13 April 2019

Corporate lobbyists write the laws for your state

Each year, state lawmakers across the U.S. introduce thousands of bills dreamed up and written by corporations, industry groups and think tanks.

Disguised as the work of lawmakers, these so-called “model” bills get copied in one state Capitol after another, quietly advancing the agenda of the people who write them.

USA TODAY and the Republic found at least 10,000 bills almost entirely copied from model legislation were introduced nationwide in the past eight years, and more than 2,100 of those bills were signed into law. 

Model bills passed into law have made it harder for injured consumers to sue corporations. They’ve called for taxes on sugar-laden drinks. They’ve limited access to abortion and restricted the rights of protesters.

In all, these copycat bills amount to the nation’s largest, unreported special-interest campaign, driving agendas in every statehouse and touching nearly every area of public policy...

This work proves what many people have suspected, which is just how much of the democratic process has been outsourced to special interests,” said Lisa Graves, co-director of Documented, which probes corporate manipulation of public policy. “It is both astonishing and disappointing to see how widespread … it is. Good lord, it’s an amazing thing to see.”..

“It’s not inherently bad, one way or the other,” said Siler, who now works for a political action committee. “It depends on the idea and the people pushing it. Definitely people use model legislation to push bad ideas around.”

Allison Anderman, managing attorney at the pro-gun-control Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, said model bills are simply how the system works now...

USA TODAY found more than 4,000 bills benefiting industry were introduced nationwide during the eight years it reviewed. More than 80 of those bills limit the public’s ability to sue corporations, including limiting class-action lawsuits, a plaintiff’s ability to offer expert testimony, and cap punitive damages for corporate wrongdoing.

“No citizens are saying, ‘Hey, can you make it harder to sue if … low-paid (nursing home) orderlies happened to kill or injure my parents,’ ” Graves said. “That’s not a thing citizens are clamoring for. But you know who is? The nursing home industry, and big business in general.”

“This is how all laws are written,” she said. “You’d be hard-pressed to find a law where a legislator sits in a chamber until a light bulb goes off with a new policy.”
Much more information at The Center for Public Integrity, via Boing Boing.


  1. It aggravated me that when NPR's All Things Considered reported this story, promising a talk with "someone who writes these laws," it was Anderman whom they interviewed, and she made a case for how model legislation helped pass good stuff like gun control laws. Though the reporter mentioned that the overwhelming number of model laws were written on behalf of corporate interests, the amount of time given to Anderman and her arguments in favor of the practice made the whole thing seem rather benign.

    Of course it's possible Anderman was the only legislation-writer NPR could get to talk to them.

  2. The laws regulating 5G is a primarily example of an industry (the telecoms), in a cozy relationship with a government agency (FCC), lobbyists, and federal and state legislators. They secure the money on top, accommodate the laws accordingly, and your local government wipe their hands and inform you that they are powerless to act on your behalf.



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