Saturday, May 30, 2015

Meet Your Real Legislator-ALEC

 Meet Your Real Legislator-ALEC

Forget everything you ever learned about how laws are made in Georgia.  Don’t think for one moment that we have transparency in our State Government.  I hate to be the one to tell you, but you have little say in the laws passed by the State Legislature, even less than you thought.

We all know “back room” politics is as old as our country.  We, the people, say we don’t like this method of running our government, and from time to time new laws have been passed to make our government operations more transparent.  We have sunshine laws that require openness in government.  These laws make meetings, records, and votes, deliberations and other official actions available to the people.  We also have the Georgia Open Records Act that espouses the strong public policy of open government.  We have the Georgia Ethics Commission that polices lobbyists and their expenditures to lawmakers.   (Excuse me while I choke back a laugh at that one).  And for added protection from these backroom deals, we have GA Code O.C.G.A. 45-10-3, Public Officers and Employees, Codes of Ethics and Conflicts of Interest.

Where there’s a law or rule, there is a legal exception.  Where there’s a law or rule, there is someone who can figure out a way to violate the spirit of the law by exploiting loopholes, technicalities, and ambiguous language.

Ladies and Gentlemen, meet ALEC!  ALEC is your real Legislator.  ALEC is your real Governor.  ALEC conceives and writes the Bills that are eventually made law in Georgia and other red states.  ALEC is the acronym for American Legislative Exchange Council.  Remember the Voter ID Laws?  That was ALEC.  Remember the Asbestos law that limits who can be sued?  ALEC.  What about the Stand Your Ground laws?  ALEC.  Remember the Religious Freedom Bill last legislative session that was really an anti-gay bill?  Yep!  It was ALEC.  Legislation to toughen Immigration laws, weaken unions, and stop minimum wage increases. ALEC.

I know this is confusing, but please bear with me.  Their membership list is not published. ALEC has a charity tax status and operates in secrecy. ALEC is a coalition of corporations, special interest groups (lobbyists), and lawmakers.  Lobbyists donate money to ALEC.  ALEC, in turn, gives the lawmakers “scholarships” or “grants” to attend meetings, and also provides the member legislator with an ALEC State Reimbursement Fund they can use for other incidentals. 

A State Legislator pays $50 per year to be a member.  What a deal!  For that pittance, the member receives expenses paid to various high-end resorts to attend meetings.  These meetings are held behind doors with armed guards.  This is where the laws are made.  A vote is taken on the bills, and the lobbyists and the legislators have an equal vote.  In other words, lobbyists have the veto power.  Also for that pittance, ALEC does the legislator’s job by providing the legislators with a template for the Bill; all they have to do is place their name on it.  Then the legislator gives the Bill to the Georgia Legislative Counsel. 

ALEC was formed in the 70’s and enjoyed anonymity until around 2011 when it was the forefront of the Stand Your Ground Laws in Florida.  This past weekend, Atlanta’s 11 Alive News, attempted to gain entry to an ALEC meeting with Georgia legislators in a Savannah resort hotel.  The 11 Alive news crew were wearing Georgia media credentials and were low-key and mannerly during the encounter.  Not only were armed guards called to remove him, but ALEC had the reporter kicked out of the hotel where he was a paying guest.  Shortly thereafter, 11 Alive requested receipts via the Open Records Act from the State Legislature.  The request was denied by the Legislative Counsel stating, “The General Assembly is not subject to the Georgia Open Records Act.”  This is the “loop-hole.”  No, this is more like the Grand Canyon of holes.  Don’t take my word for it.  View the video on  I can’t make this stuff up!

But maybe they aren’t so smart after all.  GA Code O.C.G.A 45-10-3  (6) Never solicit, accept, or agree to accept gifts, loans, gratuities, discounts, favors, hospitality, or services from any person, association, or corporation under circumstances from which it could reasonably be inferred that a major purpose of the donor is to influence the performance of the member's official duties.  I don’t see any wiggle room here.

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