Despite campaign rhetoric about “draining the swamp,” it’s become clear that the current administration—from its Cabinet appointees to its replacement of research scientists with industry shills—is about government of the corporations, by the corporations and for the corporations.
And the lobbyists don’t call the shots only in Washington; the perks and breaks and legislation they solicit are brought back to the states to be instituted by their cooperative legislators.
In New Jersey, the chief cheerleader for corporate-dominated legislation is none other than Sussex County’s own state Sen. Steve Oroho.
Oroho is chairman of the New Jersey branch of ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council.
The academic-sounding name masks an organization that allows corporate interests to influence, and even write, legislation while deducting lobbying expenses from their taxes, which would be illegal if the firms were do so honestly and up front.
ALEC held a meeting in North Carolina on Friday that essentially served as a vehicle for lobbyists to press the flesh with legislators, all while pretending to be part of a charitable organization of “state legislators dedicated to the principles of limited government, free markets, and federalism.”
ALEC has a governing board comprising state legislators and a “Private Enterprise Advisory Council” made up of representatives of corporations such as PhRMA, Pfizer, and AT&T, right-wing groups such as the Heritage Foundation and Koch Companies Public Sector, and even niche special-interest groups such as the Asian-American Hotel Owners Association.
Legislators can join for a mere $100; private entities spend tens of thousands up to millions more for the opportunity to “brainstorm” with lawmakers; such trading of ideas includes private interests writing legislation for their lawmaker buddies to enact in their states. Such “model” legislation has included, for example, laws impeding the blockage of greenhouse gasses that were written by shills for the oil industry. Because ALEC presents itself as a (501)(c)(3) charitable organization, corporations such as Exxon, which has donated $1.7 million to ALEC over the years, can claim these expenditures as a charitable donation.
The multimillion-dollar sleight-of-hand exchange of funds for laws explains why ALEC prefers to keep a low profile, and why ALEC doesn’t show up on a search of the NJ Republicans’ website.
It goes a long way toward explaining, however, why Democrats need to replace Oroho in 2018 in order to actually drain the swamp.