The critics the American Legislative Exchange Council would have you believe that this non-partisan free-market organization hangs out in the shadows of our Statehouse and of state capitols nationwide, manipulating lawmakers to do its evil bidding. These ALEC critics would also have you believe that ALEC writes most of Idaho’s laws through an elaborate and ugly mixture of corporate contributions (gasp!), marionette lawmakers and boiled puppy dogs. (ALEC is evil, so of course it would boil puppies.)
It’s an interesting picture that has the benefit of allowing the enemies of free markets to pull off an amazing sleight of hand. They’re hoping you’ll be so angered by ALEC’s influence and reach that you won’t notice their own role in the development of public policy in Idaho and elsewhere.
ALEC has been an invaluable resource and friend to me and the Idaho Freedom Foundation. Few people know how often I have asked ALEC’s staff for help battling big-government ideas, including the federal health care takeover and the imposition of confiscatory tax polices. And it has always responded. It has helped slay the dragon that is the president’s health care reform law and reject the idea of making businesses from out of state play tax collectors for Idaho through the Streamline Sales Tax Project. It has offered intellectual ammunition to help make our state more prosperous through publications such as “Rich States, Poor States.”
The beneficiaries of such a partnership are our state’s residents and entrepreneurs, who’re too busy making a living, raising their families and searching for their own piece of the American dream to notice what we’re doing to ensure a brighter tomorrow. I’m grateful for ALEC, and you should be, too. Corporate and individual donors give to groups like ALEC and IFF because they know that in order to improve the human condition, there is no substitute on Earth for free-market public policies. ALEC’s enemies fail to mention the millions of dollars spent by the beneficiaries of big government inside our own Statehouse year after year. The money comes pouring in to push the agenda of Big Labor, Education Inc., and the agenda of those interests that make money off the government social welfare programs at the expense of the poor and disabled.
Then there’s the government bureaucracy and its nearly-limitless resources that have permanent residence in our state capitols. Government agencies write legislation to help sustain and enlarge government. And aided by taxpayer-funded groups including the National Conference of State Legislatures, these interests have tremendous reach and presence in the halls of government. Free-market ideas, and the organizations that support those concepts, fight against the odds, against mammoth-sized, well-funded, take-no-prisoners opposition.
Ever wonder why it is so hard to reform entitlement programs in a state like Idaho? Ever wonder why education reforms, intended to improve our public schools and enhance student achievement, are so difficult to pass? It is because advocates for the status quo and for government solutions abound, even in Idaho. Make no mistake, free-market advocates, including the Idaho Freedom Foundation and the American Legislative Exchange Council, play the part of David to the statists’ Goliath. It is not the other way around. Oh, and if anyone should ask, we love, love, love puppy dogs. Live puppy dogs.