Once upon a time, there was a woman in an orange jumper who persuaded her friends in the Minnesota Legislature to join a group that did nothing at all.
One has to smile at the magical logic of Laura Brod's response to concerns about the influence of the country's premier corporate bill factory, the American Legislative Exchange Council, that she shared with listeners in Business-backed ALEC's relations with conservative lawmakers riles Democrats:
Former ALEC state chair Laura Brod was a Republican state representative until 2011. She said it's a good way for lawmakers to talk about issues and share ideas.
"Nothing ALEC could possibly do could pass legislation through a legislature. Only legislators can do that," Brod said. "And if the legislators are of the like mind of ALEC, something might pass. If they're not, they won't. I'm fascinated by this idea that ALEC has a stranglehold on legislatures, because they simply don't."
Brod's understanding of the lobbying process is stupendous. Given her thinking, one wonders why any special interest, anywhere, is required to register or report, or why anyone worries about the power of money in government. Lobbyists don't vote, legislators do.
Okay then. The self-serving definition seems to come from the Steve Sviggum Dictionary of Conflict of Interest.
"I am a member of ALEC as I am a member of a good number of organizations that align with the type of legislative outlook that I have and that match the values of the folks in my district," Drazkowski explained.
Nevertheless, Drazkowski said he's never introduced ALEC bills, and said he didn't get language for his "right-to-work" bill from the group. Rather, he said he found it on the Mackinac Center for Public Policy's website, a right-leaning think-tank in Michigan. Legal analyst Patrick Wright, who wrote the model bill in 2007 when Michigan was mulling a similar constitutional amendment, said he tweaked language from an Oklahoma law that effectively did the same thing.
Yes indeedie. Pure coincidence.
Mother Jones reports in Michigan's Hostile Takeover:
The Mackinac Center is a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council, a clearinghouse for pro-business state legislation. (Its model bills have been linked to Arizona's anti-immigration law and Wisconsin and Ohio's collective bargaining bans.) James Hohman, the center's assistant director of fiscal policy, was one of 40 private-sector representatives at an ALEC conference in December 2010 where, according to minutes from the closed-door meeting, participants hammered out model legislation that would align public- and private-sector pay and restructure state pensions. (Jonathan Williams, ALEC's tax and fiscal policy director, did not respond to requests for comment.)
So an ALEC legislative member just happens to find an ALEC model bill on the website of a think tank that's an institutional member of ALEC.
It's a good thing that Steve Drazkowski--who authored HF3830, Minnesota's copycat-bill of ALEC's anti-immigrant SB1070--is here to assure us that there's no connection with ALEC in any of his legislation.
And Laura Brod to remind us that legislators push the "yes" or "no" button. While citizens can't review ALEC's budgets, for the moment, we can still vote (although the Republican caucuses are working on that one, too).
Images: Once upon a time, a grown woman named Laura Brod wore an orange jumper (above); Tild's famous Chocolate Drazombie Bunny, because ALEC and Easter are just around the corner.