state legislatures. In "My ALEC Diary," she writes a lobbyist told her:
...you didn’t really need the consent of the people if you had Republican control of enough states and the corporate money ... In the ALEC universe, policies no longer have to be by the people or for the people.
Chris Taylor
There's a reason Democratic state lawmakers from Wisconsin have been going undercover at ALEC. The corporate bill machine was first flushed from the shadows when Wisconsin Job-killer Scott Walker started imposing ALEC's anti-worker, corporate-empowerment agenda.  The Cap Times notes:
To the average voter, ALEC meant nothing until Gov. Scott Walker took office in 2010. That’s when people started to realize ALEC was more than just another non-profit, political group holding conferences around the country. 
It soon became clear that similar bills were being pitched and passed in Republican-controlled legislative houses across the country. ALEC, with its process for developing so-called model legislation, was the source. 
“My takeaway after spending two days at a conference is ALEC is a well-oiled machine," Taylor said Friday on her way back from the conference. "Putting the amount of money it has aside, the coordination and the infrastructure this group has in place is incredible. I was both fascinated and horrified by it.”
ALEC claims that it "really believes in transparency." That wasn't Taylor's experience. ALEC conference organizers knew she was a Democrat who didn't embrace their agenda. She tells her diary:
...after joining ALEC, registering for the conference and shelling out almost $1,000 in conference and hotel fees, the group still wouldn’t send me a conference agenda. 
This led me to wonder what they were hiding. 
We actually found out here. It isn't pretty.