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Rightwing group behind regressive US state laws to face protest at DC gala

A broad coalition of opponents to the rightwing corporate agenda of the American Legislative Exchange Council (Alec) will hold a rally on Wednesday night outside a glitzy gala event to celebrate the secretive group’s 50th anniversary.

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Environmentalists, gun reform campaigners, union leaders and voting rights activists will protest outside the $750-a-ticket event at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington DC, calling on corporations to cut ties with Alec – a tax-exempt group behind a slew of regressive state laws including the stand your ground gun legislation, right-to-work labor policies and so-called critical infrastructure protections that criminalize protest against fossil fuel polluters.

“They design cookie cutter legislation to pass to state houses across the US, helping pass laws that make it harder to vote, harder to get healthcare, harder for workers to unionize, and harder to get dark money out of politics,” said Svante Myrick, CEO of People for the American Way, one of the rally organizers.

“The model bills sound like they are protecting our country but are actually designed to protect corporate interests. We have to shine a light on this,” said Viki Harrison from Common Cause, a group which for years has pushed corporations to break ties with Alec over the racist impact of its legislation.

Alec’s corporate members pay thousands of dollars to each year for access to friendly state legislators and a seat on policy groups such as the Energy, Environment and Agriculture task force, which has been a conduit for the fossil fuel industry to promote state-level policies that weaken environmental regulations and impede efforts to tackle the climate crisis.

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Membership dues from legislators, on the other hand, account for less than 1% of Alec’s annual revenues, according to tax filings uncovered by the Centre for Media and Democracy (CMD). The second-largest known donor to Alec is Charles Koch, whose foundations gave the organization just over $2m between 2017 and 2021, CMD found.

Over the past five decades, Alec has secretly worked with corporate lobbyists, far-right groups and conservative state legislators to draft and promote hundreds of model bills that have affected almost every aspect of life in the US including tobacco advertising, prescription costs, access to higher education and abortion healthcare, consumer protections, voting rights and environmental standards.

“We’re exposing who is behind Alec … they are just a cover for corporations to use tax free money to undermine workers’ rights and give cover to polluters, extending the life of the fossil fuel industry,” said Tefere Gebre, chief program officer at Greenpeace USA. “Alec has provided cover for corporations to run our lives, and 50 years is enough.”

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Alec’s anniversary gala is sponsored by dozens of corporations, trade associations and rightwing thinktanks including Philip Morris International, The Heritage Foundation, US Chamber of Commerce and NetChoice, a tech industry group whose members include Amazon, Google, Meta and TikTok. Expected speakers include former corporate lobbyist and the current Alec CEO Lisa Nelson, and conservative political commentator Hugh Hewitt.

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Alec has been contacted for comment.