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Public Statements

American Legislative Exchange Council

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. JOHNSON of Georgia. Mr. Speaker, ladies and gentlemen, a shadowy collection of wealthy businesses and conservative Tea Party Republican State lawmakers is undermining our democracy.

Last week I discussed the connection between the American Legislative Exchange Council, known as ALEC, and the proliferation of shoot first and ask questions later legislation that supported the Trayvon Martin case that we all know about, and other draconian criminal justice laws.

According to the New York Times:

ALEC lawmakers typically introduced more than 1,000 bills based on model legislation each year and passed about 17 percent of them. A members-only newsletter from 1995, found in an online archive of tobacco company documents, bluntly characterized that success ratio as a ``good investment.''

I agree. ALEC's corporate members have gotten an outstanding return on their investments, but it's been at yours and my expense. Due to ALEC, the NRA, and the private for-profit prison industry, we are all less safe and more likely to be put in jail.

The for-profit prison industry, on the other hand, has reaped huge financial rewards from ALEC-sponsored efforts to incarcerate more Americans and put them, as well as illegal immigrants, into this private prison system. For the private prison industry, where some of the inmates are paid as low as 2 cents an hour to produce goods that are later sold for profit, business is booming.

But ALEC does not stop there. ALEC's corporate members are some of the world's biggest polluters and most profitable oil companies. ALEC's corporate bill factory has ghost-written legislation on their behalf to combat efforts to address climate change and oppose national renewable energy standards, among others.

In 1998, according to the Center for Media and Democracy, ALEC belched a resolution out of its smokestack calling on the U.S. to reject the Kyoto Protocol and banning States from regulating greenhouse gases. ALEC's Energy, Environment, and Agriculture Task Force has since turned out model bills criticizing the Environmental Protection Agency.

Recently, ALEC has focused on what it calls the ``EPA's regulatory train wreck,'' seeking to frame the EPA's enforcement of the Clean Air Act as ``higher prices, fewer jobs, and less energy.'' ALEC's dirty supporters, like the Koch brothers--named one of the United States' top 10 air polluters in a University of Massachusetts study--began attacking every effort to clean up the mess that they themselves have made. Why? Because they want to continue to make more money.

ALEC is dumping its waste right here in Congress. After the Tennessee coal ash disaster, ALEC began pushing a model resolution called Resolution to Retain State Authority over Coal Ash as Non-Hazardous Waste. Can you believe that? This resolution was approved by ALEC on June 3, 2010. Just over a year later, October 14, 2011, this House passed a bill that authorizes States to adopt and implement coal combustion residuals permit programs.

Mr. Speaker, this is only the tip of the melting iceberg. Yes, global warming is at work, and it is melting this iceberg that ALEC represents.

I encourage the American people to visit the Web site, where you can view leaked ALEC documents, including model bills, as well as a list of ALEC members. About 60 percent of the State legislators in this country are members of ALEC.

Mr. Speaker, I'll return tomorrow with more on how corporations are using ALEC to install their agenda in the States and in Congress, undermining our basic rights and freedoms.

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