Sunday, March 27, 2011

ALEC Emails Are Revealing

UW-Madison history professor William Cronon has been targeted by the Republican Party of Wisconsin (RPW). Apparently they didn't like him exposing the influence of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)on Wisconsin's Republican legislators. Cronon's writing and the resulting RPW attack has sparked a national discussion regarding the influence of the special interest funded ALEC. The Capital Times' "Vital Signs" column today gives us yet another view of ALEC's influence on the extreme health care legislation quickly being churned out in Madison in the last few months.

Since the RPW is so interested in professor Cronon's emails, I thought that it might be a good time to take a look at a selection of ALEC emails to one of their Wisconsin members. They give us a behind-the-scenes look at ALEC's process, influence and the eventual policy that they produce. These emails were obtained from State Senator Leah Vukmir (while she was still a state representative) through an open records request that was made last year:

  • Early in 2009 Milwaukee Magazine named Leah Vukmir one of the worst legislators in Madison. They largely based this designation on observations made by several fellow Republicans. In July of the same year ALEC conveniently bestowed upon Vukmir their so-called "Legislator of the Year" award. Here is an email exchange related to that award. In it we discover that Vukmir sent the ALEC PR person a list of media to contact about the award. She emphasizes that a press release be sent to her local media. Only a few hours later Vukmir gets a big "congratulations!" from an associate editorial page editor of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

  • Yet another series of 2009 emails to Leah Vukmir was regarding an ALEC task force meant to fight meaningful health care reform in Congress. Those emails encourage members to sign on to a form letter to Speaker Pelosi. They also tout their PR campaign against HCR, and promote an ALEC drafted state constitutional amendment against HCR. Easily the most revealing email is the one from the ALEC donor relations person. It is about "prospect outreach" and it asks the task force members to call two of the big biz interests that are fully listed in the email.

  • To get an even better behind-the-scenes view into the inner-workings of ALEC, there are these emails from an executive in a multinational biopharmaceutical company. It shows us how a bill becomes a law ALEC-style. The executive's title is "Director, State Government Relations". In his email he thanks Vukmir for her help with draft model resolution that he has submitted to ALEC. It involves stem cell science and "cord blood/placenta blood banking and research." He suggests that it provides some cover to legislators that oppose embryonic stem cell research. He also makes it clear that it is an area that his company is "actively engaged in".


We Are Wisconsin said...

Thank you for all the info! Keep it coming!

MyBeautifulMalcontent said...

Wow, very interesting. ALEC has quite the influence. Thanks for writing about it!

Anonymous said...

Yeah.. we need more FOIA on all ALEC members..

Anonymous said...

I think it would be interesting to see how prudent a steward of state resources Professor Althouse has been for the last 3 or 4 months.

Don't you?