ALEC Coverage Offers Case Study

February 6th, 2012 · No Comments · Uncategorized

By Arthur Alpert

Here, as promised, is a case study on how the Albuquerque Journal uses its news operation to promote its editorial agenda.

Last Wednesday, Occupy Santa Fe demonstrators disrupted a dinner event of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) hosted for state legislators at the Old House restaurant in the Eldorado Hotel.

Journal editors headlined the newspaper’s Friday, Jan. 27 account “Protestors Scuffle with Lobbyists” and front-paged it with a jump to page 8, 27 paragraphs’ worth.

According to the Journal, two diners were injured and police, who arrived late, made no arrests. Republican lawmakers decried the incident. So did Democrats, even those who sympathized with Occupy’s aims.

As for ALEC, the Journal characterized it (paragraph four) as “pro-business.” Three graphs from the bottom, it relayed Occupy’s views of ALEC as gleaned from protestors’ fliers.

Saturday the Journal ran two items on legislators’ fears for their physical safety.

Now, for contrast, let’s look at The Santa Fe New Mexican report Thursday, Jan. 26, by Steve Terrell.

“A protest at a dinner held by the politically conservative American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, apparently turned physical Wednesday night after a small group of Occupy Santa Fe protesters went inside the Eldorado hotel and disrupted the event.”

Notice Terrell’s characterized ALEC up top. (I question “conservative,” but we’ll debate that another day.)

The New Mexican story resembled the Journal’s, but there were differences.

Unlike the Journal, it quoted an Occupy spokesman at length:

“Jeff Haas, who identified himself as a spokesman for the protesters, said in an email to The New Mexican, ‘While Occupy believes that confrontation and civil disobedience are often effective as demonstrated by Dr. King and Rosa Parks, we regret that anyone was injured last night by either flying paper or rough treatment by hotel security or ALEC members. Fortunately the injuries were minor compared to the devastation to people and the environment caused by ALEC legislation.’”

Terrell also detailed one scuffle in which the victim was a protestor ally:

“Haas said photographer Lisa Law of Santa Fe, who was with the protesters, was ‘roughed up by hotel security and ALEC members who sought to grab her camera,’ Law said in a YouTube posting that she was ‘attacked from the back’ and ‘ended up with a bloody hand and a very stiff and sore neck, arm and back.’ She said she made a police report regarding her injury.”

A Journal graph reporting some “pushing and shoving of protestors” may have alluded to that incident.

Finally, in Terrell’s account, this eye-catcher:

“Senate Republican Whip Bill Payne, the other ALEC state co-chairman, said the incident was the ‘worst thing I’ve ever seen in Santa Fe.’ Besides the protesters, Payne also criticized the hotel security, Santa Fe police and ‘the tenor of the press’ in Santa Fe. He specifically mentioned recent New Mexican articles about the American Legislative Exchange Council and lobbyist expenses.

So, the New Mexican has carried articles about ALEC.

The Journal hasn’t.

Here’s the crux – not that the Journal story was less interested in ALEC than Terrell’s, but the Journal’s policy, its reluctance to concede the existence of corporate lobbies.

Thus, the Albuquerque Journal has as best I can recall never told its readers who founded ALEC, finances it and why it woos legislators in Santa Fe and other state capitols.

You can Google ALEC yourself. Suffice it to say here that Paul Weyrich of “I don’t want everybody to vote” infamy was a founder; that almost all its money comes from the usual suspects – the Koch brothers, Big Pharma, Big Energy, tobacco, et al, and that its agenda is extremely clear.

ALEC aims to bolster Corporate America’s power over government and society.

It means to erase limits on corporate use of air, water and land; neuter organized labor, commoditize health care further, undermine public education, lower corporate taxes more and protect “personhood” so as to purchase as much speech as it wishes.
Citizens United, anyone?

To those ends, the Koch brothers and allies have financed hundreds of “free market think tanks” including the CATO Institute, which sired New Mexico’s own Rio Grande Foundation, the Journal’s pride and joy.

Credit the Journal with consistency; exempting ALEC from journalistic scrutiny dovetails with its non-questioning of the Rio Grande Foundation (ALEC’s cousin?)

Talk about sacred cows!

Please ponder these bold assertions as you read the Journal’s continuing legislative coverage.

If I am correct, its “news” agenda will parallel the ALEC/RGF/Journal agenda.

Again, if I am correct, you’ll detect a distinct lack of passion for assigning stories on taxing out-of-state corporations or setting up a health insurance exchange.

Finally, if I am correct, the Journal will persevere in pretending ALEC and other pro-corporate lobbies don’t matter.

Nobody will ask, that is, “Picking up the check at the pricey Old House in the Eldorado, eh? What’s in it for you?”

And what if I’m mistaken? I win.

To prove me wrong, Journal editors would have to quit advocating in the “news” operation and commit some… darn, what’s it called?

Oh yes, journalism.

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  • Roland

    In addition to the lack of analysis of ALEC by the ABQ Journal, I am also left wondering who precisely were the victims of the violence. “According to the Journal, two diners were injured…”, but in the New Mexican report, the spokesperson for the protestors said: “we regret that anyone was injured last night by either flying paper or rough treatment by hotel security or ALEC members.” I haven’t read either report, but it looks like the Journal focused on the protestors as perpetrators, whereas the New Mexican report was more nuanced and balanced. Across the nation, there are growing reports of attempts to discredit the Occupy movement by infiltrating it, trying to encourage violence, and by slanted news reports highlighting violence.

  • Diane Denish

    And notice that The Journal almost completely ignored the Susan G. Komen tornado last week by relegating it to the back A pages. This ties into their desire to not report anything that would appear critical of the right wing, corporate donors, etc.

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