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The group’s defenders describe it as a clearinghouse for policy ideas for state legislators, one that has been unfairly singled out because of its conservative, free-market orientation.

Wrote one state legislative aide recently on the influential conservative website RedState.com, “ALEC has become a target of a sloppily-orchestrated but well-funded effort by conspiracy theorists and anarchists … who care more about creating another dark, sinister bogeyman to scare you rather than honestly and seriously confronting the challenges before us.”