WKU Public Radio News Staff
Wed May 30, 2012
Liberal Group Opposed to ALEC Opening Shop in Kentucky
A national progressive organization that's pressuring Democrats to drop their memberships in a conservative nonprofit is now operating in Kentucky. The Progressive Change Campaign Committee has spearheaded several national campaigns, like the push to recall Wisconsin Republican Governor Scott Walker and with Massachusetts Democrat Elizabeth Warren’s U.S. Senate bid.
The group is also encouraging lawmakers to leave the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC. ALEC helps draft and pass state legislation, and the group has come under fire recently for its involvement in Florida's controversial “Stand your ground” law.
The PCCC has been working for months to encourage lawmakers in other states to drop their ALEC memberships. Now, PCCC state director James Ploeser says the group is focusing on three Kentucky Democrats: Gerald Neal, Walter Blevins and Kathy Stein.
“We’ve been calling on Senator Blevins, Senator Neal and Senator Stein to drop their memberships specifically having an understanding that they are known to be more progressive,” James Ploeser, the group’s state director, says.
Stein dropped her membership in April, along with three other Democratic state senators: Denise Harper-Angel, the retiring Tim Shaughnessy and Ray Jones. Ploeser says the campaign in Kentucky has been effective so far.
“So far in Kentucky there have been over a million online ad impressions on Google and Facebook of the state senators that we have been targeting. Our 7,000 members in Kentucky have been good at signing online petitions, et cetera,” he says.
Neal and Blevins have defended their memberships, saying they joined the group to learn more about conservative bills that are likely to come before the Republican-controlled Kentucky Senate. Blevins referred to his membership as "spying on the enemy," but added he has considered ending his membership, which is paid for the Senate President's office. Both Neal and Blevins say they don't disagree with all the model laws ALEC presents, either.
Many corporate partners of ALEC, including Amazon and Yum! Brands, have dropped their memberships in the group.
In addition to Neal and Blevins, PCCC says there are still a handful of state senators and House members who won’t cut ties with ALEC. Records show Democratic senators Julian Carroll, Joey Pendleton, Dorsey Ridley and Johnny Ray Turner are also ALEC members.
Ploeser says the PCCC will continue with the ads and citizen phone banking until all Democrats leave what he calls "an extreme right wing group."