ALEC: Business Lobby to Rewrite Constitution Under Article V?
February 27, 2017
What if big corporations could just get together and rewrite the Constitution? Sounds like a disaster for the vast majority of the population, right? That’s why I was so shocked when I read a post by former Labor Secretary Robert Reich about the American Legislative Exchange Council. The former Labor Secretary, currently the Chancellor's Professor of Public Policy at UC Berkeley, is a highly knowledgeable source with friends on both sides of the aisle. Here's what he says about ALEC:
"A group called the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC — at the direction of billionaire GOP donors Charles and David Koch and their corporate cohorts — is pushing to convene a constitutional convention, permitted under Article V of the Constitution. At their convention, they’d attempt to rewrite the Constitution to reduce the power of the people and enhance the power of big corporations.”
He goes on to explain that only 34 states are needed to convene a constitutional convention, and that resolutions have already been passed in 28 states. What he didn’t mention is that any proposed amendments must be “ratified by the legislatures of three fourths of the several states, or by conventions in three fourths thereof,” raising the actual requirement to 38. This gives us a little breathing room, but it’s still a terrible situation to be in and hardly anybody even knows about it. So, who is ALEC, and what do they do?
The American Legislative Exchange Council was formed in 1973 as the Conservative Caucus of State Legislators for the purposes of battling the Environmental Protection Agency as well as wage and price controls. ALEC is also said to have been behind the famous Powell Memorandum, which helped kick-start the business activism of the 1970’s with their attacks on taxes, regulations, and unions. How does ALEC accomplish its goals? Michael Kraft and Sheldon Kamieniecki of MIT Press summed it up in Business and environmental policy: corporate interests in the American political system:
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“ALEC provides direct assistance to state legislators and firms eager to minimize any state government engagement in environmental protection. ALEC's membership base includes nearly one-third of all sitting state legislators and most of its resources are derived from corporations and trade associations. It offers regular conferences and training sessions but is perhaps best known for drafting model bills that can easily be adopted by an individual state and introduced into a legislature.”
Around 200 of ALEC’s model bills are passed each year, while the rest of us can’t even get a town hall. This group needs to be exposed by anybody and everybody who cares about the Constitution, the environment, worker’s rights, income inequality, or voter suppression. Contact your senators and representatives to let them know how you feel about ALEC.