The Not-so-smart ALEC

By:  William F. Jasper
The Not-so-smart ALEC

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) falls short on constitutional, sovereignty issues.

“Limited Government • Free Markets • Federalism.” That is the motto of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which appears on their literature and on the banner of every page of the organization’s website. ALEC’s “about” page expands on that theme, explaining:

The American Legislative Exchange Council works to advance limited government, free markets, and federalism at the state level through a nonpartisan public-private partnership of America’s state legislators, members of the private sector and the general public.

ALEC’s stated philosophy and goals resonate with liberty-minded Americans, which, undoubtedly, is why many politically conservative state legislators and activist citizens look to it for leadership in rolling back the oppressive hand of Big Government. However, the well-funded and well-connected organization is alienating many of its erstwhile supporters by its support for dangerous trade pacts that threaten the sovereignty of the United States, as well as its efforts to promote a constitutional convention, which could result in the complete destruction of our already tattered and battered U.S. Constitution. That could spell the end of any hope to return to limited government, free markets, and responsible federalism.

Founded in 1973, ALEC has just celebrated its 40th anniversary and is experiencing both the joys of prominent national influence and the pains of harsh criticism. The organization can boast a membership that includes more than 2,000 state legislators and hundreds of corporations, as well as dozens of think tanks, foundations, and non-profit organizations.

For the past several years ALEC has been under attack from a gaggle of left-wing organizations — Color of Change, Common Cause, People for the American Way, Progress Now, the Center for Media and Democracy, the Sierra Club — that claim the organization’s corporate ties and corporate funding have put it in the pocket of big business. These and similar groups have lambasted ALEC for its model legislation opposing federal EPA regulations, gun control laws, “green” energy mandates, and “climate change” carbon taxes, and its support for laws supporting voter identification, “Stand Your Ground” protection, school choice, and privatization of public services. Major media outlets, such as the New York Times, Huffington Post, MSNBC, and CNN joined The Nation, Media Matters, and other radical-left detractors in attacking ALEC for these sins against the progressive gospel. The highly politicized shooting death of Trayvon Martin in Florida in 2012 provided the key event that ALEC’s critics could leverage to crack the organization’s growing impact. Utilizing the media-created furor over the shooting, the left-wing activist groups launched a petition-pressure campaign that spotlighted ALEC’s support for “Stand Your Ground” laws. The result was an exodus, as major corporations and legislators fled ALEC to avoid the controversy.

For many of ALEC’s staunchest supporters, the attacks on the organization — and the liberal-left/progressive sources from which they usually emanate — only prove its bona fides as a defender of free enterprise and constitutional government. They should know better by now. The same alliance of left-wing activists and the liberal establishment media regularly confer legitimacy on false conservatives pseudo-conservatives and business lobbies that promote Big Government by attacking them for not being “progressive” enough. Examples abound: Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Bob Dole, John Boehner, Mitch McConnell, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Manufacturing Association, the American Medical Association — to name but a very small cohort. These politicians and organizations have excelled at co-opting the rhetoric of free markets and limited government, but often go in exactly the opposite direction. In the remainder of this article, we will examine several of the areas where we contend ALEC is following a similarly deceptive path.

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Photo at top shows Rep. Kenny Marchant (right) introducing Pres. George W. Bush at an ALEC convention, July 2007: AP Images

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