Rick Perlstein: ALEC's Illegal Past?

tags: conservatism, Rick Perlstein, The Nation, ALEC



Rick Perlstein is the author of Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus, winner of the 2001 Los Angeles Times Book Award for history, and Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America (2008), a New York Times bestseller picked as one of the best nonfiction books of the year by over a dozen publications.

...As the 1980 book Thunder on the Right, by Alan Crawford, documented (a must-read for anyone who wants to understand the rise of the Reagan Revolution), there had been an American Legislative Exchange Council before the right-wing godfather Paul Weyrich convinced Richard Mellon Scaife to cough up $80,000 in seed funding to turn it into a right-wing ideological wrecking crew in 1974. But it had merely been sleepy educational exchange for right-leaning state legislators, and one which besides, as a 501(c)3, was banned from direct political participation. One day, however, quite nearly out of the blue, that $80,000 check arrived from Scaife. ALEC’s executive director, whose name was Jaunita Barrett, asked Weyrich, Scaife’s emissary, why in the world he would want to underwrite such a shell of an outfit, and a non-political one to boot. He responded that this was precisely her organization’s appeal: “Juanita, ALEC is the only state legislative organization in the country—of our persuasion—which has a 501(c)3. If they took ALEC to Washington and did a good job, they…could go back to Scaife and get Scaife to set up a Political Action Committee to finance state legislative campaign races.”...



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