Have you met ALEC in Minnesota?
Common Cause report examines how corporate lobbyists are drafting Minnesota legislation behind closed doors
Today, corporate lobbyists and legislators are gathering in New Orleans for the annual meeting of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) to draft legislation designed to directly benefit some of America’s largest corporations. Led by such firms as Wal-Mart, Coca-Cola, Koch Industries, AT&T, Altria and ExxonMobil, the ALEC has quietly drafted over 826 pieces of legislation that have been introduced in all 50 state capitols.
In Minnesota, at least 19 legislators are known to be members of ALEC’s legislative task forces, which vote with corporate lobbyists to approve the model bills that are introduced across the country. Corporations pay $7,000 to $25,000 a year to get direct access to legislators at the various gatherings organized by ALEC, held at some America’s most exclusive hotels and resorts.
The work of ALEC shows how the Minnesota capitol is governed by corporate lobbyists instead of main street voters. 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.
A report by Common Cause found that over $150,000 in campaign contributions were funneled into Minnesota through 22 firms represented on ALEC’s “private enterprise board,” the organization’s corporate governing body. The largest contributions came from Flint Hills Resources, a Koch industries subsidiary, and State Farm Insurance. Minnesota’s low contribution limits mitigated the influence of these groups compared to other states. But, as a result of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, many of these groups funneled money into Minnesota through various trade associations and political funds, money that goes largely unreported.
Common Cause examined campaign finance reports collected by the National Institute on Money in State Politics. The study included political spending linked to the 22 firms that have donated more than $141 million since 2001 to state candidates and political parties and another $229 million in support of – or in opposition to – state ballot issues.
The report was limited to those 22 firms because ALEC does not release its full list of corporate members. The National Institute on Money in State Politics, which drew on published reports to compile a partial list of additional ALEC-affiliated companies, reported last month that those firms have put more than $500 million into state elections since 1990.
Some of the ALEC model bills that have been introduced in Minnesota include:
- Voter Suppression Bill (HF 89, SF 479) – the bill is designed to suppress voter turnout among constituencies that tend to vote for democrats (college students, African Americans and seniors). Compare the sample ALEC legislation: http://alecexposed.org/w/images/d/d9/7G16-VOTER_ID_ACT_Exposed.pdf
- Taxation of Moist Snuff Tobacco (HF 1079) – the bill is being pushed by Altria/Phillip Morris USA because it creates a tax break for moist tobacco that makes it cheaper and easier for young people to buy. Compare the sample ALEC legislation: http://alecexposed.org/w/images/6/60/1D0-Resolution_on_Taxation_of_Moist_Smokeless_Tobacco_Exposed.pdf
- Cheeseburger Bill (HF 264, SF 160) – the bill is being pushed by multi-national food manufacturers like Coca Cola because it establishes a broad immunity for future lawsuits from people that may consume their products.
- End Greenhouse Gas Emission Goals (HF 509) – the bill is being pushed by energy interests like Koch Industries and ExxonMobil that oppose an effort to restrict the emission of greenhouse gases. At their annual meeting this year they are holding a session entitled “Warming Up to Climate Change: The Many Benefits of Increased Atmospheric CO2”. Compare the sample ALEC legislation: http://www.alecexposed.org/w/images/5/50/3B0-ALEC_Resolution_in_Opposition_to_EPA_Regulation_of_Greenhouse_Gases_from_Mobile_Sources_Exposed.pdf
Here are the Minnesota legislators that are members of ALEC task forces:
|Name||Office||ALEC Task Force|
|Carol McFarlane||Minnesota Representative||Education|
|Chris Gerlach||Minnesota Senator||Commerce, Insurance, and Economic Development Task Force|
|Michael L. Beard||Minnesota Representative||Commerce, Insurance, and Economic Development Task Force|
|Gen Olson||Minnesota Senator||Education|
|Pat Garofalo||Minnesota Representative||Education|
|Sondra L. Erickson||Minnesota Representative||Education|
|Gretchen Hoffman||Minnesota Senator||HHS|
|Paul Anderson||Minnesota Representative||HHS|
|Mary Kiffmeyer||Minnesota Representative||International Relations Task Force|
|Matt Dean||Minnesota Representative||International Relations Task Force|
|Roger C. Chamberlain||Minnesota Senator||Public Safety and Elections Task Force|
|Ron Shimanski||Minnesota Representative||Public Safety and Elections Task Force|
|Ted Daley||Minnesota Senator||Public Safety and Elections Task Force|
|Linda Runbeck||Minnesota Representative||Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force|
|Pam Myhra||Minnesota Representative||Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force|
|Bruce D. Anderson||Minnesota Representative||Telecommunications and IT Task Force|
|Connie Doepke||Minnesota Representative||Telecommunications and IT Task Force|
|Mike Parry||Minnesota Senator||Telecommunications and IT Task Force|
|Steve Drazkowski||Minnesota Representative||Civil Justice|