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Your help sought for a smaller American corporation that has a very real ethical dilemma that involves the Koch Brothers' American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

I have a friend. We'll call him Willy.  Willy works for a manufacturing company that isn't the size of a General Motors or a Google, but they still have more than 70 million customers in a dozen countries. He's the point guy for the company who tries to get the corporation's business done with the federal and local governments.

A very few of his customers develop legal problems using the company's products. Not a manufacturing issue, but some secondary use issues where lawyers are pushing on people's freedom to use the products without much merit, with the help of some poorly written laws.  

None of this affects the company.  Their products have no legal troubles at all. Totally golden. He does worry that lawyers looking to find new places to mine for litigious loot might target more of their clients, which might, long-term, kill his sales.

To score a win for his customers, and prevent a possible drop off in sales down road, he can go and try and get these laws changed.

It should be a no-brainer, because the whole problem triggers both liberals and staunch conservatives' buttons, albeit from different approaches, in much the same way.

He talks about his problem with colleagues in the industry.  One day he gets a call from ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council.  For a hefty fee, they can fix the problem.

ALEC, for those who don't know them, is the Koch-funded Grover Norquist brainchild McLegislation shop. Forget buying influence like the K Street lobbyists do. ALEC writes up legislation, and hands it over to the low-IQ, high dogma Tea Party morons who follow orders well.

No hand-to-hand schmoozing, arm-twisting, wining and/or dining. Drop a brick of cash, and the Teahadi legions run with your Big MacBill into 20 or 30 states.

The company is pretty a-political. Willy is a life-long Dem himself. He doesn't live under a turnip truck, so he knows about ALEC's history peddling the darker, anti-minority, anti-woman legislation of the Kochs et al. You know, the Stand Your Ground, Voter "ID"/Nullification, and "magic wand" anti-abortion intrusions that limit women's access to health care and reproductive choice.

Willy even "gets" the broader implications about the damage that ALEC does to democracy.

Republicans like to talk a lot about upholding "original intent" but this whole legislative/democracy thing that stymies them from carrying out their 19th century agenda is inconvenient.

You see, the whole point of having elected officials is that they're supposed to be responsive to their constituents. Even though K Street has bought and paid for elected officials on both sides of the aisle, and may have even provided "assistance" in the form of policy briefs to an official's staff to draft a bill, ALEC takes the process one step further, removing the actual legislation writing and providing a "canned" bill that requires little, if any modification in any state where it is entered into the system.

Willy rationalizes it this way: Our company doesn't buy into the whole ALEC deal, but if we do this one bit of legislation with them, they have the power to quick fix the problem that does a lot of net good even if ALEC's other legislative activities discriminate against minorities, and rob women of the right to make decisions about their own bodies to satisfy a couple of kooky Kochs and their Dead Billionaire's Club pals.  

The problem is that Willy's company's money fronts more of the gridlock and canned bills that are rapidly turning this country into a corporatocracy where the sheeple have no real voice.  His company's money, and the big money of a handful of other major corporate players and über-rich folk baldfaced own the United States of America. Representative democracy without the representation, unless you have a fat enough wallet to buy votes in state houses or on Capitol Hill.

There is also the whole Trojan Horse thing. If ALEC goes white knight and does business on issues that companies with centrist, liberal, or apolitical leanings, does it just mask the rest of their agenda, or has Grover's moron-feeder at least developed a more balanced political approach, as they're selling to reputation-sensitive corporates who worry that minorities and women might stop buying from them if they are found to be doing business.

Willy says that ALEC is the only game in town to beat back legislation that progressives would find unsatisfactory.

So I put it to you, dear KOSers.  Does doing with business with ALEC for a "good" cause outweigh ALEC's affect on constitutional democracy and the "bad" bills that target select groups in society?  Your comments and/or poll answers will be shared with "Willy"...

Originally posted to TheCleverTwit on Fri Aug 23, 2013 at 06:05 AM PDT.

Also republished by American Legislative Transparency Project.


Does doing with business with ALEC for a "good" cause outweigh ALEC's affect on constitutional democracy and the "bad" bills that target select groups in society?

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| 33 votes | Vote | Results

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (9+ / 0-)

    "There are two types of people in this world: Those who like delis, and those with whom you should not associate." - Damon Runyan

    by Brian Ross on Fri Aug 23, 2013 at 06:05:30 AM PDT

  •  You make a great point. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    SottoVoce, Brian Ross, Catte Nappe

    The thought had occured to me myself, but subverting the democratic process with a "corporate bill warehouse" is a subversion, regardless of whether you agree with the bill or not.

    I wouldn't want my representatives in the legislature going to "Bill-Mart", throwing the bill into the works and then going to play golf. Hell, I could do that myself.

    In light of the struggling economy, this signature space is FOR SALE.

    by Gut Check on Fri Aug 23, 2013 at 06:45:22 AM PDT

  •  This is the age-old conundrum... (0+ / 0-)

    I say he should go for it, but only if honesty with oneself still reveals that more good than harm will come from the changed legislation.  In other words, run an ethical self-check on the true effects of the change in legislation. Furthermore, additional future profits can always be invested and/or donated to causes that push the true-to-the-heart agenda, as well as more than offset the original amounts given to LUCIFER.

    Ayn sucks. Please know I am not rude. I cannot rec anything from this browser. When I rec or post diaries I am a guest at some exotic locale's computer.

    by Floyd Blue on Fri Aug 23, 2013 at 06:45:48 AM PDT

  •  This is the same as "backshish" (SP???) (0+ / 0-)

    ...the old established practice of greasing the skids in Arab countries, I do believe. Of course, our businessmen and gummint leaders were always horrified at the acceptable bribes in other countries.....but now we

    Ayn sucks. Please know I am not rude. I cannot rec anything from this browser. When I rec or post diaries I am a guest at some exotic locale's computer.

    by Floyd Blue on Fri Aug 23, 2013 at 06:47:46 AM PDT

  •  Many ALEC laws undermine democracy. (4+ / 0-)

    There is a difference in kind between operational bureaucratic streamlining and attacking democracy.  But too many of ALEC's tactics and laws are direct attacks on the people's ability to represent themselves.  That cannot be encouraged in any way.

    There must be other organizations who can provide similarly effective advocacy.

    Further, in your attempts to maintain confidence, you have not given enough information about the likely actual effects of Willy's tort change.  There  is little evidence that torts are widely abused, and I and many others are very reluctant to relax tort restrictions a prioiri.

    -7.75 -4.67

    "Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose."

    There are no Christians in foxholes.

    by Odysseus on Fri Aug 23, 2013 at 06:49:47 AM PDT

    •  Small shop (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Sorry Odysseus, but is is generic enough that the Teahadis associated with ALEC won't be able to figure out which deal this is about.  I've been researching ALEC for years now, and I'm tracking a good baker's dozen of their good, bad, and ugly deeds. Tracking what I do and write won't even help, because it's not anything I've mentioned publicly. Just floated up in research for an upcoming article at where I write.  I'll vouch as a decades-long journalist and a long lib that, based upon what I know from the OTR conversation, this is one area of tort reform that there is not a single lib of whom I could conceive who would disagree.

      "There are two types of people in this world: Those who like delis, and those with whom you should not associate." - Damon Runyan

      by Brian Ross on Fri Aug 23, 2013 at 07:26:09 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  It's always a slippery slope to justify (4+ / 0-)

    a small deal with the Devil, while promising not to buy into the rest of the Devil's agenda.  But I don't think your friend and by extension his company can ignore the serious, widespread damage ALEC continues to do all over the country, with enormous negative ramifications for labor, minorities, public workers, schools, the environment, victims of gun violence, women, immigrants, etc., just for the benefit ALEC could provide (for cash!) in "fixing" this one problem.

    "It ain't right, Atticus," said Jem. "No, son, it ain't right." --Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

    by SottoVoce on Fri Aug 23, 2013 at 07:07:50 AM PDT

  •  ALEC is poison. (6+ / 0-)

    Lie down with dogs, get up with fleas.  Willy's company is a good company, I'm sure.  They probably make a fine widget and really don't have any particular political leanings at all, right?  Just trying to make a living just like the rest of us.  They don't support racist voting laws, misogynistic abortion laws, discriminatory marriage laws or any of that.

    Until they start supporting an organization that does.

    There's a practical consideration too.  Signing on with ALEC damages your brand forever.  Just ask Yelp.  They recently joined ALEC and the response was that Yelp now only has a 3-star (and falling) rating on their own website.  Because activists began posting negative reviews of Yelp... on

    Sometimes we are going to do business with organizations we'd rather not simply because there's no viable alternative.  That doesn't sound like the case here, if I'm understanding it right.  

    I'll believe corporations are people when one comes home from Afghanistan in a body bag.

    by mojo11 on Fri Aug 23, 2013 at 07:14:06 AM PDT

  •  Outsourcing his civic responsibility (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Amber6541, Brian Ross

    Even if the law Willy would like to see has no downside or negative unintended consequences, turning it over to ALEC for the desginated price is like subcontracting civic responsibility. It says "I have no interest in spending time trying to rally support for this bill, or educating the public and law makers about this issue. Here's a check - you go do it" And as ALEC brings together others of like mind there can come to be a tweak here, an adjustment in the language there, and a slightly expanded definition or two so it protects not only Willy's company, but not so good Company X, and really horrible Company Z. And Willy will have helped make that happen.

    “Texas is a so-called red state, but you’ve got 10 million Democrats here in Texas. And …, there are a whole lot of people here in Texas who need us, and who need us to fight for them.” President Obama

    by Catte Nappe on Fri Aug 23, 2013 at 11:54:50 AM PDT

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