Something smells: Stink tanks promote ALEC agenda of the rich


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” 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. 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.”

Reader Comments

  1. Organizations like ALEC, Americans for Prosperity, The Heritage Foundation, Grover Norquist’, Americans for Tax Reform, the Koch Bros., Carl Rove, etc. all speak for the advance and the increased influence of America, Inc., offering up the USA middle class and poor as sacrificial lambs at every turn. How about that “trickle down” from the “job creators?” Google: The Integration of Theory and Practice by Weyrich and Heubeck for the prescription of their right wing propaganda strategy that emphasizes not the accuracy or truth of the message, or even its benevolence for the majorityThis type of ideological propaganda, as Nick Hanauer, a multi-billionaire venture capitalist confesses, is not merely inaccurate, “It’s disingenuous.”

  2. Please read Reign of Error by Dr. Diane Ravitch, an education historian and researcher who has the facts to stop the huge drive to privitize our education system in America. She was assistant secretary in charge of research in the U.S. Dept. of Education during the implementation of No Child Left Behind. She now travels the U.S. explaining how the true intent of that bill has been derailed for the benefit of corporations, not our public school students. She also details common sense solutions that all educators have known for years. As educators, we have seen a more mobile society with many social needs that matter more than test scores for the success of our students.

  3. The blame game is getting old! If you think we are in lock step with such misinformation about the GOP you are wrong! You need to look at the statistics under the Obama administration and the education leaders. You will see that poverty and education progress has actually worsened and the economic gap has actually spread!
    When more people are on the unemployment line or under employed you can’t say we are moving forward under the present administration.

    1. I was a staunch supporter of the GOP until March of 2011; that was when life slowed down for me, and I began to look into their voting records. While I based my support for the right on their stated positions on conservative social issues (religious/moral in nature), I hadn’t looked into how they voted. How they voted on policies that have handed unprecedented favor and political power to large corporate entities. Policies that have led to the consolidation of wealth at the top like we haven’t seen in a century.

      National policies that have favored Free Trade Agreements (treaties like NAFTA, GATT, WTO and the upcoming TPP some are calling NAFTA on sterioids), Financial rulings (too big to fail), deregulation (Gramm, Leach, Bliley, Act), Citizens United vs. The Federal Election Commission, tax loopholes (exemptions, credits, itemized deductions, subsidies that incentivize the offshoring of jobs to sweatshops on foreign soil), tax rates on the top earners (carried interest, dividends, capital gains, etc.) have given this nation over to corporate interests over that of the collective middle class at every turn. THERE MUST BE A BALANCE!

      When you look into the voting records of the Congressional Representatives, Republicans overwhelmingly offer up the middle class as the sacrificial lamb to corporate interest every time, subjecting more and more downward pressure on the high wage of the USA worker (consumer) as they grant more and more favor to corporate interest. For an example of what I’m talking about, look up the above mentioned policies, and for a real eye opener, see the fate of: S3816, “Creating American Jobs and Ending Offshoring Act, 2010,” what it contained and how they voted…

    2. This is in response to Burl Near, as was my comment posted at 9:07.

      The great wage disparity that has occurred over the past 30 years has consolidated wealth at the top like we haven’t seen since the days of the Robber Barons a century ago. Maybe you think that there’s something wrong with a USA that promoted all of its citizens’ prosperity, but I don’t; it’s smart business. A middle class with disposable income will bolster retail sales and crank up the economy (this is if this increase actually boosts production in the USA and results in paychecks going into the pockets of USA workers like it used to do before the middle class was kicked to the curb for sweatshop labor on foreign soil.)

      in the business sector grew by 140%. Real compensation per hour (includes wages, benefits, pensions, and health insurance) increased by only 38% for the middle class worker.

      Post WWII, 1947-1979 America shared equally in the increase in output. During those years the increase that the bottom 20% received was 116%, the top 20% got an increase of 99%, and the middle quintiles increased somewhere within that range.

      Then the world flipped! From 1980 to 2007 the rich took practically all the increase in income. Over those decades, the poor received only a 15% increase and the middle three quintiles got a 25% increase, while the top 20% got a 95% increase and the top 1% received a raise of close to 300%, and they were compensated fabulously before this trend began (Paul Heise, PhD, Economics).

  4. What is needed is a listing of the major contributors to ALEC so that we can decide if we want to patronize them. I have dropped several due to their involvement.

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