The American Legislative Exchange Council, an organization which pushes “model” legislation encouraging privatization in nearly every corner of American life under the guise of advancing “free market” principles, will hold their annual meeting in Chicago the second week of August. For 40 years, ALEC has worked to create deep connections between corporations and lawmakers while simultaneously limiting the rights of the American people to resist a corporate takeover of their democracy.
It’s fitting ALEC would host its annual conference in Chicago this year after Mayor Emanuel has spent his term pushing a model of government the organization has attempted to legislate for 40 years. Between the mayor’s push to privatize city services and attempts to dismantle the public school system along with the state of Illinois’ pandering to huge corporations via millions in tax breaks, Chicago provides a perfect backdrop. According to the Center for Media and Democracy, which publishes the website alecexposed.org, the “corporate bill mill” sponsored 117 pieces of legislation in 2013 alone which limit worker’s rights and keep wages down. Additionally, ALEC has written “model” legislation rolling back environmental regulations, promoted “Stand Your Ground” legislation which helped set Treyvon Martin’s killer George Zimmerman free, and limits civil liberties.
The guest list of featured speakers at ALEC’s 40th birthday celebration reads like a who’s who of modern day robber baron’s:
- Jeb Bush, champion of charter schools – Much like Chicago’s mayor, Bush has waged a war against public education, particularly teacher’s unions. The former Florida governor’s annual education summits are sponsored by for-profit companies. At a keynote speech in May, Bush called public schools “government-run monopolies run by unions.”
- Stephen Moore, corporate cheerleader – Moore, an economist and member of the Wall Street Journal’s editorial board helped found the Club for Growth, which strongly supported the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, fought hard for CAFTA, opposed the Affordable Care Act and more. Moore also founded the Free Enterprise Fund, which has opposed and challenged the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, a 2002 law which set new accountability standards for publicly traded companies and increased penalties for fraudulent activities.
- Governor Terry Brandstad – In 2012, Brandstad signed a bill which criminalizes activists who attempt to go undercover inside facilities to expose animal abuse. Despite the criminality of animal abuse, Brandstad said the “illegal” activity of exposing it is “inappropriate” and would “disrupt agricultural operations.
While the rich and powerful will wine and dine each other inside Chicago’s Palmer House Hotel, activists opposed to ALEC’s agenda are organizing several protest actions during the conference. On the conference’s opening day, Common Cause and the Center for Media and Democracy plan to screen Bill Moyers’ film the “United States of ALEC,” followed by a panel discussion. At noon on the day following, the Chicago Federation of Labor, along with many other organizations, plan to demonstrate outside. In a statement on its Facebook page, CFL says:
“ALEC is bringing state politicians to Chicago to push a dangerous agenda that rewards greedy CEOs at the expense of middle class families and our public schools and puts our safety at risk. Forty years of ALEC is nothing to celebrate.”