Several weeks ago I wrote an article heralding the formation of a progressive think tank designed to share policy ideas with elected officials and governmental organizations to counteract the successful conservative efforts of groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council (commonly referred to as ALEC). In that article here I intuited that it was high time the progressive community joined the game of using its principles and ideas to promote social policies across governmental jurisdictions.
Led by an enterprising third-year law student, Matthew Cardinale, who enjoyed great success pushing affordable housing initiatives in Atlanta and successfully engaged the Georgia Supreme Court to stop illegal City Council maneuvers to thwart policy processes the State and Municipal Action for Results Today/Agenda for Legislative Empowerment and Collaboration was born. Now that certainly is a mouthful and it is an acronym for, what else, SMART ALEC. To suggest this is merely a coincidence would defy credulity. But in a time where anti-intellectualism has gained a certain currency among right-wing political factions such as the TEA Party, labelling anything as smart can be hazardous to your cause.
Thus, it is no surprise that SMART ALEC is now being threatened with a cease and desist order and further legal actions unless it changes its name. It is a litigious society we live in for sure and this is just one more example of the extent to which deep pocketed individuals and organizations will go to squelch competition. The legal action is based upon trademark infringement, a legal area not familiar to most and considered arcane to many.
At a time when one of the presumptive Presidential nominees is reportedly involved in no less than 3,500 lawsuits it is a sign of the times that using the courts as the de facto default for registering either one’s annoyance with or attempt to bleed out the opposition is just one more illustration of the yawning gap between those who can afford such luxuries and those that cannot. It is a modern day story of David and Goliath but while many might shrug and back off from the confrontation, Cardinale and his Board members seem to relish the upcoming battle.
Cardinale, who serves as SMART ALEC’s CEO responded to the letter by saying “we were just so delighted to hear from them and we really were just so touched to know that they’re thinking of us.” The letter prompted Board member Barbara Payne to remark, “Y’all picked the wrong organization with the right people. We fight suits like this on our lunch break,” while Dr. Dwanda Lee Farmer, another Board member intoned “I’ve been a SMART ALEC all my life and ALEC can sue us if they want to!”
From the tone of those responses it appears unlikely that this will end up at the negotiating table anytime soon. And while it is unclear how such issues may or may not be resolved in trademark courts of law it is certainly refreshing to see progressives asserting their newly discovered power to challenge what has become a right-wing takeover of conservative policy-making processes. That power has been given a jolt by the Sanders campaign, just another residual of the highly effective challenge that will leave its mark on a political system floundering in dysfunction.
Let the free flow of intellectual discourse and innovative ideas dictate the course of the future. In the end let us all be SMART ALEC's (www.smartalec.org)