ALEC’s ‘State Chair of the Year’ will now run for Congress in New Mexico

Jul 13, 2017

Credit ALEC

  Commentary:  ALEC, the secretive organization marrying corporations and legislators to create pro-corporate bills, named its New Mexico state chairperson their “Chair of the Year” in 2015 for her work pushing corporate agendas through the State Legislature.

Now its 2017 and she plans to use all that state legislative experience as a platform to run for Congress in the open Congressional seat vacated by Steve Pearce who just announced he is running for governor in 2018. 

Who is Yvette Herrell?

Most New Mexicans outside of the legislature have never heard of Herrell, but conservative special interests and corporate lobbyists have her on speed dial.

The Alamogordo-area Republican was first elected to the State Legislature in 2010 after winning the primary and facing no Democratic opponent. A real estate investor by trade, she quickly jumped into work on the legislature’s Business and Industry Committee and joined ALEC.

In 2015, ALEC awarded her their national “State Chair of the Year” award:

In addition to serving as the ALEC New Mexico public sector co-chair, Rep. Herrell is a member of the ALEC Task Force on International Relations and Federalism and the Task Force on Energy, Environment and Agriculture.

“Representative Herrell is an incredible ALEC partner in New Mexico,” said ALEC Chair of State Chairs Sen. Barbara Cegavske. “Her tireless effort to promote limited government, free markets and federalism principles serve as a model for all state chairs.”

Need an update on ALEC? read our primer below

Here in New Mexico, ProgressNowNM has been tracking Herrell’s bills and actions since she joined in 2011.

Herrell has one of the most conservative records in the State House and progressives will surely put these votes out front in their campaigns against her:

·        Herrell voted against requiring lobbyists who give her campaign donations to disclose the sources of their salaries, a measure supported by 89% of New Mexico voters

·        Herrell sponsored state bills to take over federal public lands

·        Herrell “questioned whether the state needs a new system for investigating corruption and cracking down on violations of the campaign finance laws”

·        During a budget crisis in the legislature, Herrell was the only legislator to say legislators should prioritize abortion ban legislation instead

·        Rep. Herrell was one of just two women (Rep. Nora Espinoza was the other) to walk off the floor instead of voting for a memorial honoring women who fought for equal pay for women

·        Herrell has been one of the legislature’s most vocal advocates for bills restricting women’s access to abortion and health care

Steve Pearce is one of Congress’ most conservative members (he is a member of the Freedom Caucus which refused to pass the first TrumpCare bill because it was not conservative enough, even though it kicked 24 million people off of healthcare).

And even though New Mexico’s 2nd District is majority Hispanic and majority Democratic, hyper-conservative Pearce has been able to win re-election in spite of taking similar positions on similar issues.  Herrell is betting on Pearce voters coming out to vote in droves in order to keep this seat red and national Republicans have already promised to spend big bucks to keep this seat red.

CD2 could be one of the most expensive races in New Mexico history. Buckle up.

What is ALEC?

From the Center on Media and Democracy:

ALEC is not a lobby; it is not a front group. It is much more powerful than that. Through the secretive meetings of the American Legislative Exchange Council, corporate lobbyists and state legislators vote as equals on ‘model bills’ to change our rights that often benefit the corporations’ bottom line at public expense. ALEC is a pay-to-play operation where corporations buy a seat and a vote on ‘task forces’ to advance their legislative wish lists and can get a tax break for donations, effectively passing these lobbying costs on to taxpayers.

Along with legislators, corporations have membership in ALEC. Corporations sit on ALEC task forces and vote with legislators to approve “model” bills. They have their own corporate governing board which meets jointly with the legislative board. (ALEC says that corporations do not vote on the board.) Corporations fund almost all of ALEC’s operations.

Participating legislators, overwhelmingly conservative Republicans, then bring those proposals home and introduce them in statehouses across the land as their own brilliant ideas and important public policy innovations—without disclosing that corporations crafted and voted on the bills.

ALEC boasts that it has over 1,000 of these bills introduced by legislative members every year, with one in every five of them enacted into law. ALEC describes itself as a “unique,” “unparalleled” and “unmatched” organization. We agree. It is as if a state legislature had been reconstituted, yet corporations had pushed the people out the door.

Who funds ALEC?

More than 98% of ALEC’s revenues come from sources other than legislative dues, such as corporations, corporate trade groups, and corporate foundations. Each corporate member pays an annual fee of between $7,000 and $25,000 a year, and if a corporation participates in any of the nine task forces, additional fees apply, from $2,500 to $10,000 each year. ALEC also receives direct grants from corporations, such as $1.4 million from ExxonMobil from 1998-2009. It has also received grants from some of the biggest foundations funded by corporate CEOs in the country, such as: the Koch family Charles G. Koch Foundation, the Koch-managed Claude R. Lambe Foundation, the Scaife family Allegheny Foundation, the Coors family Castle Rock Foundation, to name a few. Less than 2% of ALEC’s funding comes from “Membership Dues” of $50 per year paid by state legislators, a steeply discounted price that may run afoul of state gift bans. For more, see CMD’s special report on ALEC funding and spending here.