After years of relative anonymity, the political ground shifted under the American Legislative Exchange Council's feet when George Zimmerman shot and killed Trayvon Martin. Fairly quickly, Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law became the focus of national security, as did the shadowy group that helped write the law and push it through the legislature.
The ensuing controversy has been less than kind to ALEC, with the organization losing several major corporate sponsors, and the group's larger legislative agenda getting the spotlight for the first time.
With the pressure intensifying, ALEC announced this morning that it's "sharpening" its "focus" to cover economic issues exclusively. That's a nice way of saying it's giving up on social agenda altogether. ALEC Chairman David Frizzell issued a statement earlier on behalf of the group's Legislative Board of Directors:
"Today we are redoubling our efforts on the economic front, a priority that has been the hallmark of our organization for decades. Fostering the exchange of pro-growth, solutions-oriented ideas is precisely why ALEC exists."To that end, our legislative board last week unanimously agreed to further our work on policies that will help spur innovation and competitiveness across the country."We are refocusing our commitment to free-market, limited government and pro-growth principles, and have made changes internally to reflect this renewed focus."We are eliminating the ALEC Public Safety and Elections task force that dealt with non-economic issues, and reinvesting these resources in the task forces that focus on the economy."
In this case, "non-economic issues" is a pretty broad category -- ALEC will now no longer work with the NRA on gun laws, for example, and the group's efforts to create voting restrictions will also apparently come to an end.
Of course, ALEC's interest in economic issues isn't exactly narrow. As Scott Keyes noted, "a short list of ostensibly economic measures ALEC has supported in the past" includes measures related to union busting, repealing minimum-wage laws, and touting "the many benefits of atmospheric CO2 enrichment," among other things.
Still, for ALEC's progressive critics, today marks a fairly significant and unexpected victory.