Monday, March 26, 2012

Under A Flat Rock

Paul Krugman turns over a big flat rock and finds something not very pretty: The American Legislative Exchange Council, AKA, ALEC. ALEC is a very aggressive lobby that doesn't just advise legislators, it writes their legislation for them. They turn out to be big players in the crony capitalism racket: writing laws that ship taxpayer dollars to big corporations.

Florida’s now-infamous Stand Your Ground law, which lets you shoot someone you consider threatening without facing arrest, let alone prosecution, sounds crazy — and it is. And it’s tempting to dismiss this law as the work of ignorant yahoos. But similar laws have been pushed across the nation, not by ignorant yahoos but by big corporations.

Specifically, language virtually identical to Florida’s law is featured in a template supplied to legislators in other states by the American Legislative Exchange Council, a corporate-backed organization that has managed to keep a low profile even as it exerts vast influence (only recently, thanks to yeoman work by the Center for Media and Democracy, has a clear picture of ALEC’s activities emerged). And if there is any silver lining to Trayvon Martin’s killing, it is that it might finally place a spotlight on what ALEC is doing to our society — and our democracy.

ALEC, which turns out to be funded by the usual villains like the Kochs and Exxon Mobile also get money from more mainstream corporations like Coca-Cola and UPS. A lot of its core business, though is crime. According to Krugman, it is a pillar of the American Bail Coalition and the prison industry.

Ever wonder why the US has the largest fraction of its population in prison of any country since the Soviet Gulags? Why our prison population has skyrocketed? ALEC and its funders get some of the credit. ALEC is also in the school privatization business.