Yesterday I was Told I Was Not Welcomed at a Right Wing Think Tank Conference in Grand Rapids
Have you ever heard of an organization called The State Policy Network? My suspicion is that you probably haven’t and that is not any fault of your own. The State Policy Network is just good at operating outside of the public eye.
Beginning yesterday, September 29, the State Policy Network was holding its annual meeting right here in Grand Rapids at the Amway Grand. Hundreds of people and dozens of organizations will be meeting through Friday to discuss strategies and tactics that will push their agenda through at the state level.
What is their agenda you ask? Well, first it’s important to know that the State policy Network (SPN) is a national organization that brings together state-based right wing think tanks and advocacy groups to influence policy at the state level. The State Policy Network is one of the biggest allies in doing the work of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the Koch brothers funded entity that is seeking to privatize the country, amongst other things.
- So, the agenda of the SPN and its member groups is to do some of the following:
- Get States to pass Right to Work Legislation
- Get States to adopt austerity measures that will hurt workers, the public sector and public services
- Attack Public Education by redirecting more public funds to Charter Schools and other “Schools of Choice.”
- Privatize Higher Education
- Promote more Ag-Gag laws, which attack community based efforts around food production and silences animal rights groups challenging the industrial animal industry.
- Attacks on Green Energy Legislation
Those of us who reside in Michigan know what this look and feels like, as the state has adopted greater austerity measures in recent years, passed Right to Work legislation and has been exploring Ag-gag laws and cutting more funding from public education. Some of the State Policy Network partners from Michigan are, The Mackinac Center for Public Policy and the Acton Institute.
You can see some of the sessions that that are taking place over the next few days, by going to the SPN Annual meeting Agenda. For a more detailed examination of the work of the State Policy Network, I highly recommend a report from the Center for Media & Democracy, entitled, Exposed: The State Policy Network. Below is a screen shot of several of the major sponsors of the State Policy Network Conference being held in Grand Rapids.
I was told I was not welcomed at the SPN Conference
A few weeks ago I was contacted by folks from Political Research Associates, a group which monitors to activity of the religious and political right in the US. They asked if I would be willing to attend the State Policy Network Conference in Grand Rapids and write some articles for them on the current and future agenda of the State Policy Agenda and its members groups across the country. They offered to pay the conference fee and since I hate to miss any opportunity to see what the Political and Religious Right are up to, I said yes.
Yesterday, I went to register for the conference at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel. Since I was not pre-register, I was directed to a separate table in the registration area. The person who greeted me asked if I was with any particular group. I replied that I was not a member of any of the SPN’s affiliates, just someone from Grand Rapids who was interested in state policy issues.
Then I was asked if I had a business card, to which I responded, “No, I was not a business person or professional, just someone interested in state policy issues.” This person said they would be right back and 2 minutes later they returned with a very large man who said he was the head of security for this event. I said I didn’t understand why security was called. I just wanted to register for the conference. The security guy asked to see some ID, so I gave him my drivers license.
He left and walk across the display tables area to talk with two other people, who were no doubt conference organizers. They looked at my ID, then both proceeded to get on their mobile phones and do what appeared to be some searching. After 5 minutes the security guard returned and said that he was told that, “I was not welcomed, especially after looking at my website.” I said, which website? This only seemed to aggravate the security guy. I then said, pointing to the conference brochure, (which says Experience Freedom) why I was not allowed to participate in a conference that purported to promote freedom? He was not amused and said that I needed to leave.
In some ways I was not surprised that I was asked to leave, but it certainly underscores the secrecy and exclusivity of the political and religious groups, like the State Policy Network.