The American City County Exchange (ACCE) is an offshoot of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) that describes itself as "America’s only non-partisan free market forum for village, town, city and county policymakers." As of 2015, ACCE is operated as a project of ALEC, not a separate 501(c)(3). ALEC is funded by corporations which pay membership dues to have their lobbyists vote side-by-side with legislators on "model" bills, which legislators then introduce in their local jurisdictions. Like ALEC, ACCE's funding appears to come almost entirely from its corporate members.
ACCE was launched in 2014, which -- as The Guardian reports -- was a year when ALEC "suffered a loss of income and membership after it became engulfed in controversy over its backing for 'stand your ground' laws."
The Center for Media and Democracy noted, "The creation of ACCE comes as national corporate and ideological interests increasingly try to exert influence over municipal government. For example, over the past year, David Koch's Americans for Prosperity has spent money on the mayoral race in Coralville, Iowa, the Board of Supervisors election in Iron County, Wisconsin, and school board elections in Douglas County, Colorado and Kenosha, Wisconsin."
Positions and Issues
Learn more about ALEC/ACCE's agenda at ALEC Exposed, a project of the Center for Media and Democracy.
ACCE Advances Familiar Pro-Privatization, Anti-Union, Anti-Climate Agenda
As described by The Guardian, the agenda of ACCE's first meeting, which coincided with ALEC's 41st annual meeting in Dallas in December 2014, was similar to ALEC's "usual menu of conservative priorities -- pushing back government regulation, fighting moves to curb climate change, reducing trade union powers and cutting taxes. [...] An early draft of the agenda for today’s meeting revealingly listed ACCE’s very first workshop under the simple title: “Privatization” -- though in the final version the wording had been sanitized into: 'Effective Tools for Promoting Limited Government.'"
Bloomberg Business writes that ACCE "push[es] policies such as contracting with companies to provide services such as garbage pick-up and eliminating collective bargaining, a municipal echo of the parent group's state strategies."
"'There's a lot of money to be made in local government,' said Jessica Levinson, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles who specializes in campaign finance.
"Levinson said that for the new group, 'privatization makes perfect sense, working hand in glove with corporations makes perfect sense, moving the agenda or expanding the agenda to county and city makes perfect sense.'"
ACCE's parent organization, ALEC, has long pushed for state-level preemption bills to prohibit local governments from enacting policies like paid sick days, a higher minimum wage, municipal broadband, or limits or labels on GMOs. This history has made some local officials skeptical that ACCE is truly interested in supporting the interests of local residents, as opposed to its corporate funders, as both The Guardian and the Center for Media and Democracy have reported:
"'ALEC and ACCE aren't about implementing a set of right-wing policies, they are about moving corporate America's agenda,' Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges told the Center for Media and Democracy. 'Local government is the best way to reflect the values and meet the unique needs of the local community,' she said. 'ACCE is just another effort to rig our democracy in favor of corporate special interests.'
"Natalia Rudiak, a Democratic city council member in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, said she was 'offended' by the suggestion she needed an outside body such as ACCE, which is licensed in Arlington, Virginia, to tell her what her community needed. 'Local politics in America is the purest form of democracy,' she said. 'There is no buffer between me and the public. So why would I want the involvement of a third party acting on behalf of a few corporate interests?'"
Alderman Steve Arnold, who attended ACCE's December 2014 meeting, described ALEC's approach to local control as "contradictory":
"When a prevailing policy favors ALEC corporate sponsors at the state level, as with low minimum wages in red states, local efforts to raise the wage are to be crushed, or even better, pre-empted by state law. But when state policy violates ALEC’s corporate sponsors' interest, such as laws favoring collective bargaining, local control is the leading edge of a divide-and-conquer strategy."