With his presidential announcement barely one week behind him, one of Scott Walker's first major speeches will be on Thursday in San Diego at the annual meeting of American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a far-right corporate front group that has pushed legislation including Arizona's notorious anti-immigrant SB 1070 law and the "Stand Your Ground" laws that contributed to George Zimmerman walking free. That Walker chooses to headline an ALEC conference as part of his campaign's roll out makes it perfectly clear whose side he is on.
ALEC is an organization devoted to promoting the priorities of corporations through crafting and helping to pass harmful legislation at the state level that serves corporate bottom lines. While "Stand Your Ground" laws and SB-1070 are two of the most notorious laws they've championed, their work has reached far and wide in ways that raise corporate profits while hurting the middle class. Their legislation has focused on derailing environmental protections; promoting voter ID laws that disenfranchise the Latino community, African Americans, young people, seniors, and others; undermining unions and workers' rights to collective bargaining; opposing the minimum wage; and helping the wealthiest in our nation to pay less in taxes. In short, ALEC fights for everything that I and so many other activists and leaders in our community have fought against all our lives.
ALEC completely blurs the lines between corporate lobbyists and state legislators. It wines and dines legislators and then convenes working groups where corporate representatives come together on an equal footing with legislators to vote on and draft legislation that helps turn corporate wish lists into reality.
Scott Walker has long been one of the elected officials most willing to do ALEC's bidding. His alliance with the group began in the 90s, when he was a member of ALEC during his time as a state legislator in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin. Back then he lied to Wisconsin voters, claiming he wrote a bill creating longer prison time for inmates even though it was really ALEC legislation. It's no surprise that corporations who stood to benefit from the expanding prison population funded ALEC - and it's even less of a surprise that Walker did not disclose these seedy connections.
Walker's ties to ALEC are as strong now as ever, and not just because of his keynote speech at today's ALEC conference. Walker signed 19 ALEC bills into law during his first year as governor. And when Governor Walker interceded in local matters to strike down paid sick leave laws passed by Milwaukee voters, ALEC started promoting the legislation in other states. 11 states now have similar legislation.
ALEC, its member organizations, and Walker seem to be in lock step, pushing a far-right agenda that does not serve average working families. Walker's full embrace of ALEC gives us a good window into the control he would give to corporations and ALEC if he became president. A Walker presidency would trample the rights of workers, women, immigrants and so many other key groups that make our nation what it is today. We wouldn't want ALEC's CEO to become President of the United States, so we shouldn't want Walker, either. His alliance with ALEC is far from the only way Walker is pandering to corporations by fighting against working families, but it certainly is a timely reminder of the extreme, corporate agenda he would bring to the White House.
Dolores Huerta is a civil rights leader and board member of People For the American Way.