New ALEC chief sees Scott Walker as model limited government reformer


By M.D. Kittle | Wisconsin Reporter

MADISON, Wis. – The new head of the nation’s largest nonpartisan model legislation organization says Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is a model for limited government reformers nationally.

Lisa B. Nelson, a former Visa Inc. executive and one-time aide to Newt Gingrich, on Monday was named chief executive officer of the American Legislative Exchange Council.

In an interview with Wisconsin Reporter, Nelson said she is “proud of” the Republican governor’s achievements during his first term in office.

ALEC, limited government, Scott Walker, and the future. M.D. Kittle talks with Lisa B .Nelson.

NEW CHIEF: Lisa B. Nelson, a former Visa executive, has been tapped to serve as the CEO of the growing American Legislative Exchange Council.

Walker, considered by many pundits to be a formidable presidential candidate in 2016 should he run, is nationally known for his signature Act 10 – the law that reformed public sector collective bargaining in the Badger State. Debate over the bill in 2011 brought out tens of thousands of protesters to the state Capitol and sparked a union-driven recall campaign against the governor, Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and several Republican state senators.

“I think a lot of states should be looking at Governor Walker and the Assembly in Madison in terms of looking at how you can make that change and how you can curtail the growth of whether it’s the unions or any other faction that is stemming growth and competition,” Nelson said.

As Walker is viewed as political public enemy No. 1 by Wisconsin liberals, ALEC is the free-market and limited government-espousing organization of state legislators that gives the left everywhere nightmares.

The liberal Center for Media and Democracy, based in Madison, has devoted a lot of time, money and an entire website – ALEC Exposed – to loathing all that CMD believes ALEC stands for.

“ALEC bills, which largely benefit the organization’s corporate members, have been introduced in legislatures in every state— but without disclosing to the public that corporations previously drafted or voted on them through ALEC,” proclaims the website.

Critics, such as CMD, really don’t understand what ALEC is and what it strives to do, Nelson said.

“I think the model of the private-public partnership has been misunderstood, and I think once you get involved in ALEC, once you start participating, you understand how the process works and what a give-and-take it is with respect to creating model legislation that promotes small businesses and promotes successful companies around the nation,” Nelson said.

Of course, the left isn’t too proud to replicate ALEC’s successful model on model legislation.

Enter ALICE, the American Legislative and Issue Campaign Exchange, the brainchild of Badger State liberal Joel Rogers, of the Center on Wisconsin Strategy, or COWS. ALICE, as its website asserts, is “the one-stop web-based public library of progressive state and local laws” — laws that look do what ALEC opposes, expand the reach of government in the lives of American citizens.

“This is a great opportunity to connect people working on the ground in our communities — legislators, activists, labor unions and community-based organizations — to push together for policies that make our cities and towns more just and equitable places,” New York City Councilman Brad Lander, co-chair of the council’s Progressive Caucus, told The Nation in 2012.

Nelson leads the 40-year-old ALEC in an era marked by an epic battle between proponents of bigger government and advocates of smaller government. She calls it a “crucial time.”

“There has been this swelling of the size of government across the board and you need strong leadership at the state levels to keep fighting against that,” Nelson said. She sees as her main task the drive up to ALEC’s 50th anniversary, making sure over the next decade that the free-market organization lives up to its creed of stopping the growth of government.

And that task includes the growth of ALEC, which, Nelson and other organization officials say, the legislative exchange council is poised to do.

“My background is uniquely suited to bring both growth at the legislative level, bring more Democrats and Republican legislators into the mix, but also to really seek out those new businesses … small business and large businesses, who have got issues at the state level, and bring them into the process so we can have a fulsome debate on the issues,” the new CEO said.