Friday, April 5, 2013

SPN: Aiding ALEC & Spinning Disinformation in the States

A Guide to the “State Policy Network:" the Right-Wing Think Tanks Spinning Disinformation and Pushing the ALEC Agenda in States

New Resource Details "Think Tanks" Tanking Americans' Rights

MADISON, WI -- The Center for Media and Democracy (CMD), the publisher of the award-winning investigation, is releasing a new web resource for reporters and citizens about the activities of Tracie Sharp's State Policy Network (SPN) and its state "think tank" members. Although the funding of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is approximately $7 million a year, funding for SPN, its 59 state operations and the controversial Heartland Institute (a SPN ally like ALEC that tries to change both state and federal law) has topped $80 million in recent years. And these SPN operations often function like an echo chamber of the corporate-funded ALEC agenda.
What is ALEC?

ALEC is not a lobby; it is not a front group. It is much more powerful than that. Through ALEC, behind closed doors, corporations hand state legislators the changes to the law they desire that directly benefit their bottom line. Along with legislators, corporations have membership in ALEC. Corporations sit on all nine ALEC task forces and vote with legislators to approve “model” bills. They have their own corporate governing board which meets jointly with the legislative board. (ALEC says that corporations do not vote on the board.) Corporations fund almost all of ALEC's operations. Participating legislators, overwhelmingly conservative Republicans, then bring those proposals home and introduce them in statehouses across the land as their own brilliant ideas and important public policy innovations—without disclosing that corporations crafted and voted on the bills. ALEC boasts that it has over 1,000 of these bills introduced by legislative members every year, with one in every five of them enacted into law. ALEC describes itself as a “unique,” “unparalleled” and “unmatched” organization. We agree. It is as if a state legislature had been reconstituted, yet corporations had pushed the people out the door.

Who funds ALEC?

More than 98% of ALEC's revenues come from sources other than legislative dues, such as corporations, corporate trade groups, and corporate foundations. Each corporate member pays an annual fee of between $7,000 and $25,000 a year, and if a corporation participates in any of the nine task forces, additional fees apply, from $2,500 to $10,000 each year. ALEC also receives direct grants from corporations, such as $1.4 million from ExxonMobil from 1998-2009. It has also received grants from some of the biggest foundations funded by corporate CEOs in the country, such as: the Koch family Charles G. Koch Foundatio, the Koch-managed Claude R. Lambe Foundation, the Scaife family Allegheny Foundation, the Coors family Castle Rock Foundation, to name a few. Less than 2% of ALEC’s funding comes from “Membership Dues” of $50 per year paid by state legislators, a steeply discounted price that may run afoul of state gift bans. For more, see CMD's special report on ALEC funding and spending here.
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