Political Animal


May 15, 2012 9:52 AM Cookie-Cutter for the Cookie-Cutters

By Ed Kilgore

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 is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • Hedda Peraz on May 15, 2012 10:07 AM:

    Since its inception, America- and Democracy- have been for sale.
    The question is, what are we going to DO about it?

  • Peter C on May 15, 2012 10:40 AM:

    Conservative legislators aren't there to govern; they are there to win for their religion. They don't want government to work; they want it to go away. They aren't there for the people; they are there for the 1% (who financed their campaign and will employ them afterwards. They are in it for themselves. Their loyalty is to their clan. Reading the ALEC bills would brand them as distrustful and untrustworthy.

  • c u n d gulag on May 15, 2012 10:45 AM:

    Maybe the same genius cookie-cutter geniuses behind ALEC - "American Legislative Exchange Council," can ingeniuosly change the name to LACE - "Legislative American Council of Exchange?"

    That will take us progressives a while to figure out.

    I don't know about the MSM, though - it sounds kinda dirty, so they'll either run from it, or be drawn to it like a moth to a porch light.

    Conservatives are such unoriginal thinkers.
    If they can be described as "thinkers" at all, that is.

  • AndThenThere'sThat on May 15, 2012 1:01 PM:

    If they can be described as "thinkers" at all, that is.

    The very fact ALEC had to send out proper responses to handling inquires about it answers that question. Republicans might be dumb as posts but their discipline of sticking to the corporate model of focus testing and marketing 24/7/365 sure pays off nicely in a sleeping democracy.

  • boatboy_srq on May 15, 2012 2:11 PM:

    We have to remember that we're talking about the Teahadist crowd. These people may be able to recite the KJB word for word with chapter/verse references for every quote, but the jury's still out on whether they've actually read it (either from being too busy protesting Islamofascososhulism or placard-holding to save the foeti, or simply because they can't actually read at all). There's no indication that, even if reading is a skill they possess, they have either the inclination or the skills to read the entirety of any ALEC model bill and comprehend its contents. It's no surprise, then, that they should require "guidance" on how to answer questions about ALEC-originated material.