It seems to be in the news quite a bit lately, this fella named "Alec". For a long time, I was just sitting out on the porch down here, along the mighty Duck River, wonderin' what all the dust-up over some guy named Alec was about.
Then (imagine my surprise!), I learned that it wasn't just a male name, but a whole gaggle of folks who called themselves ALEC. Then I learned that this is a corporation, a 501(C)3 that says it is not a lobbying group, but rather a tax-protected nexus between private and public corporations, and legislators from all across the nation who equally vote on "Model Bills" to be shipped out to State Legislatures for implementation, like "Stand Your Ground" Bills, and Voter ID Bills, and the like.
Suddenly, I got this belchy feelin' in the pit of my gut, ya know? Follow me just below the
squiggledoodlethingey fold, and I'll tell ya what I've learned since then.
Well, I been doing me some lookin' into this whole American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) business.
The idea behind the group is that it would marry up both public and private businesses and corporations with legislators across the country to see if they could somehow craft "Model Legislation" that would speak to their "Federalist, Limited Government" nature.
Frankly, I don't find that to be such a problem. But I do find it a bit unsettling. You see, these ALEC people don't go, like all good citizens to, to the offices of their legislators to talk about creating legislation that represents their political ideology, dontcha know. No Siree. That alone put me into a bit of an intestinal twist, because I didn't know that corporations HAD political ideology. (The things ya learn!)
What ALEC does, friends, is that it corrals legislators from all over the country into one room, along with corporate leaders and other "Special Interests" who might be friendly toward some or other particular "Model Legislation", and they talk about it. Committees (27 of them) are rounded up, made up of corporate leaders and legislators who serve as Co-Chairs of these committees. They lead, equally, these committees in creating the legislation THEY want. They also get votes.
Now, as a fer instance.
One such committee was filled with people from the NRA, and Wal-Mart, two of the most powerful membership orALECzations of ALEC. This conservative group seemed to think it might be a good (and wildly profitable, in the case of Wal-Mart, anyway) to make some of that legislation where anybody could carry a gun, in public. The "Model Legislation" they created is what is now referred to, in 38 States, as the "Stand Your Ground" Model. To sell weapons, the legislation allows open carry for the purpose of defending yourself if somebody comes callin' ta have a disagreement with you. It is actually an expansion of the "Castle" Doctrine, long-settled law in most states, which says a man has a right to defend his Castle from interlopers without the threat of prosecution, should some shenanigans follow. Let's use this as one example. There are many. Why, them special "Task Forces" are even meaning to pass legislation against the Federal Trade Commission! Last time I checked, that was a FEDERAL AGENCY! Now, down here along the "Duck", I know me plenty of honest, hard-working folks who don't know the difference between the NRA (National Rifle Association) and the NEA (National Endowment for the Arts). And, they'd be PDQ quick to admit it to ya, too. No shame in that. Unless, of course, you got some kind of fancy corporation trying to kill 'em, or re-shape them into the Agency THEY want. Well, then neighbor, that gets jaws ta jackin', and people talking about things best left not talked about. They take it, ya see, personal.
Now, with the passage of this "Model Legislation", Wal-Mart, the NRA, and the legislators all got equal votes on what the Model would be, say, and do. I thought about that long and hard. Ya see, neighbor, I just don't remember voting either the NRA OR Wal-Mart into office. Why should THEY have a vote, much less an equal vote, on ANYTHING in a Legislature? Why, to me that seems kinda like just giving both of these companies and interests a seat at the State House themselves. It's like lobbyists getting a vote on the very legislation they crafted, for their own purposes. At least that is what I thought. I have learned that it's actually more ugly than that.
The "Model Bills" are being presented, unchanged (and in some cases, with the ALEC impramateur still in place!) as legislation created by the elected legislators of the people. Last time I checked, it was "We, the people..." who were the "Electors", and our legislators are "The Elected".
They were elected by their electors to serve the will of the electors, or "We, the people...". So how did fancy, big money companies like Wal-Mart get not only a a vote, but a bigger vote than mine, fer goodness' sake? Why should the NRA, who says out loud and in public that they are in favor of the rights of all citizens to bear and carry arms, get to create law that says precisely that? And, what legislators are going along with this subrogation of democracy? What do they get out of it?
Now, ALEC says it is not a lobbying organization.
Isn't what I've just described above lobbying in it's most extreme form? I admit to being a simple-minded man, neighbor, but it shore sounds like lobbyin' of the very largest kind to me.
I mean, this makes settlin' for brown bags filled with dollars or your favorite adult entertainin' beverage (The Recipe) just for votin' a few times come 'Lection Day purely embarrassin'!
And, even more importantly than that, isn't the entire democratic process being sold here? I mean, is there no relation between the passage of the "Stand Your Ground" laws across the nation so rapidly in the last year, and the fact that NOW Wal-Mart is the world's largest retailer of guns, long guns in particular, AND ammunition? Do I see a connection here?
Yes, I do.
And, I don't like it. No, Sir. Not one bit.
This outfit is, as it proudly proclaims, a "unique" organization, indeed. Corporate money funds them. Corporate members serve as Directors on their Board (Charles and David Koch, for instance). The ultra-conservative organization brings together corporate interests, and boatloads of corporate money and Special Interest lobbyists with more than 800 legislators from across the political spectrum, at every level, to create "Model Legislation" to serve THEIR interests and profit margins. And, they do it in private, too. They also do it with no presence (or input) from the Electors they have sworn to serve. Now, that just wrankles my hide, neighbor!
Democracy is being purchased, and the electors are having no part in the process. We, the people have no say--at all. That's how Voter Suppression Laws (another ALEC favorite, especially down here in the South) are being so suddenly (and successfully) passed. The elected have their marching orders, and the money in their funds to make the trip. When the "Model Legislation" is passed, the legislators get pats on the back in a large and varied number of ways. I guess that's why my very own Congressman, Dr. Scott DeJarlais gets campaign contributions from folks like Charles and David Koch.
But, I didn't get a voice. I don't get a vote. This law, or that law does NOT serve the interests I stand for. It doesn't matter. And, it also doesn't matter whether or not I believe that a woman should, or should not have the right to choose how she deals with her own medical care, her own medical insurance, or her own equality, or her own body. Not to ALEC. And not to anyone who would belly up to these varmints, neither.
The only reasonable conclusion this ole hillbilly can come to is that it doesn't matter to my legislature, or my legislators, either. And, I'll be up front with all of you. That just bothers the hell out of me.
So, as I have been raised to do, at the end of the talkin', comes the question:
"So, what are YOU (me) going to do about it?"
I'm going to holler and dust up such a fuss that this sale of democracy to the most important bidder will at least be seen for what it is. That's what I'm going to do about it. What are YOU going to do about it?
Today, for instance, I learned that no less than four of my State (Tennessee) Legislators are listed as members of ALEC. The shocik? These four are DEMOCRATS!
I'm going to call them out, and make them admit that they are proud members of this duplicitous, nefarious, democracy-bustin' bunch of yayhoos, that's what I'm going to do about it. Today.
I've sent each of them a personal letter, telling them that I'm going to call them out, in public, on "Progressive Politics: Tennessee Style" radio show that started here at Kos, on Sunday, April 29th, 2012, along with the more than 20 Republican Legislators of my State who are fees-paying, flag-waving members of the American Legislative Exchange Council. I'm going to ask them to call in and explain why they feel belonging to this bunch of lilly-livered thugs is in their best interest, and in the best interests of my State.
That's what I'm going to do about it. As unimpressive as I am sure it will be, I gotta tell ya true. Back, where I come from, we have a name for this.
We call it Hillbilly Hell-Raisin'.
As it happens, I learned at the foot of the master. I'm really good at it. It was not a huge, eye-poppin' deal for me until I learned, today, that MY State Representative, a DEMOCRAT no less, is alleged to be a member of this organization.
My sitting Representative, a female Republican, has written me that she is not, nor has ever been a member of ALEC. I take her at her word. Of my Congresskritter? Crickets.
And, you see, that's the problem with ALEC. For more than forty years! Crickets! Crickets are grand fer fishin', friends and neighbors.
They do NOT, however, get a vote. And, they sure as HELL don't get a vote that is more important, or more significant, or more worthy than MINE!
That's the problem with ALEC.
5:00 PM PT: Added PPTS tag for our listeners' pleasure.