Monday, December 05, 2011

The Gates Foundation and ALEC

ALEC stands for The American Legislative Exchange Council. Here's what it is:
The most important group, I’m pretty sure, is the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which was founded in 1973 by Henry Hyde, Lou Barnett, and (surprise, surprise) Paul Weyrich. Its goal for the past forty years has been to draft “model bills” that conservative legislators can introduce in the 50 states. Its website claims that in each legislative cycle, its members introduce 1000 pieces of legislation based on its work, and claims that roughly 18% of these bills are enacted into law. (Among them was the controversial 2010 anti-immigrant law in Arizona.)

If you’re as impressed by these numbers as I am, I’m hoping you’ll agree with me that it may be time to start paying more attention to ALEC and the bills its seeks to promote.


Becoming a Member of ALEC: Not So Easy to Do

How do you become a member? Simple. Two ways. You can be an elected Republican legislator who, after being individually vetted, pays a token fee of roughly $100 per biennium to join. Here’s the membership brochure to use if you meet this criterion:
What if you’re not a Republican elected official? Not to worry. You can apply to join ALEC as a “private sector” member by paying at least a few thousand dollars depending on which legislative domains most interest you. Here’s the membership brochure if you meet this criterion:
Then again, even if most of us had this kind of money to contribute to ALEC, I have a feeling that membership might not necessarily be open to just anyone who is willing to pay the fee. But maybe I’m being cynical here.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has just awarded ALEC a grant:

American Legislative Exchange Council
Date: November 2011
Purpose: to educate and engage its membership on more efficient state budget approaches to drive greater student outcomes, as well as educate them on beneficial ways to recruit, retain, evaluate and compensate effective teaching based upon merit and achievement
Amount: $376,635
Term: 1 year and 10 months
Topic: Advocacy & Public Policy
Region Served: Global, North America
Program: United States
Grantee Location: Washington, District of Columbia
Grantee Web site:

I'm somewhat confused about the purpose of this grant. ALEC is supposed to educate its membership only? And that consists of Republican politicians and people able to afford the steep membership fee? That doesn't sound like a group which would need charitable help in the first place. Neither does it sound like a group which would stay uninformed without such a grant.

Then there are all those code words in the purpose statement which refer to getting rid of teachers' unions.
For more on this topic, check out Karoli at Crooks&Liars.