Have you ever rooted for an underdog -- a team, a cause or an idea -- and then had it, against all odds, start to score, take root or catch fire? That happened to me this week.
I know, being a Alaska liberal, I don't get that special feeling often enough.
Few people understood my excitement upon hearing me exclaim, "Wow! Can you believe ALEC is losing funders left and right?! Coke, Pepsi, McDonald's, Wendy's, Intuit, Kraft Foods, Marrs Candy and the Gates Foundation have all broken up with ALEC!"
Blank stares. Who's Alec, Shannyn?
ALEC is the American Legislative Exchange Council. It's basically a system for mainlining lobbyists. If you can imagine voluntarily injecting a lobbyist, or many, directly into the veins of your state politics, you have the concept. Almost one in three lawmakers across the country is a member of ALEC, along with several hundred corporations.
No longer do companies need to send lobbyists to all 50 state legislatures; now legislatures send legislators to the lobbyists. Corporations write "model legislation" and then compliant legislators carry it, like a virus, across the country.
The state of Alaska is on the ALEC bus, funding legislators to attend swanky meetings in fancy hotels.
Ever wonder why the same legislation that banned collective bargaining in Wisconsin, surfaced in six states including Alaska (it was sponsored by the late Carl Gatto, a former union member)? Or why voter discrimination legislation, better known as Voter-ID, has been introduced in at least 33 states?
Or the invasive, big-government legislation that requires women seeking an abortion to submit to a transvaginal ultrasound? Carbon-copy measures have been introduced in at least eight states including Alaska (ours came courtesy of Sen. John Coghill).
It's no coincidence the same "Stand Your Ground," anti-women's rights, anti-environmental, voter suppression, school privatization, anti-health care, anti-workers' rights, anti-immigrant, prison privatization and tax cut legislation pops up all over the country with almost identical language.
You can thank ALEC and its army of lawmaking clones.
Last August, Sen. Fred Dyson, R-Eagle River, and Rep. Wes Keller, R-Wasilla, attended the ALEC conference in New Orleans. You can bet that Alaska will end up paying for more than hotel rooms, meals and plane tickets because of it.
Keller is the Alaska chairman for ALEC. Last fall he told the ADN's Sean Cockerham, "I think it's a fabulous organization, it has really helped me. Because what it does is it gives you the perspective of what's going on in other states ... That's the beauty of ALEC, really, because you see the vetting is not just with the politicians" -- the private sector has a vote in crafting "model legislation."
Fabulous? Laws being vetted by lobbyists and lawyers for corporations before being handed to elected officials? No, my friends, that's not fabulous, that's fascism, the merging of government and business at the expense of citizens. Unelected, law-writing corporations aren't accountable to anyone except, maybe, their shareholders. Voters? We're just the little people.
When a constituent contacted Keller last week about his holdup of SB198, a biometric information bill, he responded by email: "I am proposing exploration of model legislation that has both industry and public priorities on the table. I have asked the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), an organization uniquely qualified to explore this goal. ALEC action would include vetting of the issue in a multi-state context."
So an elected Alaska representative turns to an elite, self-interested, neo-conservative lobbying organization to sign off on legislation before he'll support it?
I realize Rep. Keller has some challenges when it comes to the Internet. (He cited "rumors" about Planned Parenthood as an excuse to hold up recognition of 100 years of girl scouting.) When Alaskans gave him a thumping, his fellow ALEC alumnus, Anna Fairclough, came running to his defense.
This week, a bill requiring insurance companies to include autism in their coverage -- at a miniscule expense -- was blocked by Keller. Good grief, the bill had more bipartisan co-sponsors than votes needed to pass. Why did he block it?
Not approved by ALEC.
Other ALEC water carriers include Reps. Cathy Munoz, Bob Lynn, Mia Costello and Sens. Cathy Giessel, Lesil McGuire, Fred Dyson, Coghill and Gov. Sean Parnell.
It's time for Alaskans to cut the umbilical cord between ALEC and lawmakers who are apparently too lazy to talk to their own constituents, think for themselves and write their own legislation. If ALEC's radical agenda is too much for an American institution like Coca-Cola, it ought to be too much for us.
© 2012 McClatchy-Tribune Information Services
Truthout has licensed this content. It may not be reproduced by any other source and is not covered by our Creative Commons license.