Press-Republican

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April 4, 2013

Local organizations promote film event

PLATTSBURGH — Local group People for Positive Action says a nonprofit organization is buying government influence.

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is officially classified as a 501c3 tax-exempt nonprofit organization, Positive Action member Mary-Alice Shemo said at a recent press conference in Plattsburgh.

But, she said, it is not a true nonprofit agency but a lobbying organization with an agenda.

What she described as its shady activities, she said, have “gone undetected and unnoticed for a long time.”

On Friday in SUNY Plattsburgh’s Yokum Hall, People for Positive Action will screen and discuss the film “The United States of ALEC,” which is intended to inform the public about the 40-year-old organization’s activities.

FILM SCREENING

State and federal legislators pay a nominal fee for membership in the 40-year-old ALEC, which holds conferences where representatives from some of America’s most wealthy and influential corporations propose model legislation for their consideration.

At the recent press conference, People for Positive Action members Bill Cowan and Shemo, as well as Plattsburgh residents Matt Hall and Tom Wood, spoke on behalf of the 2012 film “The United States of ALEC.”

Friday’s film screening in Yokum Hall on the SUNY Plattsburgh campus will include a discussion led by Susan Lerner, executive director of Common Cause New York.

The screening of the film, produced by a company affiliated with television journalist Bill Moyers, is locally sponsored by Positive Action.

MODEL BILLS

On its website, ALEC describes itself as a nonpartisan, “constructive forum for state legislators and private-sector leaders to discuss and exchange practical, state-level public-policy issues.”

But the model bills that the agency drafts and passes on to legislators are biased, Cowan said, adding that the documentary is one of the most devastating he’s seen, since it exposes the influence ALEC has on legislators, which sometimes finds its way into legislation.

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