Let me first apologize for not posting last week. I needed a break from a very busy summer. I’m making up for it, though, by making this a longer than usual post! I hope you will take the time to read it, because the information I’m sharing was very eye-opening to me.
Many of us hoped that Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech would be more of a reality in 50 years, but here we are 50 years after the great March on Washington when he spoke those profound and prophetic words, ready to march again….needing to march again, because the dream is still just that.
We’re still marching because there are many things in this country that are toxic to life in the African American community, many that I’ve spoken about in this blog, including poverty (which someone has described as a weapon of mass destruction–amen!), poorly funded public education, drugs, guns and violence flowing in abundance in our communities, a penal system that targets our youth to keep profit-driven prisons operating at capacity, a music industry that encourages and supports the last two items, limited mental health services, poverty wages, continuing attempts to disenfranchise our people and constant attacks on laws that are intended to help fight against all of the above.
I promised that in my next post I would share more information about the American Legislation Exchange Council, and I’m doing it in light of this conversation because this organization is the epitome of why we still need to march, en masse. Here are some excerpts about ALEC from Wikipedia, except as otherwise noted (footnotes omitted):
(1) What is ALEC?
“…..a 501(c)(3) American organization composed of conservative legislators, businesses and foundations which produces model policies for state legislatures and promotes free markets, limited government, and federalism at the state level….In a Dec. 2011 opinion piece critical of ALEC which appeared in The Nation magazine, John Nichols described ALEC as a “collaboration between multinational corporations and conservative state legislators.” ALEC provides a forum for state legislator and corporate members to collaborate on “model policies”—draft legislation that members can customize for communities and introduce for debate in their own state legislatures. Approximately 200 per year become law.
(2) How is ALEC funded?
“According to Common Cause, ALEC receives 98% of its funding from corporations and foundations and 2% comes from membership dues paid by legislators and miscellaneous income. In 2010 NPR reported that tax records showed that corporations had collectively paid as much as $6 million a year. In 2012, Walter Mondale, former Democratic Vice-President of the United States, and Arne Carlson, former Republican governor of Minnesota, referred in an op-ed piece to the political activities of the Koch family and ALEC, saying: “[ALEC] is the creation of the Koch brothers who amassed their fortunes in oil and who live in Florida. The goal of ALEC is to influence legislators across the nation.”
(3) How does ALEC operate?
“ALEC’s membership list and the origin of its model policies were not disclosed; BusinessWeek wrote that “part of ALEC’s mission is to present industry-backed legislation as grass-roots work.” ALEC’s role in drafting and distributing model legislation through its lawmaker members became public knowledge as the result of a Freedom of Information Act filing and a leak of ALEC’s internal library of model legislation, resulting in scrutiny and controversy over the group’s role in the legislative process. The New York Times wrote that “special interests effectively turn ALEC’s lawmaker members into stealth lobbyists, providing them with talking points, signaling how they should vote, and collaborating on bills affecting hundreds of issues like school vouchers and tobacco taxes.
ALEC was the subject of the September 29, 2012 edition of Moyers & Company hosted by Bill Moyers. In the report, Moyers traced the progress of ALEC model legislation through several legislatures. He called it “an organization hiding in plain sight, yet one of the most influential and powerful in American politics… They were smart and understood something very important: that they might more easily get what they wanted from state capitals than from Washington, DC. So they started putting their money in places like Raleigh, North Carolina; Nashville, Tennessee; Phoenix, Arizona; and Madison, Wisconsin.” [Note from me–click here to see the continued efforts of Bill Moyers to ‘out’ ALEC.]
What policies has ALEC promoted ?
Voter ID laws
[From an August, 2012 NBC News Investigative Report: ] “A growing number of conservative Republican state legislators worked fervently during the past two years to enact laws requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls. Lawmakers proposed 62 photo ID bills in 37 states in the 2011 and 2012 sessions, with multiple bills introduced in some states. Ten states have passed strict photo ID laws since 2008, though several may not be in effect in November because of legal challenges. A News21 analysis found that more than half of the 62 bills were sponsored by members of [ALEC]”
Privatized Prisons & “Tough on Crime” Initiatives
“Corrections Corporation of America and The GEO Group, two of the largest for-profit prison companies in the US, have been contributors to the American Legislative Exchange Council. Under their Criminal Justice Task Force, ALEC has developed bills which State legislators can then consult when proposing “tough on crime” initiatives including “Truth in Sentencing” and “Three Strikes” laws. Critics argue that by funding and participating in ALEC’s Criminal Justice Task Forces, private prison companies directly influence legislation for tougher, longer sentences. ALEC has also worked to pass state laws to create for-profit prisons, which served as a boon to both of the aforementioned contributors.”
One of ALEC’s model bills is the “Animal and Ecological Terrorism Act,” which classifies civil disobedience by environmental and animal rights activists as terrorism. This model bill appeared across the U.S. in various forms since it was drafted in 2003. The federal Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act has notable similarities, and at points almost verbatim language, to ALEC’s model “Animal and Ecological Terrorism Act.” The Senate version of the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act was sponsored by Senator James Inhofe [Oklahoma] a long-time member of ALEC.
Stand Your Ground Laws
After Florida passed its Stand-your-ground law, the American Legislative Exchange Council adopted its legislative language into one of its model policies. [See more about this below.]
What can we do about such a well-funded, ultra-conservative, mega corporate lobbyist acting under the ruse of a charitable organization (which gives people the right to claim tax deductions for their contributions to it!) and working directly with conservative state lawmakers to get their legislation enacted? Here’s one example, again from Wikipedia:
“On December 8, 2011, the advocacy group Color of Change announced a call to boycott ALEC corporate members for their alleged support of voter ID laws. On April 4, 2012, after the Trayvon Martin shooting, Color of Change changed the boycott to focus on The Coca-Cola Company for its support of ALEC and by implication, their involvement in Stand your Ground. Within hours, Coca-Cola announced it was ending its relationship with ALEC in apparent response to the threatened boycott. Over the subsequent two weeks approximately a dozen corporations or foundations including the restaurant chain Wendy’s, Kraft Foods, McDonald’s, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and the medical insurance group Blue Cross and Blue Shield had dropped support of ALEC. ALEC responded with a “Statement by ALEC on the Coordinated Intimidation Campaign Against Its Members”. By May 31, the list of corporations that had withdrawn support included Apple, Procter & Gamble and Wal-mart.
On April 17, 2012, ALEC announced that it was disbanding its Public Safety and Elections Task Force, which provided model policies for voter ID requirements and “stand your ground” gun laws. On April 18, the National Center for Public Policy Research announced the creation of a voter ID task force to replace the one discontinued by ALEC. [my bold] The Martin shooting and subsequent boycott was described as a catalyst for ALEC to shift focus from social issues to economic ones.”
This is why we must continue to march. This is why we must continue to work together with others who have similar ideals, because our friends the Koch brothers and their allies are powerful and strong and smart—and very, very rich. And their policies are not healthy for poor people, people of color, or people striving to make it in the middle class. ALEC and the Koch brothers are like mighty powerful mountains that we need to move out of the way so that the “least of these” may thrive in this country.
But as powerful as they may be, my God is more powerful than they are. Doesn’t our bible tell us that we ought not to put our trust in the strength of the mighty and the rich, but to trust in the Lord? Like David, when he faced Goliath, we must say “it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves, for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give you (Goliath) into our hands.” The thing is this, though–David had to go out to face Goliath before God’s power could be proved. This is why we must march. Are you ready to march out like David, to together face our modern day giants…..to move mountains?
Just a parting thought: I think if the Koch brothers were to ask Jesus what they must do to get into heaven, Jesus would reply: “Give all that you own to the poor, and follow me.” Do you think they could do that?
I hope you’ll join us this Saturday to march on.
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