Tuesday, June 11, 2013

ALEC gets a whitewash from the political press

You can draw a straight line from the Wisconsin uprising of 2011 through the No Rights At Work fight in Michigan to the Moral Monday protests now raging in North Carolina.  You can throw in the SB 5 fight in Ohio, the Prop. 32 battle in California, and skirmishes over voter suppression, privatization, regressive taxation and corporate empowerment in the 23 Republican-controlled legislatures in the country.

What you have is a national reaction to a single well-funded campaign to let billionaires take even more money from poor, middle- and working-class Americans.

The massive protests, the arrests, the Statehouse turmoil, the costly campaigns -- they're all convulsions over  the same thing: ALEC's attempt to dismantle America's public institutions and turn our government over to corporations.

And yet the political press treats each skirmish as an isolated outbreak.

One reporter who gets it is the Esquire blogger Charles Pierce. He nails it in a recent post:
...the elite political press is missing the real political action in this country because, for the most part, it concentrates either on what's going on in Washington, or in the horse race aspects of whatever election is next. But the real action -- and all the real damage -- is being done out in the states, especially in those states in which the 2010 elections brought in majority Republican legislatures and majority Republican governors. This is part of what we play for laughs every Thursday when we survey what's goin' down in The Laboratories Of Democracy. But what's goin' down is highly organized, tightly disciplined, and very sharply directed. By now, the American Legislative Exchange Council, and what it's about, is an open secret. Everybody covering politics knows about it. Everybody covering politics knows where the money for its activities comes from. Everybody in politics knows what its political aims are. And yet, when we have retrograde laws and policies pop up in state after state -- most notably in recent days, in the newly insane state of North Carolina -- it is always treated as a kind of localized outbreak.
How badly the press gets it wrong would be hilarious if it weren't so dangerous. A typical mistake is to describe the attempted corporate takeover of government as some sort of disagreement between "liberals" and "conservatives."

There's nothing conservative about a group that seeks to pervert democracy, eradicate public schools, destroy First Amendment rights, loot working people, plunder the public treasury and sell off every piece of public property for corporate profit-making opportunities.

And yet the Associated Press recently characterized ALEC as "a conservative think tank" -- in a story about how it's violating Wisconsin's Open Records law.

In a story about Georgia state lawmakers "staying informed," a gullible reporter for the Forsyth News notes that they intend to travel to "gather information" or "participate in panels" at ALEC's annual meeting. No mention of the lavish (and well-documented) resort settings or the bacchanals with deep-pocketed campaign donors.

Worst of all are the credulous accounts of ALEC's clownish reports on state economic outlooks, something no self-respecting economists would associate themselves with. You just know there's something wrong with ALEC's "Rich States, Poor States" analysis when it cites  job-killer Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker for his success in creating jobs.

Unions are fighting the Benedict Arnold Koch brothers purchase of the newspaper chain that owns the Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Tribune. (You can sign a petition here.) The brothers are key players in the billionaire empowerment movement and strong supporters of ALEC. But judging by the press coverage we've gotten so far, the Kochification of American newspapers is already well underway.
They already write some of them.