A reporter friend of mine recently emailed me a dissertation-type research piece he found on New Jersey’s largest online newspaper site, NJ.com based in Newark. It was an expose of our old friend the American Legislative Exchange Council. Salvador Rizzo wrote it from the site’s Statehouse Bureau in Trenton.
The basics of the ALEC story are very familiar to me and, if you’re a regular at Politicus, they will be to you as well. I’ve also written on the subject as have several of my colleagues. The description of ALEC model legislation mischief in the New Jersey legislature and governor’s office was but a variation of a theme that’s carried on in dozens of states throughout America. ALEC buys off legislators and governors through campaign contributions, wining and dining, freebie trips to resort environments and mysterious ‘fees’.
These ethically challenged aisle walkers in turn pass model ALEC legislation, often barely modified and often featuring a huge corporate agenda. ALEC legislation is also being credited with the monstrous ‘Stand Your Ground’ law that, at the very least may have allowed a paranoid racist to get off scot-free in the killing of Trayvon Martin. There have been numerous other deaths declared ‘justifiable’ since the passage of ‘Stand Your Ground’. .
The NJ feature is an easy to understand and thorough piece of journalistic scholarship that delves deeply into the particulars of the ALEC relationship with the New Jersey capital. What I found most remarkable about the April 1st story entitled “Some of Christie’s biggest bills match model legislation from D.C. group called ALEC”, were the repeated denials and outright lies told by Governor Chris Christie’s office and legislators as they fled the topic like muggers caught in police headlights. One of my favorites is the response of a guy who disclaims any connection with ALEC and says the legislation in question is patterned after legislation from other states. Other ALEC states maybe. Governor Christie predictably made himself unavailable for interviews but a spokesman said that when he asked Christie about ALEC, his response was…”Our reforms have no basis on anyone’s model legislation. The governor said to me ‘Who’s ALEC?’”
New Jersey has a democratic legislature and most of the ALEC influence centers around republican legislators and the governor. The official ALEC legislative ‘membership’ is comparatively low. That’s because there are fewer republicans and because of those lies I told you about. Not many legislators will fess up about their role with ALEC.
But I don’t want to give everything away about the fine Rizzo effort. Again, I recommend you pay the site a visit for the full effect.
On the home front in South Carolina, I sent a Freedom of Information request to the legislative office of national ALEC Secretary, Liston Barfield, a state representative. This is a futile exercise that I wanted on the record because the SC legislature has arrogantly passed an exception for legislators in their FOI bill. It exempts lawmakers and their staffs from “publicly releasing any memoranda, correspondence and working papers in their possession…” The 30some -year-old exemption has been recently challenged by a republican legislator (credit where credit is due), Rick Quinn. The House Judiciary Committee recently approved the measure by a 19-2 bi-partisan vote. Since South Carolina’s powerful Tea Party contingent is a strong supporter, the bill may actually have a shot at passage. It then faces a possible veto from super-secretive governor, Nikki Haley. We’ll see.
I’m still going to wait a week or so before contacting Barfield’s office. “Hey, where are my FOI answers?” Their response should be both frustrating and amusing in its evasion.
Had to delay working on my story for a few minutes. Wife and I just headed off a 3 or 4-foot Southern Black Racer snake climbing the wall of our back porch. Non-venomous and beautiful, but they do have a hearty bite. We just brushed its little noggin with a twig and he reversed course. The Mrs. by the way acquired a few more fire ant bites in disturbing a well-hidden hill next to the broccoli. These replace the most recent bites now healed. As per usual, vigorous hot water, soap and vinegar scrub – plus a shot of Benadryl. Doesn’t look too bad.
Back to business. If you refer to my Feburary 27th contribution, “How to Use a Freedom of Information Request to Expose ALEC”, you’ll find the exact copy of the FOI I sent to Barfield. I’m reading more and more about this insidious organization. What is not happening is any vast exposure on TV, especially where you’d most expect it, MSNBC. I have heard references on The Ed Show and occasionally a few others, but nothing of real consequence.
That’s because, MSNBC, even with their liberal component is still a slave to the advertisers, not to mention right-wing owner, Comcast. And who are the advertisers? Many are the same powerful companies that belong to ALEC. Microsoft heads the list. Not only the company, but its founder’s Bill Gate’s Foundation that recently gave $375,000 to ALEC. Other MSNBC sponsors with ties to ALEC are American Express, Geico, Verizon and Coldwell Bankers among others…a slippery slope even for progressives.
It’s a process. The question is when will ALEC become part of the national conversation. When will voters fully comprehend the role this corporate proxy plays in the conduct of their state legislatures? When will those legislators be fully exposed and sent home for good?
Keep the anti-ALEC citizen grapevine going.