The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has expanded its private sector board of directors—or what it calls its “Private Enterprise Advisory Council”—to include operatives in the right-wing’s fight against “woke capitalism.”
ALEC states on its website that the board of directors composed of state lawmakers “enlists an advisory team of private-sector industry leaders” so that it can draw from their “real-world business experience” to “better promote the principles of limited government, free markets and federalism.”
Historically, the private board has been composed of corporate and trade group lobbyists. However, ALEC’s 2023 board is taking a different approach by expanding the advisory council from 14 to 20 individuals and appointing 1792 Exchange CEO Paul Fitzpatrick and CRC Advisors Senior Vice President Mike Thompson.
Both Fitzpatrick and Thompson play important roles in the Right’s manufactured crisis around environmental, social and governance initiatives (ESGs) and promote government retaliation against corporations as a solution to what they term “woke capitalism.”
The two appointments highlight an internal rift within ALEC between far-right policy groups and fossil fuel interests on the one side and financial interests on the other. After ALEC’s energy task force voted unanimously to adopt the Eliminate Economic Boycotts Act as a model policy last December, the board declined to approve the measure on January 20 and sent it back to the task force for reconsideration due to a “lack of agreement among members of the ALEC Task Force on Commerce, Insurance and Economic Development.”
The American Bankers Association (ABA), state bankers associations and others led the challenge. “Government should not be dictating business decisions to the private sector, which is what the draft model policy proposed. We appreciate the strong vote by the ALEC board to send this proposal back to the task force for reconsideration,” ABA stated following the vote.
Fitzpatrick’s 1792 Exchange describes its mission as “to develop policy and resources to protect and equip non-profits, small businesses and philanthropy from ‘woke capitalism,’ to educate Congress and stakeholder organizations about the dangers of ESG… policies, and to help steer public companies in the United States back to neutral on ideological issues.”
The organization maintains an online tracking tool called the Spotlight Report, which grades companies on their “policies, practices, and other relevant criteria to determine the likelihood a company will cancel a contract or client, or boycott, divest, or deny services based on views or beliefs.”
Through its website, 1792 Exchange also offers its allies model contracts to use in the fight against ESG, such as these two obtained by CMD: a template called Request for Proposal for Banking Services Template and a primer on Addressing Vendor Contract Language in Regard to Religious Freedom.
In addition, 1792 Exchange shares research files, including examples obtained by CMD on abortion travel benefits companies provide, ESG backgrounders, and a Big Tech Scorecard prepared by Napa Legal for its so-called religious freedom and free speech warriors.
The group solicits donations as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, but it is not registered with the IRS.
Before leading 1792 Exchange, Fitzpatrick was deputy chief of staff for former U.S. Senator Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.) and chief of staff for former Congressman Mark Meadows (R-N.C.). He also served as director of development for the billionaire Koch brothers’ Freedom Partners (now Stand Together), and worked for almost 20 years for the Christian Right activist group Family Research Council.
In addition, Fitzpatrick sits on the board of the State Financial Officers Foundation (SFOF), a weaponized group of Republican treasurers, auditors, and financial officers in 28 states that is aligned with ALEC and is dedicated to fighting “woke capitalism” and “defend[ing] the market economy” against the growing ESG movement among corporations to also consider community interests and impact in their pursuit of shareholder profits.
Operating Under the Radar
In 2020, Greg Mueller and Leonard Leo, who played an integral role in Trump’s effort to pack the federal judiciary with right-wing judges, founded CRC Advisors—the group Thompson represents—to “funnel big money and expertise across the conservative movement.”
Although he manages to stay under the radar, Thompson is an important Christian Right operative who plays multiple leadership roles in campaigns and communications.
When he participated in the panel presentation “After Roe, Then What?” at a February 2022 meeting of the secretive Christian Right Council for National Policy, anti-abortion activist Marjorie Dannenfelser introduced Thompson as a “unique and gifted convener of coalitions,” and as the “vice president for communications for CAP, the Conservative Action Project, a group of conservatives who meet every Wednesday morning very, very, very, very early to talk about next steps.”
Like Fitzpatrick, Thompson is active in SFOF, as CMD first reported. CRC Advisors is deeply involved in manufacturing and sustaining the ESG crisis as a public relations firm for SFOF. The organization sent the largest number of staffers outside of financial officers and their staff to SFOF’s November 2022 meeting, with at least nine identified by CMD, including Thompson.
SFOF’s CEO Derek Kreifels consults with the “CRC folks” on op-eds, and an agenda prepared for Louisiana Treasurer and 2023 SFOF National Chair John Schroder obtained by CMD shows that CRC was coordinating media interviews for Schroder on the topic of “anti-ESG.”
CRC Advisors is also consulting with other SFOF members, emails obtained by CMD demonstrate. In April, CRC’s Mike Martin coordinated and wrote talking points for 2022 SFOF National Chair John Murante, the state treasurer of Nebraska, for an appearance on Fox News where he attacked the current administration’s energy policies with snappy quips like, “Joe Biden’s policies are sucking the energy out of Americans.”
In May, CRC’s Jay Hopkins arranged for Utah Treasurer Marlo Oaks to appear on the cable talk show Ringside Politics on Real America’s Voice.
CRC Advisors also has been paid close to $1 million (2018–21) for “public relations” by Consumers’ Research, which has spent millions of dollars on a campaign attacking BlackRock for its ESG investment practices and is a top-level sponsor of SFOF.
The Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA) also pays CRC Advisors $7,500 per month. Together with its affiliates, the Rule of Law Defense Fund (RLDF) and the Center for Law and Policy, RAGA runs a cash-for-influence operation that coordinates the official actions of Republican state attorneys general and sells its corporate funders access to those AGs and their staff.
Republicans AGs have collectively taken multiple actions in the anti-ESG fight.
ALEC also added lobbyists from Multistates Associates, the National Federation of Independent Business, Learn4Life, the Asian American Hotel Owners Association, PhRMA, and StateLinx to its private board for 2023 and removed lobbyists from IBF Hospitality and the National Association of Manufacturers.
NetChoice President and CEO Steve DelBianco will serve as the national chair this year.