Now viral via social media, University of Wisconsin historian Bill Cronon's Scholar as Citizen guide to doing research on the American Legislative Echange Council (ALEC), Who’s Really Behind Recent Republican Legislation in Wisconsin and Elsewhere? (Hint: It Didn’t Start Here) has triggered quite the response from the Wisconsin Republican Party.
It's a cold spring here in the upper Midwest, but witchhunting with intent to burn is going medieval to the extreme.
Cronon lays out the situation in great detail in A Tactic I Hope Republicans Will Rethink: Using the Open Records Law to Intimidate Critics:
Here’s the headline: the Wisconsin Republican Party has issued an Open Records Law request for access to my emails since January 1 in response to a blog entry I posted on March 15 concerning the role of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) in influencing recent legislation in this state and across the country. I find this a disturbing development, and hope readers will bear with me as I explain the strange circumstances in which I find myself as a result. . . .
. . .My little ALEC study guide succeeded beyond my wildest dreams. Within two days, the blog had received over half a million hits, had been read by tens of thousands of people, had been linked by newspapers all over the United States, and had been visited by people from more than two dozen foreign countries. Many readers expressed considerable interest in the activities of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), and said they were grateful for the guidance I had tried to provide for people wishing to learn more about it. (A smaller number of readers were much more hostile, and you can read their comments on the blog.)
All this was welcome, and I’m greatly heartened by the thought that an organization that has exercised such extraordinary but almost invisible influence over American political life for the past forty years may finally start to receive more of the scrutiny that its far-reaching activities deserve. . . .
Go read the whole thing. It's worth your time.
I've known about ALEC since it turned up on my radar in 2003, when I was researching privatization for a job I had at the time; the connection to its corporate sponsors involved in the private prison industry and bills it was pitching to both build more private prison and to pass state legislation toughening penalties for crimes once thought minor sickened me. It seemed like a corruption not only of governing, but of capitalism itself.
Thus I'd watched for ALEC's influence; last fall, Bluestemposted O Emmer Where Art Thou: Private prisons, SB1070, ALEC and Tom Emmer. Yes, the Delano Republican runs with the ALEC crowd.
What other Minnesota legislators, past and present, are members? How has this group--which supplies model legislation, often written by corporate lobbyists--tried to change the way we govern and do business in Minnesota?
Cronon points out that it's not easy to find out, since only members can log in and see the membership lists. However, poking around the web, some glimmers of fact begin to light the way.
For instance, the anonymous bloggers at Because I Can noted that the U of MN Board of Regents - Goes Far Right and asked about former Minnesota representative Laura Brod's installment as regent, "Why is this important to Minnesota and the U of M?"
Why is her past State Chairmen position of ALEC and possible active membership important to Minnesota and the U of M?ALEC –has a annual meeting that is attended by “more than 2,000 state legislators, private sector members, government representatives, and public policy experts come together for this event to confront the problems facing the 50 states” (Wiki)ALEC – brings together private sector companies – such as Koch Industries, Coors Brewing, and Walmart, for the purpose of “issues are debated by task forces of members, and policies adopted.” AND “ALEC “model bills” (aka Model Legislation) are introduced in task force meetings and voted on by ALEC members at each of three national meetings. Public sector (state legislators) and private sector (companies, foundations and nonprofits) members vote on each model bill separately” (Wiki)What this means is that private sector companies – such as (but not limited to) right wing companies such as Koch Industries and Walmart - are writing “model legislation” that state and federal legislature members then introduce as State and Federal bills. Some of the “model legislation” is displayed on a public web site. I’m sure in the “members only” area of the web site more controversial “model legislation” is kept, for members “eyes only”. Model legislation for legislative members to “copy, print and present” as bills in their State or at the Federal level. . . .
Cronon's guide to ALEC noted the close relationship between ALEC and the State Policy Network:
An important partner of ALEC’s, by the way, is the State Policy Network (SPN), which helps coordinate the activities of a wide variety of conservative think tanks operating at the state level throughout the country. See its home page at
Many of the publications of these think tanks are accessible and downloadable from links on the SPN website, which are well worth taking the time to peruse and read. A good starting place is: http://www.spn.org/members/
Center of the American Experiment
Phone: (612) 338-3605 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting (612) 338-3605 end_of_the_skype_highlighting
Freedom Foundation of Minnesota
Phone: (612) 354-2192 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting (612) 354-2192 end_of_the_skype_highlighting
SPN Associate Members
That's the surface. What might a little scratching discover about Republican legislation now working itself through committee and floor votes to the Governor's desk?
Photo: U Regent and former ALEC state chair, Laura Brod.