A coalition of progressive groups gathered in front of the National Portrait Gallery yesterday to protest the 50th anniversary celebrations of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and draw attention to its “#50YearsofHarm.”
“For five decades, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has shamelessly served as a conduit for large corporations seeking to swiftly advance their self-serving agendas through statehouses across the nation,” protest organizers said.
ALEC is a pay-to-play organization in which state legislators and corporate lobbyists meet behind closed doors twice a year to write model legislation that advances a radical right-wing, pro-corporate, and pro-Republican agenda. Its bills aim to deliver on everything from suppressing voter access and denying climate change to crushing unions and undermining public education.
“ALEC’s agenda extends to almost every area of public policy, as lawmakers take these model bills written by powerful special-interest and far-right groups — including the tobacco, gun, oil, pharmaceutical, and telecom industries — back to their statehouses and introduce them as their own,” the Center for Media and Democracy’s Arn Pearson and David Armiak wrote in a recent story for The American Prospect.
“From lower wages to increased mass shootings, more pollution, fewer consumer protections, and less bodily autonomy, the negative impacts on everyone living in the U.S. have been profound.”
ALEC — which was founded in 1973 by three right-wing legislators — celebrated its 50th anniversary at a gala held at Washington DC’s National Portrait Gallery. The gala was funded by some of the country’s largest corporations and industry groups, including tobacco giant Altria, the parent company of Philip Morris, and UPS, both of which were Diamond level sponsors, as well as PhrMA, the pharmaceutical industry trade group, and Guarantee Trust Life, the life insurance provider, which was one of the highest tier sponsors, a list obtained by the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) details. Technology company trade group NetChoice was also a sponsor. Although many of the country’s largest tech companies — like Google and Meta — are not ALEC members, they remain associated with ALEC through their membership in NetChoice. CMD recently reported that Oracle, the county’s fifth largest tech company, has joined ALEC.
Sponsors also included some of the county’s most hard-line conservative think tanks and policy groups, including billionaire Charles Koch’s Americans for Prosperity and Stand Together; the State Policy Network, the national network of right-wing think tanks; the Heritage Foundation; Consumers’ Research, the dark-money funded advocacy organization linked to Leonard Leo; and the State Financial Officers Foundation, which is behind the Republican effort to stymie financial action on climate change.
Tickets to the gala were $750, and speakers included ALEC CEO Lisa Nelson, media personality and former Reagan staffer Hugh Hewitt, U.S. Senator Pete Ricketts (R-NE), and ALEC National Chair Daniel Perez (R-FL). The luxurious table settings — set for around 500 people — featured centerpiece images of each of the fifty state capitols.
Ambassador Terry Branstad was the “gala general chair” and former Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Vice President Mike Pence, and Arthur B. Laffer were “honorary gala hosts,” a host committee list obtained by CMD shows. Guarantee Trust Life, Phillip Morris, UPS, Leonard Leo’s CRC Advisors, & Charles Koch all have representatives listed on the host committee.
“They are in there celebrating 50 years of oppression, 50 years of underwriting the rise of fascism in this country, 50 years of polluting our lungs, 50 years of killing our unions in this country,” said Tefere Gebre, chief program officer of Greenpeace USA, at the protest. “Fifty years is enough.”