On June 5th, voters in Wisconsin will go to the polls in an historic recall election, where they will decide who will serve as Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and State Senator in several districts for the rest of the current term. Nearly all the elected officials targeted by recall, who are in danger of being removed from office on the June 5th ballot, have something else in common: past or present affiliation with the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC.
At the center of the firestorm is Governor Scott Walker, who earned the ire of Wisconsin voters for his relentless drive to restrict collective bargaining rights for 350,000 state workers, as well as his negligence toward Wisconsin’s job crisis. But before he became a household name, Walker served in the State Assembly from 1993-2002, where he was an ALEC member from 1995-1998.
During that time, Walker worked with fellow ALEC politician Governor Tommy Thompson to pass a model “Truth in Sentencing Bill,” which was developed by ALEC’s now-shuttered Public Safety and Elections Task Force. The bill required all criminal defendants to serve “no less than 85 percent” of the sentence imposed. For those convicted of violent crime, the bill called for them to serve 100 percent of the sentence imposed by the court; no parole, and no chance for early release.
This bill was developed specifically to benefit an ALEC member corporation, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), which for many years housed overflow Wisconsin inmates in other states. CCA was on ALEC’s Criminal Justice Task Force at the time.
Walker’s Lieutenant Governor, former TV anchor Rebecca Kleefisch, has not previously held office, and therefore has not officially been an ALEC member. However, the three Senators targeted for recall on June 5th are all members of ALEC task forces, as was Sen. Pam Galloway, who was targeted for recall before she resigned in March.
- Sen. Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau), like Gov. Walker was a member of the ALEC’s Public Safety and Elections Task Force, which helped develop model Stand Your Ground and voter suppression bills. He also served as ALEC State Chairman.
- Sen. Terry Moulton (R-Chippewa Falls) was a member of ALEC’s Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force, which developed model bills that cut state worker pensions and gave tax handouts to corporations.
- Sen. Van Wanggard (R-Racine) was also a member of ALEC’s Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force.
ALEC’s influence over Wisconsin legislators also extends to taxpayer pocketbooks. Fitzgerald, Moulton, and Wanggard are three of 12 Republican State Senators who used taxpayer funds to help pay for their ALEC membership fees.
When we talk about the uprising in Wisconsin, we frequently talk about the way Walker and his allies have attacked workers’ rights, or ignored the jobs crisis. But folks are also upset by the idea that these politicians just don’t have their best interests in mind, in matters ranging from voting rights and public safety to the regulation of drinking water.
As the records show, Walker, Fitzgerald, Wanggard, and Moulton are affiliated with an organization that seeks to impose with narrow, corporate, profit-oriented goals into the laws that govern our communities. All of them have sat down at a table where corporations and legislators are equals and developed pieces of model legislation, many of which have become the law of the land in Wisconsin.
They are all subject to recall on June 5th in part because the people of Wisconsin want true legislators, true public servants; not just human delivery systems for ALEC’s cookie-cutter, corporate-backed agenda.