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Smart ALEC

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The Nation, the Los Angeles Times and NPR have put a spotlight in recent weeks on an enormously influential conservative policy lobby that has long had tentacles in the Arkansas legislature — the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). It collects millions from corporate interests then holds meeting for state legislators who are sent home with cookie-cutter legislation to, among others, reduce governmental regulation, fight stricter environmental standards and make it harder for Democratic-leaning citizens to vote (voter ID). The same corporate interests also spend millions nationwide to elect legislators who'll join their ranks. Several ALEC bills popped up in the 2011 Arkansas legislature. An ALEC staffer, for example, testified for the bill it wrote for Republican Sen. Missy Irvin to hamstring implementation of health care reform in Arkansas.

ALEC backers tend to be Republican, but Arkansas Democrats have participated over years. The current state co-chairs are Democratic Rep. Linda Collins-Smith of Pocahontas and Sen. Michael Lamoureux of Russellville. Few Democrats think Collins-Smith is a true Democrat, however. Party regulars are hoping she'll have a primary opponent for her alliance with Republicans.

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