by Jane Porter
On his way to Caffé Luna in Raleigh Monday night, House Majority Leader Thom Tillis and freshman members of the General Assembly seemed unfazed as they crossed paths with demonstrators who had assembled outside the eatery.
As Tillis and friends hobnobbed inside, on nearby street corners, about 15 protestors organized by Tony Ndege and the North Carolina Coalition Against Corporate Power took Tillis to task on such issues as fracking, tax reform, voter ID legislation, immigration and education and their most major pet peeve, corporate power.
In particular, protestors condemned Tillis’ cozy relationship with ALEC, also known as the American Legislative Exchange Council, the corporate funded ‘research group’ that writes model bills. Those bills, which heavily favoring corporate interests, are then handed off to legislators with whom they are in cahoots.
In North Carolina, some of the corporations who benefit or have benefitted in the past from ALEC include Duke Energy, Bank of America, R.J. Reynolds and GlaxoSmithKline; laws get written that favor their business activity through deregulation and relaxed accountability standards.
And according to SourceWatch.org, a good deal of North Carolina’s Legislature has ALEC ties. Take Rep. and ex-House speaker Harold Brubaker—he sits on ALEC’s Board of Directors and its International Relations task force, and has supposedly been involved with the organization since 1986. And then there’s Rep. Tim Moffitt, who’s behind the proposed state takeover of Asheville’s water infrastructure. Moffitt’s on the ALEC International Relations Task Force too.
Brubaker and Moffitt are just two of an estimated 30 legislators in North Carolina who at the very least have attended an ALEC meeting. The speaker himself is also on the International Relations Task Force, which corporations can buy into for $10,000 a year.
Give his people credit for trying—a mouthpiece for Tillis came out of the Luna Café and engaged with protestors for a few minutes. But there’s not much he could have said to that crowd in defense of the speaker, who said he felt “honored” when he was named 2011 ALEC Legislator of the Year.
Ron Rabatsky, a protestor from Charlotte, described ALEC’s advocacy for corporate interests via legislation as “devious… insidious.”
“It’s an exchange,’ he said. ‘Legislators pay to sit with corporations, who pay to sit with legislators, to write legislation together. The problem is, not enough people know about it.”
The state House and Senate reconvene on Wednesday, Jan. 30.