December 3, 2019, Phoenix, Arizona – Today, a coalition of human rights organizations released an in-depth report about the role of the secretive American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) in the adoption of state laws that disproportionately harm communities of color. “ALEC Attacks: How evangelicals and corporations captured state lawmaking to safeguard white supremacy and corporate power” traces the establishment of the organization by evangelical conservative activists in the 1970s to counter advances made by the civil rights movement, through to the transformation of ALEC in the early 1990s to be a more stridently pro-corporate lobbying organization.
The report details how ALEC’s corporate, conservative, and state lawmaker members have come together to promote the adoption of some of the most infamous state laws of the past two decades, which continue to affect communities of color today. In particular, the report includes in-depth discussions of Stand Your Ground laws, Voter ID laws, laws that punish participation in the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement for Palestinian rights, and laws that punish protests against so-called “critical infrastructure” such as oil and gas pipelines. ALEC will hold its annual States and Nation Policy Summit in Scottsdale, Arizona, beginning tomorrow and running through Friday.
“ALEC is a leading example of how corporations and conservatives capture lawmaking processes to undertake the everyday maintenance of America’s racist and pro-corporate political system,” said Dominic Renfrey, Advocacy Program Manager at the Center for Constitutional Rights. “Far from being content with 46 years of circumventing democracy by providing pay-to-play private access to lawmakers for its corporate and conservative members, ALEC is still brazenly attacking the movements that dare to advance human rights and protect the environment.”
“ALEC Attacks” describes the process by which corporate executives and conservative activists pay membership fees to meet regularly in private with conservative lawmakers to develop draft laws that serve the interests of ALEC’s members, which are then introduced in state legislatures around the country. The negative impacts arising from these laws are often felt by people of color. For example, through ALEC, lawmakers worked closely with members of the National Rifle Association (NRA) to enact Stand Your Ground laws in several states. The report discusses the infamous case of 17-year-old Black teenager Trayvon Martin, killed in Florida gated community by George Zimmerman—who was then acquitted of the murder because of Florida’s Stand Your Ground law. The report cites studies indicating that the rates of homicide by firearm have increased in states with Stand Your Ground laws, and that acquittal rates on the basis of those laws exacerbate racial disparities in findings of “justifiable” homicide.
Similarly, “ALEC Attacks” documents how ALEC has been instrumental in enacting strict Voter ID laws, that tighten voting requirements and disproportionately impact Black and Latinx people. In one case a North Carolina court found its state Voter ID law was enacted with discriminatory intent and “target(s) African Americans with almost surgical precision.”
“The story of ALEC is the story of a white supremacist political and economic elite harnessing their control of the means of government to perpetuate their own power,” said Rachel Gilmer, Co-Executive Director of Dream Defenders, which is based in Florida. “Maintaining this system by necessity requires maintaining economic and political control over the lives of Black, brown, immigrant, and poor people, and the murder of Trayvon and many others like him is a symptom of this situation.”
ALEC members have referred to the international Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement in support of Palestinian rights as “economic terrorism” and supported the proliferation of state laws that prohibit public entities from doing business with entities that boycott Israel. The report describes Palestinian-Americans who have been unable to continue job contracts or participate in school events because of the anti-boycott laws.
“ALEC's legislative attacks on advocacy for Palestinian rights are one part of its racist, reactionary agenda, and should concern all who are working for social justice in the U.S.” said Dima Khalidi, founder and director of Palestine Legal. “But the movement for Palestinian rights continues to grow, in part because of the connections it is building with other communities targeted by ALEC's legislative repression.”
The report also documents ALEC’s role in the adoption of a spate of “critical infrastructure” laws in several states that have been enacted by conservative lawmakers in response to protests by Indigenous water protectors, and their allies, against the Dakota Access Pipeline that was built through Standing Rock Sioux territory in North Dakota. “Critical infrastructure” laws heighten criminal penalties for water protectors protesting against oil and gas infrastructure development. Indigenous and non-indigenous activists, as well as at least one journalist, have been arrested under critical infrastructure laws and face lengthy prison terms if they are convicted.
“While Indigenous Water Protectors and Land Defenders have been organizing to prepare for the struggle to stop fossil fuel infrastructure development on the ground, so have energy corporations been hard at work passing ALEC-sponsored critical infrastructure legislation to criminalize our people,” said Melanie Yazzie, a founding member of The Red Nation. “The Red Nation calls upon all people of good conscience to take action and stop ALEC-sponsored critical infrastructure bills in your state. Indigenous people will not be the only casualty of these laws. So, too, will the water we drink and the air we breathe. Dismantling ALEC is a crucial step. Start by reading this report.”
The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) brings together corporate executives, conservative activists, and state lawmakers to craft model legislation that ALEC lawmakers then introduce in state legislatures around the country. Hundreds of corporations and conservative think tanks with non-profit charitable status are members, along with thousands of politicians. The organization’s membership list is secret. Corporate executives reportedly pay tens of thousands of dollars to ALEC for private access to lawmakers at ALEC meetings. Each year hundreds of ALEC model bills become state law.
“ALEC Attacks: How evangelicals and corporations captured state lawmaking to safeguard white supremacy and corporate power” was authored by Center for Constitutional Rights, Dream Defenders, The Red Nation, US Campaign for Palestinian Rights and Palestine Legal.
Read the report at www.alecattacks.org/.
The Center for Constitutional Rights works with communities under threat to fight for justice and liberation through litigation, advocacy, and strategic communications. Since 1966, the Center for Constitutional Rights has taken on oppressive systems of power, including structural racism, gender oppression, economic inequity, and governmental overreach. Learn more at ccrjustice.org.