Georgia lawmaker and former national head of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), Earl Ehrhart (R) is not taking kindly to attempts by citizen groups to shed light on his organization. In today's Marrietta Daily Journal he lashed out at one activist in particular, calling him "some Occupy pansy sitting in a tent without a bath."
The activist, Bryan Long, is the founder of Better Georgia, a non-profit group that has been working aggressively to bring ALEC’s activities to light on a state and national level.
"I expected that they would try and defend ALEC, but its a group that's indefensible," Long told Raw Story, "They can't stand by the truth so they resort to name-calling."
He said it was "kind of a shock" to wake up and see the attack in this morning's paper. Long is openly gay, but has not made it a primary focus of his activism. "I've never tried to live in the closet," he said. Because of his activism in state politics, Long said, it's safe to assume that Ehrhart meant the slur as a direct slam on his sexual orientation.
ALEC has been under increasing pressure in recent weeks as corporate sponsors drop out of the allegedly pro-business organization. In spite of its PR spin as an engine of capitalism, it is the group's purported efforts at minority vote suppression by way of restrictive Voter ID laws and its involvement in controversial gun laws like Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law that have drawn fire from critics.
The pressure has caused the group to supposedly drop its social policy agenda, but journalist Rachel Maddow has pointed out that the National Center for Public Policy has immediately stepped forward to fill the void, kicking off its "Voter Identification Task Force" the day after ALEC's "Public Safety and Elections" task force disbanded.
"Stand Your Ground" was invoked by the team of attorneys who have defended George Zimmerman, Jr. Zimmerman shot and killed unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida earlier this year.
Ehrhart, who represents the Georgia town of Acworth, calls the people who oppose the organization "avowed crazies" and "communists." In a rant to the Daily Journal worthy of a call-in guest to Glenn Beck's radio show, yesterday, he shared his thoughts on anti-ALEC activists and Bryan Long in particular.
"We’re not communists. We have Jeffersonian principles. It’s in the mission statement. Individual liberty. Free markets. That’s the basic stated, four-decades-old mission of ALEC, and it’s basically a restatement of our founding fathers. I’ll put that up against communists and socialists and crazed Occupy bath-needing leftists," he said.
With regards to Bryan Long's requests for lists of ALEC-sponsored legislation or a roster of its members, Ehrhart said, "Mr. Long doesn’t like free speech, doesn’t like advocacy for anything other than what he wants. The majority of the citizens in this county and this state are going to agree with the principles of ALEC. Again, back to the founding principles of this country. I’ll stand them up against his tent principles all day long. I’m not afraid of some Occupy pansy sitting in a tent without a bath, I’m sorry.”
Long insists that his sexual orientation is not the issue here. "Public scrutiny is, which Ehrhart treats like a bad rash."
Better Georgia, says Long, will continue to press ALEC and its members for more disclosure if its members and its agenda. "If Rep. Ehrhart is so proud of ALEC's legislative accomplishments, why doesn't he label their bills ALEC bills?" Then, he said, Georgians could actively decide whether they like ALEC legislation.
"He tells us how much the public loves ALEC," quipped Long, "but he won't actually tell us what they do."