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Texas awash in ALEC influence

Lawmaking by corporation started well before Citizens United ruling

If Super PACs and Citizens United represent the new (anonymous) face of corporate-interest politicking, the American Legislative Exchange Council represents the preceding chapters of growing corporate influence — where elected lawmakers and corporate reps work together to steer policy and political fortunes from behind closed doors by crafting "model legislation" to be introduced in state houses across the country. It is a self-described "nonpartisan public-private partnership" boasting more than 300 corporate and 2,000 legislative members.

In Texas, ALEC is serious business. State lawmakers raked in $16.2 million from ALEC member corporations over the past decade, companies like Walmart, Pfizer, ExxonMobil, and Koch Industries, according to a new report by Progress Texas. Texas Governor Rick Perry ranks as the single largest recipient of ALEC donations in the nation, banking more than $2 million from ALEC corporations between 2004 and 2011.

So enamored of Perry are these corporate interests, they gave him their highest honor, the so-called Thomas Jefferson Freedom Award, in August 2010. In his acceptance speech, Perry crooned: "ALEC serves as a fueling station to keep us going. It's a trading post, if you will, to exchange ideas, to keep us all going to fight the good fight. … I applaud the role that ALEC plays in clarifying the essential elements of conservative thought and crystallizing them into the working legislative proposals we see."

Other top state GOP recipients of ALEC funds over the past decade include state Representative Tom Craddick ($878,110), state Senator Troy Fraser ($314,583), and state Representative Phil King ($164,435).
Some of the most controversial pieces of legislation that surfaced during the 82nd Texas Legislature last year appear to have followed ALEC's model legislation drafted in tandem by these corporate-political task forces. Language from ALEC's anti-sanctuary cities bill (a reform declared one of Perry's session priorities), for instance, turned up in HB9, co-authored by GOP state Representative Patricia Harless, who once sat on ALEC's telecommunications task force. HB9 was pushed in the Senate by GOP state Senator Tommy Williams, a member of ALEC's fiscal policy task force. The state's controversial voter ID law — another Perry priority authored by eight ALEC senators, including ALEC state chairman Kel Seliger and Senator Fraser — reflected ALEC's version.

Said Phillip Martin, Progress Texas research and policy director: "The Texas Legislature should be a laboratory for democracy, not a corporate clearinghouse for padding bottom lines at the public's expense."
Citizens United may have changed things on the national stage, but thanks to ALEC, Texas state politics was already full of corporate money and influence.

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