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Cry Me A River: The Parent Trigger And The Misfortunes Of Poor ALEC, DFER and Rishawn Biddle

The powers that be at the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a corporate funded, right wing outfit that writes model legislation for state and local officials who apparently can’t write themselves, are feeling mighty sorry for themselves these days.

It seems that a confluence of different political events have exposed much of ALEC’s work and political agenda, revealing the connections among a number of their projects:

  • In the wake of the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, ALEC’s role in writing and disseminating “stand your ground” gun laws which make armed individuals into judge, jury and executioner have drawn considerable public scrutiny, especially after it was learned that Florida officials originally cited one such law as a reason for not indicting George Zimmerman, the man who had shot Trayvon. (Special Prosecutor Angela Corey recently overrode that initial determination, and indicted Zimmerman for second degree murder.) Read Paul Krugman’s takedown. And don’t miss Shoot ‘Em Up Charlie’s story.
  • Tea Party Republicans in Wisconsin, Ohio, North Carolina, Maine, Florida and Texas have all passed “voter suppression” laws designed to make it more difficult for poor, minority, elderly and student Americans to vote by introducing such onerous requirements as the presentation of government issued, photographic identification. It’s an Anti-Voting Rights Act, a modern day literacy test, enacted on the theory that those groups who find it hardest to meet these new burdens will vote overwhelmingly for the more progressive candidates. And who is behind the law? Why our friend, ALEC. Read the New York Times editorial on the issue.
  • Since the 2010 elections, Tea Party Republican governors and Tea Party controlled state legislatures have been passing legislation crafted to eviscerate the right of public sector workers to organize into an union and bargain collectively. The most famous of these efforts were in Wisconsin and Ohio — leading to the recall of Governor Scott Walker and Tea Party legislators in Wisconsin and to a referendum which overwhelmingly repealed the anti-union law in Ohio. It was in the battle for Wisconsin that America first learned of the role of the Koch brothers in supporting ALEC and its anti-union legislation.

Now, in the midst of the latest controversy, it has become clear that ALEC has also played a major role in writing the so-called “parent trigger” laws designed to allow charter management organizations to engage in hostile takeovers of public schools. Interestingly, the web page on the ALEC site which contained the model “parent trigger” law has been taken down, out of the fear, one would presume, that increased public attention on ALEC and its role in promoting reactionary, anti-public education legislation could become a tad bit embarrassing. But the good folks at ALEC Exposed, a virtual clearinghouse on all matters ALEC sponsored by the Center for Media and Democracy, have a library of all the draft ALEC education legislation, and there one finds the missing ALEC model “parent trigger” legislation.

Now for the last two years, DFER’s Gloria Romero, a former State Senator in California, has told all who will listen that she was the author of California parent trigger law. Yet when one compares the text of that law with the ALEC model legislation, it certainly appears that someone’s ‘cut and paste’ word processing function was busily at work. And this comes right after the administration of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has been trying to explain the remarkable symmetries between its proposed education legislation, including pieces sponsored  by New Jersey ALEC chairman Jay Webber (R-Morris), and ALEC model education legislation. Maybe we need a legislative Turnitin, modeled after the site that checks for plagiarized term papers, to scrutinize proposed legislation.

As the role of ALEC in “parent trigger” laws is revealed, it will become harder and harder to maintain the fiction that the cyncially named Parent Revolution is an authentic grass roots movement. Rishawn Biddle, who is at no loss for words when it comes to falsely accusing teacher unions of being anti-parent and to misrepresenting Randi Weingarten’s teaching record, has nothing to say.

In recent days, outrage over its role in Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law and “voter suppression” laws has put ALEC on the defensive. Major corporate funders, fearful of being linked to ALEC’s public relations disaster, have been jumping off the ALEC ship at a remarkably fast clip — Coca-Cola, Pepsi, McDonald’s, Kraft and Intuit have only been the most prominent corporations to say Adios to ALEC. Yesterday, ALEC waved what it wanted us to believe was a white flag, saying it would disband its task force that worked on those two issues, and refocus on economic issues — a code word for its anti-union work. Today, the Wall Street Journal is rushing to its defense, shedding many tears on how unfair it is to hold ALEC responsible for its right wing legislation.

Cry me a river.

(An incomplete draft of this post was inadvertently published for a brief time yesterday. This is the complete version.)

 

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