ALEC Retracts a Fang or Two

The recent furor over ALEC’s responsibility for voter ID and “Stand Your Ground” laws has naturally led some corporate sponsors to wonder just why they are subsidizing measures that have zero to do with their businesses. A growing number have not received a satisfactory answer, and have closed their checkbooks to the highly influential lobbyist/legislator matchmaker service.

Now ALEC is staging a strategic retreat, as Think Progress reports:

In the face of mounting pressure from progressive activists and its own corporate sponsors, the American Legislative Exchange Council, a right-wing group funded by corporations like ExxonMobil and Koch Industries, announced today that it will shut down a task force that deals with “non-economic issues,” like voter suppression efforts and “stand your ground” gun laws.

As Blue Girl nicely summed up this development in a single word: “Blink!”

But it’s important not to get too carried away with the implications. For one thing, even if ALEC is shutting down one part of its cookie-cutter operation, a lot of toxic cookies are already out there in the state legislative marketplace (though it’s helpful that consumers now know where they were manufactured!).

And secondly, ALEC’s “economic” legislative advice machine, which includes intiatives ranging from union-busting to regulation-disabling to corporate-tax-cutting, remains fully in force.

As I’ve argued before, transparency and exposure are the best weapons to use against ALEC, not just because of its inherently corrupt business model, but because legislators relying on ALEC can no longer pose as innovative policy-makers who thought up this stuff on their own or have done deep research on “best practices.” Moreover, ALEC’s notoriety can and should discourage participation in its activities by junket-seeking Democratic legislators who are helping the organization maintain the fiction of nonpartisanship, not to mention a preferred tax status.

It’s time not for celebration, but for keeping the pressure up.

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.