Over the past forty years, conservatives have mastered the art of pursuing policy change across the states, while similar liberal efforts have floundered. Using a diverse array of original evidence, including interviews, previously-unexamined archival records, and new surveys, State Capture explains why and how conservatives developed cross-state political clout while progressives did not. The book also carefully documents the implications of conservative cross-state network-building for American democracy, spelling out its consequences for political inequality and representation, as well as for our understanding of the relationship between private-sector businesses, political activists, and wealthy donors. In State Capture, Alexander Hertel-Fernandez details the development of a trio of conservative groups operating within and outside of state legislatures responsible for the right's success in the states. This right-leaning troika includes the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which brings together state legislators, conservative activists, and businesses to draft model legislation for the states; the free-market think-tanks operating as part of the State Policy Network (SPN), which together offer research and commentary in support of the policies ALEC develops; and Americans for Prosperity (AFP), a federated grassroots advocacy group with millions of volunteers and a hefty campaign warchest dedicated to pressing state governments to adopt conservative legislation, including ALEC model bills. Following the histories of each group across their victories but also their missteps, the book sheds light on broader themes in American political development and helps us to better understand longstanding issues about how businesses shape policy and politics. A timely and accessible book that tackles important long-term shifts in American politics, State Capture is essential reading for anyone interested in understanding the intersection between private power and democracy.
In his systematic and impeccably researched work, Hertel-Fernandez discusses why liberal efforts to counter the troika have floundered and why this infiltration of right-wing state policy endangers the quality of American democracy. A highly specific, important study in understanding why attention to state legislatures and local elections across the country is increasingly crucial. * Kirkus *