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Hiding the sausage

How ALEC, a well-funded right-wing organization, is grinding out state laws

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ALEC bit back, issuing a statement in which ALEC National Chairman Noble Ellington, R-La., alleged that Common Cause “has distorted the facts, concealed critical details and apparently attempted to mislead the news media and public.” Among the “distortions” Ellington alleges is that Common Cause failed to reveal in its report that, though 22 companies may have contributed to state political campaigns, Common Cause failed to distinguish individual contributions of company employees from those of the corporations themselves.

“Contrary to the claims of Common Cause, ALEC does not lobby; takes no role in partisan campaign activities; and has no involvement in campaign contributions made by an individual, company or political action com- mittee,” Ellington writes.

Brannon Jordan, the communications director for the Florida Democratic Party, says that ALEC has “rammed through a radical social agenda that has hurt Florida,” but doesn’t elaborate on whether that kind of radicalism can be used by Democrats to turn the tables on Republicans by painting them as corporate shills.

In fact, among local elected Democrats, frustration in the face of ALEC seems like a desperate act of futility. There are no real laws forbidding legislators from drinking at the trough of ALEC, or any individual corporation. Diluted campaign finance laws allowing unlimited “soft money” effectively assure that representatives can be bought and sold.

“ALEC has gone out of its way to throw people out of the room that don’t agree with them, to do things behind closed doors with and under the influence of the most far-right corporate backers,” says State Rep. Scott Randolph, D-Orlando. “The public should definitely be aware of the fact that this legislation being pushed by so many in the state legislature is coming from this type of organization.”

He calls ALEC’s scheme “intellectually dishonest,” adding, “They know that if they can get a Republican president and Republican senate again, then they’ll kick everything back to the states. It’s the classic 10-year approach.”

Meaning that while nobody is paying attention to state government – especially in a state that elected a governor neck-deep in Medicare fraud – the stage is being set for a corporation-owned future, parcel by parcel. “What they’ve learned is the more cynical they can make the public, the more likely they are to get away with it,” Randolph says.

“The Supreme Court made that ruling that money is speech,” adds State Rep. Darren Soto, D-Orlando. “And it really has settled the question right now as to whether that’s corruption or not.”

If it isn’t corruption, it is fishy. Former Marion County Republican lawmaker Nancy Argenziano – who is currently running for the U.S. House of Representatives as an independent after recently becoming an outspoken opponent of her former political party – was once an ALEC member. In the late ’90s, she even attended an ALEC conference.

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