Why is a United States Senator using a state-level policy issue to harass and intimidate think tanks and their supporters? 

Last week the Pelican Institute was one of many organizations to receive a remarkable letter from United States Senator Dick Durbin. Senator Durbin appears to be using the controversy over the Trayvon Martin case as a weapon in his campaign to discredit the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

For analysis of this campaign, we recommend James Varney and Scott McKay. The Pelican Institute has responded to Senator Durbin, the letter is linked here and the full response appears below:

Dear Senator Durbin,

I am in receipt of your letter, dated August 6, 2013 regarding the Pelican Institute and our relationship with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

In your letter you ask whether Pelican Institute has served as a member of ALEC or provided funding to ALEC in 2013. The answer to these questions is no. Further, I am unaware of Pelican Institute having funded ALEC at any point in time and therefore ask that you please share any records indicating otherwise.

You also ask whether Pelican Institute supports the “stand your ground” legislation that had been promoted by ALEC. We have never taken a position on this matter as it falls outside the range of issues we address.

To expand upon our relationship with ALEC, Pelican Institute is a state-based think tank in Louisiana. Given ALEC’s focus on state legislation, we naturally take an interest in their work. I regularly read ALEC studies on criminal justice reform, tax policy, pension reform and other areas of interest to the Pelican Institute. We have featured speakers from ALEC at Pelican Institute events and jointly held a policy briefing for legislators in Baton Rouge. While critics may misrepresent the nature of ALEC’s work, I know from experience that they provide a valuable service to a wide range of policymakers.

I do find it curious that a Senator from Illinois would dedicate time and resources to investigate a question of state policy in Louisiana. I would expect that the important work of the United States Senate is more than enough to occupy you and your staff.

In Louisiana, our part-time legislators receive a modest salary and minimal staff support. Yet they balance the budget and conduct their business without engaging in ham-fisted attempts to damage legitimate policymaking organizations or intervene in policy issues beyond their purview. I respectfully submit that their approach is the correct one.

Thank you for your attention to this response and please feel free to contact me with any further questions.


                                                                                                      Kevin Kane

                President, Pelican Institute for Public Policy