Until Trayvon Martin was killed, the American Legislative Exchange Council was just another corporately funded covert partisan group, quietly and covertly trying to reshape America state by state from within through the legislative process.
Though ALEC, based in Washington, DC, is conservative, there are liberal counterparts.
All try to fly below the radar as they push model legislation across the United States, legislation that advances their donors’ agendas. (As opposed to organic, grassroots legislation coming from – you know – people who actually live in the state.)
ALEC also is different because its nearly limitless funding by big corporations means it has the resources to be working legislatures across the U.S. 24 hours per day.
ALEC’s cover was blown after journalists revealed it was pushing Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law to other states.
As Atlanta Journal-Constitution blogger Jay Bookman reports, “When you see a spate of similar bills suddenly pop up almost simultaneously in legislatures around the country, ALEC is almost always behind it.”
Which is the worst kept secret in the Commonwealth, because ALEC already owns most of Kentucky’s legislators, a huge story exactly one person has covered: Curtis Morrison at Louisville Courant.
Right now, Curtis – an activist and regular Insider Louisville contributor – is running for the state senate
But when he’s not campaigning, Curtis is one of Louisville’s few investigative journalists/bloggers – and really the only person in Kentucky to write about ALEC before the Stand Your Ground controversy blew up.
Here’s how Stand Your Ground works: If you should you feel at anytime threatened in the course of “a confrontation,” you are pretty much free to shoot the other person regardless if they’re armed.
So after George Zimmerman shot and killed Trayvon Martin last February 16, Zimmerman used the “I felt threatened” clause in Stand Your Ground to initially avoid arrest.
(The issue here is not whether Zimmerman is guilty. The issue is, in Florida, the legislature encourages its citizens to blast away with impunity.)
By that time, Morrison was way out in front of the ALEC story.
What he found out is that ALEC’s influence in Kentucky is incredible – and incredibly, not reported by the state’s newspapers! (We sleep soundly at night knowing the TV stations will never go there with the exception of CN/2.)
Last July – a full six months before Zimmerman shot Trayvon – Curtis had a major story about ALEC at Louisville Courant.
From that post:
Unless you have been hiding out in a Massey coal mine, you heard last week that The Center for Media and Democracy released 800 “model” state bills that were secretly written and voted on by corporations and politicians, cuddling up together all sexy-like in the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). That these 800 “model” bills came not from “folks back home” as we were told in Schoolhouse Rock, but instead from behind closed doors. Yuck. If that’s not enough, there may be another 200 “model” bills that weren’t released by the whistleblower, as ALEC claims to have over 1,000 bills available for legislators. (alec.org) This undemocratic method of creating legislation is not new. ALEC was originally founded in the 1970′s by some conservatives with loose screws. Many of those implicated by this release have since retired or even passed on, so let’s limit our interest to those active Kentucky politicians who are tied to ALEC.
That would be just about everyone on both sides of the aisle in Frankfort.
Curtis searched General Assembly records on the Courier-Journal’s database from 2007 into 2009. His research indicated the General Assembly spent $21,888 paying ALEC dues for legislators.
(He also turned up the fact that the legislature spent $495,496 on Council for State Governments trips. Like ALEC, CSG is supposed to be non-partisan, But in 2009, two conservative Republicans – South Dakota Gov. Mike Rounds and Kentucky Senate President David Williams – were CSG president and chairman respectively.)
That’s $500 per day of Kentucky tax money spent on legislative memberships and registrations.
The surprising thing is, EVERYONE in Frankfort is an ALEC member. That goes for erstwhile liberals and moderates in the Democratic power structure including state representative Mary Lou Marzian and senators Gerald Neal and Denise Harper Angel.
Which is where we hit a journalistic snag, because Curtis is running against Harper-Angel.
Is what Curtis does journalism? Yes.
Is it objective? No.
In our way of thinking, Curtis got to the ALEC story first for the right reasons, and way before he declared for incumbent Harper Angel’s senate seat.
It’s just how he chooses to use what he’s documented now to challenge Harper Angel that runs counter to the most basic Journalism 101 ethics.
That said, Louisville Courant has laid the foundation for Insider Louisville and everyone else to catch up on an scandal that could have major repercussions … if any major outlet bothers to follow up.
After the Treyvon Martin killing, a number of corporations that had contributed to ALEC cut their ties including Yum! Brands, the Louisville-based global fast-food chain.
In the final analysis, what ALEC and groups like it do isn’t illegal, but it is wrong. ALEC stands out from other liberal and conservative policy promoting groups because of its secrecy and funding.
And the more secret deals, the better chance we’re going to get more reckless legislation such as Stand Your Ground.