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Newtown lawmaker carried NRA's water

Published January 18. 2013 4:00AM

ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, is a tax exempt promoter of limited government, financed by some of the nation's largest corporations and devoted to creating and advancing conservative "model legislation" that likeminded legislators can introduce in the 50 states.

The group has championed voter identification bills that appear to have the intent of discouraging poor and minority voters and the infamous "stand your ground" law, which allows a person to use lethal force if he feels threatened. Where enacted, these laws circumvent the long-standing legal threshold of justifiable homicide only in the act of self-defense.

Republican legislators from every state, about 20 from Connecticut, dominate ALEC's membership. Its Connecticut co-chairwoman is state Rep. DebraLee Hovey, Republican of Newtown and Monroe, the same DebraLee Hovey who was in the news for her Facebook harangue following former Congresswoman Gaby Giffords' visit to Newtown's grieving families.

Rep. Hovey, a House member since 2003, was apparently quite upset that Ms. Giffords, who was nearly killed by a gunman two years ago, and state officials would visit the town without clearing it with her. At least, that's what she seems to have said in two somewhat incoherent messages:

"Gaby Gifford stay out of my towns," said the first entry.

"The Lt. Gov. was there, Blumenthall was there and ALL political types KNOW it is courteous to let sitting Reps know when another political is in their District So…There was pure political motives," added the second message, by way of explanation, we assume.

More charitable readers may have concluded that the misspelled missive, sent from Florida where Rep. Hovey was attending a seminar, was a knee-jerk act of bad judgment, perhaps caused by too much time in the hot sun. Others thought "there was pure political motives" on the part of Ms. Hovey herself as she was most exercised about not being properly informed of a visit to her turf.

At any rate, Ms. Hovey removed the messages and lamely explained she was only trying to protect the privacy of the victims' families and avoid their exploitation by the barely mobile, still recovering Ms. Giffords, whose political support for gun control is as public as it is understandable. Ms. Hovey's press secretary said she had no additional comment when we inquired.

But the incident made us want to learn more about the Newtown representative and what she might bring to the legislative debate on avoiding future gun violence in Connecticut.

As Connecticut co-chair of ALEC, Ms. Hovey was a member of its Public Safety and Elections Task Force that was extremely successful in propagating that notorious "stand your ground" legislation (though, thankfully, not in Connecticut).

Now the law in half the states, "stand your ground" came to ALEC from the National Rifle Association (NRA), which has endorsed Ms. Hovey and given her high grades for her legislative performance.

The law has been a major tool for the defense in the prosecution of the self appointed neighborhood watcher who shot and killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Florida last year. The defendant claims he shot Martin out of fear the unarmed youth was going to kill him.

But the law, dubbed the kill-at-will law by opponents, backfired on ALEC when it inspired angry protests to corporations that supported the organization.

As a result, ALEC announced it was disbanding Ms. Hovey's task force to concentrate on economic issues. But it was a little late and ALEC has lost the financial support of Coca-Cola, CVS, Miller Coors, Blue Shield and Blue Cross, Wal-Mart, Procter & Gamble, McDonald's, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Apple, Pepsico, Johnson & Johnson, Merck, and Kraft Foods, among others.

Maybe all this will result in a chastened Rep. Hovey or, at least, prompt some voter reflection about her next election.

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