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The American Legislative Exchance Council (ALEC) has spent the last forty years bringing corporations, their lobbyists, and conservative lawmakers together to put the corporate interest ahead of what's best for people. Functioning as a 501(c)3, ALEC allows corporations to give large amounts of tax-deductible donations to become part of ALEC's corporate councils. These councils then vote and approve ALEC model bills, which are then presented by the corporation's lobbyists to conservative lawmakers at retreats that are often paid for by taxpayers. These model bills are shopped around the country and enacted – with limited trace of money influence – in legislatures across the country, though lawmakers rarely admit that the law started as an ALEC mode bill.
ALEC became a nationwide name last year, when George Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin. Zimmerman was able to use the "Stand Your Ground" defense to his advantage in court.
ALEC also has a sister organization – Americans United for Life (AUL) – that focuses exclusively on pro-life bills, using the same model/format as ALEC. House Bill 2, the controversial legislation that limited access to women's health care, came from AUL.
The legislation has been shopped across the country, with laws enacted in dozens of states that mirror the Texas law.
It is important to understand how these bills are shopped by ALEC & AUL because we need to know where lawmakers get their information, who is influencing their decision-making, and what role money plays in politics.
Click below to learn more specifics about the Stand Your Ground and HB 2 case studies here in Texas.
Stand Your Ground
Over at Progress Texas, I've detailed how the ALEC Stand Your Ground law came to Texas. Ed has also written a great write-up here on BOR that looks closer at Texas' self-defense laws. Finally, the Center on Media & Democracy has a great write-up of how Stand Your Ground played an important role in the Trayvon Martin case. I'd suggest browsing through either of those resources if you want to delve into lots of details on the issue.
Here's the summary, though: in 2005, the NRA got Florida to pass it's Stand Your Ground law. The NRA lobbyist stood over the gallery watching legislators vote. That same lobbyist then took that bill and presented it to ALEC, which receives money from gun manufacturing companies and the NRA to promote the sale and culture of gun ownership. ALEC adopted the model law, made it one of their priority pieces of legislation, and in 2007 it was brought to Texas.
The Florida law, ALEC model bill, and Texas law are all incredibly similar. They focus on three pieces that each has: a Castle Doctrine Section, a Stand Your Ground section, and a Civil Immunity section. The civil immunity section is the one that is about to really suck, as CMD wrote yesterday:
If, as expected, Martin's family brings a civil suit against Zimmerman seeking damages for wrongful death, he could still try to invoke the law's protections. The Stand Your Ground law provides potential immunity not only in criminal prosecutions brought by the state, but also civil lawsuits filed by a person's family.
What's more, if the court sides with Zimmerman's Stand Your Ground claim in the civil case, the law would actually require Martin's family to pay Zimmerman's legal fees.
Take a look at how the civil immunity section of the Florida, ALEC, and Texas law compares:
ALEC got Stand Your Ground passed. ALEC shopped it around the country. And ALEC can and should be held at least partially responsible for the complete lack of justice in the murder of Trayvon Martin.
At the outset, ALEC started off w/ lots of pro-life and abortion work back in the 1970s and 80s, but has not pushed an official model bill since the Parental Consent Act. Those groups still get booth placement at the major ALEC events, but it's since sprouted out and created a sister organization – Americans United for Life.
AUL shops model bills around the country. For example, the Sunlight Foundation tracked how the ultrasound bill went across the country, and found that:
According to the AUL website, members of the anti-abortion organization attended the 2010 ALEC conference to network with state legislators and promote their model bills.
The Fifth Circuit handed down a number of recent decisions upholding anti-abortion laws. The court, in an opinion by Judge Jones, reinstated a Texas law that effectively forced doctors to make statements intended to convince women not to have an abortion. Another opinion permitted Texas to move forward with plans to defund Planned Parenthood. Jones also authored a concurring opinion urging the Supreme Court to “re-evaluate Roe and Casey.”