As I walked into the posh Grand America Hotel where the American Legislative Exchange Council was meeting, I could tell things were a little different from last year.
The attendance seems a bit down, for starters. When I went to register, the very nice woman checking people in told us to take our name badges off when we leave the hotel as to not have any problems. The exhibitors were a drop less corporate than usual, having lost 28 of their corporate members since the Trayvon Martin case highlighted their efforts to promote model legislation in our state legislatures.
In one of the workshops I attended, the moderator — Wisconsin State Senator Leah Vukmir — thanked their “private sector members” as “brave souls.” Most of the workshops are still about legislative solutions to real or imaginary problems that usually wind up with a corporation making a buck a long the way.
Even before I left, I received an email from ALEC National Chairman Rep. David Frizzell, stating, “In April, ALEC announced that we refocused our work strictly toward policies of a free-market, limited government nature. ALEC is not a social policy organization — and that is why we clarified our mission, doubling down on the issues that matter most to Americans of all political stripes. I’ll restate that ALEC disbanded the Public Safety and Elections Task Force that dealt with issues of a non-economic nature, rescinding the non-economic model legislation along with it.”
They clearly feel the public relations pinch of their problems with the voter photo ID and “Stand by Your Ground” gun laws.
However, for all of the “not a social policy organization” rhetoric, you only need to visit the exhibitors at the convention to see those are words for public relations purposes only. Exhibitors include: Alliance Defending Freedom (religious), Americans United for Life, Profamily Legislative Network, U.S. English, American Conservative Union, Family Research Council, Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, Right on Crime, National Organization for Marriage, and the American Religious Freedom Program. So much for economic issues only.
Despite the window dressing, there appears to be no real effort to change a thing. ALEC is still a dating service for those ugly corporations and the legislative objects of their affection, with a strong bent to the social right-wing elements of the conservative movement.
The more they say they change, the more they stay the same.
Wisconsin State Representative Mark Pocan (D-Madison), who coined the term FitzWalkerstan on the floor of the State Assembly, served three terms on the state’s budget committee, including one as its co-chair. He also served as the vice-chair of the non-partisan National Council on State Legislature’s Budget and Policy committee. Pocan’s Assembly district includes both the State Capitol and the Governor’s Mansion, making Governor Scott Walker his most infamous constituent.