writing laws in all 50 states, everything from rolling back environmental regulations to gutting workers’ rights.
This might shock you; after all, don’t we elect legislators to write our laws? As it turns out, many of these same elected lawmakers are members of ALEC, which means that they’re colluding with huge corporations behind closed doors, rewriting laws that restrict your rights and make your community less safe.
Well. As scary as all this sounds, perhaps it would benefit the American citizenry to learn more about the American Legislative Exchange Council, a group that, according to their own site, started 30 years ago as:
A nonpartisan membership association for conservative state lawmakers who shared a common belief in limited government, free markets, federalism, and individual liberty. Their vision and initiative resulted in the creation of a voluntary membership association for people who believed that government closest to the people was fundamentally more effective, more just, and a better guarantor of freedom than the distant, bloated federal government in Washington, D.C.
Perhaps it’s the use of the word “conservative” that is so terrifying to Moyers and Common Cause. However, despite the best efforts of Eric Posner of Slate Magazine to convince us otherwise, the First Amendment is still revered and sacrosanct and does allow for differences of opinion.
Which is why I encourage anyone interested in learning more about ALEC to watch Moyers’ documentary on the subject. But read CCP founder Brad Smith’s post on the recent boycotting of ALEC contributors first, particularly when he refers to “secondary boycotts”:
But secondary boycotts can quickly turn ugly. For example, the boycott of contributors to ALEC comes about because state lawmakers who are members of ALEC had, working through the ALEC framework, developed and introduced bills to require voters to present photo ID in order to vote. Polls consistently show strong support for voter ID laws, but such laws are strongly opposed by some on the left, who argue that they have a discriminatory impact on minority voters. Hence the boycott. But many corporate donors to ALEC are also corporate donors to the Congressional Black Caucus, which strongly opposes voter ID laws. Supporters of voter ID – whom, if we are to believe the polls, vastly outnumber critics – could decide to boycott these companies. Similarly, opponents of same sex marriage, who appear to be at least equal if not superior in numbers to proponents, could start boycotting the supporters and those who give them financial support. Soon everyone is boycotting everyone, and it’s not pretty.
It has long been recognized that secondary boycotts render the social fabric by making it difficult for people to simply live their lives. They interfere with peaceful trade, and force innocent bystanders into disputes between others.
And they are, as Smith notes, “particularly unattractive when the reason for the boycott is to squelch speech. [When] the reason for the secondary boycott is to harm the third person economically so that that third person will bring pressure to bear on the original speaker to, well, to shut up.”
Give Brad’s post a read, check out some of what ALEC does, and then watch Moyers documentary and decide for yourselves if the hand-wringing is justified or just another way to make sure that only one side of the political debate is allowed to speak freely.