, 15 tweets, 8 min read Read on Twitter
More than a year ago, I was asked to do the impossible. Help build an algorithm that could tease out what statehouse bills were created from model legislation (ie copy-paste legislation). Along with a terrific team @USATODAY and @azcentral. We did it. Here’s how. (THREAD)
We examined almost 1 million bills in all 50 statehouses and Congress from 2010 to 2018. We compared them to a database of more than 2,000 model bills that we collected by hand. We used a method similar to how plagiarism is detected.
We found that many model bills are misleading and disguise their true intent – like this one about asbestos “transparency” that makes it harder for those people dying of mesothelioma to sue:
Some states passed more conservative model bills, others pushed industry bills or liberal bills. Mississippi introduced the most model legislation, but only 7% passed. Illinois, Arizona and Oklahoma were the most successful in making them laws.
One model bill was Right to Try, which gave terminally ill patients the right to try experimental treatment. It passed in 41 states (including AZ). It got through Congress and was signed by @realDonaldTrump, making it federal law. Our detector found nearly exact copies.
These copycat bills amount to the nation’s largest, unreported special-interest campaign, driving agendas in every statehouse and touching nearly all areas of public policy. In some states, we found it supplanting the traditional approach of writing legislation from scratch.
The granddaddy of all the model bill factories is @alec_states. It has remained on top not just by pushing model bills - but also being the social network for conservative Republicans and providing access to donors.

The bonus: I got to write the mother of all nerd boxes, which warmed by heart. It’s pretty wonky, but it is most definitely the longest and most detailed nerd box I have ever compiled. (And it had to be cut down!)
For the TLDR version, please check out our stunning visuals story here:
I built a scoring system to rank how similar the texts were to each other. We found at least 10,000 bills across the US that were substantially copied from models. This is the first time anyone has been able to concretely say how much legislation is written by special interests.
.@thelisagraves, who watches legislative influence, said “This work proves what many people have suspected, which is just how much of the democratic process has been outsourced to special interests.” This is our story: Copy, Paste, Legislate.
More than 2,100 of those model bills became law, which means corporations and other outside interests wrote laws that affect you and your life. These copycat laws have spread all over the U.S. Take a look at the spread of Sharia law bill:
Thanks so much for the people that helped made this happen @mgsquires @npenzenstadler @jkelly3rd @GannettDavis @gburton @shawnjsullivan @mattwynn @jsusong !
Please join my editor @mgsquires and I for our Reddit AMA at 3 ET/12 PT where we will be answering questions about this thread and our @USATODAY/@azcentral/@Publici investigation ‘Copy, Paste, Legislate’
Also, please don't forget if you have model bills or potential model bills you would like us to investigate please submit them to us here to run through our system and we will let you know what we find!

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