Legislators defend association with ALEC
by Kristal Dixon
kdixon@cherokeetribune.com
April 22, 2012 12:00 AM | 20417 views | 11 11 comments | 73 73 recommendations | email to a friend | print
CANTON — Two Cherokee County state legislators are defending their association with a nonprofit organization that has come under fire for its support of a controversial law now under scrutiny in Florida after the death of teenager Trayvon Martin.

Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers (R-Woodstock) and Rep. Calvin Hill (R-Hickory Flat) are standing by their membership with the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC.

Rogers, who has been a member for 10 years, is also the national treasurer of the conservative organization, while Hill serves with Rogers as the state chairs from Georgia for the group.

Rogers said the criticism of the organization is unfounded, adding the attacks are “coming from the same far left radical groups that have been attacking conservatives for years.”

“The question is whether supporters of free markets and limited government will yield to these type of tactics,” Rogers said. “ALEC is the leading conservative legislative organization in the nation. It will continue to stand for free markets, less government and federalism. These are the principles on which America was founded and we need more lawmakers to stand by them.”

Hill also said the criticism is lacking in substance.

Hill said the attacks are coming from “a few fairly extreme organizations” that aren’t even focused on what ALEC is all about, which he identified as “a free open exchange of ideas by legislators and people in private industries.”

Not so, said Bryan Long, executive director of Better Georgia, a nonprofit organization that works “for elected officials to pass sensible laws and policies that make Georgia a better state.” The organization is affiliated with ProgressNow, a national progressive grassroots organization.

Long said ALEC is a “radical right-wing group that operates in the shadows of the government” and very little is known about how they operate.

“There’s a lot there that’s a bit of mystery,” he said.

He also pointed to ALEC’s influence in distributing model legislation to its political members and referenced Georgia’s voter ID law, some of the state’s pro-charter school bills and its crackdown on illegal immigration as examples of model bills being introduced in state legislators.

Now that Georgia-based Coca-Cola has backed away from ALEC, Long said it’s high time for Rogers as well as Hill to consider following suit.

He also said Rogers has been all but mum on his involvement with the organization.

If Rogers is proud of his association with the organization, Long said it’s imperative the senate majority leader is up front with legislation he’s taken from the organization.

Rogers said ALEC has between 800 and 1,000 model bills and said most of them originate from legislators who bring them to the organization.

According to its website, ALEC works to “advance the fundamental principles of free-market enterprise, limited government, and federalism at the state level through a nonpartisan public-private partnership of America’s state legislators, members of the private sector and the general public.”

The organization has joined forces with its private sector members to advocate conservative legislative causes on issues ranging from education to economics.

The organization was also instrumental in getting Florida’s Stand Your Ground law passed, which has come under scrutiny in the wake of the Martin shooting death.

George Zimmerman, who has been charged with second-degree murder in Martin’s death, said he shot the unarmed teenager in self-defense.

The organization’s association with Florida’s statute has led to some of its corporate backers, such as McDonald’s Corp., Coca-Cola Co., Kraft Foods Inc and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to withdraw its support.

In the last few days, the organization has also announced that it would shift its focus solely to economic issues.

“It’s just an organization between legislators like myself, and we pay money to join,” Rogers said. “We have a dialogue between ourselves and private industries and other legislators.”

ALEC does not have a list of private sector members on its website, but members of its private enterprise board include representatives from Bayer Corp., GlaxoSmithKline, Reynolds American, Wal-Mart Stores, Energy Future Holdings, Centerpoint360, Johnson & Johnson, PhRMA, American Bail Coalition, Kraft Foods Inc., Pfizer Inc., DIAGEO, AT&T, Peabody Energy, UPS, Koch Companies Public Sector LLC, Exxon Mobil Corporation, State Farm Insurance Co., Altria Client Services, and Reed Elsevier Inc.

Dating back to 2008, both Cherokee County legislators have accepted campaign contributions from some corporations listed, including Coca-Cola, UPS, GlaxoSmithKline, PhRMA, Pfizer, Bayer Corp., Johnson & Johnson and Kraft Foods.

Scrutiny of Rogers’ campaign disclosures show as much as $44,000 in contributions in 2010 came from companies believed to have ties with ALEC.

However, Rogers pointed out the same corporations that sponsor ALEC also sponsor the National Conference of State Legislators and the Council of State Governments, two other nonprofit legislative organizations that lean to the center or left of the political spectrum.

“Many of these companies have large numbers of employees in Georgia,” he added. “I am glad that private sector employers consider me a pro-business legislative leader.”

He said he’s “probably brought more ideas to ALEC for model legislation” than he’s ever used.

An example is his model resolution he passed through ALEC that calls for the federal government to return gas tax revenue to the state.

Once that bill passed through ALEC, Rogers said he introduced that resolution in Georgia, which he said passed.

Hill added legislation that went into effect about four years ago that allows Georgia residents to freeze their credit was a model bill from ALEC.

“We talked to other legislators and had taken ideas from them,” he said.

That’s not good enough for Long.

He said he and others would like a better understanding about ALEC, the corporations who are involved and their role in crafting legislation to govern the citizenry.

“It’s a powerful group of corporations and lawmakers who sit at the table together and write our laws without our knowledge,” he said. “They are being told by corporations what are the laws they need to pass.”
Comments
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John Q
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April 27, 2012
Dean Sheridan...Perhaps you should turn off Faux News for 5 minutes and do some actual research. ALEC was created by very powerful special interest groups to only benefit those special interest groups. They have no desire to help out middle and lower class Americans. Every law they "suggest" is designed to line the pockets of very wealthy corporations and people, then leave bread crumbs for the rest of us. This has nothing to do with creating a better America for all, they just want more money, more power and less dissent.
Dean Sheridan
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April 25, 2012
Guy Bailey : You lost your creditably and respect with many when you referred to Paul Krugman. As for the rest of you "get over it"! You all, are clearly tiring to make an issue were there is none. The real issue is not ALEC or the law in Florida & other States; - the issue is the civil unrest the "usual" characters put on display during rally in Sanford and throwing gas on the fire by our POTUS, stupidly. Chiming in without all the facts. A Court will soon here those facts at the same time we all do. Until then, support your second amendment rights or the only civilians carrying loaded guns will be crooks.

Guy Bailey
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April 24, 2012
So the lawmakers we have elected admit that they don't read or write the laws they propose to us - they outsource them to a company who, as Paul Krugman has noted, "ALEC seems, however, to have a special interest in privatization — that is, on turning the provision of public services, from schools to prisons, over to for-profit corporations. And some of the most prominent beneficiaries of privatization, such as the online education company K12 Inc. and the prison operator Corrections Corporation of America, are, not surprisingly, very much involved with the organization."

I would say shame on Chip Rogers, but as we've seen with his own personal bailouts recently as reported in the Tribune, shame is something that doesn't apply to him.

What this tells us, in turn, is that ALEC’s claim to stand for limited government and free markets is deeply misleading. To a large extent the organization seeks not limited government but privatized government, in which corporations get their profits from taxpayer dollars, dollars steered their way by friendly politicians. In short, ALEC isn’t so much about promoting free markets as it is about expanding crony capitalism."

John Q
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April 24, 2012
The charter school legislation was straight out of the ALEC play book. In addition, allowing guns on college campuses was a joint NRA and ALEC cause. The immigration law which has crippled hundreds of hard working GA farmers was word for word from ALEC. Have you had enough of Chip and Calvin's "I for average people, just like you" line? I have. I will vote for ANYONE but these guys. ANYONE!
anonymous
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April 23, 2012
If ALEC was a positive force, we would have no problems in our state. Hill and Rogers protectionist language for an taxpayer-funded (it's a 501(c)3) lobbying group have led me to believe that both have something to lose with increased scrutiny on ALEC.
concerned citizen
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April 22, 2012
I would like to know which ALEC sponsoring corporation will benefit from Senator Rogers' bill promoting/requiring online courses to be taught in public schools.
thegrandma
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April 22, 2012
I'm 80 years old and I find it appalling that these legislators sit down with the people they are supposed to regulate for the safety and well being of their citizens. Why only l Democrat and the rest Republicans? Why no consumers to balance the big businesses that "buy" these legislators' votes. That is exactly what they are doing. YOU ARE NOT KIDDING ANYONE but yourself, Mr. Rogers.
Be Very Wary
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April 22, 2012
Anyone who believes Rogers and Hill are strong supporters of 'limited government' should have their head examined. Their affiliation with ALEC and their stance on the charter school amendment shines the spotlight on what they're really after - money and power. Of course ALEC is all about the 'free market' - it's a way for Rogers and company to line their pockets with taxpayer money and since nothing was done by our esteemed elected officials this past session to address the poor ethics in government the state is so well known for, none will be the wiser until our coffers are empty and the group in power will have bled this state dry.
What the?
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April 22, 2012
Let's see, major Corporations meet with lawmakers and advise them on what and how legislation should be written. In some cases actually WRITING the bills themselves? Call me naive, but whatever happened to "Government of the people, by the people and for the people".
wayxx
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April 22, 2012
What would you expect from politicians living in a state(Georgia) rated dead last in political ethics.
GoodScout
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April 22, 2012
I agree. A good followup story for the Tribune would be to ask both lawmakers how many of the laws they've put into the hopper are directly from ALEC. I suspect with a little legwork we could find out if the laws Rogers and Hill have pushed are exact cut-and-paste jobs from ALEC. They clearly work for this lobbying organization and not for the people who elect them. Time to throw them both out.
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