Progressives Launching State-Focused Group To Combat ALEC

CREDIT: AP Photo/Bill Wolf)

Nick Rathod, who founded SiX, in Nebraska in 2009.

Democrats are starting a state-centric organization that they hope will compete with conservative groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), an organization that receives funding from petrochemical billionaires Charles and David Koch and seeks to push conservative measures through state legislatures.

Progressive activists are forming the State Innovation Exchange (SiX) to combat pro-business and anti-science groups like ALEC and to attempt to come back from a disappointing midterm election, Politico reported. SiX’s creators will present the plan for the organization to donors on Friday, a strategy that includes giving policy and communications training to state lawmakers and bringing in opposition researchers and other political operatives to undermine conservative arguments.

SiX’s founder and head Nick Rathod, who previously served as a liaison between the White House and state officials, told Politico that he’s planning for the group to be “much more aggressive” than groups like ALEC.

“Progressives are looking around to figure out where to go to push back, and there has not been a vehicle to do that at the state level — it’s the biggest missing piece in the progressive infrastructure,” he said.

Like ALEC, SiX is considering funding the creation of legislation. The group would provide funding to experts from universities and think tanks to craft state-level legislation on things like carbon emissions and voting rights. That’s similar to ALEC’s practice of creating “model policy” on things like rolling back clean energy standards and preventing whistleblowers from making public the abuse of animals on meat and dairy farms.

ALEC has picked up on the similarities between the two groups. ALEC Chief Executive Lisa B. Nelson told Politico that SiX’s creation was “an indicator that states matter and the ALEC model of engagement is sound.”

“While ALEC’s proven model has long been the focus on criticism by progressive groups … the merger, and plan for future engagement with legislators by the newly formed organization, is a sign that past claims of impropriety on the part of ALEC are unfounded,” Nelson said.

ALEC lost multiple notable members earlier this year, after Google Chairman Eric Schmidt said in September that ALEC was “literally lying” about climate change and Google’s participation in the group was a mistake. Yahoo and Facebook also dropped their ALEC membership, and Microsoft cut ties with the group in August.

For several years, ALEC has pushed model legislation seeking to repeal state renewable energy laws, undermine incentives for solar power, and prevent the EPA from curbing greenhouse gas emissions, but last month, ALEC head Nelson told the National Journal that she doesn’t “know the science” on climate change.

Rathod is planning on the group raising $3 to $5 million in the first year, then increase the budget to $8 to $10 million. SiX doesn’t have to disclose its donors, but Rathod plans on doing so anyway in the name of transparency.