ALEC and the Koch Brothers Attempt to Rewrite the Constitution
By Sean Lally, Staff Writer
By now you have probably heard of the American Legislative Exchange Council (commonly referred to as ALEC), and you may even be aware of its primary function: to draft pro-corporate “model” legislation in closed-door mock assemblies composed primarily of state legislators and corporate representatives from around the country.
Read more about ALEC and the policies that ALEC promotes here.
ALEC Has Widespread Influence Across the US
It is difficult to grasp the widespread influence of this organization. Of the 1,000 ALEC bills introduced to state legislatures on a yearly basis, approximately 200 successfully passed into law.
ALEC Pushed for Stand Your Ground Laws
After years of avoiding the media spotlight, ALEC came under fire following the shooting of Trayvon Martin in 2012, when it came to light that Martin’s shooter, George Zimmerman, was protected by Florida’s ”Stand Your Ground” law. Now, thanks to the support of ALEC, “Stand Your Ground” has been adopted by 33 states.
Article V Constitutional Convention
One ALEC idea currently gaining traction in state assemblies involves the invocation of a specific clause in Article V of the US Constitution. According to Article V, if two thirds of state legislatures call for a constitutional convention, Congress must make it so. According to some counts, only five more states need to “issue a call” to reach the 34-state minimum required to mandate a convention.
Wisconsin state senator Kris Kapenga, a long-time member of ALEC, recently introduced Senate Joint Resolution 18, which calls for a convention specifically to add a balanced budget amendment to the US Constitution. Unsurprisingly it bears a striking resemblance to ALEC’s Balanced Budget Amendment Policy, a cookie cutter bill that has now been accepted by 29 state legislatures (Wyoming being the most recent).
If enacted, an amendment of this kind would force the US government to operate under the strictures of a balanced budget, endangering foundational federal programs like Social Security and Medicare, according to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP). Kapenga also introduced Senate Bill 107 (very much like this ALEC proposal) designed to prevent convention delegates from pursuing goals other than a balanced budget amendment.
A Runaway Convention
SB107 attempts to address a widespread fear that, once convened, a convention could get out of control. According to CBPP, there’s nothing preventing a convention from writing its own rules, including rules governing how delegates are chosen, how many delegates attend and whether a supermajority should be enforced to approve amendments. A convention could even override the 38-state requirement for ratification. And with Koch Brothers-backed organizations like ALEC and Citizens for Self-Governance voicing their support, it stands to reason that a “runaway convention” could allow corporate interests to play a major role in the rewriting of the Constitution.
With the GOP controlling a majority of state legislatures (37 State Senates and 31 State Houses), a constitutional convention is no longer a fringe idea as it was in the 70s and 80s. Now that it’s an imminent possibility, one wonders: how would a balanced budget amendment affect the current state of affairs? Well according to a blog post from 2011 written by Macroeconomic Advisors (and cited by Alternet), “the effect on the economy would be catastrophic. … [I]nstead of forecasting real GDP growth of 2% or so for FY 2012, we’d mark that projection down to perhaps -12% and raise our forecast of the unemployment rate from 9% to 16%, or roughly 11 million fewer jobs.” Essentially, such an amendment would enforce extreme austerity as the law of the land.
If the Wisconsin and Texas legislatures successfully add themselves to the aggregation of states calling for a Constitutional convention, only three more states would have to pass a resolution invoking Article V. And if that occurs, Republicans and their corporate counterparts (represented by ALEC) would gain even more power, while everyday people would suffer in ways we have yet to fully comprehend.
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