The 2012 elections are fast-approaching, and the dirty political tricks are already starting. In America we are born with the First Amendment right to free speech. However, we are increasingly seeing that our voices, though still effective in numbers, are being drowned out by the megaphones wielded by corporate America. Cases like Citizens United are evidence of this assertion, but an organization much older than this single decision also threatens our democracy. This organization is called the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).
ALEC, through its members made up mostly of CEOs, endeavors to create what it calls "model bills" in order to influence policies made at the state level. Most of these policies seek to benefit corporate interest, often to the detriment of everyday citizens. Board members at ALEC have direct access to state legislators and make their pitch for these “model bills” that seek to benefit the private sector and often undermine the public sector. The most disturbing fact is people do not get to vote on these bills. This sets up an oligarchic approach to governance, taking the power of influence away from the people and placing it in the hands of the moneyed few.
This organization's stated goal is to get government off of our backs and let the free market reign and regulate itself. It would be one thing if this objective was meant to benefit American citizens, but the double speak of the word "our" here becomes apparent when one looks at who benefits from such proposals. Everyday hard-working Americans do not benefit from deregulated businesses that pollute our air and drinking water or make public school too expensive for the working class.
While lobbyists have been around for ages trying to influence legislative actions in politics, ALEC takes it a step further by enacting legislation at the state level in a coordinated effort of influence. Further, every citizen of our democratic republic does not get to vote on such legislation. This is what makes it especially dangerous. Democracy gets thrown out of the window when citizens are bypassed by corporate entities that dictate new legislation.
What is especially dangerous is ALEC’s attempt of voter suppression. All across the country, states are adopting laws that seek to disenfranchise minority voters. It seems that ALEC is trying to find ways around the annoying ability of everyday Americans to voice their opinions. This is just another example, among many, of the ways in which ALEC seeks to undermine our democracy.
Websites like alecexposed.org and movetoamend.org provide information on how to combat such takeovers. Democracy is dependent on an educated electorate, but with organizations like this in place we find our small voices not only silenced but circumvented and ignored.
Thomas Jefferson himself once said, "I hope that we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations, which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength, and bid defiance to the laws of our country." Since our country's founding this sort of power play has been happening. It is time we the people, with our small voices, stand against the tyranny of moneyed interests.
Photo Credit: gaelx