The Washington Post

Meet the new head of ALEC, the free-market group of state legislators

The free-market group that has become a boogeyman of the left is getting a leadership change.

As we reported yesterday, former Visa executive Lisa B. Nelson is joining the American Legislative Exchange Council as its incoming chief executive, replacing Ron Scheberle, who has been heading the organization since January 2012 and been involved in other capacities for more than two decades.

Nelson joins ALEC ahead of its annual meeting in Dallas at the end of the month and after a stint in the spotlight over its support of “Stand Your Ground” self-defense laws — which gained notoriety after the shooting death of Trayvon Martin in Florida — and other conservative policies, too.

The organization seeks to connect the public and private sector by providing lawmakers and corporate and nonprofit representatives with a forum in which to discuss and craft policy. It claims nearly 300 corporate and foundation members and more than 2,000 state legislator members, which would mean more than 1 in 4 state lawmakers. Since the controversy over its promotion of stand-your-ground policies, the group has refocused on economic issues.

Liberals continue to criticize the organization for what they argue is a too-cozy relationship between its corporate and lawmaker members. But ALEC and its lawmaker members argue that the organization is structured to insulate the process of creating model policies from corporate influence, and lawmakers argue that having private-sector representatives is useful in crafting policy to promote business growth. The group promotes free-market, limited-government policies.

We had a chance to talk to Nelson, who has just begun thinking about her role with the organization, for a few minutes Tuesday afternoon. What follows is an abridged, edited version of that conversation.

Q: Have you had any experience with ALEC in the past?

Lisa Nelson: Yeah, I’m well aware of the organization.

When I was working in Newt Gingrich’s office when he was speaker — I was the public liaison for him — one of the big areas of responsibility was to make sure that we had an open-door policy to all the governors, Republican and Democrat, as well as legislators. Newt always thought that the best ideas came from states and thought about them as the incubators for good ideas.

I’m very familiar with the organization through that process, and I personally have been involved with ALEC as a government relations executive working for AOL and Time-Warner and Visa, working with their task forces and working with their committees on trying to develop model policies that would be good for business and good for the Internet.

Q: When you were at each of those companies, where you a member of ALEC?

LN: The people on my staff were. I wasn’t directly engaged on a day-to-day basis. But my folks at the state-relations level were absolutely involved.

Q: What are your goals going into this?

LN: ALEC is a fantastic organization that has done great work over the years, working toward limited government, working toward creating opportunities for folks around the country and working toward driving model policies that would foster growth for small businesses, foster growth for any tax-paying entities.

So, as far as my goals, I want to continue to grow the organization. I think there’s room for growth kind of on both sides of the coin: the legislative side, in terms of building our base of legislators, as well as on the business side, making sure that new businesses, small businesses, entrepreneurs and, of course, the active businesses now all have at least a voice in developing that model policy and thinking through what are the right ways to foster competition and growth in the country.

Q: Have you already begun in your role? What do you hope to achieve?

LN: You know, I really haven’t. I’ve got a business that I will be unwinding for the next kind of 30 days and making sure that clients that I’ve been working with and the people that I’ve been providing counsel to have a soft landing, so to speak, and make sure I have a little bit of a soft takeoff to make sure that I’m well brought up to speed.

I’m going to be using the next 30 days to do both of those things — to kind of unwind my current business, but also to get more acquainted with the staff, many of whom I haven’t met yet. And then working to develop a plan for the coming year.

Niraj Chokshi is a general assignment reporter for The Washington Post.

The Freddie Gray case

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Campaign 2016 Email Updates

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Get Zika news by email

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!
Show Comments
The New Hampshire primary is Tuesday. Get caught up on the race.
The feminist appeal may not be working for Clinton
In New Hampshire, Sen. Bernie Sanders is beating Clinton among women by eight percentage points, according to a new CNN-WMUR survey. This represents a big shift from the results last week in the Iowa caucuses, where Clinton won women by 11 points.
The Post's Dan Balz says ...
This was supposed to be the strongest Republican presidential field in memory, but cracks are showing. At Saturday night's debate, Marco Rubio withered in the face of unyielding attacks from Chris Christie, drawing attention to the biggest question about his candidacy: Is he ready to be president? How much the debate will affect Rubio's standing Tuesday is anybody's guess. But even if he does well, the question about his readiness to serve as president and to go up against Clinton, if she is the Democratic nominee, will linger.
New Hampshire polling averages
Donald Trump holds a commanding lead in the next state to vote, but Marco Rubio has recently seen a jump in his support, according to polls.
New Hampshire polling averages
A victory in New Hampshire revitalized Hillary Clinton's demoralized campaign in 2008. But this time, she's trailing Bernie Sanders, from neighboring Vermont. She left the state Sunday to go to Flint, Mich., where a cost-saving decision led to poisonous levels of lead in the water of the poor, heavily black, rust-belt city. 
55% 40%
Upcoming debates
Feb. 11: Democratic debate

on PBS, in Wisconsin

Feb 13: GOP debate

on CBS News, in South Carolina

Feb. 25: GOP debate

on CNN, in Houston, Texas

Campaign 2016
State of the race

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.