On September 17, 2011, Occupy Wall Street descended upon Zuccotti Park in New York City. By October 9, in over 951 cities across 82 countries, and over 600 communities in the United States, Occupy protests and movements took place. Their message was simple: Get corporations out of politics. It also got going because of the $8 trillion used to bail out the banking industry.
I was one of 7,775 people arrested as of 2016 for participating in the Occupy movement. Though it’s calmed down quite a bit, it is still an active political entity—as a matter of fact, some of the best help during hurricane Sandy came from the Occupy movement. With that stated, the biggest thing about why Occupy started was because of corporate personhood.
Corporate personhood is the legal notion that a corporation, separately from its associated human beings (like owners, managers, or employees), has at least some of the legal rights and responsibilities enjoyed by natural persons (physical humans). This status was ruled by the supreme court in 1886. Corporations are also protected under the 14th Amendment, which grants citizenship to all persons born or naturalized in the united states. It was meant to end slavery in the U.S.—however, corporations are now allowed limited rights of personhood.
This is how they are able to contribute money to politicians. However it goes deeper than that: There are entities called “bill mills,” which are groups of corporations who filter their money in to a group that’s like a super-conglomerate of lobbyists. The most famous of these is the conservative group ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council). There is also a progressive left-wing group called siX (State Innovation Exchange) as well as the liberal Democracy Alliance (who quietly funds siX). All three filter money from corporations and the super-wealthy to influence legislation. I’ll cover siX and Democracy Alliance briefly—a lot less is known about them, but they are a tool used by the rich and big business to sponsor legislation.
What I find interesting about ALEC is they just named Jason Saine as their national chairman late last year. North Carolina is controlled by a lot of Republicans who have ties with ALEC; Jason Saine, like Pat McCrory, was and is a supporter of ALEC. You can go to alecexposed.org and SourceWatch.org for more on the politicians and corporations that are current or former members of ALEC.
I literally ran out of paper just printing out the different corporations and, surprisingly, nonprofit organizations who are members of ALEC. Duke Energy is one of the corporations that’s a big player in ALEC. Among the hundreds of others are technology, insurance, banking, and big pharmaceutical companies. It’s a giant spider web of corporations and nonprofits—AARP is even a member.
Just about all of their cash comes from sources that are not legislative dues. It mostly comes from corporate foundations, trade associations and corporations.
Legislators can pay $50 dollars a year for membership. Corporations pay up to $25,000 dollars a year. That’s a lot of money and kind of weird that legislators and Corporations can join the same group. What comes with the membership is all an all-expenses-paid trip where corporation executives and legislators are wined and dined together to discuss political policies and legislation.
All of this is legal and a way to eliminate the need for lobbyists who are the middle men. ALEC gives the politicians and corporations the ability to form alliances and accomplish getting pre-packaged legislation passed in federal, state, and local politics.
The Koch family are among the largest donors to ALEC. There is no full total of what the Kochs have donated to have meetings with politicians who are ALEC members, but it’s rumored to be in the millions. The Koch family has also put a lot of money into the Tea Party to get the politicians they want elected into office.
Part of the reason I got into Occupy was I knew the Tea Party would be co-opted. I thought Occupy had less of a chance, but left-wing groups did throw money Occupy’s way. The Rainforest Action Network actually paid for the March on Wall Street South in Charlotte during the DNC of 2012, which, due to health reasons, was my last Occupy event.
Most people don’t know that, next to New York City, Charlotte is next in line for banking and investment. You might be expecting a city like Atlanta, Chicago, or Los Angeles, but it’s Charlotte, North Carolina. That is why Charlotte hosted the 2012 DNC.
Which does lead me into the fact that, for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. siX and the Democracy Alliance are relatively the same thing as ALEC on the opposite end of the spectrum. It is a political model that came out of the University of Wisconsin, and essentially is funded quietly the same way as ALEC, only by a different group known as the Democratic Alliance, which formed in 2005.
siX pushes progressive legislation while the Democracy Alliance pushes legislation more for the standard democrat agenda, which brings us to a group of the super-rich that fund major political activity. It’s reported by Huffington Post that the the Democracy Alliance dropped funding to any group that was not primarily democrat, though that can be debated by some people because it is full of serious progressive billionaires; one of which is George Soros, who is like the Koch family’s arch-nemesis. The Democracy Alliance does not disclose its 110 members who shell out $200,000 dollars for membership. They all supposedly fund 172 organizations and reported 35 core groups they sponsor.
These are but three bill mills and ALEC is really the only one exposed to the public. Most of my info on ALEC comes from alecexposed.org, which has tons of information that takes hours to look at. All the other ones are hard to find much info on. However there are more than three.
According to some of my activist friends, things are just getting worse even though these bill mills are being exposed. The groups are accumulating more power within the government. With more corporate influence now than ever before, America may be in trouble.
Honestly, the divide in politics has shut the government down twice in the last year. I’m not sure if the bill mills are the main reason, but they sure are major players in influence on current legislation. This is how corporations and the super-rich are able to directly have access to representatives and build alliances, alliances that put money into campaign contributions and pre-planned legislation that favors whatever policies these bill mills want. This is how big business works in government currently.
I plan to talk more about big business campaign donations and political strategy groups in the future. For now, I’ll end things with a quote:
“Everything would be alright if everything was put back in the hands of the people, and we’re going to have to put it back in the hands of the people.” – Fred Hampton