The Oregonian discovers ALEC
Three months after a nationwide protest against ALEC, the Oregonian finally featured an article over the weekend about the corporate lobbying group’s impact on Oregon.
If you’ve been following our coverage of ALEC over the past several months, there won’t be much in the way of new information in the Oregonian’s story. The only real new bit is the list of 22 Republican legislators (copied below) that was finally divulged by State Senator Gene Whisnant (R-Sunriver). Whisnant is the Oregon ALEC chairman and was named an ALEC Legislator of the Year in 2011.
Obviously, it’s great to see the Oregonian give prominent space to illuminating the efforts of the largest corporations in the country to write the laws that impact the lives of people in this state.
Specifically, the article did a good job of debunking the myth that ALEC is just like other groups—like, say, the National Conference of State Legislators. The truth came from, of all people, Republican State Senator Bruce Starr (R-Hillsboro):
In ALEC, private individuals and elected lawmakers have equal voice on model legislation. NCSL does not do that, Starr says. "There's not an opportunity for anybody but legislators and legislative staff to sit at the table and discuss what those policies look like. And the only ones that have the vote are legislators."
In other words, ALEC gives lobbyists from large corporations unparalleled access to write and push bills that directly benefit their bottom line at the expense of middle-class families.
But here’s what the Oregonian left out, and what is probably the most important take away: Even if ALEC ceased to exist tomorrow, the problem of corporate control of our political system will remain largely untouched.
Last year, we did an analysis of money spent on lobbying the Oregon legislature between 2009 and 2010. What we found is that corporations and business associations spent more than $25 million on lobbying. That represents more than 50% of all money spent lobbying legislators in those two years.
By comparison, labor unions spent a combined $2.7 million. Non-profit groups spent about $8.8 million.
Democracy may be a marketplace of ideals, but the corporate lobby is spending enough to corner the market and then rewrite the laws to benefit themselves. The only defense regular Oregonians have is to vote for lawmakers who protect middle-class priorities, rather than the interests of the largest, most profitable corporations.
Here's that list of Oregn ALEC legislators:
Rep. Katie Byre Brewer, R-Hillsboro
Rep. Kevin Cameron, R-Salem
Rep. Jason Conger, R-Bend
Rep. Sal Esquivel, R-Medford
Sen. Ted Ferrioli, R-John Day
Rep. Tim Freeman, R-Roseburg
Sen. Larry George, R-Sherwood
Sen. Fred Girod, R-Stayton
Rep. Bruce Hanna, R-Roseburg
Rep. Wally Hicks, R-Grants Pass
Rep. John Huffman, R-The Dalles
Rep. Mark Johnson, R-Hood River
Rep. Bill Kennemer, R-Oregon City
Rep. Shawn Lindsay, R-Hillsboro
Rep. Mike McLane, R-Powell Butte
Rep. Dennis Richardson, R-Central Point
Rep. Sherrie Sprenger, R-Scio
Rep. Kim Thatcher, R-Keizer
Rep. Jim Thompson, R-Dallas
Rep. Matt Wand, R-Troutdale
Rep. Gene Whisnant, R-Sunriver
Rep. Matt Wingard, R-Wilsonville