Inside ALEC, The Koch-Funded Group Behind Right-Wing State Laws
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On February 25, 2011, Florida State Representative Chris Dorworth (R-Lake Mary) introduced HB 1021. The bill sought to curtail the political power of unions by prohibiting public employers from deducting any amount from an employee's pay for use by an employee organization (i.e., union dues) or for any political activity (i.e., the portion of union dues used for lobbying or for supporting candidates for office).
Furthermore, HB 1021 stated that, should a union seek to use any portion of dues independently collected from members for political activity, the union must obtain annual written authorization from each member.
In effect, this bill defunds public-sector unions--like AFSCME, SEIU, the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association--by making the collection of member dues an onerous, costly task. With public-sector unions denatured, they would no longer be able to stand in the way of radical free marketeers who plan to profit from the privatization of public services.
Given the similarities between HB 1021 and a rash of like-minded bills in states across the country, including Wisconsin, on March 30 a public records request was sent to Dorworth's office seeking copies of all documents pertaining to the writing of HB 1021, including copies of any pieces of model legislation the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) may have provided.
Within an hour of submitting this request, Florida House Speaker Dean Cannon's (R-Winter Park) Communications Director Katherine Betta responded: "We received a note from Representative Dorworth's office regarding your request for records relating to the American Legislative Exchange Council and HB 1021. Please note that Mr. Dorworth's legislative offices did not receive any materials from ALEC relating to this bill or any 'model legislation' from other states."
But two weeks later Dorworth's office delivered 87 pages of documents, mostly bill drafts and emails, detailing the evolution of what was to become HB 1021. Buried at the bottom of the stack was an 11-page bundle of neatly typed material, labeled "Paycheck Protection," which consisted of three pieces of model legislation, with the words "Copyright, ALEC" at the end of each.
Dorworth legislative assistant Carolyn Johnson claims that, although Dorworth is an ALEC member, neither she nor her boss have any idea how the ALEC model legislation found its way into Dorworth's office. Dorworth could not be reached for comment.
Enter the Koch Brothers
Nov. 2, 2010 saw a radical cohort of Republicans swept into office in states across the country.
When the legislative sessions began in January, the American news-consuming public was shocked by the tenacity of this new breed of Grand Old Partier as it set to the task of breaking public employee unions, dismantling state government and privatizing civic services.
While battles still rage in the nation's legislatures and statehouses, mainstream media attention peaked in February and March with the culmination of the fight over Gov. Scott Walker's budget bill AB 11, which sought to curtail the collective bargaining rights of government employees and thus disempower Wisconsin's public sector unions.
When on February 23 the Buffalo Beast published recordings and transcripts of a prank call to Walker from a Beast reporter posing as billionaire GOP donor David Koch, it became apparent how intimately involved brothers David and Charles Koch were in Walker's efforts to break public sector unions.
Subsequently, bloggers and editorialists began batting around possible scenarios involving myriad right-wing public policy foundations funded by the Koch brothers and proceeds of Wichita, Kan.-based Koch Industries (and other Koch-controlled corporations). During such speculation, one name arose as the favorite villain behind the multitude of bills aimed squarely at public employee unions. That name was ALEC (see sidebar detailing the organization's Koch connections).