Since The Center for Media and Democracy‘s release of hundreds of pieces of model legislation written by members of the American Legislative Exchange council, it has easier to see both the source of what the source of corporate friendly legislation has been as well as what the over-arching motive behind ALEC’s policies is. According to an NPR interview with its current chairman, Noble Ellington, ALEC’s purpose is “to work with businesses to promote business growth and private-sector growth so that we can stimulate the economy.” ALEC does that, primarily, by advocating privatization and the reduction of taxes. One of the leaked bills embodies this mentality almost perfectly. The “Council on Efficient Government Act” calls for the establishment of a panel that would audit state agencies and “[contract] with private sector vendors if those vendors can more effectively and efficiently provide goods and services and reduce the cost of government,” which effectively outsources any and all activities of that state agency. According to The Nation’s Joel Rogers and Laura Dresser, the legislation has turned up in Virginia, Maryland, Arizona, Kansas, Oregon, Illinois and South Carolina.
This philosophy of making government the manager and not the deliverer of services has been rampant over the past decades and the time is right for ALEC to mush its agenda forward. In the introduction to the 10 year anniversary edition of No Logo, Naomi Klein details the practices of “hollow corporations” which focus solely on branding and outsource all of the physical elements, like the manufacturing or development, of their products to other companies. She argues that Americans have seen the building of a hollow state, where waging war is even outsourced to companies like Halliburton and XE (ISBN:978-0-312-42927-0, pg. xx-xxi). ALEC’s private enterprise board has some of the largest of these brand-centric hollow corporations sitting on it, including Coke, Walmart and Philip Morris. Other hollow corporations that SourceWatch has identified as members are Microsoft, Johnson & Johnson and Bayer.
It should be no surprise. The fundamental purpose of ALEC is to streamline the production of bills by essentially outsourcing the writing and lobbying and to save the corporations and the legislators time in the process. ALEC’s functionality as a clearinghouse means legislators can spend less time drafting the bills themselves, thus more legislation can be introduced and ultimately passed. And ALEC’s members do a fairly good job; the organization boasts a 20% passage rate of the over 1000 pieces of legislation “based at least in part on ALEC Model Legislation”. In a regular session, legislators might introduce a dozen bills or resolutions and see only a few make it out of committee and one get passed. With the support of ALEC, legislators can be more efficient with the bills they do introduce and can ensure their own success in and out of statehouses. ALEC and its members are pushing for the privatization because they, as businesses and businesspeople would be the beneficiaries.