John Oliver’s Hilarious and Informative Segment about State Legislatures and ALEC on “Last Week Tonight” (VIDEO)

By Elaine Magliaro

Last night, John Oliver did another “must see” news segment on state legislators and what’s going on in state legislatures across the country. In my opinion, Last Week Tonight is one of the best shows on television.

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33 Responses to John Oliver’s Hilarious and Informative Segment about State Legislatures and ALEC on “Last Week Tonight” (VIDEO)

  1. swarthmoremom says: “So if the election goes about as polls predict, it would suggest that 2014 was way worse for Democrats than 2008 and somewhat worse than 2012 but somewhat better for them than 2010.”

    “Well, duh.”

  2. blouise17 says:

    SwM, Elaine,

    We’ve been telling people for years that the real damage is done at the local level.

    Oliver did another excellent job.

  3. bron98 says:

    Alec isnt the only group that lobbies state legislators, there are many left of center groups who do so as well.

    So I am not sure why all of the outrage.

  4. swarthmoremom says:

    blouise, Look at the extreme amount of damage they have done in Texas,

  5. bettykath says:

    I agree that John Oliver’s show is the best. I have no TV so thanks for posting.

  6. swarthmoremom says:

    Blouise, A couple of states have “personhood” on the ballot.

  7. swarthmoremom says:“Republicans have the opportunity to take control of a record number of state legislative chambers across the country this year, as Democrats play defense in unfavorable terrain.

    The Republican landslide in 2010 and the subsequent redistricting process in 2012 gave the GOP control of a nearly unprecedented number of legislative chambers. Today, the party controls 59 of the 98 partisan chambers in 49 states, while Democrats control only 39 chambers (One legislature, Nebraska’s is officially nonpartisan).

    Once election results are tabulated in the 6,049 legislative races on the ballot in 46 states this year, Republicans could find themselves running even more.”

  8. blouise17 says:

    So I am not sure why all of the outrage. – Bron

    Outrage? I thought it was hilarious. Do you work for the Daily Mail?

  9. Elaine M. says:


    ALEC doesn’t just lobby state legislators. It writes legislation for them.


    The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is the most powerful corporate front group you’ve never heard of. The group, sponsored by some of America’s largest corporations, writes legislation that tends to benefit its donors and ships these template bills to state legislatures for compliant lawmakers to pass. ALEC has pushed for legislation doing everything from attacking workers’ collective bargaining rights, to making it harder for low-income Americans to vote, to the Stand Your Ground law that could prevent justice in the Trayvon Martin case.


    Koch, Exxon Mobil Among Corporations Helping Write State Laws

    Koch Industries Inc. and Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM) are among companies that would benefit from almost identical energy legislation introduced in state capitals from Oregon to New Mexico to New Hampshire — and that’s by design.

    The energy companies helped write the legislation at a meeting organized by a group they finance, the American Legislative Exchange Council, a Washington-based policy institute known as ALEC.

    The corporations, both ALEC members, took a seat at the legislative drafting table beside elected officials and policy analysts by paying a fee between $3,000 and $10,000, according to documents obtained by Bloomberg News.

    The opportunity for corporations to become co-authors of state laws legally through ALEC covers a wide range of issues from energy to taxes to agriculture. The price for participation is an ALEC membership fee of as much as $25,000 — and the few extra thousands to join one of the group’s legislative-writing task forces. Once the “model legislation” is complete, it’s up to ALEC’s legislator members to shepherd it into law.

    “This is just another hidden way for corporations to buy their way into the legislative process,” said Bob Edgar, president of Common Cause, a Washington-based group that advocates for limits on money in politics.

  10. Elaine M. says:

    Why be outraged if we live in a state/plutocracy where corporations “pay to play” and write our laws?

  11. bron98 says:


    What do you think lobbiests do in DC? They write most of the laws congress passes.

    They all do it, left, center, right. You dont think Soros and Moveon dont lobby and write laws?

  12. bron98 says:


    It isnt going to change until you get the government out of the economy. Let the court system handle the criminals and let word of mouth handle the bad actors.

  13. Bob Kauten says:

    The government runs the economy. Always has, always will. There is no economy without government. There is no society without government. Get over it.
    We already tried deregulating the greed, gambling and cheating. Deregulation produces depressions and recessions.

  14. Elaine Magliaro says:


    It doesn’t bother you that corporate lobbyists are writing legislation for states because they do it for Congress? Is that one of the positive aspects of capitalism?

  15. I know I want my laws written by privately funded groups with a profit motive instead of legislators who are supposed to be working for the greater good of the general public.


    My sarcasm button got stuck.

  16. Bob Kauten says:

    I wedged a piece of cardboard under my caps lock key. It prevents me from inadvertently shouting on the interwebz. You might try that for your sarcasm button.
    You’re welcome.

  17. bron98 says:


    I dont want anyone except congress writing laws. But the left is too worried about making things equal and the right is too worried about getting a tax break.

    So what are you going to do?

  18. bron98 says:


    now you have said, so prove it.

  19. Mike Spindell says:


    Perhaps we should go back to when individual banks issued their own currency. Let’s get big government out of the money printing business.

  20. “the left is too worried about making things equal ”

    You say that like its a bad thing, B. I mean with equity being an integral part of justice and everything.

  21. bettykath says:

    Mike, There have been community currency. Ithaca and Park Slope in Brooklyn are two. There are others. In Ithaca, there are/were (haven’t checked lately, since the founder and main advocate moved away) several businesses that accepted Ithaca dollars for some portion of a bill.

  22. pete says:

    My sarcasm button got stuck.

    mine’s more of a dial, and that knob got broke off years ago.

  23. bron98 says:


    how about a gold standard and just use coins?

    Read that book by Rothbrd on the Fed it is only 169 pages.

    Click to access fed.pdf

  24. bron98 says:


    you cannot make people equal by legislation.

    Just looking at the person with an IQ of 80 and the one with 140 tells me that. The only way to make them equal [currently] is to lobotomize the person with 140.

    You can help the 80 guy do better but that is about it.

  25. And once again you mistake the idea of all men being created equal under the law with the idea of all men being equally created in nature and display that you’re really not grasping what justice entails. That first mistake? Is just silly on your part. The second? Justice isn’t as simple a concept as many would think and it’s often imperfect in execution but equity (and, consequently, loss and gain) is inexorably intertwined into what justice is. Take chancery courts, also known as courts of equity. They are from the English tradition and their jurisdiction is traditionally over what we would call today civil matters, but equity is the axis upon which they operate. Contrast this with criminal courts where equity is as important to the notion of justice as punishment and deterrence (at least with malum in se crimes, malum prohibitum is another more complicated issue that a whole column could be written on).

  26. bron98 says:


    no mistake on my part. Laws should treat everyone equally.

  27. Then you should back the idea of bolstering equity in the systems of government, B.

    All the systems of government.

  28. bron98 says:

    I am all for treating everyone the same under the law.

    What does bolstering equity mean?

  29. Bob Kauten says:

    Help those with IQ 80 by awarding them posts on the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology.
    Oh…we already are doing that?
    Never mind!

  30. bron98 says:

    Seems to me it means whatever the idea of fairness and justice means to each individual.

    Is there some standard you are adhering to? Or is it some doctrine which says “Joe has 6 cows, Jim has 3, Joan has 8, Jason has 2 and Jane has 1, so the fair and equitable thing to do is take all the cows and split them 4 each.”

    Maybe Jane is 15 and Joan is 60. That doesnt seem equitable to me.

  31. Bron,

    There are principles under law that are followed, such as unjust enrichment or inequitable bargaining positions in contract law, as well as black letter law (think criminal penalties) and case law (where previous cases set the precedent for equitable solutions) or even “real world” studies (think quantum meruit in determining damages/fair compensation in contract law). The very individual and ergo subjective definition of fairness is why these things exist: to provide as objective a framework as possible for determining equitable solutions at law. There is often still a certain amount of subjective judgement to be made in many situations (but especially in a case with novel fact patterns) and that is the job of the judge and/or jury.

    As for your cow example, age might be considered a factor depending upon the circumstance. Say Joan got her eight cows via defrauding Jane and Jason. Then the equitable solution is to attempt to put Jane and Jason where they would be but for Joan’s fraud. Objective standards are the ideal, subjective standards are sometimes required, but circumstance? Circumstance frames the whole issue as a general rule, be it civil or criminal (Ex. civil = honest mistake or impossibility in enforcing a contract, criminal = self-defense as justifiable homicide).

    These are just some of the reason that things like mandatory minimums a bad idea. It removes both the subjective and very often the circumstantial elements from the equation and replaces them with rote (read: stupid) penalty for what might be only a technical violation where such a draconian measure might not really be equitable.

  32. bron98 says:


    If Joan is a conwoman, then the courts can deal with her.

    I dont think you can conflate justice and equity in regard to the law with some idea of government providing non-legal justice or social justice if you will.

    Social justice and justice [and equity] under the law are 2 different concepts in my mind. If the law is applied fairly to all there is no failure of equity. Social justice causes a failure of equity and justice.

  33. I’m not conflating anything, Bron. There’s a reason the universal Western symbol for justice is a scale. Equity is a core component of justice in any form and by definition. You are simply mistaken (and quite wrong) if you think otherwise. Systemic social injustice? Is a failure of equity and justice, not the other way around.

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