It is verifiable how large corporations push ALEC’s policies to allow them to maximize their profits while passing on the cost of mitigating any environmental damage they cause to the public sector. The same goes for the public picking up the tab for workers who need health care or housing because businesses do not pay wages that can sustain families. Nevertheless, there are deep anti-government currents within ALEC that are expressed more loudly by public officials (and think tank staff) than by the corporate representatives.
As I heard the speakers and saw the stacks of printed material available from the think tanks it was obvious that there are fissures within the ALEC membership on how they and corporations should relate to government. Most ALEC public sector members fall into one of three major factions: social conservatives and their closely aligned Christian conservatives; conservative Republican Party members; and libertarian conservatives and their closely aligned fiscal conservatives. The last group tends to be isolationists on foreign policy. Applause was light when Gov. Walker suggested to the lunch crowd that we “Put steel in front of our enemies as we go forward.”
But the divisions among the libertarian wing is minor in comparison to how both they and the social conservatives accuse mainstream Republicans of being sell outs to the system by being lax in pushing for “free market” solutions or reducing government. Mark Meckler, head of Citizens for Self-Governance, looked over a crowd of ALEC members and told them how he had never met so many liars as when he started lobbying state legislators to support a Convention of States.
The crowd gave a nervous chuckle and Meckler quickly assured them that he was sure not referring to anyone in the room. Some of those present were worried that a constitutional convention might go beyond requiring a balanced budget constitutional amendment and that it might drift into other areas far more radical. The bottom line is that the elected Republicans, who want to stay in office, will say they support something that they know they will only pursue if their constituents are behind it. That doesn’t cut it with the ideologues.
And, that is at the core of the tension within ALEC: those who really believe that government should shrink down to thimble size and those who know that at some point it just isn’t practical. The corporations that remain in ALEC support less government interference so they appear to be fine with the general concept (even though more than 100 corporations have dumped ALEC, as CMD has documented). So they may not publicly object to Texas Senator Ted Cruz accusing the federal government of having a tax structure that is purportedly leading this country toward a tyranny or West Virginia’s Solicitor General Elbert Lin telling the ALEC audience that EPA is abrogating state sovereignty.
At the end of the day, some of these public officials seemed to acknowledge that government serves some useful purpose. Some also see where it is incompetent or unresponsive, and they want taxes reduced. But what they don’t seem to see–and the corporations funding ALEC appear to be fine with that blind spot– is that too many corporations are not paying their fair share of taxes and some of them are also incompetent in providing services they take over from the government and services they provide to their customers.
In the last piece, ACCE’s future in becoming the ALEC for city governments will be addressed.