Utah activists host workshop about legislative mill ALEC
Several activist organizations plan to link arms in a show of opposition against the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a 39-year-old organization that brings together state lawmakers, conservative thinkers and corporate interests to draft model legislation for consideration across America.
On Wednesday, from 7 to 9 p.m., Occupy SLC will host a workshop in Conference Room B of the Salt Lake City Main Library, 210 E. 400 South, about what ALEC is, what it does and the influence it exerts on public policy.
Other groups participating in the anti-ALEC effort include the Alliance for a Better Utah, Peaceful Uprising, iMatter Utah, the Salt Lake Dream Team and the League of Women Voters. The League has described ALEC as "a factory for anti-voter legislation, funded by power barons like Kraft Foods, McDonalds, Pfizer and the Koch brothers."
The proliferation of voter ID laws in Utah and other states were spawned by ALEC, along with "stand your ground" measures similar to the law in Florida, which came under intense scrutiny because of the deadly shooting of unarmed teen Trayvon Martin.
ALEC will hold its annual conference in Salt Lake City July 23-28. Protesters are gearing up to give the group a "warm welcome."
Raphael Cordray, owner of a Salt Lake City political art shop called the Free Speech Zone, will give Wednesday evening's presentation about ALEC, which will be followed by a question-and-answer session.
"We've been mobilizing since January to raise awareness," said Cordray, noting that environmental issues surrounding tar sands and the sale of oil and gas leases spurred her to take a closer look at the organization.
About a quarter of Utah's 104 state lawmakers are ALEC members; all are Republicans. According to sourcewatch.org, the lone Democratic member of ALEC, Rep. Jennifer Seelig of Salt Lake City, did not renew her membership this year. Recent anti-ALEC publicity has caused some corporations to also leave the organization.
As a whole, the nonprofit organization boasts more than 2,000 legislative members in all 50 states.
Utah Senate Majority Whip Wayne Niederhauser, R-Sandy, joined six years ago and now serves as ALEC's state chairman.
"They promote Jeffersonian principles, free markets and limited government and I believe in those things," Niederhauser said, likening ALEC to the National Conference of State Legislatures, and the Council of State Governments.
However, Salt Lake City activist Justin Kramer views ALEC as a driving force toward inequity.
"ALEC is behind the privatization of everything for the profit of a few," Kramer said. "It affects the entire working class, and documented and undocumented communities alike."