Thursday, April 19, 2012

ALEC Who?



It’s just another tiny, tiny part of the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy. Yes, I know that the VRWC term has been derided and mocked. And I know that Big Business has been doing this same kind of stuff forever. The thing to understand is that it is a conspiracy -- in the true sense of the word.

con·spir·a·cy:

1.the act of conspiring.
2.an evil, unlawful, treacherous, or surreptitious plan formulated in secret by two or more persons; plot.
3.a combination of persons for a secret, unlawful, or evil purpose: He joined the conspiracy to overthrow the government.
4.Law . an agreement by two or more persons to commit a crime, fraud, or other wrongful act.
5.any concurrence in action; combination in bringing about a given result.


It is vast.

American Legislative Exchange Council

”ALEC currently has more than 2,000 legislative members representing all 50 states, amounting to nearly one-third of all sitting legislators, as well as more than 85 members of Congress and 14 sitting or former governors who are considered "alumni". ALEC also claims approximately 300 corporate, foundation, and other private-sector members.”

And it is right-wing.

”ALEC was co-founded in 1973 by Paul Weyrich who also helped found other conservative organizations in the 1970s and 1980s including the Heritage Foundation, the Committee for the Survival of a Free Congress, the Moral Majority and the Council for National Policy.”

Paul Weyrich is a name that you see over and over again when you start looking into this stuff so you might want to take a look at his Wikipedia entry.

”In 1973, persuading Joseph Coors to put the money in, Weyrich and Edwin Feulner founded the Heritage Foundation as a think tank to counter liberal views on taxation and regulation, which they considered to be anti-business.”

I don’t drink Coors beer for a reason.

”The following year, again with support from Coors, Weyrich founded the Committee for the Survival of a Free Congress (CSFC), an organization that trained and mobilized conservative activists, recruited conservative candidates, and raised funds for conservative causes.

Under Weyrich, the CSFC proved highly innovative. It was among the first grassroots organizations to raise funds extensively through direct mail campaigns. It also was one of the first organizations to tap into evangelical Christian churches as places to recruit and cultivate activists and support for social conservative causes. In 1977, Weyrich co-founded Christian Voice with Robert Grant. Two years later, with Jerry Falwell, he founded the Moral Majority. Weyrich coined the phrase "Moral Majority".”


Where were we?

”Over the next two decades, Weyrich founded, co-founded, or held prominent roles in a number of other notable conservative organizations. Among them, he was founder of the American Legislative Exchange Council,...”

Oh yeah. Let’s get back to ALEC. You might want to look at its Private Enterprise Board. Wal-Mart, Kraft, Johnson & Johnson, UPS, Exxon. It goes on and on. Keep in mind, this isn’t the Chamber of Commerce we’re talking about. This is an organization formed by the guy that gave us the Moral Majority.

But what makes it a conspiracy -- in the true spirit of the word -- is the fact that ALEC was hidden from public view. Enter William Cronon.

”In the midst of protests surrounding Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's in March 2011 Wisconsin Budget Repair Bill, William Cronon, a historian who teaches at the University of Wisconsin devoted the first post on his newly-established Scholar as Citizen blog to ALEC. He addressed the largely behind-the-scenes role of the ALEC in working for the passage of ideologically conservative legislation at the state level. William Cronon pointed out that neither the model legislation which ALEC produces, nor the list of elected officials who are members of ALEC are publicly available. This resulted in the issuing of a FOIA request by the Wisconsin Republican Party to obtain all e-mail from Cronon's university account relating to Republican topics; Paul Krugman and the American Historical Association defended Cronon's right to conduct public political research. They decried the action as an apparent attempt at intimidation.”

Yes, that would be the Republican Governor Scott Walker that tried to eliminate collective bargaining rights and sparked the massive protests in Wisconsin. And on a not unrelated note, the Republican National Committee Chairman -- Reince Priebus -- just happens to be from Wisconsin.

The reaction to all this unwanted attention is just what you would expect.

”On April 4, 2012 the political advocacy group Color of Change announced a call to boycott Coca-Cola due to its support of ALEC and their advocacy work that allegedly encourages voter suppression through voter ID laws. Within hours, Coca-Cola announced it was ending its relationship with ALEC in apparent response to the threatened boycott. Kraft Foods and Intuit dropped support for the group under apparent pressure. Additionally, Pepsi had quietly withdrawn its support of ALEC earlier in the year. On April 9th the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation also withdrew their support for ALEC. McDonald's severed ties with ALEC on April 10, 2012. On April 12, Reed Elsevier dropped ALEC and Wendy's said that it had done so at the end of 2011. Mars, Inc. has also dropped its membership with ALEC.”

These people haven’t gone away. They aren’t defeated. And the corporations are like cockroaches, they’ll just crawl into a different hole when you turn on the light. They’re still out there, buying politicians and influence.

You could change all this. You could do what you should do and become a good citizen -- go to your city/county council meetings. Read up on the political positions of the people for whom you are going to vote. But your employer probably has you running around with your hair on fire, just trying to make a living. Working overtime. Having to check your email on your own time. Taking work home with you. Trying to pay for private schools or buy an expensive house in the “good” school district because so many public schools have gone so far downhill because people don’t have time to go to PTA meetings, much less Board of Education meetings, and help keep up the public schools. Hey...wait a minute...

You could do the right thing. But even if you can’t, you can do better. I send money to Wikipedia. I don’t drink Coors beer. I send money to National Public Radio. I don’t shop at Wal Mart. I don’t vote Republican. Small acts add up.

For today, I’m going to take the time to link to a new blog -- Scholar as Citizen . Some crazy professor up in Wisconsin took the time to shine a spotlight on some conspiracy to influence our State legislatures. It’s amazing what that small act has accomplished.

Don Brown
April 19, 2012

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