Who Write Laws

2011

It may seem like there is a simple answer to who writes laws; our elected legislators. Ah, if only it was so. Well, they do sometimes craft a bill or two. And they do put their names on a lot of them as well. But the truth is a bit more disturbing...

Mark Pocan, a member of the Wisconsin State Assembly, recently participated in some investigative work which led to an article on this topic. He went to New Orleans for a kind of legislative convention and this is what he discovered, as reported in The Progressive;

As I was waiting for my bags at the airport, I heard a mid-thirties woman talking on the phone. “Yeah, I’m down in New Orleans for the American Legislative Exchange Council meeting. We write legislation, and they pass our ideas. It’s the free market.”

I could have taken the next flight home, as that pretty much summed up what I would experience over the next three days at the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) annual convention.

On ALEC’s website, the organization states its mission is “to advance the Jeffersonian principles of free markets, limited government, federalism, and individual liberty, through a nonpartisan public-private partnership.”

In reality, ALEC is a corporate-funded and -dominated group that operates much like a dating service, only between legislators and special interests. It matches them up, builds relationships, culminates with the birth of special interest legislation, and ends happily ever after. That’s happy for the special corporate interests, that is. Call it corporatematch.com.

I had to laugh when I saw the line, "to advance the Jeffersonian principles of free markets." I don't believe for a second that there is any interest in free markets among the major corporations. They craft legislation because they want special advantages, not free markets. I happen to like the idea of free markets (they go along with freedom), but unfortunately those who pretend to favor them do not report on stories like this in their conservative magazines. Perhaps it is time to start a movement called "the people's capitalism." I could do without the extreme leftists and without the corporate toadies on the right.

But to return to the convention. Pocan says,

At a workshop I attended, one Texas legislator, who moderated the forum, went as far as to say that we are a big football team. The legislators are the football players and the corporate lobbyists and special interest group presenters are “our” coaches.

Well you know who makes the important decisions on a football team, and it is isn't the guys in the helmets.

Attending the event were legislators from both parties (more Republicans than Democrats Pocan says). Also attending were representatives from British Petroleum, Walmart, the Walton Family Foundation, Chevron, ExxonMobil, PhRMA, Bayer, VISA, Shell, Koch Industries, Inc., and State Farm Insurance. The "presenters" from these companies provided "model legislation" in workshops, which was then fine-tuned. Pocan explained:

In order for model legislation to move forward, each task force must garner a majority of votes from each half. For example, if the legislator half likes an idea, but the corporate half doesn’t, the bill does not move forward. I saw that happen.

In other words, it is all about crafting the laws that the companies want. Security is tight for theses events, and no cameras are allowed. The list of members of ALEC is never published; not on the legislative side or the corporate side. Pocan could not get into the more secretive "invite only" meetings, and was kicked out of one which he did receive an invitation to. Clearly the members do not want their roles known, nor do they want the public to know who writes laws and how the process really works.

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