At least one member of the Louisiana Legislature has seen enough of the inner workings of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).
Even as ALEC Executive Director Ron Scheberle bemoans what he calls a “coordinated and well-funded intimidation campaign against corporate members of the organization,” State Rep. Greg Cromer (R-Slidell) has announced that he is resigning from the organization after serving as its State Chairman since 2010.
Cromer emailed his resignation on Tuesday to Laura Elliott, ALEC’s director of state programs
ALEC, by the way, has now officially abandoned social issues in favor of stressing economic programs as a result of national criticism of the “Stand Your Ground” law following national backlash over the shooting death of Travon Martin by a community watch volunteer.
ALEC, that crowning citadel of corporatocracy, extends its tentacles much further into the bowels of state legislatures than just the “Stand Your Ground” law in Florida that led to Martin’s shooting death.
More recently, it marshaled its forces behind the chairmen of the House and Senate retirement committees to plan an all-out assault on state employees’ retirement plans that opponents insist are unconstitutional.
A secret meeting with the two chairmen prompted Cromer to resign from ALEC in protest to being left out of the discussions.
The organization, comprised of some 300 major corporations and about a third of all state legislators in the U.S., writes legislation covering a multitude of issues. Those bills are then spoon-fed to the legislators to take back home and to push through their respective legislatures and state assemblies.
State Sen. Neil Riser (R-Columbia) for example, is pushing his bill to make it legal to carry firearms to school, to churches and on college campuses. That could be one of the last ALEC-sponsored social issues to be considered anywhere in the U.S.
As we have said here on numerous occasions, ALEC writes legislation to promote privatization of state programs such as health care, prisons, schools and other agencies. It also pushes the approval of school charters, school vouchers and a general reduction in the size of government.
ALEC also bestowed its coveted Thomas Jefferson Freedom Award for “outstanding public service” upon Gov. Bobby Jindal at last August’s annual meeting in New Orleans.
But one of its premier programs is its concerted effort to offer generous tax breaks to its corporate members which in turn creates budget crises like that being faced by the State of Louisiana today.
Tax breaks in Louisiana over the past five years have combined to cost the state $18.7 billion, according to figures provided by the Louisiana Department of Revenue.
That’s $400 million more than the $18.3 unfunded accrued liability (UAL) of the state’s four retirement systems.
The primary complaint of ALEC members is the high tax rate to which businesses are subjected—a tax rate that ALEC says drives many U.S. corporations overseas in search of friendlier business climates (read: cheap, sweatshop labor).
But just how severe is the tax burden to corporate America? Really?
To answer that, let’s restrict the results to ALEC members as we take a look at three things: profits and taxes from 2008-2010, and political contributions from 1989-2012. A minus sign under the column headed taxes signifies a tax return as opposed to taxes paid.
And just for fun, we’ll also throw in total tax subsidies enjoyed by a few cureent or immediate past members of ALEC
To borrow a phrase from a beer commercial, here we go:
• General Electric—$44 billion income, $4.7 billion tax refund (-11%), $8.4 billion in tax breaks, $21.2 million in campaign contributions;
• Eli Lilly—$10.6 billion income, $214 million paid in taxes (2%), $10 million in campaign contributions;
• Verizon—$27.8billion income, $951 million tax refund (-3%), $12.3 billion in tax breaks, $21 million in campaign contributions;
• AT&T—$32.2 billion income, $4.3 billion in taxes (13%), $14.5 billion in tax breaks, $48.2 million in campaign contributions;
• Boeing—$10.2 billion income, $75 million tax refund (-1%), $3.6 billion in tax breaks, $17.2 million in campaign contributions;
• Coca-Cola—$30.7 billion income, $1.7 billion in taxes (5%), $2.5 billion in tax breaks;
• Merck—$26.9 billion income, $1.4 billion in taxes (5%), $2.9 billion in tax breaks;
• Wal-Mart—$63.1 billion income, $15.7 billion in taxes (25%), $2.5 billion in tax breaks, $11 million in campaign contributions;
• Chevron—$93.6 billion income, $4.5 billion in taxes (5%), $12.2 million in campaign contributions;
• IBM—$54.6 billion income, $1 billion in taxes (3%), $8.3 billion in tax breaks;
• Altria Group—$15.4 billion income, $4.4 billion in taxes (29%), $25.8 million in campaign contributions;
• Dow Chemical—$4.5 billion income, $508 million tax refund (-11%).
Of the 12 corporations listed here, nine had tax rates of 5 percent or less. Only two, Altria and Wal-Mart had tax rates comparable to individual wage earners in America.
Even in the face of these figures, Scheberle insists on wringing his hands over the “coordinated and well-funded intimidation campaign” against corporate members of the organization.
“ALEC is an organization that supports pro-growth, pro-jobs policies and the vigorous exchange of ideas between the public and private sector to develop state-based solutions,” he said. “Today, we find ourselves the focus of a well-funded, expertly-coordinated intimidation campaign.
“Our members join ALEC because we connect state legislators with other state legislators and with job creators in their states,” he said. “They join because we support pro-business policies that promote innovation and spur local and national competitiveness. They’re ALEC members because they’re more interested in solutions than rhetoric.”
Apparently, they resign from ALEC for that same reason.
Cromer announced on Tuesday that he is resigning from the organization after learning that he was left out of the loop in a pre-session meeting between ALEC staff members and House Retirement Chairman Kevin Pearson (R-Slidell) and Senate Retirement Chairman Elbert Guillory (D-Opelousas).
“It has been brought to my attention that there have been meetings and/or activities with ALEC staff members within the state of Louisiana that I have not been privy to,” Cromer wrote in his resignation letter that went out as an email to key lawmakers and staffers.
Jeremy Alford, a Baton Rouge writer, said in New Orleans’ Gambit and The Independent of Lafayette:
“Representatives from ALEC and State Budget Solutions, a conservative-leaning non-profit, urged them (Pearson and Guillory) to model their attack plan after the successful (retirement) reform efforts launched in Utah in 2010. Legislators there moved the Utah system closer to defined contribution and hybrid plans. They also passed laws that changed how retirees can return to work.”