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A recent article from the American Independent caught my attention the other day...then it was picked up and republished by Salon yesterday.

These articles help us to dissect how the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) involves themselves in issue specific initiatives in an effort of promoting their "free market," pro-corporate agenda.  Not to assist the public in overcoming a health or other issue, not to alleviate the false claims or misunderstandings causing members of our society fear - but rather to capitalize off of that fear and if possible to increase the fear for monetary and political gain.

As we're told by reading these articles, 1988 was the first time ALEC formed a task force to take up a single issue - HIV and AIDS.  During that period in our history there was much misunderstanding, disinformation and outright lies spread about the disease.  While many were trying to come to grips with the issue ALEC and one of their pharma members were busy fueling the fires, so to speak...ending with the creation of legislation to criminalize the spread of HIV or AIDS.

I would urge everyone to read the linked articles to fully grasp the way in which ALEC is able to accomplish their agenda - and why they continue to be so successful on advancing their conservative model legislation...

I believe this was a pursuit of ALEC to drive those with the disease to the "cure" which was being manufactured by Hoffman La Roche and was then being studied in trials:

"This pharmaceutical company had the HIV-treating drug zalcitabine (also known as ddC) in clinical trials a couple of years prior. That drug would ultimately win Food and Drug Administration approval in 1992 after three successful trials conducted in cooperation with, among others, the National Cancer Institute.
It was bad enough that Hoffman La Roche was anxious to capitalize off a new drug designed to lead the way in treating a new and dangerous worldwide disease.  The fact that they funded the publishing of a book put out by ALEC that called for criminalizing those with the disease unless they divulged to potential partners that they had such a disease, made it worse.  They weren't actually trying to cure, rather they were attempting to fuel the flames with incendiary proposals that made it a "law" for those with the ailment to publicly disclose derogatory personal health information...and if they failed to inform, they could face prison.
"The efforts of ALEC’s AIDS policy working group were published that year in a 169-page book containing 13 HIV-specific legislative recommendations. Some of those model laws would, after becoming real state laws, go on to effectively criminalize the behavior of people living with HIV and perpetuate a lasting stigma against HIV-positive people. Today, a majority of states have laws on the books that criminalize HIV exposure regardless of whether the virus was transmitted or there was an intention to infect another person with HIV.

"“Every half hour in America someone dies of AIDS!” wrote ALEC’s then-executive director (and former Denver Bronco) Samuel Brunelli and Florida state representative Frank Messersmith, then ALEC’s chairman, in 1989 in their introductory letter published in the AIDS working group’s final report. “Yet, despite this terrible toll, we have been unable to implement a coherent public health strategy for dealing with this modern plague. Instead, we have allowed political special interests to paralyze the legislative process and block effective public health measures. This politicization of the public health process is exacting a deadly price.”

Politicization? That is precisely what ALEC was doing with the AIDS problem, politicizing it for monetary and political gain - on behalf of one of their key corporate members.  It also would allow for more arrests and incarceration, something ALEC had already been deeply involved in on behalf of long time corporate members Corrections Corporation of America and Geo Group.

One of the pieces of model legislation drafted by the working group was the HIV Assault Act (adopted by ALEC's membership as Model legislation in 1995).

"This model bill created a felony charge if a person knew he or she was infected with HIV while engaging in “intimate contact” with another person (exposing one’s bodily fluids to another in a way that could transmit HIV); donating blood, organs, or tissues; or sharing intravenous or intramuscular injection equipment.
There are some who would argue that there were already laws on the books in many states in 1988 making the spread of HIV a criminal act and that ALEC's efforts were therefore inconsequential.  However, that claim would be false:
"When ALEC produced its model HIV Assault Act in 1989, nine states had HIV-specific criminal laws on the books. Today, 32 states and two U.S. territories have laws criminalizing HIV exposure, according to the Center for HIV Law and Policy. Only a handful of laws require intent to transmit the virus, and none requires an actual transmission for criminal prosecution to proceed. Since 2010, HIV-related criminal charges have led to more than 80 prosecutions against people living with HIV in the U.S., according to the LGBT legal advocacy group Lambda Legal.
ALEC now admits that the creation of the task force and publication of the book was due to the urging of "private interests."
"Tanner said ALEC, which brings lawmakers and corporate interests together to hammer out legislative recommendations, came to address the HIV epidemic because of pressure from “private interests.”

"Specifically, he recalled that drugmaker Hoffmann-La Roche was a “big mover” and “put up a lot of funding behind publication of the book...(Michael Tanner, who authored the 1989 book)”

The most incriminating aspect of this terrible story?  The names of those sitting upon the ALEC "HIV working group"...
"The co-chairs of the ALEC working group were J. Brian Munroe of Hoffmann-La Roche and Delaware state Rep. Richard Davis. Representatives from Nationwide Insurance and Alexander Hamilton Life Insurance also served on the AIDS working group."
All this sad story is missing is the links between this pursuit of HIV prosecutions, profiting off of the illness and funding and the input from individuals such as Charles or David Koch...but wait, here comes another well known name that weighed in on behalf of ALEC and Hoffman La Roche...:
"Long criticized for not doing enough about the AIDS epidemic, which exploded onto the American medical scene in June 1981, President Ronald Reagan established the first Presidential Commission on the Human Immunodeficiency Virus Epidemic in 1987.

The first months of the commission, which deliberated for a year, were plagued by public infighting, leading to the resignation of the chair and another member. The final commission included Richard DeVos, co-founder of Amway and frequent donor to social conservative causes; the late Cardinal John O’Connor, who had served as the archbishop of New York and who openly opposed condoms as an HIV-prevention method; and Penny Pullen, a conservative lawmaker from Illinois.


Penny Pullen has slipped under the radar of ALEC researchers so far.  Pullen was a member of ALEC for 14 years, serving on the Board of Directors and on the Education Task Force.


DeVos is a well known contributor to ALEC and conservative think tanks and heavily involved in privatization efforts of public education.  

So President Reagan's "Commission on the Human Immunodeficiency Virus Epidemic " included ALEC members and supporters with an agenda of their own.  These folks went right to work finding ways to capitalize off a terrible and frightening disease and to enrich fellow ALEC member, Hoffman La Roche - and they were easily able to submit that agenda at the Presidential level through the Commission's Report to President Reagan.

Here is a story that only comes out nearly 25 years after the act was accomplished and the damages began to accrue.  This single case demonstrates how ALEC and their conservative cabal use fear to create the illusion that "their" solution is the salvation...how they use the contributors (DeVos and their financial and political influences), their corporate members and influential lawmakers to coordinate their pursuits of profits through crafting legislation that attaches a criminal penalty for failure to comply.  

This is precisely what the cabal had already been doing for nearly a decade by filling the public with a fear of crime then crafting criminal justice legislation on three strikes, minimum mandatory sentences and other harsh criminal laws used to fill prisons.  That was followed by creating a prison industrial complex using prisoners for slave labor for corporate manufacturers (claiming the prisoners they worked so hard to imprison needed training for rehabilitation)...when the AIDS/HIV epidemic came along, they put their tried and true skills to work to capitalize off that debilitating disease.  Today they use the same skill sets and tactics to pursue right to work, voter ID suppression and to end collective bargaining.

Still today, the laws ALEC helped to write are still being used to prosecute those with HIV or AIDS in many states.  Hoffman La Roche scored big time, raking in millions in sales of their HIV drug by consumers who's fears had been elevated by the disease and the legislation put out by ALEC to criminalize those with the disease.

I'm hopeful that the LGBT community takes ALEC and their PhRMA members to task for how this was accomplished, the non-transparent way in which it was done and the mental and physical harm caused by their actions.

Originally posted to Bob Sloan on Wed Apr 03, 2013 at 01:33 PM PDT.

Also republished by American Legislative Transparency Project, HIV AIDS Action, TransAction, Angry Gays, Milk Men And Women, Sex, Body, and Gender, and Sluts.

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