Tuesday, April 17, 2012

ALEC Tucks Tail and Runs-Lives to Fight Another Day

Most folks in the neighborhood know what it means to "tuck tail and run" so that you can "live to fight another day. Well, today ALEC, a powerful, controversial corporate-sponsored lobbying group did just that. Do you know about ALEC? I hope so, because this is something you need to know.

ALEC is the American Legislative Exchange Council, the organization who "sold" Florida's Stand Your Ground law to a group of other states for adoption. ALEC also packaged and sold legislators across the country on a variety of Voter ID laws  which disenfranchise millions of likely voters. ALEC is that meeting in a quiet room that Mitt Romney was talking about, legislators and big-money sponsors.

A ground-swell of grassroots protest resulted in a number of large corporate sponsors distancing themselves from ALEC, including Coco-Cola, Pepsi, McDonald's, Kraft, and Intuit. As a result, ALEC chairman announced today that the group was "getting out of social policy field to focus on core economic issues".  Stand Your Ground laws have come into question, but are still on the books. While there is a major backlash to newly instituted Voter ID laws which were sanctioned and supported by ALEC, they have been passed into law in numerous states.  The deed is done and ALEC tucks and runs, but lives to fight another day.

"We are eliminating the ALEC Public Safety and Elections task force that dealt with non-economic issues, and reinvesting these resources in the task forces that focus on the economy," David Frizzell, an Indiana state representative and current ALEC chairman, said in a statement.

In its statement, ALEC said it would be "redoubling our efforts on the economic front, a priority that has been the hallmark of our organization for decades." The goal: "free-market, limited government, pro-growth policies."

Lisa Graves, executive director of the Center for Media and Democracy, which published an exposé of ALEC this past fall cautions the public to keep watch on ALEC activities:

"I think there are definitely significant toxic aspects of the agenda that remain.
"So in some ways, it's just a PR maneuver on their part, to try to stanch the bleeding,"

Aspects of that agenda concern some members of the progressive community as much or more than ALEC's stands on social policy. Measures to bust unions, remove worker protections, slash corporate taxes and privatize huge swaths of the government "are a huge portion of their agenda," Graves said.

ColorofChange’s Robinson released a statement calling ALEC's move "nothing more than a PR stunt aimed at diverting attention from its agenda, which has done serious damage to our communities."

"ALEC has spent years promoting voter suppression laws, Kill at Will bills, and other policies that hurt Black and other marginalized communities. They have have done this with the support of some of America's biggest corporations, including AT&T, Johnson & Johnson and State Farm.

“The American public has wised up to ALEC’s misguided and secretive attempts to co-opt state legislators for corporate profit,” said Common Cause President Bob Edgar. “In folding its Public Safety and Elections Task Force, ALEC is abandoning under pressure the most controversial part of its agenda; that’s an important victory for the American public.”

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