Scooped by Paul Krugman!

Well, I guess that’s why he has a Nobel and all I have is a bitter memory of coming in second in the 4th grade spelling bee.

Krugman had an excellent piece in yesterday’s New York Times on the insidious and nefarious threat to our various states that is the American Legislative Exchange Council.

Lobbyists, Guns and Money by Paul Krugman in the New York Times Mar. 25, 2012

What is ALEC? Despite claims that it’s nonpartisan, it’s very much a movement-conservative organization, funded by the usual suspects: the Kochs, Exxon Mobil, and so on. Unlike other such groups, however, it doesn’t just influence laws, it literally writes them, supplying fully drafted bills to state legislators. In Virginia, for example, more than 50 ALEC-written bills have been introduced, many almost word for word. And these bills often become law.

Many ALEC-drafted bills pursue standard conservative goals: union-busting, undermining environmental protection, tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy. ALEC seems, however, to have a special interest in privatization — that is, on turning the provision of public services, from schools to prisons, over to for-profit corporations. And some of the most prominent beneficiaries of privatization, such as the online education company K12 Inc. and the prison operator Corrections Corporation of America, are, not surprisingly, very much involved with the organization.

What this tells us, in turn, is that ALEC’s claim to stand for limited government and free markets is deeply misleading. To a large extent the organization seeks not limited government but privatized government, in which corporations get their profits from taxpayer dollars, dollars steered their way by friendly politicians. In short, ALEC isn’t so much about promoting free markets as it is about expanding crony capitalism. (Emphasis added.)

I’ve been thinking about writing about ALEC for a while now–sparked by an email from my father just over a month ago with a link to the following article:

Campus Connection: UW profs shed light on ALEC’s threat to public education by Todd Finkelmeyer from the Capital Times, Feb. 20, 2012

University of Wisconsin-Madison professors Julie Underwood and Julie Mead are expressing concern over the growing corporate influence on public education in an article published Monday.

In particular, they are highly critical of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which connects conservative state legislators with like-minded think tanks, corporations and foundations to develop “model legislation” that can be enacted at the state level.

[…]

Citing past research and articles, Underwood and Mead write that model legislation from ALEC seeks to “influence teacher certification, teacher evaluation, collective bargaining, curriculum, funding, special education, student assessment, and numerous other education and education-related issues. Common throughout the bills are proposals to decrease local control of schools by democratically elected school boards while increasing access to all facets of education by private entities and corporations.”

I am a public school teacher who believes that government on the whole is a good thing so, not surprisingly, I am wholly opposed to efforts to privatize any aspects of our public school system.  (Read my piece on the push to allow online-only schools that are only nominally administered through Iowa school districts while 97% of the state education dollars for the students enrolled are funneled to out of state corporations.)  (Come to think of it, I need to look into if Iowa’s online-only schools are something that ALEC has advocated for.)  Fortunately work by Professors Underwood and Mead and others has helped to bring the pro-business, ultra (severely?) conservative out-sized influence that ALEC has wielded to light in Wisconsin.

This was not the first time I’d heard of ALEC, however.  I was first alerted to this group that seeks to bring power to the powerful by a letter in my home town paper from David Johnson, a candidate for 73rd district seat in the Iowa House.

Letter: Kaufmann should pull ALEC membership by David Johnson in the West Branch Times, Aug. 3, 2011.

In 1973, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) was formed. ALEC brings together state legislators and big business for the purpose of creating template legislation.

[…]

Per information obtained from Charles Smithson, chief clerk of the Iowa House, every member of the Republican delegation is a member of ALEC by virtue of not opting out of such membership. Membership dues are paid by the state; that is, by taxpayer money.

I, for one, have no desire to have my tax dollars used as a means for big business to gain privileged access to our state representatives.

I would ask Mr. Kaufmann and other representatives to terminate their membership in ALEC and reimburse the taxpayers for the dues incurred during their time in office.

Mr. Kaufmann is Jeff Kaufmann, our moderate-talking, conservative-voting current district 79 Iowa House member.  His district was made a part of the new 73rd district, and he has subsequently opted to run for Cedar County Supervisor instead of for reelection.

So the moral of this story, friends, is don’t procrastinate writing about something important, or Paul Krugman will steal your thunder much like a certain redheaded girl did back in 1985 in Wingra’s 4th grade spelling bee!

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