Originally published in
on June 16, 2005
By Courtney Lowery
If you want to change public opinion and turn the tide of national politics, you start on the ground floor. The right-leaning American Legislative Exchange Council, which has successfully mobilized state and local politicians on a range of hot-button issues, has made that pretty clear. But ALEC won't be working alone in that realm anymore -- meet the Progressive Legislative Action Network.
"Certainly, they (ALEC) have emphasized the states and they've had success. They're a model, definitely, but we'll be doing things a little differently," said PLAN co-chair and former Montana Senate minority leader Steve Doherty with a chuckle.
By "little differently," Doherty means policy. PLAN aims to be the left-leaning answer to the right-wing ALEC.
Think of PLAN as a training camp, a policy resource and an information hub for progressive leaders across the country. PLAN will do everything from keeping local leaders on message to helping them draft legislation. Simply put, it will serve as the orchestration of a movement that PLAN leaders say needs some steam in the country right now.
David Sirota, who will be leaving his position as a fellow for the Center for American Progress, has been minted as Doherty's co-chair. He announced the launch on his blog today, writing "If you know a little about the right-wing's American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), you know that conservatives have built up a very powerful infrastructure to pass their agenda at the state level. PLAN is going to counter that by marshalling progressive forces at the state level to fight back."
It isn't a fluke either that this large network is based in, of all places, Montana. Further proof, I like to believe, that the West is ripe for change, ripe for action and ripe for the kind of notoreity this type of organzation can bring to the region.
"I think it's important that we deal with states that may have been looked upon as "red" states in the past," Doherty said adding that the success of pragmatic and "progressive" leaders in Western states (read: Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer) has helped bring the network to the region. "Unless we start making changes in places like Montana, the Midwestern states and the Rocky Mountain states, progressives are going to be on the losing end of things."
PLAN will officially launch in August with a shindig in Seattle featuring the likes of Willie Brown and John Edwards.
It will be a nationwide program and one that will need big bucks to be successful. PLAN was conspicuously sketchy about who its funders are and how much they are ponying up. The Web site says "a few dedicated progressive donors." I asked Doherty where the funding is coming from, to which he answered, "I don't know if I can tell you yet ... It's so new that I just don't know." We'll be waiting for a real answer to that question.