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Most Americans pay little attention to the massive number of elections that occur at the state level every year. Yet cumulatively, a party's success in state-level races across the country can produce major shifts in policymaking and governance. That is precisely what has happened in the US since 2010. In a wave election that year, the Republican Party began their ascendan Most Americans pay little attention to the massive number of elections that occur at the state level every year. Yet cumulatively, a party's success in state-level races across the country can produce major shifts in policymaking and governance. That is precisely what has happened in the US since 2010. In a wave election that year, the Republican Party began their ascendancy in state-level elections, and by 2016 had solidified their dominance. The party now fully controls 25 state legislatures and governorships-one of the largest advantages either party has had since the New Deal. After the GOP wave, a broad swathe of states began considering and enacting a near-identical set of conservative priorities-often even using the exact same text. Where did this flood of new legislation come from? How did so many states arrive at the same proposals at precisely the same time? As Alexander Hertel-Fernandez shows in the eye-opening State Capture, the answer can be found in a trio of powerful interest groups: the Koch Brothers-run Americans for Prosperity (AFP), the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), and the State Policy Network (SPN). Drawing from an impressive evidence base, Hertel-Fernandez explains how, since the 1970s, conservative activists, wealthy donors, and big businesses constructed a right-wing "troika" of overlapping and influential lobbying groups. But it is about more than this. It also teases out how conservative-corporate mobilization has fostered epochal shifts in the American political economy: the decline of unions, party polarization, and the skyrocketing concentration of wealth. State Capture will be essential reading for anyone interested in understanding contemporary American politics.


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Most Americans pay little attention to the massive number of elections that occur at the state level every year. Yet cumulatively, a party's success in state-level races across the country can produce major shifts in policymaking and governance. That is precisely what has happened in the US since 2010. In a wave election that year, the Republican Party began their ascendan Most Americans pay little attention to the massive number of elections that occur at the state level every year. Yet cumulatively, a party's success in state-level races across the country can produce major shifts in policymaking and governance. That is precisely what has happened in the US since 2010. In a wave election that year, the Republican Party began their ascendancy in state-level elections, and by 2016 had solidified their dominance. The party now fully controls 25 state legislatures and governorships-one of the largest advantages either party has had since the New Deal. After the GOP wave, a broad swathe of states began considering and enacting a near-identical set of conservative priorities-often even using the exact same text. Where did this flood of new legislation come from? How did so many states arrive at the same proposals at precisely the same time? As Alexander Hertel-Fernandez shows in the eye-opening State Capture, the answer can be found in a trio of powerful interest groups: the Koch Brothers-run Americans for Prosperity (AFP), the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), and the State Policy Network (SPN). Drawing from an impressive evidence base, Hertel-Fernandez explains how, since the 1970s, conservative activists, wealthy donors, and big businesses constructed a right-wing "troika" of overlapping and influential lobbying groups. But it is about more than this. It also teases out how conservative-corporate mobilization has fostered epochal shifts in the American political economy: the decline of unions, party polarization, and the skyrocketing concentration of wealth. State Capture will be essential reading for anyone interested in understanding contemporary American politics.

53 review for State Capture: How Conservative Activists, Big Businesses, and Wealthy Donors Reshaped the American States -- and the Nation

  1. 4 out of 5

    Austin Severns

    An interesting book for its sheer breadth of reporting on the history and facts surrounding semi-clandestine organizations (like ALEC). A flawed book for its distracting, conspiratorial tone. The reader should consider the possibility that these organizations are acting less as "thoroughfares" for businesses to write policy (which I was not convinced of), but rather that the party gently aligns with pro-market, anti-regulatory positions, so their cooperation is natural. Whether you think that is An interesting book for its sheer breadth of reporting on the history and facts surrounding semi-clandestine organizations (like ALEC). A flawed book for its distracting, conspiratorial tone. The reader should consider the possibility that these organizations are acting less as "thoroughfares" for businesses to write policy (which I was not convinced of), but rather that the party gently aligns with pro-market, anti-regulatory positions, so their cooperation is natural. Whether you think that is bad or not feels tangential to the interesting parts of the book. Still recommended.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Kyle

    This is a tremendous book that thoughtfully and rigorously assesses the structure and impact of conservative policy organizations at the state level. It raises interesting questions about the costs and benefits of federalism today and challenges conventional wisdom about what makes legislatures more accountable to ordinary citizens. To briefly summarize: conservatives have spent the past half-century building a powerful network of public policy organizations that operate largely (though not compl This is a tremendous book that thoughtfully and rigorously assesses the structure and impact of conservative policy organizations at the state level. It raises interesting questions about the costs and benefits of federalism today and challenges conventional wisdom about what makes legislatures more accountable to ordinary citizens. To briefly summarize: conservatives have spent the past half-century building a powerful network of public policy organizations that operate largely (though not completely) below the radar to push right-wing legislation in state legislatures. The leading organization in this venture is the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which provides cookie-cutter legislation, research support, and friendly expert witnesses to help ambitious politicians turn right-wing proposals that lack majority popular support into law. ALEC's budget is not huge by political spending standards, but it effectively takes advantage of the very limited research and legislative resources available to (often part-time) lawmakers to provide one-sided presentations and justifications for policies favored by ALEC's dues-paying corporate members. Through trial-and-error, ALEC has developed a conflicts resolution system that allows the highest bidding member in a given ALEC legislative task force to dictate policy preferences. This system assures powerful companies with major legislative interests that they can always drive the policy agenda of ALEC-aligned legislators as long as they write a big enough check to the organization (as Enron did prior to its collapse). ALEC, in turn, works in a (mostly synergistic) manner with two other conservative organizations, Americans for Prosperity and the State Policy Network. Americans for Prosperity provides electoral support and astroturf support for rightwing legislators, while the State Policy Network provides ostensibly "neutral" analyses that can then be cited by Americans for Prosperity and ALEC in policy debates. The last part of the book looks at the overlap and interactions within this "right-wing troika," and examines the question of why liberals have failed to effectively limit the troika's influence on state policy. This is an excellent albeit depressing book. The author has invested a significant amount of effort into quantitative research and goes to considerable lengths to show that the successes of ALEC and troika are not simply a function of Republican control of state legislatures. He challenges some of the conventional wisdom regarding money in politics (presenting evidence that direct corporate contributions to candidates are not correlated with ALEC success) and highlights fault lines within the conservative network. I highly recommend this book to anyone with an interest in state-level politics, legislative institutions, or political advocacy.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Avi Sholkoff

    A fascinating and arguably necessary book that illustrates the influx of conservative policy at the state level. It also outlines guidance for how progressives can make a dent in the world of ALEC, AFP and SPN. It's an essential read for anyone in interested in state legislatures and obtaining political power. State governments and state policies, in my view are significantly de-emphasized at both the secondary and undergraduate education level. This leads to an ambivalence or even unawareness o A fascinating and arguably necessary book that illustrates the influx of conservative policy at the state level. It also outlines guidance for how progressives can make a dent in the world of ALEC, AFP and SPN. It's an essential read for anyone in interested in state legislatures and obtaining political power. State governments and state policies, in my view are significantly de-emphasized at both the secondary and undergraduate education level. This leads to an ambivalence or even unawareness of the power that they hold, and with continued gridlock in Congress, will look to be that way for the foreseeable future. Hertel-Fernandez highlights the lack of resources —both policy and staffing wise — that lead underpaid state legislators to seek assistance from ALEC. The author further shows that because much of the Democratic focus is on national policy, it's allowed the Conservatives to take the lead on a state-by-state basis. At its core, this is a book about power and how Republicans in this country use policy to curb and minimize power of constituencies that would vote against it — teachers' unions, trial lawyers, and minoritized communities. Democrats tend to focus on policy as a means of meeting goals rather than creating power.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Brian Gregory

    This book, I think for anyone who is considering the affects of policy, interests groups, and partisanship paints a clear picture of how they all work together. It also makes clear that the whole adage of conservatives fall in line to be true. Mainly because they set clear boundaries of how things will go. I think he certainly underestimates money in politics, specifically the lobbying aspect that allow business, foundations, and wealthy donors to push their own agenda. I also think he should sa This book, I think for anyone who is considering the affects of policy, interests groups, and partisanship paints a clear picture of how they all work together. It also makes clear that the whole adage of conservatives fall in line to be true. Mainly because they set clear boundaries of how things will go. I think he certainly underestimates money in politics, specifically the lobbying aspect that allow business, foundations, and wealthy donors to push their own agenda. I also think he should say more about how this is bad for democracy and could’ve done more to stop about that instead of just a part of the conclusion. Overall, an interesting read that’s a slog in some parts. Really intriguing.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Carl

    Yet one more well-researched & documented account of how Republican run for office on platforms of reform, cost-saving, employment boosting, & moderate policies & then, after election, turn the screws to their enemies - especially minorities, organized labor & other collections of liberal leanings. Beyond this, they seek to overturn & frequently appear to succeed in overturning the electorate's ability to rescind their programs after electoral balances have been reversed. The GOP are to be envie Yet one more well-researched & documented account of how Republican run for office on platforms of reform, cost-saving, employment boosting, & moderate policies & then, after election, turn the screws to their enemies - especially minorities, organized labor & other collections of liberal leanings. Beyond this, they seek to overturn & frequently appear to succeed in overturning the electorate's ability to rescind their programs after electoral balances have been reversed. The GOP are to be envied as grand masters of the public rat fuck.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Katherine Lavelle

    This book gets into lots of details about the rise of ALEC and how it works. As someone who has lived/lives in a state where these policies have been implemented, it was interesting and frustrating to learn more about this organization. Hertel-Fernandez provides a lot of research, but does a nice job walking through this information in the study.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Lekisha R

  8. 4 out of 5

    Adam Gurri

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    John Hood

  10. 4 out of 5

    Mr. Book

  11. 4 out of 5

    Tony

  12. 5 out of 5

    Richard Craig

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    Max Nova

  14. 4 out of 5

    prbeckman

  15. 4 out of 5

    Sergey

  16. 4 out of 5

    Gurudarshan Khalsa

  17. 5 out of 5

    Nathan Levit

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    Tara Lanigan

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    Zach

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    Yoni

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    Lannie

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    Nathan Vandenlangenberg

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    Jonathan Heller

  24. 5 out of 5

    Sebastian Leder Macek

  25. 5 out of 5

    Parker Pence

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    Matthew Ebert

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    Arne

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    Robert

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    Mike

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    Kelly Kohrs

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    Joseph Grundfast

  32. 4 out of 5

    Ethan

  33. 5 out of 5

    Barbara Johnson

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    Alex Herder

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    Dave Gill

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    Jake

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    Thomas Reich

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    Ruwen

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    Rachael

  41. 4 out of 5

    Turner Bitton

  42. 5 out of 5

    淑刚 范

  43. 5 out of 5

    Luis

  44. 4 out of 5

    Julio Mariscal

  45. 4 out of 5

    Gwen

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    Alex

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    Mark Fitzpatrick

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    Bilal

  50. 5 out of 5

    Will

  51. 5 out of 5

    signalast

  52. 5 out of 5

    TJ Butler

  53. 4 out of 5

    Saxon

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