Thursday, December 5, 2013

Anti-green ALEC

Do you know who writes the bills that become law in your state? The chances are quite good that it is a right-wing lobbying group called ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council. If you live in a state that is dominated by right-wing politics, as I do, then the odds of ALEC's involvement in the laws of your state go up exponentially.

ALEC is an organization, like most of its kind, that prefers to operate in the dark. They do their work in back rooms, meeting with state legislators and their staff members, and ghost-writing some of the most draconian of the anti-consumer, anti-worker, anti-voter, anti-immigrant, and, at least in the past, anti-gay legislation that state legislatures have passed. Note that their campaigns are almost always "anti" something. I'm not aware of any positive legislation they have sponsored.  

One of their most notorious legislative campaigns which has seen success in many states around the country is the one in which they teamed up with the National Rifle Association to promote "Stand Your Ground" laws, laws that essentially permit individuals to commit murder and get away with it by claiming that they felt threatened. This was actually one outrageous law too far for many who had supported ALEC. In the last couple of years, the organization has lost the membership and support of almost 400 state legislators and more than 60 corporation largely because of the group's involvement in writing those laws. The group is now engaged in a campaign to win back those supporters and others. As part of the effort, they have pledged that they will no longer engage in writing gun laws.

Apparently they believe that a more fertile and profitable ground for sowing their seeds of "anti-ism" is in environmental policy. They are having a big summit in Washington, D.C. this week. Their keynote speaker is Sen. Ted Cruz, climate change denier. Other speakers include Rep. Paul Ryan, climate change denier, and Sen. Ron Johnson, climate change denier. Do we detect a theme here?

Some light has finally been shed on this shady organization this week by The Guardian which has been publishing reports about its activities. It has documented its loss of support because of helping to write "Stand Your Ground" laws and has reported on what appears to be the group's big push for legislation in 2014. It seems that they will be spending their time and efforts on blocking the Environmental Protection Agency's every move, attacking state clean energy laws, and fast-tracking approval of the southern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline. They will, in fact, be attacking efforts at protecting the environment and encouraging homeowners' efforts at making their houses more "green."

One of their prime goals will be to penalize homeowners who install solar panels on their houses. Most governmental and utility entities have seen such installations as a positive thing and have introduced regulations which encourage them. ALEC takes the opposite view and plans to spend 2014 attempting to weaken such laws throughout the country.

Perhaps it should be noted here that among ALEC's biggest financial supporters have been Charles and David Koch's foundations and Exxon-Mobil. As my professor in a long-ago sociology class was fond of reminding his students, "Follow the money if you want to know a person's or organization's motivation."    

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