To the editor:
Why has the Great Bend Tribune chosen to give its opinion page over to special interests for their public image disinformation campaigns?
For the second time in two months the Tribune has published a column by Lisa Nelson, the CEO of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). In an Oct. 8 column, Nelson notes that ALEC was part of the bipartisan effort to reduce mandatory sentencing for drug offenses.
What made this effort bipartisan was that it served both the interests of social reform groups like Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM) and tax cut lobbyists. It reduced prison time for minor offenders who reform their behavior and it reduced our cost for prisons for corporations that want to cut their tax burden.
To a large extent, ALEC is a collection of big money corporations that obtain financial rewards by getting laws passed that favor their interests. Well over 90% of ALEC funding comes from corporations, trade groups and think tanks. What ALEC then does is function as a bill mill to create and route pages and pages of legalize through compliant legislators and into something like 200 of our state and federal laws every year.
Nelson spent most of her column trying to depict ALEC’s sole interest in this legislation as deep concern for prisoners. She made no mention of the financial benefit it will provide to the corporations who fund ALEC by reducing their taxes. If ALEC was driven by concern for prisoners it would be producing legislation to provide prisoners with hepatitis treatment to prevent liver disease and even death. But this would increase taxes for the corporations that fund ALEC and so there is no such effort by ALEC.
Columnists are supposed to be individuals, often with a background in journalism, who give perspective on social issues. Sometimes they are specialist in a given field writing on their expertise. These are the traditional and legitimate authors of newspaper columns.
If the Tribune truly wanted a column on sentencing reform, it should have published one from an organization like FAMM, who has been working on the issue for 28 years. Instead, the Tribune provided precious opinion page space and the illusion of impartial legitimacy to Nelson for her deceive-by-omission, spin and sell, false depiction of ALEC, one of the most onerous examples of big money influence in government.
The lead question of this letter is not rhetorical. If the Tribune decides to again publish ALEC, please do explain how this complies with your editorial standards and supports the vital role that journalism is supposed to play in providing unbiased and truthful reporting.