We love a good exposé, particularly when it involves a shadowy, private organization that's trying really hard to influence the democratic process behind the scenes. As you may recall from our September 2011 feature "Hiding the Sausage," the American Legislative Exchange Council is an organization that has the interests of corporations and the executives that love them at heart. It has a membership made up of the captains of industry and big business, and it holds closed-door meetings to which it coaxes legislators to attend via a "scholarship fund," that defrays the cost of their food and travel. ALEC says this is a way to get business leaders and politicians to sit down at the table together to discuss economic growth and other policy issues. Critics say it's a way to give businesses unfettered access to politicians, conveniently out of public sight and far, far away from the watchful eye of government watchdogs and the media. ALEC uses these meetings to help it write "model legislation," which it gets its legislative carrier pigeons (friendly legislators) to bring to the floor of their various state houses.
Until recently, nobody really knew for certain who the corporate members of ALEC were, but Common Cause filed a Freedom of Information Act request and recently posted up tons of documents it obtained about the organization. Our favorite part? The corporate-member list, which you can review here. All of our favorite corporate citizens are there – Philip Morris, General Electric, Exxon-Mobil, AOL, Bank of America.
Interestingly, as more information becomes available about ALEC and its activities, more and more companies seem to be leaving the fold, Bloomberg Business Week reported last week.
ALEC, meanwhile, is trying to say that Common Cause and other "liberal front groups" are trying to wage an intimidation campaign against the organization. You know, by putting the organization's top-secret information out there in public view. Where people can see it. And, you know, judge it. And decide for themselves if this is really how our government should work.