ALEC Being Disgusting Again, Overthrowing Elections Edition!
Back in the 1990s, the American Legislative Exchange Council's Criminal Justice Task Force pushed states to adopt the Prison Industries Act, an act allowing corporations to use and profit from prison labor, while simultaneously pushing states to adopt three strikes laws, "truth in sentencing" laws, and other measures meant to put more people in prison and keep them there for longer. They are one of the major reasons why we have 25 percent of the world's prison population and why the number of people we have in prison has skyrocketed so exponentially in the last few decades.
When these activities were criticized, ALEC ditched its Criminal Justice Task Force, only to rebrand it as the Public Safety and Elections Task Force, which pushed for Stand Your Ground laws and voter identification laws. They disbanded that task force in 2012 following criticism of Stand Your Ground laws after Trayvon Martin's murder and have once again rebranded, this time as ALEC Political Process Working Group.
Surprise! That group is now doing some real evil shit, re: voting rights laws and elections. Just call it "synergy."
ALEC is, of course, funded primarily by corporations, whose interests they supposedly represent. And many of the corporations that fund ALEC are the same ones that are trying to look very cool and woke and pro-voting rights and what have you. While still funding the organization trying to hinder those rights.
As such, a group of 300 pro-voting rights organizations sent a letter out to these models of "corporate responsibility" asking them to please stop doing that.
Faced with public outrage over legislation that creates barriers to voting rights enacted or proposed in more than 47 states, and the bills' disproportionate impact on people of color, young people, and the elderly, hundreds of companies have publicly denounced any discriminatory legislation that makes it harder for people to vote. Perhaps your company is one of them.
Nonetheless, your participation in ALEC serves to promote and legitimize the group's anti-democratic efforts to create more barriers to voting.
The Nation reports that these funders include "Anheuser-Busch, Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, CenturyLink, Duke Energy, Eli Lilly, Fed-Ex, Koch Industries, Oracle, Raytheon, Salesforce, State Farm, and other major corporations." Granted, many of these companies are hot garbage and at least one of them (that would be Koch Industries) has its own vested interest in suppressing voting rights, but maybe there's a taker somewhere in there.
The letter explains that the ALEC Political Process Working Group has been instrumental in pushing the Big Lie that Trump actually won the election and Joe Biden stole it from him — the lie that led the estranged relatives of hundreds of Americans to invade the Capitol on January 6. The group's leaders include attorney Cleta Mitchell, the former Trump advisor who was notably caught on tape trying to push Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to overturn the Georgia election, and Arizona state Rep. Shawna Bolick, "who recently proposed a bill to allow the state legislature to overturn the results of a presidential election."
The latter has actually been a priority for ALEC for a while now.
More from the letter:
ALEC's own CEO, Lisa Nelson, said in February 2020 that ALEC was already working with state legislators on efforts to challenge the 2020 election results and "question the validity of an election." Nelson's comments were made nine months before the election even took place. Then, in June 2020, ALEC held an exclusive call for its members on the topic of mail-in voting featuring the Honest Elections Project, a group that pushes voter restriction laws and which spread disinformation about the integrity of mail-in voting during the 2020 election.
Shockingly enough, the group is also behind efforts to kill the voting rights legislation Democrats have been hoping to pass, both in their own states and nationally. Well, Democrats who are not the former West Virginia State Chair of ALEC, anyway.
In March 2021, ALEC held a briefing with U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), one of the leading proponents to reject the results of the 2020 election, on a strategy to oppose a bill expanding access to the ballot box in Congress and support the national campaign to restrict voting rights at the state level. U.S. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) has also recently said that he has "been speaking to legislators through ALEC" about election and voting-related policies.
In an internal memo, Heritage Action, an advocacy group leading the effort to pass voting restrictions at the state level, recently wrote that ALEC would be a key policy and lobbying partner in their multi-year campaign to push anti-voter laws, many of which specifically target and limit voting access for people of color, young people, and the elderly. One report has identified more than 100 state legislators connected to ALEC that are lead sponsors or co-sponsors of bills that limit voting access in Georgia, Arizona, Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Texas in 2021 alone.
ALEC Action also sent out a charming memo that bizarrely claimed that the For The People Act would prevent Americans from publicly supporting or opposing any policy or piece of legislation, which is definitely not a thing.
Despite claiming that it would stop trying to interfere in elections, suppressing the vote has been a core interest for ALEC since the beginning. Paul Weyrich, one of the organization's first leaders, had no problem saying the quiet part out loud.
I don't want everybody to vote. Elections are not won by a majority of people. They never have been from the beginning of our country, and they are not now. As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.
The relationship between ALEC, the corporations that fund it, and the politicians that do its bidding is beyond toxic to our nation. They don't care what happens to anyone so long as the end result is more money for themselves. And yet, the corporations themselves may be the weakest link here, because while ALEC may be able to ratfuck our elections, it's a hell of a lot harder to keep us from voting with our dollars.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse