ALEC protesters in Chicago on August 6, 2013. (Courtesy of Flickr)
The American Legislative Exchange Council is better known today than at any time in its forty-year history.
For most groups that seek to influence the governing process that would be something to celebrate. But ALEC, the corporate-funded project that develops “model legislation” to be introduced by conservative legislators across the country, historically worked off-radar.
The group highlighted by the 2011 “ALEC Exposed” project of the Center for Media and Democracy and The Nation has in recent years been the subject of investigations and inquiries by media outlets across the country. It has been the focus of a nationally broadcast “United States of ALEC” documentary by Bill Moyers & Company. It has been called out by groups such as Color of Change and Common Cause. It has been abandoned by forty-nine corporations (from Amazon.com to Walmart) that once paid for its initiatives.
ALEC has been decried by labor, environmental and clean government groups in state capitols across the country. National political figures, such as Illinois Senator Dick Durbin, are launching inquiries into how the group promotes its legislative agenda. And this week, as ALEC gathers its corporate and legislative “members” in the city of its founding to celebrate four decades of service to special interests and ambitious politicians, demonstrations against the group have drawn thousands of union members, civil rights activists and social justice campaigners into the streets of Chicago.
An organization that once held its annual meetings virtually unnoticed is now met with mass protests so large that streets around its hotel were closed Thursday as activists staged “die-ins” recalling ALEC’s role in the passage of so-called Stand Your Ground laws and headlines screamed, “ALEC convention protests: Labor vs. lobbyists.”