A national nonprofit that’s drawn criticism for allowing corporations to write legislation directly with state lawmakers can be traced to bills introduced in Minnesota last session, including language that would shield large corporations from consumer lawsuits and undermine greenhouse gas reduction goals.
The bills were revealed as Common Cause released a report on the influence of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which is financially supported by corporations like Koch Industries and Wal-Mart. At regular conferences, including one going on in New Orleans right now, these corporations draft corporate-friendly legislation that is approved by state legislators on legislative task forces and then introduced at state capitols across the country without disclosure that the business interests wrote them.
“The work of ALEC shows how the Minnesota capitol is governed by corporate lobbyists instead of main street voters,” said Mike Dean, executive director of Common Cause Minnesota. “Dozens of corporations are investing millions of dollars to write business-friendly legislation that is being passed into law without public knowledge and often at the expense of the public interest.”
Common Cause Minnesota found a number of recent Minnesota bills that mirrored ALEC counterparts:
- Voter Restrictions: (HF 89, SF 479) Bill that critics say would suppress voter turnout. ALEC legislation.
- Taxation of Moist Snuff Tobacco: (HF 1079) This bill, created by tobacco companies, would create a tax break for moist tobacco. ALEC legislation.
- Cheeseburger Bill: (HF 264, SF 160) This bill partially shields large food companies from consumer lawsuits. ALEC connection from Inside ALEC magazine.
- End Greenhouse Gas Emission Goals (HF 509) This bill opposes efforts to restrict the emission of greenhouse gases. ALEC legislation.
The ALEC conference in New Orleans this week includes workshops about pension reform, privatization of Medicaid and the benefits of C02 (in a global warming context).
ALEC documents and draft bills were recently leaked to the Center for Media and Democracy by a whistleblower. The leak includes more than 800 ALEC draft bills on corporate-friendly issues. The leak led to a series of articles in The Nation magazine and Pro Publica detailing a relationship that critics say allows corporate lobbying without disclosure, as well as rampant corporate influence in the drafting of legislation.
Common Cause is currently challenging ALEC’s nonprofit status. Common Cause President Bob Edgar summed up criticism of ALEC to the Los Angeles Times: ”Dozens of corporations are paying millions of dollars a year to write business-friendly legislation that is becoming law in statehouses from coast to coast.”
The report found that the 22 known ALEC-affiliated companies had directly donated $141 million to campaigns and candidates since 2001. Minnesota’s campaign finance laws limited the financial donations in the state to $151,000, with large amounts coming from Flint Hills Resources, which is affiliated with Koch Industries, and State Farm Insurance.
The Minnesota Independent previously linked U.S. Rep. Erik Paulsen to the organization as a member of the federal affairs arm.
Are you a member of the legislature or legislative staff with knowledge of ALEC’s doings in Minnesota? Send us an email: firstname.lastname@example.org.