Cookie-Cutter for the Cookie-Cutters

ALEC claims it’s not a “working document” anymore, and it doesn’t much want to talk about it anyway, but the release by Common Cause (via HuffPost) of a Q&A the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) seems to have been recently sending to its state legislative members is pretty amusing. Here’s Dan Froomkin:

When the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) first started facing public scrutiny about its extraordinary ability to turn “model bills” written by corporate lobbyists into state law, the secretive group sent out a list of talking points to its members, telling them what to do when faced with questions about the role of the group’s corporate sponsors.

The guidance, in a nutshell: Change the subject….

The model answers provided by ALEC have the consistent theme of attempting to obscure the influence of its corporate members and to shift emphasis onto the role of legislators, whose dues comprise only 2 percent of the group’s budget, according to an analysis by the Center for Media and Democracy.

So you’ve got an organization whose entire M.O. is to get lobbyist-drafted cookie-cutter legislation into the hands of eager, understaffed conservative state legislators who, lo and behold, have been introducing identical bills and getting a lot of them enacted (particularly after the 2010 wave election). Once unfriendlies finally took notice of the whole game, ALEC sent out cookie-cutter instructions to the same legislators on how to deal with questions about all the cookie-cutting. Remarkable.

Most of ALEC’s damage is already done; the model bills, moreover, are all still out there circulating. Some, like the truly diabolocal Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights (TABOR) have gone viral. I’m convinced that if the world’s population was wiped out leaving three people to start all over with a new government, one would have a copy of TABOR. It’s that ubiquitous.

So if I were running ALEC, I’d shut it down, regroup, and start all over with a new name and a slightly revised scam. If ALEC’s own experience is any indicator, it’ll take progressives five years to catch onto it, and the MSM another ten.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.