The New 4-Letter Word: A.L.E.C.
From the Inkwell of: Bartholomew J. Worthington
Last year, when George Zimmerman was acquitted of murdering Trayvon Martin, outraged youth took over the halls of the State Capitol to demand the repeal of the Stand Your Ground law that was the basis of an unarmed, young Black man's senseless death. Earlier this year, when Michael Dunn dodged a murder conviction in the death of unarmed, young Black man Jordan Davis, the Black community was once again outraged that the Stand Your Ground law was still on the books.
Yet for all the outrage directed at a law that prioritizes a white man's right to react with deadly force when allegedly threatened by the presence of a young Black man, very little of it has been directed at the actual culprit; A.L.E.C.
With a seemingly nondescript name, the American Legislative Executive Council has managed to maintain its anonymity, and avoid incurring the full wrath of the entire Black community.Thankfully, as the curtain is being drawn back to reveal its true, insidious nature, ALEC's days of affecting legislation from the shadows are numbered.
What is ALEC?
The American Legislative Executive Council is a Washington, D.C. based think tank that "provides research and legislative assistance." Organized in 1973, ALEC aims to advance a largely right-wing legislative agenda at the state level. ALEC sponsored retreats bring together lawmakers, lobbyists and corporate executives to create model legislation that advances the agenda of its Big Business sponsors. These model bills are then sent home with the lawmakers in attendance to be enacted at the state level.
ALEC is organized into 10 different issue think tank task forces seeking to affect policy on a wide range of issues from Civil Justice, Commerce and Education to Public Safety and Elections and Tax and Fiscal Policy . ALEC invites state-level lawmakers to its Task Force retreats, held several times a year, where they rub shoulders with Big Business corporate executives.
Though it is classified as a 501 (c) 3 non-profit "educational" organization, ALEC operates much like an extremely effective lobbyist for Big Business. Additionally, while ALEC's membership consists of corporations, lobbyists and conservative state legislators who all pay dues to be a part of the organization, a lions share of ALEC's funding (98%) comes from the dues paid by its large corporate members.
Examples of ALEC Drafted Legislation
ALEC has managed to maintain relative anonymity considering how influential it has been in affecting public policy, especially over the last several years. In addition to getting Stand Your Ground legislation introduced in up to 26 different states, ALEC has also introduced several model bills that have also been enacted by several states:
Why Should the Black Community Care?
At the end of the day, the only thing that truly matters to most people is how they will be affected. Yet we. as African-Americans, are unaware of how any of ALEC's model bills negatively impact our day to day lives.
From the fear every Black parent feels for the safety of their children in a world where our young people are considered threats simply for existing, to the very real issue of wealth inequity, ALEC policies play a significant part in our daily struggle to scratch out an existence in America. While the laws being enacted are less overtly racist that the policies of Jim Crow, make no mistake about it; ALEC's legislative agenda is just as insidious and harmful as "separate but equal".
ALEC's policies affect any of our young people who walk to and from school, work or the store on a day-to-day basis. They affect our ability to provide for our families at a time when our expenses are increasing, but our paychecks are stagnant (even shrinking when adjusted for inflation.) ALEC's policies affect our ability to exercise the right to vote in by seeking to disenfranchising as many liberal-leaning voters as possible.
For us as a community, ALEC's policies are the most credible evidence of "The Man" or "The System" that we have long suspected operates in the shadows. The current War on Drugs (read War on the Black Community- more on that to come), has been largely driven by model bills drafted by ALEC members with a vested interest in seeing Black men behind bars: Corrections Cooperation of America and Geo Group (formerly Wackenhut Corrections). These two companies are the two largest private prison operations in the country, and the last almost 30 years of the War on Drugs and policies such as "three strikes" and "mandatory minimums for non-violent drug offenders have greatly enhanced their bottom lines. At the expense of the entire Black community.
ALEC's corporate members have also been at the forefront of repealing or weakening laws meant to protect the environment, led the charge to cut corporate taxes at the state level (usually accompanied by a corresponding cuts in either education, early childhood programs or some other policy meant to assist the middle-class) and have even managed to pass laws that criminalize whistle-blowers who expose unsafe or dangerous food processing practices.
In short, we as Black people should care because ALEC is the boogeyman we've been told for decades doesn't exist.
The knowledge that we've been right all along in little consolation at a time when the Black community AND the middle-class are BOTH under siege from the same forces. But the first step in fighting a righteous fight is knowing WHO our enemy is.
After Trayvon Martin's murder, several of ALEC's large members dropped their membership in the organization, including household names such as Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Kraft Foods, Intuit, Mars and McDonald's. It turns out that being associated with the very real effects that ALEC policies have on destroying actual lives is considered bad for business by some corporations.
But ALEC's ability to affect public policy from the shadows remains. It is up to us to use our knowledge of their existence and their tactics and methods to protect ourselves and fight back.
We'll know that we are succeeding when everyone considers A.L.E.C. to be a four-letter word.