There's a great piece up at the Center for Media and Democracy about the work of ALEC or American Legislative Exchange Council. The group has been working at the state level to fundamentally change America, state by state. If there's an unpopular governor passing unpopular laws through an unpopular state legislature, ALEC is behind them. Voter ID laws, union-busting laws, laws shifting the tax burden away from the wealthy to the poor and middle class, cuts in state services, etc. -- all can be traced back to ALEC.
In fact, many of these bills have the same language from state to state. Since ALEC describe themselves as the largest "membership association of state legislators," it would seem that these state officials were writing these bills with the help of legislators for other states. This would go a long way toward explaining why so many of their bills look cut-and-paste. But closer scrutinity proves this assumption wrong.
In April 2011, some of the biggest corporations in the U.S. met behind closed doors in Cincinnati about their wish lists for changing state laws. This exchange was part of a series of corporate meetings nurtured and fueled by the Koch Industries family fortune and other corporate funding.
At an extravagant hotel gilded just before the Great Depression, corporate executives from the tobacco giant R.J. Reynolds, State Farm Insurance, and other corporations were joined by their "task force" co-chairs -- all Republican state legislators -- to approve "model" legislation. They jointly head task forces of what is called the "American Legislative Exchange Council" (ALEC).
There, as the Center for Media and Democracy has learned, these corporate-politician committees secretly voted on bills to rewrite numerous state laws. According to the documents we have posted to ALEC Exposed, corporations vote as equals with elected politicians on these bills. These task forces target legal rules that reach into almost every area of American life: worker and consumer rights, education, the rights of Americans injured or killed by corporations, taxes, health care, immigration, and the quality of the air we breathe and the water we drink.
"It is a worrisome marriage of corporations and politicians, which seems to normalize a kind of corruption of the legislative process -- of the democratic process--in a nation of free people where the government is supposed to be of, by, and for the people, not the corporations," writes Center for Media and Democracy Executive Director Lisa Graves.
As always when dealing with the backroom workings of the Republican Party, there is also hypocrisy here. "Unelected" is a standard GOP buzzword; we have to worry about unelected judges "legislating from the bench," about unelected bureaucrats making our healthcare decisions, about unelected regulators hampering businesses -- and here they are, letting unelected corporate lobbyists write law.
But it goes deeper, gets more disturbing, than that. In an unrelated piece about the Washington standoff over the debt limit, political analyst Stuart Rothenberg explains where the sticking point lies:
Most recently elected House Republicans believe that government can’t and shouldn’t do all it has done. Cutting spending is merely the means to cutting government, as Ronald Reagan understood.
Yes, Republicans complained about the costs associated with the Democrats' health care bill, with the 2009 economic stimulus and with the Democrats' cap-and-trade proposal, but that's not the real reason why they opposed those initiatives.
They don't believe that government should involve itself in the market that directly, or in picking winners and losers. They regard the health care bill's individual mandate as excessive government intervention into individual rights. And they don't trust bureaucrats or government officials to decide what's good for people.
Apparently, the logical conclusion this line of reasoning leads to is that corporations get "to decide what's good for people." The same people who told you smoking was good for you, that asbestos was fine, that the Deepwater Horizon oil spill was completely under control. Those are the people who get to decide what's best for you -- not the people you elected for that job.
It's the obvious solution to the Republican logical equation; if A=B and B=C, then A=C. That is, if government is bad and that government is a democracy, then democracy is bad.
A sham democracy it is, then.