By Ashley Steeb & Adrianna Pitrelli
An anti-coalition rally that included members from labor unions, Planned Parenthood and teacher unions from across the state gathered to protest the three-day American Legislative Exchange Council meeting.
“It’s a secret organization that pretends they are a nonprofit charity, when in truth they are a very well-funded lobbying group,” said Susan Davis, a retired teacher. “These meetings are nothing but a dating service between corporations who want to write and influence the laws in our state instead of the voters.”
ALEC is notorious for its secretive meetings. Opponents say the group is making deals with corporate leaders with a conservative bias. According to ALEC’s website, “ALEC provides a forum for experts to discuss business and economic issues facing the states.”
William Foster, a member of ALEC, said it’s not a secretive, biased group, but has members on both sides of the aisle.
“This is a great event and group that brings a variety of people each year,” said Foster. “We have bi-partisan members and we are open to allowing people to learn more about us.”
Gov. Mike Pence is scheduled to speak at the meeting, which is being held at the JW Marriott in Indianapolis.
The rally and march protesting the meeting was held on the south lawn at the Statehouse. During the rally, protestors booed Pence’s involvement in the ALEC meetings.
Rick Muir, president of American Federation of Teachers, said he is not surprised Pence is involved with ALEC.
“We can never, ever trust someone like Mike Pence,” said Muir. “We’d love to see him drop his membership, but if he did it, it’d be phony. It’d be to buy votes. It’d only be because he knows that there’s people doing what we are doing today. Mike Pence is corporate America. He’s Mr. Privatization and shows how big a fool Trump was to pick him as a VP running candidate.”
Members of the protest said ALEC is to blame for air pollution, dirty water and the destruction of the public school system.
“Whether it’s an attempt to undermine federal environmental regulations intended to clean up our air, our water, protect our resources or save our planet, ALEC is there to protect corporate polluters at the expense of public health, a cleaner environment and our planet,” said Kerwin Olson, Citizens Action Coalition.
Vince Leach, a member of ALEC, said he gains a lot from his membership, but doesn’t oppose anyone who protests the organization.
“This isn’t necessarily a closed-door event,” said Leach. “If you want to become a member, become a member. We have bi-partisan members. I applaud the protestors who truly believe what they believe. It is their right in America to protest and if they want to protest, good for them.”