Atlantic Bridge, the British affiliate organization to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), is in the midst of a scandal in the UK that is bringing into light the corruption-laced practices of these right-wing groups on both sides of the pond.
To refresh your memory, ALEC whose motto is “Limited government, free markets, federalism” is a powerful lobbying organizations. So, in case you’re wondering who funds this group, you won’t be surprised because they include companies like Exxon Mobil, tobacco giant Philip Morris and the NRA.
They regularly hold conventions where our legislators and lobbyists can get together. Center for Media and Democracy, non-profit media research group, reported that “during these events state legislators are presented with pre-drafted bills drawn up on behalf of its members.”
The Guardian wrote in its article: “Each year, close to 1,000 bills, based at least in part on ALEC model legislation, are introduced in the states. Of these, an average of 20% become law.” One of its biggest supporters is the Koch Foundation, whose founders, the oil barons Charles G Koch and David H Koch, have funnelled about $55 million to climate-denial front groups and are generous donors to the Tea Party movement.
ALEC had a partnership with Atlantic Bridge, which was a think tank founded in 1997. Its purpose was to “bring people together,” i.e., John Ashcrot, Karl Rove, Jon Kyl, Lindsey Graham, Joe Lieberman, “who have common interests.”
In my research about Atlantic Bridge, I found this out via Wikipedia: They were given charitable status in 2003 as “an education and research scheme.” In a 2010 report by the Charity Commission, it ruled that it was “not evident that [it] had advanced education” and “may lead members of the public to call into question its independence from party politics”. It was ordered to enact a 12-month review to bring it into line with its charitable objectives.
In 2003, David Cameron’s Defense Secretary Liam Fox and Atlantic Bridge’s London-based director, Adam Werritty, partnered with ALEC to form the Atlantic Bridge nonprofit. ALEC supplied staff to the Atlantic Bridge, and Fox and his associates spoke at ALEC events. These “events” included meetings between American politicians and business lobbyists.
Here is what ThinkProgress recently wrote about the scandal going on in the UK and their findings after investigating ALEC.
Earlier this month, the U.K.’s Charity Commission shut down Atlantic Bridge after an investigationrevealed that the nonprofit has operated as little more than a front for various corporate lobbying and Tory party interests.
The scandal has already forced the resignation of David Cameron’s Defense Secretary Liam Fox after the revelation that the Atlantic Bridge’s London-based director, Adam Werritty, had improperly acted as a high level advisor to Fox while employed by a number of military industry and lobbying clients.
ThinkProgress has covered ALEC for years, and what we have found closely resembles the pay-to-play allegations against Atlantic Bridge. Our investigations helped expose the fact that health insurance lobbyists used ALEC to write anti-health reform legislation, that Koch Industries and coal lobbyists had used ALEC to kill clean energy programs, and that private prison corporations pushed immigrant detention laws with assistance from ALEC.
Watch the ThinkProgress video report of the 2011 American Legislative Exchange Council conference:
Speaking at a 2008 ALEC conference in Chicago, Fox said, “we at Atlantic Bridge have been delighted at the success of our partnership with ALEC and we’re excited about what we might achieve together in the future.” “In particular,” he added, “we are patting ourselves on the back at having chosen such a disguised and solid values-based organization to be our partner because the values that you have need to be embedded at every level of government — not just national or federal government.” Given the way Fox exported ALEC’s stealth lobbying agenda to the UK, one must wonder when the Atlantic Bridge corruption scandal will hit the United States.
Shortly after news broke of the Atlantic Bridge controversy, the websites for ALEC and Atlantic Bridge went down. Both now claim to be undergoing maintenance.
Presidential candidate Herman Cain’s spokesperson and foreign policy adviser also has strong ties to Atlantic Bridge.