William Cronon, author and professor of history, geography and environmental studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is taking flak from Republicans for revealing the actions of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and their involvement in Wisconsin Republican Governor Scott Walker and his legislature’s illicit agenda that has fired up the nation because he published an op-ed in the New York Times titled “Wisconsin’s Radical Break,” in which he suggested Walker has turned his back on the state’s long tradition of “neighborliness, decency and mutual respect,” and then published an even more eviscerating post describing who is really behind the GOP agenda on his blog.
Prof. Cronon pointed out that it’s important to understand that events at the state level don’t always originate in the state where they occur. Indeed, far from it. To find out more about these corporate lobbyists and organizations who have been trying to destroy workers, the poor population, and Senior citizens, there are many places online that track them, such as Right Wing Watch, Source Watch, and Open Secrets.
So who does Prof. Cronon really believe is behind the Republican attack on workers, the poor population, and Senior citizens while rewarding the rich, large non-taxpaying corporations who own many politicians in the many State and Federal Governments? He doesn’t believe the Koch brothers are the only driving force behind the illicit GOP agenda. He’s been trying to discover the deeper networks from whence the legislation came, and he appears to have found them.
The most important group mentioned by Prof. Cronon is The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which was founded in 1973 by Henry Hyde, Lou Barnett, and Paul Weyrich — the figurehead of the New Right and co-founder of the Heritage Foundation among others. For forty years ALEC’s goal has been to draft “model bills” that conservative legislators can introduce in the 50 states. Your State legislators are paid well by these lobbyists and organizations for being told what to do by ALEC at your expense.
ALEC’s Partners Play an Important Role in Wisconsin and Other States
ALEC’s website claims that in each legislative cycle, its members introduce 1000 pieces of legislation based on its work, and that roughly 18% of these bills are enacted into law. ALEC was responsible for Arizona’s controversial anti-immigration law that passed last year. It’s necessary to start paying more attention to ALEC and the bills its promoting, as well as the politicians it owns, including Scott Walker and company. A visit to the “About” menu on ALEC’s website will give you a sense of the organization’s history, its current members, and its funders. But to get to the true depths of collusive corruption, you need to visit the site’s “model legislation” page, the gateway to all the bills ALEC has drafted. Unsurprisingly, you can’t view that legislation unless you’re a member.
Alas, becoming a member of ALEC isn’t so easy. You have to be an elected Republican legislator (PDF) who pays roughly $100 per biennium to join after being thoroughly vetted, or you can become a “private sector” member (PDF) by paying a few thousand dollars minimum depending on which legislative domains are of the most interest to you.
You can’t find out which Wisconsin Republican politicians are members of ALEC unless you’re a member because ALEC won’t provide it. You could ask Wisconsin representatives, but you won’t get an honest answer. Loopholes in Wisconsin’s strict open meetings laws (PDF) were created by Democrats and Republicans alike to allow them to push their own party’s agendas. Because of these loopholes, Wisconsin Republicans are able to hold secret meetings with ALEC to plan their lopsided legislative strategies whenever they want with no public knowledge or intervention.
ALEC’s partners play an important role in Wisconsin and other states in pushing their dreamt up legislation aimed at enriching them while destroying everyone else. The State Policy Network (SPN) is important to ALEC because they coordinate the activities of a wide variety of conservative “think tanks” at the state level throughout the U.S. Many publications from these “think tanks” can be accessed and downloaded from the SPN website.
For Wisconsinites, two important SPN members to note include the MacIver Institute for Public Policy, and the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute (WPRI). Visiting those two sites will give you a better understanding of why the Republicans are doing what they’re doing and who it benefits. Finding exact details about the lopsided legislation these organizations are pushing is difficult, but there are other groups that have noted ALEC and company’s actions for a while: A 2002 report entitled “Corporate America’s Trojan Horse in the States” (PDF) by The Defenders of Wildlife that helped shine the public spotlight on the corrosive, secretive and highly influential power in state capitals around the U.S. The Natural Resources Defense Council also had a press release on ALEC, and an outdated website from ALECWatch.org has links to the report, and a partial list of corporations and trade associations that have funded ALEC.
More modern updates on ALEC and company’s agenda can be found in a report titled “Governing the Nation from the Statehouses” from The Progressive States Network, who also has a report on ALEC’s involvement in trying to disenfranchise young voters in the upcoming 2012 elections in key battleground state. In These Times published a report on ALEC titled “Forget D.C.–The Battle is in the States,” and a more recent article on ALEC’s involvement in Arizona’s immigration “law” fiasco. A recent report from The Huffington Post titled “ALEC: The Behind the Scenes Player in the States’ Fight Against the Middle Class” shines more light on ALEC’s actions in leading the GOP’s war on workers, the poor population, and Senior citizens. A report from Campus Progress details ALEC’s drive to disenfranchise student voters. Even the New York Times mentioned ALEC — though very briefly and with no elaboration — in a recent article: “A group composed of Republican state lawmakers and corporate executives, the American Legislative Exchange Council, is quietly spreading these proposals from state to state, sending e-mails about the latest efforts as well as suggested legislative language.”
I haven’t had the chance to confirm it yet, but it wouldn’t be at all surprising if ALEC was behind the recent voter disenfranchisement law that just passed in Ohio that affects almost 900,000 of Ohio’s poor population who may not have a voice in the 2012 elections. Ohio is considered a key battleground state when it comes to electing the President. Don’t forget, voter disenfranchisement in Ohio and Florida during the last two presidential elections resulted eight years of George W. Bush’s presidency. Many states filled with voters who they believe are more likely to vote for Democrats than Republicans in elections are targeted by organizations like ALEC who, have intimate relationships with many State’s Republican legislators.
GOP Thought Police want Professor Cronon’s Emails
In response to Professor Cronon’s involvement in awakening the public to the underhanded politics destroying this country, the GOP wants copies of all emails sent to or from Professor Cronon’s university mail account containing the word “Republicans” and the names of a number of Republican politicians. As noted by Paul Krugman in his New York Times article titled “American Thought Police:”
“If this action strikes you as no big deal, you’re missing the point. The hard right — which these days is more or less synonymous with the Republican Party — has a modus operandi when it comes to scholars expressing views it dislikes: never mind the substance, go for the smear. And that demand for copies of e-mails is obviously motivated by no more than a hope that it will provide something, anything, that can be used to subject Mr. Cronon to the usual treatment.
The Cronon affair, then, is one more indicator of just how reflexively vindictive, how un-American, one of our two great political parties has become. “
There are those in favor of, and those against unions, which have played an important role in protecting workers rights, pay, and safety — all of which large corporations are trying to remove again. As noted by Professor Cronon, it’s well worth taking some time to familiarize yourself with the history of the conservative movement in the United States since the 1950s if you’re not already familiar with it.
Cutting millions of dollars-worth of taxes for the corporations that own them doesn’t repair budgets. It increases them. Letting your corporate controllers write the legislation only makes things worse on beltway populations while making politicians — and the corporations that own them — richer. Three plus decades of Republican lies to enrich their masters while destroying those they’re supposed to represent aren’t working any more. Those lies have been repeatedly repudiated. Indeed, more are becoming aware of the fact that decades of corporate greed and massive fraud on Wall Street enabled by corrupt politicians in Washington has virtually bankrupt this country, both financially and morally. In trying to fix state budgets, many States want to give large corporations, especially those in the oil and financial industries, millions of dollars in tax breaks. Again, tax breaks don’t decrease deficits. They increase them, and citizens of those states will, again, foot the bill for political corruption and cronyism. States giving tax breaks to the large corporations are pushing a political agenda, not fixing budgets.
Is ALEC Driving the GOP Agenda?
The trickle-down theory lies we’ve been fed for the past several decades haven’t worked. Two endless, illegally started occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as attacks in Libya, Yemen, Pakistan and a few other Middle Eastern oil rich countries suck billions of dollars a day out of the economy. People all over the world are dying in droves to enrich Military-Industrial complex and National Security State cronyism. Bank of America, General Electric, AIG, Exxon-Mobile and a host of other humongous corporations didn’t pay one cent in U.S. taxes last year. In addition to not paying taxes, most of these corporations were fraudulently bailed out by the Federal Government at our expense. These large corporations are sitting on more than a trillion dollars collectively. If the trickle-down theory worked, millions of main stream Americans wouldn’t be facing long-term unemployment and losing their homes.
ALEC has been subverting workers, poor populations, and Senior citizens for almost 40 years with “legislation” that enriches the corporations and politicians that support them, and is very upset that the spotlight is being directed toward them. It’s time for public and journalistic scrutiny of ALEC and all of its affiliations.
Evidence strongly suggests that ALEC is responsible for the well-coordinated attack on disenfranchising voters inclined to vote for Democrats, and busting up other organizations like unions who are more likely to vote for Democrats. What is happening in Wisconsin is part of a pre-planned national campaign and the public needs to know more about it.
As noted by Professor Cronon, it’s important for the public to get involved in the discussion surrounding policies being pushed by corporately-governed States because these policies will dramatically impact workers, poorer populations, and Senior citizens. Corporately owned beltway media needs to stop pushing the lies and start actually presenting the truth, whether ALEC and company like it or not. Is ALEC driving the GOP agenda in states governed by corporately-owned Republicans? Look at the evidence, and decide for yourself.