State Capture

How Conservatives Claimed Power and How to Restore Balance

Over the past forty years, conservatives have mastered the art of pursuing policy change at the state level, while similar liberal efforts have floundered. Today, conservatives fully control 26 state legislatures and governorships — one of the largest advantages either party has had since the New Deal.

What did the party do right? How have conservatives learned from their mistakes over the years? And why have liberals struggled to build similar cross-state organizing clout?

In State Capture: How Conservative Activists, Big Businesses, and Wealthy Donors Reshaped the American States -- and the Nation, Alex Hertel-Fernandez provides the first in-depth and accessible history of the rise of cross-state conservative lobbying groups, including the American Legislative Exchange Council, the State Policy Network, and Americans for Prosperity, documenting both their victories and their missteps over time. In his book, Hertel-Fernandez also spells out the specific policy consequences of conservative cross-state organizing, including its effects on labor market standards, unions, and the Affordable Care Act. The book also tracks liberal efforts to counter-balance the right and why they have frequently failed to match conservative scale and clout.

Please join New America’s Political Reform program for a new kind of book event in which we talk about lessons learned from Hertel-Fernandez’s work and how what they teach in the present moment. In addition to Hertel-Fernandez’s presentation, program fellow Lydia Bean, a Harvard-trained sociologist and movement strategist, will share her perspectives and first-hand experiences on state power-building and how a strategy that has so far worked for conservatives may not succeed for liberals. Bean and Hertel-Fernandez will also be joined by program director Mark Schmitt, whose experience as a foundation program officer will shed light on the role of philanthropy in propelling or hindering state-power building.

Copies of the book will be available for purchase.


Alex Hertel-Fernandez, @awh
Assistant Professor of Public Affairs, Columbia SIPA
Author, State Capture: How Conservative Activists, Big Businesses, and Wealthy Donors Reshaped the American States — and the Nation

Lydia Bean, @LydiaBeanTexas
Fellow, Political Reform Program at New America

Mark Schmitt, @mschmitt9
Director, Political Reform Program at New America