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The People Vs ALEC: Fighting Back Against the Corporate Takeover of Democracy
The relationship between business and government is necessary on some levels to protect a nation’s commerce and economic health on the world stage, and when the association works well, consumers, business, and government benefit from a shared sense of prosperity, responsibility, and common goals. However, when government complies with big businesses’ demands and policy recommendations that are not in the best interest of consumers and government, the relationship becomes dangerous and not conducive to democracy. Republicans have typically been submissive to the will of corporate America as a matter-of-course, but since the 1970s, corporations have become the driving force behind GOP policies and agendas at all levels of government. Over the past ten days, several corporations have ended their relationship with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), and regardless where the pressure to end their relationship with the Libertarian group originated, perhaps corporations are beginning to understand that they should concentrate on running their businesses and not the United States government.
Wendy’s is the latest corporation to sever ties with ALEC and it is significant because the second-largest fast-food restaurant chain has a history of conservative political activism. Wendy’s funded a group that opposes regulations that affect the food and beverage industries and its PAC gives considerably more campaign money to Republicans than Democrats because the GOP hates regulations nearly as much as big business does. However, in the wake of the Trayvon Martin murder and voter suppression laws in dozens of states, it is likely that Wendy’s, like McDonalds, Coca Cola, Pepsi, Intuit, and Kraft understand that aligning their brand with a radical anti-democracy and anti-government group may not be in the best interest of their shareholders and business model and make no mistake, ALEC is decidedly anti-government.
If one is confused about ALEC’s libertarian mission, they can look no further than Koch Industries and the Heritage Foundation’s mission statements. Their stated goal is eliminating the federal government, taxes, regulations, and democracy to reward big business and give them total and complete control of all aspects of governance through privatization and corporate-driven policy decisions at the state level. It is no coincidence that ALEC’s rise coincides with a former anti-government champion, Ronald Reagan, and one can follow the “government is evil” mantra from Reagan’s ascendance as governor of California to his disastrous presidency. Along the way, ALEC has worked tirelessly to accomplish Grover Norquist’s goal of “drowning the government in a bathtub” and turning over the reins of power to wealthy industrialists under the guise of “state’s rights” and Jeffersonian principles. By now it must be obvious that in referring to Jeffersonian principles, ALEC means “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” is reserved for wealthy white males and their corporations.
The migration away from ALEC by a growing list of large corporations has not gone unnoticed by the organization and yesterday ALEC’s executive director released a statement as a response to what he labeled a “coordinated and well-funded intimidation campaign against corporate members of the organization.” The statement reiterated the organization’s goal to partner with legislators in states to create public policies that “place a priority on free enterprise and consumer choice, and tax policies that are fair, simple and that spur the kind of competiveness that puts Americans back to work.” However, that statement does not explain disenfranchising students, minorities, and elderly voters, or why ALEC wrote a law in dozens of states that give legal cover to citizens who kill unarmed African Americans. In his statement, ALEC’s director states the group’s goal is supporting pro-growth, pro-jobs, and “vigorous exchange of ideas between the public and private sector to develop state-based solutions,” and that they will not be defined by special interest groups who want to “eliminate discourse that leads to economic vitality, jobs and fiscal stability for the states.” What is missing from the statement and, indeed, their mission, goals, and policies are any benefits to American citizens or their well-being that explains the close relationship between ALEC, Republicans, Koch Industries, and the Heritage Foundation.
ALEC exists to give power to the wealthy and corporations to subdue the population in a perpetual state of poverty with no voice in the direction and governance of this country. The response statement alluded to a “well-funded and expertly coordinated intimidation campaign” that is code for democracy that ALEC opposes, and it explains their push to suppress votes and their opposition to the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that prohibits states from “imposing voting qualifications that deny or curtail the right of a U.S. citizen to vote.” The last thing ALEC aspires to is a country where every citizen has an equal voice in government because it is anathema to their dream of America controlled by corporate-driven Libertarian principles and no centralized government that is evident in their numerous policy statements on every subject from state’s rights, health care, education, prisons, commerce, and environmental regulations.
The more Americans learn about ALEC and its goals for this country, the more they will join with groups like Common Cause and the Color of Change to end the nightmare scenario Republicans, libertarians, Koch brothers, and Heritage Foundation plan for this country. Americans will not sit idly and let a small group of corporations continue raping democracy to install an oligarchy controlled by wealthy industrialists, and they will use their considerable power as consumers to pressure corporate giants into abandoning what is arguably an anti-American organization. It is curious that ALEC promotes free-market capitalism as the be all, end all for America’s economic woes, but they are repulsed by citizens using their “free enterprise and consumer choice” to encourage large corporations to use their “free market right” to end their relationship with an anti-American libertarian group intent on installing a corporatocracy in place of the government. If nothing else, the response from ALEC’s executive director informs that the organization promotes unrestricted free market capitalism only if it engenders corporate fascism and libertarian principles. If ALEC thinks there is a well-funded and expertly coordinated intimidation campaign against them from a couple of grassroots organizations, they have no idea of the destructive wave coming at them when the occupy movement and working Americans exert real and sustained pressure that would make Jefferson proud.