Jack Abramoff

ALEC Wants Lobbyists (And You) To Help Rearrange The Deck Chairs On The Titanic

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the corporate front group responsible for pushing voter ID and Stand Your Ground laws in states across the country, is on the run. Nearly two dozen major corporations (including Johnson & Johnson, yesterday) have been persuaded to cut ties with ALEC.

ALEC is fighting back — and the group recently launched a website to encourage not just people, but powerful corporations and lawmakers, to stand with them.

IStandWithALEC.com is apparently a project of Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform (ATR). The site also lists the Braynard Group as having “designed and develop” the website. This consulting firm is based in Arlington, Virginia; its online portfolio lists other astroturf projects it has worked on. In the past, it’s worked for corporate fronts like the Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity and a “Stop eTaxes” website dedicated to protecting the Amazon tax loophole. Curiously, it has also worked for the Immigration Policy Center, which advocates for more lenient immigration policies, certainly not in line with the conservative ideology ALEC espouses.

To read this article about rats deserting a sinking ship–assuming that you buy into these “desertions” of ALEC, please click here

What the Defections from ALEC Really Mean

You should all be aware of the group Color of Change, mentioned in conjunction with the ALEC corporate defectors along with Common Cause and other large national public interest groups sharing in the limelight.

What Color of Change did was to go to Coca Cola, for example, and say “we can’t have you selling your products in our black neighborhoods if you are going to be involved in legislation like Voter ID laws which prevent a lot of black people from voting”.  So Coke, not wanting to be shut out of black markets everywhere, says “oh my.  We didn’t know ALEC was writing legislation like that.  We quit them.”

Well, don’t believe for a second that Coca Cola participated in ALEC meetings and never heard a word about Voter ID laws or immigration laws, or women’s health laws, or any number of other radical right wing model legislation.  I can’t prove this because Coca Cola’s PR department is not taking questions on this subject and I wasn’t allowed into any of the ALEC meetings.  But none of the photos and videos we have of Coca Cola members at ALEC meetings—in social situations or in task force meetings–show them wearing blinders and ear plugs. 

So what exactly did Coca Cola do to get their “get out of jail free card” from Color of Change, MSNBC and Current TV commentators, big national public interest groups like Common Cause, and the written press?

Are they making any sort of amends for the ALEC written model legislation they voted for?  No. 

Are they making any sort of restitution to those directly hurt by model legislation that ALEC passed? No.

Did they make any apologies for what they did? No. 

Are they encouraging legislatures not to pass these hateful bills?  No. 

Are they now doing anything to help black voters register to vote?  Again, No.

Coca Cola issued a statement that “Our involvement with ALEC was focused on efforts to oppose discriminatory food and beverage taxes, not on issues that have no direct bearing on our business.”

So apparently Coke’s involvement in pay-to-play influence peddling is okay.  What do you say about that Jack Abramoff?

Granted, this is the first crack in the wall of silence that has enveloped ALEC for more than 35 years, and that is very significant in and of itself.  We all sincerely hope that it leads to more.  But I’m not quite sure why many are touting these corporate defections as victories—especially because, and you’re not going to like this, because these corporations that are no longer bankrolling ALEC continue to engage in stealth lobbying through other Cabal members.   CSG, The Council of State Governments is such an organization.  This group, like ALEC, is a bill mill, in many cases writing very similar model legislation to that which ALEC writes.   Truthout has done some excellent reporting on CSG and how they are picking up the baton on ALEC legislation.

Coca Cola, which is being used as an example here but which is not alone among the defectors, belongs to CSG, as Truthout has reported

Then, there is the National Center for Public Policy Research, as recently identified by Rachel Maddow.  You have read here and elsewhere–like PR Watch–that because of the public outcry over the Stand Your Ground legislation and the murder of Trayvon Martin, ALEC has shut down the Task Force that wrote that legislation—their Public Safety and Elections task force.  Well, don’t get suckered in by the incredible PR of the Cabal.  Here is the lead on a press release by NCCPR:

New Voter Identification Task Force Announced

Voter ID Project Created in Response to Leftists’ Claim that Ten Corporations Joined Them in Successful Effort to Pressure ALEC to Stop Supporting Voter Integrity

Washington, D.C. The National Center for Public Policy Research today announced the formation of a “Voter Identification Task Force,” intended to continue the excellent work of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) in promoting measures to enhance integrity in voting.

The Cabal is extremely well funded and prepared, so as ALEC steps away from a key radical right wing political issue, up pop its replacements, organizations which Sourcewatch  has identified and which we at VLTP continue to research.  The National Center for Public Policy Research.  Or the Council for State Governments.  Or the Heartland Institute.  Or The Heritage Foundation.  Or the Mont Pelerin Society—trust me, you don’t want to know about the philosophy and the international reach of this uber conservative group.  Or the State Policy Network.  Or the Center for Civic Innovation.  Or the Cato Foundation.  And there are many more.  The cabal is financially and organizationally prepared to play whack-a-mole all day long with those of us who are trying to uncover it.  And you’ve got to give them a lot of credit for the way they frame everything they do, just listen to how noble these group names sound—why don’t Democrats learn from this? 

So, to come full circle with my argument, just what do these defections from ALEC really mean?