Today, the Wisconsin State Journal editorial board, after a long silence, dipped a teensy-weeny toe into the discussion of ALEC:
The American Legislative Exchange Council, known as ALEC, is either a scandalous, deceptive, dark force in state politics or a helpful, efficient, font of ideas and information for state legislators across the country.
Depending, of course, on one’s point of view.
Really? ALEC might be a “helpful, efficient, font of ideas and information for state legislators across the country”? Seriously?
Here the State Journal is famously, in the words of James Thurber, “turning cartwheels in the house, kicking over the umbrella stand, knocking down the bridge lamps, and ramming elbows through the windows”, trying to pose neutral.
It doesn’t work.
Like the teetotalling bear in the Thurber story, they’re bending over way too far backwards.
They do want one small obvious thing. They want the Government Accountability Board to review the legality of free trips, prepaid hotels, and lavish entertainment provided to legislators (and families). Is this not corrupt, on its very face? A simple call?
But then, critically, that’s the end of the editorial board’s ethical thinking.
They do have a moral universe, but its measuring stick is very small. If it’s not strictly speaking illegal, then, well, hell….
We have recently seen a candidate for governor conceal his agenda from voters during the campaign. Not a problem for the State Journal. It was, after all, not “illegal”.
Once elected, he moved to defund the political opposition. That might be an assault on fair play, a betrayal of people he’s actually supposed to represent, and a perversion of democracy. But it’s not, strictly speaking, illegal.
A party can move against the broad right of citizens to vote. Again, helpful to them, damaging to the opposition, and not necessarily illegal.
With the necessary votes finally there in the U.S. Supreme Court, we can all enjoy overnight rivers of money washing over our elections, and it’s suddenly, literally, all completely legal, all strictly yes-sir, no-sir, officially legal.
This, as best we can tell, is the blinkered moral universe of the State Journal editorial board — “Not convicted? Not a problem.”
Remember their “rules for recall”? If the elected official hasn’t been convicted of a crime…. what’s all the fuss?
There is then — in their particular moral universe — nothing wrong with the world’s most powerful corporations gathering together and meeting in private to draft legislation with a bunch of over-awed, small town Republican state legislators. It’s not, after all, illegal to do this.
Sure, it’s the very essence of everyday “normal” political corruption, and there are always those who earn a living being paid not to notice.