Earlier this month, Coca-Cola dropped its ties to ALEC amid pressure from activists over legislation like Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law, which is blamed in part for the controversial shooting death there of a black teenager, Trayvon Martin.
State Sen. Chip Rogers, of Woodstock, is the national treasurer of ALEC. He is also one of two state chairs of the group for Georgia, with Rep. Calvin Hill (R-Hickory Flat).
Just six years ago, Cobb’s own Earl Ehrhart, a state representative from Powder Springs, was the national chairman of ALEC. Ehrhart says those who criticize the non-partisan group “hate free markets and individual liberties.”
ALEC, he said, “operates completely transparently and upfront, spending non-taxpayer money — unlike the avowed crazies who are part of the groups that don’t like ALEC,” Ehrhart said. “We’re not communists. We have Jeffersonian principles. It’s in the mission statement. Individual liberty. Free markets. That’s the basic stated, four-decades-old mission of ALEC, and it’s basically a restatement of our founding fathers. I’ll put that up against communists and socialists and crazed Occupy bath-needing leftists. I think the majority of the people in this state will side with ALEC.”
Rogers said the same thing in an interview with the Journal’s sister publication, the Cherokee Tribune.
“ALEC is the leading conservative legislation organization in the nation,” Rogers said. “It will continue to stand for free markets, less government and federalism. These are the principles on which America was founded, and we need more lawmakers to stand by them.”
State Rep. Ed Setzler (R-Acworth) has been a member of ALEC since he was elected to the General Assembly, and said most of Cobb’s Republican state lawmakers are members. State Rep. Judy Manning, a Marietta Republican, is also a member.
State lawmakers from around the United States pay about $50 per year to be a member of the group, while corporations pay between $2,500 and $25,000 a year for membership in ALEC. But the group’s membership list is private, spokeswoman Kaitlyn Buss said. ALEC holds three meetings each year.
“Do the private sector members get things into the ALEC conversation that the private sector wants?” Setzler said. “Absolutely they do. Just like they get it into regular legislation. They’ve got a First Amendment right to advocate anything, be it in Congress or be it through ALEC. But because of that dimension, the left has seen that as this chink in their armor that they can take a crack at ALEC. But the real motivation is because ALEC is so successful at promoting limited government, free markets and Jeffersonian federalism.”
One of those critics is Bryan Long, the executive director of another nonprofit group, Better Georgia, which says it works “for elected officials to pass sensible laws and policies that make Georgia a better state.” His organization is affiliated with a national progressive grassroots group called ProgressNow.
Long has called ALEC a “radical, right-wing group that operates in the shadows of the government,” and criticized some of its model legislation on such issues as voter ID, school choice and illegal immigration.
Ehrhart responded: “Mr. Long doesn’t like free speech, doesn’t like advocacy for anything other than what he wants. The majority of the citizens in this county and this state are going to agree with the principles of ALEC. Again, back to the founding principles of this country. I’ll stand them up against his tent principles all day long. I’m not afraid of some Occupy pansy sitting in a tent without a bath, I’m sorry.”