April 11, 2012

As Donors Flee, Corporate Front Group ALEC Whines That Critics Are Trying To ‘Eliminate Discourse’

At least six major corporations and foundations — Coca-Cola, Pepsi, McDonald’s, Kraft, Intuit, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation — have now left or have pledged to leave the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a secretive corporate front group that works to pass legislation in all fifty states.

The corporations are leaving largely thanks to protests by activists and consumers outraged that ALEC has been pushing voter suppression and “Stand Your Ground” laws that harm American communities.

This morning, ALEC sent out a panicked press statement complaining of an “intimidation” campaign that is trying to “eliminate discourse”:

ALEC is an organization that supports pro-growth, pro-jobs policies and the vigorous exchange of ideas between the public and private sector to develop state based solutions. Today, we find ourselves the focus of a well-funded, expertly coordinated intimidation campaign.

Our members join ALEC because we connect state legislators with other state legislators and with job-creators in their states. They join because we support pro-business policies that promote innovation and spur local and national competitiveness. They’re ALEC members because they’re more interested in solutions than rhetoric. […]

At a time when job creation, real solutions and improved dialogue among political leaders is needed most, ALEC’s mission has never been more important. This is why we are redoubling our commitment to these essential priorities.  We are not and will not be defined by ideological special interests who would like to eliminate discourse that leads to economic vitality, jobs and fiscal stability for the states.

 A much more accurate re-write of one of those statements would read like this:
Our members join ALEC because we connect state legislators with other state legislators and with the biggest campaign donors in their states. They join because we support pro-Big Business policies that promote the bottom lines of special interests and spur local and national donations by Big Business to our organization. They’re ALEC members because they’re more interested in profit than principles.
ALEC loves to claim that it is simply advocating for small-government, conservative ideas. But its agenda isn’t that of the free market but rather one of its Big Business donors. It has in the past  gotten state legislatures to pass laws stopping local governments from enacting their own municipal broadband systems and banning them from deciding to use their tax dollars to pay living wages to contractors. These laws are not designed to promote the free market or small government. They have only one goal — padding the profits of ALEC’s corporate members, even if small government principles are discarded in the process.
ALEC claims that its critics are trying to “eliminate discourse.” That’s nonsense. We here at Republic Report love the discourse about ALEC that is occurring in town squares, internet forums, social media, and corporate boardrooms all over America. We and our partners have sought to engage in this discussion with corporations sitting on ALEC’s Private Enterprise Board. Everywhere, Americans are asking why corporations are pouring so much money into this secretive organization that has such a harmful impact on their lives. And when groups like Color of Change call on corporate donors to leave ALEC, they are not utilizing Big Government but rather their own right to free speech — and the right to use their own money as they see fit in a free market — to change America.
The campaign to hold ALEC responsible represents the best combination of free speech and the free market. ALEC hates that, but that’s because ALEC doesn’t stand for the free market or free speech at all. It stands for an America where Big Business can secretly write our laws. And increasingly, even Big Business is learning that a relationship with ALEC may be unprofitable.