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, ALECexposed.org. 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.