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I've commented vaguely in the past about the wide and growing similarities between right-wing "America" and the Soviet state, but the most potent and damning of them is the increasingly peremptory role played by ALEC in the law-making process on every level of government.  Today, in the majority of states in this country, the moment a piece of legislation is agreed upon within ALEC, it is now effectively guaranteed to be made a state law with little or no revision, reducing the legislatures and governorships of these states to rubber-stamp institutions.  Given this level of power, ALEC is no mere lobbying organization, but a de facto lawmaking organ unto itself with no legal authority to make laws, and no accountability to anything but the narrow political interests it represents.  As I will explain, this bears a striking and increasing resemblance to how the Soviet Union and other totalitarian Communist states were governed.

The Soviet Union had been incredibly opaque and inscrutable to Western powers not merely because of its profound secrecy, but because the actual functioning of its government had little or nothing to do with the explicit governmental structures laid out in its written laws.  Officially, the lawmaking body of the Soviet Union was the Supreme Soviet - an alleged parliament of "elected" delegates who were never opposed, and never actually met or discussed anything except to assemble on rare occasions to act out scripts handed to them and pass resolutions dictated to them by the real authority.  Being a delegate in the Supreme Soviet was little more than a cushy no-show job for friends and family of those wielding the actual power.

The pinnacle of that power was the Politburo - the executive committee of the Communist Party, whose official role was merely advisory and ideological.  On paper, the role of the Politburo was similar to that played by the Catholic Church in the monarchies of medieval Europe: An alleged guardian of morals that could influence secular policy through ideological edicts and legitimize or delegitimize leaders in the eyes of their subjects.  Of course, in reality the medieval Catholic Church was much weaker than it pretended to be, barely ever influencing the monarchies except on purely symbolic matters, and on occasion being spectacularly humiliated when direct conflicts arose.  However, the Politburo was not only much stronger than its advisory role on paper, but was in fact the singular and absolute authority of the Soviet state, with literally every other institution being either totally subordinate or a complete sham.

The moment the Politburo reached a decision, it was effectively the law of the Soviet Union - its adoption by official mouthpiece organs was 100% guaranteed.  If a member of the Supreme Soviet had gone mad and tried to make a speech opposing something the Politburo decided at an official assembly, the other delegates would have sprinted out the door so as not to be seen listening to it, and that delegate (and perhaps also his family) would have been breaking rocks in Siberia within the week.  And, if truth be told, at least something on that level happens in Washington whenever some naive newbie dares to speak common sense - a kind of terrified hush descends, and then the cynical denizens get a little smirk on their faces, knowing what's about to happen to the fool: Total banishment from media, deranged propaganda smear campaigns if they remain stubbornly prevalent, followed by an avalanche of cash from all over the world going to whoever challenges them next.

Obviously I'm not saying there is a perfect equivalence between a totalitarian state and one where corruption has placed de facto lawmaking powers in the hands of a lobbying organization: We still have a significant level of real governance in this country, albeit one that is hemmorhaging power and stymied at every turn while ALEC-promoted legislation sails through the process on well-oiled tracks.  But the resemblance is profound and growing: Try to find ALEC mentioned in a "mainstream" news source in any medium - you probably won't, because the fact is that the same people it represents also own the media.  We have alternate universe, unison-chorus "news" coverage and rapid, agile lawmaking on behalf of a tiny minority by a private organization with no official authority while measures strongly supported by anywhere from half to 90% of the American people languish in obstruction because ALEC opposes them.

The fact that ALEC represents a few hundred oligarchs and mega-corporations rather than bureaucrats who actually have to do some kind of real job is, if anything, sort of worse.  So I have a suggestion for what to call ALEC: Yes, ladies and gentlemen, we are under the thumb of....the Paulitburo.

Originally posted to Troubadour on Sun Apr 07, 2013 at 04:32 PM PDT.

Also republished by American Legislative Transparency Project.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Great analysis! (10+ / 0-)

    I first heard about ALEC in 2011 when, during the effort to recall Gov. Scott Walker, news broke about Republicans in Wisconsin trying to silence a University of Wisconsin professor who had researched and blogged about ALEC's influence.

    The Politburo seems an apt comparison.

    Proud to be a Truth Vigilante

    by Calvino Partigiani on Sun Apr 07, 2013 at 04:47:38 PM PDT

  •  This (7+ / 0-)
    ALEC-promoted legislation sails through the process on well-oiled tracks.
    is a curious and troubling statement, today.

    I first heard of ALEC a few years ago, in this venue. I believe, generally, that ALEC and similar entities are powerful, besides being well-funded, BECAUSE they're secret. If I've heard of ALEC, believe me, it isn't secret, anymore :)

    So, when do we get the sense that it's losing it's power?

    Do we need more citizen initiatives to publicize--and shame--politicians sympathetic to ALEC?

    It's here they got the range/ and the machinery for change/ and it's here they got the spiritual thirst. --Leonard Cohen

    by karmsy on Sun Apr 07, 2013 at 04:55:28 PM PDT

    •  We'll know it's losing power (10+ / 0-)

      when legislation it has enacted in the past is repealed.  Merely holding the line is not enough.

      Going faster miles an hour, with the radio on.

      by Troubadour on Sun Apr 07, 2013 at 04:59:46 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  NC passing ALEC legislation swiftly (6+ / 0-)

        "Lets show the rascals what Citizens United really means."

        by smiley7 on Sun Apr 07, 2013 at 05:04:37 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Reports of Tarheel democracy following 2008 (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          karmsy, elwior, smiley7, commonmass

          were greatly exaggerated.

          Going faster miles an hour, with the radio on.

          by Troubadour on Sun Apr 07, 2013 at 05:09:51 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  We have to admit that several of our state (0+ / 0-)

            legislatures are ALEC-Dominated.  This is true where I live, Ohio, our neighbors Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, NC, SC, AZ, UT and several others.  The term is ALEC Dominated.  In some of these states the Speaker, Majority Leader, Whips and other powerful positions are held by ALEC members, and they introduce, co-sponsor, and shepherd through the legislative process sham corporate bills with sham public hearings, proscribed debate, limited opportunity for opposing views and amendments, and fast track voting processes.

            ALEC meets three times a year, sort of politburo-like, the legislative members are handed corporate approved legislation to introduce in their states, and despite the eyewash of ALEC saying that the public sector members debate and vote on "Model Legislation", the public sector members never get the opportunity to vote until the private sector members approve what the public sector members will vote on.  This, in effect, gives the private sector members of ALEC a VETO over what gets back to the states as "Model Legislation".

            I want to ask this question, and I know the answer, but I want to ask it anyway.  Why does ALEC have the power to write, debate, and pass legislation that will be adopted in all fifty states, plus some congressional legislation, with no access by the press, no access by opposing parties whose ox is being gored by ALEC, with public meeting laws from all fifty states being violated because legislation is being debated and voted upon by legislators, why can ALEC do this.

            Part of the reason is that ALEC has actually gotten exceptions to public notice laws and regulations approved into law in some states that are ALEC Dominated.  Part of it is that many of our local press are under the thumbs of ALEC members, either through the ability to withhold advertising dollars, or because the publishers of the newspapers and other media outlets are ALEC sympathizers and enablers, and they have absolutely no desire to out ALEC.

            Since this diary was written yesterday, it is unlikely that many will view this comment, but I felt it was necessary.  I think that America will be a better place when ALEC and its successor organizations, and the State Policy Network, its 50 state think tank organization that supports ALEC activities are exposed and also put out of business.  A think tank that only thinks of one thing, or who only thinks about one side of an issue really isn't a think tank it is a propaganda outlet.  Nothing more, nothing less.

            Republicans are like alligators. All mouth and no ears.

            by Ohiodem1 on Mon Apr 08, 2013 at 12:02:42 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

      •  We'll know it's losing power when Citizen's United (9+ / 0-)

        has gone the way of Dred Scott. Until then, ALEC and all their ilk will continue to hold the puppet strings of our so called government.

        "Well, yeah, the Constitution is worth it if you succeed." - Nancy Pelosi // Question: "succeed" at what?

        by nailbender on Sun Apr 07, 2013 at 05:06:19 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Perhaps some "vigilante campaign finance reform"? (5+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          elwior, Stude Dude, commonmass, Musial, karmsy

          Nonviolent, of course, but perhaps there's some way to interrupt the flow of money through civil disobedience.

          Going faster miles an hour, with the radio on.

          by Troubadour on Sun Apr 07, 2013 at 05:20:12 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  look at the history of single issue groups, you (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Troubadour

            tell the politician credibly that their career is over because you have the votes if they oppose your demands, its not rocket science you just have to control the margin of victory. Madison said tyranny is when the branches of government are unified. That happened in USSR as well as here with the Supreme Court taking over Congress and its coordinated political movement conforming the states to tea Party programs. With a gridlocked congress dictating to a willing executive hostage, you have a similar collapse of constitutional structures loosely unified by a Tea Party consensus. But read Sumner's The True Grandeur of Nations, it was like this in 1845 on the eve of the Mexican War and national slavery.

    •  I know that Color of Change has done some great (5+ / 0-)

      work in exposing ALEC and in urging many of the corporate members to leave.
        It'd seem like more of such action would be a very good thing.

      "We the People of the United States...." -U.S. Constitution

      by elwior on Sun Apr 07, 2013 at 05:11:05 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  CoC, for perspective, brought down (5+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Troubadour, viral, elwior, kurt, Heart n Mind

        Glenn Beck. If I'm not mistaken, they are seriously cutting in on Rush Limbaugh's "fun" at present. They do great work.

        What the RW absolutely hates, is how synergistic activism for seemingly far-flung progressive causes turns out to be.

        It's here they got the range/ and the machinery for change/ and it's here they got the spiritual thirst. --Leonard Cohen

        by karmsy on Sun Apr 07, 2013 at 05:20:52 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  It's funny how the crazies try to dream up fake (8+ / 0-)

    conspiracies as we act to expose real ones.

    "We the People of the United States...." -U.S. Constitution

    by elwior on Sun Apr 07, 2013 at 04:59:39 PM PDT

  •  Great flag! Did you do that? nt (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    elwior, Troubadour, viral

    "Well, yeah, the Constitution is worth it if you succeed." - Nancy Pelosi // Question: "succeed" at what?

    by nailbender on Sun Apr 07, 2013 at 05:07:38 PM PDT

  •  Apt analogy... n/t (3+ / 0-)

    "That men do not learn very much from the lessons of history is the most important of all the lessons of history." ~ Aldous Huxley

    by markthshark on Sun Apr 07, 2013 at 05:23:32 PM PDT

  •  ALEC is a serious threat to our country (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Troubadour, kurt

    I have followed the national behind the scenes influence ALEC plays ever since they and their "handlers", the Koch brothers corrupted the state of Wisconsin.  Their secret political influence has been operating for at least thirty years.  Many rightwing politicians are purely puppets for the Kochs and ALEC, and Gov. Scott Walker is a "poster boy" for their movement.  ALEC's focus has been primiarily at the state level.  Some may recall that in 2012 a Republican politician in the state of Florida presented a bill to the Florida legislation, and in error presented the bill without removing ALEC's name.  A large percentage of bills are totally crafted by ALEC, and since 98% of all members of ALEC are Republican politicians it can be assumed that the right is operating for this secret organization.  The American public has indeed a Politburo in our midst, and it will take tremendous money and power to overcome their growing influence.  In the meantime, ALEC operates as a 501-C3 non-profit, which is beyond the pale that we would allow them to hold that tax exempt status.

    memasmar "You must be the change you wish to see in the world" Gandhi

    by memasmar on Sun Apr 07, 2013 at 08:12:59 PM PDT

  •  We need our own ALEC (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Troubadour

    Not the sinister part, but the part where Progressive legislation would be drafted and supplied to state legislators so they can introduce it as their own.  Lots of topics:

    Voting rights
    Equal pay for women
    Raising the minimum wage
    Paid sick leave
    Progressive tax policy
    Renewable energy policies
    Public school funding
    etc. etc. etc.

    Imagine all the people, living life in peace. You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one. John Lennon

    by GwenM on Mon Apr 08, 2013 at 04:38:19 AM PDT

    •  There's no lack of legislative proposals (0+ / 0-)

      on our side.  What's lacking are the economic resources to make support or opposition to those proposals decisive in a Citizens United auction-style election.

      Going faster miles an hour, with the radio on.

      by Troubadour on Mon Apr 08, 2013 at 05:02:51 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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