With all the hubbub and activity at the Grand American hotel in Salt Lake City last week, you'd be forgiven for thinking ALEC would have had the Utah stage to themselves. Well, not quite. Even conservative Utah has some issues with ALEC's corporate agenda. Alliance for a Better Utah, the Utah version of ProgressVA, coordinated a great week of education and action around the ALEC conference and we were only too happy to take part.
Together with great partners like the Center for Media and Democracy, Common Cause, People for the American Way, Color of Change and the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, progressives presented a series of TED-type talks to a crowd of over 150 at a storefront down the street from ALEC's swanky hotel (video should be coming soon). Bob Edgar, President of Common Cause, spoke about the IRS whistle-blower complaint they've filed against ALEC for claiming on tax returns that they engage in zero lobbying (thousands of pages of internal documents would indicate otherwise). Lori Haas and Josh Horwitz from the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence spoke about ALEC's anti-public safety agenda, that includes model legislation opposing assault weapons bans and taking away colleges and universities' ability to control what weapons come onto their campuses.
We also heard from Wisconsin state representative Mark Pocan, who is a member of ALEC. In fact, Pocan has been a member of ALEC for many years, getting the inside scoop on their agenda and model bills. He has a great recap of his experience this year up at The Progressive, where he describes ALEC as "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."
I summed up the workshops and press conference with an overview of what ALEC looks like on the grounds in the states. In short, it's large network that's promoting corporate interests at the expense of consumers and citizens. The good news is that their network is weakening every day. Thirty corporations have now dropped out of ALEC, including Walgreens and GM, who announced they were pulling out in the middle of the conference. Another 56 state legislators have quit. Now's not the time to let up on the pressure, which means you need to educate yourself, educate your neighbor, and get involved.