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What Is ALEC?

ALEC was involved in the passage of the "Stand Your Ground" bill in the Florida Statehouse, pictured here.
ALEC was involved in the passage of the "Stand Your Ground" bill in the Florida Statehouse, pictured here.

Have you heard of ALEC?

It’s the American Legislative Exchange Council. On its website the group calls itself “America’s largest nonpartisan, voluntary membership organization of state legislators dedicated to the principles of limited government, free markets and federalism.”

But some observers have referred to them as a “dating service” for corporations and politicians.

ALEC creates model bills for state legislatures across the country.

Here’s how The Nation described their work:

Inspired by [economist] Milton Friedman’s call for conservatives to “develop alternatives to existing policies [and] keep them alive and available,” ALEC’s model legislation reflects long-term goals: downsizing government, removing regulations on corporations and making it harder to hold the economically and politically powerful to account. Corporate donors retain veto power over the language, which is developed by the secretive task forces.

A researcher at The Brookings Institution reported that “during the 2011-2012 legislative session, 132 bills based on ALEC models were introduced in the states. Democrats sponsored nearly 10% of those bills, while Republicans sponsored more than 90%.”

ALEC describes their models this way:

The ALEC model policy library is home to dynamic and innovative ideas that reduce the cost of everyday life and ensure economic freedom. ALEC ideas and publications are the product of countless hours of research, debate and discussion and serve as a toolkit for anyone who wants to increase the effectiveness and reduce the size, reach and cost of government.

One of the most controversial pieces of legislation ALEC has pushed is the ‘Stand Your Ground Law,’ which gained national attention after the 2012 shooting of black teenager Trayvon Martin in Florida.

And in 2010, ALEC was involved in a statewide immigration law passed in Arizona, which “requires state law enforcement officers to ask suspects they believe may be here illegally about their immigration status.”.

Brookings noted the close resemblance between that law and ALEC’s “No Sanctuary Cities for Illegal Immigrants Act”

What impact has ALEC had lately?

Produced by Morgan Givens, with text by Gabrielle Healy. The idea was suggested by Tom Macon of Wisconsin as a part of our series of listener-pitched shows.


Lisa Graves, Co-director, Documented; former Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Office of Legal Policy and Policy Development, Department of Justice; former Chief Counsel for Nominations, Senate Judiciary Committee; @thelisagraves

Shelby Emmett, Director of the Center to Protect Free Speech, American Legislative Exchange Council

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