Monday, March 26, 2012


Paul Krugman has a great column today about the American Legislative Exchange Council, otherwise known as ALEC:

What is ALEC? Despite claims that it's nonpartisan, it's very much a movement-conservative organization, funded by the usual suspects: the Kochs, Exxon Mobil, and so on. Unlike other such groups, however, it doesn't just influence laws, it literally writes them, supplying fully drafted bills to state legislators. In Virginia, for example, more than 50 ALEC-written bills have been introduced, many almost word for word. And these bills often become law.

Many ALEC-drafted bills pursue standard conservative goals: union-busting, undermining environmental protection, tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy. ALEC seems, however, to have a special interest in privatization -- that is, on turning the provision of public services, from schools to prisons, over to for-profit corporations.

Krugman goes on to discuss ALEC's support for Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law, which would seem to advance no corporatist goal but is certainly the kind of bill that keeps right-wing voters turning out to vote Republican, which ultimately serves ALEC's fat-cat goals.

But I want to talk about some of that privatization ALEC likes so much.

Do you remember Pat Robertson's declaration, a couple of weeks ago, that marijuana should be legal? That got a lot of attention, including a fair amount of praise from lefties.

I was skeptical. In late 2010, I wrote an I-smell-a-rat post when Robertson hinted at support for marijuana decriminalization. I was skeptical because he seemed to be trying to drum up business for prison outreach ministries with this campaign:

... Calling it getting "smart" on crime, Robertson aired a clip on a recent episode of his 700 Club television show that advocated the viewpoint of drug law reformers who run prison outreach ministries.

A narrator even claimed that religious prison outreach has "saved" millions in public funds by helping to reduce the number of prisoners who return shortly after being released....

And look who was announcing support for initiatives of this kind at precisely that moment:

A group of national conservatives led by Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform, Russell Keene of the American Conservative Union, and former Attorney General Ed Meese unveiled the“Right On Crime” initiative and website....

Norquist noted that criminal justice is a legitimate function of government but that conservatives ought to be interested in saving money and performing that function as efficiently as possible. He added that much of the conservative interest in rehabilitation and prison reform started with faith-based organizations.

Chuck Colson with Prison Fellowship Industries and Pat Nolan with the Justice Fellowship are among the supporters of the Right On Crime Initiatives....

Now let's wander over to the Prison Overcrowding page at the ALEC Web site. Gosh -- it appears that ALEC has the same goals:

Governors and corrections officials have the responsibility of conscientiously reducing corrections spending by utilizing evidenced-based practices, such as expanding vocational skills, educational opportunities, and religious programs....

Inmates should be encouraged to participate in faith-based programs.

And what do you know -- the "private sector chair" of ALEC's Corrections and Reentry Working Group is Pat Nolan of Prison Fellowship, the group most associated with Pat Robertson's ally Chuck Colson.

So don't give Pat too much credit for wisdom on pot. It's a right-wing thing. It's an ALEC thing. If this happens, the rich have less government to pay for and a significant part of the right-wing coalition gets to treat more and more people involved in drugs as rehab cases, not criminals -- for a fee.

(X-posted at Booman Tribune.)

1 comment:

BH said...

Not to worry - I wouldn't give Pat Robertson credit for wisdom, or enough sense to get out of the rain, no matter what he said.