A Vast Right Wing Conspiracy
I sensed for more than a year that a coordinated right wing agenda was driving events in State Capitols – and suspectedÂ that NJ Governor Chris Christie was a leader in this effort (see this March 26, 2010 post: Â Christieâ€™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 wereÂ heightenedÂ when our neighboringÂ Pennsylvania Republican Gubernatorial candidate advocated a regulatory policyÂ platform very similar to Governor Christie’s.
Then after the fall 2010 election,Â Maine and Florida GovernorsÂ both announced anti-environmental “Red Tape” regulatory rollback initiatives. Press coverage in MaineÂ stated that it was modelled on Christie NJ efforts.
Well, it isÂ all much clearer now, thanks to the research ofÂ University of Wisconsin history professor Bill CrononÂ - there really is a vast right wing conspiracy.
Cronon writes aboutÂ 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 challengesâ€“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 onâ€“Iâ€™ve found myself wondering where all of this legislation is coming from.
Cronon traces that coordinated legislative effortÂ 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, Iâ€™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 â€œmodel billsâ€ 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 youâ€™re as impressed by these numbers as I am, Iâ€™m hoping youâ€™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 ALECâ€™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 targetÂ and ideological obsession of these right wingers.
There are reasons for that. It isÂ because environmental protection involves a strong role for government intervention in so called “free markets” and regulation of powerful corporations -Â both conceptsÂ 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.
Interestingly, one of the most critical accounts of ALECâ€™s activities was issued by Defenders of Wildlife and the Natural Resources Defense Council in a 2002 report entitled Corporate Americaâ€™s Trojan Horse in the States. Although NRDC and Defenders may seem like odd organizations to issue such a report, some of ALECâ€™s most concentrated efforts have been directed at rolling back environmental protections, so their authorship of the report isnâ€™t so surprising. The report and its associated press release are here:
For doing this research, creating his own superbÂ blog (Scholar as Citizen), publishing a hard hitting Op-Ed in the NY Times (Wisconsin’s Radical Break)Â and taking on this fight, Cronon has come under attack.
A Wisconsin Republican legislator has filed a McCarthyiteÂ 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 -Â isÂ 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 thatÂ a McCarthyite public records request was filed by Republicans tointimidate and silence a university of WisconsinÂ professor, I must note that we reported and condemned veryÂ similar abusive tactics here in NJ.
Specifically, Dupont filed a NJÂ Open Public Records Act (OPRA)Â request that targeted DEP scientist. We wrote in “Dupont: Doubt (and intimidation) Are Their Product“:
In a hostile move, lawyers representing DuPont filed several Â 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.Â As the goodÂ Wisconsin professor eloquently wrote:
It is precisely thisÂ fear of intellectual inquiry being stifled by the abuse of state power that has long led scholars and scientists to cherish the phrase â€œacademic freedomâ€ as passionately as most Americans cherish such phrases as â€œfree speechâ€ and â€œthe First Amendment.â€