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Bill Moyers Exposes the Stranglehold the Corporate & Right-Wing Alliance Has on Our Democracy

A special report from the legendary veteran journalist on the American Legislative Exchange Council.

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LISA GRAVES: This is from the New Orleans convention. This includes a number of seminars that they held for legislators, including one called "Warming Up to Climate Change: The Many Benefits of Increased Atmospheric CO2."

BILL MOYERS: That 2011  ALEC conference, lo and behold, was sponsored by BP, ExxonMobil, Chevron and Shell, among others. Another of its events featured guns.

LISA GRAVES: This is the  NRA-sponsored shooting event, for legislators and for lobbyists. Free.

BILL MOYERS: There was even one offering free cigars.

LISA GRAVES: Sponsored by Reynolds American, which is one of the biggest tobacco companies in the world, and the Cigar Association of America.

BILL MOYERS: It sounds like lobbying. It looks like lobbying. It smells like lobbying. But  ALEC says it’s not lobbying. In fact,  ALEC operates not as a lobby group but as a nonprofit, a charity. In its filing with the IRSALEC says its mission is education, which means it pays no taxes and its corporate members get a tax write-off. Its legislators get a lot, too.

STATE REPMARK POCAN: In Wisconsin, I can’t take anything of value from a lobbyist. I can’t take a cup of coffee from a lobbyist. At ALEC, it’s just the opposite. You know, you get there, and you’re being wined and dined by corporate interests. I can go down there and be wined and dined for days in order to hear about their special legislation. I mean, the head of Shell Oil flew in on his private jet to come to this conference. The head of one of the largest utility companies in the country was there on a panel, a utility company in 13 states. And here he is presenting to legislators. I mean, they clearly brought in some of the biggest corporate names in special interestdom and had them meeting with legislators, because a lot of business transpires at these events.

AMY GOODMAN: The United States of  ALEC. We will return to Bill Moyers’ special report in a moment.

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AMY GOODMAN: We turn to part two of  The United States of  ALEC, a special report by Bill Moyers. It’s airing this weekend on  Moyers & Company but is premiering today here on  Democracy Now!

BILL MOYERS: The most important business happens in what  ALECcalls "task forces." There are currently eight of them, with a corporate take on every important issue in American life, from health and safety to the environment, to taxation. In  ALEC task forces, elected state officials and corporate representatives close the doors to press and public and together approve the bills that will be sent out to America. But Americans have no idea they come from  ALEC, unless someone like a Mark Pocan exposes it.

STATE REPMARK POCAN: When I went down to New Orleans to the ALEC convention last August, I remember going to a workshop and hearing a little bit about a bill they did in Florida and some other states, and there was a proposal to provide special needs scholarships. And lo and behold, all of a sudden I come back to Wisconsin, and what gets introduced? Get ready; I know you’re going to have a shocked look on your face. A bill to do just that.

BILL MOYERS: Twenty-six ALEC members in the Wisconsin legislature sponsored that special needs bill, but the real sponsor was ALEC. Pocan knew, because the bill bore a striking resemblance to ALEC’s model. Have a look.

 
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