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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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But Pocan isn’t only concerned that  ALEC sneaks bills into the state legislature. The intent behind the bills troubles him, too.

STATE REPMARK POCAN: Some of their legislation sounds so innocuous, but when you start to read about why they’re doing it, you know there’s a far different reason why something’s coming forward, and that’s important. If the average person knew that a bill like this came from some group like  ALEC, you’ll look at the bill very differently, and you might look at that legislator a little differently about why they introduced it.

This is not about education. This is not about helping kids with special needs. This is about privatization. This is about corporate profits. And this is about dismantling public education.

BILL MOYERS: The bill passed in the Wisconsin House but failed to make it through the Senate. However, in its education report card, ALEC boasts that similar bills have passed in Oklahoma, Louisiana, North Carolina and Ohio. ALEC’s education agenda includes online schooling, as well. Take a careful look, and you’ll find the profit motive there, too.

LISA GRAVES: What you see is corporations that have a direct benefit, whose bottom line directly benefits from these bills, voting on these bills in the  ALEC task force. And so, corporations like Connections Academy, corporations like K12, they have a direct financial interest in advancing this agenda.

BILL MOYERS: Those corporations, Connections Academy and K12, which specialize in online education, can profit handsomely from laws that direct taxpayer money toward businesses like theirs. In 2011, both sat on ALEC’s Education Task Force. But the two companies didn’t just approve the model bill, they helped craft it. The proof is in one of ALEC’s own documents. And there’s more to the story.

STATE SENDOLORES GRESHAM: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. House Bill 1030 has to do with the establishment of virtual public schools.

BILL MOYERS: Last year, an online schooling bill based on the  ALECmodel turned up in another state where  ALEC has a powerful influence: Tennessee. It was introduced in both the state Senate and House by ALEC members. The bill passed, making private corporations eligible for public money for online education. Then, within weeks, the K12 corporation got what amounted to a no-bid contract to provide online education to any Tennessee student from kindergarten through the eighth grade.

So, let’s review. The  ALEC member corporations helped craft the bill. ALEC legislators introduced it and vote on it. And now there’s a state law on the books that enables one of those corporations to get state money. Game, set, match. But remember, this story isn’t about one company and the education industry and one law in Tennessee; it’s about hundreds of corporations in most every industry influencing lawmakers in state after state, using  ALEC as a front.

Here’s another example. The American Bail Coalition, which represents the bail bond industry, pulls no punches about writing ALEC’s model bills itself. In a newsletter a few years back, the coalition boasted that it had written 12  ALEC model bills fortifying the commercial bail industry. Here’s Jerry Watson, senior legal counsel for the coalition, speaking at an  ALEC meeting in 2007. He has a law to offer.

JERRY WATSON: There is a model bill for you to review, if you might be interested in introducing such a measure.

BILL MOYERS: He’ll even help legislators amend it.

 
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