An Unholy Trinity of Corporatism

It’s hardly news that Charles and David Koch are longtime supporters of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). For example, Institute for Humane Studies “Koch fellows” are heavily represented in staff jobs at ALEC, and frequently go on to head the task forces that draft model legislation. The Kochs stated some time ago their preference for Scott Walker among the long list of 2016 GOP hopefuls. And now, to complete the triangle, Talking Points Memo recently shone a spotlight on Walker’s involvement with ALEC (Brian Murphy, “Meet ALEC’s (Hoped For) Man in Washington: Scott Walker,” August 10). Walker has frequently used emergency rules to railroad through ALEC legislation without debate.

Although all three points of this triangle are celebrated in the mainstream libertarian press with heavy use of the term “free market,” they’re anything but. It’s hardly surprising that ALEC’s association with “free markets” is just a brand image for public consumption, given private sector members’ (aka “corporations”) role in setting its agenda; private sector members of ALEC’s task forces have absolute veto power over all model legislation drafted by those bodies, guaranteeing that any state legislative proposals generated by ALEC will actively promote the economic interests of the corporate donors it represents.

The Arkansas Times (Max Brantley, “ALEC, Scott Walker and cozy lobbying opportunities,” Aug. 11) gives a particularly foul example of the sort of human garbage that show up to hobnob at ALEC. Among the official hosts of an ALEC gathering at a San Diego steakhouse were four Arkansas lobbyists. They included Gilbert Baker, whose claim to fame is bribing a state judge to reduce a negligence judgement against nursing home magnate Michael Morton by more than $4 million.

Equally suggestive of the phoniness of Koch “free market” pretensions is their support for fossil fuel pipelines like Keystone (which is possible only through use of eminent domain and profitable only through liability caps for spills) and fracking (a front-loaded ponzi scheme industry which depends heavily on regulatory preemption of liability for earthquakes and pollution, and ALEC-drafted “trade secret” legislation that prohibits disclosing the chemicals used in fracking).

At the federal level ALEC has vigorously supported “free trade agreements” (falsely so-called) like NAFTA and TPP, which have nothing to do with free trade and everything to do with the draconian “intellectual property” laws central to the protectionist business model of global corporations.

The list of other fake “free market” (but actually corporatist) state policies supported by the Kochs, ALEC and/or Walker is a long one. So-called “right-to-work” laws, for example, are actually a regulatory assault on the freedom of employers and unions to negotiate union shop contracts, and a mandate that unions represent non-dues-paying scabs. “Ag-gag” legislation treats undercover reporting on factory farms as an act of economic terrorism. Other legislation forces consumers to pay utilities to accept surplus electricity fed back into the grid from solar generators on the alleged grounds that they’re “free riders” on utility infrastructure, even though they probably actually save electric companies money by feeding back energy at times of peak demand.

Especially offensive is so-called “tort reform” which eviscerates the civil liability which would be the main recourse in a free market for punishing damage to consumers, workers and the public by corporate malefactors. Besides liability caps, “loser pays” provisions amount to a guarantee nobody of ordinary means will risk suing deep pocket corporations even in the worst cases of wrongdoing.

Other questionable policies celebrated by the usual right-libertarian suspects include laws which weaken the job security and bargaining power of public school teachers (the very un-Hayekian practice of empowering administrative bureaucrats at the expense of the people actually teaching kids) and replacing defined benefit pensions with defined contribution ones (what some people would call violating contracts). In addition Walker is a poster boy for “disaster capitalism.” He has a history — much like Paul Bremer’s Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq — of promoting corporate looting of public sector assets. So, two rules to keep in mind next time you hear the Koch brothers, ALEC or Scott Walker associated with “free markets”: 1) they’re lying; and 2) follow the money.

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