The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) meets this week in Washington, D.C., for its annual States and Nation Policy Summit at the four-star Grand Hyatt Washington, where rewriting the U.S. Constitution, “woke” capitalism, and protecting hate speech and misinformation are at the top of the agenda.
Given that the meeting is in Washington, many GOP politicians will make cameos at the Republican-aligned gathering, including former Vice President Mike Pence, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, Senator Steve Daines (MT), Senator Mike Braun (IN), Representative Jim Banks (IN), Representative Victoria Spartz (IN), Arizona Governor Doug Ducey, and West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey.
ALEC is a pay-to-play operation in which state legislators and corporate lobbyists meet behind closed doors to write model legislation that advances a radical right-wing, pro-corporate, and pro-Republican agenda on everything from suppressing voter access and denying climate change to crushing unions and undermining public education.
ALEC embraces Christian Right extremists like Susan B. Anthony’s Pro-Life America, which is pushing for a nationwide abortion ban, and kicked off its annual meeting last summer by celebrating the Supreme Court’s recent ruling removing the right to abortion in the U.S. over “late night dessert and coffee.”
Today, ALEC is hosting a reception with the anti-abortion group Live Action on “how to winsomely educate, persuasively communicate, and legally defend the equal protection of pre-born Americans.” Lila Rose, founder of Live Action, has compared abortion to slavery and the Holocaust, and is transphobic.
ALEC’s Christian Right programming at this week’s meeting also includes a conversation with Capitol Ministries Devotional titled “Better Understanding God’s Five Ordained Institutions.”
Right-Wing Sponsors Still Dominate
In a sign that corporations may have begun pulling back from their full support of ALEC, only two corporations, Altria and UPS, are named as sponsors of this week’s conference at the vice chairman level, according to a sponsor list obtained by the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD).
The trade groups International Franchise Association, NetChoice, and PhRMA are also vice chairman-level sponsors.
Consumers’ Research, a right-wing group playing a leading role in the fight against “woke” capitalism, is a chairman-level sponsor whose executive director will speak at the conference. The same goes for Honest Elections Project, the dark money group that has held voter suppression training sessions in conjunction with ALEC’s last three meetings.
The other vice chairman-level sponsors of the States and Nation Policy Summit are:
- American Federation for Children
- Balanced Budget Amendment (Biddulph)
- Cicero Institute
- DCI Group
- Energy & Environment Legal Institute
- Foundation for Government Accountability
- Patient Rights Advocate
- Reason Foundation
- Salt River Project
- Save Our States
- Ukraine (U.S. Chamber)
Efforts to Radically Rewrite the Constitution Heat Up
This week ALEC summit participants will once again strategize about their efforts to radically rewrite the U.S. Constitution.
At its December 2021 policy summit, ALEC lawmakers held a half-day session called the Academy of States 2.0 that centered on planning for a constitutional convention to propose a whole host of revisions to America’s founding legal document. Over the summer, its allies held an Academy of States 3.0 in Denver focused on delegate selection.
At this week’s meeting, ALEC lawmakers will consider passing a Resolution on Measures to Restore Federal Fiscal Responsibility in the Event of an Article V Amendments Convention. The resolution includes five potential amendments to the Constitution that ALEC would like to see passed, from “abolish[ing] the entire existing Internal Revenue Code” and radically curtailing the powers of federal agencies to moving Social Security and Medicare into “federal trust funds.”
Attendees will also debate an Act to Ensure US Amendments Ratified by Article V State Conventions are a Vote of “We the People.” This measure would require states to hold a statewide election of bound delegates to decide whether or not to ratify any proposed constitutional amendments. Article V of the Constitution provides for ratification by legislature or state conventions..
The model bill may be in response to CMD’s July report warning that if the Right gets its way, American voters would have no role to play rewriting the Constitution.
ALEC politicians can also attend a workshop on “Preparing Your State to Fight Inflation with two Article V Conventions” in order to “address policies needed to get convention-ready.”
Exacerbating the Climate Emergency
This week ALEC will continue its fight against “woke” capitalism and business leaders who consider environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors—along with issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI)—when evaluating the larger societal impact of their return on investments.
Earlier this month, CMD reported that ALEC lawmakers will debate the Eliminate Political Boycotts Act, a bill that would bar companies with 10 or more employees from receiving state contracts if they take into account any “social, political, or ideological interests” to limit their commercial relationships with fossil fuel, logging, mining, or agriculture businesses—and that instructs legislatures to “insert additional industries if needed.”
The “draft” model bill is the latest in a string of proposed legislation to punish companies that adopt responsible business practices that ALEC has promoted, including the Energy Discrimination Elimination Act, which focuses on protecting the fossil fuel industry from boycotts, and the State Government Employee Retirement Protection Act, designed to hamstring public pension funds.
ESG investing is widely viewed as a fiscally responsible method for addressing the climate crisis, but the Right is seeking to brand it as another hot-button issue—like critical race theory– to fuel the culture wars in 2023 and 2024.
This morning’s general session focused on this issue where ALEC meeting attendees heard from U.S. Senator Mike Braun (R-IN), Utah State Treasurer Marlo Oaks, Florida’s Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, and Will Hild of Consumers’ Research. Oaks and Patronis are members of the State Financial Officers Foundation (SFOF), an ALEC-aligned group at the forefront of the attack on ESGs.
Members of ALEC’s Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force will also have a “Pension Reform and ESG Discussion,” and lawmakers can attend a workshop on “How States Fight Back Against ESG,” which promises to “educate [participants] on how to identify and avoid politically motivated investing strategies to help keep the promises made to retirees, taxpayers, and shareholders.”
ALEC lawmakers will also consider An Act Regarding Non-Personhood Status for Environmental Elements, Animals and Inanimate Objects, which maintains that nothing in the natural world deserves the same rights or recognition as people. This stands in direct contrast to corporations that have been granted personhood status in many states, and would have serious implications for litigation fights over various rights.
Interestingly, ALEC lobbyists and politicians also intend to debate an Act to Establish a Study on the Commercial Application of Existing Technology to Reclaim and Repurpose Nuclear Fuel Rods.
Preserving Forums for Misinformation and Right-Wing Provocateurs
This week ALEC lawmakers will weigh in on the spread of misinformation online and how to protect forums for right-wing provocateurs.
The Resolution in Support of Congressional Law to Combat Government Pressuring of Social Media Platforms to Remove Speech urges Congress to pass the Protecting Speech from Government Interference Act and to “perform robust oversight of the Biden administration for any attempts by its officials to unconstitutionally censor or limit the speech rights of Americans.”
In recent years, many social media companies have chosen to remove content that spreads misinformation and disinformation related to Covid, the vaccines, and masking, along with the 2020 and 2022 elections. The proposed ALEC measures parallel a lawsuit brought recently by the Koch-funded New Civil Liberties Alliance and Republican attorneys general alleging that the federal government pressured or colluded with social media companies to censor Covid misinformation.
ALEC’s proposed Free Speech in Higher Education Act debated by members this week would ban public universities from using bias reporting systems to prevent or punish “offensive” or “unwanted” speech by students, faculty, staff, or guests.
Like the new model bill, the FORUM Act aims to address the manufactured free speech “crisis” being hyped by the Right, often by sending extremist provocateurs such as Charles Murray, Ben Shapiro, or Milo Yiannopoulos to speak at colleges and universities.
ALEC’s FORUM Act eliminates free speech zones, protects “belief-based organizations,” and requires education on free speech rights, but in an updated version, it provides no protections for counter demonstrations and, like the new bill, includes a steep $5,000 minimum penalty for anyone a court determines to be in violation of the Act.
Protecting Discrimination in Public Schools
As part of its attack on the ability of public schools to teach about institutional racism or bias, or the country’s discriminatory past, ALEC is promoting the Honesty in Teaching Act at the summit this week. The bill sponsored by Rep. Barbara Gleim (PA) would prohibit anyone at a public school from “compel[ling] a person to adopt, affirm, adhere to or profess an idea” that expresses “superiority” of anyone based on race, religion, sex, gender identity, or sexual orientation or that supports any form of affirmative action. However, it goes on to prohibit schools from “us[ing] funds from any source to engage in any of the concepts listed,” and from contracting with anyone to “engage in workplace training of a professional employee that includes any of the concepts listed.”
Kneecapping State Governments
Finally, ALEC meeting attendees will debate A Next-Generation Tax and Expenditure Limitation Act, similar to Colorado’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR), that would limit state spending and require a two-thirds vote by legislators or a statewide referendum to approve any net increase in state revenues. The bill also kneecaps state governments’ ability to address emergencies by requiring a two-thirds vote by legislators to pass emergency spending increases.
Other new model legislative policies being considered at this week’s ALEC summit include:
- Act to Create a Feasibility Study on New Nuclear Energy Generation
- Act to Prepare Inmates for Re-entry and the Workforce
- Alternative Teacher Credentialing Act
- Dental Medicaid Act
- Fines and Fees at Sentencing Act
- Record Expungement Act
- Resolution Calling on the Current Presidential Administration to Oppose Efforts to Undermine Global Intellectual Property Rights
- Resolution in Support of Effective Strategies to Support Law Enforcement and Reduce Violent Crime
- Resolution in Support of Repealing the Jones Act
- Resolution on Ensuring the Constitutional Right to Trial by Ameliorating the Trial Penalty
- Resolution on Mental Health and Criminal Justice