Wisconsin rarely makes the national news at all in this nation. It makes the national news even less for political reasons. By and large I am very alright with this fact. Periodically however our fair state crops up as a nerve of the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy. This only began around the time of the election of Scott Walker as governor, but it has slowly spread and enveloped every state in the union. What is this conspiracy you might be asking yourself. What have the Republicans done to supplant on our democracy here in Wisconsin, and more widely in the entire union? I’ll tell you. They have had the audacity to practice free association, private enterprise, and indeed even policy research that runs counter to left wing populist beliefs.
All joking aside, what’s my point here? Well there is a an organization here in the United States call ALEC. It stands for the American Legislative Exchange Council. What does this organization do? It writes and lobbies for conservative boiler plate legislation across the nation. They have enjoyed some moderate success over time, with a number of particular reforms being pushed through here specifically in Wisconsin over the course of the last decade or so. They are essentially a state level nation wide conservative lobbying organization.
They are often falsely conflated together with another organization that goes by the name of the State Policy Network. This is another more or less conservative organization that itself has been around since the early nineties already. It helps coordinate between state based think tanks in every state in the nation. These think tanks do the same thing that all think tanks do, they write and lobby on behalf of their preferred policies. Wisconsin has multiple network affiliates including the WPRI, MacIver Institute, and the WILL. These organizations have been accused in recent history of directly hijacking legislation here and in other “red states.” Between the SPN and ALEC there has not been an independently written law by Republicans in years.
These two organizations are linked by a common slur based upon where they draw the majority of their funding. They are financed by Dark Money. Dark Money is a catch all term for the private donation of money and assets by conservatives to conservative organizations. It is most often assumed to be on part of ultra-wealthy charity foundations and billionaires. By and large this particular accusation bears itself out, but that’s how it works with an policy lobbying organization. These groups still see plenty of private donation and volunteer work. I, myself, have even contributed Dark Money to the WPRI.
It is this last point that proves what nonsense that the political Left’s own fever swamp have made of this topic. A certain segment have allowed themselves to be convinced that democracy no longer exists and that these organizations have completely supplanted the voice of the people in government. This is hog wash. These organizations and groups similar to them are proof that our system works. They are examples of some of what makes our nation so unique here on Earth. These groups are built upon the twin pillars of private enterprise and free association. These people have chosen to band together, to contribute their time, money, and in some cases livelihoods to causes and laws they see as serving the betterment of the polity.
These same accusations are made against people like George Soros, and left wing think tanks like the Center for American Progress. I may not agree with their ends but I have no doubt that these people also have nothing but the best intentions. We should not spend our time decrying people who choose to work outside of government in order to better the government and society. Maybe we should take a lesson here and work to be the change we wish to see in the world instead of always decrying them as spiders, thieves, and New World Order style terrorists.