An Open Letter to Oregon Legislators

photo by Alex

by Stephanie Hampton

Dear Oregon legislator,

As you may know, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has received a great deal of negative press in the mainstream as well as alternative media to the point where ALEC membership has become a distinct public relations and election year liability.  Corporations and nonprofits as well as state legislators across the nation are renouncing ALEC membership. Accordingly, you ought to educate yourself on the reasons why the Oregon electorate is opposed to ALEC operating in our state.

As an Oregon legislator, you could better serve your constituency by seeking your information and bill writing assistance from a truly bipartisan educational organization such as the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) rather than ALEC which–unlike NCSL–espouses a political mission, is partisan in membership, and is almost totally funded by agenda-driven corporations which are afforded secret votes on model legislation where the corporate votes outweigh the legislator’s votes. Allegations of lobbying in violation of ALEC’s nonprofit status is allowing corporations to make inappropriate tax-deductible contributions to ALEC which is why Common Cause has filed a complaint against ALEC with the IRS. The People would rather have these corporations pay their fair share of taxes than pay our state legislators for political favors.

At this point in the election cycle, the money is problematic since many legislators have already received these tax-deductible donations. Is pay-to-play a hard and fast rule? Money buys votes in the United States; however, the question is whether corporate money will buy votes in Oregon or will that money be a political liability? Representative Schaufler, who faces an uphill battle for re-election, has just returned donations he received from Koch Industries, so it appears that he believes that the corporate money is toxic to his chances of re-election.

Representative Whisnant (ALEC’s state chair) is quite frank about his ALEC association and has been quoted as saying that ALEC has not been as successful in Oregon as it has been in other states and–if you count passage of ALEC model legislation–he is correct. Further, if you count the number of ALEC members, ALEC would appear unsuccessful. However, Oregon is third on the list of the most ALEC corporation donations, so it would appear that ALEC wants Oregon quite badly and is willing to pay big bucks to get it. However, Oregon is playing hard to get because Oregon–where “things look different”–is truly different from those more conservative states such as Wisconsin and Arizona.

I see ALEC’s success and influence in Oregon reflected in the contest of the recent battle royal over SB 1552, the last surviving bill of the six foreclosure bills submitted. For five long years, the big banking lobby (acting through the ALEC bloc) had prevented any foreclosure relief bills from passing the House. Senate Bill 1552 was passed–without any Big Bank amendments such as the retroactive legitimization of MERS pressed by Representative Whisnant by dint of the tremendous effort by Oregonians in over 30 civic groups, an overflowing public hearing (which was forced by citizens upon those who would have allowed this last bill to die on the co-speaker’s desks), and three scathing editorials by The Oregonian.

In my six decades as an Oregonian, I have loved and voted for Oregon Republicans, chief among them–Tom McCall and Mark O. Hatfield. I call them Oregon Republicans because they loved Oregon, understood what was fair and just, and had always served Oregonians faithfully and well. As an example of the qualities of these Oregon Statesmen, I wish to relate a story that I heard Senator Hatfield tell.

As a young fraternity brother in the turbulent sixties, Hatfield was charged with driving the Black artist Paul Robeson from a dinner in Salem to a hotel for the night. Hatfield discovered that Black Americans were prohibited from staying in hotels in Salem. Senator Hatfield said that they were forced to drive to Portland before they could find a hotel which was willing to rent a room to a Black man. Hatfield said he thought to himself at the time: “This is happening in MY OREGON!” And he worked to change that. (He introduced and passed legislation in 1953 making discrimination in public accommodations based on race illegal long before any federal laws or court decisions mandated it.)

I am not alone among Oregonians who feel exactly as Senator Hatfield felt. Oregonians see that our Oregon is awash in ALEC corporate money and influence, and we speak: “This is happening in MY OREGON!” And we are working to change that.

Make no mistake. This effort to foreclose on ALEC in Oregon is not limited to one group but many groups who are networking in order to work for a better Oregon. We ask nothing less of you than that you express your love of Oregon and trust in Oregonians by renouncing your association with the American Legislative Exchange Council.
To listen to the voices of Oregonians concerning ALEC, you might want to view the following petitions:

Oregon State Legislators: Serve Oregonians not ALEC Corporations!

“The undersigned Oregonians demand that those Oregon legislators who are currently associates of ALEC resign from this organization. Resignation from ALEC will entail notice of resignation to ALEC, refusal of any ALEC scholarship funds or gifts, no attendance at ALEC conferences or meetings, and refusal to cosponsor ALEC model bills. Make Oregon proud and join the twenty-eight state legislators nationwide who have renounced their association with ALEC. ..”

ALEC Accountability and Disclosure

“We demand public disclosure on the workings of American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) in the state of Oregon and that ALEC operate within the rules established for lobbying organizations…”
Paul S. Cosgrove: Resign from your post as ALEC state chairman

“ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, has been pushing anti-democratic bills in state legislature across the US for 30 years. They were responsible for writing the ‘Stand Your Ground’ bill that allows Trayvon Martin’s killer to walk free, voter suppression laws, anti-immigrant laws in Arizona, anti-union bills in Wisconsin and many more. As Oregonians, we do not want anti-democratic organizations such as ALEC operating in our state!”


Stephanie Hampton

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