Washington Gadfly

EXCLUSIVE: Lefty SMART ALEC Dares ALEC To Sue For Trademark Infringement

Evan Gahr Investigative Journalist
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The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) should take heed of this adage: Never make a threat unless you are prepared to keep it.

Earlier this month, Matthew Cardinale, who founded SMART ALEC as a liberal counter-part to the powerhouse conservative mainstay received a demand from letter from ALEC lawyer Norman Rich. Cardinale was threatened with a trademark infringement lawsuit unless he changed his group’s name to something else by Monday.

Calling himself a “progressive homosexual” who could never be confused with an ALEC lobbyist, Cardinale laughed off the June 13 demand letter immediately upon receipt. His official response to Rich is basically, “Go ahead, make my day,” but in sonnet form.

Roses are red

Violets are blue

Bless y’all’s hearts!

Go ahead and sue.

SMART ALEC board member Dwanda Lee Farmer is delivering that message on a gift card with flowers to Rich’s Washington office later this afternoon.

Rich did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

But actually suing might  be a dumb move for ALEC. For starters, any litigation could garner SMART ALEC considerable press attention, with the favorable story line of David vs. Goliath.

More importantly, as ex-MSNBC host Ed Schultz learned last year, litigation can prove disastrous even for the ultimate victor.

ALEC claims SMART ALEC is harming their good reputation. That would give Cardinale, who plans to represent himself, wide latitude to demand potentially embarrassing emails and internal documents from the allegedly secretive organization.

Lawyers sometimes fight discovery requests on grounds the material is outside the scope of the case.  But since ALEC is alleging SMART ALEC harms their good name, Cardinale could argue he needs sufficient material to prove the group doesn’t even have one.

There is a whole left-wing cottage industry devoted to fighting ALEC and its quest to draft conservative laws to be enacted by popularly elected state legislators.

UPDATE: Farmer could not find red roses at a local flower shop so opted for yellow instead with a different but still cheeky note, thanking ALEC for the recognition and signed, “the SMART ALECS.”

The delivered the flowers to the receptionist at Rich’s Georgetown office. “I have been a smart aleck since I was eight years old,” she explained afterwards.  “I can call myself smart aleck.”

Farmer, who helped Cardinale win his pro se law suit about open voting  before the Georgia Supreme Court,  dared ALEC to follow through with their threat so she could sift through the organization’s inner workings.  “I’ll bring Trayvon Martin’s mother court,” she said, referring to the public relations black eye ALEC suffered when its “Stand Your Ground” laws  allegedly helped George Zimmerman escape conviction for shooting the  black teenager. “They don’t have a good name to stand on.”




Evan Gahr