Monday, January 23, 2012

ALEC: Free Market Think Tank or Right-Wing Puppet Master?

A couple of years ago The New Mexico Legislature passed and the governor signed  a bill that some now say sprang from model legislation developed by a controversial right-wing organization.

The group: the American Legislative Exchange, aka ALEC.

The bill? The one that established the state Sunshine Portal.

The Sunshine Portal, of course, was supported by an overwhelming majority of lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. Former Lt. Gov. Diane Denish, the 2010 Democratic gubernatorial candidate, was one of its main champions.

But, as  talk about in an article in today's New Mexican, a handful of other bills that might have originated with ALEC have been introduced in this state in, but none of those has passed. (An anti-ALEC website, ALEC Exposed, has a list of such bills HERE.)

I spoke to the two New Mexico legislators -- Senate Republican Whip Bill Payne of Albuquerque and Rep. Paul Bandy, R-Farmington, who are currently state co-chairs of ALEC in this state.

I also spoke with Rep. Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, who is not very fond of ALEC.

The chief criticism of ALEC deals with the fact that corporations pay the lion's share for the group, its conventions and its task forces, which recommend the model legislation.

This is an area in which no side's hands are clean. Corporations pay millions of bucks to subsidize both the Republican and Democratic national conventions every four years, as well as to throw lavish events to wine and dine the delegates. Even non-partisan groups like the Council of State Governments and National Conference of State Legislatures have corporate sponsorships.

The one thing that sets ALEC apart however is that private businesses are allowed to become actual members of the organization in general and the various task forces. As ALEC itself says, "ALEC provides the private sector with an unparalleled opportunity to have its voice heard, and its perspective appreciated, by the legislative members."

So check out my story, check out ALEC and its critics   and decide for yourself.