I wrote last year about an emerging left-wing smear campaign against the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). At the time, the anti-ALEC campaign was being led by the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD), a far-left organization founded by anti-capitalist activists, and Common Cause, which launched frivolous attacks on ALEC’s 501(c)3 status.
That campaign has now metastasized with the Van Jones-led Color of Change picking up the banner, resulting in a number of ALEC sponsors pulling their support. Coca-cola, Kraft and PepsiCo have all ended their membership in ALEC due to the left’s pressure and intimidation campaign. The Gates Foundation has even dropped ALEC from its list of future grantees. But what is it that has the left so worked up, exactly?
ALEC is a target because it is effective.
Part of ALEC’s stated mission is “to advance the Jeffersonian principles of free markets, limited government, federalism, and individual liberty.” With over 2,000 state legislative members, ALEC is able to advance the movement at the state level all across the country. And given the increasing amount of gridlock in Washington DC, states are quickly becoming the primary policy battleground.
ALEC also provides valuable research that impacts the public debate, such as their annual state economic competitiveness index, as Rich States, Poor States, recently released in its 5th edition. The report ranks states on economic competitiveness and has documented, among other things, the benefits of tax competition — or how high taxes and onerous government regulation drive businesses and taxpayers out of states like Illinois, California and New York and toward more pro-growth jurisdictions like Texas.
The first wave of the assault on ALEC was primarily based on the charge that the organization was doing something nefarious in promoting model legislation at the state level. This attack was undermined by the fact that several other organizations do very similar work, including having corporate membership. But the Progressive States Network and the National Conference of State Legislatures were never targeted for the ALEC treatment, despite their obviously similar approaches to public policy issues. But unlike ALEC, these organizations push a left leaning agenda more suitable to ALEC’s critics.
With little to show for last year’s demonization campaign, the left has proven both adaptive and resilient. Today’s attacks, led by Color of Change, have deemphasized the focus on abstracts like the sanctity of democracy, and instead targeted specific issues ripe for demagoguery and race-baiting. ALEC is being bludgeoned for supporting bipartisan Stand Your Ground laws – which is being falsely blamed for the Trayvon Martin shooting – and widely popular, common sense voter ID laws.
On both of these issues, the public agrees with ALEC. A majority opposes the efforts of the Justice Department to block the Texas Voter ID law, for instance, and more than 70% believe voters should be required to show ID before being allowed to vote. And despite the hostile and dishonest media coverage over the Trayvon Martin shooting, a majority still support Stand Your Ground laws, which have been passed in numerous states by overwhelming, bipartisan majorities.
That the left is able to pressure businesses into disassociating from an organization over positions that the public overwhelmingly supports is a testament to their effectiveness in waging intimidation campaigns. It also should serve as a warning to the right that winning on the merits is not always enough. We have to be vocal, or the louder minority will successfully convince frightened businesses that they are a majority.
ALEC is a vital and effective member of the limited government movement. If the left succeeds in taking down or effectively crippling ALEC, they will simply be emboldened to pursue other targets. It is time to stand with ALEC against these dishonest assaults.