Payback in Wisconsin | Arkansas Blog

Friday, March 25, 2011

Payback in Wisconsin

Posted By on Fri, Mar 25, 2011 at 3:03 PM

Thanks to Norma for a Salon link that rounds up just about everything pertinent simmering from blowback for a University of Wisconsin professor William Cronon who made the mistake of writing critically about Gov. Scott Walker's attack on public employees' unions and, more specifically, mentioning the right wing-funded think tank, the American Legislative Exchange Council. It is a key player in Wisconsin and other states for right-wing ideology.

For his critical writing, historian Cronon has had his U. of Wisconsin e-mail account FOI'ed by Republicans hoping to find something embarrassing. That's become a whole issue to itself (academic freedom, intimidation, press law, etc.). This, to me, is the bigger picture and, for the Salon writer, something of a bright spot:

In that [Cronon] post, as part of his effort to understand the historical roots of the nationally coordinated state-level legislative attack on unions, Cronon focused his spotlight on a relatively under-the-radar group called The American Legislative Exchange Council.

The most important group, I'm pretty sure, is the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which was founded in 1973 by Henry Hyde, Lou Barnett, and (surprise, surprise) Paul Weyrich. Its goal for the past forty years has been to draft "model bills" that conservative legislators can introduce in the 50 states. Its website claims that in each legislative cycle, its members introduce 1000 pieces of legislation based on its work, and claims that roughly 18 percent of these bills are enacted into law. (Among them was the controversial 2010 anti-immigrant law in Arizona.)

Cronon surmises that his efforts to highlight the role of ALEC precipitated the Republican open records response. I have no way to judge whether that is true. But what I do know is that the Republican effort to gain access to Cronon's university emails has resulted in bringing far more attention to Cronon and to ALEC than would otherwise have been the case.

ARKANSAS ANGLE ALERT: ALEC is under the radar no more. Arkansas Republican legislators are not only filing the lobby's cookie-cutter bills. They are bringing ALEC staff people in to do the testifying for them, as when Sen. Missy Irvin brought an ALEC mouthpiece in for her states rights anti-healthcare bill. There is a vast right-wing conspiracy. It is well-funded. Forewarned is forearmed. And, if you have a public e-mail account, you should always write with the understanding that your secrets might not be safe there.

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