SALT LAKE CITY – The American Legislative Exchange Council, an organization that supports free-market enterprise, limited government and federalism, will be holding its annual meeting this week in Salt Lake City.
Between 1,500 and 2,000 people, including corporate executives and Utah lawmakers, will spend three days at the Grand America Hotel holding workshops and conferences on the current state of American politics.
Protesters, including members of the Occupy Salt Lake movement, who say ALEC is a group of corporations designed to control the government, are expected to descend upon Salt Lake City all week. They criticize ALEC for its supposed secrecy and corporate cronyism.
“This is what’s wrong with America. ALEC is not just a symbol of the corporotocracy in the nation we live. ALEC is a substantial portion of that corportocracy.'” said Jesse Fruhwirth with Occupy Salt Lake. “ALEC has the support of the richest corporations in the world. No one is parallel to them.”
The group Alliance for a Better Utah will host ALEC Exposed meeting at 629 South State Street. The meetings are open to the public.
ALEC currently has 2,000 legislative members in all 50 states, which is roughly one-third of all sitting lawmakers. Most are Republicans.
The organization drafts bills for lawmakers in almost every state. They call them model bills, or laws advocating conservative values like corporate tax reduction, but the group says that lawmakers aren’t required to push for ALEC-supported legislation.
“If they want to take our ideas and run with them and craft them into legislation for Utah they’re free to do that. I think the left is upset because they’re not winning,” said David Buer, spokesperson for the Sutherland Institute, a conservative think tank. ” think that’s an insult to Utah legislators and our governor to say that they’re just a pass-through for whatever corporations want. They take the ideas that are passed through and if they feel those ideas match those principles then they move forward with them.”
In Utah, ALEC was behind the so-called ag-gag bill that outlaws photography of farming operations with the purpose of stopping animal rights protesters. It passed in Utah in March.
Utah lawmakers are also influential in the group. State Senator Curt Bramble of Provo is on the national board of directors.