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A Vast Right Wing Conspiracy


[Update below]

I sensed for more than a year that a coordinated right wing agenda was driving events in State Capitols – and suspected that NJ Governor Chris Christie was a leader in this effort (see this March 26, 2010 post: Christie’s Environmental Rollbacks Receiving National Attention)

For example, long before the Wisconsin protests, I noticed that shortly after Christie cancelled the ARC tunnel project, similar public transit projects were killed in Ohio and Wisconsin, Republican places where Christie had campaigned.

My suspicions were heightened when our neighboring Pennsylvania Republican Gubernatorial candidate advocated a regulatory policy platform very similar to Governor Christie’s.

Then after the fall 2010 election, Maine and Florida Governors both announced anti-environmental “Red Tape” regulatory rollback initiatives. Press coverage in Maine stated that it was modelled on Christie NJ efforts.

Well, it is all much clearer now, thanks to the research of University of Wisconsin history professor Bill Cronon – there really is a vast right wing conspiracy.

Cronon writes about his own similar thoughts:

After watching the sudden and impressively well-organized wave of legislation being introduced into state legislatures that all seem to be pursuing parallel goals only tangentially related to current fiscal challenges ending collective bargaining rights for public employees, requiring photo IDs at the ballot box, rolling back environmental protections, privileging property rights over civil rights, and so on I’ve found myself wondering where all of this legislation is coming from.

Cronon traces that coordinated legislative effort to a right wing group called the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC):

Telling Your State Legislators What to Do:
The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)

The most important group, I’m pretty sure, is the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which was founded in 1973 by Henry Hyde, Lou Barnett, and (surprise, surprise) Paul Weyrich. Its goal for the past forty years has been to draft “model bills” that conservative legislators can introduce in the 50 states. Its website claims that in each legislative cycle, its members introduce 1000 pieces of legislation based on its work, and claims that roughly 18% of these bills are enacted into law. (Among them was the controversial 2010 anti-immigrant law in Arizona.)

If you’re as impressed by these numbers as I am, I’m hoping you’ll agree with me that it may be time to start paying more attention to ALEC and the bills its seeks to promote.
You can start by studying ALEC’s own website. Begin with its home page at

Cronon writes about environmental history and I am pleased to note that he recognizes that attacks on the environment are a primary target and ideological obsession of these right wingers.

There are reasons for that. It is because environmental protection involves a strong role for government intervention in so called “free markets” and regulation of powerful corporations – both concepts that are ideologically taboo in right wing circles.

I’ve been writing about and trying to get these points across for years – ideology is very frequently the determining factor in environmental policy disputes.

Cronon writes:

Interestingly, one of the most critical accounts of ALEC’s activities was issued by Defenders of Wildlife and the Natural Resources Defense Council in a 2002 report entitled Corporate America’s Trojan Horse in the States. Although NRDC and Defenders may seem like odd organizations to issue such a report, some of ALEC’s most concentrated efforts have been directed at rolling back environmental protections, so their authorship of the report isn’t so surprising. The report and its associated press release are here:

For doing this research, creating his own superb blog (Scholar as Citizen), publishing a hard hitting Op-Ed in the NY Times (Wisconsin’s Radical Break) and taking on this fight, Cronon has come under attack.

A Wisconsin Republican legislator has filed a McCarthyite public records request for his emails – which the NY Times editorial page blasted today (see “A Shabby Crusade in Wisconsin“.

The Republicans over-reach in Wisconsin – home of “have you no shame” Senator McCarthy – is really showing the ugly and ideologically extreme agenda that has captured the party.

Lets hope Americans finally wake up and fight back, so that the Wisconsin battle turns out to be their Waterloo.

[Update 1: while the NY Times editorial page and much of the country are correctly outraged that a McCarthyite public records request was filed by Republicans tointimidate and silence a university of Wisconsin professor, I must note that we reported and condemned very similar abusive tactics here in NJ.

Specifically, Dupont filed a NJ Open Public Records Act (OPRA) request that targeted DEP scientist. We wrote in “Dupont: Doubt (and intimidation) Are Their Product“:

In a hostile move, lawyers representing DuPont filed several OPRA requests that personally targeted and intimidated the DEP scientists conducting the PFOA research.

Scientists should enjoy the same intellectual freedom as scholars – free from both abuse of state and corporate power. As the good Wisconsin professor eloquently wrote:

It is precisely this fear of intellectual inquiry being stifled by the abuse of state power that has long led scholars and scientists to cherish the phrase “academic freedom” as passionately as most Americans cherish such phrases as “free speec” and “the First Amendment.”

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  1. renee
    July 5th, 2011 at 20:52 | #1

    Is there anywhere to find a list of legislator members? I have been working on compiling a list based on ALEC’s newsletters etc… ALEC is one of the most frightening groups that I have stumbled upon.
    Another thing that I have noticed is the labyrinth of think tanks and non-profits that seem to have taken over. They cite each other and share staff. They extol the virtues of “anything for profit” and “free enterprise” from their seats at non-profit tables. I can only assume that sitting at one of these non-profits is very profitable. it is no wonder that these folks have declared war on the working man and woman, none of them know what an honest day of work is. They are to busy “thinking” in tanks!

  2. July 5th, 2011 at 22:03 | #2


    Hi Renee – I also tried to get ALEC Legislator members, but it is a restricted access field, have to be an ALEC member. I did note the NJ reps, though – they are published. I agree that ALEC AFP, Koch Bro’s, RGA and several other rigth wing groups and think tansk are sharing work and coordianting/organizig. We have AFP and Teabaggers now active in NJ – they were running ad agaisnt RGGI a few weeks back and have been in Tretnon very recently. There is a Brietbart imitation video group as well – so, I urge my colleagues to beware of getting hit.

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