Civil and Human Rights groups join with Indigenous, Racial, Palestinian, and Environmental Justice activists to condemn ALEC for attacking people of color and the climate
August 15, 2019
Today, as the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) met for its annual meeting in Austin, TX, amid protests inside and outside the event, a collection of civil and human rights groups joined with indigenous, racial, Palestinian, and environmental justice activists to condemn ALEC for its attacks on people of color and the climate. The groups also called on all elected officials, particularly candidates running to be elected as state lawmakers in 2020, to publicly declare they will have no affiliation with ALEC.
ALEC is a 46-year-old institution that regularly convenes elected state lawmakers and corporate representatives behind closed doors to design laws that protect and promote corporate interests. According to ALEC’s 2016-2018 strategic plan, its membership includes 25 percent of all state legislators, as well as over 200 corporations; and 20 percent of the U.S. Congress, eight sitting governors, and over 300 local elected officials are ALEC alumni.
Among the many corporate financiers of ALEC are the collection of foundations run by the Koch brothers. According to reports, their foundations donated more than $3 million to ALEC between 1997-2017. This anti-democratic partnership between corporations and elected officials results in an estimated 100-200 laws passed each year.
ALEC-inspired legislation has long contributed to human and civil rights violations of people of color and denigrated marginalized communities. In recent years, ALEC worked closely with the National Rifle Association to design and promote passage of so-called “Stand Your Ground” laws through numerous state legislatures. The model ALEC legislation was first passed in Florida in 2005, and contributed to the 2012 killing of Black teenager Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman, who was ultimately acquitted due in part to the Stand Your Ground legislation. Numerous studies have concluded that these laws have increased gun homicides in states that passed them.
ALEC has also played an important part in the widespread attack on the voting rights of people of color and other marginalized people. At ALEC’s Annual Meeting this week, its members, lawmakers and corporations alike, are attending two sessions on redistricting; one called “How to Survive Redistricting”. ALEC’s promotion of strategies like this to disenfranchise its political opponents is part of a long legacy. Its co-founder infamously called for restricting the rights of people that were not conservative Christians. In more recent times ALEC has developed model voter ID laws and promoted their passage across the United States, which has contributed to the restriction of voting rights for people of color. In one particularly notorious voter ID law passed in North Carolina in 2013, three of the four co-sponsors have been active in ALEC task forces. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit struck down the law, finding that it was specifically designed to “target African Americans with almost surgical precision.”
As ALEC attacks the rights of people of color, it also contributes to the silencing of dissent by activists. ALEC has played an important role in promoting the adoption of laws in 27 states that punish those who engage in a boycott, specifically in the context of advocating for the rights of Palestinians in the face of the ongoing violations of human rights and humanitarian law by the Israeli government.
In other attacks on the expression of dissent, in the last two years ALEC has served as a central platform for its fossil fuel members and allies to design and push for passage of so-called “critical infrastructure laws” in many states. These laws expand the definition of “critical infrastructure” to include pipelines so as to impose felony charges on Indigenous protestors and their allies for actions that were previously misdemeanor offenses. Companies that have had affiliations with ALEC stretching back years, such Energy Transfer Partners, which built the Dakota Access and Bayou Bridge pipeline systems, rely on such legislation to repress public activism that threatens their profits.
As a complement to attacks on environmental activists, ALEC’s fossil fuel industry members have also funded attacks on climate science. In a 2011 submission to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), ALEC wrote that “carbon dioxide is a naturally occurring, non-toxic and beneficial gas, and it poses no direct threat to public health. In order to justify regulation, the EPA is relying on an uncertain assumption that increased carbon dioxide emissions by humans are causing an unprecedented global temperature increase.”
ALEC is a threat to all progressive movements for racial, social, and environmental justice, and undermines protections for low-wage workers across the U.S. through strong lobbying support for passage of controversial “Right to Work” and state preemption laws.
We call on all candidates running to be elected as state lawmakers in 2020 to publicly declare they will have no (further) affiliation with ALEC.
We demand that ALEC cease to hold its Annual Meeting, Spring Meeting, and Nation and States Meeting with elected lawmakers in private, without any record of the deliberations.
Finally, ALEC must release a full list of elected lawmakers who participate at these gatherings.
350 New Orleans
A Community Voice
Another Gulf Is Possible
Center for Constitutional Rights
Hannah Chalew Studio
Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN)
Jewish Voice for Peace
Louisiana Bucket Brigade
Narasha Community Development Community
Oil Change U.S.
Ramapough Lenape Nation
Society of Native Nations
The Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP)
The Red Nation
UnKoch My Campus
US Campaign for Palestinian Rights
Water Protector Legal Collective
1. American Legislative Exchange Council, Strategic Plan: 2016-2018, p. 8. Available at: https://www.alec.org/app/uploads/2016/06/ALEC-Strat-Plan-Final-051616.pdf
2. Greenpeace USA, American Legislative Exchange Council - Koch Industries Climate Denial Front Group. Available at: https://www.greenpeace.org/usa/global-warming/climate-deniers/front-groups/american-legislative-exchange-council-alec/
3. Alex Hertel-Fernandez, State Capture: How Conservative Activists, Big Businesses, and Wealthy Donors Reshaped the American States and the Nation, (2019), p. 72.
4. For just one of many examples, see Homosexuals: Just Another Minority Group? American Legislative Exchange Council, (1985), p. 5: “[W]hatever the type of homosexual, one of the more dominant practices within the homosexual world is pedophilia, the fetish for young children.” Available at: http://files.pfaw.org/pfaw_files/ALECminoritygroup.pdf.
5. In an interview on CNN following the trial, a juror informed Anderson Cooper that Zimmerman was acquitted because of Florida’s Stand Your Ground law. Available at: https://web.archive.org/web/20130719114222/http://thinkprogress.org/politics/2013/07/16/2306901/7-mind-blowing-moments-from-zimmerman-junior-b37s-first-interview/?mobile=nc; See also a 2013 study comparing how often homicides were deemed “justifiable”, which found that “white-on-black homicides have justifiable findings 33 percentage points more often than black-on-white homicides. Stand your ground laws appear to exacerbate those differences, as cases overall are significantly more likely to be ruled justified in SYG states than in non-SYG states.” Available at: https://www.urban.org/sites/default/files/publication/23856/412873-Race-Justifiable-Homicide-and-Stand-Your-Ground-Laws.PDF, p. 9.
6. For further info see: Everytown for Gun Safety, The Inherent Danger of Stand Your Ground Laws (2019) . Available at: https://everytownresearch.org/fact-sheet-stand-your-ground/
7. Conservative activist Paul Weyrich, co-founder of ALEC, the Heritage Foundation, and a key architect behind the development of the “Moral Majority”, told a gathering of evangelical Christians in Dallas in 1980: “Now, many of our Christians have what I call the ‘goo-goo syndrome’: good government. They want everybody to vote. I don’t want everybody to vote. Elections are not won by a majority of people – they never have been from the beginning of our country and they are not now. As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections, quite candidly, goes up as the voting populace goes down.” Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8GBAsFwPglw
8. Carolina State Conference of NAACP v. McCrory, 831 F.3d 204, p 48 (4th Cir. 2016). Available at: pdfserver.amlaw.com/nlj/7-29-16 4th Circuit NAACP v NC.pdf
9. For example, see a press release ALEC released recently reaffirming its views on the importance of criminalizing BDS activism. Available at: https://www.alec.org/press-release/alec-legislators-sign-letter-to-reiterate-commitment-to-free-market-and-against-discriminatory-policies/. For information about the detrimental effect of Anti-BDS laws on peoples’ lives see pp. 23-28 in an amicus brief by Palestine Legal and the Center for Constitutional Rights in Amawi v. Pflugerville Indep. Sch. Dist., 373 F. Supp. 3d 717 (W.D. Tex. 2019). Available at: https://ccrjustice.org/sites/default/files/attach/2019/04/Pal%20Legal-CCR%20amicus%20brief%204-16-19.pdf
10. For example, see a letter that six fossil fuel industry associations, lobbyists, and corporations sent to state lawmakers on December 7, 2017, timed to coincide with an ALEC member gathering. The groups called on state lawmakers to support ALEC’s Critical Infrastructure legislation, arguing it would hold “individuals and organizations accountable for tampering with, and disrupting [fossil fuel] operations.” The fossil fuel groups added that they looked “forward to working with you as you continue to address this growing problem in your state.” Available at: https://www.scribd.com/document/371677094/ALEC-letter
11. For example, see the charges brought against Indigenous environmental activist Anne White Hat in Louisiana under the state’s Critical Infrastructure law; available at: https://ccrjustice.org/home/what-we-do/our-cases/white-hat-v-landry
12. Submission from American Legislative Exchange Council to the Environmental Protection Agency (2011). Available at: https://web.archive.org/web/20120701002053/http://www.alec.org/wp-content/uploads/Comment_ALEC_Docket-ID_No.-EPA-HQ-OAR-2011-0660.pdf
13. For a wide range of materials and information concerning ALEC’s activities see ALEC Exposed, a project of the Center for Media and Democracy: https://www.alecexposed.org/wiki/ALEC_Exposed