And the 2013 Environmental Turkey Goes to …

by Bill Chameides | November 25th, 2013
posted by Erica Rowell (Editor)

Permalink | 2 comments

The American Legislative Exchange Council, better known as ALEC.

OK, folks, Thanksgiving approaches. For most of you it’s the beginning of the holiday season — family, parties, and presents. For us at TheGreenGrok it means it’s time for selecting the biggest turkey of the year when it comes to the environment. (See 2011  and 2012 winners.) And this year the prize goes to ALEC. Now, we all know the homonym of ALEC that’s often associated with “smart,” as in smart aleck. Let me be clear there’s nothing smart about the ALEC I’m discussing here.

ALEC, supported by ExxonMobil and the Charles G. Koch Charitable among others, states that its core principles are “free-market enterprise, limited government, and federalism.” (You can’t miss these words, they’re plastered all over the group’s website.) Where to begin with their anti-environmental creds? How about with this one: ALEC has called the Environmental Protection Agency’s work a “Regulatory Train Wreck” and identified EPA rules as a major target. The group’s anti-environmental agenda extends far beyond blocking EPA’s efforts to regulate greenhouse gases and includes other environmental hobbyhorses such as regulations [pdf] designed to address air pollution and water pollution through the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts and to prevent EPA oversight of fracking as well as any effort to further renewable energy and energy efficiency.

Democracy Interrupted

You might say ALEC puts a crimp in U.S. democracy. When a politician receives enough votes to make it to the U.S. House or Senate, the assumption is that person will spend time learning the facts about multiple issues and then drafting legislation around those issues that better society. ALEC tries to shortcircuit all that nasty legislative stuff and put elected state officials directly in touch with corporations and other like-minded lobbyists and politicians to meet outside of the legislature and make things happen.

ALEC’s m.o. is to write blueprints for laws that would advance the council’s cause, and then pitch these draft bills to potential sponsors in assorted state legislatures. In fact, according to ALEC, some 2,000 state legislators from around the country belong to the group. (See this wiki to see who those state legislators are.) ALEC keeps a bullpen of these so-called “model legislation” drafts available on its website for any state rep who wants to sponsor a bill but is too lazy to actually write one; reps can pick and choose what language they want to appropriate from the ALEC bill and call it their own. Some examples of ALEC’s handiwork:

Language Written by Unelected Lobbyists Showing up in U.S. Laws

Amazingly (or not amazingly when you think about it), ALEC has been quite successful in states where the legislatures are dominated by conservatives. For example, as reported on the the New York Times’ website way back in 2011, language in ALEC’s model legislation has been showing up word-for-word in bills working their way through a number of state legislatures. What’s more, according to journalist Bill Moyers, of the roughly 1,000 bills written around ALEC’s draft bills, about 200 had become law as of 2012.

And so, for being on the wrong side of every environmental and energy issue, the 2013 Environmental Turkey goes to the folks working so hard at ALEC crafting their oh-so-clever model legislation. And to the rest of you out there: enjoy your turkey this Thanksgiving and don’t forget to think of this year’s Environmental Turkey as you bite into a savory piece of bird or tofu dressed as a bird. See you after the holiday.

filed under: faculty, policy, politics, pollution


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  1. Enviro Equipment, Inc.
    Nov 25, 2013

    ALEC this has been around since the mid-1970s; how come you waited until now to call out the group for its manipulation of legislators around the country?

  2. William Eacho
    Nov 25, 2013

    Please sign this petition asking Google to honor its “Don’t be evil” mission and stop supporting ALEC!

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