Friday, March 22, 2013

Smart ALEC Knows How To Play The Game

Mary-Alice Shemo, Chair of People for Positive Action, responds to a question during a news conference about the controversial group ALEC (American Legislative Executive Council). 

PLATTSBURGH CITY, NY – March 21, 2013

Loopholes.  Big business and politicians love them.

Take the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) for example.  By registering as a 501(c)(3) charitable organization the quasi-lobbying group legally avoids the restrictions placed on lobbying groups not registered the same way.  ALEC pushes for legislative changes that benefit corporations, not citizens.

The tax-exempt organization was the topic of a news conference Tuesday afternoon featuring a panel of four concerned citizens including members of People for Positive Action.  The panel promoted the upcoming presentation of a documentary dealing with ALEC, providing background information for the local press.

Not many people are aware of ALEC and the controversy surrounding it.  Me, I heard about it some time ago but not through the mainstream media.  I found out about it through a political cartoon.

ALEC has been criticized for working in the background, keeping the public unaware until a whistleblower came forward.  Apparently it takes political cartoons, not mainstream media, to rip away the secrecy.  Some press representatives at the news conference said they were unaware of ALEC.

Renting space at ROTA Gallery to make their presentation the panel provided a lot more information on the-lobbying-group-that-isn't-a-lobbying-group.

(Left to right)  Tom Wood, Matt Hall, Mary-Alice Shemo and Bill Cowan explain to the press how the organization ALEC disenfranchises voters.

Panelist Matt Hall pointed out that ALEC represents many major corporations, putting the goals of those companies over citizens.  ALEC influences politicans to pass boiler-plated bills to further those goals such as privatizing education.  "ALEC is not your friend," he said.

According to the Website "ALEC makes old-fashioned lobbying obsolete."  It sponsors trips for state legislators who for a minumum of work end up with nice vacations, staying at swank motels and attending fun parties while making contacts with wealthy business people, potential campaign donors.  Each legislator walks away with a model bill that he will push for when he returns to work at his statehouse, essentailly becoming a super-lobbyist for corporations.

Mary-Alice Shemo said that no matter what your political beliefs may be, everyone should see the documentary, "United States of ALEC."   A press member inquired if the documentary came across as a conspiracy theory movie, really slanted against its subject.  Shemo said the documentary provides information and let's viewers decided for themselves.

Panelist Bill Cowan observed: "In my 80 odd years I've seen a lot of films but his one has a lot of punch, it's devastating." 

The documentary, "United States of ALEC,” will be shown at Plattsburgh State campus in Yokum Hall, room 200, Friday April 5 at 7:00 PM.  Common Cause/NY Executive Director Susan Lerner will answer questions after the film.   As Mary-Alice Shemo observed people should be aware of the issues involved.

[ REVISED 3/22/13 at 8 PM, paragraph #9, to clarify reply by Mary-Alice Shemo to question about documentary being slanted. ]

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