For many years, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has been a powerful and influential organization that has promoted the agenda of corporate America and the political right in state legislatures nationwide. As powerful and influential as ALEC has been, it’s quite apparent that the public has known little about the organization. ALEC’s members, who work together to draft model bills, consist of state legislators (who pay little to join) and corporations and trade associations, (which pay huge membership fees). These fees paid by the latter groups purchase influence for ALEC’s agenda and provide access to lawmakers.
Because ALEC’s issue-areas are quite broad – voter IDs, consumer protection, healthcare, education, the environment and guns, to name a few – not every ALEC bill connects to a particular company’s financial interests. But you can rest assured that the interests of ordinary folks are not a priority by any stretch of the imagination for ALEC. ALEC’s issues are all those that benefit Corporate America and the far right. For most companies, their investment in ALEC is well worth it when they have their favored bills promoted.
ALEC has been a strong advocate of taking away ordinary citizens’ access to the court system. In fact, preventing access to the civil courts for everyday Americans is a pervasive theme that runs through ALEC’s entire, corporate-backed agenda. ALEC has an entire division devoted just to preventing injured people from holding wrongdoers accountable in court. Its very active Civil Justice Task Force is co-chaired by Victor Schwartz, general counsel of the American Tort Reform Association, a corporate group seeking to limit the liability of its corporate members. The legislation generated by this task force has been nothing short of a gift to the companies in our nation that put profits over safety. Many of the supporters of ALEC have been successfully sued over and over for recklessly causing death, injury and harm to their customers.
The problem with these laws pushed by ALEC is not only that they allow wrongdoers to escape accountability for what they do, they also discriminate on the basis of race, gender, age and income. Some ALEC bills target certain kinds of jury awards, specifically those that compensate for “non-economic” injuries like permanent disability, loss of a woman’s reproductive system, disfigurement, trauma, loss of a limb or blindness.
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