ALEC's UN-Elected, Writing U.S. Legislation Under Koch-Influenced Direction In Many StatesOp-Ed by Henry Clay Ruark for Salem-News.com
Costly "Hidden-Tunnel Operation" Since 1973 Provides Law-Text For Legislators Reflecting "Facilitation" By Billionaires.
(SEASIDE, Ore.) - By personal choice and improbable chance, early on in this life's long journey, I had opportunity to work --and learn-- in our nation's capital city and the Capitol itself --in the 1950s.
What we did there, then, can hardly be termed as "lobbying" since it was so early and so amateurish, but we did succeed in helping to draft an historic legislative achievement, the National Defense Education Act of 1958, which brought more than $9 million in matching funds to Oregon education.
There is surely a legitimate place for assisting legislators in their highly onerous, demanding sworn mission to make law for the commonwealth interest.
BUT the key concern and commonsense mission must be summed complete in the last four words just-preceding.
The first lesson we learned was to exert every effort to "assist" in the actual word-for-word developmental drafts of what was to be the new law -- if Congress chose to accept and approve.
That was, of course, after we had early learned how and where to make solid and comfortable relationships with key legislators --and many "others" also in the process of promoting their own "thing", even in '58.
I clearly recall one remark shared with us by an old hand, well- experienced and grown wealthy at the game: "What you seek to build is a tunnel right to their desk --hidden but always there."
What's currently surfacing NOW -- in national reports rife on the Internet-- is the plain brutal fact that certain Republican legislators figured out a way to "organize" this inflow of influence and power for corporate and private interests as early as 1973. (I note, with interest, that their organizing meeting was set up in Chicago ! Bet it was at The Drake...)
Exceptional Detail On ALEC Impacts
Many standard American journals have now taken their turns at bringing us the extensive and intensive damage done by ALEC to democracy's basic legislative pursuits --ever since 1973 ! --at the state level.
Here are four, for your own background and foundation for evaluating what consequences we are sure to feel --and what needs to be done to set things back on the track the Founders laid for us nearly 250 years ago. You will note No. 3 and 4 refer to ongoing state-level issues and problems known to be influenced by what has taken place and continues under ALEC even with no direct connections examined in their coverage of the issues so involved, as the title of the first one here makes clear.
l. ALEC EXPOSED: The Right-Wing Group Subverting Our Democracy; The NATION Double Issue, Aug. 1/8/11. Edited by John Nichols, this special section coverage includes a summary by Nichols and reports on "Business Domination" by Joel Rogers and Laura Dresser covering Revenue, Privatization, and Unions; "Sabotaging Healthcare" by Wendell Potter; "The Koch Connection" by Lisa Graves; "Starving Public Schools" by Julie Underwood; and "Rigging Elections" by John Nichols; 23 pp.
2. PUBLICOPOLY EXPOSED: How ALEC, the Koch brothers and their corporate allies plan to neuter public employee unions and private government.; IN THESE TIMES, August 2011, Beau Hodai, a skilled investigative reporter, follows Florida HB1021, meant to curtail the political power of public employee unions by deductions from their pay for supporting candidates for office, as an example. He then explores the entire gamut of ALEC operations across the nation --and its close tie to the Far Right struggle to break public employee unions,dismantle state governments and privatize civi services. 6pp., links to source materials.
3. BIG BROTHERS: Thought Control at Koch Industries; THE NATION, May 9, 2011. This one is by Mark Ames and Mike Elk, who detail how thousands of Koch Industry employees are being told whom to vote for, with job intimidation an understood weapon --and how the Supreme Court decision on the Citizens United case has empowered the employer so that "political proselytizing is the new normal".
4. STANDING UP FOR GOVERNMENT: Movements across the country to counter the conservative attack on the public sector and public services. THE AMERICAN PERSPECTIVE July.August 2011.
Patrick Bresette writes the title piece, followed by " Wisconsin: From Protest to Movement", by David Moberg; "Talking Taxes in Connecticut" by Monica Potts; "The Education of Rick Scott" by John Frank; "(NOT} Talking Taxes in New York" by Monica Potts; and "Pinching Pensions" by Robert Hillensmith. 14 pp.
I.e., they invented a not-so-hidden tunnel leading right to the minds and sign-off/hands of far too many state level legislators around this nation.
Both the system and the tunnel have become much too much a monopoly for Republican interests alone, including specifically those now promulgated and assiduously promoted by the distorted, perverted political gangsters who have pirated that once-respected Party.
What they invented --and have built semi-secretly, silently and very seriously ever since 1973 !-- is an effective process to open up new state-and-national law development to outside influence, in defiance of our long-in-place,tested American system of elected-representative/legislator function, which is the foundation of every legislature.
I.e., they figured out how to fix it so that the entire working mass of legislation across the state legislatures --and inevitably then into Congressional consideration, too-- was opened up to full consideration, study and change, and then surrounded by the entire working mass of corporate and private inflow of influence and power --strongly exerted as needed, in a wide variety of ways.
Guess who ended up "paying the freight" on the total costly operation?
The Kochian character of much occurring since '73 is entirely obvious from the whole series of authoritative reports now surfacing nationally, both on the Internet and in a variety and several levels of nationally-circulated magazines.
Guess what it was they wanted from that dollar/personnel costly long-continued effort?
The many major and minor issues now under examination as appallingly shaped and "legislated" include some 800 documents already examined and reported on by NATION magazine, with many similar informative reviews found elsewhere,too.
The "score" in a recent year was more than 850 "drafts" inserted into this neat system; and more than 150 actually made over (very slightly altered) into law.
(The range and impact of the distorted/perverted legislative product thus produced is amazing and will be explored in some depth in parts-to-come.)
All you really need to do (they rapidly learned) is to provide these ostensibly independent legislators at work with specific shaping and defining language forming up the new law.
These ever/ready private interests have learned via continuing success in manipulation via convenient easy-use "draft supply" and ready/rapid, persuasive "consultation" precisely how to get what they want built into state law, thus permeating --perhaps irrevocably-- the ongoing massive flow of American law, starting at the obviously-vulnerable state level.
Experience since '73 shows irrefutably, unimaginably, and without question that this sophisticated system, wrapped in protocol and very "professional" trappings, can and has produced in depth and detail, time after time, year after year.
Now it may be nearly impossible to know from whence huge masses of state law really originated...and renewed study may and is revealing extremely serious unintentional and dangerous consequences -- of which those state legislators participating may or may not have been aware.
The system thus avoids all that lost time, effort and mental sweat involved in the Constitutional process and provides rapid, well-facilitated and simplified action for these legislators: All they need to do is read convenient corporate/private interest "suggested drafts", furrow up brow a bit as if cogitating, and then proceed to the actual word-for-word --or very slightly modified-- draft for which they "sign off".
The ALEC-mechanism provides a working system --primarily under the aegis of ongoing GOPster-gang control and direction, not only for the drafts involved but for the areas covered, the issues engaged, and the answers written into operational law.
The trick is, of course, to get these legislators to accept the trick itself, which is clearly --for those who stop to cogitate-- to substitute secret, hidden, outside-interest intention and action for the sensible, solid, tried-and-true pattern, plan and programs set up by our Founders --and embodied in the Constitutional provisions under which this nation has operated from long before 1973! (We are seeking interviews on this process from Oregon legislators who have participated in ALEC sessions over recent years, for report here later.)
And that trick, you may be sure, has been accomplished ever since 1973 in a wide variety of ways, precisely determined by needs at the several levels always required for draft-to-law process. (AND, one must add irrevocably, the characteristics of participants.)
In what has now become known worldwide as the chaotic center of comprehensive corporate concentration on how to get what you want, the most rapid way, and with the least confusion, cost, and chance of "unfortunate" kick-back, including press and public exposure, this generation of lobbyists has long ago learned to work ever more diligently --and "persuasively", naturally.
But, true to form, some politicians beat them to the best punch, early on, and have been exerting the muscle --and using the punch-- ever since 1973.
What "they" do NOW is carried out through an intriguing mechanism --intriguingly known as the American Exchange Legislative Council -"ALEC"-- providing depth, detail and shaping language, issue-relationships, and broad closed-door participation in precisely the key parts of the whole process involved in making our American laws.
It is intriguing to cogitate on what was first-intended and how it got so fully distorted/perverted/purchase-pressured into what it has now become.
BUT perhaps that very name tells us the heart of the story with the key word Exchange.
An exchange is a "free market" mechanism/agency by which product is passed along from one producer to another needing it --with some further transfer of value in some form or other for both.
We will explore that concept further in following parts of this series.
At 21, Henry Clay Ruark was Aroostook Editor for the Bangor, Maine DAILY NEWS, covering the upper 1/4 of the state. In the ‘40s, he was Staff Correspondent, then New England Wires Editor at United Press-Boston; later Editor for the Burlington, Vermont 3-daily group owned by Wm. Loeb, later notorious at Manchester, New Hampshire UNION LEADER for attacks on Democratic Presidential candidates.
Hank returned to Oregon to complete M. Ed. degree at OSU, went on to Indiana University for Ed.D. (abd) and special other course-work; was selected as first Information Director for NAVA in Washington, D.C.; helped write sections of NDEA, first Act to supply math, science, foreign language consultants to state depts. of education; joined Oregon Dept. of Education, where he served as NDEA administrator/Learning Media Consultant for ten years.
He joined Dr. Amo DeBernardis at PCC, helping establish, extend programs, facilities, Oregon/national public relations; moved to Chicago as Editor/Publisher of oldest educational-AV journal, reformed as AV GUIDE Magazine; then established and operated Learning Media Associates as general communications consultant group. Due to wife’s illness, he returned to Oregon in 1981, semi-retired, and has continued writing intermittently ever since, joining S-N in 2004. His Op Eds now total over 650 written since then.