Thursday, July 14, 2011

Reshaping the legislature

Posted By on Thu, Jul 14, 2011 at 6:27 AM

Gov. Mike Beebe put out a state Senate map yesterday and the deeper analysis by the Democrat-Gazette shows about what you'd expect. Some particular deference is shown to favored Democrats, but less sensitivity to Republican senators. The map won't create incumbent matchups and the guaranteed losses such districts would produce, but in any number of places Republican senators would find themselves with significant new territory, sometimes with population centers that could shift electoral balance of power.

Here's the thing though: There's no obvious indication that the new districts would produce numbers more favorable to Democrats. We might get different Republicans, but still Republicans.

What does that mean? It means you MUST read The Nation's important new expose on the American Legislative Exchange Council. This is the legislative meeting group of choice for Republicans and some Democrats. It is a thoroughly ideological outfit established by the Koch boys and other millionaire conservative corporatists to impose their destroy-government theology on state governments.

From ALEC comes the cookie-cutter model legislation that sprouted up like noxious weeds in the last Arkansas legislative session from the hands of the young Republicans.

* Making it hard for college students, minorities and older people to vote with voter ID bills and such? ALEC has it.

* Starving public schools? ALEC has a plan.

* Koch influence. You got it baby.

* Sabotaging universal health care? ALEC is showing Arkansas legislators the way.

* A war on taxes and labor unions? ALEC has the templates (see Wisconsin for implementation).

The Nation has gotten access to ALEC's secret archive of model legislation that is spoonfed to eager Arkansas Republicans and others. It is not a collaborative process.

Founded in 1973 by Paul Weyrich and other conservative activists frustrated by recent electoral setbacks, ALEC is a critical arm of the right-wing network of policy shops that, with infusions of corporate cash, has evolved to shape American politics. Inspired by Milton Friedman’s call for conservatives to “develop alternatives to existing policies [and] keep them alive and available,” ALEC’s model legislation reflects long-term goals: downsizing government, removing regulations on corporations and making it harder to hold the economically and politically powerful to account. Corporate donors retain veto power over the language, which is developed by the secretive task forces. The task forces cover issues from education to health policy. ALEC’s priorities for the 2011 session included bills to privatize education, break unions, deregulate major industries, pass voter ID laws and more. In states across the country they succeeded, with stacks of new laws signed by GOP governors like Ohio’s John Kasich and Wisconsin’s Scott Walker, both ALEC alums.

NOTED: A couple of ALEC acolytes — Republican Sens. Missy Irvin and Jason Rapert — are among those who'd find themselves with much different territory to defend in 2012 under the Beebe map.

PS — I noted originally that some Dems have thrown in with ALEC, too. Notable currently is Linda Collins Smith of Pocahontas, ALEC's current state leader, who's a nominal Democrat but generally votes like a Republican and is believed to be a certain party switcher if she's re-elected and circumstances look right for her. She ran as a Democrat originally because of the Democratic proclivities of her district. She should have primary opposition in 2012.

PPS — The LA Times is onto ALEC, too.

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