The American Legislative Exchange Council announced it will shut down the council that fostered state "Stand Your Ground" laws. But that might be only a superficial change.
For close watchers of ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, the group's decision today to shut down its Public Safety and Elections Task Force is both a big deal -- and not. One the one hand, the closed task force was the part of ALEC that fostered voter requirements and gun laws (such as the "Stand Your Ground" laws now in the news, thanks to the Trayvon Martin shooting). Task forces are, critically, ALEC's organizing unit. The organization got started in 1973 but things really took root in the early 1980s with the creation of its Federalism Task Force. That worked so well that the group branched out to health care and telecommunications. By the end of the decade, there were at least a dozen of what ALEC's organizational history calls its "freestanding think tanks and model bill movers."
So ALEC's sacrificing of its branch dedicated to tackling safety and elections issues is significant. And, of course, there's the PR component of it all. An organization that owes part of its fame to the fact that it operates outside the public eye has had to respond to public pressure; the months-long online and offline campaign to peel corporate support away from ALEC we've detailed here. And for its part, ALEC seems almost willing to frame the flak it has gotten in recent months and weeks as a useful corrective. ALEC, to ALEC, has always been an organization dedicated to the Jeffersonian principles of "free-market enterprise, limited government, and federalism." Conservatives back legislation, as do liberals, but if Public Safety and Elections was not quite a rogue unit, it was a distraction. Today's release from ALEC was titled "ALEC Sharpens Focus," and the theme continued in its body, which said the group was recommitting to its "efforts on the economic front, a priority that has been the hallmark of out organization for decades."