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Is ALEC Jr. Coming to Whatcom County or Bellingham Soon?

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“ALEC, Jr.” from the American Legislative Exchange Council could be coming our way in the near future. As many of you may already know, ALEC is a decades-old front organization for corporations pushing “free market” and ultra-right type legislation throughout the state legislatures under the guise of providing “non-partisan” information to legislators. The American City County Exchange (ACCE), roughly the Rosemary’s Baby of its father, ALEC, has been brought forth to target cities and counties across the U.S. in the same way that the father organization has wrought havoc with its influence in state legislatures since its creation in 1973. ALEC is largely responsible for the infamous stand-your-ground type legislation that has a version now in 20 states. This right-wing organization also mucks about in privatizing education, relaxing or eliminating environmental legislation, corporate tax reduction, et cetera, et ad nauseam. Having had tremendous success at the state level on many issues, ALEC now sees ripe fruit hanging at the city and county level. So get ready. In the meantime, enjoy a short primer on ALEC here.

According to a recent article in the Guardian, “The new organisation [ACCE] will offer corporate America a direct conduit into the policy making process of city councils and municipalities. Lobbyists acting on behalf of major businesses will be able to propose resolutions and argue for new profit-enhancing legislation in front of elected city officials, who will then return to their council chambers and seek to implement the proposals.” Even for those familiar with the antics of ALEC, you may want to read a piece that appeared in Truthdig several years ago entitled “Corporate Front Group Burns Americans.” Having junior versions of this secretive organization mucking about with our city and county councils should make your hair stand on end.

Local tactics may resemble the following, according to the Guardian. “By joining ACCE’s council committee, corporate lobbyists can ‘participate in policy development and network with other entrepreneurs and municipal officials from around the country.’ In committee meetings, lobbyists will be allowed to ‘present facts and opinions for discussion’ and introduce resolutions for new policies that they want to see implemented in a city. At the end of such meetings, the elected officials present in the room will take a vote before returning to their respective council chambers armed with new legislative proposals.”

Although there is no direct evidence that Belllingham or Whatcom County is presently in the legislative sights of ACCE, issues like the Gateway Pacific Terminal may attract its attention much like the smell of offal attracts hyenas.

About Dick Conoboy

Writer • Member since Jan 26, 2008

Dick Conoboy is a recovering civilian federal worker and military officer who was offered and accepted an all-expense paid, one year trip to Vietnam in 1968. He is a former Army [...]

Comments by Readers

Paul Schissler

Mar 23, 2014

Thanks for that, Conoboy. Although depessing, we all need to know whose tactics might be messing with our local self-determination. 

Solid evidence the big-moneyed propaganda machine has more to spend influencing local decisions,  promoting bad policy and dumb ideas. Too bad big-moneyed interests are choosing to bankroll bad policy. It ought to be called civil malpractice to promote bad ideas using incomplete or misleading information about the facts and policy options.  Anyone who practices civil malpractice ought to be called out on it.

Back to ALEC - there may be some lessons learned. Part of the ALEC system shows us a good way to aid elected officials. Maybe locally we can copy the better parts of those tactics, even if we only have a shoestring budget. (Most of us are among the less moneyed. According to Christian logic, being less moneyed is good, and normal.) 

I suggest we can convene a series of regional forums focused on the most challenging topics of our times. We can invite electeds, local and outside experts, our friends and our opponents.  I nominate Affordability as a focus for one of the first forums, perhaps at the Old Post Office Building downtown, in the forum friendly courtroom on the second floor.  I nominate Farm Land as another focus. Any other suggestions I’ll be happy to put them on a list.

We have local officials who want to work with us. Let’s see what might be possible. And for the forum series, we can call it a think tank and see who wants to bankroll our shoestring budget.


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