“ALEC’s corporate pay-to-play lobbying scheme serves to hide special interest influence, so the public never knows who writes the laws that affect our daily lives and environment,” said Arn Pearson, CMD’s executive director. “We’re working to shine a light into the dark corners of ALEC’s policymaking.” While ALEC has been largely successful in attracting support from large corporations, it saw an exodus around 2011 as media and watchdog organizations like CMD began to expose its influence. Since then, some 115 companies have put distance between themselves and ALEC, including Walmart, Johnson & Johnson, Amazon, ExxonMobil, AT&T, and Google.
Perhaps ALEC’s coziest partner in Austin is the Texas Public Policy Foundation, the state’s premier conservative think tank. TPPF is a member of ALEC’s sister organization, the State Policy Network, as well as a funder of ALEC, serving on its task forces for topics including education, health and human services, civil justice, and the environment. The TPPF and other SPN members have advanced ALEC policies to “hamstring labor; privatize education; disenfranchise minorities, students and the elderly; and roll back state environmental initiatives,” the CMD report notes. Some ALEC-allied politicians, like former state Reps. Ron Simmons, R-Carrollton, and Jason Isaac, R-Dripping Springs, went on to work for TPPF. Isaac’s former legislative aide Ellen Troxclair, later the Austin City Council’s lone conservative, served on ALEC’s American City County Exchange; she’s now a senior fellow at TPPF’s Center for Local Governance.
The TPPF has sought to quash progressive local workers’ rights ordinances, including a (so far successful) legal action against Austin’s paid sick leave policy and litigation against similar efforts in Dallas. The Legislature tried but ultimately failed this spring to pass bills preempting such local ordinances, in which CMD again sees the traces of ALEC’s model policies. “Following in the footsteps of Big Tobacco and the NRA, ALEC has pushed anti-democratic preemption model policies from the ‘Living Wage Mandate Preemption Act’ to the effort to preempt local paid sick leave ordinances with the intention of protecting corporate interests at the expense of workers,” David Armiak, research director at CMD, told us. He added that under the guise of “worker freedom” and “worker rights,” the group has taken the lead in coaching state legislators on how best to frame anti-worker measures like “right-to-work” laws that aim to disempower public sector unions and protect corporate interests.