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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
JULY 25, 2002
11:19 AM
CONTACT:  Defenders of Wildlife
Brad DeVries 202-682-9400
Corporations Aim to Influence Lawmakers at Disney World Conference, Says Defenders of Wildlife
 
WASHINGTON - July 25 - The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) -- a purported "good government" group that pushes special-interest legislation from big corporations -- will entertain state lawmakers from around the country next month at the home of Disney World.

Despite state budget crunches, many lawmakers are attending the annual ALEC conference Aug. 6-11 at taxpayer expense, according to Defenders of Wildlife. They will be joined at a posh Orlando, Fla., resort by platoons of lobbyists, corporate executives, and representatives of trade and professional associations who give tens of thousands of dollars each to ALEC for access to the lawmakers.

"As the nation focuses on the ethics of corporate America, ALEC's corporate underwriters will wine and dine lawmakers in Orlando in an attempt to influence state policies on a wide range of key issues. Protecting corporate polluters from environmental regulation is a major ALEC goal," a Defenders of Wildlife spokesperson said.

According to a report by Defenders of Wildlife and the Natural Resources Defense Council, ALEC is almost entirely funded -- not by dues from legislator members -- but by corporations, trade and professional associations, and ultraconservative foundations. In return, ALEC, which touts itself as a membership association, acts as a conduit for special-interest legislation to key state lawmakers, according to the report.

"Influence peddling to shape government laws to suit corporate special interests is not just a Washington phenomenon," Defenders of Wildlife President Rodger Schlickeisen said. "It is just as aggressive if not as visible in the states. Especially now as the nation demands greater corporate responsibility, it's time to shine the public spotlight on how ALEC allows major corporations to exercise corrosive, secretive and highly influential power on state policymaking."

ALEC's major underwriters have included the now-disgraced Enron Corporation, as well as the American Nuclear Energy Council, the American Petroleum Institute, Amoco, Chevron, Coors Brewing Company, Shell, Texaco, Chlorine Chemistry Council, Union Pacific Railroad, Pharmaceutical Research & Manufacturers of America, Waste Management, Philip Morris Management Corporation, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco and many other of the nation's major corporations and trade associations, according to the report.

ALEC's own Web site, http://www.alec.org., promises "daily special events and giveaways" from corporate exhibitors in Orlando. The agenda features nightly parties, dancing, a golf tournament and even a "cigar reception" -- and all only minutes away from Disney theme parks, ALEC boasts.

"From the magic of Walt Disney World to the thrills of Universal Studios to the excitement of Sea World, there's something for everyone in Orlando," the ALEC Web site says.

The report by Defenders of Wildlife and the NRDC titled "Corporate America's Trojan Horse in the States: The Untold Story Behind the American Legislative Exchange Council" -- is available online at http://www.alecwatch.org.

It has been endorsed by public-interest organizations that include the Center for Policy Alternatives, U.S. Public Interest Research Group, the League of Conservation Voters, and Public Citizen.

"ALEC allows its corporate underwriters to do what they couldn't attempt to do directly or openly without risking public criticism," the report states. "They funnel cash through ALEC to curry favor with state lawmakers through junkets and other largesse in the hopes of enacting special-interest legislation -- all while keeping safely outside the public eye."

Contact Defenders of Wildlife's Brad DeVries at 202-682-9400 for more information on state lawmakers who are associated with ALEC.

Defenders of Wildlife is a leading nonprofit environmental advocacy organization with more than 500,000 members and supporters, especially recognized as one of the nation's most progressive advocates for endangered wildlife, its habitat and biodiversity. Defenders uses education, litigation, research and innovation to advance its mission over the opposition of special interests. Visit the Web site at http://www.defenders.org.

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