“Building a Progressive Counterforce to ALEC”

In all the furor surrounding ALEC and the Left’s attempt to damage it I stumbled across news that the Progressive Left is building their own ALEC to create model legislation their members can propose as law.

(Gloria) Totten has organized groups that have networks of state elected officials—including the Young Elected Officials Network, Progressive States Network, the AFL-CIO and others—to form the Elected Officials Alliance to coordinate lawmakers across issue and organizational lines. This work is part of a broader strategy Totten is pursuing to link state and local officials to policy networks, including the EARN network, groups developing model legislation, and state and local advocates.

The aim is to create a counterforce to ALEC, which for nearly forty years has provided model state law to more than 2,000 state legislators to increase business domination of American public life and weaken our democracy.

Hypocrisy thy name is progressive.

Several Georgia Legislators are involved in both the Young Elected Officials Network and the Progressive States Network. Needless to say the AFL-CIO has a presence here in Georgia.

I see no problem with like-minded Legislators getting together to share ideas and even draft model legislation to advance their agenda. However, it is the height of hypocrisy for the Progressive Left nationally and here in Georgia to be simultaneously outraged about ALEC and planning to do the same thing themselves. Where are the Tweets calling out members of these organizations? Where are the editorials warning of the danger of legislation drafted by labor unions and other special interest groups? Where are the demands that the litany of left-wing organizations that are no doubt funding this new effort withdraw their financial support?

On a related note, Jim Harper at CATO weighed in on the anti-ALEC movement:

The First Amendment’s protections for freedom of speech, association, and petition of the government have in their background a vision for how our political society should work. Anybody should get to say anything they want, and anybody should organize however they want to advocate for the governing policies they want.

The opponents of ALEC’s positions should advocate the substantive polices they prefer, and they are certainly within their rights to do it in whatever way they prefer. Politics never runs out of ways to disappoint, though, and as a person who tries to deal with the substance of issues, working across partisan and ideological lines, I am amazed at and disappointed by the incoherence of the attack on ALEC.

And I am also disturbed by its anti-democratic and anti-speech quality. The implication I take from the attack on ALEC is that some groups, representing some interests, should not be able to participate in making our nation’s and states’ public policies.

Well said.

UPDATE: Better Georgia responds. Personally, I’m flattered by all the attention.

48 comments

  1. xdog says:

    Pretty early in the morning for your knee to be twitching like that, Buzz. Clearly the PLs will be proposing something different from ALEC.

    Jim Harper gets the distinction that eludes you, but his point is greater, that attacks on ALEC are ‘incoherent’, even ‘anti-democratic’ and ‘anti-speech’.

    My own view is that Georgia legislators should have sufficient means to write legislation without being lobbied by a national group to buy in to a one size fits all model, unless the issue at hand is especially technical. Think medical or environmental issues like watershed usage. My view is not contingent on the political bent of national lobbying group.

    I’d like to hear your reasons if you think otherwise. I’d like to how you feel about the danger of imposed conformity of views and approaches in legislation across state lines, especially those sponsored by groups on the right (I think I know your views about left leaning groups.)

    • “…the danger of imposed conformity of views and approached in legislation across state lines…”
      It’s not mandatory, fer cryin’ out loud. It’s not “imposed.”

      • xdog says:

        OK Mike, forget ‘imposed’ and substitute ‘uniform’. If legislators from different states buy in to what ALEC or any other national group is selling then what’s the difference?

        Georgia state legislators of both parties have proven over the years that they have trouble drafting and passing legal, necessary and constitutionally legit laws. I merely suggest the voters would be better served if their reps stayed at home and worked on improving their skills instead of heading off on someone else’s dime to get their marching orders.

        • Ideas should be evaluated on their merits, whether they are the product of a skull-session at an ALEC conference or the result of a long night of bong hits at Occupy-a-drum-circle.

          ALEC says “Hey Georgia legislators, here’s an idea we came up with that’s working in a few other states. Y’all want to give it a try?” Some of our legislators say yes, others say no, a debate ensues, maybe something Georgia-specific gets amended, etc., and it goes through the process. Nothing secretive about it.

          Don’t you remember this? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H-eYBZFEzf8 Check out the :47 second mark.

          • xdog says:

            Agreed. More people should act on that basis instead of getting their marching orders from others.

            Nice dichotomy. Not unexpected.

            How about, ALEC says”Hey rubes, people are paying us to pay you to give this a shot? What do you say?”

            Save your talk for those who have their ticket punched. This audience isn’t that naive.

            • “Save your talk…” = “I disagree with you, so shut up.” You’ve got all the right to petition your government as ALEC does. Unless you succeed in shutting them down.

              Who’s the fascist, again?

              • xdog says:

                Strange words you’re using Mike. I don’t take offense because I see you’ve realized you don’t have a case to make.

                If you like a free ride and prepackaged legislation that’s your business. If I don’t, if I think legislators should spend more time listening to their constituents about their districts problems and less to people with expense accounts, that’s mine.

                No where did I tell you to shut up or tell you what to think. I said ALEC is a national organization funded by rightwing money with an agenda that is good for them, not for Georgia. I stand by that. You haven’t countered my remarks. You haven’t tried.

                As far as shutting down ALEC, it’s not me who has stopped sending them money, it’s folks like Coke and Intuit among others. Now you’re not calling good corporate citizens fascists just because they disagree with you, are you? How about you extend me the same courtesy?

  2. sunkawakan says:

    “…to increase business domination of American public life…”

    With an emphasis on domination.

    Someone, please, clearly articulate for me the reasons that corporations should write voter identification laws and relaxed gun laws.

    I’m pretty clear why ALEC created laws that encourage higher incarceration rates (to build the private prison industry) and charter schools, voucher schemes and virtual academies (to privatize education), but guns and voter ID don’t make sense.

    • caroline says:

      The more people that can have guns, the more money the gun manufacturers make. There’s probably some money for them in Voter ID laws too but I don’t know where.

      • You may not think the First Amendment is a good idea, but I do. And if you disagree with “corporations writing laws,” maybe you should, I don’t know, petition your government or something. You could even form a group to do so.

        • caroline says:

          That’s the problem. The supreme court ruled that entities have the same right to speech as a human.

        • bird says:

          Mike,

          The Left is using the 1st Amendment to put pressure on corporations that many progressives support. Your insinuation that the war on ALEC tramples on the First Amendment is bull****.

          Progressives, loving the First Amendment so much they are actually using it.

          • Using the First Amendment to prevent others -even those evil, evil corporations- from using it is not “loving” the First Amendment.

            ALEC is peaceably assembling to petition the government for a redress of grievances. You may not like what they say, but you should not try to stop them from saying it.

            • bird says:

              Mike, the First Amendment only restrains government action that limits free speech. Your writings suggest that you don’t understand that.

              Despite your misunderstanding on that point, let me also say that I have every right to demand that companies I support not support right-wing causes. In fact, that’s my First Amendment right, and the government can’t stop me (see how that works?). If these companies want to continue to support a right-wing group, then I can take my business elsewhere. I have every right to criticize a right-wing think tank to kingdom come, and that does not mean that I don’t like free speech. In fact, it seems like it is you that wants to stop progressives from peaceably criticizing a right-wing group.

              Your logic is at best sloppy, at worst, it is calculated to deceive.

              • The First Amendment restrains government action that limits or promotes religious practices, or the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, or to petition the government for a redress of grievances, in ADDITION to restricting government action that limits free speech. Your writings suggest you haven’t read all of it.

                Your “peaceful progressive criticism” seeks to have a group abolished, to prevent that group from petitioning the government. Choosing a legal, Constitutionally protected means to silence those whose ideas you oppose doesn’t make you a champion of the First Amendment.

                • caroline says:

                  These people are using the free market to express their opinions. They are taking their money elsewhere just as anybody else in this country can. You can boycott a movie you don’t like can’t you? Or are you saying that it’s okay for you to boycott a movie but not these people to use their purchasing power?

                  • If I don’t like a moviemaker, I don’t go to see his or her movie. I may even tell other people not to go see that persons movies. But I don’t seek to have that moviemaker banned from making movies, and then say I’m doing so because “I love the cinema.”

  3. AMB says:

    What amuses me is that exposing the machinations of ALEC was akin to flipping on the kitchen lights and watching the roaches scurry for cover.

  4. sunkawakan says:

    @Mike
    I think the First Amendment is an outstanding idea and believe strongly in the underlying concepts and principles, so don’t try to focus discussion around suppressing free speech and/or redress.

    However, some corporations have profits that rival the GDP of some sovereign nations. And a review of many legislators’ campaign contributions show an out-of-balance situation between dollars from these “ghost” entities and real, physical humans.

    It seems that corporations (and the extremely wealthy) are the cash cow that drives much of the legislative process. And perhaps those of us in the middle class are partly to blame for allowing the ascendancy of these pretend citizens.

    Those who push the “corporations are people” meme are obsessed with the power and money. By overly-close affiliation with these entities they give the impression of favoritism and a “better than humanity” attitude. I’ll put my money on real Americans.

    • “…some corporations have profits that rival the GDP of some sovereign nations.” So? It’s not Apple’s fault that they’re a successful corporation, nor is it their responsibility to require you and the rest of the middle class to make more campaign contributions.

      You want to get involved? Here’s a link to the Council of State Governments. http://www.csg.org/index.aspx
      Become a member.

      • sunkawakan says:

        @Mike
        Are you suggesting that there is parity between campaign contributions from “the 1%” and the rest of us? Is there such integrity among elected officials that it makes no difference? Right…

        And what does my comment “…some corporations have profits that rival the GDP of some sovereign nations” have to do with them being successful? The point was that they can donate exponentially more to the various campaigns. They don’t play by the same rules as the rest of us.

        • Parity? Hmm. According to the NYT, there are 376,000 members of “the 1%,” which leaves roughly 310,000,000 of the “rest of us.” Your guess is as good as mine as to which group has more donors. But if I were looking for votes, I know which group I would look for them in.

          My point was: Corporations make profits. Successful corporations make profits for shareholders, and don’t give those profits to politicians -either in contributions or taxes. If you want to play, make a donation, or get involved with a group that’s proposing legislation, like ALEC or CSG.

          • sunkawakan says:

            “Successful corporations make profits for shareholders, and don’t give those profits to politicians -either in contributions or taxes.”

            Hmmm. If a corporation gives money to a lobbyist, PAC or politician, then they’ve reduced their cash reserves, and potentially their profit. I know, if they didn’t pay to play, then they potentially could be stuck with onerous legislation, but where do you draw the line?

              • sunkawakan says:

                Ok, Mike. Pay to play, that’s the game, then. And the more you pay, the bigger the play. Sounds like something other than a Constitutional republic to me.

                There are quite a few in the Georgia legislature that are wholly-owned subsidiaries of the corporations funding ALEC. Hopefully the “shareholders” in what’s left of our republic will hold them accountable.

  5. Cassandra says:

    Historians may note that the disconnect between the ‘will of the People’ and their Republic was hastened by Citizens United v. SEC.

    Buzz pointed out yesterday, ALEC generated Bills do need to pass the same muster through Committee as does any legislation. That an organization, Dem or GOP, churning out pre-fabricated, one-size-fits-all Bills is a good thing remains to be seen.

    Anyone having done their time in ‘corporate’ will agree that the profit motive may not be a friend to good public policy.

    Given that it is the beginning of pol ‘silly season,’ the debates will rage on furiously about ‘market solutions’ vs. totalitarianism, blah, blah, blah. In the end, corporations are not the enemy, nor are they a friend of good public policy.

  6. caroline says:

    Response to above: a link to a blog proves your point? LOL. A blog post written by some anonymous blogger means that people want to destroy ALEC. Okay. Whatever. Apparently you don’t believe in free markets anymore. Whatever.

    • Sez an anonymous commenter on a blog. The irony is starting to burn.

      Look, you can boycott ALEC-supporting companies all you want, but you can’t harass, bully and intimidate those with ideas you don’t like out of the public arena and call yourselves champions of the First Amendment. And if you want to move the goalposts or change the subject every time I prove that’s what you’re doing, then go to hell. I’ve got better things to do.

      • caroline says:

        Ooh, I guess I touched a nerve there. You yell at me because I don’t buy into your conspiracy that there’s some “agenda” to destroy ALEC (due to the fact that some anonymous blogger wrote something on a blog) when ALEC seems to be doing a pretty good job of doing themselves in. Sunlight seems to be making them scream as I guess they prefer to operate in the darkness.

  7. Andre says:

    I’m going to ask an intentionally loaded question.

    Why is it that when liberals disagree with a person, their first reaction is to prevent that person from making money?

    Here’s another pointedly loaded question:

    When liberals disagree with a group, why is their first reaction, “Let’s abolish the group?”

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