The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is a nonprofit organization that works with industry and government allies to promote state legislation that is in the corporate interest. Such legislation may also harm public health and safety. Increasingly, ALEC has become one of the main proponents of state preemption across public health issues. Thanks to researchers and advocates, including the Center for Media and Democracy and its website ALEC EXPOSED, we now know a great deal about how ALEC operates and promotes its agenda.
ALEC receives money largely from corporations, corporate foundations that share its political agenda, and trade associations. In turn, ALEC gives corporate executives a seat on their board, and direct access to state politicians. ALEC works in tandem with lobbyists and legislators to promote its pro-industry agenda, which impacts virtually every public health arena, including tobacco, healthcare, and environmental policy.
ALEC may be best known for drafting model state legislation on issues ranging from defunding public health programs to encouraging privatization of public services. As documented in this hilarious video from “Last Week Tonight With John Oliver,” in some cases ALEC’s model bills are introduced without a single change except the insertion of a state’s name.
Since 1979, ALEC’s relationship with the tobacco industry has created a bridge between the industry and elected officials. The relationship has been reciprocal with ALEC receiving large donations from tobacco companies, as well as giving industry executives seats on their Board.
ALEC was cited as a collaborator in Philip Morris’ “Youth Smoking Prevention” (YSP) initiative, a PR stunt masquerading as a smoking prevention program, and “provided legislative speaking engagements where Philip Morris could promote its YSP programs.” ALEC has actively worked opposing state tobacco excise taxes and promoted preemption of local smokefree laws. ALEC has also helped draft legislation to limit class action lawsuits, restrict damage awards for pain and suffering, and shield tobacco merchants from liability.
In the healthcare arena, ALEC has drafted legislation to oppose cost controls on prescription medications, weaken the FDA’s drug and medical therapy review process, and shield drug companies from lawsuits. ALEC has also drafted legislation to privatize Medicare, Medicaid and state implementation of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).
ALEC is also behind model preemption legislation to prevent local governments from limiting pesticide use, adopting clean water regulations, and implementing waste reduction and recycling programs. On behalf of the oil and gas industry, ALEC drafted legislation protecting industry from having to reveal the chemical components of fracking fluids.
Thank you to our partners at the Center for Media and Democracy’s ALEC EXPOSED project for their repository of information on ALEC activities and draft legislation.