A "Smart ALEC" in Wisconsin?
MADISON, Wis. - A Madison organization says much of what appears to be a home-grown conservative agenda is actually being generated by corporate interests far from Wisconsin. The Center for Media and Democracy has been studying the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and says that group has supplied pre-packaged bills introduced in scores of states, with Wisconsin leading the way.
More than 800 ALEC-inspired bills are listed on a website, www.ALECEXPOSED.org, created by the Center. Mary Bottari, director of the Center's Real Economy Project, says these ALEC-inspired bills have had a huge impact in the state on issues such as collective bargaining, tort reform and unions.
"Bills like the one we had here in Wisconsin that prevent the state, county or municipal employers from withholding union dues."
Bottari says ALEC bills, which largely benefit the organization's corporate members, have been introduced in legislatures in every state - but without disclosing to the public that corporations had drafted or voted on them through ALEC.
ALEC supporters say they simply offer conservative lawmakers a resource when drafting legislation.
Bottari says many bills that appeared to be home-grown in Wisconsin have their roots with ALEC.
"Photo voter-ID bills that have spread from state to state, and passed in this state, Wisconsin, are also based on ALEC models."
The Center says ALEC has longstanding roots in Wisconsin, going back to the Thompson administration in the late 1980s and early '90s with such issues as school choice and Welfare to Work. According to Bottari, in 2002 Thompson told an ALEC conference, "I always loved going to these meetings because I always found new ideas. Then I'd take them back to Wisconsin, disguise them a little bit and declare that it's mine."