The Pledge of Corporate Allegiance?

Leaks reveal that corporate front group ALEC may ask for loyalty oaths from legislators.

Leo Gerard, United Steelworkers President December 11, 2013

Witch hunter Joseph McCarthy would be proud of ALEC. So proud! Like McCarthy, the shad­owy cor­po­rate lob­by group wants oaths of allegiance.

ALEC met again last week. Maybe it adopted the loyalty oath then. Again, the public doesn’t know because ALEC excluded reporters and citizens from its work sessions.

McCarthy demand­ed loy­al­ty pledges to the Unit­ed States. ALEC, by con­trast, wants its law­mak­er mem­bers to vow first alle­giance to ALEC.

This sum­mer, ALEC (the sham that calls itself the Amer­i­can Leg­isla­tive Exchange Coun­cil) pro­posed ask­ing the leg­is­la­tors it appoints as state direc­tors to raise their right wings and swear: I will act with care and loy­al­ty and put the inter­ests of the orga­ni­za­tion first.”

ALEC first. Before the lawmaker’s con­stituents. Before the inter­ests of the lawmaker’s state. Before the con­sti­tu­tion of the Unit­ed States. ALEC’s pro­pos­al would require law­mak­ers to for­sake their oaths of office and swear fideli­ty instead to the orga­ni­za­tion that wines, dines, indulges and indoc­tri­nates them with buck­ets full of cor­po­rate cash. The idea of an ALEC loy­al­ty oath clar­i­fies the alle­giance of the 1,810 state leg­is­la­tors that ALEC claims as mem­bers. They see their pri­ma­ry duty as serv­ing cor­po­ra­tions, specif­i­cal­ly the cor­po­ra­tions that give mil­lions to ALEC.

Help keep this report­ing pos­si­ble by mak­ing a dona­tion today.

ALEC claims it didn’t adopt the loy­al­ty oath. But cit­i­zens have no way of know­ing if that’s true because ALEC’s meet­ings are clan­des­tine affairs, no reporters or cit­i­zens allowed. Doc­u­ments leaked to The Guardian reveal that ALEC pro­posed the oath at its August meet­ing. It’s con­tained in a mas­sive list of duties for state leg­isla­tive coor­di­na­tors, a list so long that it’s not clear when coor­di­na­tors would have time to work for the cit­i­zens of their state, a list com­plete with an agree­ment sig­na­ture sheet where the coor­di­na­tor would swear to com­plete the work for ALEC.

ALEC (All Leg­is­la­tion Enhanc­ing Cor­po­ra­tions) is a secre­tive cor­po­rate front group that solic­its mon­ey from cor­po­ra­tions and spends it fly­ing law­mak­er-mem­bers to con­fer­ences in swanky set­tings where they help cor­po­rate mem­bers write leg­is­la­tion to fat­ten the cor­po­rate bot­tom line. The law­mak­ers take ALEC leg­is­la­tion back to their states, where they often intro­duce it word-for-cor­po­rate-writ­ten-word, some­times with the ALEC logo still affixed to the pages.

This process effec­tive­ly elim­i­nates those pesky vot­ers from law­mak­ing. ALEC is the mid­dle­man bring­ing cor­po­ra­tions and law­mak­ers togeth­er, facil­i­tat­ing a process in which cor­po­ra­tions craft leg­is­la­tion for them­selves, and then law­mak­ers — all fat and hap­py on the cor­po­rate dime — take that leg­is­la­tion home and get it passed. No cit­i­zen input need­ed, thank you.

Stand your ground” laws are an ALEC achieve­ment. These shoot-first-ask-ques­tions-lat­er decrees cre­ate dead­ly sit­u­a­tions like the one in which George Zim­mer­man walked free after shoot­ing unarmed teenag­er Trayvon Martin.

Shoot-first laws are great for gun man­u­fac­tur­ers, assur­ing no lia­bil­i­ty for hot­heads who rash­ly use their prod­ucts. Florida’s shoot-first law wasn’t so great for Trayvon Mar­tin. And, as it turns out, shoot-first wasn’t great for ALEC, which lost about 400 law­mak­er mem­bers and at least 40 sig­nif­i­cant cor­po­rate spon­sors as a result of pub­lic­i­ty link­ing ALEC to the shoot-first laws and oth­er leg­is­la­tion detri­men­tal to cit­i­zens, such as ALEC’s vot­er sup­pres­sion leg­is­la­tion requir­ing cit­i­zens to per­form back­flips through flam­ing hoops before exer­cis­ing their most basic right in a democracy.

ALEC doc­u­ments just leaked to The Guardian news­pa­per reveal the shad­ow group’s lat­est cam­paign to enrich cor­po­rate mem­bers at the expense of cit­i­zens. ALEC wants home­own­ers who have bought and installed solar pan­els or wind tur­bines to pay util­i­ty com­pa­nies to accept the excess elec­tric­i­ty they generate.

When util­i­ties get pow­er from oil or coal-fired gen­er­a­tors or nuclear plants, they pay for it. But ALEC’s ener­gy indus­try mem­bers want home­own­ers who pro­duce renew­able ener­gy to be treat­ed dif­fer­ent­ly. They want home­own­ers who pro­duce green elec­tric­i­ty to pay the util­i­ty to take it, and then the util­i­ty would sell it.

The util­i­ty gets paid by both the ener­gy pro­duc­er and user! It’s a win-win, where the util­i­ty wins twice. For green ener­gy pro­duc­ers and con­sumers, it’s a lose-lose.

Such leg­is­la­tion is the rea­son ALEC needs that loy­al­ty oath — to get law­mak­ers to swear to serve cor­po­ra­tions and ignore constituents.

ALEC met again last week. Maybe it adopt­ed the loy­al­ty oath then. Again, the pub­lic doesn’t know because ALEC exclud­ed reporters and cit­i­zens from its work ses­sions. It allowed reporters only to attend speech­es by Repub­li­can pub­lic­i­ty-seek­ers such as Ted Cruz, the Texas sen­a­tor who insist­ed on shut­ting down the gov­ern­ment for 16 days in a failed attempt to kill the Afford­able Care Act and deny mil­lions health insurance.

Cruz slan­dered Sen. Dick Durbin (D‑Ill.), who con­duct­ed hear­ings ear­li­er this year on ALEC’s role in prop­a­gat­ing shoot-first laws. In a warped attempt to be fun­ny, Cruz attrib­uted to Sen. Durbin a fright­en­ing McCarthy line. Cruz told the ALEC mem­bers: I was just at the Capi­tol and I was asked to pass along an inquiry from Sen. Durbin: Are you now or have you ever been a mem­ber of ALEC?’ ”

Cruz is wrong. Amer­i­cans should be ask­ing that ques­tion because they can’t be sure their state law­mak­ers haven’t sworn first alle­giance to ALEC and thus foresworn their duty to first serve the cit­i­zens of their states and uphold the constitution.

ALEC claims 1,810 state law­mak­ers hand over—or get their state tax­pay­ers to pay for them — $100 ALEC mem­ber­ship dues. But that fig­ure seems ques­tion­able. For exam­ple, ALEC claims every sin­gle leg­is­la­tor in Iowa — all 150 of them, Democ­rats includ­ed — and every sin­gle leg­is­la­tor in South Dako­ta — all 105 of them, Democ­rats includ­ed — are mem­bers. This is an orga­ni­za­tion that describes its mis­sion as advanc­ing free mar­kets, lim­it­ed gov­ern­ment and fed­er­al­ism. Those are the pri­or­i­ties of the Tea Par­ty, not Democrats.

While some orga­ni­za­tions have tried to com­pile ALEC mem­ber­ship lists based on leaked ALEC doc­u­ments, some indi­vid­ual law­mak­ers on those lists, par­tic­u­lar­ly Democ­rats, have pub­licly denied any asso­ci­a­tion with ALEC.

Vot­ers have a right to know where the alle­giance of their law­mak­ers’ lies. They should be ask­ing if their elect­ed rep­re­sen­ta­tives have sworn to serve ALEC first. And if so, those should be the first to go.

Leo Ger­ard is inter­na­tion­al pres­i­dent of the Unit­ed Steel­work­ers Union, part of the AFL-CIO. The son of a union min­er; Ger­ard start­ed work­ing at a nick­el smelter in Sud­bury, Ontario, at age 18, and rose through the union’s ranks to be appoint­ed the sev­enth inter­na­tion­al pres­i­dent Feb. 28, 2001. For more infor­ma­tion about Ger­ard, vis­it usw​.org.
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