When protesters greet members of the American Legislative Exchange Council at their annual convention in New Orleans on Wednesday, it will probably be the first time that most Louisianians have heard of the organization.
ALEC probably likes it that way. Despite the non-threatening sound of its name, the group is behind some of the worst public policy initiatives ever introduced in state legislatures.
Vouchers for private and religious schools, attacks on teacher tenure, watering down special education rules and stripping local school boards of authority to charter schools are all ideas promulgated by ALEC.
But its not just education. From privatizing prisons to stripping worker rights, ALEC has a bag full of model legislation that it pushes in state legislatures across the nation.
As it turns out, ALEC is funded by huge corporations that have a vested interest in changing state laws to siphon public money into corporate pockets. To read more about ALEC's nefarious schemes, click here to access the Center for Media and Democracy's "ALEC Exposed" Web site.
The current president of ALEC is Louisiana State Representative Noble Ellington. He, along with a handful of other Louisiana lawmakers, are being treated to the convention by Louisiana taxpayers.
That's right. Our tax dollars are paying for state lawmakers to attend a convention where they will learn how to send more of our tax dollars straight to the corporations that sponsor the convention.
As the Lafayette Advertiser pointed out in this editorial, we are paying for our legislators to be lobbied on behalf of big business: "ALEC represents the expenditure of private money to influence the political and legislative process, and that makes it lobbying. And the state government has no business picking up the tab for it, whether it's lobbying from the left, the right, corporations, unions, up, down, backwards or forwards."
Commenting on the corporate greed that can warp a capitalist system, former Soviet Union Premier Nikita Kruschev once said, “You will sell us the rope that we will hang you with.”
In Louisiana, it appears that citizens are paying for the scissors that will be used to shred the fabric of our society.