Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Viewing ALEC as a Political Party

I very seldom write strictly opinion pieces when it comes to writing about ALEC.  But I have something that has been sitting in the back of my head gnawing away at me for many months now.
And as usual – it has to do with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

I have been thinking – and would welcome your input on this – that we may be approaching ALEC from the wrong perspective.

As we know, ALEC is registered as a 501c3, educational service nonprofit.  Most of us know that Common Cause has challenged ALEC’s 501c3 status – and rightfully so.

political party, a group of persons organized to acquire and exercise political power.   … The term party has since come to be applied to all organized groups seeking political power, whether by democratic elections or by revolution.
Please bear with me as I pose the supposition  that ALEC could realistically be viewed as a - political party, based on recognizable and accepted characteristics of a political party. 

The ALEC Party could be viewed similar to the Pea-Tarty, a subdivision of the Republican party.  But in this case, the "ALEC Party"  has taken on it’s own political agenda – an political ideology far removed from what is considered socially or morally acceptable and one far more dangerous than any we have been exposed to before, “seeking power … by revolution”.

It is my belief that if we continue our debate based on the hypothesis that ALEC members as part of “a group” – rather than representatives of a "political party", we not only hinder our ability to properly address the shortcomings of the ALEC candidate, but we also limit our ability for discourse related to the ALEC legislator’s entrenchment in ALEC philosophical political beliefs and party platform.

When in power, a party attempts to put its philosophy into practice through legislation.
Party Philosophy
That’s a no-brainer and very easy to report – the ALEC philosophy (straight from their member application form) is:  Mission Statement “The mission of the American Legislative Exchange Council is to advance the Jeffersonian principles of free markets, limited government, federalism, and individual liberty among America’s state legislators.”

Any of us who are even remotely familiar with ALEC are aware of the large database of ALEC "model legislation" that is put into practice to support the ALEC philosophy.

The platform is made up of planks that explain how the party stands on the issues facing the country.
Establishing the Party Platform
Using this train of thought – ALEC as a political party - began to gel when doing research on why ALEC did not break the Open Meeting Laws in most states.   During the evolution of ALEC, they have succeeded in getting most states to pass resolutions stating that ALEC meetings represent a “caucus” and therefore the meetings should be closed to the public.

I come from a state that uses the political party caucus process.  During the precinct caucus meetings – we meet to do the following items:  “The main purpose of the precinct caucus is to get together as a political party and discuss what policy positions we want our political party to hold and to discuss which candidates should be endorsed at the precinct level.” (Minnesota Secretary of State Webpage)
At the precinct caucus we propose party positions, resolutions and policy, which are then voted on.  This is very similar to the task force structure at ALEC where the positions, resolutions and "model legislation" are introduced and voted on in small group session throughout the year and specifically by ALEC "caucus" Members – private and public sector delegates - at the ALEC Spring Task Force Summit (note:  Minnesota’s precinct caucuses are held in late winter/early spring)

At the precinct level we also vote on who will represent us at the next level – which is the district level.  While this may differ from ALEC – which appoints the members of the "caucus" task forces that will move forward, the structure is very similar - an event where appointed "delegates" (private and public task force members) meet separately, to refine model legislation/policy/party positions which is then brought before the next level of governance – the ALEC annual meeting (which is similar to a national political convention).   

ALEC’s annual meeting held in August (timing similar to the national Democratic and Republican party’s national convention )  – and is where the "delegates" (private and public sector members) decide on the final policy positions for the party.  The ALEC policy positions are voted on at the annual meeting and are then presented to the party leadership (for a vote), and subsequently become official policy positions of the party – or in this case the ALEC political party. (Examples of over 800 pieces of ALEC "model legislation" which represent the ALEC party platform can be found at ALEC Exposed.)

Political parties perform key tasks in a democratic society, such as aggregating and articulating needs and problems as identified by members and supporters … 
I found this statement in an article on the NCSL site:  This linkage between citizens and legislatures helps to legitimize government actions”.  For those of us familiar with ALEC, it is easy for us to name the constituents of ALEC – the Corporate Sector / Private Enterprise member of ALEC.  It is their needs and wants that are represented by the “government actions” of ALEC at both the state and federal level by ALEC party legislators.  It is the “needs and problems” of the Corporate Sector / Private Enterprise constituents of ALEC that ALEC party members articulate in the creation of ALEC “model legislation” - there is no discernible linkage to the "citizens needs and problems".

Some of the major supporters of the ALEC political party were recently identified by Think Progress and as such some are no longer a mystery.

The constituents and the supporters of the ALEC political party have one thing that is their requirement – that the organization maintain the ALEC party “free-market” philosophy that reduces and eliminates government services and public agencies – so they can be privatized by the constituents of the ALEC party – the Corporate Sector / Private Enterprise members.

Political parties perform key tasks in a democratic society, such as      Activating and mobilising citizens into participating in political decisions and transforming their opinions into viable policy options    Channelling public opinion from citizens to government
By completing a basic review of the "model legislation" proposed by the ALEC party and looking at articles and diaries that are produced by citizen journalists (as ALEC is virtually ignored by the main stream media), it is evident to tell – by ALEC’s very actions - that the ALEC platform has made it clear that the citzenry is not their constituency.

The lack of linkage between the citzenry and ALEC "model legislation" should bring every reader to the conclusion that ALEC's legislators are "illegitimate", ALEC "model legislation is illegitimate - therefore ALEC is illegitimate.  When considered against our democratic history - ALEC and ALEC party members should be considered an illegitimate form of governance and and therefore should not be allowed  in the U. S. political arena.  Since ALEC legislators lack legitimacy because of their lack of linkage to the citizens they should not be re-elected and should be removed from office.

Political parties perform key tasks in a democratic society, such as       Recruiting and training candidates for public office
You do not have to be a legislator to belong to ALEC.  I have found through my research of candidate finance reports across the U.S. that many candidates join ALEC as part of their campaign.  I even found an instance in Illinois where one candidate spent hundreds of dollars on ALEC reports to use as campaign materials. 

The fact that they are joining ALEC as part of their campaign – would lead to the conclusion that there is something about the ALEC party philosophy and platform that will (supposedly) make them a more attractive candidate to the voting public.

As members of ALEC, regardless of whether they attend a meeting, these candidates receive ALEC candidate training through their ALEC membership by the receipt of party literature such as the ALEC Issue Analysis, ALEC sponsored Report Cards and Special Studies, Inside ALEC, and the ALEC Website which keeps the  ALEC candidates updated using educational materials regarding the ALEC philosophy and platform through review of model legislation, policy statements regarding political issues, and access to “reprints of significant speeches and presentations” of the ALEC party. (Candidate educational material examples excerpted from the ALEC legislative member application)

The ALEC States and Nation Summit, which is held yearly, is specifically designed as a vehicle to “introduces the ALEC agenda (aka philosophy and platform) to newly-elected and freshman state legislators for a three-day conference of intensive educational sessions addressing issues that will be at the top of their legislative agendas the following year.”  (ALEC legislative member application form - my parens after word four)

Inside ALEC, ALEC position papers and ALEC meetings are all geared – per their 501c3 status – to educate future and current legislators, at both the state and federal level.  Thereby it can only be assumed that they are “recruiting and training candidates for public office" - a task performed by politcical parties.

In multiple diaries before this I have stated that we have to make sure that all ALEC legislators are not re-elected over the course of the next two elections.  I think we will be much for effective in doing so if we change our discourse to address ALEC as a political party – focusing  on the shortcomings of that ALEC party candidate:
  • The weakness of the party philosophy
  • The limitations of the myopic party platform
  • The anti-American or anti-democratic stance of the constituents
    • As compared to the recent ethos of United States democracy
  • The narrow-minded, anti-democratic attitude of the party candidates
    • As compared to the recent ethos of the United States democracy
and subsequently to be able to identify ALEC legislative candidates with the shortcoming of the political party to which they belong – ALEC. 

For many of us it may be difficult to try to explain to others a nefarious organization that meets in secret, produces what once was secret "model legislation" and maintains a secret membership roster – but we are all politically savvy and it may be easier for us to address the inadequacies of the ALEC member as a political party member with,  "You and I share this political view (blah, blah, blah) - he/she (the ALEC member) believes in this …philosophy, platform and constituency.. and that is why he/she should not be elected.”

We must send a clear message that the ALEC party philosophy, platform, candidates and constituency are not welcome in the United States of America.

If we are willing to do this we can reclaim our state legislatures and the US Congress with legislators that believe in representative government, of, by and for THE PEOPLE.

For more information on ALEC –
Please read this report or this report or this report or this report or this series of six articles.

We must make sure that ALL ALEC legislators (state and federal)  
are not re-elected to public office.

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