ALEC, We See You 

Part two

Ever wondered who talked Idaho leaders into letting a Tennessee corporation run a large portion of our penal system? Or why they continue to let it go on, in spite of that corporation's documented failings in protecting, rehabilitating and processing inmates? Did you ever vote for someone who openly campaigned to hand the prisons over to people whose maximum profits come from full prisons?

Or maybe you're still curious about how Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna and his pack of cronies in the Legislature came to the decision that classes from private online companies and laptops, all paid for with taxpayer dollars, are the solution to kids who don't care if they ever learn anything and the parents who raised them that way.

Then there's the nagging question of how Idaho's law-making mob came up with the policies of female subjugation (forced medical procedures), polling manipulation (the new voter ID requirements), and firearm coercion (Stand Your Ground legislation), all at the same time such assaults on freedom and common sense were taking place in a dozen other states.

As I was saying last week, the spider at the center of this web is the American Legislative Exchange Council. It says right there in the title: It exchanges legislation. The rest of the name is not so accurate as I don't consider what it does as being very American, and the "Council" part of it seems to amount to little more than "Do what we say and you'll get money. Don't do what we say and we'll find somebody who will!"

ALEC has been infiltrating GOP cadres for more than 30 years, pulling off their power grab primarily at the state level. The Koch boys, David and Charles, were in on the bottom floor of ALEC and are still an artesian well of funding for the organization. (We've discussed the Koch brothers before, remember? They're the silver-spoon spawn of an oil baron, and the family as a whole is as close to being fascists as they can get without actually pulling on the knee-high boots.)

Over the years, other corporate entities presumably less offensive than the Kochs have contributed to ALEC's coffers. Today, those contributors number in the hundreds. It's next to impossible to name an oil, pharmaceutical or insurance company not in its fold. More surprising are those companies with such familiar and friendly faces as McDonald's, Coca-Cola and Johnson & Johnson. But we should know better than to judge a corporation by its advertising, shouldn't we?

I'm willing to give many, if not most, of these companies the benefit of the doubt that they didn't realize what a right-wing fringe bin they were hopping into when they signed up with ALEC. In fact, before the recent exposure of the outfit's fifth column nature, I can imagine oblivious corporate officers recommending it as just another lobbying effort. I'd rather not believe that the big shots from Wendy's or the Gates Foundation ever foresaw the day that the money they sent ALEC would be used to force theocratic repression and the NRA's twisted wet dreams on the American people. And as it turns out, since the Trayvon Martin murder in Florida, contributors have been dropping out like they've found a mouse carcass floating in their bowl of ALEC Flakes.

Even the briefest summary of what legislation ALEC has been pushing--disempowering women and the most vulnerable of voters, the rash of pro-gun and anti-immigrant idiocy--makes it clear it is as intent on imposing its cultural conservatism upon us as making this land a laissez-faire paradise. Further, when the matter at hand is privatization of government functions, as in the commandeering of public education and the penitentiary system, it's obvious their central agenda is to redistribute our public money into its private pockets.

The website alecexposed.org has listed more than 2,000 state legislators with affiliations to ALEC, including 16 from Idaho. I urge readers to go there and see who's on that roster. However, it may be more instructive to find not who's on that list, but rather who and how many of our GOP Poo-Bahs are allied with the Idaho Freedom Foundation--or as I think of it, an open sore situated over in Smeed County. From its inception a mere four years ago, the IFF has been oozing a steady flow of pre-digested legislation to our one-party leadership. And every bit of it looks suspiciously like the same contentious slop that has been tearing other states apart. Honestly it appears more and more that we are paying our Republican lawmakers $16,000 a year (plus whatever per diem perks they can rake in) just to have them pass imported legislation off as their own.

Now, even though Wayne Hoffman, IFF's chief huff'n'puff, has yet to find the integrity to tell Idahoans where he gets the funding for his operation, he did announce (April 30 in the Idaho Press-Tribune) that he--and whatever the IFF amounts to beyond his unctuous presence--gets guidance from ALEC: "ALEC has been an invaluable resource and friend to me and the [IFF]. Few people know how often I have asked ALEC's staff for help."

So by Hoffman's own admission, any local pol (from the governor on down) who flaunts his or her association with the oh-so-nobly-named Idaho Freedom Foundation is in reality just another obliging toad, nestled deep in the pocket of ALEC. It all makes me wonder if there's a Republican politician left in Idaho who can come up with his or her own ideas.

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