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Where do all the bad laws come from? ALEC

Putting the American Legislative Exchange Council on blast

Words from John

Hey Y’all,

This video weighs in at a hefty 6 minutes. It’s a lot, but just enough to scratch the surface of a particularly noxious conservative outfit that’s been tormenting America for 49 years. Take a look, or scan the transcript with the sources below.

It’s another installment in my TikTok playlist about the Radical Right where we walk through major conservative wins that were touched off by the Powell Memo of 1971 and are still leading us down an increasingly treacherous path. FUN!

A word about the paid version of The Holler

A month or two ago, I tried out a subscriber-only version of The Holler named “Rat Tales”. While it was fun to write, I’m unable to continue it at the moment because I took a… very fun, and also necessary… part-time job at the dive bar I happen to live above. If you’re on TikTok, you can follow some very *interesting* stories I’ve put out about working there. Let me know if you want to see them here.

The Holler is an experiment in independent political media that’s only been able to stick around for a year next month because of our paid subscribers. It’s everything I’ve wanted to do for a long time and I can’t thank all of you enough.

The plan, for now, is to crank out videos about the wealth gap and the rise of the radical right roughly weekly for as long as you’ll keep me around. If this is valuable to you, please sign up for $60 a year today!

Video Transcript with Sources

Don’t Say Gay, Stand Your Ground, bathroom bills, Voter ID, anti-immigration, shoot-to-kill laws… 

What do they have in common? The American Legislative Exchange Council

ALEC, a great name for a pain in the ass organization, pioneered the model that gives us bad bills in multiple states at a time that make their way into national law.

Most of the bills I mentioned are either written by ALEC or by a group that copied their plan. And they’ve been running this play for 50 years. 

So let’s get into it. 

ALEC started in 1973 after Lewis Powell wrote his 1971 memo for conservatives and corporations to dominate politics. Check my earlier video on that. 

It was founded by conservative activist Paul Weyrich who also helped start the Heritage Foundation and spread Jerry Falwell’s evangelical right “Moral Majority”. Which, hilariously, was rocked by sex scandals. 

ALEC is a group that unities conservative state legislators with corporate donors, researchers, lawyers, and everyone else needed to pass and talk about their agenda. 

They get everyone in a room, write terrible bills, and send the legislators home to make the laws. Once that’s done, the corporate cash flows to the campaigns and the legislators move up to the national stage where the cycle repeats. 

And it works like a charm. ALEC has been around for 49 years. Each year, ALEC members introduce about 1000 bills and 200 of them become law. Their Voter-ID law alone has been passed in 34 states. 

What they’re doing is making national policy one state at a time. Many of their state laws rise to the supreme court and overturn decades of law. This is by design. It’s similar to what’s happening right now with Roe V. Wade. 

ALEC’s state strategy, I hate to admit, is smart, because it’s easier and cheaper to influence state legislatures for many reasons. It’s not exactly A-team statesmen at that level. Here’s an Ohio representative who passed out drunk in a McDonald’s parking lot with a ton of guns. Here’s another that beats his wife all the time. This one was indicted by the FBI for a 61 million dollar bribery scandal and then was re-elected! 

The examples are endless but for the most part our state legislatures are full of people who stumbled into power and are doing their best not to drool on themselves while they rob you. What makes it worse is watchdogs like local papers have died off or been bought up by, you guessed it, conservatives! 

Local yokels do what ALEC says because that’s how they get to the next level of power. Jim Jordan started in the Ohio legislature and there’s a parade of dinguses following in his footsteps.  

Also. Republicans dominate state politics 2-1. After the 2021 elections, they control 62 state chambers to Democrats 36. The trend is getting worse and few organizations hold more power with Republicans than ALEC. 

All the way back in 2003, ALEC had more than 2,400 legislator members. That’s one-third of all in the country including 125 floor leaders, three dozen speakers, and 25 state senate presidents. 

And their funding model is *chefs kiss* extra evil. 

My last video in this series was about billionaire Richard Mellon Scaife who walked, so the Koch brothers could run. Scaife was one of the first and largest funders of ALEC, donating half a million bucks from 1973 to 1983 which was most of their budget. 

And since ALEC is organized as a non-profit *AND* in 37 states IS REGISTERED AS A CHARITY, the donations are tax-deductible, and billionaires can pass on entire fortunes to their kids tax-free after donating to these “public interest charities” for so many years. Oh yeah, and their members and donors are completely secret. 

This opened the corporate flood gates and most major corporations appear on ALEC’s funding rolls including Wal-Mart, McDonald's, Coke, Pepsi, Google, Microsoft, Facebook, eBay, Yahoo, Uber, Lyft, T-Mobile, BP, Wendy's, Kraft Foods, Amazon, General Electric, Apple, Procter & Gamble, and even the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. 

It’s easier to find giant companies NOT funding ALEC than almost every other one that does. 

As of 2011, corporations, think tanks, and trade group members accounted for almost 99% of ALEC's $7 million annual budget. 

But that is chump change compared to the real money. Because in exchange for passing pro-corporate pro-billionaire laws. All of those companies make the campaign cash rain down on the republicans who pass the laws. One analysis shows half a billion dollars in campaign money for state-level politics since 1990. That’s national-level money going to state-level politics. It goes far. Very far. 

And everything we’ve talked about to this point is just one part of a massively FUCKED system designed to redistribute working-class wealth to billionaires. 

There’s gerrymandering and campaign finance that’s been mastered by Republicans in particular so it’s virtually impossible to fire the people in this system. It’s so bad that despite congress’s approval rating of 18%, well over 90% of incumbents are re-elected. 

Then there’s a network of other organizations engineered as brilliantly and evil as ALEC. There’s the Federalist Society that’s turned our court system hard right. The law and economics programs in elite universities that supplies the system with conservative lawyers. And who could forget the right-wing media network that’s 24/7 and on every device? 

In the recent Virginia election alone, conservative media ran over 4,000 pieces on Critical Race Theory over 8 months.

And yes, all of this is depressing, but if you don’t like it, you at least have to know the enemy. This is what we’re up against. There will be losses before we turn it around and that’s ok because they are billions of dollars and half a century ahead. 

And for me personally, the Amazon Labor Union win proves that the goliaths can fall. And the sooner that happens the better. Follow this series for a closer look at the radical right.

The Holler
The Holler
John Russell