Koch-Funded ALEC Threatens SMART ALEC with Lawsuit
(APN) ATLANTA — The controversial, right-wing American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has sent a cease and desist letter, through their attorneys, to SMART ALEC, a progressive, non-profit think tank and lobbying organization, over what they purport to be trademark infringement.
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If ALEC decides to pursue the lawsuit, now that they threw down the proverbial gauntlet, the case is to be styled, “ALEC v. SMART ALEC.”
ALEC is a right-wing policy incubator that creates model legislation for replication in Republican-led State Legislatures through the country. Just some of their legislative agendas have included Voter ID restrictions; privatization of schools and prisons; Stand Your Ground gun laws; barriers to environmental protections; opposition to regulation; low taxes for corporations; and the like.
Atlanta Progressive News and Channel 11 WXIA have helped expose the role of ALEC in Georgia. In recent years, there has been a successful nationwide campaign to convince corporations to divest from ALEC.
SMART ALEC was co-founded earlier this year with a progressive, experienced Board of Directors, including three members with strong Atlanta ties: Matthew Charles Cardinale, News Editor of Atlanta Progressive News (the present writer); Dr. Dwanda Farmer, one of the nation’s few PhDs in Community Economic Development; and Barbara Payne, former Executive Director of Fulton County Taxpayers Foundation.
ALEC has threatened to sue SMART ALEC if the organization does not cease and desist by Monday, June 27, 2016.
“Bless their hearts! They were just too precious for sending us a note. We were really delighted to hear from them and to know that are in their thoughts and prayers,” Cardinale said in a statement.
“Y’all picked the wrong organization with the right people. We fight suits like this on our lunch break,” Payne said in a statement.
“I’ve been a SMART ALEC all my life and ALEC can sue us if they want to!” Dr. Farmer said.
ALEC has hired Foley & Lardner partner Norm Rich in Washington, D.C., to represent ALEC regarding the matter.
Mr. Rich claims that ALEC has expended “considerable effort and expense to develop and maintain the goodwill associated with its name and to control all intellectual property, including trademark rights in ALEC, associated with its public policy advocacy, educational services and general business affairs.”
However, SMART ALEC maintains that the issue of whether ALEC, in fact, has any good will in the community, is a question of fact that will need to be determined by a jury, after a lengthy discovery process.
“Our logo is a smiling house with solar panels; and we actually want environmental protections and affordable housing. We don’t see how there could possibly be a genuine consumer confusion issue here,” Cardinale said.
“At the end of the day, it seems they just want to use their Goliath scale of resources in an apparent attempt to intimidate us, because they don’t want us to have a progressive presence in City Halls, County Government buildings, and State Legislatures,” Cardinale said.
SMART ALEC’s first Model Ordinance is for Affordable Housing Impact Statements, which was authored by the present writer in 2014.
The City of Atlanta adopted AHIS in 2015 and it goes into effect on July 01, 2016.
Now the legislation is pending in the Cities of New Orleans, Louisiana; Los Angeles, California; Albany, New York; and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; and has been partially implemented administratively in Portland, Oregon, where SMART ALEC is headquartered.
Earlier this month, SMART ALEC Board Members Cardinale and Dr. Farmer flew out to New Orleans, Louisiana, to meet with the Mayor’s Office, Planning Department, Councilman Jared Brossett, and stakeholders, regarding how to implement AHIS in New Orleans.
SMART ALEC’s goal is to help get AHIS enacted in ten U.S. cities and counties by 2018. The organization has a Go Fund Me to raise $100,000 to support this goal. SMART ALEC has raised $896 on the Go Fund Me page to date.
SMART ALEC is building a national Board of Directors and Advisory Board, with a mandate for at least one-third low income participation, and an extraordinary level of transparency and meaningful citizen involvement. These Boards will help shape the next round of Model Ordinances for cities, counties, and states.
“It’s not just about pursuing different types of policies, but doing it in a way that’s transparent and participatory,” Cardinale said.