By Steven Greenhut | Vice President of Journalism
SACRAMENTO — A cadre of liberal groups has decided the scourge of the nation is a little-known conservative organization that provides model legislation to state legislators across the country.
Overheated criticisms of the American Legislative Exchange Council have been echoed throughout the media following the Trayvon Martin shooting in Sanford, Fla., because ALEC had advocated the “Stand Your Ground” laws that anti-gun-rights activists blame for the tragic shooting.
The public rap against ALEC is that, as the Atlantic magazine recently explained, “[I]t’s a shadowy back-room arrangement where corporations pay good money to get friendly legislators to introduce pre-packaged bills in state houses across the country.”
Atlantic highlights ALEC Exposed, a group run by a former Justice Department official who created a wiki site spotlighting more than 800 bills that emanated from the supposed ALEC star chamber. Other groups, including a conspiracy-minded outfit that claims ALEC’s efforts to battle voter fraud are designed to keep black people from voting, have been strong-arming corporate sponsors into abandoning ALEC. Given the backbone-challenged nature of corporate America when it comes to political matters, it’s no surprise the scare tactics are working.
Even ALEC this week announced it is backing away from gun rights and social issues and focusing entirely on free-market economic and business issues. I agree with that decision and personally find “Stand Your Ground” laws to be misguided despite my strong support for gun rights, but it’s too bad these reasonable changes — ones that will bolster the organization in the long run — came across as capitulation. That will only embolden ALEC’s enemies. And those enemies have few good arguments, which is why they spin their conspiratorial yarns and try to make it seem as if ALEC is doing something unethical or unconventional. These leftist critics don’t like ALEC simply because ALEC advocates policies they oppose.