Synergy: Soros-Funded Groups Create, then Report Anti-ALEC Campaign

The campaign against the American Legislative Exchange Council is a case study of the powerful liberal echo chamber at work: left-wing non-profits empower activists to target the organization, media outlets report on those efforts, and “experts” offer quotations to lend those reports additional weight.

The upstart group Color of Change has spearheaded the campaign against ALEC, calling for boycotts by some of the organization’s largest private sector supporters. About 10 companies have dropped their support for ALEC in the face of that opposition.

Color of Change is one of the many left-wing groups which receive money from George Soros’s Open Society Institute. And it’s not the only one involved in the anti-ALEC campaign with that distinction.

On Monday, the Center for Public Integrity, which has received about $1.8 million in funding from the Open Society Institute since 2009, led with a story about ALEC. The organization’s communications director blasted a pitch for a story purporting to expose “the questionable doings of the American Legislative Exchange Council.”

The story, by Center for Public Integrity reporter Paul Abowd, examines support for ALEC by beer and wine distributors, which have reportedly also given money to state legislators that have backed voter ID laws in their various states.

Abowd hints at cronyism by way of ALEC, but he never gets around to saying exactly what interest, if any, the alcoholic beverage industry has in voter ID legislation.

The National Beer Wholesalers Association and the Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America have both sat on ALEC’s recently-disbanded Public Safety and Elections task force, but their work on the panel aimed “to foster efforts aimed at preventing underage drinking,” according to Abowd. Neither would say how they voted when the task force considered ALEC’s voter ID model legislation. Both the NBWA and the WSWA deny having any interest in the voter ID issue.

Abowd notes that the two trade associations have given money to ALEC member legislators who have backed voter ID bills, but he also notes that both groups are very active politically. Given their extensive political operations, it seems presumptuous (to say the least) to attribute campaign contributions to those legislators’ stances on a single issue, especially when the two organizations deny any stake in that issue.

The only evidence Abowd offers that either of these organizations supports voter ID laws comes from one individual who can’t make the assertion with any authority or certitude:

Not everyone is convinced. Among the skeptics is Edwin Bender, executive director of the National Institute on Money in State Politics. “If you see this happening in several states, that’s some indication that there’s a strategy there, especially if they’re giving money to ALEC members,” said Bender.

The National Institute of Money in State Politics also receives significant funding from the Open Society Institute – more than $2.1 million, according to a 2010 report by the American Justice Partnership.

So the instigators of the campaign against ALEC, the organization reporting on the campaign, and the source of allegations against it are all backed by the same left-wing group.

The Open Society Institute and like-minded groups have helped create a sophisticated apparatus to drive the efforts of fringe activists into the mainstream political conversation. Abowd’s piece on alcohol distributors also appeared in the Huffington Post.

The Center for Public Integrity bills itself as a nonpartisan investigative organization and it often lives up to the label. But its work on ALEC is so devoid of factual reporting that it can only be seen as an extension of this insular, self-referential political attack machine.


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