Monday, April 09, 2012

Who is ALEC?

ALEC is a corporate front organization, not an individual. The name stands for American Legislative Exchange Council and one of its goals is to "foster Jeffersonian principles of free markets and limited government...". ALEC is responsible for the so-called "stand your ground" gun laws that allowed a Florida deputy wannabe to shoot and kill an unarmed black youth in his neighborhood without facing criminal charges. The organization was created by the Heritage Foundation founder Paul Weyrich in 1973. It is funded by conservative organizations including the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation. Koch Industries is a member of ALEC's "private enterprise board" that also includes Peabody Energy, AT&T, Johnson & Johnson, GlaxoSmithKline, Pfizer and WalMart. ALEC works by proposing model legislation to state legislators, often too unmotivated, or worse too ignorant, to write their own bills. ALEC is very active in the area of voter suppression, or what it would term "vote fraud" suppression. Some of its legislative proposals create restrictive voter ID requirements, residency restrictions, curtailment of early voting, gaming of the antiquated electoral college system, and laws making mass voter registration difficult or impossible. All this is spite of the statistical fact that voter fraud is exceedingly rare. Actual fraud by voters, as opposed to clerical or bureaucratic errors in the complex voting process, is punishable as a federal felony. Risking a five year prison sentence or $10,000 fine or both is just not worth it to most people regardless of how politically motivated they are. In a statewide investigation by a Republican attorney general in Wisconsin only 20 voters cases of actual fraud have been charged out of 3 million votes cast in 2008. Nevertheless the issue has become a right-wing bete noir because the reactionary voting bloc has become desperate to offset its lack of numbers. Rather than seeking to persuade new voters on the issues, right wingers are attempting to restrict polling access. ALEC produced a voter ID "model" bill (also known as the "photo ID" bill) that conservative state legislators are attempting to pass in various incarnations. Seven states have enacted laws recently that disenfranchise student voters or make more difficult for them to vote. Conservative poltical organizations like the Wisconsin Patriot Coalition list ALEC as the source of its voter ID proposal. In Florida and Texas lawmakers have succeeded in placing new restrictions on non-profit organizations helping new voters to register. Kansas, Alabama and Tennessee increased the amount of documentation required for residents to prove citizenship. Fewer than a third of Americans own a passport, and citizens who do not have a birth certificate would have to pay for a duplicate in order to vote. An estimated 25% of African-Americans do not possess a current and valid form of government issued ID. Georgia reduced early voting from 45 to 21 days, Wisconsin shortened their period by 16 days, and Ohio reduced its period from 35 to 11 days. The list of voting restrictions intended to disenfranchise the young, or impoverished goes on. As Paul Weyrich succinctly said, "I don't want everybody to vote."