Kochs fire back at anti-ALEC campaign from Color of Change

Christopher Bedford Former Editor in Chief, The Daily Caller News Foundation
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On Wednesday evening, Koch Companies Public Sector (KCPS) fired back at Color of Change, telling The Daily Caller that recent left-wing attacks on corporate sponsors of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) are really aimed at the free market and its supporters — not at ALEC’s support for the bipartisan “stand your ground” legislation that became a lightning rod after the Feb. 26 Trayvon Martin shooting.

Philip Ellender, president and chief operating officer of government and public affairs at KCPS, told TheDC that the anti-ALEC campaign is designed “not only to intimidate, but to silence supporters of free-market principles and those who oppose the current policies that are worsening our already ruinous deficits.”

ALEC has come under fire from Color of Change and its allies, many of whom also recently targeted the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The foundation had awarded ALEC a November 2011 grant “to educate and engage its membership on more efficient state budget approaches to drive greater student outcomes, as well as educate them on beneficial ways to recruit, retain, evaluate and compensate effective teaching based upon merit and achievement.” (RELATED: Color of Change claims another scalp:  Pat Buchanan indefinitely ‘suspended’ by MSNBC)

Following a public-pressure campaign from Color of Change — a left-wing group co-founded by 9-11 “truther” and former Obama green jobs czar Van Jones  — the Gates Foundation elected to drop ALEC from its list of future grantees. It maintains that it will fulfill $376,000 in future payments that have already been pledged.

The New York Times reports that Coca-Cola Co, Kraft Foods Inc and PepsiCo Inc. have also ended their support for the conservative lobbying and networking organization.

Founded by the late conservative activist Paul Weyrich in 1973, ALEC describes itself as “the nation’s largest, non-partisan, individual public-private membership association of state legislators.”

In a 2007 book critical of ALEC, “Business and environmental policy: Corporate interests in the American political system,” Sheldon Kamieniecki and Michael E. Kraft wrote that “ALEC’s membership base includes nearly one-third of all sitting state legislators and most of its resources are derived from corporations and trade associations.”

“It offers regular conferences and training sessions but is perhaps best known for drafting model legislation that can easily be adopted by an individual state and introduced into a legislature.”

Bill Gates is a supporter of charter schools — one outgrowth of model legislation — but he is generally more hesitant on the politically charged issue of school vouchers. He has poured billions of dollars into reforming public education through his foundation. But a 2011 Wall Street Journal profile called his foundation’s approach to education reform “more evolution, less disruption. It attempts to do as much good as possible without upsetting too many players.”

This cautious strategy seems to have made the Microsoft CEO’s efforts to reform public education a prime target for Color of Change, whose editorials have already indicated that their anti-ALEC campaign’s true target is the libertarian Koch brothers. (RELATED OPINION: Why Van Jones fears libertarianism)

“The motive behind this latest activist attack is much broader than this [“stand your ground” gun law] issue,” Ellender told TheDC in an email. “These are the same well-funded, anti-free market forces that have been engaged in the orchestrated, politically motivated attacks against Koch over the past three years.”

The Times reported that Sprint and AT&T have also come under pressure from Color of Change. “Some corporations that are ALEC members have said they stood by ALEC’s work in policy areas that are important to their businesses and that are unrelated to guns or voting laws,” an article read.

KCPS general counsel Mark Holden gave a similar statement on April 4, complaining that left-wing activist Robert Greenwald had “falsely tie[d] us to laws designed to combat voter fraud based solely on our membership in ALEC. As we have explained, we are not involved with these initiatives.”

ALEC has also remained defiant, issuing a statement referring to the “coordinated intimidation campaign against its members.”

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