American Bail Coalition

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The American Bail Coalition (ABC) describes itself on its website as the "premier underwriters of criminal court appearance bonds." ABC has stated, "We have formed a national organization, primarily to perform a two-pronged task to educate local government on the benefits of commercial bail bonding and to advance the interests of the member companies' many retail agents."[1]

The Coalition was formerly known as the National Association of Bail Surety Underwriters (NABSU), then the National Association of Bail Insurance Companies (NABIC), and became the American Bail Coalition in 2001.

Support for the American Legislative Exchange Council

The American Bail Coalition has been a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) since 1993, and the Coalition refers to ALEC as its "life preserver." [2]

A list of ALEC Corporations can be found here.

About ALEC
ALEC is a corporate bill mill. It is not just a lobby or a front group; it is much more powerful than that. Through ALEC, corporations hand state legislators their wishlists to benefit their bottom line. Corporations fund almost all of ALEC's operations. They pay for a seat on ALEC task forces where corporate lobbyists and special interest reps vote with elected officials to approve “model” bills. Learn more at the Center for Media and Democracy's, and check out breaking news on our site.

Dennis Bartlett, ABC Executive Director, has been an ALEC member since 1998, serves on the Private Sector Executive Committee and is a member of the Public Safety and Elections Task Force in 2011. [3]

William Carmichael, former ABC President & CEO, is on ALEC's "Private Enterprise Board" in 2011. [4]

Jerry Watson, Senior Legal Counsel for the American Bail Coalition, was ALEC’s Private Enterprise Board Chairman from 2006-2008, and "actively participated on ALEC’s Task Force on Criminal Justice and has undertaken several projects with the ALEC Foundation, including the publication of Evidence of a Failed System: A Study of the Performance of Pretrial Release Agencies in California." [5] He was awarded ALEC's Leadership Award in 2010 "for his commitment to the private sector in the war on crime and his tireless and generous contributions to ALEC and its members," and previously received other ALEC awards, including the Thomas Jefferson Freedom Award. [5]

ALEC and ABC's Legislative Agenda

From an October, 2010 ABC Newsletter: "Within two years of joining ALEC, a member of the ABC board, Jerry Watson, was invited in 1995 to join the ALEC private enterprise board where he would ultimately become Chairman. Watson served until August 2010 when he stepped down to become Chairman Emeritus of the private enterprise board. Another ABC member, Bill Carmichael, was appointed to the ALEC private enterprise board. During its two decade involvement with ALEC, ABC has written 12 model bills fortifying the commercial bail industry. In addition to the model bills ALEC has issued ABC sponsored State Factors, Legislative Briefs, and studies related to the bail issue. The major reason behind this focus was to offset the threat posed to commercial bail." [2]

According to January, 2010 NPR report, "Some states ban commercial bail bondsmen outright and have the state's court act as the bail bond business. But in others, the American Legislative Exchange Council, an organization backed in part by the bail bond lobby, has worked to pass the Citizen's Right To Know Act, a law that requires reformatting and increased reporting of pretrial release information and encourages the use of commercial bail bondsmen." [6]

Citizen's Right To Know Act:
Enacted: Florida (2009), Texas (1995)
Enrolled (in legislature): Iowa (2009), North Carolina (2009), Tennessee (2009)
Failed: Virginia (2009)
States that ban commercial bail bondsmen: Illinois, Kentucky, Oregon, Wisconsin [6]

According to a June 2011 news release, the ABC- and ALEC-penned "Citizen's Right to Know Act" has gone national. On June 3, 2011, "the American Bail Coalition. . . called on Congress to pass HR 1885, the Citizens Right to Know Act, introduced by Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX) and Rep. Dan Boren (D-OK)."[7]

Other ALEC Activities

Jerry Watson, General Counsel for the American Bail Coalition addressed the Annual Meeting of the American Legislative Exchange Council in Philadelphia, PA, July 25 - 27, 2007.

Jerry Watson Addresses ALEC Annual Meeting 2007


In 2010, ABC spent $80,000 on lobbying.[8] They worked with the lobbying firm Fidelis Government Relations.

Christine M. Frahm has been a lobbyist in California for ABC since 2005.[9]

In 2010, ABC spent $80,000 on lobbying on the federal level.[10] They worked with the lobbying firm, Fidelis Government Relations.



  • Professional Bail Agents of Arizona
  • California Bail Agent Association
  • Florida Surety Agents Association
  • Bail Agents Independent League of Florida
  • Georgia Association of Professional Bail Agents
  • Indiana Surety Bail Agents Association, Inc.
  • Michigan Professional Bail Agents
  • Oklahoma Bondsmen Association
  • Tennessee Association of Professional Agents
  • Professional Bail Agents of Texas

Reporting on ABC

NPR did a series on the bail system in January 2010.

"The regulation of bail bond agents varies widely across the country. Many states require bondsmen to be licensed. Generally, bond agents must undergo eight to 16 hours of training, submit to fingerprinting and a background check and be a resident of the state to receive a license. However, some states do not require bondsmen to be licensed. In Wyoming, for example, agents using their own capital are not required to be licensed." [6]

In a section on for-profit bail bondsmen in Lubbock, Texas:

Statistically, most bail jumpers are not caught by bondsmen or their bounty hunters. They're caught by sheriff's deputies, according to Beni Hemmeline from Lubbock's district attorney's office.

"More often than not, the defendants are rearrested on a warrant that's issued after they fail to appear," Hemmeline said.Asked if the bondsmen are fulfilling their end of the deal, Hemmeline says, "Well, it may be that [the bondsmen] can't find them. They can't camp at the door 24 hours a day. They do the best that they can, I think."

If a defendant does run, the bondsman is also supposed to pay the county the full cost of the bond as a sort of punishment for not keeping an eye on the client.

But that doesn't happen, either, Hemmeline says.

Hemmeline says Lubbock usually settles for a far lower amount than the full bond. In fact, according to the county treasurer in Lubbock, bondsmen usually only pay 5 percent of the bond when a client runs.

Consider that math for a minute. The bondsmen charge clients at least 10 percent. But if the client runs, they only have to pay the county 5 percent. Meaning if they make no effort whatsoever, they still profit.

Hemmeline says asking for more might put the bondsmen out of business.

"Bond companies serve an important purpose," she says.

NPR found bondsmen getting similar breaks in other states. In California, bondsmen owe counties $150 million that they should have had to pay when their clients failed to show up for court. In New Jersey, bondsmen owe $250,000 over the past four years. In Erie, Pa., officials stopped collecting money for a time because it was too much of a hassle to get the bonding companies to pay up."[6]


American Bail Coalition
Telephone: (877) 385-9009
Fax: (703) 385-1809
3857 Lewiston Place
Fairfax, VA 22030

Articles and resources

Related SourceWatch articles

External resources

External articles


  1. American Bail Coalition, "Introduction ABC," organizational website, accessed June 2011
  2. 2.0 2.1 American Bail Coalition, October Newsletter (pdf), organizational newsletter, October 2010.
  3. American Legislative Exchange Council Private Sector Executive Committee, organizational website, accessed June 2, 2011.
  4. American Legislative Exchange Council Private Enterprise Board, ALEC organizational website, accessed July 8, 201
  5. 5.0 5.1 PRWeb, Bail Bond Industry Leader, Jerry Watson, Honored by National Legislative Organization,, Aug. 27, 2010, accessed July 8, 2011
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 Laura Sullivan, Bail Burden Keeps US Jails Stuffed With Inmates, National Public Radio, January 21, 2010, accessed July 8, 2011
  7. PRNewsWire, End the Abuse: Federal Tax Payer Funded Bail Program a Mess, News release, June 3, 2011
  8. Center for Responsive Politics, "Annual Lobbying of ABC,, online database, accessed May, 2011
  9. Christine Frahm Bio,"Follow the Money" database
  10. Annual Lobbying of ABC,Open, accessed July 11, 2011
  11. American Bail Coalition Associations, organizational website for the American Bail Coalition, accessed July 9, 2011