Shut Down The Corporations, February 29th

by Shawn Fleek and Adam Rothstein

Feb 29th: Shut Down ALEC from Kontra on Vimeo.

On February 29th, Shut Down The Corporations plans a nationwide day of action to draw attention to the American Legislative Exchange Council, (ALEC) a group which uses the money of large corporations to pass favorable legislation in all 50 states. This action has been approved by the Occupy Portland General Assembly, and Occupy groups in over seventy other cities.

The group’s website published the call to action:

We specifically call on people to target corporations that are members of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). The biggest corporations in America, like ExxonMobil, Bank of America, BP, Monsanto, Pfizer, and Wal-Mart use ALEC to buy off legislators and craft legislation that serves only the interests of corporations and not people. They then duplicate and spread this corporate legislation in Washington, D.C. and in state legislatures across the country. The anti-labor legislation in Wisconsin and the racist bill SB 1070 in Arizona are two recent and destructive examples of what corporations use ALEC to do.

As revealed in reports in The Nation magazine, ALEC is behind several nefarious pieces of legislation in recent years.

  • ALEC has sought to disenfranchise as many poor, elderly, and student voters as possible, working to enact “Voter ID laws” in thirty-three states in 2011.
  • In 2011, “GOP governors or legislatures introduced at least 500 antilabor laws, including laws to restrict the scope of collective bargaining; to limit or eliminate “project labor agreements” and state “prevailing wage” requirements; and to pre-empt local living wage or other labor standards.”
  • ALEC has contributed to the United States’ having more percentage of its population in prison than any other nation, at any other time in history. By implementing harsher prison sentences, three-strikes laws, and anti-immigration laws including Arizona’s controversial SB 1070, ALEC legislation supports the private prison industry by filling the prisons to the brim, while forwarding the States’ budgets directly to jails and those who profit from them.
  • ALEC has reduced competition with legal workers by increasing the use of near-slave wage labor, using the ballooning prison population as a nearly free source of labor for corporations, sometimes paying the prison workers as little as 20 cents an hour, and deleting these jobs from the free market.
  • ALEC actively denies climate change. They have said in published reports that “there is no ‘scientific consensus’ that global warming will cause damaging climate change,” and furthermore, “even substantial global warming is likely to be of benefit to the United States.” At one meeting, they even hosted a panel about “the benefits of carbon dioxide.”
  • There is no clearer example of the disastrous impact of corporate spending on our system of government than this blatant, wholesale purchasing of legislation. People have a chance to speak out against ALEC on February 29th by initiating their own demonstration against any of the corporations which fund ALEC. A list of known donors and members below may help readers determine which of the companies to target with non-violent direct action on February 29th.

    photo by Jonathan Maus

    The corporate board of ALEC is comprised of companies who hold veto power over the language of the model legislation, and are presumably ALEC’s most-invested contributors.

    CenterPoint 360, W. Preston Baldwin
    Altria Group, Daniel Smith
    American Bail Coalition, William Carmichael, Jerry Watson
    AT&T, William Leahy
    Bayer Corp., Sandy Oliver
    Coca-Cola Company, Gene Rackley
    Diageo, Kenneth Lane
    Energy Future Holdings, Sano Blocker
    ExxonMobil Corporation, Randall Smith
    GlaxoSmithKline, John Del Giorno
    Intuit, Inc., Bernie McKay
    Johnson & Johnson, Don Bohn
    Koch Companies Public Sector, Mike Morgan
    Kraft Food, Inc., Derek Crawford
    Peabody Energy, Kelly Mader
    Pfizer Inc., Michael Hubert
    PhRMA, Jeff Bond
    Reed Elsevier, Inc., Teresa Jennings
    Reynolds American, David Powers
    Salt River Project, Russell Smoldon
    State Farm Insurance Co., Roland Spies
    United Parcel Service (UPS), Richard McArdle
    Wal-Mart Stores, Maggie Sans

    A full list of member and donor corporations is available from SourceWatch. Scanning the list of corporate board members, you see represented big tobacco and liquor, big pharmaceuticals and insurance, big energy, and agribusiness giants. It is no wonder that legislative efforts to make drugs more expensive, or energy cleaner, or food and beverages safer, or prison a less-likely consequence are always met with such fierce opposition from business-friendly politicians. Indeed, legislation making energy dirtier, food and beverages less safe, and prison a more-likely consequence (of drug use, or simply being the wrong skin color) is a direct effect of ALEC’s corporate board members’ lobbying efforts.

    As if any one of these companies were not large and powerful enough, their combined efforts ensure that favorable legislation passes in US statehouses. Politicians receive complete legislation from ALEC, after ALEC directly and indirectly (through members and donors) helps to elect these politicians. Exposing the dangerous relationship between corporate campaign donors and the politicians (and legislation) they fund is the goal of the February 29th actions, and this reality should remain at the forefront of the minds of all citizens when they do business. Support for these huge companies is tantamount to support for the business-controlled agenda of ALEC and the exclusive interests of the large corporations behind it. By refusing to conduct business-as-usual with these companies, the ordinary consumer can have a powerful effect not just on the bottom lines of the corporations involved, but in the statehouses where these corporations spend consumer dollars on lobbying efforts.

    More information about the February 29th Day of Action is available at: