The Blog for "Progressive Politics: Tennessee Style" Radio Show!
Our last episode highlighted the work of some truly courageous Southern Progressives, who are taking on ALEC at the State level: Progress-Texas. We were thrilled to have as our special guest Mr. Phillip Martin, Research Director of this rowdy bunch of Progressive activists, from deep in the heart of Texas!
My research into the workings of The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) had left me wondering how someone could even begin to get their head around such an organization, much less begin to create strategies and/or tactics to counter it. This is truly a multi-tentacled monster which has, for nearly forty years, operated very deep back into the dark shadows of the American political landscape (as even the most cursory of examinations will surely attest!). Recently, however, some light has been shone brightly into this particularly dark corner, with some truly astounding revelations–and results.
Yet, this group has determined for themselves to overcome, or at least struggle to effectively counter the insurgency of ALEC within their very own State House. Petitions have been begun. A list of very single Texas State Legislator has been posted. And corporations doing business (especially those domiciled in the Lone Star State) have been put on notice. In a very short amount of time, this group has made its presence known, and felt by ALEC in real and measurable ways.
My interview with Phillip was to get a grasp on his considerable knowledge of ALEC, generally, to learn of his knowledge as to just how this corporation operates, and what could be done to confront them. I got a lot more than I bargained for! He, along with Executive Director Matt Glazer and an entire team of dedicated members have created some truly amazing strategies AND effective tactics that every citizen should hear about, and emulate. As is well known by this point, the first slight beams of light came from a website on the internet, which had managed to gain access to thousands of pages of ALEC information. The website was called “ALEC Exposed!“, and boy howdy was it ever.
Almost immediately, spreading like wildfire through a dry Texas prairie, the information went viral. Across the country (and the world), citizens were reading, learning, and becoming stunned at the width and breadth of this ultra-conservative, Libertarian-led organization which seemed to be the second home of the infamous Koch Brothers (Charles and David) of Koch Industries fame. Their father, Fred Koch, was (among several other “interesting” things, a co-founder of the John Birch Society. Pouring through the documents, I myself was taken from one shock to another.
One set of documents uncovered was a complete membership list of both legislators and corporations and other special interest groups who were members of ALEC. It did not take me long to understand that, with almost 2,000 legislators across the country, the potential impact was stunning. Then, I had the opportunity to visit another website, “Down With Tyranny“, which had an even more shocking list to share: it was a list of currently elected DEMOCRAT legislators. Even as I scoured the list for what I was sure would be NO legislators from my adopted State of Tennessee, the names of four currently sitting State Legislators greeted my dropped jaw.
So, having a knowledgeable (and still growing, by the way!) basic understanding of ALEC, and a freshly pressed listing of ALL Tennessee Legislators who are legislative members, I was looking over the list when it came to my attention that MY State Representative is a member! What to do?
That is what led me back to Progressive-Texas, Matt and Phillip. The purpose of this radio show is to highlight the activities, activists and activism which is currently on-going across the Southern United States. We also seek to accurately inform, as neutrally as possible (which is almost, but not always the case with PPTS), useful and practical facts which can be used to help our fellow Progressives become the change they seek. On the Friday prior to the airing of this episode, there was a lawsuit filed against ALEC, as well as a request for investigation of their 501(c)(3) status to the Internal Revenue Service by Common Cause, a group well known to most or all Progressives. In that filing, listed as “Amendment 4“, the entire ALEC Spring Meeting agendas for every single ALEC Task Force was included! The Spring meetings, to be held on May 10-11, 2012 in Charlotte, North Carolina include resolutions and Model Legislation which will be pushed by the corporate members to the State Legislatures through the legislative members. ALEC has made some great hay in their recent announcement that they are suspending their Public Policy Task Force, as of April, 2012. On the one hand, big deal. Most of the model legislations have already been faithfully carried to State Houses throughout the land. Secondly, as was disclosed on the Rachel Maddow Show, that work has been “transferred” to ALEC ally, The National Center for Public Policy Research. Same Task Force, different address.
What Phillip and I agreed on as being the most significant “Take Aways” from today’s episode were:
1. Become informed. We hope that this show, and our blog will help you do that. We hope that you will share your learning with us here, and on the show.
2. Contact your officials. Let them know that you are aware of their membership in The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), and your complete willingness to tell everyone you know about it, including those who will be opposing them in their next election. Urge them to IMMEDIATELY resign from ALEC. If they respond, act upon the response you receive. “I won’t renew!” is just simply not enough. If you cannot verify that your legislators HAVE resigned from the organization, the very great probability is that they have not. You can report your success, or your activism here. If you prefer, you can do the same with a Letter to the Editor of your local newspaper. You can write an OpEd for your state’s most preferred newspaper or magazine, as well. You can share this information with everyone you know, your local, county and State party.
3. Contact those corporations you support with your business, and let them know that their competition against your best interests or wishes has been noticed. See #2 above for additional ideas. Of course, you can purchase a share of stock in these corporations, and make yourself “visible” at the next shareholder meeting, as well. You can certainly correspond with “your” Boards of Directors on the issue, if you are of a mind to. I know I do. 🙂
4. As we have already seen, ALEC has a network that is immense, and funding beyond imagination. Their work will, in all likelihood, become a continuing shell game as long as their affiliates and allies do not feel suficient displeasure to remove themselves from the ALEC constellation. You might also give some serious thought as to WHY such corporations, allies and cohorts would be willing to even associate themselves with such an anti-democracy group in the first place. Act accordingly (and legally!).
This is but a beginning, but it is a beginning you can choose to make for yourself. Today. Right now. I hope you will. We will continue our series on ALEC with our next episode, where we will look at the ALEC-led war on Public Education in America today. I hope you will join us on Sunday, May 6th, 2012 at 2;30 PM (Central Time) for that show, as well. Join in the conversation by calling in and speaking with our host. Join us in the chaos of our live Chat Room during the show. Send a link to our shows to your friends and fellow Progressives. And, while you are about it, I’m asking you to contact our special guest at: Phillip@progresstexas.org, and thank him for a truly amazing radio experience. Visit their website, and use the contact form to let them know you appreciated the show, and the part they played in it. We will be touching base with this amazing team again during this series.
That’s what we do best, after all. Inform. Engage. Train. Engage again. Rinse, repeat.
For the show,
The Tennessee Progressive