Shutting Down ALEC Stifles Free Speech
Religion & Liberty Online

Shutting Down ALEC Stifles Free Speech

The 2014 proxy shareholder season is over, and left-of-center religious investment groups such as the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility and As You Sow are crowing about victories and announcing their plans for next year. For example, ICCR notes in its latest issue of The Corporate Examiner:

While virtually every company participates in lobbying of some sort, companies often make undisclosed expenditures to third-party trade associations which then use that money in ways that can run counter to a company’s publicly-stated positions. After sustained engagement with ICCR members, VISA left the controversial model legislation group American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and has implemented board-level oversight of its lobbying activities. Amgen agreed to disclose its membership in trade associations along with the amounts the trade associations spend from its fees for lobbying. Accenture has significantly expanded its public lobbying disclosure. A resolution calling for lobbying disclosure at Emerson won 41.6%.

Political spending by corporations is also an issue for investors. Hess committed to fully disclosing its trade association memberships and the names of the tax exempt organizations to which it makes contributions, as well as the portion of those payments that is used for political activities. EQT adopted a political contributions transparency policy. A resolution on contributions at Emerson won 47% of the vote.

Let’s suss this out. First of all, Visa International Service Association’s regrettable decision to quit ALEC occurred in 2013, not 2014. Because ALEC authored “Stand Your Ground” legislation, which was adopted in Florida, its sponsors were targeted by progressives and liberals after George Zimmerman shot and killed Trayvon Martin. That “Stand Your Ground” had nothing to do with the Martin shooting was irrelevant to leftist shareholder activists. Instead, they used the model as a cudgel to force ALEC member companies and donors to flee the organization. Why? Hint: It’s in the block quote above.

ALEC and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce are declared “controversial” by ICCR, AYS and Bruce Freed’s Center for Political Accountability (Freed, it should be noted, authors many of the proxy resolutions used interchangeably by AYS and ICCR). It wasn’t “Stand Your Ground” alone prompting them to convince major companies to abandon ALEC – it was the companies’ exercising their right to engage in the political process on both a statewide and national basis.

After all, “Stand Your Ground” is but one tiny aspect of ALEC’s model legislation agenda, which includes Tax & Fiscal Policy; Communications & Technology; Education; Energy, Environment & Agriculture; Health & Human Services; and Tax & Fiscal Policy. Because ALEC drafts legislation and advocates on behalf of businesses in each of these areas, one can understand why the left would fall over itself to defund ALEC and/or stifle its voice and those of its 200-some business members.

The same applies to all the handwringing performed by Freed’s CPA, ICCR and AYS over business political spending. The strategy of these groups is to quiet all opposition and revel in their troubles in the meantime. For example, the liberal blog The Daily Kos exhibited quite a bit of schadenfreude after 41 companies deserted ALEC, which resulted in a $1.4 million budget shortfall:

And that’s despite having funding from the Koch brothers and their ilk. Now, ALEC is in damage-control mode, trying to get back 41 companies that have fled its bad reputation. The group is also trying to avoid getting in trouble for illegal lobbying by spinning off a 501(c)(4) organization. ALEC’s current 501(c)(3) status means it can’t legally lobby; it claims not to have been doing so and that the new 501(c)(4) isn’t an admission of past lobbying but just “provides further legal protection.”

Seeing ALEC on the defensive is a beautiful thing, but that means it’s time to throw them an anchor, not sit back and enjoy the sight.

Note the ironic use of quotes around the justification for ALEC’s 501(c)(4) and mention of the dreaded Koch brothers. But the kicker is the final paragraph, wherein the gig is up – destroying ALEC is the desired end. While Freed, ICCR and AYS are more nuanced in their approach, attempting to force companies to withdraw for ALEC is much the same endeavor. How destroying one’s ideological opponents in a democratic republic can be considered a component of one’s religious vocation is beyond rational comprehension.


Bruce Edward Walker

has more than 30 years’ writing and editing experience in a variety of publishing areas, including reference books, newspapers, magazines, media relations and corporate speeches. Much of this material involved research on water rights, land use, alternative-technology vehicles and other environmental issues, but Walker has also written extensively on nonscientific subjects, having produced six titles in Wiley Publishing’s CliffsNotes series, including study guides for "Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland" and "One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest." He has also authored more than 100 critical biographies of authors and musicians for Gale Research's Contemporary Literary Criticism and Contemporary Musicians reference-book series. He was managing editor of The Heartland Institute's InfoTech & Telecom News from 2010-2012. Prior to that, he was manager of communications for the Mackinac Center's Property Rights Network. He also served from 2006-2011 as editor of Michigan Science, a quarterly Mackinac Center publication. Walker has served as an adjunct professor of literature and academic writing at University of Detroit Mercy. For the past five years, he has authored a weekly column for the mid-Michigan Morning Sun newspaper. Walker holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Michigan State University. He is the father of two daughters and currently lives in Flint, Mich., with his wife Katherine.