Be­ware Of Su­per­cell ALEC

MidWeek (Hawaii) - - Front Page - THE LOWDOWN Jim Hightower

Just days af­ter last Nov e mber ’ s e l e c t i o n , ju­bi­lant mem­bers and top staffers of the no­to­ri­ous cor­po­rate front group, Amer­i­can Leg­isla­tive Ex­change Coun­cil, gath­ered f or a c e l e br a t or y l unch and plan­ning s es­sion at the group’s DC head­quar­ters. But rather than looki ng t oward Congress and the newly Repub­li­can­ized White House, these schemers were drool­ing over so many right-wing state gov­ern­ments.

“There’s a sea of red,” gushed an ALEC of­fi­cial, ask­ing with de­light. “What are we go­ing to do with these new leg­is­la­tures?”

Cor­rupt them, of course. ALEC — funded and run by such multi­na­tional gi­ants as AT&T, Exxon Mo­bil, the Koch brothers and Walmart — es­sen­tially func­tions as a hush-hush es­cort ser­vice. Since 1973, it’s been hook­ing up high-dol­lar cor­po­rate cus­tomers with on-the-make state law­mak­ers will­ing and ea­ger to spon­sor spe­cial in­ter­est bills.

In closed- door ses­sions con­vened by ALEC, state of make leg­isla­tive whoopee, gen­er­at­ing “model bills” that the par­tic­i­pat­ing leg­is­la­tors carry back and in­tro­duce al­most si­mul­ta­ne­ously in their mul­ti­ple states.

For t he l ast few years, ALEC has pro­vided a ma­jor, na­tion­wide burst of en­ergy that’s pow­er­ing state pre­emp­tion laws. Its strate­gists re­al­ized that their cor­po­rate back­ers’ l ong l eg­isla­tive wish list (in­clud­ing hold­ing down wages and free­ing cor- po­ra­tions to pol­lute wa­ter sup­plies) is re­pug­nant and so­cially de­struc­tive.

Pre­emp­tion, how­ever, pro­vided a way for law­mak­ers to shift at­ten­tion from the ap­palling sub­stance of their cor­po­rate agenda to an ar­cane process de­bate about state-lo­cal gov­er­nance.

This back-al­ley chan­nel l ets cor­po­ra­tions and t he right-wing fringe out­law or re­peal pro­gres­sive re­sponses by our com­mu­ni­ties, nul­lify our elec­tions and over­turn court de­ci­sions fa­vor­ing lo­cal peo­ple.

ALEC has pushed pre­emp­tion with a vengeance, rapidly t urn­ing i t from a cau­tiously used power to the cor­po­rate- politico ca­bal’s weapon of choice.

In 2014, for ex­am­ple, Jobs with Jus­tice, Fight for 15 and other ac­tivist groups be­gan win­ning cam­paigns in ma­jor cities for min­i­mum wage hikes. ALEC re­sponded by hold­ing a how-to fo­rum on stop­ping such lo­cal ac­tions and cir­cu­lated a model bill called the “Liv­ing Wage Pre­emp­tion Act.” Sure enough, nearly half of states have passed a ver­sion of it, with Ohio be­ing the lat­est.

By a large mar­gin, peo­ple in the Buck­eye State fa­vor rais­ing the wage floor, and Cleve­land en­acted its own in­crease last year. But a small group of cor­po­rate prof­i­teers, i nclud­ing t he Na­tional Res­tau­rant As­so­ci­a­tion, howled in fury. So, last De­cem­ber, the state’s Repub­li­can lead­ers rushed to ap­pease them with a most gen­er­ous Christ­mas gift: The Ohio leg­is­la­ture over­ruled the peo­ple’s will by sud­den- ly ham­mer­ing a pre­emp­tion amend­ment onto a com­pletely un­re­lated bill. It was law­mak­ing by sneak at­tack, a crude po­lit­i­cal mug­ging that retroac­tively negated Cleve­land’s in­crease and out­lawed in­creases by any other lo­cal­ity.

Used prop­erly, pre­emp­tion can be a democ­racy-en­hanc­ing tool for bal­anc­ing gov­ern­ing pow­ers. But when per­verted and used badly, as is in­creas­ingly the norm, it as­serts cor­po­rate in­ter­ests over pub­lic good.

The anti-democ­racy ex­trem­ism of cor­po­rate prof­i­teers and their cor­rupted po­lit­i­cal hacks was bluntly ex­pressed a cou­ple of years ago by ALEC mem­ber Howard Stephen­son. The Utah state se­na­tor an­nounced at one of the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s pri­vate fo­rums: “We need to stamp out lo­cal con­trol.”

It’s hardly news t o t he great ma­jor­ity of Amer­i­cans, in­clud­ing most Repub­li­cans, t hat cor­po­ra­tions al­ready have way too much power over us.

Let­ting elites quash our lo­cal de­ci­sions — by pulling the money strings they’ve goes against all that Amer­ica stands for.

Yet the ar­ro­gance of these no limit — they’re grab­bing for to­tal dom­i­na­tion over grass­roots democ­racy. Greg Ab­bott, my state’s goofy gov­er­nor, is one of those con­sumed by his own grandios­ity: “As op­posed to the state hav­ing to take mul­ti­ple ri­fle-shot ap­proaches to over­rid­ing lo­cal reg­u­la­tions, I think a broad-based law by the state of Texas that says across the board, the state is go­ing to pre­empt lo­cal reg­u­la­tions is a su­pe­rior ap­proach.”

Peo­ple hate, hate, hate such pom­pos­ity and po­lit­i­cal over­reach. So, let’s run right at them.

Pro­tect­ing cor­po­rate prof­its and power by over­rul­ing demo­crat­i­cally made lo­cal poli­cies is a crime that’s eas­ily un­der­stood and loathed by nearly all Amer­i­cans.

As pro­gres­sives, let’s take hold of this is­sue; pas­sion­ately chal­lenge the pre­emp­tion thugs at all lev­els of po­lit­i­cal ac­tion; rally a broad-based right- and- l eft, bot­tom- up coali­tion to re­claim our demo­cratic rights; and beat the be­jeezus out of these sorry bas­tards.

Learn how to get in­volved by vis­it­ing de­fend­lo­cal.com.

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