Mr. JOHNSON of Georgia. Mr. Speaker, yesterday I spoke about a secret organization called ALEC, also known as the American Legislative Exchange Council.
I talked yesterday about how ALEC promotes model legislation written by its corporate members and disseminated to conservative State lawmakers around the country. The public, whose votes elect these lawmakers to represent them, are kept in the dark about the fact that their Representative member is a member of ALEC. The legislative member goes on various retreats and junkets. The ALEC corporate members paid tens of thousands of dollars a year to be members, whereas the legislators pay $50 a year.
You can see the imbalance there. This is something that is funded by the corporations' special interests. The lawmakers, just to make it look good, have to pay $50 annually to join.
We don't know who those lawmakers are, although we do know that 60 percent of the lawmakers in the entire United States of America are members of ALEC. The taxpayers are probably the ones who pay the annual membership fee with which the members are then connected to corporate interests by way of ALEC committees, and these committees produce the model legislation that is then introduced by these same member legislators in their respective legislatures.
That was the way that the so-called Stand Your Ground law--but it's really a ``shoot first, ask questions later'' bill--began. That's how it started in Florida. It was an ALEC-produced bill. It has now spread to one-half of the States in the United States of America. Twenty-five States have adopted similar laws despite the fact that self-defense has always been a defense available to people who find themselves in that situation.
But the reason why they did this is because they wanted to produce more handgun sales. It's nothing but about money. The NRA and the corporations that sell firearms through the retail outlets across the Nation are benefiting, but we have people dying in the streets because of these weapons.
Now that is one question. There is another committee that has been set up by ALEC, and it deals with the private prison industry. Mr. Speaker, the United States imprisons more than any other nation in the world. We currently incarcerate approximately 2.3 million people.
America's high incarceration rate is not fitting for a Nation which is routinely touted as the greatest in the world. Although high incarceration rates hurt the United States as a whole, it definitely benefits the private prison industry. In 2010, the two largest private prison companies, CCA and the GEO Group, received nearly $3 billion in revenue that's taxpayer money.
The for-profit prison industry is driven by the corporate members of the American Legislative Exchange Council, ALEC. ALEC is a secretive organization that has advocated for harsh sentencing and detention laws that lead to mass incarceration. It provides State legislators with model legislation, and each year ALEC members introduce these bills in State houses across the country. This gives unparalleled access and authority to ALEC's corporate and legislative members, undermining the will of the people and the power of the ballot box. Private prisons have vested interests in maintaining and maximizing their profits.
They are not concerned about public safety or rehabilitation or reducing recidivism. Those principles directly conflict with their bottom line and mantra, which is more prisoners and more money.
Mr. Speaker, I will again be back to continue to discuss this issue. I discussed it yesterday. Today is another day. I think the American people need to know what is going on in the politics of America. If we don't do something, we are all at risk for losing the rights that we as citizens are supposed to possess: government of, by, and for the people--not for special interests.