Who’s Really Behind Recent Republican Legislation in Wisconsin and Elsewhere? (Hint: It Didn’t Start Here)

A Study Guide for Those Wishing to Know More

After watching the sudden and impressively well-organized wave of legislation being introduced into state legislatures that all seem to be pursuing parallel goals only tangentially related to current fiscal challenges–ending collective bargaining rights for public employees, requiring photo IDs at the ballot box, rolling back environmental protections, privileging property rights over civil rights, and so on–I’ve found myself wondering where all of this legislation is coming from.

The Walker-Koch Prank Phone Call Reveals A Lot, But Not Nearly Enough

The prank phone call that Governor Scott Walker unhesitatingly accepted from a blogger purporting to be billionaire conservative donor David Koch has received lots of airplay, and it certainly demonstrates that the governor is accustomed to having conversations with deep-pocketed folks who support his cause. If you’ve not actually seen the transcript, it’s worth a careful reading, and is accessible here:

But even though I’m more than prepared to believe that David and Charles Koch have provided large amounts of money to help fund the conservative flood tide that is sweeping through state legislatures right now, I just don’t find it plausible that two brothers from Wichita, Kansas, no matter how wealthy, can be responsible for this explosion of radical conservative legislation. It also goes without saying that Scott Walker cannot be single-handedly responsible for what we’re seeing either; I wouldn’t believe that even for Wisconsin, let alone for so many other states. The governor clearly welcomes the national media attention he’s receiving as a spear-carrier for the movement. But he’s surely not the architect of that movement.

So…who is?

Conservative History Post-1964: A Brilliant Turnaround Story

I can’t fully answer that question in a short note, but I can sketch its outline and offer advice for those who want to fill in more of the details.

I’ll start by saying–a professorial impulse I just can’t resist–that it’s well worth taking some time to familiarize yourself with the history of the conservative movement in the United States since the 1950s if you haven’t already studied the subject. Whatever you think of its politics, I don’t think there can be any question that the rise of modern conservatism is one of the great turnaround stories in twentieth-century American history. It’s quite a fascinating series of events, in which a deeply marginalized political movement–tainted by widespread public reaction against Senator Joe McCarthy, the John Birch Society, and the massively defeated Barry Goldwater campaign of 1964–managed quite brilliantly to remake itself (and American politics) in the decades that followed.

I provide a brief reading list at the end of this note because many people from other parts of the political spectrum often seem not to take the intellectual roots of American conservatism very seriously. I believe this is a serious mistake. One key insight you should take from this history is that after the Goldwater defeat in 1964, visionary conservative leaders began to build a series of organizations and networks designed to promote their values and construct systematic strategies for sympathetic politicians. Some of these organizations are reasonably well known–for instance, the Heritage Foundation, founded in 1973 by Paul Weyrich, a Racine native and UW-Madison alumnus who also started the Moral Majority and whose importance to the movement is almost impossible to overestimate–but many of these groups remain largely invisible.

That’s why events like the ones we’ve just experienced in Wisconsin can seem to come out of nowhere. Few outside the conservative movement have been paying much attention, and that is ill-advised.  (I would, by the way, say the same thing about people on the right who don’t make a serious effort to understand the left in this country.)

It’s also important to understand that events at the state level don’t always originate in the state where they occur. Far from it.

Basic Tools for Researching Conservative Groups

If you run across a conservative organization you’ve never heard of before and would like to know more about it, two websites can sometimes be helpful for quick overviews:
Right Wing Watch: http://www.rightwingwatch.org/
SourceWatch: http://www.sourcewatch.org
Both of these lean left in their politics, so they obviously can’t be counted on to provide sympathetic descriptions of conservative groups. (If I knew of comparable sites whose politics were more conservative, I’d gladly provide them here; please contact me if you know of any and I’ll add them to this note.) But for obvious reasons, many of these groups prefer not to be monitored very closely. Many maintain a low profile, so one sometimes learns more about them from their left-leaning critics than from the groups themselves.

I don’t want this to become an endless professorial lecture on the general outlines of American conservatism today, so let me turn to the question at hand: who’s really behind recent Republican legislation in Wisconsin and elsewhere?  I’m professionally interested in this question as a historian, and since I can’t bring myself to believe that the Koch brothers single-handedly masterminded all this, I’ve been trying to discover the deeper networks from which this legislation emerged.

Here’s my preliminary answer.

Telling Your State Legislators What to Do:
The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)

The most important group, I’m pretty sure, is the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which was founded in 1973 by Henry Hyde, Lou Barnett, and (surprise, surprise) Paul Weyrich. Its goal for the past forty years has been to draft “model bills” that conservative legislators can introduce in the 50 states. Its website claims that in each legislative cycle, its members introduce 1000 pieces of legislation based on its work, and claims that roughly 18% of these bills are enacted into law. (Among them was the controversial 2010 anti-immigrant law in Arizona.)

If you’re as impressed by these numbers as I am, I’m hoping you’ll agree with me that it may be time to start paying more attention to ALEC and the bills its seeks to promote.
You can start by studying ALEC’s own website. Begin with its home page at
First visit the “About” menu to get a sense of the organization’s history and its current members and funders. But the meat of the site is the “model legislation” page, which is the gateway to the hundreds of bills that ALEC has drafted for the benefit of its conservative members.

You’ll of course be eager to look these over…but you won’t be able to, because you’re not a member.

Becoming a Member of ALEC: Not So Easy to Do

How do you become a member?  Simple. Two ways.  You can be an elected Republican legislator who, after being individually vetted, pays a token fee of roughly $100 per biennium to join.  Here’s the membership brochure to use if you meet this criterion:
What if you’re not a Republican elected official?  Not to worry. You can apply to join ALEC as a “private sector” member by paying at least a few thousand dollars depending on which legislative domains most interest you. Here’s the membership brochure if you meet this criterion:
Then again, even if most of us had this kind of money to contribute to ALEC, I have a feeling that membership might not necessarily be open to just anyone who is willing to pay the fee. But maybe I’m being cynical here.

Which Wisconsin Republican politicians are members of ALEC? Good question. How would we know? ALEC doesn’t provide this information on its website unless you’re able to log in as a member. Maybe we need to ask our representatives. One might think that Republican legislators gathered at a national ALEC meeting could be sufficiently numerous to trigger the “walking quorum rule” that makes it illegal for public officials in Wisconsin to meet unannounced without public notice of their meeting. But they’re able to avoid this rule (which applies to every other public body in Wisconsin) because they’re protected by a loophole in what is otherwise one of the strictest open meetings laws in the nation. The Wisconsin legislature carved out a unique exemption from that law for its own party caucuses, Democrats and Republicans alike. So Wisconsin Republicans are able to hold secret meetings with ALEC to plan their legislative strategies whenever they want, safe in the knowledge that no one will be able to watch while they do so.
(See http://www.doj.state.wi.us/dls/OMPR/2010OMCG-PRO/2010_OML_Compliance_Guide.pdf for a full discussion of Wisconsin’s otherwise very strict Open Meetings Law.)

If it has seemed to you while watching recent debates in the legislature that many Republican members of the Senate and Assembly have already made up their minds about the bills on which they’re voting, and don’t have much interest in listening to arguments being made by anyone else in the room, it’s probably because they did in fact make up their minds about these bills long before they entered the Capitol chambers. You can decide for yourself whether that’s a good expression of the “sifting and winnowing” for which this state long ago became famous.

Partners in Wisconsin and Other States: SPN, MacIver Institute, WPRI

An important partner of ALEC’s, by the way, is the State Policy Network (SPN), which helps coordinate the activities of a wide variety of conservative think tanks operating at the state level throughout the country. See its home page at
Many of the publications of these think tanks are accessible and downloadable from links on the SPN website, which are well worth taking the time to peruse and read. A good starting place is:

Two important SPN members in Wisconsin are the MacIver Institute for Public Policy:
and the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute (WPRI):
If you want to be a well-informed Wisconsin citizen and don’t know about their work, you’ll probably want to start visiting these sites more regularly. You’ll gain a much better understanding of the underlying ideas that inform recent Republican legislation by doing so.

Understanding What These Groups Do

As I said earlier, it’s not easy to find exact details about the model legislation that ALEC has sought to introduce all over the country in Republican-dominated statehouses. But you’ll get suggestive glimpses of it from the occasional reporting that has been done about ALEC over the past decade. Almost all of this emanates from the left wing of the political spectrum, so needs to be read with that bias always in mind.

Interestingly, one of the most critical accounts of ALEC’s activities was issued by Defenders of Wildlife and the Natural Resources Defense Council in a 2002 report entitled Corporate America’s Trojan Horse in the States. Although NRDC and Defenders may seem like odd organizations to issue such a report, some of ALEC’s most concentrated efforts have been directed at rolling back environmental protections, so their authorship of the report isn’t so surprising. The report and its associated press release are here:
There’s also an old, very stale website associated with this effort at

A more recent analysis of ALEC’s activities was put together by the Progressive States Network in February 2006 under the title Governing the Nation from the Statehouses, available here:
There’s an In These Times story summarizing the report at
More recent stories can be found at
http://www.inthesetimes.com/article/6084/corporate_con_game (about the Arizona immigration law)
and there’s very interesting coverage of ALEC’s efforts to disenfranchise student voters at

For just one example of how below-the-radar the activities of ALEC typically are, look for where the name of the organization appears in this recent story from the New York Times about current efforts in state legislatures to roll back the bargaining rights of public employee unions:
Hint: ALEC is way below the fold!

A Cautionary Note

What you’ll quickly learn even from reading these few documents is that ALEC is an organization that has been doing very important political work in the United States for the past forty years with remarkably little public or journalistic scrutiny. I’m posting this long note in the conviction that it’s time to start paying more attention. History is being made here, and future historians need people today to assemble the documents they’ll eventually need to write this story. Much more important, citizens today may wish to access these same documents to be well informed about important political decisions being made in our own time during the frequent meetings that ALEC organizes between Republican legislators and representatives of many of the wealthiest corporations in the United States.

I want to add a word of caution here at the end. In posting this study guide, I do not want to suggest that I think it is illegitimate in a democracy for citizens who share political convictions to gather for the purpose of sharing ideas or creating strategies to pursue their shared goals. The right to assemble, form alliances, share resources, and pursue common ends is crucial to any vision of democracy I know. (That’s one reason I’m appalled at Governor Walker’s ALEC-supported efforts to shut down public employee unions in Wisconsin, even though I have never belonged to one of those unions, probably never will, and have sometimes been quite critical of their tactics and strategies.)  I’m not suggesting that ALEC, its members, or its allies are illegitimate, corrupt, or illegal. If money were changing hands to buy votes, that would be a different thing, but I don’t believe that’s mainly what’s going on here. Americans who belong to ALEC do so because they genuinely believe in the causes it promotes, not because they’re buying or selling votes.

This is yet another example, in other words, of the impressive and highly skillful ways that conservatives have built very carefully thought-out institutions to advocate for their interests over the past half century. Although there may be analogous structures at the other end of the political spectrum, they’re frequently not nearly so well coordinated or so disciplined in the ways they pursue their goals. (The nearest analog to ALEC that I’m aware of on the left is the Progressive States Network, whose website can be perused at
but PSN was only founded in 2005, does not mainly focus on writing model legislation, and is not as well organized or as disciplined as ALEC.) To be fair, conservatives would probably argue that the liberal networks they oppose were so well woven into the fabric of government agencies, labor unions, universities, churches, and non-profit organizations that these liberal networks organize themselves and operate quite differently than conservative networks do–and conservatives would be able to able to muster valid evidence to support such an argument, however we might finally evaluate the persuasiveness of that evidence.

Again, I want anyone reading this post to understand that I am emphatically not questioning the legitimacy of advocacy networks in a democracy. To the contrary: I believe they are essential to democracy. My concern is rather to promote open public discussion and the genuine clash of opinions among different parts of the political spectrum, which I believe is best served by full and open disclosure of the interests of those who advocate particular policies.

I believe this is especially important when policies are presented as having a genuine public interest even though their deeper purpose may be to promote selfish or partisan gains.

Reasserting Wisconsin’s Core Values: Decency, Fairness, Generosity, Compromise

ALEC’s efforts to disenfranchise voters likely to vote Democratic, for instance, and its efforts to destroy public-sector unions because they also tend to favor Democrats, strike me as objectionable and anti-democratic (as opposed to anti-Democratic) on their face. As a pragmatic centrist in my own politics, I very strongly favor seeking the public good from both sides of the partisan aisle, and it’s not at all clear to me that recent legislation in Wisconsin or elsewhere can be defended as doing this. Shining a bright light on ALEC’s activities (and on other groups as well, across the political spectrum) thus seems to me a valuable thing to do whether or not one favors its political goals.

This is especially true when politicians at the state and local level promote legislation drafted at the national level that may not actually best serve the interests of their home districts and states. ALEC strategists may think they’re serving the national conservative cause by promoting legislation like the bills recently passed in Wisconsin–but I see my state being ripped apart by the resulting controversies, and it’s hard to believe that Wisconsin is better off as a result. This is not the way citizens or politicians have historically behaved toward each other in this state, and I for one am not happy with the changes in our political culture that seem to be unfolding right now. I’m hoping that many of my fellow Wisconsinites, whether they lean left or right, agree with me that it’s time to take a long hard look at what has been happening and try to find our bearings again.

I have always cherished Wisconsin for its neighborliness, and this is not the way neighbors treat each other.

One conclusion seems clear: what we’ve witnessed in Wisconsin during the opening months of 2011 did not originate in this state, even though we’ve been at the center of the political storm in terms of how it’s being implemented. This is a well-planned and well-coordinated national campaign, and it would be helpful to know a lot more about it.

Let’s get to work, fellow citizens.

William Cronon


P.S.: Note to historians and journalists: we really need a good biography of Paul Weyrich.


An Introductory Bibliography on the Recent History of American Conservatism

John Micklethwait & Adrian Wooldridge, The Right Nation: Conservative Power in America, 2004 (lively, readable overview by sympathetic British journalists).

David Farber, The Rise and Fall of Modern American Conservatism: A Brief History, 2010.

George H. Nash, The Conservative Intellectual Movement in America Since 1945, 1976(one of the earliest academic studies of the movement, and still important to read).

Lee Edwards, The Conservative Revolution, 2002 (written from a conservative perspective by a longstanding fellow of the Heritage Foundation).

Bruce Frohnen, et al, American Conservatism: An Encyclopedia, 2006 (a comprehensive and indispensable reference work).

Jerry Z. Muller, Conservatism, 1997 (extensive anthology of classic texts of the movement).

There are many other important studies, but these are reasonable starting points.

290 thoughts on “Who’s Really Behind Recent Republican Legislation in Wisconsin and Elsewhere? (Hint: It Didn’t Start Here)”

  1. Bill, the world and Wisconsin, especially, is in your debt for this important piece. Thank You

  2. Thanks for this, Bill. This history–yikes–as disturbing as the contemporary GOP. (It’s somehow less scary to think they’ve just gone off the deep end, rather than that they have a long trajectory of concerted but stealth organizing.) No wonder they bought up all the media outlets. Let’s get to work, indeed.

    Lisa McGirr’s Suburban Warriors: The Origins of the New American Right (Princeton, 2002) might also be relevant.

  3. In an outburst on the assembly floor, in a video now removed from youtube, Gordon Hintz (D-assemblyman from Oshkosh) referenced a 144 page bill ( the Budget Repair Bill) which arrived from ‘out of state’ , I do not remember if he referenced an agency, but it was quite an indictment. Thank you for calling our attention to this agency. It would be interesting to hear from some of the senators on the origin of this bill!

  4. I enjoyed reading Bill Cronon’s March 15th Scholar as Citizen Blog entry, “Who’s Really Behind Recent Republican Legislation in Wisconsin and Elsewhere? (Hint: It Didn’t Start Here),” and if you agreed with his analysis then I strongly encourage you to apply his analysis to significant discussions currently underway at our alma mater, the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

    In 2012 the UW-Madison and other land grant institutions will celebrate the sesquicentennial of the Morrill Land Grant Act, but before we plan the celebration we should heed Professor Cronon’s advice to look at ALEC’s influence not only in our state capitol, but in the esteemed halls of our campus. I respectfully encourage Professor Cronon and others to take a step back and question the role that the MacIver Institute and WPRI are playing with Governor Walker’s proposal to convert the UW-Madison from a state executive agency with the UW System to a public authority. You can start by looking at the MacIver Institute’s March 14, 2011, article “Plan Aims to Break Madison Campus from UW Board of Regents, Allow for Greater Autonomy at Wisconsin’s Flagship University,” by Christian D’Andrea. You can also read the MacIver Institute’s March 2, 2011, article “Proposed Budget Will Improve Educational Options, Raise Standards.” But don’t stop there.

    You should also check out WPRI, ALEC’s other WI partner, and understand their advocacy and support of deregulating and privatizating Wisconsin’s land grant institution. You can look at the 1994 WPRI report “The University of Wisconsin System: An Agenda for the 21st Century.” You can also read the 2001 WPRI report “Chartering the University of Wisconsin-Madison.” And you can also view their 2001 article, “Why College is Too Cheap.” And a 2006 WPRI article, “The University of Wisconsin System Abandoning the Middle Class,” painted a vision to privatize the UW System.


    Noel Radomski

  5. Bill:

    A superb post and study guide. Thanks so much, and you are so right about the work we have to do, and the need for a bio of Paul Weyrich….

  6. Great job, Bill! Bits and pieces of the story have appeared in a number of venues, but this is an extremely useful, compact, and well-referenced synthesis. The tone should appeal to people on either side of the political spectrum. I only wish you’d gone a few sentences beyond your identification of recent ALEC-inspired strategy as “anti-democratic” to the real implications of such a strategy if it is successfully implemented. Perhaps a topic for the next entry in your blog? Hope so!

  7. Thanks Bill for such a thoughtful and educational piece.

    I live in Arizona, where the SB1070 legislation was introduced and passed. This legislation was brought forth by ALEC. While the country sat and laughed at my state, little did they know that they were about to get hit by some doozies of their own. Our state is more moderate than what is generally believed (Janet Napolitano was well-respected). Jan Brewer would not have been elected unless the anti-immigration bill was put forth. There is a pent-up frustration with illegal immigration in this state that the feds are not addressing and ALEC took advantage of that atmosphere.

    Our local media prior to the election questioned Brewer on the cronyism of the ALEC drafted bill when they uncovered that she had ties to the privately operated prison company that would stand to gain by detaining illegal immigrants. She refused to answer and it was too close to the elections for most people to notice.

    Surprisingly, Jan Brewer is moderate compared to our neo-con state legislators. She has resisted their continuous hits on our educational funding. Proposed education cuts were so drastic (we are 49th in nation for education spending) she along with Phoenix business leaders campaigned to allow citizens to vote on a temporary sales tax. The REP state legislators tried to block it, but the governor fought for it and the voters overwhelmingly approved it (~60%).

    One suggestion Bill, it might be helpful to contact the Greater Phoenix Economic Council. They commissioned a study from ASU, and worked with the AZ Board of Regents, bringing together diverse stakeholders to look at the impact of various tax policies and their effectiveness to attract new business. Into this they factored the need for good education to attract business. A PBS local Horizon episode interviews key players and highlights the findings. In short, it might be helpful to collaborate with emerging businesses that rely on a talented and educated workforce to help bring Wisconsinites back together. Horizon “Reinventing Arizona’s Economy”: http://www.gpec.org/CTC_Series.aspx.

    Thanks so much. Hoping for best outcomes for the state where I was born.

  8. A biography of Paul Weyrich would be immensely helpful in understanding the post-1964 Right. Weyrich, ironically, was a strong advocate of rail passenger service and maintained a continuing dialogue with other rail advocates until his death. Walker, on the other hand, made opposition to high-speed rail a major issue in his campaign. Because the planned rail-line would have gone from Milwaukee to Madison, Walker could take advantage of anti-urban and anti-intellectual prejudices in rural Wisconsin.

    I just finished rereading “Reagan’s America” by Garry Wills, which deals in part with the post-1964 conservative movement, which Wills believes is not particularly conservative. Sam Tanenhaus, in his book, “The Death of Conservatism,” believes today’s American Right has broken not just with Burke and Disraeli, but with William Buckley himself.

    Thank you for this piece. While the Koch Brothers are an easy target, the careful and methodical organization of right-wingers surely bears a lot more scrutiny.

    1. The ‘new’ University of Madison will employ SEVEN alumni (I think it was 7) that we shouldn’t really worry about, because those alumnus ‘love the university, and love Wisconsin’ and all I could think of was this type of alumni being on the board, in addition to the 11 Gubernatorial appointees. My heart breaks for the university.

      1. Robin – I could be wrong, but I thought part of the new UW Mad system was to be chaired by 21 people, of which 11 were appointed by the Governor. Conveniently, that’s a majority. Smells like a bad idea to me. Suppose the 11 are opposed to Stem Cell research? Then what? I think this whole plan needs to be slowed down, very carefully considered, and imbued with some checks and balances that prevent politics from driving policy at the UW.

  9. Quite an eye-opener. So much to know, so little time. You may be happy to know there are no job postings at Alec. I had thoughts of infiltration.

  10. Bill, excellent work here. Journalists need to read this and to begin exposing the national ALEC network and how it has influenced governors who never finished college. All of us wonder what happened to the political dialogue of old, when Republicans and Democrats discussed issues at least before the vote. Now the Republicans are all lemmings just falling in line. But where are these orders, these instructions, actually coming from. This post here should be the beginning of a longer dialogue in mainstream media. I am skeptical though. Our MSM is a profit-making entity with no teeth. Our only MSM hope is PBS’ Frontline… errr… well…. hmmm…. oh oh!

  11. Thank you, Bill, for this excellent overview of how the US is shifting from a democracy to a corporate oligarchy. I wonder if you and Paul Boyer (if he’s still active as a scholar in his retirement) could co-author a similar piece on how neoconservatives have used fundamentalist Christian groups to push a decidedly anti-Christian agenda.

  12. I would add to the growing bibliography of serious scholarly study of the origins of the conservative movement: Kim Phillips-Fein, Invisible Hands: The Making of the Conservative Movement From the New Deal to Reagan (Norton, 2009) and Kari Frederickson, The Dixiecrat Revolt and the End of the Solid South, 1932-1968 (UNC, 2001), both of which push the story back to the 1930s.

  13. Appreciate your hard work and for sharing it with us.
    Now, it is the responsibility of each and every Americans citizen to read, study and contemplate about how our government operates.
    As you mentioned the genesis of ALEC is not illegal, but like an organization can be influenced by powerful individuals who may not have America’s best interest at heart.

  14. Thanks for this, Bill.

    The historian Rick Perlstein’s two recent histories of the post WWII American Right, Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus and Nixonland: the rise of a president and the fracturing of America, offer an epic account of the period between roughly 1952, when GOP conservatives saw their candidate, Robert Taft, outmaneuvered and supplanted by Eisenhower at the convention, and Nixon’s resignation in 1974. Great portraits of Goldwater, Reagan, Nixon, Nelson Rockefeller, George Wallace, LBJ, William F. Buckley, Paul Weyrich, the John Birch Society, and the many other players in and around this contentious and wildly successful movement. They’re a riveting read as well, unfolding in places like a Shakespearean history play.

    Before the Storm


  15. Thank you Bill. I’ve been needing information like this. Many Bayfield Library patrons are searching for answers. Hopefuly there will be something posted somewhere about the negative effects of the “Repair” bill and the budget.

  16. Thank you, Bill. As always, you’ve presented a thorough, thoughtful, fair-minded assessment that is both insightful and inspiring of further exploration. You’re a model for us all.

    I started to write a longer comment here but decided that much of what I had to say I wanted to share with my students and friends as well. So I’ve posted my thoughts regarding the necessity of transparency in our democracy over on my own blog. For the curious, here’s the link: http://bit.ly/foknX2.

  17. One member of the Wisconsin Legislature who is actually named on the ALEC site is Rep. ROBIN VOS, who is Wisconsin Chairman of ALEC.

  18. i’ll join the others in thanking you for this. more of us need to take our skills at archival digging to the present, when issues are live, and the reporting matters

  19. First, thank you for pointing the finger at ALEC. I wrote Rachel Maddow (of MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show”) about ALEC last week in the hopes that she and her staff, with their resources and broadcasting outlet, could study the group as comprehensively as possible, publicize their findings, and continue to follow the story where it may lead. The very next day she mentioned the group in a larger story, but she and her staff obviously had not had a chance yet to plumb its depths. After discovering your post today, I sent Rachel Maddow an e-mail suggesting she contact you.

    I learned about ALEC through researching a number of Walker’s initiatives, specifically the new 2/3 supermajority requirement for taxes (Special Assembly Bill 5, which is now law). The article I initially saw about it is quoted in this post from firedoglake, but I can’t find the original article: http://news.firedoglake.com/2011/02/22/wisconsins-walker-signs-bill-requiring-23-majority-for-tax-increases/

    What piqued my interest was this quote of Scott Walker’s: “I thank Senator Leah Vukmir and Representative Tyler August for their leadership on this issue.” Having heard of many of Vukmir’s ultra-ultra-conservative views, I thought I might look more at her and her website and see what else I could find about her stated (or unstated) alliances.

    There I discovered, under her press releases, one entitled “Vukmir Honored as ‘Legislator of the Year’ by Peers at National Gathering.” Clicking through, I discovered that the group who had given her the award was ALEC. This was in July of 2009, while she was still a state representative. If this a press release was given a true press release treatment, I have to wonder why no Wisconsin paper (or any other news outlet) was interested in what ALEC is. http://www.leahvukmir.com/site/Viewer.aspx?iid=22982&mname=Article&rpid=4876

    One of the more disgusting, rather than disturbing, aspects of ALEC is that it has apparently had 501(c)(3) status for many years, despite the fact that the law regarding 501(c)(3) status makes it clear that ALEC’s activities are illegal under that status. After all, ALEC’s main purpose is to “attempt to influence legislation.” However, with the filings necessary to maintain 501(c)(3) status, it’s possible that more information could be gleaned from that paperwork. http://www.irs.gov/charities/charitable/article/0,,id=96099,00.html

    Actually, some of the legislative membership can be found on ALEC’s website on these pages:

    And some of the private sector members can be found here (note that one is Koch Enterprises). They are certainly are a who’s who:
    With PhRMA (and other drug companies) on the board, I can imagine that Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, who as part of his previous life was president of Eli Lilly’s North American operations as well as Bush 43’s director of the Office of Managament and Budget, would be (or have been) intimately involved with ALEC. The history page of ALEC also reveals that Gov. John Kasich of Ohio, another Walker-like governor, was a member during the “formative years”—as was Tommy Thompson.

    ALEC’s Board of Scholars includes Arthur Laffer: http://www.alec.org/AM/Template.cfm?Section=Board_of_Scholars&Template=/CM/HTMLDisplay.cfm&ContentID=11486

    Second, you wondered about the existence of a website similar to Right Wing Watch or SourceWatch from a conservative perspective. The one that leaps to mind is Conservapedia, which also focuses on the theory and practice of various conservatisms: http://www.conservapedia.com/Main_Page

    Maybe I will write more later, but for now I will end by thanking you for focusing attention on ALEC. Take care.

    1. I have tried to ask numerous reporters to investigate this, to no avail. They are just not that interested in the story. I have sent them some of these links, and given them the background. There are numerous other histories that could be included, including Kim Phillips-Fein’s book, which takes a “follow the money” approach to this issue but incorrectly assumes that this was just a reaction to the New Deal rather than part of longer and more complex thread in American history. There is also a long history of the relationship to public and private corporate policing that is also relevant here, and books such as Robert Smith’s From Blackjacks to Briefcases would also fill in some gaps.

      Still, the problem is not really just right-wingers, but the fact that liberals have never fully committed to labor union organization in this country. Your posts reveals the problem in a nutshell. Labor’s problems originate because liberals have had such weak commitment to workers rights. The Wisconsin idea was that elites should control policy, and was distrustful of workers’ control.

      But to say that these values did not originate in Wisconsin is to miss that Wisconsin itself played a vital role in the long-range history of these struggles.

  20. Rep. Suder in Wisconsin is on several ALEC committees. NPR did an interesting story on ALEC last fall which focused on, among other things, the fact that corporations which fund ALEC, also provide the funds to pay ‘scholarships’ for state reps and their families to attend the conferences. The corporations don’t have to report under any lobbying rules, and the state reps don’t have to report receiving funds from any corporations. They just report it as a gift from ALEC. This issue might be a basis for an IRS audit of ALEC’s non-profit status.

  21. I have tried to ask numerous reporters to investigate this, to no avail. They are just not that interested in the story. I have sent them some of these links, and given them the background. There are numerous other histories that could be included, including Kim Phillips-Fein’s book, which takes a “follow the money” approach to this issue but incorrectly assumes that this was just a reaction to the New Deal rather than part of longer and more complex thread in American history. There is also a long history of the relationship to public and private corporate policing that is also relevant here, and books such as Robert Smith’s From Blackjacks to Briefcases would also fill in some gaps.

    Still, the problem is not really just right-wingers, but the fact that liberals have never fully committed to labor union organization in this country. Your posts reveals the problem in a nutshell. Labor’s problems originate because liberals have had such weak commitment to workers rights. The Wisconsin idea was that elites should control policy, and was distrustful of workers’ control.

    But to say that these values did not originate in Wisconsin is to miss that Wisconsin itself played a vital role in the long-range history of these struggles.

  22. I appreciate your work in compiling these analyses. Yet I think we should be cautious in laying the blame entirely on outside think tanks and lobbyists. The reality is that, without an infrastructure based in Wisconsin, organized through Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, and funded by the Bradley Foundation in Milwaukee, there would be no Scott Walker and no Walker agenda. If we are to be successful in overcoming the corporatization of Wisconsin, we have to bring accountability to the narrow corporate interests at work here, in Wisconsin, day in and day out, as well as the national level actors.

  23. Thanks for the link to ALEC. A HuuffPO link to them was lost. They are attacking the middle class.

  24. I am coming at this from the perspective of an academic, but maybe there should be some accountability here. If I were to submit a paper that someone else contributed to, I would have to give them either partial authorship or an acknowledgement or be subject to censure. Currently, many journals in my area require that people list the contributions of each author. I really think that the people who contribute to a bill should be recognized and their affiliations included. It seems somewhat dishonest for someone to submit legislation as their own if it is the work of others. I am perfectly willing to admit that the expertise of business is critical for many types of legislation, but I also think it is in the interest of the state to know where the legislation is coming from.

  25. Professor Cronon,

    Many thanks for the post — very interesting and desperately needed.

    Setting politics aside for a moment, I am reminded of something I once discussed with a fellow historian:

    “The study of history can lead to optimism or pessimism. It’s just a matter of how to interpret it. Either it’s depressing to see that few of our problems are new or unprecedented and that we have yet to overcome them. Or, it’s a relief to know that things have been difficult or downright scary for a long long time but we’ve managed to come this far.”

    Here’s hoping we keep chugging ahead!

    -ed connery

  26. Several problems with your best guesses and general line of inquiry. First, even if ALEC has conservative goals, the question really is: Why do so many people agree with the conservative agenda of Walker, Kasich, the Tea Party, etc.?

    Second, your suggestions remind me how the FBI and many right wing pundits of the late Sixties looked under every rock for links to Soviet influence that was behind the Anti-War Movement, SDS, Mother Jones Revolutionary League, Radical America, and even the first History Students Association in your own department. As an insider on the Madison campus during the years of protest, I clearly understood how misguided such inquires were. At the time. we often laughed about how clueless conservatives were.

    Outsiders could not, and would not, believe that most students acted out of genuine beliefs and perceptions, totally divorced from the propaganda of the Communist Party of the USA. the old left – Paul Baran, Sweezy, Gus Hall, et.al. Sure, CPUSA, Young Socialist Alliance, and Progressive Labor may have had tables of literature in the Memorial Union during lunch most days, but these were not what motivated or influenced the mass of students who participated in left-wing demonstrations, though all these organizations certainly would have wished their influence was critical. Right-wing journalists and TV pundits at the time tried to establish the relationship between such groups and protests, just as you are looking for some force/organization behind the growth in conservative populism and related legislative initiatives.

    Association is not causation. The mere presence of YSA, PL, or the CPUSA and their literature tables just outside ‘the Rat’ was certainly a fact. No doubt, FBI reports to DC reflected that reality. However, the assumption that these organizations were the great puppet masters of campus protests is simply false. These groups had nothing to do with sales of “Radical America.” They had nothing to do with Jim Rowen’s work on Army Math and ROTC; they had nothing to do with the First Earth Day on campus, or the attraction of Che or Fred Hampton. And, to my knowledge, they had nothing to do with the formation of the HSA, or the TAA, Nor could conservatives really “understand” the domestic genesis and attraction of SDS, just as so many never could understand _why_ so many people were attracted to SNCC during early civil rights movement, or later, SCLC.

    Just as conservatives of the Sixties could NOT understand the authentic and organic growth of student protest movements….most on the left today really have NO understanding about _why_ so many people are attracted to the Tea Party or the conservative movement. Hatred of all things conservative is a sufficient substitute. Fine. But that really is an impediment to understanding. Just as EP Thompson’s view of the “Making” of the working class was original, I suggest you consider, in a similar manner, that the making of the modern conservative movement arises from an authentic and genuine ‘progressive’ vision that is the antithesis of the Left. Don’t believe me. Just consider it.

    Many people simply find the conservative narrative appealing. They don’t want to pay higher taxes that are consequences of generous contracts to public workers. They don’t want the Fed to dole out stimulus money; they don’t want unbalanced national budgets and deficits for as far as the eye can see. They hate nanny government. They hate ever-increasing government control over their lives. Believe it. They do not believe these things because ALEC told them. The populist conservative revolt since Obamacare, Tarp, Wall Street Bailouts, and the process that enabled them is genuine and authentic. The Left fails to understand this because, at base, the Left cannot recognize the public has an entirely different perception of ‘progressivism.’

    Long before Obamacare and the rise of the Tea Party, I left Wisconsin. As a retiree, I understood that property and income taxes in Wisconsin not only were too high, but there was no end sight to their ever-increasing toll on my budget. I didn’t need ALEC to tell me to leave the state for my own fiscal well-being. The cost of Wisconsin’s love affair with public unions is high, especially to non-union workers, homeowners, and retirees. The property tax on a 250K Dane County home is between 5-7K per year with no end in sight. In other states, a similar homeowner would be taxed only 1500. Property taxes in Madison cost 450% more than where I live now. Just to pay for ‘unionization’ and Wisconsin-style progressive property taxes, I would have to invest about 183,000 more at 3% just to pay the difference in tax bills. Like many retirees, I do not have an extra 183,000.

    My point is simple. Like Dylan’s Ballad of a Thin Man, you just don’t understand. That you don’t understand….troubles me not.
    Just giving you a heads up chance to reflect as you chase more intellectual windmills.

    The clip below explains, simply, why John Q Public finds the entire debate about teacher unionism a non-sequitur. I know you’ll likely disagree, but it goes a long way in explaining why the ‘progressive’ visions fail to carry the day with non-union citizens.


    PS….might suggest to you……..instead of a history of Paul Weyrich,…your profession and the nation would be better served with an empirical history of Sullivan & Cromwell law firm from 1933-1948…and an empirical review of issues and corporations related to James S. Martin’s, _ All Honorable Men_, Little & Brown, 1950. One of the DOJ participants was Johnston Avery, a native of Stanley, Wisconsin. Then again, your profession has a tradition of ignoring the important issues. Better to practice obscurantism as a vehicle to professional tenure………even though the taxpayers must suffer.

    bucky Too

    1. We can easily believe that people hold these beliefs., buckytoo. What we keep pointing out is that they keeping voting for the very people who talk a good line while they are putting policies in place that will make their lives and living situations worse. Don’t like big deficits? Stop voting for Republicans. Just because someone claims to be a ‘”fiscal conservative” doesn’t mean he won’t break the bank–literally.

      Talk is cheap.

      1. carolina…
        You’ve used too many relative pronouns. Unclear to whom you are referring.
        Obama’s deficits dwarf any other by multiples…..and they were sustained by a Democratic Congress.
        Republican transgressions are not models, but they pale by comparison.

        1. Our current deficits have little to do with Obama and a lot to do with tax cuts, demographic shifts, and a poorly-regulated banking system. In terms of blame, I would start with George W. Bush, then continue on blaming past presidents back through Reagan, at least.

        2. This is reply to Jon’s comment, “Our current deficits have little to do with Obama”. ….Blame Bush is so over. Where have you been the last two years of Obama trillion dollar deficits+. Obama his first year had a fillibuster proof dem congress and Repubs couldn’t stop a swinging door. Dems could pass anything they wanted and certainly did. Slowing down the deficits wasn’t even on the table. In fact it was so far off the table they didn’t even pass a budget the second year…………..

    2. Bucky Too,

      I agree with you that “association is not causation.” Nevertheless, for those of us who believe in progressive policies, it’s necessary to keep in mind who all our opponents are, not just the most visible ones while ignoring those who are carefully avoiding the limelight. Those people may not actually be manipulating everyone else, but the fact that the others confer with him and then come away with similar or identical legislation makes it clear that they are all my opponents.

      As far as your economic arguments go, let me present a few of my own.

      You left Dane Co. and Wisconsin because you felt that your property taxes here were too high. I’m guessing that you moved to a more southern state, where snowplowing isn’t necessary. If you don’t have snow where you now live, you probably also don’t have the high road repair costs that freezing and thawing bring. Those two items alone account for a large part of our Dane Co. property taxes. You may also have moved to a place that doesn’t have bus service or bike paths. All those things cost money and we pay for them in our property taxes. Some of us use those services and some don’t, but all of them add to the quality of life here. I pay my share willingly, with the full knowledge that part of those costs go to paying public employees a decent wage and that part of it comes with the climate here.

      You blame the extra costs on unions. Sure, union workers tend to make more than non-union workers in the same job categories, that’s why unions exist. Why is it that you choose to question why our second worst paid workers get paid so much, rather than why our worst paid workers get paid so little? You also choose not to mention that public workers, on average, are better educated than private workers. Unions are not perfect, but without unions all of our wages would be lower, and that’s in large part because the threat of unions keeps wages higher than they would otherwise be. Consider also what happens if you manage to lay off of lots of public employees. They will appear on the private sector labor market. If you understand supply and demand, and I suspect that you do, then you understand that this will drive down private sector wages. Governor Walker and his handlers understand this, and lower wages overall are an essential part of their plan to make Wisconsin “Open for Business.”

      Yes, I also followed your Battlefield315 link. Perhaps you’ve noticed how easy it is to win an argument when one side gets to write both sides of the script. Somehow, I doubt my script would ever make it onto Battlefield315, even though, with some effort I could make it equally unbiased, although in the opposite direction.

      This debate, however, it not just about unions. It’s about the distribution of wealth and power. Since you seem to appreciate facts, let me present a few interesting ones.

      [Definition: Wealth = Assets – Debt]

      In 1980, the top 1% of the US population owned 20% of all US wealth.

      Since then, the Republican party and, more recently, the Tea Party, have been focusing on lowering taxes. The argument is that if taxes are lower, each of us gets to keep more, and we’ll all be better off. The unspoken side of this is that the largest tax cuts have come at the topmost income levels.

      Here’s the outcome we’re getting:

      By 2001, the top 1% of the US owned 45% of all US wealth.

      Then we added the Bush tax cuts because we felt the wealthy were still paying too much. So how has that been working out?

      By 2007, the top 1% of the US owned 50% of all US wealth.

      So when it came time to consider extending the Bush tax cuts, the Republicans held out, insisting that the tax cuts for those with the largest incomes were the most important to preserve.

      What % of the wealth is owned by our top 1% today? I don’t have those figures yet, but I’m sure it’s not slipping down.

      Maybe you’re in that top 1%, so that the $183,000 you would have needed to pay your property taxes in Dane Co. would have been insignificant to you. In that case, you’re certainly arguing in your own self interest, although, in that case I would argue that your self interest is already well cared for. If you’re not in that 1%, or even in the top 10%, then you’re arguing that you will be happy with fewer taxes even if that leaves you worse off overall.

      Yes, I can hear the crys now, “This is redistribution of wealth”, “This is class war!” Certainly, this IS class war, and the Regan Revolution was just the first skirmish. The Republican Party has been pursuing class war and the upward redistribution of wealth for decades, and guess who’s winning? We’re currently pursuing an agenda of concentrating more and more wealth, and the power that derives from wealth, into fewer and fewer hands. It may be unspoken, but it’s certainly not unintenional.

      You may feel that this agenda is appropriate; I do not.

      1. Yo…jadney..
        I will speak directly to your reply.
        1. Please define “progressive.” No, not for me…for you. I have been as far LEFT as one can go..and after years of reflection and analysis, the term has no meaning, at least in the liberal sense. The “progressive policies” that you talk about is a tautology. Many things and issues ‘progressive,’ are not.
        2. All your progressive spending for services is propaganda. I was in Madcity recently. Had to use public ‘bus’ service for handicapped transport. Cost is same as in the south, or slightly more. However, here, the wait time is 5 minutes, either way from a Dr. appt. In Madcity, the pickup was on time, but wait time for trip “home” was over 1hr and 20 minutes. Sorry, no comparison to our southern service. Second…I don’t ride a bike. Are those subsidies better or worse than those for boat ramps, sailing marinas or shooting ranges, golf courses, NASCAR tracks, football stadiums, pool halls, etc., etc. Your cultural elitism is bleeding through, though I can’t actually see your middle class nose.
        3. Most of property tax is for education, not snow. Analyze your tax bill. Ed spending costs. Further, 75-80% of ed spending in K-12 is salary/wages/benes for staff. General statement of truth. Ask any specialist in school finance. So much for the snow BS.
        4. Yes, wages need to operate in free markets. Yes, you can argue unions, etc., but the Chinese are already taking jobs. So are the Mexicans, here or in Mexico…and so are those in Guatemala and Taiwan and Korea and Malaysia, etc. LOOK, it is a simple fact. If you want job creation, it rarely can be union jobs at union rates. Wages in Wisc are bloated…from football coaches to lawyers at $250/hr. So are those of ‘educated’ people, especially those who wear the mantle of ‘educated,’ but who are intellectual dolts. Most of these with BA’s in Ed are. No debate. I walked among them. The national data exists. MAJOR point is this…with PUBLIC unions, we MUST pay the rate…we have no option to decline to buy. At least, in the private sector, I do NOT have to pay UAW wages or subsidies. I can buy a KIA. With taxes, there is no such choice.
        5. Unions are, as you know, EXCLUSIVE. They extort higher wages and the cost is primarily born by non-union workers via property taxes.

        What, you think the rich liberals on Bascom, the rich full professors, the rich lawyers ….do any of them really care about their property taxes? Bull. High property taxes are a permanent lien on the little home that some poor working class stiff owns. He/she/they are the ones who subsidize the salary matrix for duck, duck, goose ‘teachers.’ Public unions don’t extort higher incomes from the ruling class………….they extort it from non-unon workers who own homes…and from seniors.

        6. I taught economics. I probably ready C.Wright Mills and Domhoff before you were born. You talk of wealth distribution?
        Well read the parable of the Ant and the Grasshopper. Answer us this………..BY what right does your Neighbor have a right to the produce of YOUR GARDEN? If you produce wealth or crops or firewood, why does your neighbor have a claim to your work, effort, etc. ? IMO, tell your neighbor to grow his/her own. Now, maybe you are of the mind that you like to feed the world, and heat their homes. Been there, done that. I will heat my own home and cut my own wood and grow my own garden. YOU or society, have no “right” to my products. That is the principle.
        7. Wealth distribution…and tell us more about the thousands of welfare queens of Detroit…of the millions on Medicaid that all workers pay for…….of the elitist union bosses who make 2-3-10 times what their brothers and sisters do? Oh, and research the proportion of taxes actually paid by the wealthiest 1, 2, an 5% of society………….over 1/2 the total.

        8. Ya don’t believe the wealthy are paying their fair share? So, define Fair Share, objectively! Why do the wealthy own a disproportionate amount? Because they earned it or inherited it. Ya don’t think Bill Gates made a contribution to society? Or Henry Ford? Or the Walton’s of WalMart? Or John Deere?

        9. Class war? Yeah, agree on that …maggots who will not work at McDonald’s because it is chump change…want 200K /year selling drugs. Got kids? Eh…little weed no harm…little coke…no harm….eh…no big crime…more weed, eh, I’m only dealing small bags….eh…so the middle school kids are just experimenting…..eh so we just introduced to the elementary kids, but “you know,” only the 4th graders. Eh…dad…what’s the problem? Class war? Yeah, we’re ready.

        10. Class war? Yeah, and the Chinese ala Li Ta-chao are the real underclass that will soon own all the US…

        11. BTW…just for intellectual honesty, to yourself, explain — What is WEALTH………….and how is it CREATED?
        As you stand and demand to take wealth from lower-income workers via higher taxes, explain to them…how it is good for them to subsidize public unions.
        12. Go ahead. Tax large companies and tax “the rich.” Simple conclusion………..ya ain’t gunna get more jobs in Madison or Wisconsin. Want jobs…..or ya want to join the roving bands of thugs ala China during the Warlord era?
        13. Look at the wage scale for federal workers who have NO unions. Look at states where public workers have no right to strike. They are paid more than private sector employees. Unionization is NOT synonymous with a decent income. There are many unemployed in the private sector who will willing affirm that. ACID test for my claim……. let competitive bids for all government job openings. You will see prices and taxes fall.

        1. Bucky too:

          Are you a Christian? Do you believe in God? If that’s too much religion for you, do you believe in a Creative Being? Do you hold these truths to be self-evident: That all are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights? Progressives do. They are Populists. They believe that no one has the right to life, liberty, or the pursuit of happiness at the expense of their neighbor. That’s why million-dollar athletes, billion-dollar magnates, and even perpetual corporations that somehow have all the benefits of being Persons so that they can manipulate Federal judges and congressmen are repugnant to Liberals (or if you find Liberal a pejorative, Progressives). Don’t tell me about rich college professors; they don’t exist in public universities. Don’t badmouth $250-per-hour lawyers until you’ve worked in their shoes. Don’t believe that people will continue to starve in the midst of plenty just as long as you wave the American flag at them. Love your brother. The benefits will come back to you a hundredfold.

        2. It seems much of your frustration is directed towards the increasing share of your income that goes to pay taxes, and in particular property taxes. I would readily agree that in many cases property taxes are not progressive and may impose an unfair and disproportionate burden on those least able to pay. Admittedly too schools, along with police, fire, roads, garbage collection and the like have contributed significantly to an increasing property tax burden. Many progressive have long argued that the property tax is not an equitable source of funding for schools but the real issues are, or at least should be, what services are best provided by government? What is a reasonable amount to pay? and Wow can we fairly apportion the cost of such services.

          Your taxes, property and otherwise, are too high when others who are receiving society’s service aren’t paying their fair share.

          In 1952 corporations paid an average of 32% of the total tax burden in federal, state and local taxes. By 1986 that percentage had dipped to less than 7%. While the official corporate tax rate in the U.S. is the 2nd highest in the world, (at 35%) between 1998 and 2005, 57% of U.S. corporations and 72% of foreign based corporations doing business in the United States paid not one penny in federal income taxes because of numerous loopholes. In fact, the share of taxes paid by U.S. corporations is the lowest, 30th out of 30, for developed nations in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. So what have we gotten in return for all of these tax breaks?

          The Bush era tax cuts cost the treasury and other taxpayers more than $2 trillion dollars, an expenditure that makes the Obama stimulus package look like chump change, yet produced the slowest job growth in more than half a century.

          You suggest that the wealthy own a disproportionate amount because they “earned it or inherited it.” Perhaps then you might explain how Wall Street bankers taking billions from the Federal Reserve at 0% interest and then loaning it out to credit card users at between 12-29% constitutes “earning” anything. Sadly we are rapidly becoming a nation that no longer makes things. 40% of the nation’s GDP now come from the financial services industry whose contributions to the betterment of society consists largely of gambling with other people’s money and then turning to the taxpayers to bail them out when their speculations go sour.

          In 2009 the nation’s top 25 hedge fund managers “earned” $25.3 billion dollars, an amount equivalent to the full-time salary and benefits of 338,041 Wisconsin teachers. As a former school board member I have a very good idea as to what education costs and what teacher make. Education has the highest correlation of any factor in determining the lifelong earning potential of individuals in our society and is an essential component in our ability to create and keep jobs in an increasingly competitive global economy.

          For the past thirty years we have seen Republicans focus on tax cuts as their solution to almost every problem. The reality is that if we want to grow the economy and create jobs we have to make substantial investments in education and infrastructure to attract and keep businesses in Wisconsin.

          Tax cuts don’t create jobs that last. Employers hire and retain employees when there is a growing demand for their goods and services. Demand grows when workers have more disposable income.

          Timothy Sheehy, president of the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce, recently opposed major route cuts for Milwaukee’s bus system saying ‘You can’t cut your way to prosperity.’

          In parting, I would leave you to contemplate the following.

          Between 1965 – 2008 when Republicans controlled the White House and both houses of Congress, spending was 415% higher and deficits were 332% higher than when Democrats controlled both Congress and the White House.

          More than half of the record “Obama deficit” in FY 2009 came from the Wall Street bailout (passed by Congress in 2008 and signed by George Bush before Obama was inaugurated) and the cost of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan started by Bush but paid for with borrowed money and special appropriates which kept the expenditures, “off-budget.”

          Between 1960 – 2008 Democratic administrations added, on average, 1,008,371 more new jobs per year than Republican administrations.

          The most jobs added to the economy in the past 40 years was in 1978 with more than 4 million jobs added to the economy with a top marginal tax rate of 70%.

          Concerned about “Big Government?” In 2009, there were 859,000 fewer federal employees than in 1988 when Ronald Reagan left office. Both Reagan and George Bush substantially increases the size of the federal workforce while both Carter and Clinton significantly reduced it. ( Source: U.S. Office of Personnel Management )

          So who’s better for business? Since 1929 $10,000 invested only in years when Republicans were in the White House would have yielded $11,733. The same $10,000 invested in years when Democrats controlled the White House would have yielded $300,671.

          I’d be happy to send you complete documentation along with the sources for the data which consists of the Office of Management and Budget, the Congressional Budget Office, DOL Bureau of Labor Statistics and the U.S. Office of Personnel Managment.

          I might add I served as coordinator of the Wisconsin Governor’s Conference on Children and Families for Wisconsin’s Republican Governor, Lee Sherman Dreyfus.

    3. bucky too, the conundrum for me with bills such as those happening in Wisconsin, Michigan, etc., is that the actions don’t match the words. “We stand for smaller government”, says Scott Walker, as he ensures that the size of government grows. The same can be said for the ‘fiscal martial law’ bill passed in Michigan; the governor touts local government, then signs a bill which removes local elected officials if the state deems it ‘necessary’ (what constitutes ‘necessary’, however, is a wee bit fuzzy). In Arizona, everyone screams about smaller government, yet the legislature narrowly defeated a bill that would have made every DMV worker, every teacher, every insurance salesperson, and every car dealer an agent of the INS.
      Thus, you can understand why I have some trouble believing that legislators and governors, at least in some cases, are actually interested in doing what’s best for their people, or even for the beliefs they claim to uphold.

  27. Always practical, I’m left now with the conclusion that ALEC may have no political ideology as we might classically think of it. ALEC uses a veneer of issue concern to better deliver the 3 prize benefits to its business members: Power, Access, Money. It seems they carefully evaluated the field of opportunity in political parties to see which ‘side’ might deliver the goods the best, and chose Republican. Perhaps at the time Republicans were more susceptible, or malleable, or greedy. Who knows? But many Republicans I know who are moderates have been appalled that the party is being used to deliver power, access, and money to someone–under the guise of moving important legislation. The party has ceased to speak, or even be much concerned about speaking, for centrist Republicans.

    As a communication specialist, I’ve been struck by the use of classic propaganda techniques in conservative talk shows, email chains, commercials and slogans in the last 2 years. Call it ‘strategic persuasion,’ ‘coordinated manipulation,’ or what have you, but it appears to be a purposeful and carefully deployed campaign. I stand amazed every month when my journals are published without anyone taking up the study of this new communication campaign. Here I can only recommend and quote the classic article “The Theory of Political Propaganda” by Harold Lasswell (1927, Am Pol Sci Rev v21 no3):

    Lasswell wrote: “Every cultural group has its vested values. These may include the ownership of property or the possession of claims to ceremonial deference. An object toward which it is hoped to arouse hostility must be presented as a menace to as many of these values as possible. There are always ambitious hopes of increasing values, and the object must be made to appear as the stumbling block to their realization. There are patterns of right and wrong, and the object must be made to flout the good. There are standards of propriety, and the object must appear ridiculous and gauche. If the plan is to draw out positive attitudes toward an object, it must be presented, not as a menace and an obstruction, nor as despicable or absurd, but as a protector of our values, a champion of our dreams, and a model of virtue and propriety.”

    Of course the antidote for ALEC strategic communication, as Bill notes, is sunshine, time, and opportunity for conservatives to seriously question why they are being used as fuel in their own destruction.

    1. I appreciate this response, as I too have developed a concern about the nature of political media in the last few years. I’ve actually gone back to college at this point and I’ve decided my field of study is going to be media, specifically for this reason. I’m not opposed to opinion journalism per se, but the journalism part actually does have to be included. The kind of nonsensical, sensation based, purposely misleading programming, advertising and language being used is something I’m coming to regard as a genuine threat to the democratic system. I don’t particularly care for this kind of propaganda coming from either side of the political spectrum, but the naked cravenness of the more extreme conservative groups, programming and otherwise is at a level I honestly didn’t think most Americans would put up with.

      I’m really glad to know there are other people out there studying this. Maybe if we can leave behind an orderly, well documented and researched record, future generations won’t fall prey to it so easily.

  28. Bucky Too’s resonse deserves reading and some thought too, because it reflects the political mindset of our powerful “me-too” generation. Bucky has gathered his hoard, and now in retirement he opposed enough to sharing it through taxes, especially for public unions, and moved out of the state for his own “fiscal well being”.
    Even if public union members in Wisconsin are paid well, in itself a hotly debated issue, is that wrong? Wouldn’t it be better to recognize that public unions now are the strongest organized representative of the working class, and in that role, best define the ideal which all workers’ pay and benefit scales should strive to achieve? If we are to “support Core Values: Decency, Fairness, Generosity, Compromise” for all, and to struggle towards that goal in a democratic way, isn’t it important to oppose this dangerous trend towards separation of the haves from the have-nots, to resist the anti-humanitarian aspects of the radical conservative movement and to be critical of Bucky Too’s” me-too” point of view? Why? Because as individuals we don’t live in a vacuum, we are part of a society whose well being eventually determines the long-term well being of the individual. Things like health, education, individual and national security, a decent standard of living, and a safety net for the less fortunate should be the goal for every citizen, and not just those on the right side of the income bell curve. To make this possible for the 308,745,538. individuals living in the United States. it takes the determined effort of a government which represents everyone, not just the corporations and the well to do. We have to get over the idea that implementation of our national goals like forming a more perfect union, insuring domestic tranquility, providing for the common defense, promoting the general welfare and securing the blessings of liberty, has to come cheap.

    1. Dean, your assumption is wrong.
      Wisconsin seniors’ incomes did not rise last year, or for the last few for that matter. Yet, Senior homeowners in Dane County must pay rising taxes and they are increasing at a much faster rate than inflation. You can Google Madison School District’s spending plans in Dec of 2010…along with those of Middleton…and they were projected to be larger than 9%. Also this link, a few weeks before the current protests:
      http://www.jsonline.com/news/statepolitics/111633569.html State Agencies Request 6.2% Increase in Spending

      Your concerns for fairness, decency, etc………ignores basic math. Tax increases on seniors on fixed incomes are the antithesis of fairness, justice, etc. The common assumption that unions represent the working class is in error. Many ‘workers’ are not represented by unions and do not benefit when pubic employees wage increases cause government spending to increase. Most people that I know do not wish public worker compensation to be driven down to the minimum wage. On the contrary, when have unions been as concerned about those on fixed incomes?

        1. The idea that “everyone” is on a fixed income is ludicrous. An elderly senior citizen living off of a pension, or even more likely, social security is on a fixed income. A twenty/thirty/forty/fifty/even sixty something that can go out and find extra (gasp) employment (e.g., delivering pizza) to supplement their income is not on a fixed income. The probability that an elderly senior citizen can go and find a job is lower but still possible. Don’t confuse fixed income with lazy. If you know who got voted off the island, or who made it on American Idol, you aren’t trying hard enough to raise your income and are playing poor me too much. The best place to go when you need money is to work, not to the government.

      1. As someone who is also retired and not a public employee I might point out that the rising taxes paid by Wisconsin’s seniors and property owners is not the result of excessive government spending but declining revenues, largely from businesses.

        Taxes paid by business in Wisconsin, over the last decade, have fallen by nearly 70% while property taxes have continued to rise. Nationally the situation is much the same. Between 1998 and 2005 57% of U.S. corporations and 72% of foreign corporations doing business in the United States paid no federal income taxes, despite trillions of dollars in profits and in 2009 both GE and Exxon paid no federal income taxes. Guess who’s picking up the tab?

    1. Excellent Frida!! One by one, follow the money and shine a bright light on it! Thanks much.

  29. “After watching the sudden and impressively well-organized wave of legislation being introduced into state legislatures that all seem to be pursuing parallel goals only tangentially related to current fiscal challenges–ending collective bargaining rights for public employees, requiring photo IDs at the ballot box, rolling back environmental protections, privileging property rights over civil rights, and so on–I’ve found myself wondering where all of this legislation is coming from. ” – William Cronon.

    This is not sudden, unless 70 years is sudden, not well organized, not just Republicans, related directly to public employees making 30 to 50% more in wages, benefits and retirement than the private sector that pays the bills, collective bargaining is not a right it is a privilege created or removed by statute…IDs at the ballot box has been required as long as I can remember untill the last couple of years.. AB 32 The final Global Warming Solution in Calif. is based on bogus science by researchers with bogus degrees..
    And without property rights, there can be no civil rights, because they are the same thing.

    I never read any further. When the premise is without weight or validity the purpose is without cause.

    1. Lightfoot, you have drunk the kool aid. Every single one of your statements is completely wrong. Are you getting your info from Limbaugh and Beck?

    2. Lightfoot, you are sadly mistaken and are obviously getting your facts from conservative pundits – most likely you are a viewer of Fox News and don’t bother to verify what they say. Most public employees in fact make LESS than their equivalents in private industry (compare degree levels and opportunities for those at thta education level). THe exception being some of the least skilled positions, such as garbage collection.
      Your argument about global warming is also severely misinformed. My guess is that you have no college degree, or if so, have not bothered to pursue any higher education after graduating years ago. Maybe you also believe in creationism?
      Let me set you straight. There is no disagreement in the climate scientist community. Global warming is taking place, and probably at even a faster rate than previously published. The dissention comes from groups hired by entities with oil and gas interests. Obviously they do not want us to decrease our consumption of their products. Within the scientific community, there is near 100% agreement. Can you show me some scientific articles in peer-reviewed journals that disagree with that? No, I didn’t think so. You might want to educate yourself on these and other topics from a source other than Fox.


    3. Lightfoot,
      Excellent. Especially the part about not reading further. Good heavens we wouldn’t want you confused by facts, now would we?

    4. “It’s not knowing too little that does as much harm as knowing too much that ain’t so.”

      You assert, incorrectly that “public employees make 30 to 50% more in wages, benefits and retirement than the private sector that pays the bills.”

      Sadly, your hostility or envy directed at public employees is misplaced.

      A recent study by Jeff Keefe of the Economic Policy Institute found that Wisconsin’s college-educated public employees earn on average 28% less in wages and 25% less in total compensation in the public sector than private sector for employees with equivalent education. The only group of public employees who fare better than their private sector counterparts are public employees with only a High School education or less.

      The real problem is not that the State is spending too much or that teachers are getting paid too much but rather that revenues have fallen rather dramatically, due in part to tax cuts for businesses which were passed by the legislature with the promise of stimulating job creation. So where are the jobs?

      In 2010 Wisconsin collected $4.6 billion less in taxes than in 2000. If Wisconsin business had paid just 75% of the taxes paid in 2000 Wisconsin would have a $4.3 billion surplus instead of a deficit.

  30. Professor Cronon

    Thank you for this sane and skilled analysis. It is sorely needed

    To some of the dissenting voices on this thread:

    Your specious arguments prove only that you have imbibed the ultra-conservative “make the rich richer and the heck with everyone else” Kool Aid. Good luck to you; you need it.


    Rachel in Austin

    1. Rachel,

      There is nothing respectful about a comment which accomplishes nothing more than labeling anyone who took issue with Prof Cronen’s self-victimizing post to be “drinking the koolaid”, an elementary tactic of a partisan hack. While I agree that it’s fun for all to speculate on why the Republican Party of Wisconsin filed a records request, it’s hardly an exercise of state power. A state employee knowingly has no expectation to privacy as it relates to their use of state resources. As a former university employee and state government consultant in Florida, this was a well-understood fact (so much so that politicians use GMail accounts to discuss policy).

      Shaun in Austin

      1. First They came… – Pastor Martin Niemoller

        First they came for the communists,
        and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.

        Then they came for the trade unionists,
        and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

        Then they came for the Jews,
        and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew.

        Then they came for me
        and there was no one left to speak out for me.

        Shaun, the famous gist of these infamous crimes was once again reposted for your benefit.

        While this brief tale may appear short and simple, the message is very profound, it runs deep and is quite true.

        Please tell me which part of it you fail to understand or fully comprehend.

        “I’m from the Government and I’m Here to Help You”

  31. Thank you. Well said. You might want to provide links to Facebook and Twitter; it would greatly aid in spreading the word.

    1. Michael,
      Thank you for suggesting the facebook addition , which was added. When I found this last night, after getting sick to my stomach (almost) while reading the ALEC page, I immediately started sharing it with as many organized sites and friend as I could. We all knew the language and the actions were all too much alike. Then after sharing on facebook, I started downloading as many files as I could –sending them to a friend who was also doing this and I was doing print sceens to send her to print. I think with the exposure they are going to get now with FB they will take that page underground like much of it is already. I was convinced last night that it would be gone by now, but it exists. I now think it will take until the end of the week before it is private only.. I don’t know if you looked at the pictures of some of their events taken by professional photographer, so they can order their likeness, in the background the topic was THE NEW MAJORITY. I felt as if I was a fly on the wall at a KKK meeting or something..very disturbing to me. Basically they would be circumventing any open meetings laws as under investigation in WI, at the very least, since the laws are scripted in secrecy.. Sad day for democracy.. Especially the Disorder to the court brochure…. RECALLS thanks again for helping this great prof get his word out by your suggestion.

  32. “I can hire one half of the working class to kill the other half.”
    Jay Gould, US financier & railroad businessman (1836 – 1892)

  33. Prof Cronon:

    THANK YOU for this excellent write-up on the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and all the LINKS that you have provided. This is a very important story that has really started to bubble up.

    Our team on the DailyKos put together as much information on ALEC and did a hasty investigation of ALEC in the State of Michigan and our legislation. We first noticed it from a WI TV news story on Koch. Many of the links and references that you have provided were included but we also see a few that we missed. Thanks, we will add those.

    OUR INVESTIGATION March 8, 2011: “Gov Rick Snyder Sellout? Prefabricated Corporate Michigan (Government) Courtesy of Koch & ALEC Excl.”

    Now that many are becoming aware of ALEC and the nature of it’s fundamental threat to the democratic process in multiple States across the country. The question is: WHAT’S NEXT?

    Some folks have been gathering their resources to investigate ALEC activity and the presence of ALEC influence in their State or in their area. Environmental groups, which have been on the trail of ALEC before, namely the NRDC back in 2002-2003, are gearing back up on the ALEC story and the relationships between both specific politicians and legislation.

    We have talked to quite a few larger national organizations in labor and elsewhere (also Rachel Maddow’s team before her mention of ALEC – glad to see we are not the only ones making the pitch to her team (see below)), and despite the fact that ALEC language and content is very pervasive in legislation and bills now flying around in many States, perhaps a more efficient approach is in order.

    In a conversation with a Professor at the University of Michigan last night, we came upon the idea of using “anit-plagiarism” software used in the academic world to check student papers for similar content and apply it to ALEC.

    THE IDEA IS THAT by loading passed legislation and ALEC models (hard to come by we know that), a database of ALEC content could be established in which to compare new bills active across the country for that “ALEC Content” returning back a “score” or percent of similar content. This would point teams quickly on where to look, and concentrate resources, like the NPR team did in GA on the ALEC-CCA corrections privatization story. Also, by doing this we can show using technology where all the trails lead and add relationship mapping features (like Muckety) to paint a picture to all Americans about how far this ALEC influence goes.

    The ALEC story of teams of corporate lawyers and lobbyists “co-authoring’ legislation with State Legislators outside a State for import back into to their home States is one anyone can understand, as unbelievable as it might sound at first. We might call it “Law Laundering”.

    Just a couple thoughts.

    Thanks again for tracking this, it’s a big deal.

  34. You have my deepest appreciation for your effort to shine light on ALEC. Your work helps to make sense of the apparent narrow corporate interest at the heart of much recent Republican sponsored legislation. As usual, the very old answer to many political question is still “follow the money”.

  35. Bill, I think you are very un-educated. I feel you have no idea what you are talking about. You have taken everything out of context and what you have said in your piece is being read for diciplinary actions. Feel free to change the lies you have put in here, but you will still be going to court for all the lies. Till court day. I bid you adue

    1. Joeseph,
      Get out of the basement, pull up your Depends, take your medication, and lay down with a nice cool cloth on your feverish forehead.

    2. Joseph:
      If you consider that Prof. Cronon is un-educated, I think you should present your educated points to conclude something (with intelligence instead of emotion). Please, inform us with the TRUTH, don’t just threat Prof. Cronon. Don’t be so angry, rather show your “education”.

      At this point if I have to choose between the information in Prof. Cronon blog and your reply, you don’t have much …. you don’t sound educated at all.

    3. “diciplinary”?
      I have the good fortune of having been in enough trouble, early in my life, to know how to spell “discipline”

      you really should get out more, Joseph

    4. Joseph,

      Do you “feel” that Cronon does not have degrees from Oxford and Yale? That he did not receive a Rhodes scholarship and a MacArthur Genius Grant? What about him strikes you as “uneducated”? That he happens to disagree with you? You have just single-handedly demonstrated the problem with our social and political discourse (with typos!): not only do facts not matter, opinions are not even opinions (they are facts!). Grow up, along with the rest of your ilk, and learn that ad hominem attacks without substance only make you look like a baby and an ignoramus. Your family deserves more from you.

    5. William Cronon says “I have always cherished Wisconsin for its neighborliness”.

      Joseph Vaughn says, in response “I feel you have no idea what you are talking about.”

      Really, Joseph! Why do you think that Wisconsin is so un-neighborly?

  36. Congratulation on this in-depth investigation. Who knows, with this kind of research, we may find out who was really behind the 9/11 collapse of the three NY skyscrapers. It was not the airplanes.

    1. I was wondering how long it would take me to find a committed Truther on this whackjob leftie site.
      A new world’s record.

      1. @Skippy: Reminder that personal attacks in comments violate the Terms of Service. Please stop.

  37. It was the policies of Obama, Pelosi, Ried, etc., that has caused the move toward the right. The movement is far more wide spread and more of a grass roots movement than most on the left realize. The reaction from the left at this time is not that different than the reaction from the right was after the last election. I feel that some of what is happening is the natural motion of a pendulum that has swung too far in both directions for each side to tolerate.

    1. Yes, the reaction now days is not different from the hasty reaction people had on november of 2010. However, I wonder if this is the natural motion of a pendulum, or it is … rather the ignorance of the people. When people use their intelligence with responsibility and take their time to think, they don’t allow themselves to be moved like sheep… I hope people take some time investigating the truth instead of swinging back and forth to the next person they listen (in command) with “scary information”.

  38. So perhaps some FOIA requests of certain Wisconsin legislators’ and staffers’ emails is in order. “ALEC” would be an obvious search term.

  39. “This is especially true when politicians at the state and local level promote legislation drafted at the national level that may not actually best serve the interests of their home districts and states.”

    I’ve lived in Wisconsin longer than the Professor. I think I know a little about the state and its “neighborliness.” Asserting that he knows better than I do what is or is not in my best interests is not “neighborliness.”

    Wisconsin has a strong conservative and libertarian tradition, something which might not be immediately apparent to a “pragmatic centrist” whose spent his entire time in the state living in Madison and working at the UW. Paul Weyrich is a legitimate son of Wisconsin. Scott Walker is too and of the same religious and philosophical family. But the Professor’s entire argument is nonsense. Truth and principle is not bounded by state lines, as Prof. Cronon’s page of Favorite Quotations on his website attests.

    I’ve always thought the essence of Wisconsin’s “neighborliness” is respecting property and keeping your nose in your own business. For decades this tradition — born of and steeped in Wisconsin’s rural dairy farmers — has been steadily eroded by the acid of progressive regulation and legislation flowing out of Madison to contaminate the rest of the state. Outrageous property taxes have all but destroyed the meaning of private property in the state. Owning property and retiring in Wisconsin is a faint hope.

    No, I was born and raised in Wisconsin and I applaud the change sweeping the state. It is homegrown and it suits me just fine.

    1. Paul Weyrich was an embarrassment to this State. Don’t try to whitewash his contributions. He does belong in that same bucket with McCarthy, and now Walker. “I don’t want everybody to vote. Elections are not won by a majority of the people. They never have been from the beginning of our country and they are not now. As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.”? Weyrich, he said that. That’s about as unfriendly, un-neighborly, and anti-democracy as any individual can be. Shame. I don’t even have to mention his views on race or heterocentrism, that just proves the point at what a terrible, destructive, and ultimately shallow person he was.

      1. Mr. Weyrich’s quote happens to be true, as is my contention that he is a legitimate son of Wisconsin. If you don’t wish to believe either, well, that’s the difference between us.

        Mr. Weyrich’s lasting contribution to our society was his founding of the Heritage Foundation, an organization which I’m sure will torment you with the truth for many, many years to come.

        There are many things Mr. Weyrich has said and done which I disagree with. They are mostly economic. I am not a Weyrich acolyte. His lasting shame is his blind support of AMTRAK and rail mass transit. I’m sorry, that doesn’t qualify him as a “terrible, destructive, and ultimately shallow person” in my book. Just a person who happened to hold some shallow ideas.

        As far as neighborliness goes, it seems to me your idea of a good neighbor is someone who agrees with you on virtually every issue. That’s baloney and it’s not the Wisconsin way.

        Persuade with a logical argument and politics and elections will take care of themselves. In the meantime, stay on your side of the fence and think what you want. Allow me the courtesy of doing the same.

    2. Bob,
      Agree…your best lines:
      “born of and steeped in Wisconsin’s rural dairy farmers — has been steadily eroded by the acid of progressive regulation and legislation flowing out of Madison to contaminate the rest of the state. Outrageous property taxes have all but destroyed the meaning of private property in the state. Owning property and retiring in Wisconsin is a faint hope.

      No, I was born and raised in Wisconsin and I applaud the change sweeping the state. It is homegrown and it suits me just fine.”

      bucky Too

  40. As a moderate independent, I’m very appreciative for investigative techniques used on both parties, be they Republican or Democrat, liberal or conservative. I applaud Mr. Cronon first of all for his tenacious research on ALEC, and although there may be some things that I disagree with him, overall I liked his article.

    But my question is this … if Mr. Cronon uses state college electronic infrastructure to perform his research and to post his findings, would it not be anyone’s right under state or federal statutes to request an FOIA? In my own opinion I believe that is the core of the debate concerning the brouhaha that has erupted over his blog.

    Mr. Cronon, keep up the good work sir.

  41. Thank you so much for all the work that clearly went into this. As someone who follows politics closely (and who is a state employee, hence the use of a pseudonym) I have been trying to understand where “all this” is coming from, and why even career politicians like the Fitzgeralds are acting in a way that doesn’t necessarily appear to be in their political self-interest. Your post goes a long way toward explaining things. I try hard not to fall prey to sinister conspiracy theories in trying to understand complex events, and what you have presented– while truly disturbing– doesn’t seem to be one. That appears especially true in light of the FOI request from the Wisconsin GOP that your department received shortly after your New York Times op-ed was published last week.

    I truly hope that you have begun the process of exposing with sufficient sunshine what the Republican party is trying to do to the United States, and more importantly, how they are trying to go about doing it.

  42. “Welfare queens from Detroit…maggots who won’t work at McDonald’s…” et cetera ad nauseam. Yeah, you sound like someone who is “as far LEFT as you can go.” Tell your story walking.

  43. As Dr. Cronon mentioned, ALEC does not make its members known to the public. However, if his emails need to be released for the public good, I think their membership rosters would be very informative to the public as well.

    Luckily, lazy technology makes this possible to an extent. On the ALEC website, they have a “Forgot Password” page, like most sites do. However, the process for resetting a password only requires an email address with no other information, and it gives immediate confirmation as to whether or not that email is registered in the system:


    Using this page, I was able to verify Rep. Jeff Fitzgerald’s membership in a few seconds using the email address on his state web page (Rep.Fitzgerald@legis.wisconsin.gov).

    Open up the shades and let the sunshine in, before they figure out this loophole and close it.

    1. Mirroring Sam’s approach I found that at a minimum the following state senators have accounts with alec:

      Darling(R), Ellis(R), Fitzgerald(R), Grothman(R), Hopper(R), Kapanke(R), Kedzie(R), Lasee(R), Lazich(R)

      The remainder do not have accounts with usernames associated with their senate email (they may not be members, they could be using another address, or the site admins decided to change their script). I found it odd that there was a large number of Republican members with last names that start with the early alphabet characters but who knows …

      Perhaps using the state open records law to request emails from these senators with key words pertaining to alec and its ghost writing of legislation will help you expand on the known influence of this group.

      1. Alas, the password reset page is now down, suggesting that they’re on to you. If I had to guess, the password reset emails to the legislators in question did it. But nice bit of ingenuity there.

  44. Regarding communication strategy. I recently visited impoverished friends who live in Milwaukee. They support Walker because they like the slogan ‘Taxes are too high, government is too big and State workers are paid too much’. They support Walker, even though their Medicaid benefits may be cut.

  45. Add these books to your bibliography: absolute must reads:

    1. Rick Pearlstein “Nixonland” and “Before the Storm”
    2.Thomas Edsall “Chain Reaction: The Impact of Race, Rights, and Taxes on American Politics “

  46. I’ve read both this blog and your Op-Ed piece in the New York Times. I live in the panhandle of Florida, a state currently struggling under the influence of a Tea Party elected Governor, Rick Scott, quite similar in actions and behavior to Scott Walker. I often write Letters to the Editor of my local newspaper and would like your permission to use much of your material in a letter I wish to write exposing the influence of ALEC. Much of what you’ve stated in your articles is also reflected in a book written by John W. Dean (Nixon’s legal counsel during Watergate), entitled “Conservative Without Conscience.” In the foward to the book, Dean states he was close personal friends with Barry Goldwater, and began writing the book in collaboration with Goldwater before he died. According to Dean, Goldwater had become horrified with the “Moral Majority” group who was usurping the “Grand Ole Party” and wanted to write the book in an effort to blunt their influence. Dean had a personal vendetta in finishing the book after a personal attack on Dean and his wife by G. Gordon Liddy, who was trying to rewrite the history of Watergate. But, the book does offer some interesting first-hand confirmations of your theories.

  47. It is so unfortunate the great minds of our generation are teaching instead of leading us in government. If only these great minds could stomach dealing with the most evil conglomerates of men on a daily basis.

    Professor Cronon, I urge you to become more involved in politics to make a greater impact on our state than developing the minds of a relatively powerless segment of the population.

    1. I don’t believe for a moment that Profesor Cronin is shaping the minds of a “relatively powerless segment of the population”. I can’t wait to sit back and watch the fun begin when our generation that is next in line to “run things around here” takes its power. We’ve been complacent for several decades. I don’t think these guys and gals will be. Our current President was swept into office through the power of the internet and social networks. Nothing can remain in obscurity for long, anymore – everyone is potentially watching, and I couldn’t be happier. Thank you, Professor, for all of the work you do – not least, shaping minds!

  48. Maybe someone should make a FOIA request of the Walker Administration for all of their correspondence with ALEC and other like organizations. It would be interesting to see to what degree communication with ALEC may have precipitated the proposed legislation we are now seeing coming forth.

  49. One suggestion and one point to make. Sorry if either have already been covered as there are now too many posts to review.

    I would suggest that you post your work on this at Wikipedia so that it gets more readership and definitely becomes part of the permanent public record. Be sure to check back often as the focus of your reports will try to obfuscate and scrub what is offensive to them.

    The other thought is that this is not unique to America but seems to be a global phenomenon. I’m not sure if it’s origins are in the dominance of America but you may want to look further into how it is spreading and from where.

  50. What a great blog. I found out about the “controversy” and read comments regarding your blog before I even read the blog. I am impressed greatly once again by those who try to shine light on a topic, as has Professor Cronon, and those who choose to obfuscate. There is clearly a successful attempt to be impartial and scholarly in your approach. Thank you for your example. I do believe this is truly a Wisconsin tradition which I hope to follow in my life and through my actions. You make me proud of my Alma mater.

  51. Thank you for this informative post on the ability of elected officials to bypass open meeting laws by joining these private associations. The infamous Senate Bill 1070 in Arizona was virtually written by the private corrections corporations belonging to ALEC, with the goal of increasing incarceration in the state of Arizona, and coincidentally boosting profits for these private companies. They certainly have the right to lobby, but not in ways that avoid public awareness. Here is a vote of encouragement to you!

  52. Thank you for writing this! I’m so glad ALEC is getting more attention now. I’ve been posting about ALEC on DemocraticUnderground.com, too, ever since discovering on March 8 just how much of the right-wing legislative blitz we’re seeing comes from that source.


    I agree completely with what you wrote here:

    “ALEC’s efforts to disenfranchise voters likely to vote Democratic, for instance, and its efforts to destroy public-sector unions because they also tend to favor Democrats, strike me as objectionable and anti-democratic (as opposed to anti-Democratic) on their face.”

    Again, thank you!

  53. Thank you so much for compiling the information in the above entry and then speaking up about the GOP backlash that followed. I live in Madison a few blocks from the capitol and graduated years ago from UW. Now that your blog is getting posted around facebook, your name, your situation, I can only imagine the insanity that’s going to start coming in your direction. Remember you are surrounded by supporters here, and call on us (via media, facebook, email) if there is anything we can do to help you.

  54. Dear Mr. Cronon,

    I want to suggest that you research the activities of the Hoover Institution at Stanford University — one of this country’s oldest conservative thinktanks borne of a robber baron of an earlier day, Leland Stanford. I believe it was they who brought together conservative former heads of state George Schultz and Jean Kirkpatrick and others to groom George W. Bush for the presidency. I don’t have anything more to cite, but I’m sure there’s a whole lot more.

    Thank you for your excellent work.

    John Gaylord

  55. “Although there may be analogous structures at the other end of the political spectrum, they’re frequently not nearly so well coordinated or so disciplined in the ways they pursue their goals.”

    A structure needn’t be part of the political spectrum at all. Anybody remember the US Government Office of Technology Assessment? (http://www.princeton.edu/~ota/)

    If you’re competent and do not share their goals you’re expendable. The “Class of ’94” had the OTA in it’s crosshairs from day 1.

  56. I must thank the Republican Party of Wisconsin for bringing the work of Professor Cronon to my attention.

  57. Professor Cronon,

    Very simply, thank you from the bottom of my heart. This information will enable us to fight back, something that is long overdue.

  58. Words, words, words..

    If two people are confined to the same room and only one is smoking they will both die.

    As long as our demand for short-term profits remains diametrically opposed to our long-term needs for survival there will be no peace. You wonder why the environmental issue keeps popping up because you’re not seeing the bigger agenda.

    We need Legislation to divorce money(lubrication) from politics(power) without exception!

    In a future True Democracy, I will determine how and when my money is spent through the use of computers. Representatives will be rendered obsolete.

    This is not a game

  59. Just thought you might like to know many of us, academics and graduate students around the country, have been reading your blog and about your situation and stand ready to support you. As a young academic, I fear the attack on you portends a rocky future for myself and my peers with regards to academic freedom.

    Also, thank you for alerting me to the work of ALEC. As a person who did her degree in Political Science, I am embarrassed to admit I had no idea of the scope of their influence on Tea Party-esque and other legislation. It’s something I will pay much more attention to in the future.

  60. ALEC Spring Break in Cincinnati (April 28-29):


    Catch some rays on the beach outside the Cincinnati Hilton Netherland Plaza. You just might see your State Rep!

    I just found out one of our 3 state Senators in our county is the ALEC State Chairman. Surprise, Surprise!


    Thank you Professor Cronon, I just learned something “interesting” today!

  61. This is one of the most refreshing blogs I have read in a long time. Serious, thoughtful, and with no foaming at the mouth. I’d have said such writing was impossible in this day and age.

    From my point of view, ALEC appears to be a wholly-owned subsidiary of Mordor, but that’s just me.

  62. Your NYT op-ed made me face my early childhood when my father, his bosses and colleagues at The Capital Times in Madison, WI were running scared as they resolutely brought down Joe McCarthy. May today’s progressives have the strength to investigate ALEC, et al for the next generation.

  63. Hand in there, Doc. don’t let the weasels get you down. A potential wake-up call has been sounding for Progressives for years; you heard, and answered. Now the rest of us need to do likewise.

  64. I believe I heard a multi-part piece on NPR (of all places) recently on ALEC taking money from major private prison companies to push legislation that requires the incarceration of “illegal” immigrants. There companies that profit from the exploding prison population have demonstrated that with enough money you can get ALEC to promote state-level legislation the is quite profitable.

    1. I heard that report on Morning Edition too. It was the first time that I had jeard of ALEC and found the coonection between them and the private prison industry fascinating.

  65. I’m only posting, because the CAPTCHA says “unreliable nfolin”…. I personally am a conservative, and see the modern Republicans as traitors to the cause. I have read on some of these groups, and I can call it corruption. Corruption of an ideal. I want a small government that’s less restrictive, taxes less, and interferes less in business. But with the mega corporations of today, my ideal can never work. Instead of an oppressive government, we’d have much more oppressive bosses. We’d be “minimum wage slaves” as a friend of mine calls it. And I shiver at the thought ofmy son becoming one. So, I am very much anti big business. “When the power of love overcomes the love of power, we will all be peaceful and free” Jimi Hendrix 1968… And as a true conservative, unions are a private organization, and are legit to me. I hope they survive…

    1. Thanks for saying this. One thing I find very ironic about many modern conservatives is that they hate unions and love corporations.

      But unions are part of a free market. In the absence of government, people could still form unions. Corporations, on the other hand, only exist because of the government; someone in favor of a more free market should be against them!

      This isn’t to say that I think corporations shouldn’t exist. The right’s priorities just don’t make any sense (unless, of course, they’re acting to benefit big business).

    1. I don’t know that that document can be said to have started this trend. Consider the Millionaire’s Plot against FDR, busted by Marine Corps Major General Smedley Butler, whom the conspiring millionaires tried to hire to head a rebellion using WW1 vets as shock troops. http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/USAbutlerSD.htm
      It’s interesting that Prescott Bush and George Herbert Walker were among the millionaires fingered by Butler in his testimony before the “Special Committee on Un-American Activities Authorized to Investigate Nazi Propaganda and Certain Other Propaganda Activities.”
      I’ve been saying this for years, but the modern conservative movement wants to repeal the entire 20th Century, except for the nukes and the internal combustion engine.

  66. “Among them was the controversial 2010 anti-immigrant law in Arizona.”
    Actually, the legislation began in 2007 and was drafted to be consistent with Federal laws in an effort to deter employment of ineligible aliens. According to the California Public Policy Institute it has had the effect of reducing illegal aliens from the workplace:

    Lessons from the 2007 Legal Arizona Workers Act”
    “Arizona’s unauthorized immigrant population shrank after employers were required to verify workers’ legal status with the federal E-Verify system. … Arizona’s population of unauthorized immigrants of working age fell by about 17 percent, or about 92,000 people, as a result of the Legal Arizona Workers Act (LAWA).” http://www.ppic.org/main/publication.asp?i=915

  67. Here is another of their crusades against health care reform. They are teamed up with the Mackinac Center.

    “State Legislators’ Guide to Repealing ObamaCare
    1/27/2011 4:25 PM

    The American Legislative Exchange Council has just published a “State Legislators Guide to Repealing ObamaCare.” However, the 15-point summary prepared by ALEC staff and posted below is a Mackinac Center/MichCapCon.com online exclusive, because to our knowledge this bullet-point version not been published except in hard copy:

    Executive Summary: ALEC’s State Legislators Guide to Repealing ObamaCare

    1. Introduce ALEC’s Freedom of Choice in Health Care Act, the primary legislative vehicle for state pushback of the individual mandate and Canadian-style, single-payer health care.

    2. Introduce a resolution supporting repeal of ObamaCare, an effective way to communicate the repeal message to members of your state’s Congressional delegation.

    3. Enact a moratorium on ObamaCare rulemaking, which will allow your state to focus its limited regulatory resources on core functions of government.

    4. Introduce legislation authorizing a federal waiver on ObamaCare’s medical loss ratio requirement, which will help your state delay implementation of this provision until 2014.

    5. Reject ObamaCare discretionary grants that aid in the federal takeover of state health insurance regulation.

    6. Decline to enforce ObamaCare’s “consumer protections” if such enforcement authority does not already exist.

    7. Commission independent research to track and measure ObamaCare’s impact at the state level.

    8. Hold public hearings and establish standing legislative committees to examine ObamaCare’s implementation and impact.

    9. Participate in the ObamaCare rulemaking and comment process to the extent possible.

    10. Serve as a legislative check on agency and executive branch implementation of ObamaCare.

    11. Introduce study bills or make public calls for Medicaid “opt out” in 2014, which has already shifted the debate to the unintended consequences of ObamaCare’s Medicaid mandates.

    12. Introduce study bills or make public calls for “public employee opt out” in 2014, which has already focused attention on the unintended consequences of ObamaCare’s employer mandate.

    13. Recruit unlikely allies and demonstrate broad-based opposition to the individual mandate.

    14. Engage key stakeholders in an “adult conversation” about ObamaCare’s impact on state funding priorities.

    15. Introduce ALEC model legislation and chart a course for patient-centered, free-market health policy.”


  68. Uphoff,
    I’ll address your comments. However, in relation to the original post, you might find these recent articles of interest.


    We agree, property taxes are not progressive and they “impose an unfair and disproportionate burden on those least able to pay.” Yes, that is my view, too.
    You ask, “but the real issues are, or at least should be, what services are best provided by government? What is a reasonable amount to pay? and Wow [sic] can we fairly apportion the cost of such services.”
    I disagree. First, please define FAIR. I have never seen a liberal define FAIR, or FAIR SHARE.
    The question is not WHAT services government should provide, but how much should society devote to public expenditures, and who should pay for such? Public sector administrators want labor peace. They are lazy. Personally, they would rather give in and spend more…than fight egregious waste and excessive spending. Administrators have personal lives, too. They don’t want to face labor strikes, protesting employees, or countless legal suits. Easier at every turn to make problems “go away” by spending more. Public managers are basically BS artists. They can’t manage and they rarely have constrained budgets. I mean really….with almost no inflation according to BLS, how is that the UW is raising tuition by 9% next year…and probably 9% more next year? Ya think Martin is really in control? Ya think Martin really wants to tell the faculty that the well is dry? Perhaps that is why the cost of higher ed has exploded far beyond COL for the last two decades. Public union expectations have been excessive for years!

    You claim personal taxes are high because others “who are receiving society’s service aren’t paying their fair share.” OK, fair enough. Examine your logic and the facts. Who are the primary beneficiaries of ed spending? Ans: 1. teachers, staff and administrators
    2. the students ..and their families. If a kid becomes a doctor and earns big $, to whom do the wages accrue? And who paid for the educational “investment”? Taxpayers paid… and the Doc now charges a lot and makes big $. As a taxpayer, I am screwed twice. Ya want me to pay more in property taxes just for the right to live in my own house? Furgetit.
    My view, after grade 9, let the parents pay for their own kids’ education. If they don’t have the money…loan it to them. If they can pass a HS graduation exit exam, refund 50% of their cost as a social contribution. If they can’t pass an exit test, they pay the full balance, just as though it was a permanent lien on their future. Two consequences: kids will understand there is no free lunch…and they will study much more.

    Yes, the Democratic Congress during the Bush administration went into debt. The intent was to create an environment for economic growth. The theory of cutting taxes to growth usually is attributed to the experience during JFK’s reign. I did not support either. Genuine growth in the US is almost impossible. Gov only tries to “do something” to meet the populist screams for “jobs, more jobs.,” and it does so via faux means, i.e., deficits and increasing debt. This short-term strategy is both dishonest and about to end because for a host of reasons. Ya can’t borrow your way to prosperity or real growth. BTW, gross debt and deficit spending under Obama has been obscene by any measure compared to all other administrations. About that there is no debate. http://blog.heritage.org/2009/03/24/bush-deficit-vs-obama-deficit-in-pictures/

    You ask, “Perhaps then you might explain how Wall Street bankers taking billions from the Federal Reserve at 0% interest and then loaning it out to credit card users at between 12-29% constitutes “earning” anything.
    Ans: 1. If you don’t like the cost of a loan, don’t borrow from your CCard. 2. Positive earnings from CC’s somewhat offsets the massive non-performing mortgages. M&I is a classic case. Oh…and I assume you’re aware that many banks have gone BK [?] Take a look at the stock price of MI for the last 5 years..or C, or JPM. Oh..and Wachovia? So much for your case of excessive bank profits.

    You wrote, “Sadly we are rapidly becoming a nation that no longer makes things. 40% of the nation’s GDP now come from the financial services industry whose contributions to the betterment of society consists largely of gambling with other people’s money and then turning to the taxpayers to bail them out when their speculations go sour.”
    My reply….you have no clue about economics. I defy you to define and differentiate the difference between “gambling” and “investing,” ….and//or between “speculating” and “investing.” Other peoples money? WTF…you and most of Wisconsin is clueless.

    Tell me. Where were all the public union complaints and investigative reports when SWIB twice in last decade LOST 10 times the amount Walker needs to balance the budget? Have ya ever seen a detailed analysis why SWIB lost BILLIONS? That is another REAL story Cronon, et.al. can pursue. And dat ain’t no puissant issue.

    Finally, in response to your distortion of the record [ “Between 1965 – 2008 when Republicans controlled the White House and both houses of Congress´ ] >> see this graph: http://dshort.com/charts/federal-debt-2011-budget.html?federal-debt-to-gdp-politics-update

    FWIW, I did not support TARP, or the Wall Street Bailout. I am for NO gov subsidies to corporations…to GE, GM, the ethanol and farming lobby, crop supports, mortgage industry, LEH or BSC or Fannie or Freddie. I do not support “prevailing wage” contracts.
    Markets must include the option of failure. Period. I am not a shill for business, big business or unions.

    Tax businesses as much as you like….double tax rates…triple them. I do not care. BUT, do not complain if businesses and banks go BK and no jobs are created. Ya can’t have it both ways.

    Finally, I suggest you review the work of Eric Hanushek ……there is no relationship to ed spending, unionization, and academic achievement. Wisc on average spends far more than my state…and yet, ACT scores are only 2 pts higher. At the margin, more ed spending and average class sizes of 14 or less is not worth it, especially to working class home owners and high property taxes that are a way of life in Wisconsin.

    Sorry, no Lee S. Dreyfus reference to my past. I am just an intellectual peasant who graduated from Madison’s Dept. of History. …among others.

    1. Eric Hanushek is a pawn for republican politics and has been debunked on numerous occassions by many in education for making things up and performing poor research. Look around. Sorry.

        1. Another reminder to commenter, Bucky Too, bukey2, and Earl. You must provide a valid email address when commenting. This notice has been sent to all of your email addresses and bounced. Please abide by this request.

    2. @bucky Too. Reminder to all commenters must provide a VALID email address to ensure that your comment is not delayed by the spam filter. Your email address is not published.

      1. Yo…webmaster…Prof. Cronon…

        Sorry, I am not about to release my email address.
        I have not flamed individuals with personal attacks, profanity, etc.
        No need to publish this… it is a private note, though if you do publish it…no matter. [you can determine that this is really ‘bucky Too” because my email address, though bogus, is one of several that I have used. No other person could possibly know the bogus address that I have used. ]

        The point of Socratic dialogue and critical thinking transcends the identity, race, age, ethnic background of the speaker/writer/thinker. The ideas that I’ve expressed stand or fall on their own merits, though in an informal blog format, I didn’t attempt a professional, scholarly tone.

        You can delete my posts……since they don’t compliment the sentiments of unionists and the anti-Walker lynch mob.

        I thought the most noble educational outcome of the educational experience at Madison was a faith in reasoned debate. In that spirit, I have made a few posts that might have caused one or two to reconsider their assumptions about a range of issues. Then again, I may have had no impact whatsoever.

        I presume that you will agree, the truth is not democratic, anymore than guilt or innocence of a lynching victim has nothing whatsoever to do with the size of the crowd, or the informal vote that determined his/her outcome.

        M.S. Aroni, the late publisher of The Minority of One, used a worthy byline. I can’t remember it exactly, but he quoted Orwell to the effect that “There was truth and there was untruth. Even if you stood for truth against the whole world, you were not mad.”

        Now I make no claim to omniscience, but I remain resolute in my conviction that just because I express a minority view, I am not necessarily wrong. Many other lemmings of high stature and great conventional fame got it wrong. Long Term Capital Management { da boys of Black-Scholes fame } got it wrong and almost took down Wall Street. McNamara and Kennedy’s Brain Trust got Vietnam wrong. All the leading investment bankers, including Goldman, Baer, Lehman, etc., got it wrong before the crash of 08. Bankers at Wachovia got it wrong. The NYTimes got it wrong with Jason Blair……and the infamous Alex Haley ??? yeah… http://www.americanthinker.com/2009/11/before_dreams_there_was_roots.html

        The list is long, but no doubt, you understand the point. And, I am certain that you know the case of Prof. Bellesiles, though the lemmings who read this blog do not. [ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_A._Bellesiles ]

        [webmaster: lengthy reprinting of Wikipedia removed]

        No need for me to write anything more. Lead your tribe from the echo chamber and attack ALEC. Carry the traditional flag of Progressivism into battle. But I still view Walker's initiatives like those of Cotton Mather. an heretic thought to you.

        Oh, and the Republican request for your email records? Re-read their letter. There MIGHT be many reasons why they asked for a FOI request. It is not necessarily intimidating. What's the big deal? You have tenure. Beyond your wildest dreams, ya ain't gunna be the next Ward Churchill—and I hope, not the next Michael Bellesiles.


        bucky Too ….. aka intellectual peasant and graduate of the UW History Department.

      2. Oh…webmaster…Prof. Cronon… a final post script.

        One situation that would CAUSE me to release my identity…..

        If the Department hired me to “teach” one class about critical thinking each semester, for a 4 consecutive semesters, I would return to Madison. Oh…Yes, I have passed the PhD exams………

        bucky Too

  69. We’ve needed this. I’ve worked in local and state Dem politics for a long time. For many of the reasons you’ve outlined, it either isn’t working or we are hanging by a thread. So you say, “let’s get to work.” I’ve worked. Please suggest some effective strategies. We are losing.

    1. Dear Amy, Thanks for your ongoing work. Get into organizing by obtaining donor lists in any way you can. You must have an organization stamp, a 501c, (whatever) and then obtain lists of voters, donors, regional, and city-wides, both for the independents and independent-leaning. I would avoid “tree-huggers of all kinds, whether or not pro-choice is up to the individual not your candidate. Get donor lists from organizations, Democrats running in your geography. Mentally map and walk each state district looking for records, and donors. Your primary goal is fundraising success. Many contributors, unknown to you now, will pour in to an effort led for “The Common Good” of all
      Wisconsinites, or some such sloganed title. Contact the Democracy For America (Jim Dean) and the State Democratic
      party for leads and counsel.

  70. Here is some info:


    We need sunlight on these activities. I just discovered this about a month ago and really think everyone needs to be aware of their activities.

    FWIW, the Spring Task Force Summit is April 28-29 Cincinnati, OH at the Hilton Netherland Plaza.

    Spring Task Force Summit

    An intensive meeting of ALEC’s Task Forces members, the Summit is designed to keep members abreast of new developments in the states with Task Force meetings, and hearings on pressing issues.

    The next Annual Meeting is August 3-6 in New Orleans at the Marriott.

    The Annual Meeting

    Approximately 2,000 legislators, business executives, and public-policy experts gather for four days to discuss issues and develop policy. Each meeting features 35 to 40 workshops, plenary sessions, and Task Force meetings, as well as numerous networking opportunities at social events.

  71. now this what i call blogging, renews my faith in the power of the word/scholarship – and the heavyhanded attempt at intimidation has only put a spotlight on material they would have preferred stay marginal – god moves in mysterious way

  72. Thank you for this excellent article. We need to know more about all of this, particularly in light of this recent attempt to intimidate you as described in the NYT. ALEC seems to me a deliberate effort to mislead the public by creating a populist cover for centralized money, planning, and organization of disguised origin. I hope that you will respond to the request for your emails by demanding that your requester also reveal his emails surrounding this subject. This may be an opportunity to see ALEC in action. I also suggest you do your future research on the subject on your home computer and private email account.

  73. They took the link down. For now, Google’s search cache still shows it here: http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:trOTNBHQtDAJ:www.alec.org/AM/Template.cfm%3FSection%3DThe_Solution+http://www.alec.org/AM/Template.cfm%3FSection%3DThe_Solution&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us&ie=UTF-8&source=www.google.com.

    So an industry/company approaches ALEC with a sales pitch to expand its government business, cloaked in pro-business rhetoric and spun as conservative, makes a donation and its attorneys and PR folks go to work providing ALEC talking points and draft legislation. Sounds like a convenient arrangement, especially if you have some land to sell in the middle of nowhere for a prison. And no doubt your pals in county government will oblige a promise of a couple hundred minimum wage jobs in exchange for building free roads, extending water/sewer service and rebating your taxes for the next 30 years. All funded by taxes paid by those minimum wage prison “guards” who will not doubt express gratitude for being so lucky to have jobs by re-electing their new favorite state Senator. Never mind that they’d make more money and get better benefits if the prison was run instead by the state government, or that the Senator’s pals and nephew just happened to have had the parcel of land that the private prison was built on.

    1. Heard part of a story on NPR yesterday about the for-profit prisons expanding a “juvenile” facility upwards into adulthood so they could have 300 more prisoners and make more money. The town lives from the prison jobs since the textile industry they had there was moved abroad. Imagine how those same workers would feel to have their manufacturing jobs back and (God forbid) some union wages. Not to mention the juveniles now mingled with hardcore adults in a prison facility–where’s the mercy?

  74. from my first reading, in the NYTimes this morning, about the fracas of the professor’s remarks particularly mentioning ALEC, i have been unable to ‘access’ any of ALEC website links, such as are present in this blog i write in.

    The first line, craven in its implications, in the Wikipedia article on “American Legislative Exchange Council” says:

    “The American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, is a non-partisan, ideologically conservative, non-profit 501(c)(3) membership association of state legislators and private sector policy advocates.”

    It does a great violence to the Merkian language, using the word “non-partisan” so whimsically–so . . . shall i say “politically”!
    and along the same tiresomely condescending lines, trotting out the “non-partisan” newspeak term.

    And to suggest that the agendas of ALEC are, au fond, non-profit is utterly risible.

    however i should not be surprised, should i by chance confront The Fox news commentator speaking on a TV,
    to hear that kind of outlandish statement made–thus being aired, and set forth to the large Merkian public–to those who we call the electorate. & they, undoubting, would be accepting the Foxy statements as “facts”. O! no doubt of it!

    times are pretty murky, aren’t they?

  75. How do we create and maintain an interest in keeping abreast of ongoing attacks of ALEC organizations that are designed to break basic human protections, at the profit of a few, and bring the smaller pocket population to its knees unprepared without knowledge of of the coming expertly manipulated ALEC organizations orchestrated governmental acts and resulting crisis that beholds America’s middle class, poor, and children today? We must desire to sustain an awareness of active intervention that protects human rights that are under attack across the U.S.A. today, but how?

  76. I respectfully disagree with your conclusion that ALEC is a legitimate political organization. I would brand them seditious and question what their ultimate goal is from the total of legislation introduced across the country. Of course people have a right to free association, and to organize political efforts with whom they so choose. ALEC seems intent on taking that tenant of our Constitution, both State and Federal, away from those that are not, “one of us”. I call that treasonous and seditious and am very afraid of the enemy from within.

    1. Not that it is any surprise ALEC has taken down its website, but of course the question is what do they have to hide? Fear of nasty comments, or something a little more sinister…? And they talk about the right to opinion in a democracy? We can imagine what that might look like…sadly.

  77. I’ve found my new hero. I just finished reading the NYT editorial, and the 2 main blog posts, including this one. Why have I never heard of ALEC before? I consider myself to be fairly well-read when it comes to politics and yet I’m dumbfounded that I haven’t come across any reference to ALEC before. Thank you, Mr. Cronon, and please don’t be deterred by the forces currently lining up against you. The reasonable outnumber the others; we just don’t control the media and therefore the message (and we don’t vote enough either). It’s time to take our country back.

  78. Professor Cronon,
    I was appalled to read in the Times today about the Republicans’ response to your fair criticisms. Even if I disagreed with you, I’d still completely support your right to speak and publish without fear of political reprisal.

    As a current UW grad student, I am particularly horrified. As this ugliness unfolds, please know that you have many supporters who are ready to do whatever we can to defend you. Keep updating your blog.

  79. With most of ALEC’s website down at the moment, you can find more information about them, including links that still work to some reports and press releases, in this message board topic at Democratic Underground:


    You can also go to Google, search for

    american legislative exchange council

    click the link under the first result there for ALEC that says “More results from alec.org” and then click on the links for Cached versions of the pages.

    Or just go to Google and copy in the search terms below:

    site:alec.org american legislative exchange council

    and click the “Cached” link below the page results.

    Please see my topic at Democratic Underground, though, for links to lots of information about ALEC as well, articles on a variety of sites that have been tracking ALEC.

    And if you go through the older comments here on this blog, you’ll find a comment from Daily Kos diariist Hector Solon, linking to what he posted on DKos about ALEC (he links to it from a reply in my DU topic, too — reply #81).

    1. Correction:

      The simplest way to use Google to search for cached versions of ALEC.org pages at the moment is to search for this string of words:


      That turns up nearly a thousand more results than the longer string I mentioned earlier.

      The “Cached” link for Google’s cache of the page follows the URL at the bottom of the search result.

  80. Although you and others suddenly notice, briefly mention, and almost admire the conservative and rightwing rise to power through front and shadow groups, fairly well planned organization and party disipline, it appears that nobody wants to call a spade a spade.

    Briefly, IMHO, their political machine has utilizes a lot of militaristic guidance in it brains, muscle and in it’s backbone. The conservatives learned to draw heavily on the ex-military for many applicable concepts from organization, planning, strategy and tactics.

    More than one conservative in the past has proclaimed “this is War” in reference to their political struggle and was not taken seriously. Now due to recent events in various states, you know these people …really mean business.

    They have had their chosen ex-military brass rotated through their think tanks, corporations, front groups and MSM spin rooms like select officers rotating through the military programs and War Colleges. I have know a few of these so-called “advisors”.

    One their Pentagon fed conservative ex-generals who you frequently saw as a MSM TV “analyst” during the run-up our current wars used to comment “…if you can control the enemy’s communications and you should be able to control the flow of the battle.” Yeah, who ihas been controlling the media and propaganda in this war ?

    Yes, they and their cadre are militaristic, determined, well organized and are very good at national scale psyops and propaganda. They have been seriously indoctrinating their youth before training them as Young Republicans in colleges

    Oh…and clearly understand this and make no mistake about this comment,

    To These People, We Are The Enemy and They Fully Intend to Win By Any Means Necessary!

    Whether you like it or not, you had better learn to fight real dirty…and FAST to beat down these homegrown American traitors.

    (they are betting everything that they have that you don’t have the guts and you won’t learn in time)


      1. Absolutely! You beat me to the comment. The Progressives will never be as organized and military in its approach. It just isn’t in their nature.

  81. First, I’m glad I stumbled in here today…nicely done! Second, the comments are actually quite thought provoking and link well to sources which is a great way for all to discource well- bravo, all. In my political/historical and academic travels I have found several academics who have my utmost respect and serve well as a foundation to any discussion regarding political and/or historical understanding. Michel Foucault’s, books The Archaeology of Knowledge and Discipline and Punish deserve attention for their deep, historically accurate look at the origins of social knowledge and how ingrained political intimidation and cohersion has reached panopticon levels in our society. If you are not familiar with Foucault and claim to be interested in political, social and historical concepts and events you will love Foucault. Finally, I offer E.O. Wilson’s book Consiliance as a must read for an accurate interpretation of knowledge from a top biologist…as great as Sagan was, Wilson does understanding science even better by more grounding in accurate history. I will become familiar with the authors and books you have listed as well.

  82. Nice job, Sam and Tor!! I also want to recommend, to others esp. in Wisconsin, but also in the other states being hit by the Goosestipping Oligarchs Party, a particular item with a link in Cronon’s article: that is from In These Times, on how the big battles are at the state level. I’ve been thinking that SW , the Fitzes et al could care less if they WRECk Wis’s economy, as that would make it easier to gobble up more..(a la the Shock Doctrine). Here’s the address, so you can find the link more easily in the article:http://www.inthesetimes.com/article/continued/2509/forget_dc_the_battle_is_in_the_states (its in the section called, Understanding What these Groups Do.

  83. As a 501(c)(3) organization, the American Legislative Exchange Council is prohibited from partisan political activities. They should be transparent to prove it or the IRS should remove their “tax-deductible donation” status.

  84. ALEC may have become more secretive over the decades of its existence, but it’s still working out of the same old playbook. I have a copy of their model-legislation guide from 1980 and have published excerpts.

  85. Conservatives believe in basing their positions on “First Principles,” and the first of the First Principles is, “It’s only ok if we do it.”

  86. Capitalism, at it’s most defining moments! This is the Wisconsin fiasco……(and they said it would never happen?)
    Just goes to show that when conservatives win a few new seats, they then have be extremists and exercise more power than is rightly theirs’ and then embarass themselves again and again for their ignorance.
    They don’t trust their lawmakers to be brave and continue to say ‘no’ to them.

  87. According to an American Association for Justice report:

    Governor Tommy Thompson, a major force in ALEC’s rebirth as a corporate front, outlined the process,
    saying, “I always found new ideas and then I’d take them back to Wisconsin, disguise them a little bit, and
    declare that it’s mine.”4

  88. After reading this post and the contents of some of the links (I’m not finished) I can see why Walker and his minions want to silence you. ‘Thuggery’ (?) as a tactic is relentless and knows no bounds. Its juvenile roots make its demise predictable but only when it’s recognized by the majority. This doesn’t seem to be the case at present and that must change.

    I’m writing from my home in Canada. Our close and unique relationship with the United States has been long and is strong. The vast majority of our exports go south of the border. We depend on that. If you suffer, we suffer. That’s the way it is with close friends.

    My first impression of Scott Walker was formed when I saw a picture on my computer screen. That was it. No sound, no print, just a picture. There was something about him that looked, to me, to be a bit “off”. I read the article on that page and got my first hint at what was going on. I’ve followed American politics for the last 40 years or so (very closely for the last 10) and during the elections of 2010 had heard nothing about “union busting” but it immediately became clear, after hearing an almost verbatim platform from the other newly elected Republican Governors, that this was a party-wide effort. Walker, after hearing and watching him speak, didn’t appear to be bright enough to come up with this on his own. In typical Republican style, he was trying to make his approach to union nullification seem like a logical step in everyday budget management. Over the next few days, It became obvious that Republicans were on a roll. As it turns out, a roll in the wrong direction. Nothing new here.

    As I stated earlier, I have followed American politics for over 40 years, and it wasn’t long after I started that I could see that Republicans had very little interest in the well being of the working class. What amazed me and still does is the way these same working class people actually believe what they hear from them. They still keep giving Republicans all the chances they need to line the pockets of corporate America while the pockets of the working class are being picked clean. Bush and Co. didn’t even try to hide it. Support from the loyal didn’t stop. There is no better example of blind obedience.

    Now that I’m armed with new information from this page, and others provided in the form of links on this page, I will continue to spread the word on behalf of all the people in America, and their good friends from the north. If there’s anything more that I can do, please let me know. America is truly a great nation and I will do my best to see that it will always be.

    Timothy Barrett
    London, Ontario

  89. Mr. Cronon,

    We used to have a term for people like you in this country and the one I am thinking of is patriot. Thank you for your thoughtful and well written articles, the one that was in the NY Times was sent by me to brothers and friends. I see the FOIA as a sad reflection of a paranoid administration. I was under the impression that free speech was one of the things that made this country great. This is another self inflicted wound on the part of the Walker administration. It’s another in a series of sad missteps which I suspect will cost him and the Republicans politically.


  90. You are a true academic because you have the courage to speak the truth to power. That is the greatest compliment I can give.

    When you are dragged into the Star Chamber and asked to name names, please give them mine. It would be an honor to be persecuted by the likes of Scott Walker along with you.

    Kenneth G. Dau-Schmidt, JD, PhD
    Professor of Labor and Employment Law
    Indiana University
    Maurer School of Law

  91. Professor Cronon has provided a document that goes beyond a column. He gives us a framework to dig deeper and pass on to anyone we know, espectially those who believe some of these ultra-conservative positions. I was particularly impressed that he knew about Maciver, a Madison based organization that was created just before Walker announced he would run for governor of WI. This group was set up with money from the Bradley Foundation. Bradley has a direct link to the John Birch Society. I have been spending a lot of time digging into these organizations and every word Mr. Cronon has written is right on the money.

  92. Prof. Cronon you are a true patriot, and individuals such as yourself renew my hope for the future of our nation. I have been very depressed feeling hopeless these past few weeks because of the aggressive turn of events from the neo-cons. You have helped to restore my faith. Adelante!

  93. Professor Cronon:
    We have been following your interaction w/ the Wisconsin Republican Party. Keep going. You are 100% correct about their association w/ ALEC. Obviously, you have shown a light on a subject they would rather not discuss. Your work here has been impressive.

  94. Some of you might find this interesting.

    [webmaster 8:19am: file sharing site link provided by the commenter deleted by webmaster]

    I’ve also found a few accounts that work, though there doesn’t seem to be much of interest after the login:

    [webmaster 8:19am: sorry, we don’t disclose personal logins of anyone]

  95. It would have been better to characterize Governor Walker as a water-carrier than as a spear-carrier.

    A water-carrier is a low-level functionary who nonetheless performs a necessary service.

    A spear-carrier is a costumed extra on stage in a scene in an opera whose only function is to stand there.

    (also the phrase spear-carrier may cause unease in the reader because of subliminally bring up the racially charged phrase “spear chunker”)

  96. William Cronon has long been a scholar’s hero whose works have revolutionized the importance of the environment in any historical understanding. May these new studies to identify the forces shaping (and in too many cases, degrading) American democracy go on and become much more widely known. How ironic and yet familiar that the forces who promise to “get government off our backs” are constantly found to be driving their own authoritarian agendas down the American throat—and worst of all, with every kind of fakery imaginable to make it look like “the people’s will.”

  97. This finally provides the seed of the answer to the question I had when this all started taking place here in Wisconsin. I couldn’t understand how newly elected governor Walker could come up with such a comprehensive program to turn our state’s heritage on it’s head. Thanks Professor Cronin. Now, how do we get the forces of progressivism to come up with the tools to get back on track?

    1. May I suggest that the answer might lie in first identifying viable progressive primary candidates to run against the current conservative Democrats who control the DNC and the DLC, and second, making contributions to those candidates directly rather than making contributions to the national Democratic leadership, which seems bent on preserving the center-right policies of the Democratic party. Of course, President Obama must be re-elected (consider the alternative), but must we continue to see our funds sent to the likes of Harry Reid and Blanche Lincoln? I remind one and all that one of the first things Nancy Pelosi did after the 2008 election was to remove Henry Waxman from the House committee that conducts investigations into governmental wrongdoing. Would the Right be in the position it is now had Waxman been able to investigate Choice Point, Cheney’s secret energy meetings, the use of the Department of Justice to discredit Democratic candidates in the 2006 and 2008 elections etc, etc.? And would health care reform turned out as it did had Harry Reid uses his position to reform the filibuster? I’ve joined Sen. Feingold’s new organization, Progressives United. I’d like to see a candidate search become a high priority for that group.

  98. A fascinating note from an ALEC spokesperson via Saturday’s Milwaukee Journal Sentinel All Politics blog: “Raegan A. Weber, an ALEC spokeswoman, replied via e-mail that ALEC had not worked with ‘Gov. Scott Walker or any of our members on any of the governor’s proposed legislation.'”

    Granted that the way the sentence is quoted leaves some wiggle as to how she actually framed it, but it ought to be pretty easy to prove the connections via Open Records.

  99. Thanks for the excellent information. Rick Perlstein’s books Before the Flood and Nixonland are indispensable in helping to understand the current manifestation of the anti-federalist Right, otherwise known as the modern conservative movement. Another, published in 2009, is Kim Phillips-Fein’s Invisible Hands; the making of the conservative movement from the New Deal to Reagan. Keep up the great work!

  100. i understand that the republican party is requesting information from the university where you teach. pls tell the university to charge them for providing such information (in the same fashion as various republican elected officials are requesting large sums of money for providing information requested under the foia).

  101. Thanks, Dr. Cronon for shedding light under their rocks. This two months is the scariest thing I’ve witnessed since Watergate and the Saturday Night Massacre. Well, okay, the entire reign of W was over the top in its assaults on democracy, too. The Fitzwalkers are despots determined to take over government by any means, regardless of legality. They aren’t too bright, but they’re clever in carrying out the agenda (ALEC, The Bradley Foundation, Kochs), and they will stop at nothing, even the laws of the state. Van Hollen has lost any credibility he had in asking that the open meeting case be grabbed up by the appeals and supreme courts.
    We all need to speak truth to this aspiring tyranny, because that is what it is, and it must not be allowed to get a foothold in this state. I am thoroughly a Democrat, have never been tempted to vote for a Republican in my life, for this very reason — the modern Republican Party has been taken over by dangerous people who have nothing but scorn for a two party democracy, not to mention human beings. But if the Democrats tried something like this, I would work to take them down for the same reasons we are all talking about here.
    How can anyone with a mere acquaintance with 20th Century history not recognize this power grab as a try for one-party, strongman rule? We have lived through Hitler and Mussolini, Stalin and Kruschev and Castro and the Shah of Iran, and Saddam and Baby Doc and the Balkans, and on and on. Just because this is happening in a US state doesn’t make it different. This swift and blatant and aggressive records request of Dr. Cronon is intimidation 101 right out of KGB state. Thinking it can’t happen here would be a catastrophic mistake. I urge Fitzwalkers’ apologists and backers to open their eyes to the comparisons and to see that this isn’t normal brass-knuckled politics, but something new and systemically different. I stand with you, Dr. Cronon, to the end.

  102. Excellent article. I have sent the following email to Michigan Gov. Snyder and my Republican state house member and Senator. I hope others do the same in their states:

    Dear Gov./Rep./Sen. [name] As a Michigan voter/constituent I’d like to know: Are you a member of, in any way affiliated with, or have you based your legislative proposals on any model legislation authored by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)? They are, I understand, very influential in state Republican politics and have been for decades. I believe the public has a right to know what influence they have on you and other elected officials. Thank you.

    My address and phone number:
    [street address]
    city, state, zip]

    1. Also: I plan to publlsh their responses (if any) on my Facebook page. Publishing the responses on your FB page, blog, Website, etc. would be a good idea. Call me a cynic, but I wonder how many words they’ll spin to avoid a simple “yes” or “no”.

  103. Thank you for this effort . It is very helpful in understanding just what is going on in our state….and elsewhere.

    It is very alarming indeed.

    This has been enough to get me activated for progressives in the state.

  104. Professor Cronon,

    Thank you for bringing all of this information to light. You sir are a true patriot!

    We must all continue to EXPOSE the underhanded dealings of BOTH parties – both the Democrats AND Republicans. They both are controlled – not by WE THE PEOPLE but by corporations and big banks. We must all be on the lookout for GOOD THIRD PARTY candidates – DO NOT be sucked into the false left/right paradigm – in fact BREAK FREE from it. You have more choices than just Republican or Democrat. As we are seeing with what is happening here in Wisconsin – we see Gov. Walker and his “cronies” are controlled by the Koch Brothers and the Republican Party (which by the way is HEAVILY influenced financially by the Koch’s – so is Gov. Walker). But we must NOT let our eyes be blinded to the fact Democrats are EQUALLY controlled by BIG corporate $$$$. People need to do what Professor Cronon is doing and RESEARCH, RESERARCH, RESEARCH. Find the FACTS and expose them!

    WE THE PEOPLE need to take our country BACK!

  105. Mr. Cronon,

    Thank you for speaking out so clearly on ALEC. The Republican response is totally predictable – destroy the messenger, ignore the message – keep the public’s eye off the ball. Always play the victim (can you imagine the howls if someone filed FOIAs regarding legislators communications with ALEC?), never negotiate.

    We have been plagued by ALEC “model” legislation in Arizona for years, most notably the nasty anti immigrant legislation of last year (SB1070). But that was hardly the first model law we have had to deal with; much of the anti environmental legislation, starting with the ridiculous “takings” efforts of the early 1990s, originated with ALEC members. It has become so common place in Arizona to simply introduce ALEC models, either new or shared from other states, that one legislator dropped a bill, without even reading it closely enough to realize it did not reference Arizona, but another state. A review of the legislation of the last 10 years in Wisconsin, at least that introduced by conservative Republican members, would probably reveal a startling number of ALEC based legislation. It is time for total transparency nationwide, not just in Wisconsin.

    Paul Weyrich might be your next topic!

    With gratitude and appreciation for what your principled stand,

    Joni Bosh

  106. my issue I take with this whole subject is not whether the free and open exchange of ideas is welcomed, its that whenever free and open ideas are exchanged they are immediately placed into a crass framework so as to use it against the next topic of free and open ideas and the exchange of them.

    I am 37 and when I was in college I considered myself communist socialist, I hated capitalism and Republicans, despised corporations and wanted to live off the grid. My problem?? I didn’t have any answers as to how to do it better.

    Looking at the global picture I think we are weakening ourselves just because someone is constantly feeding us garbage that just because we may be in a better environment to make more money that somehow that should be someone elses money too when it should be up to that individual as to how to distribute it or just keep it.

    We spend way to much time worrying about other people and not enough time worrying about ourselves. If I chose to join a union then I chose to give up my individual rights.

    I wish my situation was good enough to the point where I could take time out of my day to protest how unfair something was but I am too busy working to improve my life for myself and my children.

    I wish my work would allow me to take time off to not work so I can protest in the very halls that have created laws to make my life better for myself and my children and I sure hope that one day I make enought to say my life is not fair.

    But then again I guess I would have to be in college to do that and think that way now wouldnt I?

    Long live the rights of self governance. Thanks you for letting me speak my mind.

    1. “My problem?? I didn’t have any answers as to how to do it better.”

      The fact that you perhaps lack imagination or didn’t do the work required to find another way does not mean that there is no alternative to capitalism or majority-rules & representative democracy. No one should expect to single-handedly de- and re-construct an existing system. You also claim that organizing revokes an individual’s individuality. That’s bull-puckey. Either of those trains of thought would never been viable excuses for the authors of the Constitution to give up on seeking an alternative to the oppressive British monarchy.

      Maybe the problem was that you looked to the failed Communist/State Socialist paradigm for the answer.

      1. Hey ….. Stop your bickering!! Read ‘The Shock Doctrine’ by Naomi Klein. She reveals the master narrative of our time. Professor Cronon’s Study Guide and Klein’s book present terrifying evidence that fair minded people everywhere need to be informed and actively resist corporatist objectives. Milton Friedman’s economics just like this ALEC organization are redefining the history of our era while most Americans sit on the sidelines unaware or too busy or just not interested. READ KLEIN’S BOOK!!

  107. Thank you, Professor Cronen, for this well-written piece that helps me to better understand HOW these things are happening. Your thought-provoking and information-rich blog transcends name-calling and accusations. How it can possibly be viewed as threatening by the Republican Party boggles the mind.

    I’m sorry to see you put in such a ridiculous situation for doing an outstanding job as a historian. I also now understand why it’s so critically important for our institutions of higher learning to have experts in these disciplines, and that they be allowed to conduct research and hold discussions without fear of persecution.

    Again, Thank you!

  108. Copied and pasted from a MJS comment page about the FOIA request of emails:

    “Last summer the WI Supreme Court held that personal e-mails made on a school system’s computers were not amenable to discovery under the open records law.
    The court held: ‘For the reasons set forth, we too now conclude that while government business is to be kept open, the contents of employees’ personal e-mails are not a part of government business. Personal e-mails are therefore not always records within the meaning of Wis. Stat. § 19.32(2) simply because they are sent and received on government e-mail and computer systems.’ Schill v. Wisconsin Rapids School Dist.
    327 Wis.2d 572, 786 N.W.2d 177

  109. Thank you, Mr. Cronon. Academic research gives us knowledge; academic discipline gives us wisdom; academic freedom gives us the power to use knowledge wisely. May universities continue to give us direction that is rational, objective, humane, and independent.

    Understatement: Your work is appreciated and important.

  110. Shawn Doherty, health reporter for The Capital Times, has an excellent article out today on ALEC’s cookie-cutter legislation in Wisconsin:

    “State GOP health bills mirror model ALEC legislation”


    She says at the end of the article that she’ll let readers know if more of ALEC’s model legislation pops up.

    We need more reporters like her (and more people like Professor Cronon).

    And we need fewer puppet legislators carrying water for the corporations and the rich via ALEC’s model legislation. None of ALEC’s state-legislator minions took an oath to ALEC. Their oaths were to the Constitution of the United States and their state constitution, not to Koch Industries and the other corporations funding ALEC and guiding the creation of its model legislation. They should all be recalled.

  111. Dr. Cronon,
    Thank you for waking up us baby boomers who thought we could ride comfortably into the sunset satisfied that we had made a permanent place in American politics and government for tolerance, compromise and community. I see that I’ve been asleep at the reins. I’m awake now – what’s the next step?
    Dona Rifken
    Madison, WI


    You know you speak the truth when the republicans immediately try to silence you. This is our country as much as anyones. The republicans want to direct, to the rich, more money so we can be a controlled populace(food, water, clothes, happiness, etc.. I think there shall be riots in the streets rather than let these weasels take our state and organizations away from us.

    Can you believe what is going on! It sounds like the gestapo is being organized on Germany’s old policy lines again. These hustlers only believe of government of THEIR people, by THEIR people and for THEIR people. You may agree with me that these republian legislatures surely are no ABE LINCOLN’S.


  113. Professor Cronin;

    Thank you for your articulate op ed piece in the NY Times. You clearly stated why I, like so many others, am so upset by Governor Walker’s attack on Wisconsin’s spirit of cooperation, even in politics. Your ALEC post also raises many questions about serious threats to our democracy.

    Please continue to resist efforts to intimidate your research. If historians are prevented from investigating these types of questions and then writing about their findings, I fear for our country.

  114. Excellent muckraking, Professor. We Ohioans, who are subjects of a similar right-winger, Gov. Kasich, watch your state to see what is next on OUR agenda. Both of these guys are playing from the same playbook which you have identified. Thanks for exposing these cads and best of luck fighting the fascists who now control your state.

  115. Thank you for helping to bring ALECs activities to light. In your list of journalistic efforts to educate us about ALEC you didn’t list Laura Sullivan’s two part expose she did on ALEC and its role in drafting AZ 1070 the anti-immigration bill that is costing the broke state of AZ millions of dollars. The story was done on Oct 29 and 30, 2010 here is the link http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=130891396 ALEC + the United Citizens decision by the highly politicized Supreme Court = really the end of American democratic freedom and I believe a threat to our Constitution.

  116. People need to be reminded or made aware of how closely the priorities of ALEC resemble those of the NAZIs when one of the first actions of the NAZI party was to outlaw unions.

  117. @nestor: Failing to heed prior warnings about verbal abuse in comments per the Terms of Service has now resulted in your entire comment being redacted.


  118. Thank you for the type of discussion and framework-for-thought that I believe this country was founded on.

  119. Martin Niemoller ,
    From the Congressional Record,
    October 14, 1968

    “When Hitler attacked the Jews
    I was not a Jew, therefore I was not concerned.
    And when Hitler attacked the Catholics,
    I was not a Catholic, and therefore, I was not concerned.
    And when Hitler attacked the unions and the industrialists,
    I was not a member of the unions and I was not concerned.
    Then Hitler attacked me and the Protestant church —
    and there was nobody left to be concerned.”

  120. Thank you Prof. Cronan and NPR,

    We’ve been wondering where Maine’s new Governor Paul LePage was getting his anti-labor, anti-environment orders from. Is there any evidence that “ALEC” is also behind The Patriot Act, Citizen’s United, etc. ?

  121. I appreciate your work as well as the way you have presented it. Thank you for the primer! It appears I have a bit of reading to do. This is what academic professionals should be doing: finding the less obvious, presenting it professionally, and thus giving us the opportunities to explore and discuss in whatever forum we choose.
    Again, Well done!

    Thank you

  122. Prof. Cronon-

    As a graduate student in Music History and Ethnomusicology–two fields that require difficult conversations about power and politics–I thank you for having a firm opinion and speaking it. Being in academia doesn’t mean we put on a face of neutrality when we talk to our students or to our communities, quite the contrary, having a specialist’s knowledge of history and society leaves us responsible to speak up and speak out about the past and what it tells us about our present and future.

    Thanks again for being a credit to your profession.


    1. Just got the long-time-coming M.A. in psychology of music. You are right on it with the politics connection. My thesis concerned consonance as the link between psychology and music, with special emphasis on just intonation versus equal temperament. The research into this past century’s history led me into a study of Theodor Adorno, so much so that I had to back away from him–he’s a two year studio himself, coming out of the Frankfurt school of the 1920s, up through his critique of Leo Strauss (father of Neo-Conservatism) and the work on the F-scale (“f” for fascist, more or less). That work received a lot of conservative backlash–but led to the academic contributions of Bob Altemeyer and the Authoritarian Submissive (his seminal work, distilled into a more relaxed style, is still available online, as a free pdf, at the University of Manitoba site–titled “the Authoritarians”). Both works were referenced by John Dean in his book “Conservatives Without Conscience.” It’s all worthwhile reading, offering some solutions to the current problem of the conservative movement-gone-radical.

  123. I want to add another message of support. Always behind in everything, I just read and learned about you and your blog from Paul Krugman’s excellent column.

    The Right has become scary and strong. Although I shudder at comparisons with pre-WW2 Germany, comparisons absolutely exist. In Munich last summer, we sat at the table where HItler meet weekly for lunch with the rich and powerful men who would later be called “military industrialists…” We think it was just anti-semitism and craziness that empowered this man and his party. No.

    I would like to suggest that someone investigate all those “Right Wing Think Tanks in DC.” These folks provide the din about people “who will shop for insurance and thus bring down the cost of health care” and “the unions that have bankrupted cities…” I bet that they are funded by the same folks who fund the tea party: the Koch brothers & the fraction of that 2% that wants to keep the majority of American income in their own bursting pockets.

    I hope that you keep writing.

  124. When people disagree about political issues I think they should meet at dawn somewhere. Then draw loaded dueling pistols and do what feels best. The winner takes ALL!

  125. Thank you, Professor.
    Lights like your need to be shined on all the dark places. You are indeed an educator and I envy any who have had the good fortune to be in your classroom. Thank you for teaching me. I have been asking the questions but now my questioning will be even more focused.

    ALEC has done us all a favor by leading us to your blog. I guess they don’t know about sleeping dogs.

  126. Thank you so much for shining a light on this organization and for your work. I would like to mention two groups for others to look into. The first is The Family – Jeff Sharlett wrote a terrific book chronicling the secret dealings of the conservative Christian ideology and how it wove itself into the fabric of our political system, who the major players were and are, what their philosophy is, and who the current members of the legislature still “rent” rooms in the building owned by The Family. I believe their church status was recently changed by the IRS, so while they continue to host the annual prayer breakfast and hold considerable sway with politicians, they won’t get a tax break at our expense.

    The second is the Project for a New American Century (PNAC). The foreign policy they push is conservative internationalism. The players in this group were the architects of the Iraq invasion and subsequent bungling occupation. The chairman is Bill Kristol, and I suggest looking at the Statement of Principles and all the signers at the bottom of the page. Yes, apparently America is to be the World Police if we are to retain our greatness.

  127. This hits home at so many levels. I too am a higher education worker. Food Service at University of Washington. So I look at your piece as instructional-and hope my employer does the same. The issue of public records requests impacts the members of my union as much as any faculty member or administrator. This case is proof that the good idea of open records can be used as a club to try to silence people. While I lean left as a union activist-I’ll freely admit that anyone of any stripe could abuse these laws.

    Until recently it tended to be the media going on fishing trips in search of worker misconduct or waste fraud an abuse stories to boost ratings. Now it’s political ‘gottcha’

  128. Professor Cronon,

    As a future academician and present admirer of truth and openness in government, I extend my sincere gratitude to you for your fearless and deeply patriotic research. Wisconsin is lucky to have you!

  129. The conspiracy goes deeper than that. My research has discovered that for over 200 years, the United States has been governed by a secret document called simply “The Constitution.” It is in this document that readers can find the source that has allowed these “conservatives” to freely influence our political process! That is how these “conservatives” are permitted to freely assemble, write and publish their “opinions,” even vote, and unbelivably, run for office and, should the political process be so corrupted as to deny the votes of the overwhelming majority, take office should they somehow “win.” (HA!)

    It’s like Hitler or something.

    Thank you, William Cronon, for your bravery and scholarship. I am including a link of my own to this “Constitution” document. Prepare to be shocked: [..] http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/constitution.html

    1. @joeynot: I edited your comment link to a Constitution website. It was a commerical site which violates the Terms of Service. However, I included a substitute link to the National Archives.

    2. EVERYTHING is so simple in your world of black and white’s only, eh? In your freakishly over simplified world conspiracies are ONLY theories, never actually carried out by gangster banksters out to make BILLIONS. What a fool you are; they couldn’t get away with their numerous crimes without your naivete. People murder each other over misunderstandings that don’t even exist, food, even SHOES!; but ALL business men are ethical gentlemen!??! History soundly refutes that one. TRY HARDER!

      1. @forest: Reminder that comments should be civil and comply with the Terms of Service, regardless of your viewpoint.

      2. I am trying to understand where you are going????? did you read carefully?? was it really simple to you?? or pretend it is? the business men are not ethical; they go by divide and conquer. State workers are not that different from private workers … they are surviving … a little longer.

    3. Hate to disillusion you JoeYnot, but just as constitution does give them the right to do it gives me the right to see what they are doing if they are my legislators. They work for me!

      1. My point is simply that everything being describes with such horror by Prof. Cronon is simply part of the system. In fact, it is the system. There is nothing ominous about ALEC or SPN or Walker taking a call from Koch (who he obviously had never spoken to before).

        Legislators work with ALEC because they believe it furthers the interest of themselves and their constituents. Walker takes the call from Koch for the same reason; after all, he’s not just a political contributor, but the part-owner of a huge business. ANY governor would take that call. As long as people don’t break the law, there’s nothing wrong with all of this.

        This is the way a gigantic democracy works. By all means learn about your opponents and seek to understand them, especially if you want to persude them to your own way of thought. Incidentally, insults and the assumptiuon of stupidity/mendacity/ignorance/innocence on the part of those who disgree with you is a less effective way to accomplish this than a lot of commentors on this site seem to be aware of.

        1. Your “take” on Cronon’s article is interesting for the nits it picks so as to insinuate an attack on the institutions discussed. The article clearly defends the right and the righteousness of these institutions, yet you try to imply otherwise. This is because you obviously believe that any deviation from rightardedness is sinful and a Satanic conspiracy to defraud the true representative people of the United States. It can be seen that you believe a fraud is being perpetrated against those who inherited all the land and the wealth from ancestors who (for a large part) stole it from the previous inhabitants. That is, of course, the reality of conservatism. And any deviation from these religious principles of inheritance and debt to the past is heresy. The current “conservatives” want to dress themselves in the armor of “earned” privilege and biblical “righteousness”, and now “Constitutional Righteousness”. Yet for the most part, the persons being defended by this ruse are not “earning” and never did “earn” and are seeking to remain privileged in spite of their succubus activities. The article discusses the right wing organizations and their supporters without declaring them in any way unconstitutional or anti American. The current overzealous and ignorant interpretations of the United States Constitution by the rightrarded do not serve the real Americans very well. The intent of the Constitution is well set forth in the preamble. And if the framers wanted supreme “states rights” they would have simply amended the “Articles of Confederation”. They quite pointedly DIDN’T.

          1. @Michael. You’re new on the blog, so a reminder that attack language like “rightarded” is not allowed here and in your future posts. We welcome all points of view but they should be made with more civil adjectives, please.

  130. Professor Cronon, Great blog and great post about ALEC. It sounds like the domestic equivalent of the Project for the New American Century, which underwrote American foreign policy in the Bush II administration, particularly in Iraq. I agree that progressives have taken the intellectual underpinnings of the conservative movement far too lightly. Like George Lakoff says, Democrats don’t understand the value of framing ideas in language that will shape people’s perceptions. Republicans have figured this out, in large part due to the influence of groups like ALEC.They are organized and “on message.” If progressives don’t get their act together, this is going to become effectively a one-party country. Thanks for the work you’re doing outside the classroom.

  131. First off, how can one mention the turnaround of Conservatism without discussing William F. Buckley? The “Father of Modern Conservatism” requires no mention of the growth of Conservatism, but he was unfortunately not as easy to smear as others in the party because he rightly dismissed the John Birch Society as a fringe group with radical views. Also, you complain about ALEC because elected officials use its templates to pass bills that they agree with. Shocking as it may be, elected officials do look for help from like minded individuals, just as Liberals go to Public Unions, Amnesty International, and other Liberal groups when looking for campaign contributions and legislative ideas. Being a member of ALEC does not mean that they have to try to enact everything espoused by it. I assume you support Kloppenburg for Wisc Supreme Court, and therefore have no problem with The Greater Wisconsin Committee spending $3 million in ads against Prosser, despite the fact that The Greater Wisconsin Committee is a widely known leftist organization. All of your accusations are based in groundless scare mongering used so often by Liberals, who assume that if it is Conservative and secret then it must be sinister.

    1. I’m not sure how you could imply you actually read the Prof’s entire blog, and then mischaracterize it as containing ‘accusations’. Several times he states that the associations of Republicans with ALEC is entirely legal and understandable. His point (which you seemed to have overlooked in your haste to be needlessly defensive, is that more transparency in the relationship of such groups – Right or Left – with our legislative process would be more in alignment with the democratic process. Most people would like to know where their legislation is coming from and whether its authors have any overarching agenda. Before you go getting your lower lip all puffed out about how ‘unfair’ this blog’s characterization of ALEC was, just imagine the treatment Glenn Beck would’ve given it if ALEC was a Left Wing group. He’d scribble his piece of chalk down to a nub with arrows and circles ‘proving’ it to be the nexus of a vast Communist/Socialist/Fascist (note to self: send Beck a dictionary – these terms are not interchangeable) conspiracy. Be fair. The blog said no such thing.

  132. What you say about ALEC being a commonplace and understandable tool for conservatives might wash better without the thunderous and draconian response to a professor’s first ever blog post

  133. I want to thank you for doing this important investigation of what’s going on behind the curtain. Since independent media institutions in the US seem to have disappeared, I guess academics and others are going to have to do more of the heavy lifting in the job of enlightening the citizenry to the causes, influences, and consequences of the radical social and political changes now taking place across the US.

    As a higher education instructor who is deeply committed to engaging students in critical thought and research, I barely have time to even read (much less write or investigate much on my own) what you and others have written on the issue. Additionally, this work you are doing will also be very important to future historians when they attempt to dissect the causes of the demise of the US and the “American Dream” as we have known it for the past fifty years or so. This may sound pessimistic or cynical, but it’s probably a result of the extreme frustration of a single mother with a child on food stamps and no health insurance because of the severe assault now taking place on education, teachers, and the freedom of thought. Keep up the good work!

  134. Professor Cronon,

    Is there any chance you have an enlightened opinion on why politics in America seem to be increasingly polarized? I assume the ambiguous nature of internet posting (the ability to rant without being held accountable for your opinions), and a skew effect propelled by news-media are responsible, but I have little basis to make said assumptions. Additionally, it seems to me that we are in a sort of perpetual pendulum swing regarding shifts in the way moderates vote – when conservative legislation is primarily enacted, moderates overwhelmingly vote democrat/independent and vice versa. That seems like an unhealthy way for moderates to vote to me. In my opinion the largest problem and obstacle the nation faces politically is the nearly nonexistent willingness of people with differing views to have openminded discussions with the intent to solve problems.

    Also, I am a UW student, and I very much appreciate the additional information you have provided regarding the context in which the recent legislation resides. Cheers, and good luck with all of that FOIA business!

    1. Obviously Dr Cronon will have his own take on the subject. I have this to offer. It is a very old tactic indeed and not one invented by the actuary Carl Rove but skillfully employed by him and his mid-20th century predecessors. Say one is a member of a determined and disciplined minority that desires to seize levers of power in a democracy. The most effective way to do this, short of compromise and modifying ones agenda to reach a broader base, is to bring a wide array of tools to bear to fragment and polarize opinion within the larger groups. If one can bring this to a pitch of hysteria the groups will lose their identities entirely and subsequently control of their constituencies.

      Note the purges that began in the Republican party in the late 70’s and were all but complete by the end of the 80’s. A minority group seized control of the larger party having correctly perceived that forming an independent 3rd party was too risky a route. The clique in control of the Republican party is not conservative in any political sense, they are definitely not Christian in any moral sense, or any of the other things you may have been led to believe about them. Back in the early 50’s McCarthy believed that a similar thing had begun to occur among the Democrats and more seriously the government. Historically speaking he wasn’t entirely wrong. What we vilify about McCarthy are his tactics, his narcissistic fear mongering and the serious damage he did to thousands of innocent people.

      Marketing and actuarial techniques applied to political statistics are part of the toolkit. Remember one basic rule of marketing involves what motivates people. There’s greed of course and then there’s the even more useful and powerful FUD … fear, uncertainty and doubt. Marketing as we can appreciate has become such a fine ‘science’ that for only an investment of money in the effort most individuals can be induced to become interested in or buy nearly anything. Remember the swift boat folks? The folks that set up and successfully neutralized Dan Rather? Gov. Walker’s conversation where he claims to have planned to use agitators to push the peaceful pro-labor protests over the line so the police could intervene and make arrests? How about the many ‘colorful’ things Palin has come out with? The smart folks orchestrating this have and continue to develop lexicons of trigger words to use in their speech that are intended to be polarizing. There are actually professionals who specialize in measuring the effects specific words, phrases, images and sounds have on groups of people. There is a whole lot more to this effort but this may give you the idea. I’d say the hysteria is already running high and the carnival isn’t nearly over.

  135. It is depressing to see what is going on in America. We have a political system that has learned how to manipulate the masses and get thanked for doing so. What is needed is not the Right V. Left battles, but for Americans to begin to realize that the swing has gone back and fourth for the last 20+ years and all the while the same people have remained in control. It is so closed minded to think that this is an ALEC thing or a Republican or Democrat thing. This country has been on a huge slide for years, running a retirement Ponzi scheme, and is run by a government that cow-tows to the highest bidder. We have a majority of millionaires in the House and Senate who keep writing legislation taking away from the middle class working people and giving to themselves. They spend repulsive amounts of money to get $200,000 a year jobs. Then they tell you the problem with the U.S. is your neighbor…and you believe them! Please stop with the he said, she said, and start to use your minds. We have 30 members of the house and senate who have been there for 35 years or more. We have politicians in office who have done nothing else in their lives except be a politician. They have made a living out of spending other peoples money. People tell me that they felt they had to vote for the least of two evils in the last presidential election because both major candidates had never worked in the private sector, and I was so confused. Last I checked th ere were 8 names on the ballot in most states for the position of President. When we realize that thinking inside this tiny box we have created in our government IS the problem, then maybe we can learn from the likes of George Washington who said, “If I am serving a party, how can I serve the American people.”

    1. well said. i believe you are very correct. we need to start cleaning up our politicians instead of fighting between partisan groups.

    2. The problem with effective bipartisanship at this juncture is the bifurcation of the political interests where we have on one side the people and entities which control roughly 80% of the assets versus the interests of the other 80% of the country’s population. You can’t possibly advocate for the interests of both because of the internal dynamics that sustain this imbalance are contradictory and mutually exclusive. Thus no bipartisanship. If one party asserts primacy of assets and social control versus another party which is essentially a milder version of the first party…wait.
      Yeah, there is no reason why there can’t be bipartisanship. It’s not like the unions are in a position to challenge corporate hegemony. You would think Republicans would recognize how effective they are at keeping middle class people content with that imbalance, and socially managing the rest of the lower castes with ineffectual rallies.
      I guess pushing social chaos way up will just clear away the chaff as they move towards singularity, the Rapture, or both. Maybe one in the same? Did I say that out loud?

    3. Lets hear suggestions on how to make that happen when only the corporations have and can provide the funds. The rest of us live on a AFTER TAXES budget. GE Corp paid ZERO taxes and OBAMA made him part of his crew? WTF? The elite puppet masters strike again, and we bought it AGAIN! Add Insult to injury the failed supreeem courtier system made the psycopath corporations into real peaple free of anyt tax obligation. So what is new there is nothing new under the sun and history repeats it’s self. Woe to us all! Wake up, get off the couch! Go to the square and stand in front of the tanks with your grocery bags before it is to late. Already the major media sources (exclude the web) limit the information we are exposed to.

      I’ll bet you didn’t hear about this attempt to control the wwweb and it’s power of information, Below the guilty parties make AN ATTEMPT to defend their assault on the only source of truly free information.

      To Wit;
      Tags: Act, bill, National, Protecting, SecuritySen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), along with one Republican and Democratic senator, introduced a bill late last week that would allow the President to effectively disconnect the internet by emergency decree.

      The Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act would allow the President to disconnect Internet networks and force private websites to comply with broad cybersecurity measures.

      Future US presidents would have their Internet “kill switch” powers renewed indefinitely.

      The bill was introduced by Lieberman, Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE). A parallel bill was drafted last year by Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) and Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) which would allow the federal government to unilaterally “order the disconnection” of certain websites.

      “For all of its user-friendly allure, the Internet can also be a dangerous place with electronic pipelines that run directly into everything from our personal bank accounts to key infrastructure to government and industrial secrets,” Lieberman said in a release announcing his bill. “Our economic security, national security and public safety are now all at risk from new kinds of enemies — cyber-warriors, cyber-spies, cyber-terrorists and cyber-criminals.

      “The need for this legislation is obvious and urgent, the Connecticut senator added.

      “We cannot afford to wait for a cyber 9/11 before our government realises the importance of protecting our cyber resources,” Sen. Collins said.

      One news site notes:

      The bill would give a newly-formed National Center for Cybersecurity and Communications the authority to monitor the “security status” of private websites, ISPs and other net-related business within the U.S. as well as critical internet components in other countries. Companies would be required to take part in “information sharing” with the government and certify to the NCCC that they have implemented approved security measures. Furthermore, any company that “relies on” the internet, telephone system or any other part of the U.S. “information infrastructure” would also be “subject to command” by the NCCC under the proposed new law.

      Lieberman’s bill would also create a cadre of cybersecurity agencies and order strategy planning with private firms. The legislation is supported by anti-virus giant Symantec.

      “The Internet may have started out as a communications oddity some 40 years ago but it is now a necessity of modern life, and sadly one that is under constant attack, Lieberman added in his release. “It must be secured… The Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act of 2010 is designed to bring together the disjointed efforts of multiple federal agencies and departments to prevent cyber theft, intrusions, and attacks across the federal government and the private sector. The bill would establish a clear organizational structure to lead federal efforts in safeguarding cyber networks. And it would build a public/private partnership to increase the preparedness and resiliency of those private critical infrastructure cyber networks upon which our way of life depends.”

      If that fear mongering excuse to control the web makes sense to you… go sit on the couch and wait for what is going to happen next.

      1. Of course the legislation is supported by anti-virus giant Symantec…
        After all they sell Norton Antivirus Security (NAS) 2011. Wait a minute; “NAS” is an anagram of National Security Agency (NSA) – OMG!
        And if I want everyone to have my monitoring software on their computer well what better way than to have them all install it as antivirus protection on their personal computer? Come to think about it my computer uploads information to them when it updates the software!
        So McAfee must be code for the CIA… And they offer a free version. Wow!
        Screw the couch, I’m shutting off the power to my house until I can ensure my privacy and safety… 😛

        BTW, on a serious note thanks for enlightening us William Cronon in our Republic’s democratically challenged environment more people need to understand the levers being manipulated and who’s pulling them… Keep it up!

  136. Is there a list somewhere of legislators who are members of ALEC? I will call my Legislator and State Senator tomorrow and ask them, but I’d like to know ahead of time.

  137. Esteemed Professor Cronon:

    Thank you so much for condescending to shine the light of your brilliance upon what are indeed most insidious, shadowy institutions of certain partisans, who I dare not name lest my pragmatic, centrist fingers be seized with paroxysms of righteous indignation. And for illuminating their sway over our spear-carrying governor (oh dear gaia! was that racially charged?). I applaud your most exhaustive and scholarly efforts!

    Yours is truly a most gifted mind, to be so richly endowed with professorial inquiry! Indeed, there must be a dark closet from which the odious puppet masters pull the partisans’ strings, for the benighted right are most certainly not capable of thinking for themselves. You, most excellent Professor, have exposed it! If only that sycophantic, right-wing Milwaukee newspaper owned but a tenth of your diligence in its research and reporting, the partisans would come to appreciate and share the correctness of your vision.

    The confiscation of wages on behalf of the champions of labor to give to their preferred legislators so that they might effectively negotiate with them for sacred and fundamental rights, the sense of entitlement, the abdication of legislative duty, the sick-outs, the boycotts, the trashing of the capitol, the intimidation, the rancor, the invective, the death threats… These are truly democratic methods superior to those espoused by the hateful partisans of the right. I know I speak for all the free-thinking, enlightened, pragmatic, centrist posters here when I note that, if only those partisans would comport themselves to more democratic methods, Wisconsin would be rightfully cherished for its neighborliness again.

    Your most admiring pupil,
    C. Canem

    P.S. And please, please dear Professor, please do not give my name! I fear I do not share your courage and fear to be dragged into the Star Chambers of their churches; I do not think I could bear to name names; I am too much the coward to be persecuted by the likes of He Who Must Not Be Named along with you!

    1. cave canem – some dogs have gotten so accustomed to their leash they no longer know it’s there and tightening. they bark happily and wag their tails when the master approaches, but there’s a little less kibble in the food bowl each night. but the good guard dog can be trained to bark at the few remaining dogs on the block who still get a sufficient ration of kibble, rather than at the master, who after all, controls the portion in all the food bowls. eventually the leash tightens so much and the food ration gets so small that oxygen fails to reach the brain and a soporific state sets in. eventually you can’t even get up anymore. no problem for the master, though. he can get a cheaper replacement from one of his many cheap labor enclaves in China (or Mexico or Indonesia). so the good dog becomes obsolete and of no further use to the “free market”, at which time his remaining useful protein can be “processed”. Keep apologizing for your masters, cave. no doubt you crave the scooby snack and the head pat. the rest of us will just have to work around you.

      1. this metaphor makes no sense. if you were ever going to make a point it got lost in your details.

  138. Gov. Walker has just named Phil Montgomery, a former ALEC director who was also ALEC’s “Legislator of the Year” in 2005, the new Wisconsin Public Service Commission chairman:


    Please see that topic for more information about Phil Montgomery and ALEC.

    The PSC has oversight of the telecommunications industry in Wisconsin.

    And according to Progressive States Network, whose report on ALEC I quote and link to in that topic, “ALEC honored Wisconsin State Representative Phil Montgomery with its ‘Legislator of the Year’ award for his Wisconsin legislative efforts against local government plans for municipally-owned broadband networks and his role in ALEC in taking the campaign national. This campaign both reflects ALEC’s effective representation of its own corporate telecom clients, and the way it serves that narrow if powerful economic base at the expense of the broader economic interest.”

  139. Dear Bill Cronin, You are conducting a tremendous defense of the principles of academic freedom and the right of public inquiry.

    I am an AHA member and fully support you. Keep at it!!

    Linda Cooke Johnson, Ph.D., Professor Emerita
    Department of History (Chinese history)
    Michigan State University
    currently living in San Carlos CA

  140. I’m banging my head trying to remember where I heard of ALEC from….


    NPR did a piece on them having to do with the AZ Immigration law and how they were behind a strategy to increase profits on their private prison system.


    Great Job by the way sir

  141. Bottom Line is Competition. You never had to compete. Gov workers have to learn how to keep your thier pay down so that the Private workers can keep up with you.


    Look at the Graph and see the difference. This is probaly an average but It gets a person thinking.

    I have watched for 50 years as the salaries and wages have steadily risen for Government workers and persons who contract to the government. Fed and State alike. The Prevailing wage protected all of those workers.
    Yet I watched the protections for private workers get swept away with Free Trade policies. It was Import tax or other fees to make it fair competition with the private US workers. The politicians dropped that tax which was the Wage Protection for the US workers.
    Now surely the Gov workers pay taxes, but The taxpayers pay for the taxes that they pay back to thier Employer, the US. So Gov worker taxes are just making a circle. It just means that the Taxpayers just have to pay more tax to cover the Gov workers’ taxes. Sort of a free ride. The Gov Unions base thier raises on the tax % from last year, etc.

    Most Gov workers don’t know what thier true cost is. Those that have been in some sort of accounting background do understand that thier paycheck is not the only cost to the Gov. I remember talking to a person working for the School district saying we get our HealthCare for free. Ha Ha. They love thier paid Holidays and vacations as well. I knew a man who drove a Garbage Truck who back in 70’s told me that thier Union told them at a meeting that They should not dicuss the pay outside the city because they make more then the other Truck Drivers.
    I think the Congress should Repeal the Prevailing wage Act (Davis-Bacon-Act)and lower the wages of ALL employees at least 50% or more.
    To raise Tariffs on goods coming in this country would only make Enemies of all our Friendly Countries and should not be considered.
    Also Those Government employees have benefited greatly in last 50 years and the Private worker has had to pay for all the Government Raises and Benefits. It time for them to give back to the Country so that The Private Enterprise System can start producing jobs and then compete with Foriegn products. And keep up with Gov Emplyees’ wages.

    Plus if the wages and salaries were lowered and no one was laid off, Unemployment Pay would not have to be paid. And no services would have to cut.

    These Unions and Gov Employees have benefited while others (Private Workers) have been let go and then had to take a lower paying job to survive. Most likely not being able to keep up with the next door neighbor that works for the Government.
    We need to get our costs down to be able to compete with those other Countries. That means not to lay people off, but to lower thier wages. Simple. Why should we have to change everything wew read for them?

    And all Illegal Immigrants out of here. Even ones who have been over 20 years. Make them come back and apply and learn how to speak English.
    And Stop the Abortion Mills.
    The Unions should not be the only people to take a cut. Everyone in the Country should share and share alike.
    Including Proffessional persons as well. We need to get our total Government costs down to Compete.
    Shalom….. God be with you

    1. Cut everyone’s pay? People are already losing their homes! A better plan would be for corporations to pay their workers a decent amount of money out of all the record profits they are making. Instead of giving useless CEOs golden parachutes and massive bonuses. Unionized workers do better because the rest of us have been getting [the shaft] from greedy employers for years, and not doing anything about it. The economy is in trouble of because Bush’s policies of trickle down economics and rampant tax cuts actually harm the economy, not to mention shipping all our manufacturing jobs overseas. The economy is in trouble because the wealthiest 2% of the population have more money than the rest of us combined.
      Quit spouting neocon memes and do some research. [..]

    2. You are so correct sir! We should all sacrifice so that Corporations can pay zero taxes and pass the profits through to their share holders and executives while stacking up tax credits that tax PAYERS will owe. While the puppet masters kept us busy flapping our lips about the eight Billion in TARP bail outs, they were secretly handing out Thirteen Trillion dollars to financial institutions. Thats thirteen times what ten years of war profiteering have cost. Who in the world profited from that war but the wealthy non taxpaying elites. All done on the backs of wage earners and brainwashed young men who fight for them. Now we should break out some fresh whips and build a nice new Pyramid to the glory of capitalism. Thanks for your time.
      J. P. Morgan

  142. Dear Professor Cronon:
    Your pleas ring hollow. You are in fact an activist beyond academics, as are many in the university system. Your involvement with the Wilderness Society is not apolitical. Nor is the Trust for Public Land since it is so dependent on public finance, a political outcome.
    Anyone who knows your work and your history is not surprised that, when you decided to public take sides, you chose to take ALEC to task. Not Center for American Progress or whatever institution on the Left serves the same function.
    When an academic takes political positions, then guess what? Your academic work becomes forevermore in a political context. Your New York Times op-ed (which I presume the Times requested?) took a political position on a current topic. Furthermore, you are using state-provided equipment to conduct this overtly political, NOT academic, act?
    Double standard, mister. Welcome to the real world.

    1. ALEC, if they indeed not doing anything illegal, nefarious or underhanded, should be able to endure the scrutiny, surely.

  143. I’m surprised that no one has cited this 2002 American RadioWorks documentary, also aired on NPR’s Weekend Edition Saturday: http://americanradioworks.publicradio.org/features/corrections/index.html. It features then-Rep. Walker freely admitting that he used ALEC’s model “truth-in-sentencing” bill, and its “research” on the effectiveness of such laws, before leading passage of the bill in Madison. (Click on “Corporate-Sponsored Crime Laws” to read or hear the relevant segment.)

  144. Me thinks the GOP protesteth too much. I had never heard of ALEC, and I follow and teach this stuff. When I read the rather reasoned blog posting, and then the REPUBLICAN RESPONSE. I thought, “I must have missed something, this is important.” Like many things, the Republicans can’t seem to help themselves, even when it would help them.

  145. I work for the government through the education system and 9% of my paycheck goes toward my health insurance premium. Although I have received raises in the past three years, my take-home pay has decreased so I am bringing home less than what I was making when I began the job. If you cut my income half I will be below the poverty line!

  146. Are you kidding me? To make things “right” you propose we should make everyone’s life miserable. People in the private sector has had every right to organize and fight for fair wages and working conditions. Don’t take it out on others who did organize and fight for a better way of life.

    If you want to make things more evenly spread across the board, why don’t you focus on the 5% of the wealthiest Americans in the this country who hold $40 trillion of wealth and don’t get taxed proportionately. This unequal distribution of wealth has far more importance and graver consequences than your insidious reasoning to take away from the workers in the public sector.

  147. I am finding this information incredible and valuable – I have a question – a serious question. why is this happening – what do these people want to achieve by taking over the country. is it a moral superiority they are after – is it money and control of America assets. or is it just control? I really would like to know what the motivation is…anyone??

    1. Possibly the best way to approach broad, important questions like yours is to first try to answer them for oneself. While actually getting to a worthwhile answer may take time and effort, along the way one’s understanding of the question itself improves immensely. My opinion is your question is really the same as Bill Cronon’s when he started this blog. It seems we are all still exploring its parameters … with the exception perhaps of the hydra-headed, shape-shifting troll. One popular book on the topic, mentioned elsewhere in this blog by another participant, is Naomi Klein’s “Shock Doctrine.” If nothing else, it’s an interesting read. I hope this attempt is helpful. Anyway, that’s what I intend.

      1. I am in the first 3 chapters of the “Shock Doctrine”. Excellent reading leaving me even more depressed when contemplating what an average citizen can do in an effort to make a difference. I also bought the movie about the outing of Valarie Plame, “Fair Game”. I turn it on when I need some comic relief. I apologize for the sarcasm and I will not stop doing my small part as long as there are people out there like Prof.Cronon and the knowledgeable people who post on this site. thanks again.

    2. In answer to your question, I’ll repeat what another reader wrote. All you need to know about why Republicans are attempting to destroy unions, among most other institutions you can think of, is contained in a document that is the ‘Bible’ of the conservative movement. You can review it at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Integration_of_Theory_and_Practice. I strongly urge you and all readers to read this. As I have stated in previous responses, you must realize that this entire issue has nothing to do with the obvious but all to do with the attainment of permanent power. This is not a political game. It is war and they are not fooling around. Please take the time to read it. Thank you.

      1. Ed Denver, I don’t know where the reply button got off to on your posted reply to me above. It appears to be missing. So I’ll attempt to reply this way. The wikipedia article you cited like so much else to be found on the disinformation superhighway is indeed interesting to read. And again thank you, I had not seen it before. However, it is not by any means all one needs to know. Indeed there is not much to be found there but a poor man’s Cliff Notes(tm) to the New Traditionalist Movement. Some of it unsubstantiated, some good references at the end, but the rest are cherry picked snippets and the document mentioned is never produced. All in all I did not find much there that anyone who has had their eyes open for any part of the past 36 years might not already be familiar with. I feel we should be keenly interested that people be well informed. This begins at home. I already get enough political junk mail and am not eager to produce more. Double ditto for the bumper stickers. One requires sufficient clear eyed understanding to plan well and act effectively. I am far less interested in engaging in warfare with my neighbors than in successfully contributing to what our diverse democratic society does well. Survive extremists like the NTM. Both within the group of our common interest and from the opposition there will be many that encourage us to expend resources on bootless and misguided efforts. Beware. Instead of warfare, I see that there is required a long term effort. Truly, this is no game. The immediate threat to public employee unions, as we’ve seen, is but one plank of many in a complex, long term agenda. One that is moving on all fronts and has been for quite awhile. As someone posted in another thread recently, the silver lining is that this has been a real eye opener for many. Let’s carry that forward. “Shock Doctrine” and similar works already cover in greater depth Heubeck and his crowd. Amazingly, those folks are not nearly the whole picture.

        By the way, I must have missed it. Where exactly did brainwashing figure in Wikipedia article on ‘”Integration of Theory and Practice?”

        1. Tamara: propaganda and brainwashing figured into the Wikipedia article:

          ‘The third stage will involve changing the overall character of American popular culture…’

          ‘The essay describes as “hopeless and self-delusional” the political activism efforts of conservatives to “compensate for their weakness in the non-political sectors of society.” Instead it called for fostering an understanding of the theoretical underpinnings of conservatism in American society which would in turn convince the American people that conservatives can be trusted to take over political structures: “to do that we must win the people over culturally — by defining how man ought to act, how he ought to perceive the world around him, and what it means to live the good life. Political arrangements can only be formed after these fundamental questions have been answered.” Weyrich’s 1999 A moral minority? An open letter to conservatives from Paul Weyrich[3]’


  148. Ms. Lewis,

    Their motivation, I suspect, has mainly to do with the fact that the United States, from the local to the federal level, is headed towards bankruptcy unless fundamental changes are made in how public resources are managed.

    1. Indeed, we are accelerating toward bankruptcy — a process they don’t want to see interrupted by the awakening of the victims-er, voters.

    2. Is the sky falling? To which bankruptcy are you referring? Moral, intellectual, representational, participatory? Which is it? As a people we are not particularly distinct from any other for whom opinion and emotion runs ahead of being informed and rational. After all who has time for the latter when the former is so instantly gratifying? When you are done with the popular libertarian myths of how the country was settled by rugged individualists, manifest destiny, and the agency of a purer capitalism. When we finish with electing officials whose stated mission is to not perform their duty of office but instead strive to cripple governance Then perhaps we will finally be free to be ruled by unfettered monopolies and cartels whom we feed with our sweat, blood and dying breath.

      If on the other hand, you’d like to seriously attempt to make a case for the federal government or the United States declaring financial bankruptcy, what d’ya think chapter 13?, then please by all means do. That might be interesting to read.

  149. Regarding ALEC, one of Professor Cronon’s favorite quotations perhaps applies:

    “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
    —Margaret Mead

  150. Ok, so now I’m hearing that OHIO is going to try and privatize there prisons.

    anyone else smell ALEC in this too? It’s just a guess, and I doubt I’m wrong based on the similar actions that Governor is doing.

    I tried to dig around on Google to find out some stuff but no luck

    1. It looks as though this is ALEC’s influence, too. Gov. Kasich is a long-time ALEC member.

      See this topic on ALEC’s “State Budget Reform Toolkit” which emphasizes privatization among the “Tools to Control Costs and Improve Government Efficiency.”


      Private prison companies are very influential in ALEC.


      Both those topics link to the more general compilation topic on ALEC, which has more information.


      Since you’re in Ohio, did you know that Kasich plans to allow drilling in the state parks using the very environmentally-damaging fracking method?


      1. Good find highplainsdem! I KNEW IT! It’s very saddening to think of for-profit prisons in this country. I don’t see how prison’s can make a profit unless they would continue to grow their numbers. Seems counter productive to a free society. But, then again, so do a lot of things we do in this country.

        I’m going to cross post those links on my paltry site 🙂 thanks Highplainsdem.

        And to you Mr. Cronon, well, you’ve surely unearthed something that smells badly. Perhaps more light will shine on these folks due to yours and NPR’s work.

  151. After poking around on the ALEC site to get an idea of what they were doing I found it easier to take a look at what they ‘oppose’; the following is a list of their ‘Resolutions’ opposing or against various topics:

    Opposing Any Increase in the Starting Wage
    Opposing Employer-Paid Health Care Mandates
    Opposing Federal Regulation to Extend Unemployment Insurance Benefits to New Parents
    Resolution opposing increases in minimum wage linked to the CPI
    Resolution Opposing Federal Mandates on Unemployment Insurance
    A Resolution Opposing A Federal Commission on State Workers’ Compensation Laws
    Opposing Disruptive Union Organizing
    Opposing Violence in Labor Disputes
    Resolution Opposing “Card Check” and Forced, Compulsory Binding Arbitration

    Resolution Opposing Taxpayer Financed Political Campaigns
    Resolution in Opposition to the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact
    Resolution Opposing Federal Takeover of State Election Procedures
    Resolution in Opposition to Pay-to-Play Legislation
    Resolution in Opposition to the REAL ID Act

    Resolution in Opposition to EPA”s Regulation of Greenhouse Gases from Mobile Sources
    Resolution In Opposition To EPA”s Plan To Regulate Greenhouse Gases Under The Clean Air Act
    Resolution in Opposition to the EPA’s “Greenhouse Gas Tailoring Rule” and the Treatment of Biomass Energy
    Resolution in Opposition of Carbon Dioxide Emission Standards
    Resolution in Opposition to S. 1602: The “Chemical Security Act of 2002”
    Resolution to Oppose the Conservation and Reinvestment Act (CARA)
    ALEC Resolution Opposing State and Local Mandates Requiring Warning Labels on Wireless Devices and Packaging

    Resolution Opposing Unfair and Unbalanced Insurance “Bad Faith” Legislation
    Resolution Opposing Anti-Indemnity And Anti-Additional Insured Legislation
    Opposing Federal Legislation to Repeal or Modify the McCarran Ferguson Act (exempts for Insurance Co)
    Opposing Government Mandated Disclosure of Proprietary, Trade Secret Information
    Opposing Comparable Worth Legislation
    Opposing Ergonomic Regulations Based on Unsound Science
    Resolution in Opposition to a Consumer Financial Protection Agency
    Opposing Government-Imposed Caps or Elimination of ATM Fees
    Opposing “Pay at the Pump” Automobile Insurance
    Resolution Against Federal Weight-Distance Tax Proposal
    Resolution Opposing Federal Non-Commercial Driver’s License Standards
    Resolution Opposing the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Proposal on Truck Driver Hours of Service
    Resolution Opposing the Transportation Equity for All Americans Act and the Transportation Act for All Americans
    Opposing Federal Standards for Monopoly Bargaining
    Opposing Frivolous Complaints and Permits Extortion
    Resolution Against U.S. Participation in International Agreement in Copenhagen
    Resolution Opposing Government Involvement in Commercial Negotiations

    Resolution Against Amnesty

    Resolution to Oppose NCCUSL Effort to rewrite the Uniform Division of Income for Tax Purposes Act
    A Resolution in Opposition to Mandatory Unitary Combined Reporting
    A Resolution in Opposition to Value-Added Taxes
    Resolution Opposing the United Nations Drive for Global Taxes
    A Resolution in Opposition to Discriminatory Food and Beverage Taxes
    Resolution Opposing a la Carte Cable Offering Requirements
    Resolution Opposing the Expansion of the Federal Trade Commissions Rulemaking Authority

    It’s hard to imagine they have the average American’s interests at heart. Their resolutions, model ‘acts’ and statments numbered close to, if not over, a 1,000. How can so many Republicans, who say they are against big government, belong to an organization that churns out resolutions and model legislation on every topic under the sun? Who’s actually writing this stuff and, as they issue ‘Guides for State Legislatures’, how many legislatures are using the guides, pushing ALEC model acts? And when do they get time to work on legislation their constituents might actually need and want? If the State Legislatures are looking out for ALEC, who’s looking out for the American citizen?

    1. I think the key to cracking this will be found in their non-profit status 501(c)3. Non-profits cannot lobby and a host of other rules, primarily they have to be NON-profit. Who is making profits? Is it hidden profit, cooked books? ALEC has a strong legal team, but they are not part of the “27 person” office in DC. ALEC lawyers did at one time register as lobbyists in North Dakota. Is that significant, has anyone notified the IRS? Where else have they violated 501(c)3 status? If everyone in their own state starts doing research, hitting the databases we have wonderful access to, we can find where they violate 501(c)3 status.

      1. According to ALEC, they are “classified by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501(c)(3) non-profit public policy and educational organization” and they claim, in one publication, that nothing they write “is to be construed as necessarily reflecting the view of the American Legislative Exchange Council, its Board of Director, or its membership,or as an attempt to aid or hinder the passage of any bill before the Congress or in state legislatures.”

        However, in the same document they say:
        “ALEC’s Asbestos and Silica Claims Priorities Act, which has been adopted in Florida, Texas, Georgia and Ohio,…”,
        “Over 20 states have enacted versions of ALEC’s Commonsense Consumption Act…”

        If they are not attempting to “aid or hinder” the passage of bills why brag about the enactment of their model legislation? And why state:

        “ALEC is able to respond immediately on issues that correlate to its model legislation on both the state and federal level, essentially communicating policy directives from the states”

        “Interacting with state legislative leaders on a daily basis, ALEC policy experts have in-depth knowledge on state legislative issues and activity. In addition, ALEC staff, legislators and advisors provide authoritative testimony before state legislatures and Congress.”

        Providing full contact details for their experts.

        Furthermore they claim
        “Legislators also contribute to advancing the ALEC agenda by serving on ALEC’s Board of Directors, or as State or Task Force Chairs. Among the leadership of America’s state legislatures, ALEC members hold an impressive presence: 38 speakers and speakers pro tempore; 25 senate presidents and senate presidents pro tempore; 31 senate majority and minority leaders; 33 house majority and minority leaders. ALEC alumni include six sitting governors, four lieutenant governors, two senior cabinet-level positions, and 96 members of Congress.”

        This is an explicit statement that the legislators who join ALEC ‘advance’ ALEC’s agenda and, by implication, actively work on getting ALEC’s model legislation enacted at both State and Federal levels.

        And in their Corporate Membership Brochure they claim “To date, ALEC has considered, written, and approved hundreds of model bills, resolutions, and policy statements. Historically, during each legislative cycle, ALEC legislators introduce more than 1,000 pieces of legislation based on these models, approximately 17 percent of which are enacted.”

        “A DYNAMIC PARTNERSHIP – One of ALEC’s greatest strengths is the public-private partnership. ALEC provides the private sector with an unparalleled opportunity to have its voice heard, and its perspective appreciated, by the legislative members…The two groups
        work in unison to solve the challenges facing the nation. The results are policies that will define the American political landscape in the 21st century.”

        Implicit in the literature is
        (a) our members are State Legislators, Members of Congress and Senators
        (b) you get full access to them, and
        (c) they will work with you on designing the policies you want

        It is extremely difficult to see how they are not a politically ‘active organization’ attempting to influence legislature in contradiction to the IRS statement that “In general, no organization may qualify for section 501(c)(3) status if a substantial part of its activities is attempting to influence legislation (commonly known as lobbying).” In fact, all of ALEC’s activities appear directed towards that one aim.

        1. Thank you for all your research. It sounds like a compelling idea. Get ALEC’s not-for-profit tax status revoked. How do you believe this will affect them?

      2. Actually, not-for-profits are permitted to lobby. There are restrictions on this that may seem byzantine. But there you are, it’s our tax code.

    2. The model legislation you found appears to be the cartels’ wish list. I recall McCain during the presidential election attempting to cast himself as another Teddy Roosevelt. Yet I don’t remember him mentioning Trust Busting, one of TR’s major planks. Neither did Obama for that matter, but he didn’t mention Roosevelt either. Yet at no other point in our history, not even the ‘golden age’, has our society been more in the grip of monopolies than now. When we hear “business friendly” what are they really saying? Who significantly finances these multi-million dollar political campaigns and the PAC advertisers?

      On a separate note, it is not factually true that a 501(3)c cannot show a profit. Further, it seems highly unlikely not to mention organizationally impractical that ALEC performs as some kind of direct cash conduit. I think most people see that. It is true that as a not-for-profit, they receive support. Maybe it’s interesting where that comes from. It should be publicly available information.

        1. I’m pleased to find you have found it to be of interest to you and would ask you to pass it around. I’m sure you experienced the same reaction I did, which was, “A-ha! So this is why they say this and attack that!” From then on I have found that literally everything I hear or read even remotely related to some conservative issue is confirmed in the ‘Theory’ document. And they have become masters of propaganda and brainwashing techniques which explains the Tea Party movement, for example. ALEC is a product of this ‘Theory’ along with every other conservative organization you can find. Just follow names and links and you will see. And never forget, they are at war and are not playing games.

  152. Vos and his republican cronies in the legislature are intimidating UW Professor Bill Cronon for exposing the GOP’s ALEC connections using the freedom of information act. There are also efforts to split off UW Madison from the rest of the system -which would also allow the current Governor to appoint a new board of regents- and huge cuts are being made in public university education on the state and national levels.—and as a part of the political party enacting these sweeping changes, Vos is receiving lots of negative feedback including some from university email addresses, and his response is—-That the people sending these emails should all be severely disciplined. (btw, students also have .edu email addresses)

  153. You have to pass this information on to as many people as possible. I will do the same. Wow. This is a lot more than dirty politics as usual.

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