Monday, July 16, 2012

From the FBI to ALEC

I’ve been wryly amused by some of the readings of the corporate withdrawals from Heartland and ALEC, applauding the companies’ decision to distance themselves from the disgraced organizations as a bold ethical stance and even thanking them for it. These organizations have of course merely been their mouthpieces and tools, and now that their usefulness is compromised, of course many of the corporations are going to abandon them and find other means of advancing their interests.

The most amusing part of the fleeing-in-droves story, though, is that there are some corporations and industry groups so invested in working through ALEC and so optimistic that people aren’t really going to continue to pay attention to their skullduggery – and they may well be right – that they’re not even going for the PR move, hoping just to ride out the bad publicity.

This is from Amy Goodman’s interview a few days ago with Lisa Graves, executive director of the Center for Media and Democracy:

AMY GOODMAN: If you could just give us the list of corporations that have pulled out of ALEC—interesting for being in it, and now interesting for pulling out, as ALEC moves into its major conference at the end of the month in Salt Lake City, Utah. Just a list of some of those names.

LISA GRAVES: Sure. That includes McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, Hewlett-Packard, John Deere. It includes Pepsi-Cola. We also know that the Gates Foundation has pulled out of ALEC. That’s one of the nonprofits that’s left. We know that the Yum! groups, which has a number of fast-food operations, including—it has previously had Kentucky Fried Chicken and Taco Bell and others—have pulled out. And so, we see—Kraft Foods, as well—a number of corporations that are brand names, that people rely on, that people eat and drink and use, have now left ALEC. And I—

AMY GOODMAN: Who’s still in?

LISA GRAVES: Well, who’s still in? The Koch brothers, through Koch Industries, the big tobacco companies, Pharma, Big Pharma, which includes a number of—a number of pharmaceutical companies other than Johnson & Johnson and Procter & Gamble. A number of other pharmaceutical companies are still involved.

The Center for Media and Democracy has created the useful site ALEC Exposed, which details the aleckian legislation across the US (see also ProPublica’s guide). Particularly interesting are the pages about bills related to pharmaceuticals and health, in which Phrma and its individual members are of course major players.

Pharma is also, it’s easy to forget, one of the major corporate groups behind state ag gag bills (one was just passed in Missouri) and the federal Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act, currently facing a court challenge from the Center for Constitutional Rights.

In this, as documented admirably by Will Potter, they receive support from the FBI (oh, wait – sorry! They “don’t just work for those big companies”!). This illustrates how the tactics and targets of the FBI haven’t changed much over the decadesthey’re still hounding social justice activists and thinkers – but they’re probably operating more in league with corporations now than ever before.

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