Dan Quigley: Filling in the blanks on ALEC | VTDigger
 

Dan Quigley: Filling in the blanks on ALEC

Editor’s note: This commentary is by Dan Quigley, a Winooski resident who is interested in local politics and transparency. He was an intern for Sen. Bernie Sanders and worked on Elizabeth Warren’s Senate campaign. 

Vermont state Rep. Bob Helm recently wrote an opinion piece (“Good policy comes from sharing ideas”) that appeared on VTDigger.org, as well as in the Times Argus and the Newport Daily Express, encouraging participation in and support of the American Legislative Exchange Council. The article neglected to mention some fundamentals about ALEC that should be expressed.

Helm’s characterization of the organization seems hopeful, neutral to positive, and innocent. These characterizations are seriously lacking. ALEC is not simply a community forum about limited government, but rather a distinctly far-right organization focused on deregulation and deinstitutionalization. The trick with ALEC is not that it is supportive of “independent thinking,” as Helm posits, but rather that it gives the illusion of democratic problem-solving. ALEC is almost entirely funded by private corporations and billionaires. The big-money oligarchs who our independent Sen. Bernie Sanders has been warning us about? This is one of their most insidious fronts.

The American Association for Justice characterizes ALEC as “ghostwriting the law for corporate America,” because it develops legislation funded and designed by those corporations. Specifically, it deploys lobbyists to register as members so that they may write “model” legislation as equals alongside our representatives. These model bills are subsequently introduced in legislatures across the country by participating senators, congressmen and policy staff. ALEC’s model legislation becomes a template for conservative politicians to pass at the state or local levels. Mere days ago, Oklahoma passed a bill based on an ALEC model that fines people for using solar power.

The model bills available are great in number and in scope (and are listed on their website). Topics include opposition to the Consumer Protection Agency, privatization of public schools and Medicare, prohibition of school science curricula covering climate change, and expansion of fracking. The now infamous “Stand Your Ground” law that allows murderers to evade prosecution, such as with the highly public case in Florida, is an ALEC model bill. Arizona’s racial profiling bill, SB1070, also comes from ALEC. One such model bill would block Vermont’s present efforts to mandate GMO labeling.

ALEC is increasing its influence at the state and local levels. We are not protected here in Vermont from its sinister encroachment.

 

The Guardian recently reported that, in addition to maintaining its powerful presence in national government (with alumni such as Speaker John Boehner and Eric Cantor, among others), ALEC is increasing its influence at the state and local levels. We are not protected here in Vermont from its sinister encroachment.

The Caledonian Record recently cited ALEC while lamenting Vermont’s “worst economic outlooks.” ALEC has at least three current members in the Vermont Legislature, although they do not publish a comprehensive membership list. ALEC’s promotion by Rep. Helm should be a red flag to those who wish to maintain local control as much as possible in post-Citizens United America.

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Michelle Dail
2 years 4 months ago
Thank you for this commentary. For a state that prides itself in independence and local control, people need to be aware of the ALEC politicians right here. ALEC is nothing more than a bill mill kicking out template legislation to benefit corporations and destroy what is left of the middle class. It is a dating service between corporations and politicians. Rep. Peg Flory and Rep Kevin Mullin are among the ALEC ranks here in Vermont and they should be challenged by Vermonters for being part if it. Interestingly enough ALEC proposed an oath that they wanted politicians to take. That… Read more »
2 years 4 months ago
So, This looks more like an across the board bashing of Conservatives in general. I think the Dems and Progs here in Vermont have shown us nothing. Deregulation is not always bad, deinstitutionalization would be great, nullifying Common Core Curriculum would be wonderful. So, all Corporations are bad? Maybe, but if they are fighting for smaller GOVERNMENT, here in Vermont, I would only have to say, “GREAT”! We are slowly sinking here in Vermont and one reason is the cost of our bloated Government. We can no longer support them thru or GDP. Soooo, raise taxes, fees, licenses, fines and… Read more »
Paul Richards
2 years 4 months ago

Ahhmen!

Steven Farnham
2 years 4 months ago

I don’t care whether government is big or small. It needs to be effective in serving its citizens – not the wealthy elite.

My sentiment about corporations is exactly the same. They need to exist for the greater good, not merely to serve the excesses of the corporate elite.

There is a mountain of evidence that the corporate health insurance model is choked with bureaucratic inefficiency, is grossly overpriced and unaffordable, and has egregiously failed at serving the public good.

Based on this assessment, the score is:

Dan Quigley – 1

Ray Giroux – 0

Dan Quigley
2 years 4 months ago
Ray – You bring up some valid points. Our government is a lethargic and inefficient machine in far too many cases. It is truly frustrating how we pay a huge chunk of income in taxes but don’t get a reasonable return from government services. I am not blind to the issues of Vermont government, and to be honest, there are some ALEC bills that make practical changes – but only because on a select few issues, corporations and the average citizen can gain from the same reforms. I think what Steven has noted is a very relevant acknowledgement, and if,… Read more »
Paul Richards
2 years 4 months ago

“…and if, for instance, our systems of taxation and regulation were made to be high functioning, rather than simply removed, we would still pay taxes but have the payoff (read: healthcare, education, etc. in some European countries).”
Sounds great Dan but it’s a pipe dream.

sandra bettis
2 years 4 months ago

and campaign for vt is alec – make no mistake on that.

2 years 4 months ago
Dan: You’re apparently an expert in ferreting out far right organizations and their tricks based on your vast experience developed as an intern. You cite funding by billionaires and big money oligarchs and lobbying by these same people or the organizations they fund as evidence of problems. Now, Dan based on your experience as a intern, can you tell us what kind of organizations are funded by billionaires and oligarchs such as George Soros and John Steyers. Also, do these folks lobby or contribute to other’s lobbying efforts? One more question, did you intern for the same Bernie Sanders who… Read more »
Dan Quigley
2 years 4 months ago

Hello Peter. This is my best response to your comments:

1) I do not consider being a political intern to be a degree in political science. I wished only to disclose so as to avoid seeming like this was coming as a dishonest sponsorship from a political office. It was, in fact, for the purposes of transparency only.

2) I personally don’t love the impact of wind turbines on the Green Mountains, and don’t see them as the most efficient investment relative to other renewable energies. I cannot speak for Bernie.

2 years 4 months ago

Dan:

What’s important is your interest in transparency and your willingness to speak out about it. We all certainly know that transparency problems stretch from Montpelier to Boston to Washington and beyond and occupy both the right and left lanes.

As far as your level of expertise, there’s no doubt in my mind that you’re well ahead of where I was at your age…..so don’t let old goats like me get your goat.

Ron Pulcer
2 years 4 months ago
Here is a possible connection between ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) and Campaign For Vermont (CFV): http://www.alec.org/about-alec/state-chairmen/ http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php/ALEC_State_Chairmen I’m curious how Source Watch was able to find this “extra” piece of information, since the ALEC.org website does not mention the corporate members / chairs of ALEC. Either Source Watch is wrong, OR ALEC is hiding this info. ALEC seems to be hiding the names of the “rank and file” ALEC State Legislative members. I’ve tried doing Google site searches (site:alec.org) and the legislative membership list is locked down. Even with a site search with a known name (Helm), you can’t… Read more »
2 years 4 months ago

Its back to the 1950s with Ron Pulcer and the building of “Black Lists”.

Who else in Montpelier could be lobbying or listening to lobbyists? Republicans, Democrats, Progressives, whoever, but especially Republicans…… we need names.

Yes people of Vermont, Ron wants names.

Joseph McCarthy would be proud that his legacy lives on.

Walter Carpenter
2 years 4 months ago

“Joseph McCarthy would be proud that his legacy lives on.”

Peter, in light of the info on ALEC which Ron and others have provided here, do you support ALEC and the black lists of laws they target to disrupt the democratic laws in states by their “model legislation?”

2 years 4 months ago
Walter & Ron: The model law problem that you’ve expressed grave concern with is actually more wide spread than you may have expected. Are you aware that the State of Vermont is connected to and influenced by another out of state organization that has been quietly drafting model laws for many years for enactment in Vermont and all other states? And Walter, I suspect much to your great horror, this organization is heavily influenced by INSURANCE COMPANIES and their lobbyists. Oh it gets worse, this is an inside job. Vermont’s Insurance Commissioners have been working, you might call it conspiring,… Read more »
Walter Carpenter
2 years 4 months ago

“And Walter, I suspect much to your great horror, this organization is heavily influenced by INSURANCE COMPANIES and their lobbyists.”

:). Once again, Peter, the original question stands. do you support ALEC, and what it does? Thanks for the info of the national association of insurance commissioners. I have heard of them before.

Lee Russ
2 years 4 months ago

Peter,

Is the NAIC open only to state insurance commissioners who hold a particular set of political and economic beliefs, excluding others, or does it include every state’s insurance regulator?

Do the members of the NAIC work in secrecy? Or are the drafts of the model insurance laws freely available as they inch their way toward being adopted by the NAIC?

And when a model law is adopted by the NAIC, are the state legislatures aware of where the law came from when they decide whether their state should adopt it?

Think about it.

Tom Pelham
2 years 4 months ago
Hi Ron…your comments are usually thoughtful and well documented. But here, you undermine your otherwise credible presentations. I am a co-founder of CfV but have negligible awareness of ALEC but a certain they have nothing to do with CfV. I am certain that’s true for other CfV founders. Yet, you whisper “a possible connection” between ALEC and CfV via “Shawn Shouldice, Capital Connections LLC”. First, “Shawn Shouldice, Capital Connections LLC” is a paid lobbyist with many other clients beyond CfV. Whether or not ALEC is her client is not a concern of CfV and her business choices are not in… Read more »
Ron Pulcer
2 years 4 months ago
Tom, I tried to carefully use the word “possible”, since I was not sure if it was true or not, I was only reporting what I found via Google searches. I was just putting it out there for discussion, which you have joined. The “revolving door” problem has been reported often regarding Washington DC, Congress, lobbyists, Wall Street and federal regulators. There have been reports of lobbyists and corporate representatives in some Congressional offices helping to write the legislative text. I don’t think this happens in Vermont, because they don’t have offices in Montpelier. But ALEC is a more stealth… Read more »
Tom Pelham
2 years 4 months ago

Ron….I’m sensing an unhealthy obsession in your pursuit. Even if there are four or five legislators who align themselves with ALEC, they are not of any consequence at the Statehouse. Bob Helm’s agenda leaves not even a ripple at the state house and tracking down his associations and efforts is wasted time and effort. You might better follow your own advice and “move on”.

If you want to chase after the real influence peddlers at the state house, here’s a better menu.

http://www.sevendaysvt.com/vermont/the-vermont-statehouse-is-crawling-with-lobbyists-what-does-that-mean-for-our-democracy/Content?oid=2360017

Ron Pulcer
2 years 4 months ago
Tom, thanks for the Seven Days VT article. It is a good overview of lobbyists from all sides of political spectrum, businesses, non-profit and citizen groups. But the fact that lobbyists come into the Statehouse, in public, is what “lobbying” is (being in the “lobby”, hallway or cafeteria, mostly in the open, at least in Vermont). I don’t have an issue with that, it is the “tradition” here in Vermont as far as I know. BTW, I found a handful of companies mentioned in 7dVT article also on a list of ALEC corporate members. So these companies are using the… Read more »
Ron Pulcer
2 years 4 months ago
Tom, One more followup: The reason I started to look into current ALEC membership within Vermont Legislature is because Rep. Helm started this conversation with his recent op-ed, which was also published in other Vermont newspapers, besides VTDigger,org: http://vtdigger.wpengine.com/2014/04/15/bob-helm-good-public-policy-comes-sharing-ideas/ Second, I started to look into if there was a Campaign For Vermont connection only because of the above comment by Sandra Bettis. I don’t know Ms. Bettis and I never met her. I only know her name through VTDigger comment forum. As you can see, she made a comment re: ALEC and CfV, but did not provide any web link… Read more »
Walter Carpenter
2 years 4 months ago

“Transparency” in government.”

Transparency with CFV as well.

2 years 4 months ago

Ron:

I also live in Rutland Town and have never a heard a word about ALEC, never mind it being the “hot spot” of ALEC activity that you cite.

Specifically, what is it that you are referring to that causes your concern?

Can you cite some concrete examples of odious ALEC activities in the Rutland area or more precisely Rutland Town that have affected the people or area?

Ron Pulcer
2 years 4 months ago
Peter, This is not a “new” story, as VTDigger covered it in 2011: http://vtdigger.wpengine.com/2011/08/18/propublicas-step-by-step-guide-to-understanding-alecs-influence-on-your-state-laws/ Also, if you have the time, watch the documentary titled, “United States of ALEC”, to learn how ALEC operates: http://billmoyers.com/episode/full-show-united-states-of-alec-a-follow-up/ Rutland Town has also had a 2nd ALEC member in the recent past: http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php/Vermont_ALEC_Politicians See document page 10 = PDF page 18 (from 2010 ALEC meeting) http://www.commoncause.org/atf/cf/%7BFB3C17E2-CDD1-4DF6-92BE-BD4429893665%7D/energy,environment&agriculture_35-day_mailing%20San%20Diego.pdf http://216.92.66.74/index.php/Energy,_Environment_and_Agriculture_Task_Force The problem is not necessarily that they are ALEC members, but that they don’t disclose this during re-election season. Likewise, which of their donors are also ALEC members? These candidates don’t / didn’t even have websites so voters… Read more »
Ron Pulcer
2 years 4 months ago
Peter, “Joseph McCarthy”, LOL, that’s a good one! And I suppose you are watchdog, “Edward R. Murrow”? Edward R. Murrow – (March 9, 1954) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=anNEJJYLU8M Senator McCarthy was a member of Congress. I am merely a citizen asking questions. I was careful to mention “possible” connection, and that Source Watch might be wrong (or ALEC is hiding info). That’s why citizens should ask questions… Rep. Helm was the one who first brought up ALEC in VTDigger, Rutland Herald and apparently other VT newspapers. Congratulations to Rep. Helm for being the FIRST member of ALEC in Vermont to publicly proclaim he… Read more »
2 years 4 months ago
Ron: As expected and now confirmed by your own words, you’re unable to cite any concrete instances of problems in the Rutland area arising from ALEC. On the other hand, if you are really concerned with losing “local control” to outside organizations coming into the Rutland area, direct your angst to solar developer Gro-Solar, which you know wants to build a 9000 panel industrial solar farm in Rutland Town. This project is opposed by abutting neighbors and several hundred other Rutlanders. Playing into your concern with outsiders and secrecy, Gro-Solar petitioned the Public Service Board (PSB) to keep its records… Read more »
Ron Pulcer
2 years 4 months ago
Hearing that, as you stated, that the Public Service Board rejected Gro-Solar request regarding secrecy of its records on Cold River Rd. project, it sounds like a good thing to me. As per this solar project, had our Select Board and Planning Board not designated that section of town as “commercial”, they probably would not be in this situation. Other than the commercial or residential designations, our town has no zoning laws, so the recently proposed Solar Siting guideline document was somewhat of a “reaction” to one project, rather than part of an overall development guideline document or zoning plan.… Read more »
2 years 4 months ago
Ron: As a result of your ALEC concerns, today I asked one of our Selectman, a moderate who has a sound reading on the pulse of town politics, if there are any issues with ALEC in town. This Selectman didn’t even know what ALEC is. So it’s probably safe to say that concern with this organization in Rutland Town is zero or very close to it. I have never heard of any issues or concerns with ALEC. If any of consequence existed, they would spread around town like wild fire and result in front page coverage in the Rutland Herald,… Read more »
Paul Lorenzini
2 years 4 months ago

Hey Quigley, what institution are you from?

2 years 4 months ago
See Blake Levitt’s comments on ALEC: ” The FCC has already approved AT&T’s request to drop landline service, but that might be dialed back with enough bipartisan effort and I think it is possible with this. It’s just moving way too fast and people don’t like it for all the right reasons noted in the Washington Post. Verizon functions over AT&T’s network. If AT&T doesn’t maintain the wires — and they haven’t been for years — Verizon has nowhere to go BUT wireless. Landline network abandonment is now going state-to-state for approvals since states also regulate landline systems. State legislation… Read more »
Ron Pulcer
2 years 4 months ago
John Fairbanks
2 years 4 months ago
For all you small government fans, I propose a deal: Get business, particularly big business, like the Kochs, to agree 1. They will respect workers, pay a wage that provides for a decent standard of living, and provide health insurance and a secure retirement that cannot be taken away; 2. They will treat consumers likewise, offering quality products and services and not things that will cause harm, at affordable prices, nor engage in deceptive business practices; 3. They will maintain a safe workplace where individuals are paid equally for the same work and are protected from harrassment; 4. They will… Read more »
Paul Richards
2 years 4 months ago

Sounds like you have been listening to harry reid for too long. While you’re at it why don’t you tell george soros to stop manipulating our government and stop funding efforts to continue to allow dead people to vote?

Walter Carpenter
2 years 4 months ago

“Sounds like you have been listening to harry reid for too long. While you’re at it why don’t you tell george soros to stop manipulating our government and stop funding efforts to continue to allow dead people to vote”

If this is true which I doubt, I would be glad to tell George Soros to do this, but only if you tell the Koch brothers, Karl rove, the Supreme Court,, ALEC, etc. to stop funding efforts to manipulate our government in the favor their big corporate, anti-union agenda. Would you do that?

Paul Lorenzini
2 years 4 months ago
Dear John, I would have to agree with your angst and hatred of big corporate business, they make me sick also. I will take issue with each of your points in order. “1.They will respect workers, pay a wage that provides for a decent standard of living, and provide health insurance and a secure retirement that cannot be taken away;” does our government do these things? look at the soldiers, with a suicide rate far above the norm, and tell me government respects workers. Arizona just plain ignored them, and that is not an isolated case, I believe. A retirement… Read more »
Paul Lorenzini
2 years 4 months ago

Mr. Fairbanks, what do you think of people that chant “death to America”? Are you there John? Where are you? What did you say? I can’t quite hear you.

John Fairbanks
2 years 4 months ago

Let me speak louder, then (and consider an audiology exam):

People (like me) who critique, in this case, corporate-funded organizations’ agendas are not un-American. This is the default “argument” for some on the Right. People who chant “death to America” are probably just as stupid and potentially violent as people who threaten the life of our democratically-elected President because he’s African-American. Violent extremism is reprehensible, on all sides.

John Fairbanks
2 years 4 months ago
In reverse order: Stand your ground has given a handful of angry guys with guns the go-ahead to murder a handful of people (mostly young black men) who don’t have them. It is not about self-defense (this from a man who (a) is a former gun owner, and (b) has been threatened with guns on three occasions, twice by white rednecks and once by three black muggers); it’s about giving people with chips on their shoulders permission to open fire. I cast my first vote in 1972. I have voted in four different states. I always had to give my… Read more »
Paul Lorenzini
2 years 4 months ago

I will issue a proper response tomorrow, thank you for your thoughts.

In the day of the written letter, men had time to compose their thoughts and emotions into a reasoned and well written verse that made a difference.

It was a better time,
then,
but now,
is where we are,
so please forgive me,
for needing a car!

Fairbanks, from the museum?

Paul Lorenzini
2 years 4 months ago

That was the best I have Mr. Fairbanks, sorry but my energy is being consumed by my attempt to sustain myself, and my family, this is a welcome distraction sometimes, and amusing as it is infuriating. Thanks.

2 years 4 months ago

Great article, hilarious and educational commentary, this was a big win for VT Digger right here.

2 years 4 months ago
Russ Lee: In response to your questions: Russ Lee Question: Is the NAIC open only to state insurance commissioners who hold a particular set of political and economic beliefs, excluding others, or does it include every state’s insurance regulator? Response: The NAIC membership is open to the Insurance Commissioners from all 50 states plus a few U.S. territories regardless of political affiliation or beliefs. Like the NAIC, ALEC is non-partisan with membership open to all political affiliations. The organization claims 2,000 members comprised of both Democrats and Republicans. From comments presented above, we see that Vermont legislators from both the… Read more »
Paul Lorenzini
2 years 4 months ago

John Fairbanks is absent, all I hear is crickets.

Lee Russ
2 years 4 months ago

Peter, if you genuinely believe that ALEC is nonpartisan, that they are open to al members, and that they are little different than the NAIC, there’s nothing left to say. Absolutely nothing in the history of ALEC supports that.

You honestly think that they would welcome Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren, which would compromise their secrecy? Really?

You can despise attempts to silence disagreement without supporting ALEC.

2 years 4 months ago
Lee: To start, I don’t support or reject ALEC and have nothing to do with the organization or what they may or may not be up to. But beyond me, what is your obsession with ALEC “secrecy”? The members of ALEC can meet in the most distance and darkest caves to dream up the most outrageous ideas or model laws. Yet these model laws and the thinking behind them go no where unless accepted by an elected legislative body in an open and public forum. It is at this place and point where a judgement about appropriateness is to be… Read more »
Lee Russ
2 years 4 months ago
We’re talking past each other to some degree. I’m not obsessed with ALEC’s secrecy, I’m obsessed with ALEC pretending to be something it isn’t. What I “propose” is something I would have thought that you would support: getting the facts about ALEC–what it is, what ideology they represent, etc.–out in the open so that can no longer claim to be the innocent protector of the public interest. Until fairly recently, ALEC’s model laws were presented to state legislatures as the work of nonpartisan experts. Many members of the state legislatures bought this story and did vote for laws they probably… Read more »
2 years 4 months ago
Lee: I doubt that ALEC has any monopoly when it comes to secret meetings with legislators, the Governor or everyone else up and down the political food chain. These meetings are a reality of representative government. If we have a group of sheep in Montpelier who can easily be misled by lobbyists, it’s not the lobbyists fault. If there are sheep representing us it will show up in policies that are put into place. The voters can then act accordingly. Beyond ALEC but still in the realm of lobbyist, I’m more concerned with a Governor and legislature, who promote slipshod… Read more »
Lee Russ
2 years 4 months ago
As I said, if it doesn’t bother you, it doesn’t bother you. But it most certainly is not part of representative government, or at least not of representative government that represents the people. If you’re worried about polluted air in any sense, ALEC is not your friend. If you’re worried about corporate power and control, ALEC is or should be your enemy. If you’re worried about deception and manipulation of government, ALEC is or should be your enemy. The fact that there are plenty of other problems with government doesn’t change that. I suspect you don’t know enough about ALEC… Read more »
2 years 4 months ago
“ALEC’s membership is kept secret. Its meetings are held in secret. Its deliberations and procedures are secret. The origin and content of its planned bills are held secret. The end impact however is no secret: ALEC promotes an extremist brand of “conservatism” (probably a misnomer) aimed at undermining the general welfare and constitutional social democracy.” It’s hard to not be suspicious of “secret” organizations, from the Freemasons to Skull & Bones, to the Bilderbergers. This one is no exception, especially regarding “origin and content”. However, my caution lights begin to flash when seeing the U.N. writer’s choice of fear mongering… Read more »
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