Exposing ALEC: How Conservative-Backed State Laws Are All Connected
Apr 14 2012, 8:00 AM ET Comment
A shadowy organization uses corporate contributions to sell prepackaged conservative bills -- such as Florida's Stand Your Ground statute -- to legislatures across the country.
The recent blowing up of the Invisible Children viral video might have some of us thinking that Malcolm Gladwell was onto something with his biting critique of online politics, the so-called "slacktivism" debate. But the attention to the shooting death of Trayvon Martin and, even more so, the connected debate over Stand Your Ground gun laws and the distancing of some of the country's biggest companies from ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, shows how online organizing actually can work. And that, reasonably, seems to be causing palpitations in the hearts of everyone from Coca-Cola to the Koch brothers.
That's why even if, as Politico reports, the gun debate isn't happening in Washington, the N.R.A. shouldn't be unconcerned.
To itself, ALEC is an organization dedicated to the advancement of free market and limited government principles through a unique "public-private partnership" between state legislators and the corporate sector. To its critics, it's a shadowy back-room arrangement where corporations pay good money to get friendly legislators to introduce pre-packaged bills in state houses across the country. Started in the mid-1970s, ALEC's existence has been long known but its practices largely not; the group hasn't been eager to tie its bills in Wisconsin to those in Ohio to those in North Carolina.
Nine months ago, though, a website called ALEC Exposed went live, showcasing more than 800 so-called model bills contributed by, say the site's creators, a still-anonymous whistleblower. Beyond the bills themselves, the group built out wide-ranging, sometimes confusing wiki aimed a documenting which legislators take part in the group, which corporations support it, and where the bills go once they leave ALEC.