Writer says something’s happening here with ALEC group

Something’s happening here, but what it is ain’t exactly clear to most Minnesotans. Have you ever heard of ALEC? Probably not, they don’t advertise what they’re up to. But member Reps. Mary Kiffmeyer and Sondra Erickson certainly know.

ALEC stands for American Legislative Exchange Council and is almost entirely funded by some of the largest corporations and right-wing organizations in the country, including American Petroleum Institute, AT&T, Exxon/Mobil, Shell, Pfizer, Coca-Cola, Coors, the Cato Institute, the NRA, and Wal-Mart, among many others. Of course, Koch Industries is heavily involved; the founder of Koch Industries was a founding member of the John Birch Society, a right-wing organization that believed President Eisenhower was a communist tool and possibly guilty of treason. In the ’50s and ’60s most reasonable politicians kept their distance from Birchers.

So what’s wrong with those conservative extremists getting together to promote their ideas? Nothing; this is, after all the USA, where we have freedom of speech. The problem is not with them, but with our secretively cooperating state legislators who are carrying their ideas for new laws to our Legislature and promoting them as though they are their ideas and actually good for us. Nothing could be further from the truth.

This whole issue has been researched by Minnesota Common Cause and I urge everyone to read their report. It can be found atwww.commoncause.org and search for ALEC. They report:

“Led by some of the largest corporations in America, ALEC has quietly brought together legislators and corporate lobbyists to draft legislation behind closed doors. Much of this legislation is designed to directly benefit the bottom line of corporations that are members. … At these meetings, held in some of the most exclusive resorts and hotels to ensure secrecy, corporate lobbyists share their wish list of legislative proposals to be introduced at state capitols around the country. Legislators take this cookie-cutter legislation, make some changes to it, then introduce it in their own state … lobbyists use political contributions to help move the legislation forward.”

There are at least 19 Minnesota legislators who are members of ALEC’s task forces. Rep. Sondra Erickson is one of them, as is Rep. Mary Kiffmeyer. See the research story at:http://minnesotaindependent.com/85721/30-minnesota-legislators-are-alec-member.

Right now working their way through our Legislature are bills that can be traced directly to ALEC. Bills such as the Voter ID law, the (so-called) Right to Work legislation, a bill to reduce the statute of limitations for injured persons to make a claim from six years to two years (it’s been in its current form since Minnesota became a state), a bill to criminalize livestock whistleblowers, a bill requiring police to arrest people who can’t prove they’re here legally, a bill reducing interest on judgments won by individuals, and a bill to permit insurance companies to defend injury cases by blaming the injury on the omission of a seat belt (a court once wisely stated, “seat belts don’t cause collisions”). There are other bills being introduced to require a super majority in the Legislature to pass a bill raising any taxes, thus permitting a minority in either chamber a veto power over taxation (all documented by Common Cause). Extremely wealthy interests support the taxation gridlock bill. A corporation running private prisons (like the one that’s vacant in Appleton) promotes bills requiring more arrests. State Farm and other insurance interests support the bills intended to make it more and more difficult for individuals to bring claims for losses and injuries. More than supporting these bills, they draft them.

A thorough review of the wrongheadedness of each bill and the link to ALEC for each is beyond the space and purpose of this comment. I urge each of you to familiarize yourselves with this secretive organization and its insidious efforts to change our lives, to the benefit of corporations and the wealthy. More can be found at www.alecexposed.org.

More than that I challenge Rep. Kiffmeyer to explain the source of the bills she’s supporting this term and the way that legislation benefits the ordinary Sherburne County citizen. For example, how does the requirement to go get a photo ID benefit an elderly or poor citizen who never had a problem voting before?

I also encourage the editors of this paper to educate themselves about this organization, its purposes, membership, and local legislative connections, asking the question: How is this good for us here in Sherburne County? Frankly, it’s a big story. — Jim Lavoie, a lawyer with offices in Minneapolis, Elk River and Milaca