DENVER (AP) — For decades, a well-funded conservative group has helped state lawmakers across the U.S. write legislation to rein in unions, expand charter schools and lower taxes.
Now, it’s expanding to the final frontier: normally nonpartisan city halls and county governments, which have become a bastion of liberal resistance to President Donald Trump.
The American Legislative Exchange Council is one of the country’s most prominent conservative groups, and its annual convention in Denver last week drew thousands of state legislators and lobbyists for panels on school choice and marijuana legalization, as well as speeches from conservative luminaries like Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and former Senator James DeMint.
But as attendees rubbed shoulders with the right’s elite, a few dozen crowded into a small conference room for the fourth meeting of the American City County Exchange, the conservative group’s new local government wing.
The city council project is the brainchild of Jon Russell, a councilman from the Virginia town of Culpepper, population 18,000. He was dissatisfied that the traditional, nonpartisan municipal groups, like the National League of Cities, seemed to constantly think more government was the answer to problems.
“Now we can communicate with 2,500 elected officials across the country that we know share our values and push back against some of the progressivism that’s gotten into cities,” Russell said.
Though the group is still young, it’s notched some significant accomplishments – most prominently helping distribute model legislation to end the automatic deduction of union dues from paychecks that 12 Kentucky counties implemented in 2014 as a precursor to that state becoming the 28th “right-to-work” state.