The Left's Latest Witch Hunt

APRIL 20, 2012 | by NATHAN BENEFIELD

The Wall Street Journal and Pennsylvania Independent both feature stories about attacks from leftist groups against the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). The free-market association of state lawmakers is being criticized for having model legislation including "Stand Your Ground" legislation (though much of the criticism of that bill is based on misinformation) and voter identification bills.

Spearheading this latest witch hunt is the group Color of Change—founded by Van Jones, a former Obama green jobs czar who resigned over revelations of his ties to 911Truth and a Marxist group. But these attacks against ALEC are not new. Last year, I debated Michael Morrill of Keystone Progress—an organization supported by government unions, ACORN, and Planned Parenthood—on WHYY Philadelphia following their cookie-cutter critique of ALEC.

These big government groups attacking ALEC are just looking for another bogeyman. From demagoguery that "Big Oil" controls the government, or Grover Norquist controls Pennsylvania, or that the thousands of Tea Party activists are just puppets of the Koch brothers, these attacks are expected from progressives looking to demonize those who challenge their agenda.

Keystone Progress has been particularly critical of ALEC model legislation introduced in Pennsylvania that would refuse to implement the "individual mandate" in the federal health care law. What they fail to note is this bill is based on legislation already enacted in 15 states—including overwhelming support on voter referendums in Oklahoma, Missouri and Arizona. Nor do they realize that voter ID laws passed in Pennsylvania and other states because 70 percent of voters think they are necessary, not because of an ALEC-led conspiracy.

Rather than a bogeyman behind the curtain, ALEC serves as a meeting place for lawmakers to share best practices from the 50 states, discuss successful policies, and share legislation that can be taken to other states to repeat those successes. ALEC serves as clearinghouse for the "laboratories of democracy."

Indeed, more Pennsylvania legislators could benefit from joining ALEC and talking to legislators from other states about their experiences enacting school choice, privatizing government-run liquor stores, or reforming government unions.

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