Are you planning to sign the petition to recall Governor Scott Walker? I am, and I’ll tell you why.
The very essence of our representative form of government is the trust that our elected leaders, regardless of party affiliation, will govern in a way that is both responsive and responsible to the people they are sworn to serve.
Shortly after Scott Walker became governor, a veritable deluge of legislation raced through the legislature, with little or no discussion.
At the beginning, I wondered how the new administration could have created so much law in so little time. The fact is, they did not.
My search for answers to the source of this brave, new Wisconsin led me to a little-known organization called ALEC, or the American Legislative Exchange Council. Founded in 1973, this ultra-conservative organization’s stated purpose is “limited government, free markets, federalism, and individual liberty.” That may sound attractive, to many of you, but how free are we when a secretive, outside group is writing legislation for states across the country, without citizen input?
In practice, ALEC is a collaboration between big business interests and the politicians they hope to influence. ALEC’s meetings are not open to the press. It’s very expensive to become a business member but very inexpensive to join as a politician. ALEC creates “model bills” for “conservative” politicians to take home to their states.
For example: Milwaukee’s Parental Choice Program, the nation’s first large-scale voucher program, was enacted in 1990 following the rubric ALEC provided in 1985. It was supported by then-Governor Tommy Thompson, an early ALEC member, who said he “loved” ALEC meetings, "because I always found new ideas, and then I'd take them back to Wisconsin, disguise them a little bit, and declare [they were] mine."
Perhaps this is why so many of our representatives did not respond to their constituents this year. Back in the spring, when Kapanke staff member Rose Smyrsky came to Gays Mills, she admitted that the vast majority of phone calls and e-mails to their office were against Scott Walker’s proposals. When I asked her why Mr. Kapanke was voting against the will of his constituents, she said that he had to think of “the big picture.” It came as no surprise, therefore, when I later learned that Dan Kapanke was a member of ALEC.
Thanks to an ALEC whistleblower and The Center for Media and Democracy, much of this information is now public. The website www.alecexposed.org has a treasure trove of over 800 “model” bills and lists of member politicians. Scott Walker is an alumnus, and the Fitzgerald brothers are members, to name a few.
For the record, I am not a Democrat or a Republican. I don’t think it’s healthy for any one party to have unlimited control of our state’s agenda. Wisconsin has a proud history of progressive, bi-partisan success stories. Leaders, like Senator Dale Schultz and Rep. Lee Nerison, who are not ALEC members, have shown an ability to think for themselves and vote outside of their party block.
Good people can disagree on the best way to solve a problem, but I think we can all agree that those who occupy the seats of power at the capitol in Madison should be representing and listening to us. This is why I’m signing the petition to recall Scott Walker.