You may not have heard of the American Legislative Exchange Council. If you haven’t, it’s an organization made up of state lawmakers of a center-right ideological orientation and it promotes model legislation to generate conservative reforms. Many of the big issues ALEC has played a part in over the years include mandatory minimum sentencing for violent criminals, teacher competency testing, pension reform, and Enterprise Zones. And more recently, ALEC legislation on voter ID and ObamaCare opt-outs have given the organization a higher profile than it’s had since its foundation as an outreach of the Reagan administration.
ALEC is a Tea Party-friendly outfit which pushes smaller government, federalism and free-market economics. In fact, it just came out with a study called Rich States, Poor States, written by economist Arthur Laffer and Wall Street Journal editor Steve Moore, that is well worth reading to understand the relationship between state policies and economic growth.
And due probably in no small part to the fact that the organization’s current chairman is state Rep. Noble Ellington of Winnsboro, ALEC will be holding their annual summit in New Orleans this year, at the Marriott from Aug. 1-6. The conference will bring hundreds of tourists to the city during what’s usually a slow season.
You’d think this would be a positive for the city. Unfortunately, it has the potential for trouble.
ALEC is a major target of the hard Left, which has made its typical accusations – it’s a shadowy organization lacking transparency and soaking up funding from evil corporations. Of particular concern is that the Left doesn’t get to see ALEC model legislation until it’s introduced in state legislatures – though as Ellington told NPR once a bill gets to a statehouse it can’t go anywhere without a full markup and debate in a committee and/or on the floor in both state houses, plus the governor has to sign it. That happens regardless of whether ALEC writes a bill; it’s been the legislative process since the country was founded, if not before.
Nonetheless, the organization is now a bete noire for the more loony of the Left. And in New Orleans, that suggests an element of danger that probably ought to be recognized.
Last April, another conservative organization – the Republican Party – staged the Southern Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans. That event, unlike its follow-on at the same location this year, was protested by a group of anarchists and hard-left types. The protest was diverted by some of that group to an offsite location, namely Brennan’s Restaurant in the French Quarter, where Governors Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, Rick Perry of Texas and Haley Barbour of Mississippi were hosting a fundraiser. At the second location the demonstration turned violent – so much so that Louisiana GOP chairman Roger Villere was chased into a taxi and Jindal’s head fundraiser Allee Bautsch and her boyfriend Joe Brown were jumped less than a block away by suspected demonstrators and beaten so badly that Bautsch’s leg was broken in five places and Brown suffered a concussion and a broken jaw.
We covered the aftermath of that episode at length last year, and the anarchist commune who organized both of those demonstrations, the Iron Rail Book Collective, has since been shut down by the New Orleans Police Department after yet another violent incident earlier this year – specifically a riot at an impromptu Mardi Gras parade in the Marigny neighborhood where the Iron Rail gang made their headquarters – to which it was connected. That followed an episode in which Iron Rail members participated in a violent riot at the University of New Orleans over budget cuts last fall. But the NOPD didn’t get rid of the Iron Rail Gang; they re-emerged on Barracks Street in the French Quarter in late May.
We’ve been monitoring the activities of the anarchist/hard left community since that time. And now they’re boiling over about the ALEC conference. A protest of the conference is set for Aug. 5, starting at 2:00 p.m. at the Hale Boggs Building and moving to the Marriott in an attempt to disrupt it.
Of course, we don’t have a record of violence from those “angry voices” in Cincinnati like we have in Louisiana in recent months.
The announced participants in the ALEC protests seem like a mishmash of the usual suspects (the New Orleans Central Labor Council, which is the local AFL-CIO affiliate, the New Orleans Catholic Worker outfit, which is a frequent attendee at lefty causes), assorted goofballs and another organization called the Student Labor Action Project at LSU. A trip to that outfit’s mini-site indicates it’s a classic left-wing/anarchist ne’er-do-well…
Who We Are
SLAP, the Student Labor Action Project, is a student organization on LSU’s campus that works to promote the common interests of students and workers. Many students are workers, and endure the same hardships (poverty wages, inconsistent scheduling, lack of benefits, etc) that other working class people do. It is the mission of SLAP to bring attention to the commonalities between students and workers and to create an environment where diverse groups can work together to bring about positive changes in our community and in our nation as a whole.
What We Do
SLAP and it’s members are actively involved in community organizing. We plan demonstrations, we hold reading groups, and we participate in community and national events that work to improve the plight of students and the working class. Our activism and organizing includes the promotion of an independent political movement of the workers. In order for our class to not only fight back against anti-worker policies, but to strike forward a new path for society we must fight not only in the streets, but in the halls of government. We have officially endorsed the Campaign for Mass Party of Labor.
We also oppose any attacks on students’ ability to obtain or pay for education. To see our official stances on education, click here.
A big part of SLAP’s involvement in the community is focused on solidarity. Since students and workers come from all different backgrounds and face many different challenges, SLAP is committed to pursuing equality for all. This means SLAP has an interest in collaborating with groups who work for the rights of women, the LGBTQIA community, people of color, and people of all faiths and nationalities. It is only through solidarity that the working class can fight the multiplicity of battles that we face.
This includes the rape and pillaging of our planet, egregious abuses of farmed animals, rampant imperialistic war, and the vicious attacks on our schools, unions, and social programs–the consequences of which disproportionately affect the youth and the working class. Therefore it is important for the various people who are fighting all of these battles to work together, in order to support and encourage each other in what is often an uphill battle against the capitalist class.
Combative words, obviously.
It turns out that this group was on hand in Cincinnati, at least according to someone named Mark Mendoza who puts himself forward as a spokesman for SLAP. There isn’t much on the internet about Mendoza. But the organization has a Twitter account at @slaplsu, which has 11 followers.
One of them is “@wmhaywood” of Baton Rouge, LA, one of only three Twitter followers who claim to be local…
I am with the LGBTQ Project of LSU’s Office of Multicultural Affairs and am pursuing a master’s degree in Higher Education and Student Affairs.
Another is “@ohtoriakio“…
Ph.D. student in physics, LGBTQ activist, vengeful bastard.
Among the other 11 are people who look like national organizers who may or may not be pulling the SLAPpers’ strings.
For example, there’s John Peterson, who goes by @laborpartyjp…
Member of the Workers International League and the Campaign for a Mass Party of Labor. Workers of the world unite!
Ohio-based organizer working on economic justice & political alternatives to the work of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).
Rahman also lists an e-mail address at the protestalec.org domain. And in the “Attendees and Endorsements” section of the protestalec.org website, we see a line indicating one of the organizers as “Members of Miami University Graduate Employees Organization.”
Inquiries on Twitter as to the identity of the people behind the @protestalec account yielded the following conversation…
Us: @protestalec A question: how can you demand the identity of ALEC’s members & donors without providing your own identity on your site?
Them: @TheHayride I don’t understand what you’re asking. Where are they asking for your identity?
Them: @TheHayride Nvm, get it now. We’re a coalition of 20+ ppl in several states and cities. This twitter acnt alone is mngd by a half dzn.
Them: @TheHayride Additionally our names appear all over articles we’ve written and been interviewed for. See Dailykos, the nation, et al.
Them: @TheHayride Lastly, the person who was the conduit for the leaked documents didn’t even withhold her name from the Nation article.
Us: @protestalec “Activists in Cincinnati, New Orleans, Indianapolis, Michigan, and Louisiana” is meaningless. Why not post names?
Them: @TheHayride Some of those people might not want their name listed. ALEC, or related groups have attacked critics in the past…
Them: @TheHayride so listing all those names should be a personal choice. Politicians and corporations are accountable to the public…
Them: @TheHayride (part 3) so they don’t have a reasonable expectation of privacy. I know you’re going to say that’s contradictory, so be it.
Us: @protestalec So as an organization which uses combative and incendiary language in calling for a protest, you don’t feel any accountability?
Them: @TheHayride That’s a false choice; we don’t operate in black/whites.
Rooting through the followers of the @protestalec Twitter account turns this up, though…
@nolaanarcha New Orleans, LA
A collective of anarchists running a website to spread the resistance to all forms of oppression and creation of non-hierarchal ways of life.
And there’s a website: http://nolaanarcha.blogspot.com
Go there, and you’ll see this in the “About me” section:
A collective of anarchists running a website to spread the resistance to all forms of oppression. We are anarchists, and that means we will unashamedly advocate anarchist solutions to the problems we face. We support movements but we don’t wait for them. We are in the thick of it.
And you’ll find this entry as well…
The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is coming to town! They are a bunch of nasty fuckers who bring corporations together with state legislators so corporate lawyers can hand pre-written bills to the politicians, who then try to get the bills passed in their state legislatures.
Of course, there will surely be those in the protest calling for the political charade to be played out fully once again, for the kabuki theater to re-close the curtains that shields us from what’s happening backstage, so we can once again be whisked away to fairyland, where democracy exists and people power is in charge, and we can return to our peaceful slumber, dreaming the American Dream.
But, there will be also be people protesting who know returning to the democratic facade is not going to solve any of our problems, and that confronting the corporations behind the curtain of our “democracy” is the first step to destroying their control of our lives and communities.
In that spirit, anarchists should come out to the locally-organized ALEC protests in New Orleans (August 5th, 2pm, 500 Poydras St.). Come out not to demand stricter adherence to lobbying laws, more transparency, or less corruption. Come out to demand an end to the power of corporations, and their use of State violence to increase their wealth, and thereby control over our economy, society, and lives. Come out to say that it doesn’t matter whether that power is hidden behind the veil of democracy, or is blatantly transparent, as it is with ALEC, that either way it has to be dismantled. Anarchists should come with flags, in black, or with banners and signs to show our united stance, to show that we are not in favor of a return to the democratic political farce, but organizing for an end to capitalist control.
Not only should anarchists participate in the protest on August 5th, but we should organize other actions to confront the corporations who are members of ALEC during the conference, from August 1st-6th. ALEC’s members include oil companies responsible for ruining the Gulf and Wetlands, big banks who own hundreds of foreclosed homes in our city while people sleep on the streets, and private prison companies directly profiting from tough on crime laws, the creation of a racist, militarized police state, and booming incarceration rates, which Louisiana leads the nation in. Let’s get creative and use their conference to catalyze our own actions to take back our city from these profiteers of human suffering!
Sounds a lot like the Iron Rail Gang, doesn’t it?
We found the Iron Rail’s re-emergence at the Nola Anarcha site. We also found this entry on May 9…
Pres Kabacoff is a piece of shit millionaire developer who’s opening the Healing Center that is soon to be filled with Guardian Angels vigilantes. In years prior the building was also a rent-free home for the NOPD, who audaciously hosted a “Jailhouse of Horrors” haunted house one Halloween–as if we needed an imitation OPP to terrorize us. I wonder if it cost extra to get shot in the back?
Destroyer of the St. Thomas Projects, builder of hideous condos, Wal-Mart partner, and general rich bastard, Pres thinks people will forget about all that when his insane wife opens her “eccentric” project on St. Claude Ave. Healing means collectively controlling our future. Pres continues to impose his will. The dictatorship of Capital continues.
Now he wants to get the contract to tear down the Iberville housing development, but that won’t happen without a fight. HUD says they are doing it based on the “success” of the HOPE VI program, but over 2 years later, none of the developments that were torn down using HOPE VI grants during the contentious public housing struggle have yet to provide 1-to-1 replacement of homes for those displaced, which was promised by the government in order to build support for the demolitions. He wants to make even more money off of the displacement of the most vulnerable people in our city.
And oh yeah, he lives at 840 Pauline Street right near your friends cheap shotgun rental in the cool part of town.
If this stuff reminds you of Brad Pitt’s character in 12 Monkeys, you’re not alone.
And while we haven’t been able to definitively prove an operational relationship between the Iron Rail Gang and the Nola Anarcha people, we did find this on Facebook – it’s the Friends page for Nola Anarcha. There you’ll find the Iron Rail facebook account, as well as a few old favorites from our Iron Rail investigation – Daniel Mouch, Sean Walsh and Gina Pea. Oh, and Joanna Dubinsky, who was one of our superstars.
The point behind all this isn’t to say that the Protest ALEC people are dangerous per se. It looks like most of them are standard-issue professional lefty protestors, as goofy and intellectually dishonest as they might be. Their refusal to identify themselves is off-putting enough, but not damning.
But the anarchists in New Orleans have a track record, and it’s a violent and chaotic one. They’re a problem in that city, one the NOPD has not done an adequate job of cleaning up. And they’re openly advocating their own brand of protest at the ALEC conference.
Ellington and his staff might want to have a discussion with the NOPD, or perhaps the state police, about having a security presence of size at the Marriott. For that matter, they might consider laying on a blanket of private security as well. There is no telling what those animals will do.