Monday, April 23, 2012

Dumb-ALEC remark applies more to ALEC than to its opponents

By Marc Jampole

If there were an annual “pot calling the kettle black” award, the early frontrunner would have to be Kaitlyn Buss, Director of Communications for the American Legislative Exchange Council, known more by its acronym, ALEC.

Her comment came in a National Public Radio (NPR) reporton Common Cause filing a complaint to the Internal Revue Service about ALEC, which claims to be a nonprofit organization but which Common Cause and others say is really a lobbying group.

About the many voices now complaining about ALEC’s habit of mixing non-business issues such as loosening gun control laws and restricting voters, Buss complains that they are “part of a concerted effort of extremist groups that are hell bent on silencing organizations that differ from them ideologically.”

Buss scores a twofer in the “pot calling the kettle black” category, a variety of name-calling which is particularly twisted because not only is the name-caller lying about the victim, she/he is using characteristics that could apply to him/herself, i.e., the name caller. Thus, the liar accuses someone else of lying and the closeted gay rants against gay culture.

The extremists to whom Buss refers include of course The Coca Cola Company, PepsiCo, McDonald’s Corp. and software giant Intuit.  The reason that these quite buttoned-down companies have stopped supporting ALEC is because of the extremist laws LEC tries to pass in states around the country. Like “Stand Your Ground” laws which extend the “home is your castle” doctrine to anywhere people go, essentially saying that if someone looks at you wrong,  you can legally shoot to kill. And in a democracy, what could be more extremist than denying people the right to vote, which ALEC-sponsored laws have done or will do in many states?

ALEC all but admitted that it had gone too far—which is the standard working definition of extremism—when it said that it would stop supporting voter ID and gun rights laws in state legislations.

But Buss is not only calling ALEC opponents a name that applies to her organization, she also says that these opponents are trying to do something that in fact ALEC has been trying to do: “silencing organizations that differ from them ideologically?”

What else do you call it when you write a law that makes it harder to vote, knowing that it will negatively impact those ideologically opposed to your view much more than it will harm those who favor your view? By requiring an ID that virtually all of your supporters already have but many of your opponents’ supporters don’t have, aren’t you trying to silence those who differ from you? What silence is more deadly and evil than the silence that comes from not having the right to vote?  If you don’t believe me, ask some 80 or 90-year-old African-Americans who have lived all their lived in Mississippi or Georgia.

Of course, Buss’ double-helix name-calling—blaming others for being what her organization is and doing what it does—is part of the larger deception by ALEC when it claims to do no lobbying and so should keep the tax advantaged status of a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.  Let’s turn to Merriam-Webster (with format slightly modified) for the two standard definitions of lobbying: a) persons not members of a legislative body and not holding government office who attempt to influence legislators or other public officials through personal contact; b) a particular group of such persons representing a special interest.  

What ALEC does is write state legislation that it gives to state legislators to introduce as potential new laws. That sure sounds to me like “attempting to influence legislators.” The laws that ALEC writes—some very long and complicated—are all supposed to express the point of view of business. That’s why the ALEC laws that aren’t sops to moneyed special interests like the National Rifle Association have to do with lowering taxes on businesses, loosening regulations and making it harder to unionize. Now doesn’t that sound just like “representing a special interest?”

There can be no doubt that ALEC’s activities should disqualify it from claiming nonprofit status. But all that will do is raise the price of playing. It won’t stop ALEC’s pernicious influence on state legislatures everywhere, it just means that those who contribute to it won’t get a tax break.

FYI: For the best explanation of how a small number of ultra-wealthy corporate leaders and other individuals use organizations like ALEC to control the process by which social and political changes occurs in the United States, go to the “Who Rules America Now,” website and especially the section of “The Class-Domination Theory of Power” by G. William Domhoff titled How Government Policy Is Shaped From Outside Government.”