Koch-backed ALEC infiltrates local governments

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Koch Brothers Exposed is now available in the updated Koch Brothers Exposed: 2014 Edition. — Photo: Courtesy

The organization that delivered stand-your-ground bills and suppress-the-vote measures to statehouses around the country is now following that old phrase: Think globally, act locally. 

The American Legislative Exchange Council is taking an interest in local governments, which troubles the progressives who demonstrated for days outside the ALEC’s annual conference in Dallas earlier this summer. “You know the ‘think global, act local’ saying? It’s OK when it applies to picking up trash. It’s scary when it applies to companies and the conservative lawmakers they own,” said Paul Reynolds, who protested with an Occupy-style group.

ALEC national chair Linda Upmeyer, Iowa’s majority leader, welcomed those attending the conference to develop policies. “Every year, we look forward to this meeting as an opportunity to hear new ideas and expand our understanding of limited government, free markets and federalism,” she said.

Over the course of three days, conference attendees attended training sessions and heard from Koch-backed elected officials.

ALEC, which is mostly funded with corporate money or corporate foundation money, is not a new organization, and it is not newly dangerous to progressive causes. But ALEC has relatively newfound infamy, in large part because it drafted model bills for some of the most conservative and controversial measures passed in U.S. statehouses in recent years. Those measures broadened self-defense laws, rolled back collective bargaining rights and provided clearance for racial profiling by police.

Now an offshoot of ALEC, the American City County Exchange, has formed to promote conservative corporate interests at the local level. ACCE arrived a time when municipalities are adopting progressive policies to raise the minimum wage, guarantee sick leave for workers, institute new environmental protections, push to overturn Citizens United, form health coops, refuse federal demands to incarcerate undocumented immigrants and advance marriage equality.

Some predict ACCE will operate in concert with Americans for Prosperity, the Koch-backed group that invested this year in the school board election in Kenosha and the board of supervisors election in Iron County.

ACCE’s first meeting coincided with ALEC’s conference. One workshop topic was “releasing local governments from the grip of collective bargaining.”

The conference also brought an announcement that the National Federation of Independent Business — a group that has received millions from Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS, Koch brother entities and other right-wing funders — joined the ALEC board. The Center for Media and Democracy said the NFIB is a front group with big-business interests that claims to represents small businesses.