by Brian Washington
They are two of the biggest names connected to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)—a group made up of right-wing state lawmakers from across the nation and conservative, wealthy fat cats who work together to promote legislation to protect the interests of the 1-percent.
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But now, Charles and David Koch, known to many as the infamous “Koch Brothers,” appear to be branching out. This is bad news for those who love democracy and anyone who cares about children, public education, or the rights of teachers and education support professionals to advocate on behalf of students.
The Koch Brothers have been linked to a new political firm with the mission of handpicking and grooming right-wing candidates who can win elections at the local, state, and federal levels and, more than likely, are willing to do the bidding of ALEC.
The firm is called Aegis and is located just outside the nation’s capital in Arlington, Virginia. It’s almost certain that many of Aegis’ clients, if elected to office, will serve as puppets for Koch-backed groups like ALEC.
Lisa Graves is the Center for Media and Democracy’s (CMD) Executive Director. CMD hosts a website called ALECExposed.org. It is designed to shed light on the closed-door dealings of ALEC and its members. In a recent television interview, Graves pointed out that ALEC’s goal is to circumvent our democracy by getting elected officials to push its model legislation in state legislatures across the country.
“ALEC really is a pay-to-play operation in which some of these legislators are getting free trips. They are called ALEC scholarships,” said Graves. “These corporations pay to get them (legislators) in the room.”
These corporations pay a premium to have a seat and a vote on these (ALEC) task forces where they actually vote as equals with our elected officials. And these elected officials, many of them, come back to our states and introduce these (ALEC) bills without changing a comma. And so it really circumvents the public role in our democracy.
Nationwide, 1 in 4 state lawmakers is a member of ALEC. However, ALEC is a faceless organization that gets more than 98 percent of its money from private and public corporations, foundations, and other sources.
Thanks to a recent national effort, ALEC lost about 90 corporate sponsors, but has since launched a campaign to increase its rolls. As a matter of fact, it appears Google and several other high tech firms are now members of ALEC.
Meanwhile, Aegis’ first client is reportedly a 31-year-old Republican named Mirilinda Garcia, who is serving her fourth term in the New Hampshire’s House of Representatives. Garcia tried unsuccessfully to win a congressional seat in her state last year. Aegis is expected to announced more clients in the coming months.