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Progressives’ “Not ALEC” Is Not a Gamechanger

Progressives’ “Not ALEC” Is Not a Gamechanger

Good luck with that, though.

Progressives have long decried the existence of the American Legislative Exchange Counsel (ALEC) as nothing more than a private outlet for corporate interests, and attacked its members with all the fervor of a dog on a particularly puzzling bone. As a staffer in the Texas Legislature, I fielded countless calls from liberal groups demanding to know whether or not my boss was a member of the organization, and saw e-mail and phone campaigns attacking ALEC-model legislation fall flat against the reality of solid legislative drafting and conservative policy making.

Progressive advocates have started the State Innovation Exchange, or “SIX,” as a sort of answer to the the influence ALEC member-legislators have over how bills are crafted in their respective states. The group appears to have a particular commitment to four separate policy areas—criminal justice reform, energy and the environment, campaign finance reform, and income inequality—and is promoting its already-existing “library of legislation” it hopes will eventually counter conservative efforts to implement ALEC model legislation.

The real mission of SIX, however, doesn’t seem to have anything to do with promoting legislation; instead, organizers seem rather excited about using guerrilla-media tactics to tank conservative legislation based on the slip-ups of any Republican candidate they can catch on camera.

From the Washington Examiner:

“We’re working with David Brock and Media Matters and American Bridge who have trackers that we can send out to monitor the debate on some bills that you all might be running,” Nick Rathod, executive director of SiX, said. “I think in many legislatures my understanding is that a lot of legislatures stream their floor debates but don’t necessarily transcribe it or capture it in any kind of way. And so we want to start capturing them on that. I think we know, someone’s going to say something about black people. Someone’s going to say something about women. Someone is going to say something.”

Maybe it’s just because I’ve dealt with it before, or maybe it’s because I’m used to seeing progressive pickup organizations fall flat on their faces, but I’m not particularly worried about SIX.

Anyone who had paid a bit of attention to how the left operates knows that it thrives when the public focuses on bread and circuses as opposed to actual lawmaking. SIX’s efforts to catch gaffes on camera are predated by efforts by Media Matters and other groups to do the same thing.

The real power of ALEC, on the other hand, is its ability to 1) create model legislation, 2) pitch that legislation to is members, and 3) stay above the fray. SIX has already committed a fatal flaw by admitting to the world that it intends to act as an ambush-style media dox shop, while at the same time trying to convince the political class that it’s serious about drafting good legislation.

It’s the “GOP Lawmaker Principle,” codified and packaged with false gravitas and a slick branding mechanism.

I’m sure we’ll see SIX model legislation popping up in state legislatures across the country, but it’s not something we should be worried about. SIX’s organizers may be dutifully pitching their library of bills, but what they’re really excited about is nailing the next Todd Akin to the wall over an off-handed comment about a hot button issue—and if we’ve learned from our mistakes in past cycles, we should be able to handle that type of political warfare just fine.


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Ever listened to a state legislature floor debate or committee hearing?

Those people could put Ambien out of business. You will never hear a discussion of something as important as legislation and budgeting so utterly devoid of meaning or interest.

State legislatures are mostly part-time jobs, and are staffed by the folks who aren’t smart enough for Congress. Need I say more?

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If they can find people willing to invest hundreds of hours listening to completely boring drivel, they might find a stupid remark now and then. The trick will be staying awake to notice it.

They’re gonna need a lot of Red Bull for that task.