Inside the Bad Idea Factory

The bad ideas and nutty legislation proposed in the Montana legislature certainly did not come from Montana constituents, and  did not even (always) originate in the muddled minds of TEA Party Republicans. Instead, many of the bad bills came from an out-of-state hard right strategy group known as the American Legislative Exchange Council or ALEC.

Much research has already been done into the connections between ALEC and its corporate backers from Big Tobacco, PHARMA, and Big Oil, and there are several good sources of information out there about these connections. But that’s not the whole story.

This summer, Center for Media and Democracy posted some 800 ALEC “model” bills and resolutions on a new website,     Now, internet savvy Montanans have an intriguing and largely untapped resource to compare ALEC bills to proposals in the Montana legislature and to see how and where they overlap. It would be interesting if people who find things post them  in the comments. Then we could all see what patterns emerge, if there are certain legislators who were the worst offenders, or if certain policy areas appear to dominate the list.

Even the briefest look at the ALEC documents shows that its goals appear to be much broader than enacting pro-corporate policy.

In some instances, the model legislation is designed to advance the agenda of far-right religious fundamentalists to steer public funds to religious/private schools. Here’s the model ALEC bill on special education vouchers–a type of “gateway” proposal to lead the way to full private/religious school vouchers later–and here is the Montana legislative version, for comparison.

In many cases however, the greater goals appear to be electoral.  Take the voter suppression proposal, a bill that (if it wasn’t vetoed) would have helped Republicans keep more young Montanans, seniors, and low-income people living in isolated areas from voting.  Here’s the model ALEC Model bill to require a current photo ID to vote, and  here’s the Montana legislative bill.

The other way ALEC advances the GOP electoral strategy is by forcing dems to take tough votes on issues that the republicans will then use to campaign against them.  Take for example, the ALEC bill to opt out of health care reform.  Here is the model ALEC bill for a constitutional amendment to allow states to opt-out and here’s the Montana legislative version.

Republicans don’t like to talk about how they are using the legislative process for partisan electioneering with assistance from out-of-state groups.  Instead, they claim that ALEC is no more than a non partisan source of policy materials and even bragged about their attempts to pass ALEC legislation.

Here is a list of current legislators with ALEC task force positions (below the fold).  Like the TEA Party, the ALEC crew appears to be concentrated in the House with a few notable exceptions, like State Senator and Gubernatorial run considerer Jeff Essmann.   The list also seems heavy on Republicans from the Flathead area.

Currently, lists Montana’s ALEC leaders as Rep. Gary MacLaren (R-Victor ) and Rep. Scott Reichner (R-Bigfork) as well as Ronald Devlin,  a former Republican legislator turned  Northwestern Energy executive.

House of Representatives

Rep. David Howard (R-60)[16]; Civil Justice Task Force

Rep. Gary MacLaren (R-89)[14], State Chairman[16][105]; Health and Human Services Task Force

Rep. Ken Peterson (R-46)[14][16]; Civil Justice Task Force

Rep. Scott Reichner (R-9), State Chairman[106]; Telecommunications and Information Technology Task Force

Rep. Cary Smith (R-55)[14][16]; Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force

Rep. Wendy Warburton (R-34)[16]; Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force

Rep. Roy Hollandsworth (R-28); Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force

Rep. Bill James Beck, Sr. (R-6)[14]; Commerce, Insurance and Economic Development Task Force

Rep. Elsie M. Arntzen (R-53)[14]; Commerce, Insurance and Economic Development Task Force

Rep. Jesse A. O’Hara (R-18); Commerce, Insurance and Economic Development Task Force

Rep. Dan D Skattum (R-62); Education Task Force

Rep. Mark W. Blasdel (R-10); Education Task Force

Rep. Gordon Hendrick (R-14); Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force

Rep. Lee Randall (R-39); Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force

Rep. John Esp (R-61); Health and Human Services Task Force

Rep. Liz Bangerter (R-80); Health and Human Services Task Force

Rep. Steve Lavin (R-8); Public Safety and Elections Task Force

Rep. Tom McGillvray (R-50); Civil Justice Task Force

Rep. Michael More (R-70)

Rep. Mike Miller (R-84) Former member



Sen. Jeff Essmann (R-28)[16]

Sen. Bob Lake (R-44); Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force

Sen. Llewelyn C. Jones (R-14); Telecommunications and Information Technology Task Force




52 Comments on "Inside the Bad Idea Factory"

  1. Essmann did a cut & paste with New Mexico & his shining glory of that TURD SB423

  2. It is none too impressive that these GOP-ers think its okay to compensate for their own lack of original thought by copying legislation from other states. Montana is different. Our constitution is different. It’s more modern than other states-written in 1972. Our culture and people are different. Boilerplate legislation or copy-cats from other state will not work here.

  3. Montana HB 642 that established the Select Committee on Efficiency in Government is too much like other bills in other state legislatures around the country! After reading the article in THE NATION,8/1/11, “ALEC Exposed” red flags were flashing! Checking other websites, it was discovered that one of the sponsors of this bill, HB 642, in the Montana 2011 Legislative Sesson was Rep. Basdel of HD#10. Rep. Basdel, has ties with ALEC and is now serving on this select committee. Rep. Reichner of HD#9 is a state co-chair of ALEC and is on the select committee, as well. If I understand the selection process for these committee members, it was done by house and senate leadership. Members of some of the Republican leadership in both the house and sentate have ties to ALEX.
    Question: Are these two select committee members, Rep. Blasdel and Rep. Reichner representing the citizens of their districts and Montana or are they representing ALEC. Because of their commitment to ALEC and the financial ties, I believe they are on the committee for ALEC. The influence ALEC has on state legislatures is so secretive and hidden, we must do all we can to expose who in Montana has ties to this manipulative, controlling organization.
    After attending the first meeting of the Select Committee on Efficiency in Government at Flathead Valley Community College, I realize the task this committee is faced with is overwhelming and not necessary at this time. The $100,000 allocated for this committee should be spent where is really needed. Montana’s budget is just fine. Our fiscal business is in order.

  4. Oh, I get it. The NATION writes an article about the evil right wing model bill churn house and the sky falls. But not a word about the counterpart on the Left, the Progressive States Network.
    Like Montana’s pink legs don’t crib off PSN’s output, or read legislation from more liberal states? “Why Reinvent The Wheel?” they declaim.
    The fact remains, ALEC and PSN are influential on either side because they save legislators more time to grovel for campaign money and pander.

    • Larry Kralj, Environmental Rangers | September 2, 2011 12:09 PM at 12:09 PM |

      Come ON, Skinflute! There is ONLY one reason to attempt to eliminate certain folks from voting, which is a BIG part of ALEC’s agenda. Now, what would that be? Oh yeah, to impede Democratic voters from going to the polls! Why are YOU little fascists so afraid of democracy?? And really, do state legislators really spend so much time “groveling” that they must rely on the Big Kockhs for inspiration?

      Bottom line, Skinflute, the rightwing legislators have bought into the fascist national model that has NOTHING to do with Montana. Birther bills? Voter ID bills??? English only bills??? etc. The list is endless. The reetards in the Teawanker party toe the Big Kockh line, and that is NOT what the Montana legislature is all about.

      And THAT is why Montanans will give these morons the boot next election!’

      Why do you fascists hate democracy?

  5. Here’s another one! Parental Rights Resolution, Rowlie Hutton. SJ 9 This garbage passed.

    Here’s the ALEC model bill:

    • Good! I am GLAD this one passed. TIRED of CPS STEALING children and selling them to the highest bidder! WHAT are you COMPLAINING about here?
      Stupid sheeple.

      • I heard that after they steal the kids, they force them to fill thousands of pizza spice sprinkle packets for Papa John’s WITHOUT PAY and then they sell them.

  6. Thanks Cowgirl, ALEC has been a PARIAH and PARASITE set upon Democracy by the likes of the oligarchs, aka, Koch’heads’ and ilk. We can thank ALEC for bring us our very own ‘DE-REG’ disaster, which has also been linked to ALEC and ENRON….how do you like ‘them apples’ legislators?

  7. Hey Republicans, you are supposed to be “representing” the people of your district, not spewing right wing boilerplate. Wake up and do your job for once. Morons.

  8. Someone told me I was mentioned here and suggested I read the article.

    Let me correct the above article identifying me as a member of ALEC. While I did join ALEC in 2008, my membership has long since expired (well before the 2011 Session).

    If the Liberals don’t have a similar org to help them, they are less organized than I thought.

    • so…
      the “org” serves whose interests, exactly?

    • Larry Kralj, Environmental Rangers | September 2, 2011 8:25 PM at 8:25 PM |

      HEY, thanks for that advice, Mike. BTW, do you happen to know of any rightwing billionaires with assets totaling about FORTY-FIVE BILLION dollars who might be interested in sponsoring some national groups to aid states in advancing things like social justice, worker rights, minority rights, womens rights, and gay rights? And also issues like the environment, jobs, health care, education and the middle class? If you do, I’m ALL EARS!

      Unfortunately, Mike, there are ONLY so many Kockh brothers to go around. And they and their fellow Birchers, fascists, corporatists, Fundiwackmentalists, racists, morons, loonies, wierdos and crooks of all stripes most COMMONLY work to advance their OWN interests through groups like ALEC. It’s just a wee bit disingenous doncha think to suggest that the left can match the right dollar for dollar, ESPECIALLY since the transfer of wealth upward is nearly complete.

      But gee, nice of you to suggest that. It shows that you care.

      But seriously, Mike, do you REALLY think that a STATE legislature needs an extreme rightwing national organization to function? That DOESN’T say much for the qualifications of your people. Is simply implies that they aren’t very capable people.

    • @Mike Miller The Article id’s you as a former member. As for Liberals having a similar org, that’s one of the differences between Republicans and the rest of this Country. Most of us want all people to have a chance, not just rich people.

  9. I wonder, ‘blame’ the Democrats because they don’t have a ‘sleazy, nefarious and twisted’ form of ‘ALEC’ themselves? If we’re saying GOP is more ‘organized’ then so was Al Capone and other ‘Dons’ who
    ORGANIZED their random acts of criminal enterprises.

    • I was all over both sites last night, ALEC limits where you can go unless you have paid dues, Progressive States Network does not.

      • Larry Kralj, Environmental Rangers | September 3, 2011 9:07 AM at 9:07 AM |

        Kinda hard to believe that there’s folks in Montana SO unsophisticated that they can fall under the Big Kockh spell. Hell, the Big Kochs are doing their darndest to RE-introduce Jim Crow laws, except that THIS time, they don’t want just blacks not to vote, but ANY dem not to vote either!

        And that’s kinda hard to understand. For you see, the Teatards all CLAIM to be so patridiotic, yet all their efforts at voter suppresion actually undermine democracy! And really, isn’t democracy what patriotism is all about?

        I’m thinkin’ that some folks are just too easily duped. In fact, a good tatoo for Teatards would be kinda like the biker tatoo Born to Be Wild. The Teatoo should be Born to Be Duped! It fits.

    • Are they saying we should need an Organization like Alec! We never needed it because the best interests are always found in Consensual agreements with the people. That why Dem Ideas are always the best,they are built from the ground up… not handed from the top down!

      Good laws take time to make, they aren’t bartered for…like some old milk cow!where there is a need we try and fill it! Republicans I really do believe, don’t want to share goodness, they want to create it like some game show waving money in the faces of people… if they guess the right door.

      The USA is not a game show, things cant be fixed by money alone! This is why Alec will not work, before an urgency over throws that kind of thinking! Laws must be thoughtful, and like baking a homemade pie… you taste the care that went in it. Not the money!

  10. Folks there in Montana need to look close to home to find one of ALEC and the Koch’s main enablers in Bozeman, Montana. It is the Foundation for Research on Economics and Environment (FREE) in Bozeman: is a link to their “Key” people. Take a look around this site at their “Funding” for instance, their mission and you’ll see it is the same people wearing a different pair of shoes but taking Montana and the rest of American down the wrong path. Many of us have been paying much attention to FREE and their activities…Montana folks please do the same. A little research will show you what they actually do that is so harmful to our legal system and democracy itself.

  11. Big difference between PSN and ALEC – and the major one is that PSN is not funded by corporate interests. Representatives from big Pharma, Insurance and oil and gas do not sit on PSN’s board and tell legislators what legislation they want enacted to benefit their interests. RWer’s always like to throw the PSN and George Soros bone into any conversation that is negative about the Conservative’s nefarious activities.

    Take a moment and read the “Treatise” written upon the teachings of ALEC and Heritage Foundation’s founder, Paul Weyrich here: and compare the directions given in this document to what has happened in America over the past decade since it was written. This provides all the insight into what ALEC and the RW are all about. Reading it be prepared to not only be worried but angry as well.

  12. too much energy goes down about the orgs and who is what blah blah…
    just designed to keep you from reading more important stuff…

  13. Part of understanding the bills etc introduced in Congress is following the Money/Power behind them, since a bill that often looks/sounds like one thing is designed to do something else.

    • exactly…
      so the chirping of the tweeties on the campaign trail is a farce.
      the drivel of the talking heads and the word factories of the papered professional experts is great material for bad brit comedies and…
      nothing else.

  14. Larry Kralj, Environmental Rangers | September 3, 2011 10:14 PM at 10:14 PM |

    NAILS IT! This fat little nazi doesn’t even PRETEND to hide it any longer. Why, he could be ALEC himself! He makes the Big Kockh Bircher Brothers proud! THIS is what ALEC is all about, to disenfranchise the poor, minorities, dems, or ANYone who will vote against the fascist agenda! The reality is that voter suppression tactics have NOTHING, NADA, ZIPPO to do with voter fraud, for voter fraud is non-exISTent! ANYWHERE! In this country. IT DOESN’T FREAKIN’ EXIST!

    SO, I would ask Rep. Miller just WHY he belonged to a group that is obviously one of the MOST anti-democratic groups currently operating in this country? Why does he HATE America, and why does he HATE democracy? And does he STILL call himself a patriot when he is obviously, blatantly not! (but in all fairness to Rep. Miller, he apparently did leave this organization) And that’s a good, legitimate question too. WHY did he leave? Did he discover all this for himself?

    Folks, the nazis are playing their hand out in the open now, and they don’t GIVE two sh*ts who sees it. And that’s kinda scary, for it means that they must feel SO powerful that they’re confident it’s game over. Well, guess we’ll just have to see about that. What’s next, the military to make things “secure”? Or maybe Blackwater, Xe? Private armies?? Or maybe Pope Wendy Wharpedburpin’s Montuna Mlisha??

    • Larry Kralj, Environmental Rangers | September 4, 2011 8:07 AM at 8:07 AM |

      WHO SHOULD BE ALLOWED TO VOTE? Well, this explains it pretty clearly. Now, I say that these aholes in the Pub party should NOT be allowed to call themselves patriotic, for they are NOT believers in democracy. Can one be patriotic in America withOUT being a believer in democracy?

      • Larry Kralj, Environmental Rangers | September 4, 2011 9:59 AM at 9:59 AM |

        IMPORTANT! READ THE ABOVE ARTICLE! This is the most well-written summation of our current situation that I have ever seen, and written by a REPUBLICAN no less! Good GOD why can’t the press (are you LISTENING GF Spitoon?) at LEAST summon up the courage of a Republican? And HEY, it wasn’t ME mentioning that these folks are acting EXACTLY like nazis! It was him! There is no longer a loyal opposition, as the author so effectively points out using historical footnotes. We’re in deep doo doo for lack of courage. (ie. baucus) So, where do we go from here? Down apparently.

        This guy says succinctly and articulately what many of us have been saying for a long time now. If none other, pass this article around. It’s that good. And send a copy to your local rag and tell them to do their damn jobs for once! The lousy cowards make me sick.

  15. Lets see what those little MTGOP people manage to tell us from the MT Legislative ALEC, when they have to put down what else they got past fifty dollars from their corporate sponsors in February! They push a bill this year and its got corporate dollars in their campaign or pocket, they ain’t mentioning, and I will set Lawyers upon them for ethics violations. One thing I will say about our political Practices board, they like going after DEM or GOP… Doesn’t matter to them!

  16. I should surf here more often, it’s nice to see the true thoughts of the opposition.
    As for ALEC, there is Progrssive States Network, a sheltered 501c3 set up “to transform the political landscape by sparking progressive actions at the state level.” So, it’s pure politics, tax free.
    And it’s foundationally-supported. WK Kellogg; Ford Foundation (a hundred grand) Drummod Pike’s Tides Foundation money laundry; oh, and here’s another half-million from Ford for network building….fully a third of PSN’s budget for that year.
    Got a Pingree on the board — the Maine Pingrees, ya know. They’re RICH.
    And there’s Progressive States Action, same address, same person signing the forms, John Podesta’s on there, David Brock (the conservative turncoat), et cetera.
    So, there’s plenty of boilerplate to be had.

    • The American Nazi party is also a 501c3… so whats your point! Just because a criminal becomes legit to accept money to keep doing things not in the light of day doesn’t make him any less a criminal in my mind!

      While there is only one Boiler plate on the right there are hundreds on the left because they try and solve a thousand programs like Hunger,Poverty, disease, Pollution, Ecology, Morality, science… you know all the things that keep a people healthy! Alec is just in it for the money of the corporations. The Corporations… we as a people need to monitor to make sure their impact is always positive towards people not money!

  17. Oh, and the host of Alecwatch or whatever it is, is PR watch, a leftie antibusiness reverse-spin house in nowhere else but Madison Wisconsin. Small world.

  18. Dave you must work for Rove! Cuz you spend a lot of time defending Polluters, war Contractors and Gay bashers!

  19. Nazi? Kralj, you twit, I’m half Yid and used to play chess with old guys with tattoos they didn’t get in the Navy. You are a blot on the landscape, a disgrace.

  20. Big deal you played chess with Old guys with Tattoos, and this makes you an expert! First of all, If your half Yid, which most of us Jews do not call ourselves… you would probably be a Dem which you are not! Lastly he didn’t call you that horrible name. I used it to make a point about ALEC, and didn’t call you it either! Stop changing the subject to win a point you already lost the argument long time ago!

    Gotta be a right winger you went right into victimization mode!

    • Larry Kralj, Environmental Rangers | September 6, 2011 7:24 AM at 7:24 AM |

      Actually, it’s even ex-GOP members who have left the cult who refer to these guys as nazis, not just me. And the parallels are to salient to ignore.

      Sure, the word gets thrown around a lot, but when fascism IS fascism, what other word is one going to use? I do not use it lightly.

      ANYone with any understanding of American history knows that the fascist element has long been part of our country. Hell, Hitler had tremendous support in this country, even from Prescott Bush, who had to be stopped by Congress before he would quit supporting Hitler’s regime.

      I recommend a very good book for folks who have no clue called The Beast Reawakens by Martin A. Lee. The nazis never went away after WWII. There still here. In various forms. Hell, in many cases, the U.S. BROUGHT ex-nazis here! Our good old CIA. Didn’t want the Russians to get their “expertise” you know. And of course many went to S. America to form the basis for all the rightwing fascist goverments down there that OUR country supported in spite of the slaughter of hundred of thousands.

      • Larry Kralj, Environmental Rangers | September 6, 2011 7:45 AM at 7:45 AM |

        Just a brief example. Google and have fun. The nazis never went away, just underground to be supported by all the fascist Pubbies in this country. Why the hell do you THINK that Henry Kissassenger cannot travel abroad? Because he is a war criminal in the eyes of the rest of the world. Spain arrested Pinochet, and Kissassenger would recieve the same. ONLY Americans are blind to the evil their WE’RE NUMBER ONE country has done. Directly propping up fascist dictators around the world who slaughter their people wholesale does NOT make a country number one. But of course, the reetard Teatards don’t want to hear that. Reagan, Cheney, Bush, et al are ALL war criminals. Ask anyone in another country. Hell, Canada had the entire side of a building with Bush’s picture on it stating that he was a war criminal up there in Vancouver when I was up there. And it was wonderful.

        Need more? Do your research. I don’t get paid to teach you. Sorry.

    • Actually, we played chess and they told me stories. If my ever proper grandma had known what we talked about, she’d have fainted.

  21. That’s cuz she thought her children she raised properly, taught you better then what your doing now!

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