A historical perspective on ALEC and NCSL

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Let me put a little personal historic perspective on the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and attacks by the media spearheaded by the liberal Common Cause and Media Matters funded by George Soros.

In the early 1970s another group, the National Conference of State Legislators (NCSL) was basically funded then (and I believe still is) by state budgets, to have meetings to discuss legislative issues and sample model bills (legislation).

As a new member (conservative) of the Missouri Legislature I became somewhat familiar with this respected group that was also comprised of state legislative staff personnel.

In fact the first executive director of the group (NCSL), which was formed by a merger of earlier think tanks, was former Democrat State Representative from Cape Girardeau Earl Mackey, a family friend.

Most of the suggested legislation discussed and recommended was generally liberal in the sense of more government involvement than I basically supported.

This bipartisan committee's recommended bills would often pop up in 20 or 30 states after such meetings promoting the same legislation.

I became aware that a new conservative bipartisan organization was going to meet to see if there was enough interest and support to basically establish similar legislative and bill suggestions from a more conservative perspective.

On my own, out of curiosity, I flew to their first meeting in 1975 which was composed of similar conservative leaning Republicans and Democrats from about 20 to 30 states.

To my memory I was the only one in attendance from Missouri and was asked to serve on the original committee, which I declined because of family, business and state responsibilities.

Later the NCSL moved their office to Denver, and while serving on the Missouri appropriations committee, I noticed that some liberal education bills from a national education group (I don't recall its name) were from a group headquartered at the same address as the NCSL.

So for more than 40 years the more liberal NCSL and the ultimately more conservative ALEC have run somewhat parallel but philosophically different "think tank" type of support groups to state legislators.

I have no problem with that and often sample bills from both groups are introduced in multiple states at the same time.

The bills still have to go through the committee and legislative process plus the signature of a governor to become law.

What I don't like is for targeted and organized attacks (that have been common recently) in efforts to drive off advertisers or supporters of liberal or conservative groups.

This has put sponsors to ALEC under attack by using media columnists and social media to threaten advertisers or supporters by targeting their customers to boycott them.

This was done to Whole Foods (unsuccessfully), Glenn Beck's Fox TV show, Rush Limbaugh's radio show (unsuccessfully), Wal-Mart (unsuccessfully), etc.

This is a form of flash mob coordination for small groups to have a disproportionate effect to their size. If you will ... the Alinsky technique.

The American Legislative Exchange Council works to advance the fundamental principles of free-market enterprise, limited government, and federalism at the state level through a nonpartisan public-private partnership of America's state legislators, members of the private sector and the general public.

For more information, you can Google ALEC and NCSL.

Someone who voted for President Obama said, "I agree with 80 percent of what Obama says but disagree with 80 percent of what he does."

Gary Rust is the chairman of Rust Communications.

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