ALEC Stops Standing Its Ground, Shutters Voter ID/Gun Rights Task Force

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
April 17 2012 12:51 PM

ALEC Stops Standing Its Ground, Shutters Voter ID/Gun Rights Task Force

Like any smart organization funded through perpetuity by large corporate partners, the American Legislative Exchange Council has responded to critics by blowing them off and issuing pithy statements. Color of Change, Common Cause, and other liberal groups have pressured Coca Cola and other companies into bailing on ALEC, citing (respectively) its models for voter ID laws and "stand your ground" gun rights laws. The libertarian/conservative umbrella group has responded with clipped press releases.

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

Paul Krugman describes advancing his political goals as the “silver lining to Trayvon Martin’s killing.” That is as callous as it is cruel, and it is also incorrect.
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April 11:

ALEC is an organization that supports pro-growth, pro-jobs policies and the vigorous exchange of ideas between the public and private sector to develop state based solutions. Today, we find ourselves the focus of a well-funded, expertly coordinated intimidation campaign.

April 12:

The people now attacking ALEC and its members are the same people who have always pushed for big-government solutions. Our support for free markets and limited government stands in stark contrast to their state-dependent utopia. This is not about one piece of legislation. This is an attempt to silence our organization and it has been going on for more than a year.

April 13:

The true motives behind the liberal attack machine are becoming clearer each day.

And finally, today -- a tone change. ALEC announces that its board has shut down the task force that put together the model bills protested by liberal groups.

We are eliminating the ALEC Public Safety and Elections task force that dealt with non-economic issues, and reinvesting these resources in the task forces that focus on the economy. The remaining budgetary and economic issues will be reassigned.

Check it out: Classic triage. Another person might call it a "reload, not retreat" strategy. The Public Safety and Elections task force wasn't the most active part of the ALEC family. It held its last big meet-up in February. So it's wise to declare it dead, make no other changes (ALEC hasn't yet told me what's happening to the staff and pols involved with the task force), and declare the problems solved. Color of Change President Rashad Robinson responds by pivoting immediately to economics. "ALEC's latest statement is nothing more than a PR stunt aimed at diverting attention from its agenda," he says, "which has done serious damage to our communities."

Both sides are right, for once. The left is out to kneecap any organization that moves around big money to aid Republicans and pass conservative bills. Before the dramatic Trayvon Martin story, ALEC's threat to democracy was represented by Scott Walker's bills in Wisconsin. But you don't shame big food conglomerates by pointing out that a conservative group is passing anti-collective bargaining kids. You need a tragedy.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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