Conservative ALEC gathering in Kansas City will work on power and policy

05/01/2014 5:41 PM

05/01/2014 5:41 PM

When U.S. Senate Republicans blocked action this week on a bill to raise the federal minimum wage, they echoed a longstanding anti-worker, pro-business campaign by the American Legislative Exchange Council.

The council, known widely as ALEC, promotes a free-market, limited-government agenda and helps funnel “model legislation” into states around the country. About 600 of its members will be meeting in Kansas City today for a “task force summit,” addressing conservative-leaning policies in such areas as civil justice (“to fairly balance judicial and legislative authority”) and tax and fiscal policy — how’s that going in Kansas right now?

Republican legislative leaders in Missouri and Kansas have been dancing the ALEC tune for years now, and the current sessions in both states have seemed a lot like laboratories for the organization’s choreography.

Along with its fight against minimum-wage increases, frequent ALEC issues include “right-to-work,” school vouchers, anti-EPA campaigns and, lately, state-level attempts to quash the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid expansion. Sound familiar?

Lo and behold, the Kansas House this session rejected an ALEC-inspired bill in Kansas to repeal renewable energy supports, and even some Republicans recognized how practical, economic matters outweighed mere politics.

This week, a group of ALEC watchdog organizations, led by Progress Missouri, issued a

report

to shed light on its activities in Kansas and Missouri. Among other things, the report identifies ALEC-affiliated lawmakers and details many thousands of dollars contributed to legislators in the two states by big-name corporations and ALEC affiliates.

According to the report, “The main beneficiaries of ALEC’s reckless fiscal policies are big corporations (like those that back ALEC) and their executives — the big losers are the rest of us.”

Although opponents like to note that ALEC operates in secrecy, that’s only partly true. Its

website is full of position papers, so concerned citizens can — and should — examine the tools with which this formidable political lobby wields power.

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