Dana Milbank’s Dec. 5 Washington Sketch column, “ALEC stands its ground,” offered a misleading view of his time at the American Legislative Exchange Council’s (ALEC) recent policy summit. In fact, he wouldn’t have been able to write even his opening line — “it was like going into the belly of the beast” — if our doors hadn’t been open to him.
Mr. Milbank was offered access to the meeting alongside several dozen reporters — both critical and supportive of the organization. Like other similar organizations, ALEC holds events with both public and private elements. At Congress, for instance, conference committees are conducted in private so that legislators have the opportunity to resolve disagreement on specific bills. But, apparently to his chagrin, Mr. Milbank does not dictate ALEC policies; they are created and upheld by ALEC’s board of directors, which is composed solely of legislators.
ALEC is a unique public-private partnership among legislators, policy experts and business leaders — but legislators have the final say on which policies ALEC supports. Before making those decisions, they seek input from a variety of perspectives, and it is incumbent on those legislators to understand how their decisions may impact constituents and their employers.
Throughout 2013, ALEC made great strides in the realm of transparency by publishing all model policies, working documents and tax disclosures, as well as opening the vast majority of all conference activities to the media. Apparently, no good deed goes unpunished.
Bill Meierling, Washington
The writer is director of public affairs for the American Legislative Exchange Council.