ALEC: Secretive, My Foot
Around the State
The liberal website Examiner.com splashes its top story across the page: "ALEC holds its 40th Conference in Chicago under clouds of secrecy."
Uh-oh, clouds of secrecy. Immediately you hate this sinister organization with the alphabet-soup name. How dare they! Big meeting like that behind closed doors ...
Only, it isn't. Not even close.
The Examiner.com story about the American Legislative Exchange Council is all headline, no substance. See for yourself. There is absolutely nothing anywhere in this story that explains how the meeting is "under clouds of secrecy."
Secret meetings don't have links inviting sign-ups.
Secret meetings don't announce their agendas.
Secret meetings don't let the media anywhere near the place, let alone invite them in for free.
This is so crazy. Of all the myths from Mars wafting like magic carpets through the blogosphere, the one liberals cooked up about the American Legislative Exchange Council is the kookiest.
True, ALEC was founded in 1973 by conservative activists Lou Barnett and Paul Weyrich, father of the Heritage Foundation, plus a number of ahead-of-their time Republican legislators. The idea was to bring conservative economic policy ideas to the state and local level.
Legislators tell me they go to ALEC meetings because they get some of their best ideas there.
Examiner.com says, "The organization has gained much scrutiny in recent years when Supreme Court justices Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia attended one of their conferences. Through leaked documents, legislation would be proposed (already written), and given to the participants for them to introduce as legislation in their perspective states."
And this is bad because ...?
"Leaked documents," baloney. Lobbyists in Washington, D.C., and in state capitals across all 50 states are involved in the writing of at least 90 percent of the laws that govern our land, local to federal. Sponsors are generally familiar with their bills, but they rarely have any pride of authorship. Oh, yes, and ALEC had nothing to do with the vast majority of them.
For better or worse, this is the way we process our democracy.
I've always suspected that the best laws, the ones on Florida's books the Legislature isn't scurrying to "fix" next session, are a compilation of work by lobbyists, staff and legislative committees carefully scrutinizing every line along the way to the chamber floor.
I can only imagine that ALEC would improve the process, that it would build a consensus, bring in businesses, industries, interest-groups large and small to test-drive ideas together. To see if they could make good policy.
Examiner.com, of course, chooses in its story to slap around legislation that came out of an ALEC meeting in 2004: Stand Your Ground. The story's writer does not mention SYG's popularity across the country. It does point the finger at Jeb Bush, Florida governor at the time Stand Your Ground was passed, who happens to be one of the conference's principal speakers. Cheap shot.
Let me tell you why the libs loathe ALEC. It's because conservatives are better at getting their policy together than liberals are. They're better at coming together with stakeholders, deciding on a course of action and making it happen. Better organized, better financed, more results-driven. ALEC is nothing more than lobbying on steroids, and for whatever reason -- money more than anything, I suspect -- the liberals can't hack it.
They have nothing left but to demonize it.
Reach Nancy Smith at email@example.com or at 228-282-2423.