The American Legislative Exchange Council convention being held In Utah this week is best viewed as a family reunion with all the usual shameful secrets. After all, a vast number of Utah GOP lawmakers have been entertained, lavishly fed and have generally snuggled up with ALEC and its big-industry patrons for years.

ALEC pretends to be a conservative alternative to the National Conference of State Legislatures that trains lawmakers, right and left, on issues and effective governing. But instead of policy experts, it's industry lobbyists who tutor ALEC’s legislative members. If you love your capitalism unchained, it doesn’t get any better.

Even the left has to admit ALEC’s stealth approach is brilliant. Instead of industries sending lobbyists to each state’s legislature—ALEC conveniently brings lawmakers to its gatherings, where they work and socialize with member industries and special interests, including the American Tort Reform Association, Chemical Manufacturers Association, Americans United for Life, ExxonMobil and Koch Companies Public Sector. The lawmakers are provided with fill-in-the-blanks legislation to take back home.

If the concept reminds you of fire ants carrying the exterminator’s poison back to their own nests–you’ve basically got it.

NiederhauserFor their cooperation, ALEC gives lawmakers like Utah senators Kurt Bramble and Wayne Niederhauser (shown at left) awards at fancy banquets.

ALEC’s full-court press for restrictive voter regulations and “Stand Your Ground” laws has recently forced a dozen image-conscious corporate members, including Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Dell Computer, McDonald’s and Coke, to step away from the organization.

The Tribune‘s Bob Gehrke and City Weekly‘s Kathy Behle offer take-outs on the ALEC-Utah connection that Tea Partiers and progressives alike will find interesting.

ALEC convention, July 25-28, The Grand America Hotel. (Gov. Gary Herbert, who has set Utah records for pocketing big-business money, will give the opening remarks.)

The Alliance For A Better Utah will hold a citizens’ tutorial ALEC at 6 p.m. July 25 at 629 S. State St.