Iowa Move To Amend along with Blog for Iowa, Progress Iowa, Sierra Club, Physicians for Social Responsibility and others co-sponsored an appearance by Lisa Graves in Cedar Rapids on Sunday, July 15th at the Electrical Union Hall 1211 Wiley Blvd. [Video will be available soon at neighborhoodnetworknews.com]
Graves is the Executive Director of THE CENTER FOR MEDIA AND DEMOCRACY in Wisconsin…the folks who outed ALEC last year and campaigned successfully for major corporations to cut ties with ALEC this year. She was in Iowa to speak at the ICCI Convention on Saturday. She is also on the Executive Committee of national Move To Amend.
About thirty people turned out, escaping the blistering heat in an icy air-conditioned room at the IBEW hall. Marybeth Gardam of Cedar Rapids Move to Amend opened the program talking about Move to Amend, the organization formed in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling in 2010. Hanging on one wall of the room was a poster depicting the historical timeline of increasing corporate power and wealth in the United States of America. What is Move to Amend? According to the fliers they handed out today:
“It’s been said that Slavery was the legal fiction that persons were property. Corporate Personhood is the legal fiction that property (Corporations) are people (legal persons). We want to strip from corporations the Constititutional rights that were intended for human citizens. Corporations would be able to operate their businesses just as they do now, except they would be accountable to states who charter them, and they would not be able to use their wealth and influence to take away the rights of human persons, influence elections or buy votes in our Congress.”
Speaking of corporations…. This was an appropriate segue to Graves’ topic which was ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council. Blog for Iowa has been posting about ALEC for some time, so we were not naive about the true nature of this organization, but listening to her description of how they operate in horrifying detail was well, horrifying.
Legislative members of ALEC (all Republicans) are not working for Iowans. They are working for corporate members of ALEC who get our state representatives to debase themselves by abandoning their duty to represent us, and to instead introduce legislation in our state house that the corporations want and have pre-approved and pre-authored. These bills of course have nothing to do with what is best for Iowa. They have only to do with what will best suit a right-wing national agenda that is corporate friendly and Democracy-unfriendly. The hundreds of bills that ALEC has pushed onto state legislatures across the country have commonalities of more rights for corporations and no rights for people.
ALEC is responsible for the tsunami of anti-democratic laws now sweeping Republican controlled state houses across the country and making their presence felt in Iowa. Examples of ALEC model laws include Voter ID laws (a transparent scam designed to prevent Democratic constituencies from voting against Republicans); anti public education/pro-private virtual school legislation, designed to make education a for-profit industry. Here’s how it works: Take away the classrooms, the schools, the extracurricular activities such as soccer, band, chorus, and replace them with a room full of computers, fund these virtual schools the same as public schools even though they are stripped down and cost less to operate, and the private corporation that runs the virtual school pockets the profit. Neat, huh? ALEC promotes torte reform (aka people can’t sue companies for wrongful or negligent acts no matter what the circumstances). Gun friendly laws such as “stand your ground” (shoot first) laws are to serve the profit desires of the firearms industry and have nothing to do with what makes sense for Iowa. The NRA, longstanding member of ALEC, is responsible for pushing these laws in state legislatures across the country. The Republicans will continue to try to pass this in Iowa for their friends in ALEC.
Legislative members of ALEC are virtually all Republicans. In Iowa, it is 100% Republican members in the House. It is not clear in the Iowa senate who are members. ALEC membership dues for Iowa House members are automatically paid for by the taxpayers. Our representatives must opt out of ALEC as opposed to opting in. All of the Iowa House Democrats have opted out of ALEC. Graves told an anecdote that once upon a time, Delores Mertz, a conservative Democrat was a member of ALEC, and said that ALEC had no interest in working with Democrats. Nonetheless, they try to pass themselves off as a neutral bipartisan organization that does nothing more than help legislators craft bills.
State chairs have additional ALEC duties. They must introduce the pre-authored-by-the-corporation bill, try to get it passed, and to raise money for ALEC “scholarships” - money ALEC doesn’t report to the IRS that they even have according to Graves.
One of the Iowa co-chairs is Rep. Linda Miller. If she is your representative, you may want to contact her about her membership and involvement in this anti-democratic group. Her duties as state chair of ALEC are not compatible with her greater duty to represent you.
Iowa’s Voter Id Bill can be found here: http://coolice.legis.state.ia.us/Cool-ICE/default.asp?Category=billinfo&Service=Billbook&ga=84&hbill=HF95
ALEC Exposed: http://alecexposed.org/wiki/ALEC_Exposed
ALEC Voter ID Act Template: http://alecexposed.org/w/images/d/d9/7G16-VOTER_ID_ACT_Exposed.pdf
American Legislative Exchange Council: http://www.alec.org/
Previously on Blog for Iowa
Every member of the [Iowa] [update] House Republican delegation is a member of ALEC by virtue of not opting out of such membership. Membership dues are paid by the state, that is, by taxpayer money. All House Democrats have resigned membership in ALEC.
And directly from the ALEC.org page:
“Among those who were involved with ALEC in its formative years were: Robert Kasten and Tommy Thompson of Wisconsin; John Engler of Michigan; Terry Branstad of Iowa, and John Kasich of Ohio, all of whom moved on to become governors or members of Congress. “
What you can do
If your state Rep. is a Republican, you need to contact him or her and inquire about involvement in ALEC. Write a letter to the editor. When your local newspaper or TV station reports on stand your ground or voter ID laws or torte reform or privatizing education, and fails to mention ALEC, let them know.
If you would like help comparing Iowa bills with ALEC model bills, contact Lisa Graves at firstname.lastname@example.org.