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ALEC Bleeds More Corporate Support - Thursday, June 21, 2012

ALEC Bleeds More Corporate Support


So the beat goes on for the American Legislative Exchange Council.


Responding to public outrage over ALECís driving state legislatures to adopt controversial model legislation, 19 member corporations have withdrawn their support of ALEC.


The latest is big-pharmaís Johnson and Johnson.  Others include Wal-Mart, Amazon, Coca-Cola, PepsiCO, Kraft, Wendyís, Mars, Inc., Arizona Public Service, the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, the National Association of Charter School Authorizers, Kaplan, Procter & Gamble, Yum! Brands, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Reed Elsevier American, Traffic Solutions, Intuit, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and a group of five Pennsylvania legislators.


Nationally, there has been greater recognition of the role that ALEC model legislation, drafted by corporation experts for transfer to state legislatures, plays all across America.  National media have recognized ALECís fine hand in the Jindal education reform adopted in the most recent legislative session.


Tracking the flow of ALEC cash into Jindalís and Louisiana legislatorsí coffers has been reported in Louisiana and elsewhere.  However, these revelations are the tip of the iceberg as dollars flow through numerous different non-governmental organizations that serve as conduits for such funding.


There are 52 current and former House members, and 18 current and former Senators affiliated with ALEC.  ALECís immediate past national president Noble Ellington, a veteran Louisiana legislator was appointed by Gov. Jindal to a $150,000 job in the Louisiana Department of Insurance (DOE).


Holly Boffy, the newly elected BESE member from Southwest Louisiana, is a paid consultant to the Council of Chief State School Officers.  In January, the Louisiana Ethics Commission ruled she could continue as such even though she rules over the Department of Education budget and DOE has ongoing financial relationships with CCSSO.  CCSSO received a $9.3 million grant from the Walton Foundation.


American Federation for Children and the Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO) were both deeply involved in supporting politicians committed to the education reform.  They get cash from the same sources as does ALEC.  Wal-Mart, for instance, funneled $5.2 million into New Orleans alone during 2011 and the company, until just recently, was also a big financial player in ALEC.

Corporations, large and small, are likely to continue to bleed away from ALEC support as the buying public recognizes that ALEC is not operating in the public interest.


Both the AFC and BAEO were highly active in the 2011 election of Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education members.  AFC provided over $900,000 to Louisiana and two other states to conduct candidate training and provide financial support.  A training session was held at the Baton Rouge Hilton Capitol Hotel where candidates were instructed on campaign tactics and promised checks.


The Alliance for School Choice, Inc., which is new campaigning in Louisiana with robo-calls and a planned direct mail campaign received $1.2 million from Wal-Mart Foundation in 2011.   The BAEO took $796,000 to fund its advocacy; and the Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools was granted $679,202 to advocate for Louisiana charter expansion.  The BAEO presently is conducting a state-wide tour promoting the Jindal-ALEC choice options.  One of its stops was at New Living Word the highly controversial Ruston school that proposed to accept 315 vouchers when it had space for only 112.


The American Federation for Children, which now supports a Louisiana branch headed by former state education department executive Rayne Martin, is a member of ALEC.  It is represented on the ALEC education task force by a former Wisconsin legislator with a conviction for misuse of public office.


When business groups such as the Louisiana Council for a Better Louisiana, or the local Chamber of Commerce plunge into supportive roles for ALEC model legislation, they too can be viewed as acting contrary to public interest.  The dependence of such organizations on small business financial participation and social action renders them vulnerable to the same kind of pressure that the shopping public has exerted to rein in ALEC power.


When business non-governmental organizations such as CABL and the Chamber plow into the capitalist education reform movement in spite of serious cautionary words from the Public Affairs Research Council, the Bureau of Governmental Research, and many local editorial pages, the affront to public interest becomes clear.


One might wonder why most businesses in Louisiana are not among the names of the CABL board of directors, and why there is no fiscal disclosure available on the CABL web site? 


As Louisianaís public education stakeholders become increasingly aware of the linkages between the Jindal administration and the ALEC-related purveyors of education reform, some CABL and Chamber business people might begin to react in much the same way that the 19 ALEC drop-outs have.


Countering the growing choke-hold that Jindal and the privatization movement have demonstrated during the last session may be slow in developing.  But, as legal challenges mount and public media reflect concerns as appeared in the Advocate editorial page and in Gannett papers across the state, the buying public may begin to ask:  "Why am I buying from a business that is so opposed to my personal interests?Ē


The Louisiana small business community which has stood by silently during the ALEC-driven change in education for Louisiana students might consider that change, in a competitive market place, can work in both ways.


Don Whittinghill

LSBA Editorial Consultant


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