East County News Service
July 19, 2015 (San Diego) – The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) will host its annual convention on Wednesday, July 22 at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in San Diego. The organization is funded by corporations and pushes state legislators to introduce “model” legislation that it calls “pro-business.” Speakers include Republican presidential candidates Ted Cruz, Scott Walker and Mike Huckabee. The conference also will include other state and national legislators from across the nation.
But progressive organizations are mobilizing thousands of people for a march, rallies and protests against ALEC, which critics say pushes forward anti-worker, anti-environmental measures drafted behind closed doors. Local State Senator Joel Anderson (R-Alpine) chairs ALEC’s California chapter.
Among the groups planning to protest ALEC is the Courage Campaign, a statewide organization. In an e-mail to its supporters, Courage Campaign writes, “Legislators from across the country will arrive to take their marching orders from the Koch Brothers, giant corporations, and right-wing millionaires and billionaires. ALEC pushes model legislative bills designed to:
- restrict our ability to vote,
- increase gun violence,
- destroy our environment,
- end our right to organize,
- and give billions of dollars away in corporate welfare.
“They want to destroy marriage equality in America and halt all progress for LGTB rights,” states Courage Campaign, which is holding a rally July 22nd at 3 p.m. in Embarcadero Park North, across the street from the Grand Hyatt Hotel where ALEC is holding its conference. (Those wishing to participate can RSVP here.) A march will be held at 3 p.m., arriving at the convention site at 4 p.m.
Locally, Citizens Oversight, a government watchdog group founded in El Cajon, is inviting citizens to join in a “StopAlecFest” at 5 p.m. outside the Gran Hyatt at Kettner and Harbor Drive. https://www.facebook.com/events/1113726135320791
Ray Lutz, founder of Citizens Oversight, states, “ALEC is a pay-to-play operation where corporations buy a seat and a vote on ‘task forces’ to advance their legislative wish lists and can get a tax break for donations, effectively passing these lobbying costs on to taxpayers. Along with legislators, corporations have membership in ALEC. Corporations sit on ALEC task forces and vote with legislators to approve “model” bills.”
ALEC claims to have over 1,000 bills introduced by legislators each year, with one in five enacted into law, Citizens Oversight states. “These bills are nothing more than a way for the rich and powerful to squeeze every last dime they can out of families like ours all across the nation,” Lutz says, adding, “We do things differently here in California and are a model for the nation, and it’s time we stand up to ALEC to let them know they are not welcome here.”
Another San Diego organization mobilizing against ALEC is SD 350, which is urging its climate action supporters to meetup from 3:45 to 4:10 p.m. outside the Kansas City BBQ to protest ALEC’s anti-climate change policies funded by “fossil fuel giant corporate members like ExxonMobil and Peabody Energy.” For details, click here.
In addition, unions are holding a rally at the Civic Center at 3 p.m. on the 22nd and on the 23rd at 5 p.m., Common Cause will sponsor a panel discussion at the Hilton Airport hotel.
ALEC has responded to the growing criticism of its actions by insisting that legislators are elected and ultimately responsible to voters. The organization cites the First Amendment and claims its freedom to meet with lawmakers is a protected right.
“Legislators and all Americans have the right to associate and exchange ideas in any forum they choose. This right is protected by the Constitution, and no one should be intimidated by those who want to silence speech,” ALEC states on its website.