Standing Against ALEC in Oklahoma!
It all began with the discovery of American Legislative Exchange Council (or ALEC) holding their annual Spring Summit in Oklahoma City on May 2-3.
In a group that started as a union coalition, led by Oklahoma AFL-CIO President Jimmy Curry, soon grew to consist of environment, religious, minority, and business groups all meeting together to stand against ALEC. The coalition saw that it need to educate not only its members, but Oklahomans on what ALEC is. And that is exactly where they started. In an education plan that spread over 4 months, the coalition not only answered what is ALEC, but who funds them, who benefits from them, what is ALEC model legislation, and more.
Throughout the education process, the coalition continued to meet on a regular basis to plan the events for the two days ALEC were to be in Oklahoma. Locations were decided on and procured in February. The Coca-Cola Event Center was to be the location of the Rally for working families and kick off point for the March for the Middle class. Now the location for a panel discussion on how ALEC affects Oklahoma, that was later called an Oklahoma Community Forum, was held a secret until the week of the event. The location was to be in the Cox Convention Center right next to were ALEC would hold their secret meeting.
Each coalition member reached out to their head organizations to request nationally known speakers, financial, or media assistants. And through these requests the coalition was able to bring in two international Presidents, 3 international vice presidents, and objects to use for media such as a 25 foot inflatable pig, and 2 big rigs.
The day of May 2 came, and anti-ALEC signs lined the drive from the airport to the Cox Convention Center. Coalition members set up tables with information as groups began to arrive for the march and rally. As the crowd began to grow from 100 to 600 plus, the coalition received a phone call it had hoped to save itself from. The Cox Convention Center called to let them know they had been removed from the room they had reserved 3 months prior. Less than 18 hours till the Oklahoma Community Forum, the frustration of being moved from the reserved space spilled into the crowd to feed the energy building against Corporations, through ALEC, trying to run the State of Oklahoma. The over 600 Oklahomans marched, signs in hand, to the Cox Convention Center, President Schaitberger leading the way with chants ringing loud. Once to the center, under the looming eyes of ALEC the Pig, President Schaitberger made is final remarks on how ALEC is affecting Oklahomans. Then the chants sprang up again. With signs held to the windows of the ALEC conference, and with the energy faintly beginning to die down, the brakes of a big rig could be heard, followed by several honks as it stopped in front of the convention center, sending the energy of the protestors to an all-time high! As the truck began to drive off, a second big rig turned the corner hitting its breaks, and honking its horns, once again, calling out to the protesters to be even louder. After the trucks has circled the Convention center a few times, and with energy still high, the protesters headed back to the Coca-Cola Event Center. Once back at the Center hot dogs were served and speeches were given from 2 vice presidents and a local legislator. The event ended with comfort in the knowledge that the message “ALEC IS NOT OK” was heard.
The Oklahoma Community Forum was to take place at 2:00 on May 3, however the location had been moved. The new location of the Forum put the coalition against ALEC, literally, on ice. While the previously contracted room remained unused, the Forum continued for the purpose of educating on the effects of ALEC. The forum started with a screening of “The United States of ALEC” by Bill Moyers, followed by a panel discussion. The panel included Stephen Spaulding (Common Cause Staff Council), Dennis Van Roekel (President of the National Education Association), Dr. George Young, Sr. (Pastor at Holy Temple Baptist Church), Tim Reese (Lawyer at Lawter and Associates), Jane Carter (Labor Economist), Ryan Kiesel (Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma), Dave Cortez Sierra Club Lone Star Chapter Coordinator for Texas BlueGreen Alliance), Nick Surgey (Director of Research for the Center for Media and Democracy), and Phillip Martin (Political Director for Progress Texas). Although the security in the facility had been raised an additional 17 armed police officers, the coalition presented itself in a very professional manor the two days ALEC was in Oklahoma with not only the largest push back ALEC has seen, but the most educated.
May 2, 2013 - March for the Middle Class and Working Family Rally
March for the Middle Class started at 4:00 p.m. from the Coca Cola Event Center and went through Bricktown to the Cox Convention Center (where ALEC was holding their meetings).
Working Family Rally back at the Coca Cola Event Center.
May 3, 2013 - An Oklahoma Community Forum
“Why is ALEC not OK in Oklahoma?”
A screening of the “United States of ALEC” by Bill Moyers
Followed by a Panel Discussion on the affects of ALEC in Oklahoma.
ALEC Assembles “Most Wanted” List, and Oklahomans Say “ALEC Is Not OK”
By Brendan Fischer – May 6, 2013
In anticipation of protests at ALEC’s recent meeting in Oklahoma City, state legislators were handed a set of talking points that read “The American Legislative Exchange Council recognizes the first amendment rights of free speech and assembly, and asks that _____ do the same,” apparently to prepare legislators for press questions about citizen activism. But ALEC didn’t live up to those spoon-fed talking points: ALEC assembled a dossier of disfavored reporters and activists, kicked reporters out of its conference who might write unfavorable stories, and managed to boot a community forum critical of ALEC from its reserved room.
In what might be the biggest anti-ALEC rally yet, the ALEC legislators and lobbyists arriving at the Renaissance Hotel on May 2 were greeted by a wave of protesters that outnumbered the conference attendees.
More than 600 firefighters, teachers, environmentalists, and church leaders carried signs reading “ALEC is Not OK” and chanting “backroom deals are ALEC’s game/sweetheart deals for corporate gain,” while a giant inflatable pig wearing a banner reading “Hi, my name is ALEC” floated overhead. Two big rigs adorned with Teamsters logos circled the convention center, honking their horns and blowing air brakes. Harold A. Schaitberger, President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, told the crowd that ALEC’s “sole purpose is to develop the most anti-worker, anti-employee, anti-union, anti-middle class, pro-business, pro corporation policies, legislation and agenda possible.”
ALEC is NOT OK in Oklahoma – Petition
American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is holding their Spring Task Force Summit on May 2 – 3, 2013. Through ALEC, behind closed doors, corporations hand state legislators the changes to the law they desire that directly benefit their bottom line. Along with legislators, corporations have membership in ALEC. Corporations sit on all nine ALEC task forces and vote with legislators to approve “model” bills. They have their own corporate governing board which meets jointly with the legislative board. (ALEC says that corporations do not vote on the board.) Corporations fund almost all of ALEC’s operations. Participating legislators then bring those proposals home and introduce them in statehouses across the land as their own brilliant ideas and important public policy innovations—without disclosing that corporations crafted and voted on the bills. ALEC boasts that it has over 1,000 of these bills introduced by legislative members every year, with one in every five of them enacted into law. ALEC describes itself as a “unique,” “unparalleled” and “unmatched” organization. We agree. It is as if a state legislature had been reconstituted, yet corporations had pushed the people out the door.
By signing this petition, I am committed to educating fellow members as well as the public on what American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is and their purpose. I am also committed to doing my part and participating in the action planned in Oklahoma City on May 2 and 3 to help have our voices of strong opposition to ALEC heard.
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Information from ALECEXPOSED.ORG
Is ALEC Lobbying?
In most ordinary people’s view, handing bills to legislators so they can introduce them is the very definition of lobbying.
ALEC says “no lobbying takes place.” The current chairman of ALEC’s corporate board is W. Preston Baldwin III, until recently a lobbyist and the Vice President of State Government Affairs at UST Inc., a tobacco firm now owned by Altria/Phillip Morris USA.
ALEC makes old-fashioned lobbying obsolete. Once legislators return to their state with corporate-sponsored ALEC legislation in hand, the legislators themselves become “super-lobbyists” for ALEC’s corporate agenda, cutting out the middleman. Yet ALEC enjoys a 501(c)(3) classification, which allows it to keep its tax-exempt status while accepting grants from foundations, corporations, and other donors. In our view, the activities that corporate members engage in should be considered lobbying by the IRS, and the entity that facilitates that effort to influence state law, ALEC, should also be considered to be engaged predominantly in lobby-related activities, not simply “educational” activities. Re-classifying ALEC as primarily engaged in lobbying facilitation would mean that donations to it would not count as tax-deductible for businesses and foundations.
Is ALEC Legal?
ALEC’s operating model raises many ethical and legal concerns.
Each state has a different set of ethics laws or rules. The presence of lobbyists alone may cause ethics problems for some state legislators. Wisconsin, for instance, generally requires legislators who go to events with registered lobbyists to pay on their own dime, yet in many states, legislators use public funds to attend ALEC meetings. According to one study, $3 million in public funds was spent to attend ALEC meetings in one year. Some legislators use their personal funds and are reimbursed by ALEC. Such “scholarships” may be disclosed if gifts are required to be reported. But should the legislators be allowed to accept this money when lobbyists are present at the meeting? Still other legislators use their campaign funds to go and are again reimbursed by ALEC; in some states, campaign funds are only allowed to be used to attend campaign events.
In short, many state ethics codes might consider the free vacation, steeply discounted membership fees, free day care or travel scholarships to be “gifts” that should be disallowed or disclosed.
UNITED STATES OF ALEC BY BILL MOYER