Big Government’s New Bogeyman…and those Other Guys

Media outlets in Pennsylvania have picked up some stories of attack groups “exposing” the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) at their annual meeting in New Orleans this week.

ALEC is a membership organization in which legislators can share best practices and lessons learned from their colleagues in other states. Yet these special interest groups look at sharing of policy ideas and see a “vast right-wing conspiracy” where none exists. This is just one more chapter in big government advocates’ search for an evil bogeyman. From the Koch brothers to the claims that Grover Norquist is Pennsylvania policymakers’ puppet master, those who favor government coercion simply can’t grasp that the public wants fiscally conservative policies. They cannot fathom why voters have rejected the same failed big-government solutions of the past.

Yet the stories raise an interesting question: Should taxpayer funds be used to pay membership dues or cover travel expenses related to professional development? But this question should be extended to all membership dues for policymakers to join organizations, particularly those that influence policy.

These include the National Conference of State Legislators, Council of State Governments, National League of Cities, Conference of Mayors, National Governor’s Association, Pennsylvania Association of Township Supervisors, County Commissioners Association, and the Pennsylvania School Boards Association—which we discovered receives more than $13 million in direct payments from school districts.

If these anti-freedom attack groups, and those reporting on their attacks, want to have any semblance of consistency, they have to address all professional organizations for politicians, not just the ones they disagree with.