China's Alibaba Signs On to Help ALEC Write Amer­ica’s Laws

Trillions - - Contents -

Be­lieve it or not, once upon a time long ago, laws in the United States were writ­ten by elected rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the peo­ple, for the good of the peo­ple. But that re­al­ity has not ex­isted for some time and in re­cent decades most laws have in­stead been writ­ten by cor­po­ra­tions and spe­cial in­ter­est groups and then given to one or more politi­cians to in­tro­duce. Enough politi­cians are paid to sup­port the legist­la­tion so that it gets passed into law. These laws are not in­tended to ben­e­fit the peo­ple but in­stead to fur­ther the in­ter­ests of cor­po­ra­tions, for­eign coun­tries and spe­cial in­ter­est groups, of­ten at the ex­pense of the peo­ple. And un­til re­cently it was mostly U.S. cor­po­ra­tions that were writ­ing Amer­ica's laws. No longer.

In late 2017, the gi­ant Chi­nese e-com­merce com­pany Alibaba signed on as the lat­est mem­ber of the Amer­i­can Leg­isla­tive Ex­change Coun­cil (ALEC). That is the pri­vate or­ga­ni­za­tion that cor­po­ra­tions and lob­by­ing groups use to drive laws of their mak­ing into state leg­is­la­tures across the coun­try.

As with all things ALEC, the news about Alibaba’s in­volve­ment was never is­sued as a pub­lic an­nounce­ment. The com­pany made its pres­ence known as part of ALEC for the first time dur­ing ALEC’S States & Na­tion Pol­icy Sum­mit, held in Nashville, Tenn., in De­cem­ber 2017. That meet­ing at­tracted more than 1,000 at­ten­dees, in­clud­ing cor­rupt state and lo­cal law­mak­ers and lob­by­ists—all hogs at the trough.

There, Bill Anaya, head of govern­ment af­fairs for Alibaba’s op­er­a­tions in the Amer­i­cas, gave a pub­lic talk about his com­pany. He is a reg­is­tered lob­by­ist for the Chi­nese com­pany. While at the meet­ing, Anaya told at­ten­dees: “We’re so ex­cited to be a part of ALEC. We are prob­a­bly the world’s largest e-com­merce com­pany you have never heard about. We have busi­ness-to-busi­ness mar­ket­place so­lu­tions. We have VC mar­ket­place so­lu­tions. And we have over 500 mil­lion ac­tive buy­ers on our mar­ket­places.”

How Alibaba is plan­ning to make use of its new po­si­tion within ALEC is not clear. But what ALEC does for oth­ers is be­com­ing well known. As re­ported in pre­vi­ous Tril­lions ar­ti­cles (“How Cor­po­ra­tions Are Re­mak­ing Amer­ica, One State at a Time,” “The Cor­po­rate Con­spir­acy That’s Re­ally Run­ning the United States” and “Cor­po­ra­tions Block Lo­cal Gov­ern­ments from Ban­ning GMOS”), ALEC brings cor­po­rate lob­by­ists to­gether with leg­is­la­tors be­low the fed­eral level to “help” them write leg­is­la­tion. That leg­is­la­tion is crafted to make it eas­ier to just “fill in the blanks” with state or lo­cal gov­ern­men­tal or­ga­ni­za­tion names and then sub­mit those laws to leg­is­la­tures across the coun­try. The laws are al­ways writ­ten to sup­port spe­cific in­dus­tries, trade as­so­ci­a­tions and cor­po­ra­tions for their ben­e­fit. By writ­ing them hand in hand with the leg­is­la­tors them­selves, they help the leg­is­la­tors look good to their home crowd by mak­ing them ap­pear more pro­duc­tive even while they’re be­ing ma­nip­u­lated.

Sam­ple leg­is­la­tion from past events in­cludes laws de­signed to:

• un­der­cut cur­rent reg­u­la­tions on cli­mate change and air pol­lu­tion

• prevent lo­cal gov­ern­ments from ban­ning ge­net­i­cally mod­i­fied crops in their ar­eas

• prevent lo­cal gov­ern­ments from reg­u­lat­ing the use of pes­ti­cides such as the GMO part­ner prod­uct Roundup and its deadly glyphosate com­po­nent

• pro­vide a spe­cial tax break mak­ing fruit-fla­vored to­bacco cheaper and there­fore more at­trac­tive to younger smok­ers

• limit the power of mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties from own­ing

and op­er­at­ing telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions and ca­ble tele­vi­sion ser­vices

• make it eas­ier for states to with­draw from re­gional cli­mate ini­tia­tives

• make it harder for Amer­i­cans to sue when they’re in­jured by dan­ger­ous prod­ucts

• crim­i­nal­ize free speech and par­tic­i­pat­ing in boy­cotts

• crim­i­nal­ize peace­ful and law­ful protests

• sup­port the pri­va­ti­za­tion of pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion and the use of on­line schools

ALEC’S mem­ber­ship in­cludes an es­ti­mated 2,000 leg­is­la­tors and more than 300 cor­po­rate mem­bers. Fund­ing for the or­ga­ni­za­tion comes from cor­po­rate dues that can run up to $25,000 a year for gen­eral mem­ber­ship and up to an­other $10,000 for in­volve­ment in one or more of ALEC’S spe­cial “task forces.” Other fund­ing comes from the Koch fam­ily Charles Koch Foun­da­tion, the Koch-man­aged Claude R. Lambe Char­i­ta­ble Foun­da­tion, the Scaife fam­ily Al­legheny Foun­da­tion and the Coors fam­ily Cas­tle Rock Foun­da­tion.

Be­cause of the ap­pear­ance that ALEC gives of hold­ing spe­cial meet­ings just to help in­form leg­is­la­tors on im­por­tant is­sues, an es­ti­mated ad­di­tional $3 mil­lion is paid into ALEC ev­ery year from pub­lic funds to send those leg­is­la­tors to the meet­ings. Less than 2% of the money for ALEC comes from the leg­is­la­tors’ es­ti­mated $50 per year mem­ber­ship dues.

With Alibaba join­ing ALEC, look to ALEC to be­gin work­ing on leg­is­la­tion that will fa­vor the Chi­nese com­pany in mak­ing fur­ther in­roads into Amer­ica’s mar­ket­places. One area where they may get in­volved re­lates to min­i­mum-wage is­sues. A more im­por­tant one in­volves Alibaba’s ex­ec­u­tive chair­man’s past visit with Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, where they spoke about “ac­cess­ing the China mar­ket­place” to make it eas­ier for “U.S. com­pa­nies [to] sell and ex­port their goods into CHINA. ”ALEC is not the only place where Chi­nese com­pa­nies are seek­ing to stake their claim on Amer­i­can pock­et­books by us­ing in­dus­try or­ga­ni­za­tions and direct lob­by­ing as their en­try points.

Wan­hua Chem­i­cal, also of China, be­came part of the Amer­i­can Chem­istry Coun­cil (ACC) to get its piece of the ac­tion. The ACC is a lobby group that fo­cuses cor­po­rate cash into su­per PACS and other means of in­flu­enc­ing politi­cians.

The Chi­nese con­glom­er­ate HNA Group, which first made its pres­ence known by buy­ing up a siz­able num­ber of Euro­pean and U.S. com­pa­nies, is now go­ing direct. It has, via its Amer­i­can af­fil­i­ates, al­ready gone out of its way to in­flu­ence high-level Amer­i­can po­lit­i­cal fig­ures, both for Trump and dur­ing the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion.

The Sin­ga­pore real-es­tate firm Sing­haiyi, a com­pany also con­trolled by Chi­nese na­tion­als, at­tempted to tip the U.S. elec­tion by do­nat­ing $1.3 mil­lion to a su­per PAC sup­port­ing Jeb Bush for Pres­i­dent in 2016.

There are even con­nec­tions demon­strat­ing the Chi­nese govern­ment’s in­volve­ment in at­tempt­ing to in­flu­ence Shuanghui’s ac­qui­si­tion of Smith­field Foods, one of Amer­ica’s largest pork pro­duc­ers, for $7 bil­lion. Shuanghui, now the WH Group, made the deal us­ing a $4 bil­lion loan from a Chi­nese govern­ment-backed bank.

The con­nec­tions of China also go fur­ther, to the very top of the Repub­li­can Congress. Ac­cord­ing to the book Se­cret Em­pires: How the Amer­i­can Po­lit­i­cal Class Hides Cor­rup­tion and En­riches Fam­ily and Friends, writ­ten by Peter Sch­weizer, the Chi­nese govern­ment has close con­nec­tions with the fam­ily of Sen. Mitch Mc­connell (R-ken­tucky), the Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader. As just one ex­am­ple of the na­ture of that in­flu­ence, Mc­connell’s sis­ter-in-law was ap­pointed by the Bank of China to a board seat after the 2016 elec­tion.

Don­ald Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kush­ner took money from wealthy Chi­nese who needed to in­vest to ob­tain a green card un­der the EB-5 im­mi­gra­tion pro­gram that al­lows for­eign­ers to es­sen­tially buy their way into the U.S.

Seto Bag­doyan, who mon­i­tors the EB-5 pro­gram at the Govern­ment Ac­count­abil­ity Of­fice, said of the pro­gram in an in­ter­view with CBS News, "You just want to buy a green card … and you other­wise may not be qual­i­fied. You have a crim­i­nal back­ground, you're linked to for­eign in­tel­li­gence ser­vices, you may be laun­der­ing dirty money."

With these as well as Alibaba’s move to join ALEC, China is slowly tak­ing hold of more and more of Amer­i­can busi­ness. With­out tougher laws to block that con­trol and non-cor­rupt leg­is­la­tors to stand in­de­pen­dent of or­ga­ni­za­tions like ALEC, China will only con­tinue to take a larger slice of the Amer­i­can eco­nomic pie in the fu­ture and spread its in­flu­ence and con­trol over the Amer­i­can peo­ple.

Amer­i­cans may want to con­sider boy­cotting Alibaba and other ALEC mem­bers, pro­vided that it is not al­ready il­le­gal to do so.

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