Saturday, 20 October 2012 19:55

Nash column: Now it's our turn to pick sides

Written by  Pat Nash

Pocan learned about ALEC in the only way he could — he joined — making him one of its few Democratic members. Once inside he saw firsthand how it operates and then, much to the organization’s displeasure, he let us in on its goals and strategies.

The American Legislative Exchange Council, a secretive organization, has a goal and follows a consistent strategy to achieve it: pass state legislation that helps its corporate members. These members write the bills and persuade state legislators (almost all Republicans) to pass them.

Professor Bill Cronon of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the Center for Media and Democracy, and our own state Rep. Mark Pocan have all been successful in exposing this agenda. More than 40 large corporations have dropped their ALEC memberships as a result of the negative publicity these exposures generated.

Although ALEC claims to be nonpartisan, everyone now knows its goal is to further right-wing causes. Because of a loophole in federal law it’s designated a “charitable organization,” so corporate members can deduct the dues they pay.

Wisconsin taxpayers are billed for their legislators’ memberships in ALEC as well as their travels to various convention sites where members are wined, dined and lobbied to take home legislation that has been written by special-interest corporate groups. As Tommy Thompson said about ALEC conferences, “I always loved going to those meetings because I always found new ideas. Then I’d take them back to Wisconsin, disguise them a little bit, and declare ‘That’s mine.’”

In return, of course, legislators receive contributions from the same corporations that write the legislation. Neat, easy, with no requirement for the lawmakers to be knowledgeable about the issues or consequences of the legislation.

Pocan learned about ALEC in the only way he could — he joined — making him one of its few Democratic members. Once inside he saw firsthand how it operates and then, much to the organization’s displeasure, he let us in on its goals and strategies.

Contrary to the best interests of the majority of voters, ALEC’s corporate members convince state legislators to propose bills that eliminate or reduce consumer protections, voter rights and safeguards for the most vulnerable — all the while benefiting their own corporate interests. And they’ve been very successful at it.

Someone has to look out for ordinary people, and because of his dedication to do just that I will vote on Nov. 6 for Pocan for the U.S. House of Representatives, a seat that Rep. Tammy Baldwin has held for many terms. And because Baldwin has the same dedication to the people as Pocan, I will vote for her for U.S. Senate.

I will also vote enthusiastically for state Assemblyman Fred Clark, who is running against Tea Party member Scott Frostman. I met Clark long before I became politically involved. He came up to me and introduced himself during one of Baraboo’s art fairs and I was impressed by his down-to-earth demeanor, his desire to learn from the citizens, and later, by his accessibility. Whenever I contacted his office I was impressed by the rapid and relevant responses.

In contrast, when I contacted state Sen. Luther Olsen or U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, I received form letters touting some issue that had nothing to do with my questions.

Clark is a small-business owner who knows what it takes to start and run a private enterprise. He’s a responsible hunter and outdoorsman who fights to preserve this whole wonderful environment that we call Wisconsin. He has voted consistently to protect the environment and consumers’ rights, which have been threatened by the agendas of corporate lobbyists. Fred has always been available at listening sessions and community events and, unlike Olsen, has had the courage to face the public and take their questions.

In fact, I have yet to meet Olsen at any local event, even though he has been invited, and I can’t say I’m sorry that the Republican redistricting maps removed him from the ballot here.

Because laws passed in our state legislatures have a tremendous impact on our daily lives, the elected representatives making those laws should stand up for the people who live here, not huge, out-of-state corporations with hidden agendas. Our choices on Nov. 6 are clear: Democratic candidates represent ordinary people while most Republicans support ALEC and its corporate goals. Which party is on your side?

Link to original article from Baraboo News Republic

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