Back in October, we took note–though apparently few others did–of a meeting held in relative secrecy at the Denver Hyatt’s Pinnacle Club of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). ALEC, funded by major corporate and traditional conservative major donors such as the Koch brothers and the Coors family’s Castle Rock Foundation, develops “model legislation” which is then distributed to individual state legislators to introduce.
Recently, ALEC’s work has come under heavy scrutiny as examples of their “model legislation”–targeting employee rights, tort reform, school privatization, anti-”fracking” regulation bills, and a host of other easily-recognizable conservative policy goals have surfaced around the country. In Virginia last week, it was disclosed by the Washington Post that over 50 pieces of legislation introduced in the Virginia General Assembly in recent years were based on ALEC templates.
In Colorado, the role of ALEC in ghostwriting legislation introduced in our legislature is fairly mysterious as it is in most states. ALEC’s website lists Senate Minority Leader Bill Cadman (R) and House Majority Whip B.J. Nikkel (R) as the “state chairmen” of the organization, but no particular bill has ever been represented as a product of ALEC’s “model legislation.”
Because that’s not how ALEC rolls.
But there are many clues that ALEC’s presence in Colorado is very well established. You have key members of House and Senate Republican leadership as state chairs. There was the event in October we were made aware of at the Hyatt’s swanky Pinnacle Club. And here’s another–Rep. J. Paul Brown’s Christmas letter, as published in the Durango Herald:
I am thankful for the opportunity to serve the people of the 59th Colorado House District. The last year has been memorable and productive as we have balanced a state budget at a time when tax revenues were down because of a sagging economy. I’m thankful that the latest economic report shows a marked improvement, and even though we may still face budget difficulties in 2012, it will not be as difficult as in 2011.
I recently attended my first meeting of the American Legislative Exchange Council. [Pols emphasis] This is a national organization of state legislators that, along with both private and public partners, attempts to come up with policies and strategies that will help our country as a whole…
Is it us, or might J. Paul Brown have just committed a foul by talking openly about his quality time with ALEC? It’s particularly interesting in Rep. Brown’s case, having established a reputation as, to put it charitably, an intellectual lightweight in the legislature. Brown spent his first year in office on such madcap crusades as being the only representative to vote against homeless youth services, and championing a bill to undo a statewide vote regulating bear hunting.
This session, however, as the Durango Herald reported just before the new year:
With medical insurance costs still rising, Brown said he would like to pass legislation to increase competition between health-care insurance companies and hopefully drive down prices. State-specific rules now regulate how many insurance companies operate in the state and how they do business. Multi-state agreements might allow more competition in Colorado, he said. [Pols emphasis]
Brown said he has much to learn about the issue, though…
To learn more, check out ALEC’s model Health Care Choice Act For States. Because it’s a pretty safe bet that this is what Rep. J. Paul Brown will be “learning” too.
Folks, ALEC is here. And when the Colorado General Assembly convenes next week, you might be surprised–or perhaps not at all surprised–to discover just how “here” they are. Stay tuned…