There is a nefarious force out there actively working to rob you of your right to vote, speak freely, and rest comfortably under sacrosanct constitutional protections we typically take for granted.
That force has a name–ALEC.
ALEC is an acronym for the American Legislative Exchange Council, a cabal of corporate lobbyists and state legislators who meet secretly to vote on “model bills” to further empower corporations and their financial interests.
According the Center for Media and Democracy’s PR Watch:
“ALEC describes itself as the largest ‘membership association of state legislators,’ but only a little more than ten percent of its funding comes from legislative dues. Some of the biggest corporations in the world bankroll and thus subsidize the activities of the legislators who are part of ALEC.”
You’ve likely heard of some “model legislation” for which ALEC is responsible.
Voter suppression laws? ALEC.
Laws reducing or eliminating income taxes? ALEC.
Stand-Your-Ground laws that protected Trayvon Martin’s killer, George Zimmerman? ALEC.
Bills blocking paid sick leave? ALEC.
Bills blocking raising minimum wage, renewable energy, banning exposure to unhealthy farming practices? All ALEC.
And now ALEC is taking on the Seventeenth Amendment.
The Seventeenth Amendment was passed on May 13, 1912, modifying Article I, section 3, of the Constitution by allowing the electorate to cast direct votes for senators. Before that state legislatures chose their senators, making them rife for corruption via backroom deals between wealthy donors, corporate lobbyists, and crooked legislators–essentially buying politicians.
Last year, ALEC published an article arguing:
“[The popular election of senators] is ‘disenfranchising the States.'”
Last month, ALEC disseminated:
“Draft resolution recommending constitutional amendment restoring election of u.s. senators to the legislatures of the sovereign states.”
That resolution makes explicit the following:
“Section 1. The seventeenth article of amendment to the Constitution of the United States is hereby repealed.
Section 2. Senators shall be elected exclusively by the State legislature, upon a majority vote of legislators present and voting in a joint session. If a vacancy shall exist for more than one hundred-eighty days, then the Governor shall appoint the Senator to serve the remainder of the vacant term. This procedure may not be modified by state initiative or referendum.
Section 3. State legislatures may issue instructions to, or recall, their Senators at any time.”
If approved, the resolution will become ALEC’s agenda for conservative lawmakers reliable in their towing the ALEC legislation line.
According to The Nation:
“If successful, they will reverse one of the great strides toward democracy in American history: the 1913 decision to end the corrupt practice of letting state legislators barter off Senate seats in backroom deals with campaign donors and lobbyists.
“Make no mistake: Doing away with the direct election of senators would make Congress less representative and more likely to bend to corporate pressure on issues ranging from health care to wages to Social Security. The Senate would also, in all likelihood, become more socially conservative on issues such as abortion rights, gay rights, and the separation of church and state.”
Repealing the Seventeenth Amendment would exacerbate an already unfair balance in Congress, which is precisely what ALEC and its myriad corporate allies want.
Republicans presently hold 52 US Senate seats; Democrats, 46, with whom two Independents–Bernie Sanders (Vt.) and Angus King (Maine)–caucus.
According to The Nation:
“That 52-48 divide does not accurately reflect the sentiments of great mass of Americans. In 2016, for instance, 51,496,682 Americans cast ballots for Democratic Senate candidates (including a pair of Democrats running in California) while 40,402,790 cast Republican ballots, yet the Republicans took 22 seats to 12 for the Democrats.”
Republicans also currently control 32 state legislatures. If states returned to selecting their own senators, this disparity would explode. Republican-controlled legislatures could reject moderate Republicans. Legislatures under Republican or Democrat control could reject Independents like Sanders and King. More importantly, campaign contributors such as the Koch brothers and other billionaires could potentially acquire more senators amenable to their agenda.
In an age where money in politics is a cancer corrupting the political process, the last thing we need is a system allowing the wealthiest to cherry-pick candidates who will do nothing more than serve them, not us.
But, there is hope.
Repealing amendments are deliberately cumbersome.
However, we are already seeing the twisted methods by which Republicans are able to fulfill their schemes. Republican legislators are inching ever closer to the votes they need to demand a “convention of the states” to pass a “Balanced Budget Amendment” which would hamstring the federal government through dictating budgeting priorities.
Featured image from Education Votes.