An orchestrated campaign is underway to attack and discredit a prominent free-market organization. The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is the latest target of the left-wing smear machine, no doubt singled out for its effectiveness in advancing free-market principles and limited government at the state level. The Center for Media and Democracy (CMD), a far-left organization founded by anti-capitalist activists, is leading the charge with their “ALEC Exposed” project, which insinuates that through ALEC, corporations are given undue influence over the legislative process. Nothing could be further from the truth, and their attacks on ALEC should be considered an attack on all who support free-market capitalism and limited government.
The Nation magazine is prominently featuring the attack on ALEC in its August 1-8 issue, including a cover that describes ALEC as “the right-wing group subverting our democracy.” The left-wing magazine is putting on a full court press, publishing half a dozen separate attacks on ALEC and their efforts. These attacks are not only baseless, they are a dishonest attempt to pass off what amounts to ideological objections from a far-left viewpoint under the guise of concern for democratic legitimacy.
In the interests of full disclosure, I interned at ALEC in the fall of 2009. I am not currently affiliated with the organization in any way, but I know from first-hand experience what ALEC is all about, and it has nothing to do with the nonsense being generated by CMD and disseminated by The Nation and other liberal outlets.
ALEC is a membership organization that brings the public and private sectors together in the common cause of limited government. Both public and private sector members work together to draft state level model legislation tackling common issues with solutions based upon organizational principles of “free markets, limited government, federalism, and individual liberty,” which members can then introduce in their states if they so choose.
According to a hit piece by Mary Bottari of the Center for Media and Democracy published at the Huffington Post, this amounts to “corporations hand[ing] legislators the law changes they desire that directly benefit their bottom line.” Never mind that all legislation must go through the same, public legislative process as any other bill, and can only make it into law if lawmakers, who are held accountable by the public through the election process, first introduce and then pass the legislation. The same piece then recounts a list of “horrors” pushed by ALEC, including efforts to lower taxes or make it harder on politicians to raise tax rates, reforming the failed government monopoly on education, addressing policies that promote unemployment such as minimum wage laws, and cutting off the gravy train to unions and other beneficiaries of Democratic Party largess. Congratulations, Mary, you’ve successfully convicted ALEC of being conservative.
That is, ultimately, what the left is trying to do here. If they can convince people that advancing conservative positions is beyond the pale simply on its face, then they are conveniently free to dismiss conservatives without addressing the merits of any arguments. Common Cause, another participant in the anti-ALEC crusade, has even demanded a baseless IRS investigation into their 501(c)3 status. So while they are trying to shut down the marketplace of ideas, we are supposed to believe that is ALEC which is subverting democracy?
The left has largely succeeded in getting government involved in all matter of private affairs. It only makes sense then to include in the discussion those affected by government action. In doing so ALEC is promoting both good government and the very essence of democracy.
Do we not want our state legislators communicating and sharing best practices across borders? If an idea has already been tried somewhere else, don’t you want your own legislators to know whether it has failed or succeeded before attempting to address the same issue? The left certainly thinks so when it comes to their own ALEC-like organization, Progressive States Network (PSN), which they have not similarly attempted to discredit. In fact, according to their website, PSN has their own “Task Forces” just like ALEC, which include groups such as the AFL-CIO, SEIU, ACORN, and the Sierra Club. I guess it’s perfectly fine for these special interest groups to work with state lawmakers and have influence over the legislative process, but not the businesses that create jobs and understand how regulations will actually impact the economy.
Left-wing “good government” groups are clearly not about good government per se. They are about left-wing government. Their attacks are coming not because ALEC is doing anything wrong, as the left engages in the same tactics without drawing the ire of these so-called watchdogs, but because the ideas ALEC advances are “wrong” in the eyes of the left. In so doing, they reveal that they don’t really believe in the actual principles of democratic society, like the free flow of ideas. Those of us who do hold such principles have an obligation to push back against the self-serving bullying and intimidation of the left. Their attacks on ALEC are an attack on all of us.