December 1, 2011
Host: Ted Simons
American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)
- Representative Debbie Lesko, Majority Whip of the Arizona House of Representatives and Arizona State Chairman for ALEC discusses the nonprofit organization that has had an influential role in shaping public policy in Arizona.
- Rep. Debbie Lesko - (R)Majority Whip, Arizona House of Representative, & Chairman, Arizona State ALEC
| Keywords: government
Ted Simons: Good evening and welcome to "Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. This week, protestors gathered outside a Scottsdale resort where the American legislative exchange council, or ALEC, is holding an annual meeting. The nonprofit organization has become an influential force, some say too influential, at state capitols across the country. ALEC describes itself as a nonpartisan public-private membership association of state legislators dedicated to principles of limited government, free markets and federalism. Its membership consists mostly of state lawmakers, primarily Republicans, and corporations. They work together to draft model legislation that members take back to their home states. Here to tell us more about ALEC, is representative Debbie Lesko, majority whip for the Arizona house of representatives and Alec's Arizona state chairman. Good to have you here. Thanks for joining us.
Debbie Lesko: Thanks, Ted, glad they invited me.
Ted Simons: Why are you associated with this particular group and how does it help your constituents and help Arizona?
Debbie Lesko: You know, Alec is composed of about 2,000 legislators who -- conservative legislators from all over the country. We have a -- we have Republicans and democratic legislators and plus, private sector members, whether that be businesses or organizations like the Goldwater institute. They get together and so that we can share information and educate each other about major issues such as improving education, pension reform and fiscal responsibility. It's a great organization. It's been around for years and I find it to be very helpful and educational.
Ted Simons: It does draft model legislation, correct?
Debbie Lesko: No, it really doesn't draft model legislation. What happens is that, say, for instance, a legislator, like in -- in today's case, in the education committee meeting, our -- one of our Arizona senators, senator Rich Crandall came forward with a resolution he believed was important and basically said he doesn't want the federal government to override state educational standards and so what happens -- and it's -- let's say it was
model legislation. In this case, it was a resolution, he would have put this forward and it would have been discussed back and forth, some would have agreed. Some disagreed. And then they would have voted on it and determined if it should be ALEC-endorsed and then it will be posted. If it goes through the process and that type of thing and ALEC-endorsed, then it’s posted on a website for legislators from across the country to be able to use it if they want to. You know, it's just basically model legislation, nothing is really drafted there. We don't draft any legislation. We discuss legislation that may have already been used in other states.
Ted Simons: As a concern that regards S.B. 1070 and the accusation it was drafted by Alec. And that folks that were involved in drafting or getting the wording right or making sure it was focused in the proper direction, private prison company, bail companies and these sort of things that would stand to benefit should S.B. 1070 be passed. Is that criticism on the mark?
Debbie Lesko: No, no. Anyone that knows anything about Arizona and our former senate president Russell Pearce, knows that Russell Pearce has worked on fighting illegal immigration for years and years and years. And so he has drafted this legislation and then he brought that forward to ALEC. It had nothing do with private prisons or anything like that. Russell Pearce believed it strongly in his heart we need to fight illegal immigration and he brought it forward to ALEC.
Ted Simons: You're saying that Alec members bring stuff to the conference, to the taskforce, whatever they are, and the taskforces look them over, if there's a drafting, that's where words are changed and ideas debated and then it goes from there. Nothing begins at ALEC?
Debbie Lesko: There's no drafting that I've ever seen of legislation at ALEC. No they come forward and -- and in my example, Russell Pearce had this legislation, and brought it forward and then other state legislators from across the country, look at it, they say, hey, you know what? I really like that idea and I would like to do that in our state and I would like an ALEC seal of approval on it. That's basically what it's about. In addition to that, ALEC has a lot of workshops and informational meetings. For instance, today at our lunch, which was sponsored by the foundation for education excellence, the superintendent of public instruction from Indiana, Dr. Tony Bennett was there, and he was talking about what they've done in Indiana to improve education. It's a great forum for legislators from across the country to learn.
Ted Simons: If it's such a great forum for legislators to learn, why are business interests there, corporate interests? Why are they in the building if you're talking amongst yourselves?
Debbie Lesko: I think it's very important you get business input on certain issues. Businesses, after all, are the ones creating jobs and improving the economy. On certain issues it's important for legislators to discuss with businesses the ins and outs of different things and businesses can say, you know what? That may be a good idea. That may help create jobs, or no, that's not a good idea. It's kind of like an open forum of discussion and give and take, plus legislators from across the country can get ideas from each other.
Ted Simons: The criticism is that ordinary citizens can't possibly match that level of access.
Debbie Lesko: That's totally inaccurate. I always invite constituents, in fact, anyone from across the state to come to my office and talk to me. I also go out to groups. I'm a Republican and I invited the district 9 democratic party to come to the state capitol and gave them a tour and – and I’m open to ideas at any time.
Ted Simons: When critics say ALEC has too much corporate benefit and not enough public benefit, you say --
Debbie Lesko: I say ALEC is a great group, they bring legislators together to talk about pension reform, improving education. It's a great forum. I think it's the strength of ALEC that businesses and legislators can meet together and share ideas, create jobs.
Ted Simons: Is that a disproportionate strength? 50 of the 90 lawmakers are members of ALEC.
Debbie Lesko: I'm very good at recruiting for ALEC.
Ted Simons: You are. But is the proportion healthy for Arizona?
Debbie Lesko: Yes, it's healthy, all the issues we talk about are issues that our Arizona citizens, the vast majority support. They want to make sure we're fiscally responsible and we talk a lot about that issue at ALEC. They want -- they're for states' rights. We talk a lot about that issue at ALEC. They're good solid issues that our citizens support.
Ted Simons: Good to have you here. Thanks for joining us.
Debbie Lesko: Thank you so much, Ted.
Ted Simons: In a moment we will hear from the group that publishes ALECexposed.org.
Arizona ArtBeat: Bolo Ties
- A look at the official state neckwear of Arizona with bolo tie aficionado Norman Sandfield. His collection of bolo ties is part of a new exhibit at the Heard Museum in Phoenix.
Category: The Arts
- Norman Sandfield - Bolo Tie collector
| Keywords: artbeat
Ted Simons: On tonight's "Arizona artbeat," we take a look at the official state neckwear of Arizona with Bolo tie aficionado Norman Sandfield. I recently spoke with sandfield about his tie collection, which is part of a new exhibit of American Indian Bolo ties at the Heard Museum in Phoenix.
Ted Simons: Norman, thank you for joining us on "Horizon."
Norman Sandfield: Thank you.
Ted Simons: Before we get into the beautiful neckwear, what got you started into collecting Bolo ties?
Norman Sandfield: I avoided them for many years, but a friend bought me a silver and turquoise, and I decided to get a Bolo to go with it and left the shop with two and two led to three and four and then I started study I didn't think them and looking at the back, which is part of the story and the next thing I knew, I was a student of the art form.
Ted Simons: Was there an ‘aha’ moment or before you knew it, knee deep in Bolo ties?
Norman Sandfield: Knee deep, that's what it is.
Ted Simons: Define what it is.
Norman Sandfield: It's an ornament, does not have to be silver and turquoise, up front and center on a braided leather cord and the tips are functional. They keep the leather from unraveling and you slide it up and down to take it on and off. The more higher up, the more formal it is.
Ted Simons: Where did they come from, any inspiration?
Norman Sandfield: Go back to the 1870s and 1880s, they were wearing things that looked like Bolo ties and in the native American community, in through the mid 20th Century, native Americans wearing various things around their neck that would be a scarf slide as we call it today. And the Cowboys, and around 1948, they magically morphed from a scarf to a braided leather cord. Anonymous artists doing work in the shops weren't listed in catalogs, weren’t listed in advertising. They really didn't appear in print the media until 1954.
Ted Simons: Generally in the west?
Norman Sandfield: No, the -- the advertising was national. A non-native company called Hickok out of New York patented a piece very similar to the early native pieces and started marketing it with press releases, advertising across the country.
Ted Simons: And that's the general Bolo ties we're talking about?
Norman Sandfield: Yes.
Ted Simons: What differentiates the garden variety Bolo from American Indian Bolo ties?
Norman Sandfield: They both developed into a high-end art form. Started out as keystone chain-shaped pieces, maybe an inch high, with a simple leather cord, nothing fancy and ended up using the keystone shaped pieces as the backings and putting larger and larger elements on the front. Whether it's made by native artists or non-native artists, it doesn't matter. A region is famous for woodwork and they have fine pieces. And there's lacquer pieces from Japan. Similar to from Spain. There's Bolo ties in Australia that have jade in them. In the midwest, you’ve got beaded Bolo. And Alaska, fossilized ivory.
Ted Simons: There's one on this stand that's gorgeous. Tell us about the craftsmanship.
Norman Sandfield: It's a beautiful piece by Richard SOZI. It's textured with grains of silver which he has sort of made a texture out of by adding it after the cast. And added inlay, I believe. I can't see it from here; coral and turquoise and fossil ivories.
Ted Simons: This is brand new.
Norman Sandfield: Yes.
Ted Simons: The Bolo tie is hardly a dying art form.
Norman Sandfield: No, it's just been quiet for a few years. If you see, go to the TV shows, you'll see it on "Glee" and on "burn notice" and I forget the name of the other one.
Ted Simons: That's all right. You've said enough as far as the modern element. Describe what we're looking at here.
Norman Sandfield: This is a beautiful piece by Don Wallace who is from -- from the northwest coast area. A woman holding a seal, using fossilized ivory again. A completely different style than the southwest. Of course. This other piece, you cannot believe until you get close to it.
Ted Simons: It's a house.
Norman Sandfield: It's a house, a hunting lodge, and if you look in the window, you'll see the hunter in there. If you look at the lower quarter under the ice you'll see a fish. And an eagle in the branches and if you had a magnifying glass, way in the background, there's dots, other birds coming in or leaving. If I turn it differently, there's water in the barrel. And there's a rain barrel with a piece of turquoise.
Ted Simons: My goodness! How old?
Norman Sandfield: New in the past year. The first piece is made for me. This one I grabbed up. It’s by a brilliant artist.
Ted Simons: Are Bolo ties more of a finer craft? They're not mass-marketed anymore, are they?
Norman Sandfield: Yes. If you go on the internet, you'll find them from $10 up, brand new pieces, just like any art form. Expensive ones, $10,000 or $15,000 or $35,000, you can do that. These are not in that range yet. But like any native American or non-native art form, all qualities and prices and styles.
Ted Simons: How many Bolo ties do you own?
Norman Sandfield: The best of my collection is in the property of the Heard Museum in Phoenix and so they get the good stuff. These are pieces I collected since the exhibit.
Ted Simons: You have hundreds, thousands?
Norman Sandfield: I had over a thousand.
Ted Simons: Did you really?
Norman Sandfield: Yes, but some weren't exciting. I'm only showing you the good ones.
Ted Simons: Of course. Friends and family, did they say, Norman, you've gone off the deep end with the Bolo ties. What are you doing?
Norman Sandfield: No, it's a family philosophy, anything worth doing is worth overdoing. If this were about collecting, I wouldn't be here. It's about education and research, and the fact we've taken a collection and merged it with a beautiful collection at the Heard Museum, written a book and put on a show and teaching people what this is about. The front and back of the Bolo and the history.
Ted Simons: Twice you've mentioned the back being important. What's so important about the back of a Bolo tie?
Norman Sandfield: The fitting. Most people don't care, of course. This is an unusual fitting in the style of victor cedarstaff, associated with the early Bolo ties.
Ted Simons: There we go.
Norman Sandfield: And he patented this. Actually patented this fitting. The other one is a -- just a simple bar of silver cut out. But I don't have examples with me, but there's some mass manufactured fittings known as the Bennett clip. They were mass produced. It says patent pending. He never patented it, but put it there to scare off the competition. We're still searching for Mr. Bennett.
Ted Simons: I feel like we’re on Antique Roadshow here, you’re telling us a lot more about bolo ties than I even knew existed. Is it Bolo tie or BOLA tie?
Norman Sandfield: Both. Actually BOLO, string tie, Texas tie, lariat tie. Yolk tie. All of these have been applied in written advertising, in patents. The Bolo tie society who helped to make this the official state tie, they believe in the bola word, but they've been overcome by history. The most popular phrase on the internet today is Bolo.
Ted Simons: We'll leave it at that. Call it what you want, but absolutely beautiful stuff.
Norman Sandfield: Thank you very much, appreciate it.
Ted Simons: American Indian Bolo ties are on exhibit at the Heard Museum in Phoenix until September of next year.
Publisher of “ALECexposed.org”
- Executive Director of the Center for Media and Democracy Lisa Graves talks about her organization’s investigation of ALEC.
- Lisa Graves - Executive Director, Center for the Media and Democracy
| Keywords: government
Ted Simons: The nonprofit center for media and democracy describes itself as an investigative reporting group with a focus on exposing corporate spin and government propaganda. Executive director Lisa Graves joins me to talk about the center's investigation of ALEC.
Lisa Graves: Thanks so much for having us?
Ted Simons: What's the problem that you see with ALEC?
Lisa Graves: They're voting behind closed doors to approve legislation and dramatically change the rights of hardworking tax-paying Americans without input from those members of the community in the ALEC meetings and then they introduce the bills, cleansed of any reference of the fact, that they were pre-approved by corporations.
Ted Simons: The idea of no representation of the public though, they would say, we're an elected lawmaker and we're the public and represent them.
Lisa Graves: It's true they're supposed to represent them and not global corporations not incorporated in their state and didn't vote for them. But the fact is that through global corporations like coke industries and Exxon and other global pharmaceutical companies have undue influence over them.
Ted Simons: Do you have evidence? Are they passing a big shadow, drafting what they heard. That legislation is not drafted at ALEC conferences and in these task forces.
Lisa Graves: In many cases, it's drafted by ALEC corporations and lobbyists and brought to the taskforces and voted on behind closed doors in tables closed to the public's eye and those debates that the representative talked about, they're not open to the public to hear the discussion what the corporations and politicians are talking about the bills, let alone to see the votes side by side on the legislation. If the shoe were reversed and the ACLU or Greenpeace or Sierra Club were voting behind doors, there would be calls from the right that you wouldn't believe.
Ted Simons: How many bills come out of these taskforces, how many wind up at a statehouse?
Lisa Graves: ALEC has bragged over the years that hundreds are introduced every single year. Over 850 bills currently active -- in a database of bills we've marked up and analyzed and brag that hundreds of them are actually passed every year.
Ted Simons: ALEC folks will say that this is basically a think tank. It educates lawmakers and gets a best practice scenario. And if I like what's going on in Missouri or Wyoming, you go ahead and appropriate that for your own benefit. Does that make sense to you?
Lisa Graves: We saw this spring what we call copycat legislation, or McBills, or bills from the bill factory, one size fits all. The same sort of bills to strip worker rights and change the rights of Americans killed or injured by corporations and the same bills to limit the ability of the government to raise income and even expand even virtual schools, those are copycat bills that come through ALEC.
Ted Simons: But the idea -- I'm trying to get to the other view here. Arizona elected a pretty conservative state legislature. ALEC obviously is pro-conservative. You have big business in there, which conservatives are usually in support of. What's wrong with this scenario? It sounds like they're getting together and doing work that they think the people want.
Lisa Graves: One of the things, at least from a moral standpoint, the corporations are underwriting ALEC. 90% of the funding comes from corporations or foundations and underwrite big trips to fancy resorts and get cozy with the legislators and get them to introduce their bills. We've seen the privatization binge that's taken the taxpayers' money and enrich the profits of private companies and then they turn around and underwrite Alec and lobby for more privatization, telling you they're the biggest in the state when it would have been the government.
Ted Simons: So it’s not the just the process, but the fact that the process has led to X, Y, Z.
Lisa Graves: I think there are procedural problems and substantive. Corporations have an extraordinary voice through ALEC, that far exceeds the voices of ordinary Americans and a lot of the bills drafted by corporate lobbyists with little input by citizens and rammed through legislatures without any chance for citizens to amend it. We saw in Wisconsin where the center is where there was little chance for a debate, those bills were ALEC-approved and ratified by ALEC members in the statehouse and signed into law by ALEC governors.
Ted Simons: Is there a liberal flip side version of ALEC?
Lisa Graves: There really is not. There's no corporate counterpart funded by major corporations to push through liberal legislation. It just really does not exist. There have been groups that have tried to come close over the years. But the fact is that ALEC is unique. It does provide a unique voice and ALEC said in its own propaganda to members, ALEC corporations and politicians have an equal voice and vote. That's unique.
Ted Simons: Is ALEC a lobbying enterprise?
Lisa Graves: Common cause filed a letter of investigation with the IRS because ALEC’s bylaws say they're charged with a duty to get these bills introduced in their states and they've bragged how many bills are introduced and passes and provide help, talking points and aid to get the bills passed.
Ted Simons: Do you see ALEC doing something illegal?
Lisa Graves: I think IRS should take that request for an investigation seriously.
Ted Simons: What about the lawmakers?
Lisa Graves: I think what we've seen across the state how lawmakers have changed the state rules to exempt ALEC about the rules about nonprofit funding. In Iowa, every member of the legislature is paid into ALEC as a matter of course. Taxpayers pay the dues in Iowa and other states and allow ALEC to provide scholarships to the politicians to go to the fancy resorts. I couldn't provide that to a politician to come and find out about the law. These legislators have written exemptions in the law to allow them to conduct this business with ALEC.
Ted Simons: Last question here. Do you think ALEC is something that needs investigated in terms of going away, because it's doing something illegal or something that you just want others to realize Arizona voters to know is happening and vote accordingly.
Lisa Graves: I think the American people have the right to know who is writing their laws and which politicians are voting behind closed doors with corporations on bills to radically change the rights of hardworking tax paying Americans. It's a networking tool on steroids.
Ted Simons: Good to have you here.
Lisa Graves: Thank you very much.