ALEC’s Priority: Gerrymandering

One of the many problems exacerbated by the loss of local journalism is the increasing nationalization of American politics. Those who follow political news are focused almost exclusively on Washington, and that focus has only intensified since 2016. If there is one thing Donald Trump is good at (and it is the only thing), it is sucking the air out of the newsroom. He’s like the wreck by the side of the road that you can’t help rubbernecking.

But we ignore state politics at our peril.

Donald Trump occupies the Oval Office because the Republican Party has been punching above its weight for a number of years. The GOP  has been able to win elections not because it can claim majority status, but because it has been able to game the system at the state level, primarily through gerrymandering and voter suppression.

And these efforts have been aided and abetted by ALEC.

ALEC–the American Legislative Exchange Council–is a powerful (and secretive) conservative organization. It is best known for preparing “model” bills favorable to its corporate members, bills that more often than not are introduced–unaltered– by conservative state legislators. ALEC has been incredibly successful in getting these measure passed, and the organization has shaped legislation in policy areas ranging from health care (undercutting the Affordable Care Act) to criminal justice (promoting private prisons). It has worked to lower taxes, eliminate environmental regulations, quash unions, and protect corporations from lawsuits, and it depends upon Republicans to achieve its aims.

So the organization’s current priority is gerrymandering.

In the early August heat, nearly 200 Republican lawmakers gathered in an Austin, Texas, hotel to learn about what one panelist described as a “political adult bloodsport.” The matter at hand — gerrymandering — could lock in Republican power in the states for another decade if successfully carried out again in 2021.

This meeting was evidently a bit less secretive than usual, since reporters were able to attend the sessions on gerrymandering. One was even able to record it.

 This unprecedented level of reporting on the panel uncovered the tactics conservatives plan to employ as they seek to maintain the Republican hold on state legislatures across the country in the crucial redistricting wars to come….

The conservative experts gave attendees a range of tips on how to approach gerrymandering, from legislative actions to legal preparedness. The panelists scoffed at the idea of appointing independent commissions in states to draw districts, a solution to partisan gerrymandering gaining traction in some states, instead urging state lawmakers to secure as much control over the process as possible. One panelist suggested Republican lawmakers work with black and Latino lawmakers to pack minority voters into districts, and another urged them to exclude noncitizens from the population numbers used to determine districts, a move that would dramatically redistribute power away from blue areas. Yet, ALEC also warned state lawmakers to be careful — to avoid using the word “gerrymander” and drawing lines too heavily based on race.

As the linked article points out, other conservative organizations may be focused on the federal government, but ALEC understands that the key to power is at the state level– and that the key to maintaining that power is redistricting.

ALEC’s ultimate goal is to have more influence on state lawmakers than the lawmakers’ voters.

They want people to listen to them and not their voters, and the way they do that is by creating these gerrymandered districts so legislators don’t have to address the concerns of their district.

Gerrymandering does more than skew lawmaking at the state level, of course–it results in unrepresentative, “safe” Congressional districts that send disproportionate numbers of Republicans to Congress. Democrats win more votes; Republicans win more seats.In House races in 2012, 1.7 million more votes were cast for Democrats than for Republicans, but Republicans came away with thirty-three more congressional seats than the Democrats. Some of this is due to systemic issues, but much of it is due to gerrymandering.

After the last census, Republicans engaged in a national gerrymandering campaign that was so effective, it put Democrats at a disadvantage for a decade.

That disadvantage gave us the Tea Party and lots of laws written by ALEC .


  1. Indiana has a statute that requires lobbyists to register and to report their lobbying expenses, but the statutory definition of “lobbyist” specifically excluded ALEC.



  3. This is part of the whole “win at any cost” strategy. Gerrymander votes. FAIR! Spread lies. Go For IT! Solicited foreign influence. No Problem!

    Every time something comes up at the state house and I think “what are they thinking”, you can bet if you Google “ALEC: the new crazy law”, it will take you to the ALEC site with the word for word legislation. This is legislation carefully crafted by the Republican Corpratocracy.

  4. There isn’t any such thing as an insignificant election.

    BTW did anyone catch any of the Senate hearing for Mr. Van Dyke? The Bar Association went out of its way to proclaim this guy unfit for the bench. Let’s see what happens. Those of you who don’t think it’s important to turn the Senate blue are likely to doom us to years of strange new rulings from a Federal Bench that is not qualified to polish the boots of men like Oliver Wendell Holmes or Felix Frankfurter or Robert Jackson or of women like Ruth Ginsberg.

  5. Yes. Think of local elections as being one or two steps away from your wallet. State level offices are three levels away, and, of course, the national level is four or five steps away from your wallet. I was a poll judge for several years in semi-rural Texas outside Austin. The local elections barely cracked 20% turnout. State elections? About the same. So, doing the math, you see that 51% of 20% is all that is needed to “win” the elections.

    To that point, in 2016, 92+ million voters stayed home. Trump ended up being given the office of President by a whopping 17% of the electorate. The people on this blog already get it that voter turnout is the way to regain our democracy, send ALEC back to the woods and get gerrymandered districts sorted out. McConnell is doing is very best to stack the courts so that they will rule FOR the gerrymandering that Republicans are so set on.

    Somebody once defined fascism as the marriage between business and government. That wasn’t supposed to happen here. BUT capitalism, at its base, is ALL about fascism. Why else are there over 40,000 lobbyists in Washington alone pulling down six-figure salaries to bribe those in Congress to do the bidding of big business? They’re doing that at the local levels too. Just look at the cozy relationships between real estate developers and city/town/village governments. Why is lobbying still legal? Lobbying is the express train to total corruption and that corruption is the basis for fascism and the dynamite that blows up democracy. VOTE THE BASTARDS OUT OR LOSE YOUR COUNTRY.

  6. One of the main bulwarks of democracy is that those who govern do so only by consent of the governed as measured by majority rule, but Ah, there’s the rub. Majority rule can be and is being manipulated by the minority and such as ALEC and others for their own ends. We Democrats are in an increasing majority but you would never know it because of Republican gerrymandering and other voter suppression techniques.

    Madison made few mistakes in penning the Constitution and probably did not foresee that giving the states jurisdiction over even federal elections could degenerate into situations where political parties would stoop to such gutter tactics to gain and/or preserve their power as we see today, but if so he can be forgiven since there were no political parties in 1789 and Washington was against ever having political parties since, as he rightly theorized, voters would vote for party rather than country. Then came the Federalists and Anti-Federalists, Whigs, Democrats, Republicans et al., and history proves that George was on to something.

    However, recitation of history does little in solving today’s problems, and if we are to preserve the idea of majority rule we have to do something. I have gone through proposed means of correcting this cancer on our democracy, i.e., commissions, constitutional amendments etc., but while we are waiting for such a solution or solutions we could (as we are seeing with the minority election of Trump) become a failed and/or weakened state due to internal discord (a dream come true for Putin, Xi, Kim and others).

    We may not have time to await a grand solution, so I recommend that in the interim we mimic the Republicans by coming up with an ALEC of our own such as the Democratic Attorneys General or some other such grouping or groupings to not only come up with model legislation but ways and means of ending all gerrymandering and other voter suppression once and for all, for expanding rather than suppressing the franchise, for having a real democracy in something other than name. Won’t work? It’s working for Republicans, and if there are better ideas in this connection on how to make our democracy work, I’m open to suggestion. Whatever works, and soon, because (politically speaking) we may be in the bottom of the ninth inning.

  7. A part of the link states this: >> Founded in 1973 by Paul Weyrich and other conservative activists, ALEC is one of the most prominent and most secretive conservative organizations in the country. Weyrich saw himself and the organizations he co-founded, including The Heritage Foundation and the Moral Majority, as part of a movement. “We are different from previous generations of conservatives,” he once said. “We are no longer working to preserve the status quo. We are radicals, working to overturn the present power structure of this country.”

    I have always thought this. The GOP needed money to fund elections and given the agenda of ALEC and it’s fellow travelers of Wall Street Steroid Capitalism the 1% responded with campaign donations. The keystone piece of the Reactionary Right Wing Agenda was Laissez-faire concerning regulations.

    It was Bill Clinton who gave Wall Street Steroid Capitalism a major boost with his Neo-Liberalism of deregulation.

    The other piece to the GOP was the so called “Moral Majority”. No one elected the Moral Majority – President’s Raygun, Bush the Elder and the Younger invited the Evangelical Bible Thumper’s, Conservative Catholic and the NRA voting blocks into the GOP. God and Guns are the wedge issues.

    The Steroid Capitalists laid out the blueprint for gerrymandering. These Steroid Capitalists are very comfortable the Evangelical Bible Thumper’s, Conservative Catholic and the NRA voting blocks. Pastor Pence is a good example of someone the Steroid Capitalists can count on to privatize schools and deregulate.

  8. I remember when organized voter suppression and gerrymandering was addressed on MSNBC by the likes of Keith Olbermann, Cenk Uygur and Ed Schultz – yes, that far back. They were scorned and ridiculed by the press for creating ‘phantom progressive issues’. They were all eventually fired. If only …

  9. Gerald and Nancy Pelosi are both right of course. Nothing less than our freedom, guaranteed by democracy alone, is at stake in 2020. We are teetering towards tyranny.

    Republicans have adopted the single rule of capitalism (not at all surprising really). Make more money now regardless of the impact on any others ever. That’s what they have been led to not by their voters who are among the most desperate victims of capitalism but by their donors who are empowered by unrestrained capitalism. Take the proceeds of capitalism from their donors represented by the likes of ALEC, skim from the top, use what’s left to buy votes from the victims of capitalism through their addiction to entertainment media by using the business tools of advertising/fake news/propaganda/brainwashing.

    It’s both a money and power machine. Just turn the crank and the freedom of all is sold for the benefit of wealth for the few. And for those few, more freedom to make more money results.

  10. Is there a difference between Mexico being taken over by drug cartels and the US being taken over by fossil fuels cartels?


    The drug cartels have competition and law enforcement to limit them.

  11. Keep shouting about the importance of local elections, JoAnn. We have to care about every level of government, although I think this one will be more about the Council — Joe Hogsett is too politically savvy to be complacent enough to lose.

    So – the fix is in — that doesn’t mean we can’t break it.
    1) we need to be certain that everyone double checks their registration before the election – purge or no purge, a good idea
    2) we need to be certain that we register/re-register as many people as possible – I say go out and register everyone – we will pick up more Democratic votes than Republican votes that way and besides, the principle is that everyone should vote – this should happen every election cycle as well
    3) we need to be certain that everyone gets off of their rear ends and votes

    Fix broken

    a deja vu all over again aside – while I am outside the nation’s capital for a while, I heard on WAMU that Silver Spring Maryland was denied an additional voting site — by the Republican majority on the Election Board — they are crying cost problems – doesn’t Indiana suddenly sound progressive? OK, it took time and battle, but (at least for now) we are over that one

    So, onto the next steps – well, Gerald laid that out for us – we have to remember that the far right has reacted to things in a way we never felt we had to do – Universities were too liberal – they formed “think tanks” and have endowed chairs – look at the mission statements of “liberal think tanks” and “conservative think tanks” – the “liberals” – find appropriate solutions for liberal questions (like poverty, health care) – the “conservatives” – the answer is laissez faire, free-market capitalism, now what was the question?

    Liberal groups are splintered too often – the ecology people, the reproductive rights people, the universal health care people, etc. – they don’t come together often enough and they don’t have that central ALEC-style clearing house for model legislation.

    OK – my criticism of Obama (and I spent a lot of time working on his campaign) – he helped dissipate what he created – after the election, he suggested that the Obama for America/Organizing for America people volunteer for their pet causes – yes, OFA sponsored several events for different causes, but OFA was not kept together to further electoral action at the state and local levels – that is why Greater Indianapolis for Change was created the Thursday before the election – we wanted to push people into sustaining their political activism — not circulate petitions for our Governor and Congressional Republicans to ignore.

    So we need to add a #4 to my list above – after we break the fix, and after we create an organization like Gerald suggested, we need to keep people involved at the electoral level – too many people thought that issues like reproductive rights were taken care of after Roe v Wade, and they moved on, not realizing that the gains were going to be taken away by election after election of anti-abortion people.

  12. Indiana is a Midwest state with a mixed bag of representatives. Con. Dave Evans was a conservative, he held a seat for the Democrat Party. It’s hard to elect Democrats with Obamacare in mind because not many conservative Democrats would have voted for such a partisan piece of legislation. It’s unfortunate Democrats are so violent in passing such major life changing legislation that was so heavily opposed. Only 25 % want Medicare for all when they understand that it goes way beyond Obamacare. Gerrymandering truly has a major effect on elections, but Dems are according to historical trends will lose the House partially due to gerrymandering but also because they aren’t following thru on election promises and instead have chosen to impeach. It doesn’t bid well for blue collar workers as unions again are caught off guard with such loss of support at the hands of socialists within our party

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