Progressive War on ALEC

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BY REP. BLAIR THORESON  — When did the public and private sector working together to find solutions become a bad thing? If you listen to the rhetoric stemming from Progressive groups, cooperative efforts dedicated to creating economic opportunity, consumer choices and finding solutions to real world problems are part of a vast right-wing conspiracy.

As a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), I am appalled at the spurious attacks directed toward the organization. As public sector chair of the ALEC Communications and Technology task force, I know the positive impact of legislation brought forward in states because of the issues we debate.


Groups that oppose free-markets and the free exchange of ideas have politicized the recent shooting in Florida, which resulted in the death of 17-year old Trayvon Martin. Organizations funded by George Soros as well as leftist pundits are trying to associate ALEC with this horrible tragedy. As member of the board of directors for the non-profit journalism organization Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, I’m troubled by the old media for their lack of fact checking surrounding the accusations made against ALEC. The combination of leftist attacks and lack of media scrutiny is being used to intimidate supporters of the organization.

The low depths these allegedly “Progressive” groups have sunk to beckon an answer to the question: what are they so afraid of?  The answer: ALEC is successful at shaping pro-growth, free-market legislation at the state level. Working with both Democrats and Republicans in state capitals has resulted in job creation and economic growth. ALEC has helped create a vigorous exchange of ideas between the public and private sector.

The results have improved the lives of families all across our great country. Do opponents of ALEC fear bipartisan efforts to make people less dependent on government rendering those in leadership less powerful?  Sadly the answer is “yes”.

These heightened attacks against ALEC come during a contentious election season. Public employee unions are feeling the enormous pressure of their pensions bankrupting states and their outdated bargaining tactics under attack. ALEC’s efforts on behalf of taxpayers and a positive climate for business owners are viewed as a direct threat against the power Unions and their politician friends have maintained for decades.

A recent editorial in the Chicago Tribune spells out what happens when the people are forsaken for the power and control established when unions and politicians collaborate.

“Many of this state’s taxpayers have caught on to the crude barter system that long lurked in the shadows: In return for reliable campaign support, Illinois politicians gave public employee unions hugely unaffordable pension and retiree health care benefits. Because those obligations didn’t have to be funded immediately, the politicians could divert money to other purposes. They also figured they’d be gone when the dreadful costs of their giveaways erupted.”

ALEC is working tirelessly to prevent other states from suffering the same fate as Illinois. By working in a bipartisan manner with both the public and private sector, state legislatures are empowering themselves to bring about job growth and economic freedom to the public, despite the attacks from organizations who believe in more Statism and less power for individuals.

By bringing forward ideas to be debated in our many state capitols (often referred to as the “laboratories of Democracy”) our organization will continue to have a powerful impact on improving our nation’s economy for years to come.  ALEC’s public and private sector members have been leading this effort for almost 40 years, and as President Reagan noted “it is you…the members of the American Legislative Exchange Council, who should be honored for your untiring dedication and service to promoting Mr. Jefferson’s ideals” of limited government, free markets, and federalism.  Rather than give up the fight for a better future for our nation (as the liberals would hope we’d do) …we’re just getting started.

Rep. Blair Thoreson has served in the North Dakota House of Representatives since 1998, representing District 44.  He serves as the Chair of the House Appropriations committee-Government Operations division, and as Public Sector Chair of the ALEC Communications and Technology task force.  He is a member of the Board of Directors of the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity.