We all love a good David and Goliath story. Maybe that's why hating on corporations is so easy. (And fun!)
But the fact is that corporations, like people, aren't innately bad. (Can we go ahead and agree that they're not actually people though?)
If we're being technical, corporations are simply groups of people authorized to act as a single legal entity. And while it's easy to use for the word "corporate" to take on a pejorative meaning in casual conversation (hey, I'm totally guilty of it), it's not exactly fair or accurate.
Except in the case of these corporations who are totally The Worst and have this one thing in common:
Most of the corporations that you hear the horror stories about have a longstanding history with the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC.
Again, if we're being technical, ALEC is simply a nonprofit organization dedicated to free-market capitalism. But if we scratch the surface (like, just the tippy top), it becomes glaringly obvious that ALEC's primary function is to help corporations write fill-in-the-blank laws for congresspeople to sign and pass.
Basically everything you've ever heard or suspected about American political corruption starts with ALEC.
You can find their fingerprints all over the prison-industrial complex, voter disenfranchisement, privatizing education, undermining consumer protections in the Affordable Care Act, "stand your ground" laws, pollution and anti-environmental initiatives, and more.
Here are just a few of the corporations that are still in cahoots with ALEC:
In addition to sponsoring the open-bar cocktail hour at the 2015 ALEC annual conference, beverage giant Anheuser-Busch is also a member of ALEC's Commerce, Insurance, and Economic Development Task Force — responsible for numerous anti-worker and union-busting initiatives. So, why not consider getting your drink somewheres else? (Uh, also: no big loss. Their beer tastes like pee.)
2. AT&T and
3. Sprint Nextel
In case you were wondering why your cellphone bill is so impossibly convoluted or why your supposedly "public" utilities look a lot more like a group of private companies that put profits over people, it might have something to do with the insane-o ALEC-sponsored legislation that AT&T and Sprint Nextel have pushed through Washington. For example: Ever wonder why your local public utility commission still hasn't laid any high-speed fiber-optic Internet cables in your town? Yep: ALEC.
4. Comcast Corporation and
5. Time Warner Cable
Like our friends above, Comcast and Time Warner Cable use ALEC to help them maintain oligarchical control over Internet and television utilities. They're also responsible for throttling your download speeds on certain websites, and — oh yeah — making it impossible for you to switch services because there are no other available competitors in the area.
OK, this one isn't much of a surprise. I mean, they're an oil company. Are you surprised that ExxonMobil has contributed more than $1.5 million to ALEC's hardline climate-change-doubting agenda over the last 17 years?
7. FedEx and
How's this for cozy? UPS's vice president of corporate public affairs is the second vice chairman of ALEC's private enterprise advisory board. Meanwhile, FedEx has at least one lobbyist on the executive committee for ALEC's Commerce, Insurance, and Economic Development Task Force. Good thing can we still rely on the U.S. Postal Serv ... I can't even type that sentence with a straight face, ugh.
9. Pfizer and
Both Pfizer and Novartis benefitted greatly from ALEC's Data Quality Act, which made it legal for corporations to validate and regulate their own scientific data (thus enabling them to get away with using cheaper chemical shortcuts in products that cause damage to human beings as well as the environment). They've also played a major part in fighting against health care reform and in protecting pharmaceutical companies from liability lawsuits.
11. The Wall Street Journal
So much for free press, huh? It might be acceptable for media companies to have corporate relationships, but not when they disguise ALEC propaganda as independent editorial content. (Perhaps not that surprising, considering that The Wall Street Journal is also owned by Rupert Murdoch.)
But recently, ALEC's schemes have gotten so bad that some supposedly awful corporations have cut ties with them.
And thankfully, it make have sparked a trend: Fellow oil giant Royal Dutch Shell also cut ties with ALEC in August 2015, and they actually had something sensible to say about it: "We have long recognised both the importance of the climate challenge and the critical role energy has in determining quality of life for people across the world," a spokesman said. "As part of an ongoing review of memberships and affiliations, we will be letting our association with ALEC lapse when the current contracted term ends early next year."
Granted, Shell still forged ahead with their plans to drill for oil in the Arctic despite the potentially disastrous environmental impact and only stopped when they decided it wouldn't be profitable enough. But still; we'll take it.
ALEC may still have a stronghold on politics — but we can still vote with both our ballots and our dollars.
What can you do in the face of seemingly endless political corruption and board rooms building built-to-fail schemes to keep the sway of power in their favor? Simple: Refuse to play their games. They can't win if there's no one to play against.
For starters, you can refuse to support the ALEC-affiliated corporations above. Be a conscientious consumer and take your business elsewhere whenever possible. If there's no alternative, you can always sign this petition to pressure companies to cut their ties with the American Legislative Exchange Council.
And finally, refuse to give your vote to any politician who still has ALEC's dirt on their hands. It won't fix everything, but it's a darn good start.