Mary-Alice Shemo, chairwoman of People for Positive Action, left, and Bill Cowan, discuss “The United States of ALEC” at a recent press conference.
Photo by Shaun Kittle.
PLATTSBURGH—The acronym ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, isn't quite a household name, but chances are the products made by the corporations it represents can be found in most households.
And, according to the documentary “The United States of ALEC,” ALEC is also helping to write legislation with deep ties to corporate interests throughout the United States.
On Friday, April 5, “The United States of ALEC,” a documentary by award-winning journalist Bill Moyer, will be shown in Plattsburgh State’s Yokum Hall.
Susan Lerner, executive director of Common Cause New York, will introduce the film and lead a post-viewing discussion.
The event is sponsored by Plattsburgh-based People for Positive Action.
“It’s a film exposé of a national organization that, for 40 years, as a not-for-profit agency, meaning tax exempt, has subverted American government policy, politics and political process by preparing and submitting biased draft legislation to state legislatures through its 2,000 legislative members and its corporate adjuncts,” said Bill Cowan, member for People for Positive Action.
Registering as a 501(c)(3) charitable organization means ALEC can legally avoid restrictions placed on lobby groups.
But, Cowan said, ALEC still creates model bills, about 200 of which are passed yearly.
“We feel that everybody, regardless of their political leanings, regardless of what issues they are or aren’t interested in, needs to see this,” said Mary-Alice Shemo, chairwoman of People for Positive Action. “ALEC does things that affect all of us and they do it in secret, and that’s just not right in a democracy. I watched this film and it scared me.”
Although nothing ALEC is doing is necessarily illegal, critics contend that their actions aren’t in the people’s best interest, and that it is unethical for a corporate-funded group to act as a charity while influencing legislation.
“People have to decide whether they want to vote for money or for people,” Shemo said. “The first step is knowing about it.”
For more information on ALEC, visit their website at alec.org.
To see the other side of the argument, visit alecexposed.org
If you go:
What: Film showing and discussion of “The United States of ALEC”
When: Friday, April 5 at 7 p.m.
Where: Room 200, Yokum Hall, SUNY Plattsburgh
Cost: This event is free and open to the public