You may have never heard of ALEC before the last few days, when both the New York Times and the Wall Street Journaleditorialized on a campaign waged by shadowy lobbying groups to influence corporations to withdraw their support from this non-profit collaboration of state legislators.
The American Legislative Exchange Council, which was founded in 1973, is the only venue where state legislators committed to the Jeffersonian principles of limited government meet together to collaborate on model legislation that they are free to introduce in their state legislatures. As well as legislative members, ALEC includes private-sector members. I represent my employer in a small sub-set of the private-sector group, the non-profit private-sector members (a.k.a. the think tanks).
Grotesquely, one of the anti-ALEC activist groups has used the killing of Trayvon Martin in Florida as fodder for its anti-ALEC campaign. Color of Change asserts that ALEC is behind the Stand Your Ground law which the alleged shooter, George Zimmerman, cites in his defense. This has been a boon to ALECs opponents because they had previously focused on a real no-hoper: Defeating ballot-integrity measures, such as voters photo ID, which reduce electoral fraud. These measures are both very popular and supported by recent litigation, so this campaign was coming to a dead end.
Unfortunately, some of ALECs corporate members have decided to cut and run. According to Michelle Malkin (who encourages us to boycott them), Coca-Cola, Pepsi, McDonalds, and Walgreens are amongst libertys fair-weather friends.
The anti-ALEC forces are a curious bunch. Color of Change exists solely to advocate a self-styled Black agenda. Its understandable that ALECs model legislation and resolutions, which derive from the notion of equal rights for all people, would clash with an outfit that believes in different agendas for people of different skin colors. Another agitator, Common Cause, has a more civil and business-like pedigree. Indeed, executives from McKinsey & Co. and Cisco sit on its board of directors!
What the heck are they doing there? Are we really meant to believe that McKinsey and Cisco think that corporate executives should waive their rights to confer with state legislators because of pressure from secretive lobbying groups? Surely, McKinsey and Cisco have government-relations arms. I havent seen anyone opposed to big government try to delegitimize them.
The false accusation that ALEC is responsible for the death of Trayvon Martin obscures ALECs true function: Facilitating state legislators collaboration against Leviathan. That is the true threat that ALEC poses to the status quo, and that is why the forces of big government cannot tolerate this voluntary association. For the last couple of years, the fight against Obamacare has consumed much of the time of ALECs Health & Human Services Task Force, on which I serve. As Avik Roy noted in yesterdays blog post, the media and the political class have taken notice.
Our key achievement is the Health Care Freedom Initiative, which denies that the federal government has the power to compel any citizen into an insurance scheme. This has now been passed as a constitutional amendment in three states, as a statute in twelve more, and is on the November 2012 ballot in at least four more states. This gives significant weight to the lawsuit against Obamacares constitutionality, which the U.S. Supreme Court is now deciding (and for which ALEC submitted an amicus curiae brief.) It also encourages those in Congressand in society at largewho want to repeal Obamacare.
What is important to understand is that ALECs Health & Human Services Task Force includes representatives of health insurers, pharmaceutical companies, and medical-device makers. These are the folks who could have stopped Obamacare in 2010 but chose to collaborate with what they thought at the time was inevitable. The last two years have seen an increasing number of citizens demand that their legislators defeat Obamacare, and their legislators are responding.
It is highly unlikely that the Health Care Freedom Initiative, or other measures to defeat Obamacare in the states, would have spread so successfully in the absence of ALEC. And for-profit health-care interests areslowly but surelyaccepting that Obamacare will soon be relegated to the history books as an unfortunate misadventure. (That likely explains why AHIP, the health insurers trade association, submitted an amicus brief to the Supreme Court that argued for the inseverability of the individual mandate, but not favoring the law itself.) ALECs opponents are right that theres a lot of influence at ALEC; theyve just misunderstood the direction of the influence.
Anyone interested in defeating Obamacare and replacing it with a reform that puts patientsnot the governmentin charge of our own health-care dollars needs to support ALECs continued independence and success.
|John R. Graham is a Senior Fellow at the Independent Institute.|