This morning a coalition of groups held a conference call to announce their new report, called ALEC in Florida, that they say documents the growing footprint the group has had in the drafting of what is referred to as 'model' language that gets passed around the country, such as laws on voter ID, public education, consumer protections and the extremely controversial Stand Your Ground bill.
That bill, you might recall, was actually pushed by the National Rifle Association in Florida and passed in 2005, but according to Doug Clopp with Common Cause, the NRA was part of an ALEC Task Force that enabled the bill to be spread across the nation to over 25 other states.
"What sets ALEC apart is the sheer size and scope of its operation," Clopp said in a conference call conducted Thursday morning. "There's nothing like it in the American political system."
He says that for almost 39 years the organization was "completely non transparent" when it came to what it actually does. But a year ago a whistleblower provided materials to the Nation magazine and the Center for Media and Democracy simultaneously, blowing the lid on information that had previously only been made available to the group's 2,000 legislative and 300 corporate members and their staff.
Last November, Hillsborough County state Representative Rachel Burgin made national news when she introduced a bill that had ALEC's fingerprints all over it - literally.
Common Cause's Doug Clopp says more than 200 legislators from across the country - 98 percent of whom are Republicans - work with ALEC. He says that's close to almost one third of all state legislators in the nation. And almost all of them are Republicans.
Clopp says that ALEC has had nine different "task forces" on various subjects, which include members of top corporations and state legislators.
Along with voter ID laws and Stand Your Ground, Clopp says that Arizona's controversial anti-immigration SB 1070 legislation also evolved out of an ALEC task force.
After news about ALEC broke last year, 30 corporations, including Wal-Mart, McDonalds and Kraft, have dropped working with ALEC, as have a number of state legislators. A press release issued today said that General Motors and Walgreens have just dropped their membership as well.
The group Progress Florida say its time for Florida ALEC members to do the same.
You can go to Progress Florida's website to access a copy of the report. There you can review the comparison of bills created by ALEC and then see similar legislation created by Florida lawmakers.
Progress Florida, Florida Watch Action, People for the American Way Foundation, Common Cause and ALEC Exposed were the authors of the report.