ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) is a forum that for 40 years has pushed states to adopt conservative laws on everything from guns to taxes. It introduces state legislators to lobbyists and businesses behind closed doors. Its task-forces craft “model” bills suitable for replication nationwide. It is hugely influential. Hundreds of ALEC-inspired bills are introduced in the states each year. Currently, about a third of state legislators are members. In Washington, DC more than 90 members of Congress are alumni, all but one of them Republican.
This gives progressives plenty to protest about. In Chicago activists led by Jesse Jackson asserted that ALEC-drafted bills purporting to curb voter fraud are in fact aimed at suppressing the black vote. Mr Jackson is seldom slow to cry racism, but this allegation cannot be lightly dismissed. ALEC-inspired bills requiring voters to show photo-ID typically make voting harder for such Democratic-leaning groups as students, the poor and immigrants. In Pennsylvania in 2012, a Republican bigwig boasted that such rules would win the state for his party.
ALEC will not stop being controversial. It remains a body where climate-change sceptics address elected politicians at a meal co-sponsored by an energy firm and argue that carbon dioxide is harmless “plant food”. Its private-enterprise advisory council is dominated by executives from such unloved industries as coal, oil, tobacco and drugs. For all the talk of free markets, plenty of corporate members have tried to slip in rent-seeking bills over the years. (ALEC’s defenders insist that firms cannot go too far, because rivals are also in the room.)
Smart ALEC, Economist, Aug. 17, 2013, at 32