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Friday, October 29, 2010

Law - NPR investigation of ALEC, "the birthplace of a thousand pieces of legislation introduced in statehouses across the county"

The report on Morning Edition this morning begins:

When you walk into the offices of the American Legislative Exchange Council, it's hard to imagine it is the birthplace of a thousand pieces of legislation introduced in statehouses across the county.

Only 28 people work in ALEC's dark, quiet headquarters in Washington, D.C. And Michael Bowman, senior director of policy, explains that the little-known organization's staff is not the ones writing the bills. The real authors are the group's members — a mix of state legislators and some of the biggest corporations in the country.

"Most of the bills are written by outside sources and companies, attorneys, [and legislative] counsels," Bowman says.

Here's how it works: ALEC is a membership organization. State legislators pay $50 a year to belong. Private corporations can join, too. The tobacco company Reynolds American Inc., Exxon Mobil Corp. and drug-maker Pfizer Inc. are among the members. They pay tens of thousands of dollars a year. Tax records show that corporations collectively pay as much as $6 million a year.

With that money, the 28 people in the ALEC offices throw three annual conferences. The companies get to sit around a table and write "model bills" with the state legislators, who then take them home to their states.

One of those bills is now Arizona's controversial new immigration law. It requires police to arrest anyone who cannot prove they entered the country legally when asked. Hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants could be locked up, and private prison companies stand to make millions.
Arizona state Sen. Russell Pearce speaks during a vote on SB 1070, the immigration bill, in April.
Ross D. Franklin/AP

Arizona state Sen. Russell Pearce speaks in April during a vote on SB 1070, the immigration bill he sponsored. The final version resembled "model legislation" he helped draft during an ALEC conference in Washington, D.C., last year.

The largest prison company in the country, the Corrections Corporation of America, was present when the model immigration legislation was drafted at an ALEC conference last year.

An earlier NPR report was headed "Prison Economics Help Drive Ariz. Immigration Law."

Posted by Marcia Oddi on October 29, 2010 09:30 AM
Posted to General Law Related