John Oliver Takes on ALEC

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One of the joys of this year in television has been HBO’s Last Week with John Oliver, the satirical take on the news that has generated a new genre some have dubbed “investigative comedy.”

Oliver and his talented team of writers and producers have given viewers some of the most cogent and pointed commentary on America anywhere in the media. They have tackled at length such difficult subjects as drone warfare, Net neutrality and civil forfeiture, among others, and have done so with a mix of wit and creativity that can make the most brain-numbing yet important issues understandable — and funny.

Last night’s penultimate show for the year took on two topics close to the heart of Moyers & Company: the power of state legislatures (“Increasingly, they’re the places where most legislation is actually taking place”) and the pernicious influence of the American Legislative Exchange Council – ALEC. That’s the “conservative bill mill,” in Oliver’s words, funded by corporations and such wealthy individuals as the Koch brothers to generate right-wing, pro-business laws in statehouses all across the country.

On Last Week, Oliver said, “All those conspiracy theories about a shadow government are actually true. Only it’s not a group of billionaires meeting in a mountain lair in Zurich, it’s a bunch of pasty bureaucrats meeting in a windowless committee room in Lansing, Michigan.” See for yourself – but be aware that as usual, some of the language is NSFW.

Michael Winship is the Emmy Award-winning senior writer of Moyers & Company and BillMoyers.com, and a former senior writing fellow at the policy and advocacy group Demos. Follow him on Twitter: @MichaelWinship.
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