Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Lift The Rock ...

...and see what skitters out.

We're finally seeing some MSM reporting on ALEC and its effect on governance in this country. Finally. And it's amazing what a little sunshine can do.

First, from McClatchy DC:

At least 30 bills have been introduced in the Missouri statehouse in recent years that are nearly identical to legislation originally written by a conservative organization whose membership includes some of the country’s largest corporations.

A study released Monday by the liberal group Progress Missouri purported to detail how the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, has “exerted extraordinary and secretive influence in the Missouri legislature and other states.”

Nearly 50 current and former legislators in the Show-Me State have ties to ALEC, including House Speaker Steven Tilley, House Majority Leader Tim Jones and Senate President Pro Tem Rob Mayer. ...

To encourage attendance at their conferences, where the work drafting model legislation is done, ALEC offers “scholarships” to members to pay for transportation, hotel and meals. In addition to working groups that actually craft the organization’s model legislation, lawmakers are treated to corporate-sponsored events, such as golf tournaments and evening receptions.
[Emphasis added]

So, for a paltry $50, state legislators get invited for an all-expenses paid trip to, say, New Orleans for a weekend of legislative training, golf, and booze. They go home with the bills proposed already written for them. All they have to do is introduce them. Voter suppression bills, anti-environmental regulation bills, anti-union bills, guns-for-everybody-all-the-time bills: all tied up in a neat package for them. No additional effort required.

And then the Trayvon Martin case hit the national consciousness, along with the "Stand Your Ground" law in Florida, a law which has been replicated in many other states. Suddenly people started paying attention.

From an editorial in the New York Times:

A year ago, few people outside the world of state legislatures had heard of the American Legislative Exchange Council, a four-decade-old organization run by right-wing activists and financed by business leaders. The group writes prototypes of state laws to promote corporate and conservative interests and spreads them from one state capital to another.

That was before Trayvon Martin was shot. Here's what happened after:

That was apparently the last straw for several prominent corporations that had been financial supporters of ALEC. In recent weeks, McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Intuit, Mars, Kraft Foods, Coca-Cola and PepsiCo have stopped supporting the group, responding to pressure from activists and consumers who have formed a grass-roots counterweight to corporate treasuries. That pressure is likely to continue as long as state lawmakers are more responsive to the needs of big donors than the public interest. ...

The corporations abandoning ALEC aren’t explicitly citing the Stand Your Ground statutes as the reason for their decision. But many joined the group for narrower reasons, like fighting taxes on soda or snacks, and clearly have little interest in voter ID requirements or the N.R.A.’s vision of a society where anyone can fire a concealed weapon at the slightest hint of a threat.
[Emphasis added]

And ALEC has noticed. From The Nation (via Susie Madrak):

Pressured by watchdog groups, civil rights organizations and a growing national movement for accountable lawmaking, the American Legislative Exchange Council announced Tuesday that it was disbanding the task force that has been responsible for advancing controversial Voter ID and “Stand Your Ground” laws.

ALEC, the shadowy corporate-funded proponent of so-called “model legislation” for passage by pliant state legislatures, announced that it would disband its “Public Safety and Elections” task force. The task force has been the prime vehicle for proposing and advancing what critics describe as voter-suppression and anti-democratic initiatives—not just restrictive Voter ID laws but also plans to limit the ability of citizens to petition for referendums and constitutional changes that favor workers and communities. The task force has also been the source of so-called “Castle Doctrine” and “Stand Your Ground” laws that limit the ability of police and prosecutors to pursue inquiries into shootings of unarmed individuals such as Florida teenager Trayvon Martin.

The decision to disband the task force appears to get ALEC out of the business of promoting Voter ID and “Stand Your Ground” laws. That’s a dramatic turn of events, with significant implications for state-based struggles over voting rights an elections, as well as criminal justice policy. But it does not mean that ALEC will stop promoting one-size-fits-all “model legislation” at the state level.
[Emphasis added]

While seeing the scurrying by major corporations and even ALEC itself away from the voter suppression law and "Stand Your Ground Laws" is heartening, the caveat at the end of the above quoted material is important. ALEC will continue facilitating the secret meetings between corporations and state legislators, even if the more flammable subjects are off the table. Unless the media and citizens continue to raise hell over this blatant attempt to run state governments in a mode contrary to the interests of citizens, things will go along as usual.

Like I said, a little sunshine can cure all sorts of evils. That's why a truly free press is important.

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Anonymous xan said...

um, typo alert, otherwise excellent last line....That's why a truly fee press is important.

copy editors R important. :)

/takes off Old Copy Editor hat, sneezes at dust

9:36 AM  
Blogger Diane said...

Yikes! Talk about a Freudian undergarment!

Thanks, Xan. I'm correcting it now.

11:41 AM  

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