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Howell: Pay No Attention to that Man Behind the Curtain!

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Crossposted at ProgressVA

Virginia’s Speaker of the House, Bill Howell, wasn’t too happy about an August 5th Roanoke Times editorial titled, “Who Writes Virginia’s Laws,” exposing how ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, writes laws and influences legislators across the country, including here in VA. Howell is a former national chairman this business-backed group that allows corporations to sponsor their organization and write their model legislation.  Firing back in the Roanoke Times today, Howell defended ALEC’s pay-to-play process. Howell decried the description of ALEC by the Roanoke Times, stating its nothing more than a venue for legislators to talk “with the business community when writing legislation that affects businesses.

You haven’t heard of the American Legislative Exchange Council? Well, not very surprisingly, that’s what they want, but please continue reading and I will share what they don’t want you to know.

>According to ALEC Exposed, a project of the Center for Media and Democracy:


“ALEC is not a lobby; it is not a front group. It is much more powerful than that. Through ALEC, behind closed doors, corporations hand state legislators the changes to the law they desire that directly benefit their bottom line. .. Corporations sit on all nine ALEC task forces and vote with legislators to approve ‘model’ bills… Participating legislators, overwhelmingly conservative Republicans, then bring those proposals home and introduce them in statehouses across the land as their own brilliant ideas and important public policy innovations–without disclosing that corporations crafted and voted on the bills…” Additionally,More than 98% of ALEC’s revenues come from sources other than legislative dues, such as corporations, corporate trade groups, and corporate foundations.”

So what you get is Exxon, big Pharma, the natural gas industry, Altria, and the like writing model legislation to benefit their industries, then handing it off to lawmakers to propose.

No one should be surprised by Bill Howell’s association to such a group–nor to find similar relationships with ALEC and other conservative lawmakers in Virginia. But what should surprise you is how blatantly many of these elected officials just copy and paste proposed ALEC legislation– and without any disclosure whatsoever. Howell calling such practices “open” and “democratic” is absolutely laughable.

All this information raises a few questions about who Speaker Howell really represents:

  • Which corporations has the Speaker worked with through ALEC to create legislation?
  • What legislation has he put forward that he worked with ALEC on? And,
  • Who are the other legislators in Virginia who have also worked with ALEC, and on what legislation?
  • What state resources have subsidized the cozy relationship between corporate lobbyists and Virginia’s representatives?          

This is certainly only the beginning of news about the influence of ALEC on the conservative lawmakers of Virginia. ProgressVA will continue to keep you up-to-date on its developments.