by Brian Washington/photo courtesy of aturkus
Your response to our story about the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and how its policies are driving more students into poverty was huge—which indicates an eagerness among pro-public education activists to get more information about the wealthy, right-wing players working against children, public education, and middle-class families.
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Today, Education Votes is shining light on the State Policy Network (SPN) and its web of affiliates which are masquerading as nonpartisan and independent “think tanks.” SPN and its affiliates are some of the most active members and largest sponsors of ALEC—which brings together special interest groups and state politicians, behind closed doors, to craft and promote “model” legislation in your state designed to benefit the wealthy and corporate CEOs at the expense of working, middle-class families. The ALEC agenda includes defunding and privatizing public education, undermining the rights of workers, and blocking families from getting coverage under the Affordable Care Act.
A new report, housed on a site called “stinktanks.org” and is sponsored by the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) and Progress Now, is pulling the curtain back on the SPN, which is driving ALEC’s corporate-backed agenda in state legislatures nationwide. SPN has received $83 million from a national network of right-wing funders including the Koch brothers.
“The ‘experts’ of State Policy Network groups get quoted on TV, in the papers, or in the legislature as if they were nonpartisan, objective scholars on issues of public policy,” said Lisa Graves, executive director of the Center for Media and Democracy.
But in reality, SPN is a front for corporate interests with an extreme national policy agenda tied to some of the most retrograde special interests in the country, including the billionaire Koch brothers, the Waltons, the Bradley Foundation, the Roe Foundation, and the Coors family.
SPN doesn’t publically identify its donors, but, through some digging, CMD and Progress Now have determined that other major donors include Reynolds America, Altria, Microsoft, AT&T, Verizon, Express Scripts, GlaxoSmithKline, Kraft Foods, and Comcast.
Stinktanks.org also identifies, state-by-state, the name of the SPN affiliate, who’s funding it, and the ALEC-backed legislation being promoted in the state. In fact, the ALEC playbook becomes quite clear when reviewing the state charts. Education Votes looked randomly at several states—Arizona, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Oregon—and, in just about each state, found ALEC-backed legislation that would do the following:
- Defund public schools and turn them over to private corporations;
- Strip Americans of their voice in the workplace;
- Block health insurance coverage for working and middle-class families under the Affordable Care Act;
- Eliminate the minimum wage and workplace safety protections;
- Provide tax cuts to the global corporations and the rich; and
- Undermine the retirement security of public employees, like teachers, nurses, and fire fighters, who have dedicated their lives to serving their communities.
“The bottom line is these organizations of the rich, by the rich, and for the rich are representing themselves as groups that are looking out for the best interests of everyday, working-class Americans and it’s just a blatant lie,” said Denise Cardinal, executive director of Progress Now.
Cardinal adds the reports and the Stink Tanks website are designed to bring some transparency to the destructive work these groups are doing on a daily basis.
“From policies that promote polluting the air and water to the destruction of our public education system and a tax system that benefits their rich donors, what these organizations are doing is shameful and it’s time that someone brought this to light.”