A broad coalition of labor, community, environmental and faith groups will protest the 40th anniversary annual meeting of the American Legislative Exchange Council , better known as ALEC.
The meeting takes place August 7 to 9 at the Palmer House, 17 E. Monroe; the rally takes place there on Thursday, August 8 at 12 noon.
Long a major but shadowy behind-the-scenes player, ALEC came to prominence in the aftermath of Trayvon Martin’s killing, when the group’s role working with the NRA to promote Stand Your Ground legislation became known.
With funding by major corporations and membership by one-third of the nation’s state legislators, ALEC provides model legislation in a wide array of areas.
The group joins corporate America’s economic agenda with a right -wing social agenda, according to In These Times  editor Joel Bleifuss. He joined Rey Lopez-Calderon of Common Cause  and Brian Echols of Concerned Black Men  on a recent episode of Chicago Newsroom to discuss ALEC. (Watch it here .)
“They’re a great example of the power of Corporate America in American politics,” Bleifuss says.
In 2011 In These Times first exposed ALEC’s use of model bills  — despite its tax exempt status which prohibits legislative activity — to undermine public employee unions and privatize government.
Charge tax fraud
“We think it’s tax fraud,” Lopez-Calderon says. Common Cause and the Center for Media and Democracy recently filed a complaint with the IRS charging ALEC with filing fraudulent tax returns.
ALEC has gone after collective bargaining rights, clean energy legislation, and campaign finance reform, Newsroom panelists relate. The group is behind a series of restrictive voter ID laws as well as SB 1070, Arizona’s controversial “Show Your Papers” law.
Echols notes that, on behalf of private prison corporations, ALEC has pushed the War on Drugs’ harsh sentencing laws, targetting African Americans and vastly increasing the nation’s prison population. Now they’re pushing laws that will increase the detention of immigrants on behalf of the same corporations, Lopez-Calderon notes.
“They’ve viewed this as a long-term way for corporations to make money,” he says, adding that ALEC helped create the Corrections Corporation of America.
Schools and prisons
ALEC is also behind efforts to push charter schools and the privatization of public education. In Illinois the group’s model bill created the Illinois Charter School Commission , which has the power to approve charter applications that have been turned down by local school districts.
One major beneficiary is K12, a nationwide purveyor of virtual charter schools now moving into Illinois, Echols notes.
“My view is they’ve got them coming and going,” he says — making money providing inferior education on the front end, then making money from incarcerating young people who can’t find gainful employment and are forced into the street economy.
According to Lopez-Calderon, ALEC’s guiding light is Margaret Thatcher, who pioneered the idea of finding ways for corporations to profit by taking over public sector functions. (He adds that “in terms of Thatcherism,” Mayor Emanuel “is lockstep with this agenda.”)
Recently ITT reported on ALEC’s promotion of scores of laws to erode wage and labor standards  by undermining minimum wage, prevailing wage, and paid sick leave protections.
Senator Dick Durbin has announced  he’ll hold hearings this fall on the role of ALEC and the NRA in spreading Stand Your Ground laws.
For extensive background, see the Center for Media and Democracy’s website, ALEC Exposed .