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ALEC Is Even More Scarily Effective Than You Thought, Says Study

J. Mijin Cha

The Trayvon Martin case and subsequent focus on Stand Your Ground laws brought the right-wing group, ALEC, into the mainstream. ALEC pushes legislation and policy at the state level advocating for limited government, free markets and federalism. For decades, ALEC operated somewhat under the radar and managed to push right to work, Stand Your Ground, and anti-environmental legislation at the state level. But, it was never clear the extent of its success. A new analysis by the Brookings Institution, however, shows that ALEC’s success is much greater than imagined.

Looking at the text of bills introduced in state legislatures, Molly Jackman found those that were introduced based on ALEC model legislation and tracked their progress. She found that ALEC model bills were not just introduced, but introduced word-for-word in state legislatures at a non-trivial rate, the introduced bills had a better chance of being enacted into law than most legislation, and the bills that passed were most often linked to controversial social and economic issues.

Jackman found that in the 2011-2012 legislative session, ALEC bills were most common in West Virginia, where 10 ALEC bills were introduced, followed by Oklahoma and Mississippi with nine bills. Arizona introduced eight and Kansas and Montana introduced seven. The most common bills were on immigration and the environment and also guns and crime. The top three bills are listed below.

Table 1: Top 3 ALEC Model Bills Introduced in the States

ALEC Model Bill

# of States Introduced


No Sanctuary Cities for Illegal Immigrants Act


Closely resembles Arizona’s SB1070 law in that it mandates local law enforcement of federal immigration law, and allows private citizens to sue their local government if they feel the law is not being fully enforced. In addition, it further criminalizes the employment of illegal immigrants, and creates a crime of “trespassing” on state land without immigration status, and a crime of having an illegal immigrant in one’s vehicle, among other provisions.

The Disclosure of Hydraulic Fracturing Fluid Composition Act


Requires the disclosure of fluid used in the production of natural gas through hydraulic fracturing. It would also allow operators not to disclose any materials that are considered a “trade secret” or present incidentally in the hydraulic fluid, and would limit the ability of individuals to challenge a the operator’s claim to trade secret protection.

Castle Doctrine Act


Also commonly referred to as “Stand Your Ground” legislation, this act authorizes the deadly use of force against an intruder in a residence or vehicle. It declares that a person has a right to stand his or her ground under reasonable fear of great bodily harm. It also reduces the grounds under which law enforcement may investigate the use of deadly force under these circumstances.

As evident, the bills proposed are radically conservative- so much so that the group is starting to lose both financial and member support. Recently, the Guardian obtained private ALEC documents that show a substantial loss in revenue after fallout over the Stand Your Ground laws, as well as a decline in legislator membership. The documents also show that ALEC prepared a draft agreement that required participating legislators to put the interests of ALEC first—above and beyond the interest of those they were elected to represent.

This last point highlights the future of our democracy if we don’t enact strong regulations and comprehensive campaign finance reform to get money out of our electoral and political systems. Groups like ALEC should not have the primary loyalty of elected officials and any elected that signs that pledge should be kicked out of office. And, the fact that we even have to say that elected officials should represent their constituents and not corporate front groups shows just how much money has watered down our democracy. We can’t let “We the People” become “We the Corporate.”