photo: my_southborough via flickr.
A new bill introduced into the Washington State Senate with the ostensible purpose of "prohibiting terrorists acts against animal and natural resource facilities" is so broadly worded that producing some of the content on TreeHugger could be deemed illegal. Introduced by Senator Val Stevens, with text nearly lifted straight from the American Legislative Exchange Council, the bill would prohibit materials used "in whole or in part to encourage...publicize, promote, or aid" an act of "animal or ecological terrorism":Existing Laws Already Cover the Crimes...
People for the American Way's president says the definition of terrorist in the bill (read it here) is "dangerously broad" and "would catch anybody who's ever sent in $10 to save the pandas. It's a thinly disguised effort to squash environmental activism and intimidate citizens who want to speak out."
As Green is the New Red and The Food Revolution point out, this bill is not so much about actually preventing destruction of property, or endangering or threatening people involved in, say, animal testing of drugs, factory farming, or mining--after all, existing laws already do this and provide stiff penalties--but rather stymying free speech, civil disobedience, and criticism of environmentally damaging and ethically suspect activities.
If it seems like you've heard this one before, you have. Similar bills have been introduced over the past several years, with their text again lifted from the ALEC playbook, in New York, Texas, Hawaii, Arizona, and South Carolina. Federal versions have also been introduced.
ALEC Has Long Big-Business, Anti-Environment Ties
So what is ALEC and who's behind the Washington DC-based organization? Here's a quick overview, via SourceWatch:
The American Legislative Exchange Council was founded in 1973 by Paul Weyrich (of Heritage Foundation fame) and the Free Congress Foundation (in turn founded by Joseph Coors). Its marquee purpose is promotion of limited government, free markets, and federalism. In doing so it drafts "model legislation" which favors big business interests. Its bi-partisan membership is over 2400 state legislators.
Natural Resources Defense Council has described ALEC as being a "tax-exempt screen for major US corporations and trade associations that use it to influence legislative activities at the state level."
Supported Tobacco Industry, Opposed Climate Action
In the past ALEC has been a big ally of the tobacco industry (Philip Morris and RJ Reynolds are backers); opposed the Kyoto Protocol (ExxonMobil is a funder); proposed legislation limiting the ability of communities to pass laws against introduction of genetically-modified seeds, crops and animals. ALEC has also been active in promoting legislation blocking municipalities from offering broadband internet access as public service.
Funding for the organization (to the tune of more than $5 million annually) comes from the likes of the Castle Rock Foundation, the Koch Family Foundations, several major oil companies, Coors Brewing, Nationwide Insurance, Pfizer, and the aforementioned tobacco companies.
Call Your Representative, Tell Your Friends
So what can we do to ensure that Washington SB 6566 doesn't get passed? Well, if you live there you can certainly swamp Senator Stevens' office with emails, telephone calls, and letters expressing opposition to this unnecessary and poorly worded bill. You can do the same to other Washington senators. And if you don't live in Washington you can make sure you let everyone you know hears that such legislation is pending and the dangers it will bring if it passes.
The Green Scare and Civil Liberties
Dangerous Environmental Terrorist/Animal Rights Eco Extremist on FBI's Most Wanted List
UK Government Classifies Eco Activists as 'Extremists' Alongside Al Qaeda