A Star-Ledger analysis of hundreds of documents shows that ALEC bills are surfacing in New Jersey, where Republican Gov. Chris Christie is trying to remake the state, frequently against the wishes of a Democrat-controlled Legislature.
Drawing on bills crafted by the council, on New Jersey legislation and dozens of e-mails by Christie staffers and others, The Star-Ledger found a pattern of similarities between ALEC’s proposals and several measures championed by the Christie administration. At least three bills, one executive order and one agency rule accomplish the same goals set out by ALEC using the same specific policies. In eight passages contained in those documents, New Jersey initiatives and ALEC proposals line up almost word for word. Two other Republican bills not pushed by the governor’s office are nearly identical to ALEC models. [emphasis mine]As is his pattern of behavior, Christie denied knowing anything about ALEC:
It reminds me of when Christie denied he knew charter school founder Amir Khan, even though Khan was sitting right behind him - for the second time that year!Christie’s spokesman, Michael Drewniak, said there is no connection between the efforts spearheaded by Christie and ALEC."Our reforms have no basis in anyone’s model legislation," Drewniak said. "The governor said to me, 'Who's ALEC?'"Christie declined to comment for this story.
Christie took to Twitter last night to continue his denials:
@mattkatz00 Never spoken 2 anyone from ALEC nor had any contact w/them. Today's story much ado about nothing. No influence on me whatsoeverYeah, it's just a happy coincidence the ratings Christie wants to give to teachers match ALEC's categories exactly. Nothing to see here; move along...
@lisafleisher Yes, really. Have had no contact with them. Sorry to kill another conspiracy theory on you.
What Rizzo documents so well is that an enormous amount of ALEC's influence is being felt in education policy. Why is that? Well...
ALEC is funded by union busters like Wal-Mart and Verizon. Breaking public worker unions leads to downward pressure on wages for the entire labor market. These people have every economic incentive needed to want to break the NJEA, which is what almost all of these "reforms" are really about.
Further: as ACTING Commissioner Chris Cerf reminds us, education is a "$650 billion sector, second only to health care. " Do you think these people might want to get a taste of that? Do you think they are willing to make a relatively small investment, based on the potential for huge returns?
That's chicken feed to these guys. Why wouldn't they see how far they can push schools toward privatization if it costs them this little?Meanwhile, an examination of campaign finance records from the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission showed New Jersey legislators who are in ALEC or have introduced bills resembling ALEC models have received $202,000 from the same corporations funding the council, $57,700 since 2010.Kyrillos, who said he hasn’t been involved with ALEC for 20 years, has collected $72,000 from ALEC members since he first became a legislator in the late 1980s.Christie collected more than $73,000 for his gubernatorial run, Webber more than $17,000 in races for the Assembly, and Oroho nearly $7,000 while running for the state Senate.
One last thing: The Ledger's Editorial Page Editor, Tom Moran, has regularly mocked those who have been warning about Christie's reformy agenda - including yours truly. I've often suspected that Moran doesn't read his own newspaper, but he's going to have a hard time ignoring Rizzo's reporting here.
What do you say, Tom? Are we all still wearing tinfoil hats?