Two months after it was first announced, the "I Stand With ALEC" website supporting the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has finally gone live -- and it is underwhelming.
For the past year, ALEC has been under intense public scrutiny, starting in July 2011 when the Center for Media and Democracy launched ALECexposed.org. Since then, Common Cause has filed complaints with the IRS challenging ALEC's charitable status, groups like People for the American Way and Progress Now! have helped produce reports about ALEC's influence in individual states, Color of Change has been privately and publicly urging corporations to leave ALEC because of the ALEC agenda's negative impact on the African American community, and labor unions and shareholder groups have put increasing pressure on publicly traded companies to drop their ALEC membership. CMD has continued its investigation of ALEC, its operations, and its members through reporting on PRWatch.org, and documented ALEC's role in ratifying as a "model" bill the Stand Your Ground law cited initially to protect Trayvon Martin's killer from arrest or prosecution.
In response to growing public pressure, nineteen corporations have distanced themselves from ALEC, including longtime ALEC Board members like Wal-Mart, Coca-Cola, and Johnson & Johnson. For many, the term "ALEC" has become synonymous with corporate corruption of the democratic process.
ALEC Tries Pushing Back Against Criticism
With ALEC and its agenda exposed, the group has tried replying with a public relations blitz -- by hiring PR megafirm Edelman, purporting to disband the task force responsible for its controversial crime, gun, and voting legislation (which may be just a PR stunt), and trying to re-brand itself with easily rebuttable claims that "elected state legislators fully control[ling] ALEC's model legislation process."
In April (as CMD/PRWatch reported), ALEC's Director of External Relations Caitlyn Korb spoke at a Heritage Foundation "Bloggers Briefing," where she said ALEC was "getting absolutely killed in social media venues" and pleaded with right-wing bloggers for support. She also referenced the coalition-building and institutional support from Americans for Tax Reform, the group led by right-wing activist Grover Norquist. At the time, Korb announced that ALEC would be launching an "I Stand With ALEC" website in the coming days as part of "a very aggressive campaign to really spread the word about what we do."
But for months, "IStandWithALEC.com" remained dormant. The site was registered to Matt Braynard of the Braynard Group, which also did the website for Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform, and had developed sites for groups like the Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity. The #IStandWithALEC hashtag appeared on twitter but received little traffic, despite being promoted by right-wing commentator Michelle Malkin (who also unsuccessfully promoted a boycott of companies that dropped their ALEC membership).
A Few Stand with ALEC
The two-color website consists of a single page in a simple Times New Roman font, and the content appears to have been written by an individual not particularly versed in English grammar.
Visitors to the site are asked to "Send them (sic) a message to the Private Enterprise Members to stick by ALEC in defense of free enterprise by clicking on the e-mail icon."
Readers are also informed that "Many state legislators are members of ALEC and the left is spamming them with message (sic), telling them to quit."
The site informs visitors in two separate places (on the same page) that "The left has already been successful in persuading several large companies to leave the ALEC Private Enterprise Members (sic)."
At the bottom of the page, viewers are told the site is a project of Nevada-based GOP operative Chuck Muth and "American for Tax Reform." Clicking the "American for Tax Reform" link takes viewers to Grover Norquist's "Americans (plural) for Tax Reform" website.
Norquist is indeed one American for tax "reform," and as the Republic Report notes, "During the Jack Abramoff investigation, Norquist was exposed for selling support from his front groups to corporations. In one damning e-mail, Norquist is promised $50,000 dollars in exchange for providing his Americans for Tax Reform support to one of Abramoff's clients. How much is ALEC paying Norquist now for cover? We may never know."
The Republic Report has also launched their own spoof of ALEC's site at http://istandwithalec.org.
ALEC's "very aggressive campaign" is off to a very inauspicious start.