Let’s put the bottom line up front: We at the Texas Public Policy Foundation are members of the American Legislative Exchange Council, otherwise known as ALEC, and we’re proud of it. Amid continuing reports of efforts by political critics to isolate and destroy the group because of its limited-government advocacy, it’s appropriate to say a few words in the council’s defense.

ALEC is under sustained attack from organizations that fundamentally disagree with its commitment to limited government and economic freedom. But instead of debating these issues, they are now accusing the 39-year-old council-a partnership of state legislators, entrepreneurs and civil-society organizations-of misdeeds ranging from voter suppression to indirect responsibility for the tragic shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Florida in February.

Though we have not worked directly with ALEC on either voter-ID or self-defense legislation, it’s hard to call the council’s position on either of these positions “extreme,” as its political enemies often do.

In a society where vote fraud is still a real problem, and where Americans are routinely required to show a picture ID to buy cigarettes, cash checks, or enter any major office building in New York City, ALEC dares to suggest that voters be required to show a picture ID. In the imagination of ALEC’s critics, it’s OK to require an ID to ride a train-but not to require an ID to determine the future of the greatest country in the history of the world.

There is now even an effort to link the Martin tragedy with ALEC-supported legislation, sometimes known as “stand your ground” laws, to allow people to defend themselves. Despite the disgraceful eagerness of opportunists to make political hay off a young man’s death, no actual linkage between that crime and the council exists.

ALEC’s real crime is this: For nearly four decades, it has been an effective, engaged facilitator of good governance and liberty-oriented legislation in statehouses across the country. Its critics don’t just object to one or two of the council’s programs, they object to its existence.

Their comments may be legitimate discourse, but this ought to be called what it is. It’s a debate about the role of government in a free society. ALEC is for less government and more freedom. Its opponents are for more government, and the false security that government brings. We know from the lessons of history that earned, individual success is not only the key to happiness and progress, it is the bedrock of a just society. ALEC’s advocacy is really for the American dream.

Our organization, the Texas Public Policy Foundation (based in Austin, Texas), is a modest player on the national stage. Yet what we do generates big results, and not just in our home state, but across America. Much of our good work with ALEC has been accomplished via its Public Safety and Elections task force-the very task force the council recently shut down due to pressure from left-wing groups.

Since 2010, our foundation has worked on a “Right on Crime” program designed to reform state-level criminal-justice policy along common-sense lines that will deliver real justice to victims while offering offenders who pose no threat to public safety a chance to reform.

ALEC has been instrumental in promulgating many lessons from our “Right on Crime” work to policy makers in other states. For example, the Maryland legislature recently passed legislation patterned on ALEC model legislation derived from our work in Texas. The Maryland bill provides incentives to probationers and parolees to pay restitution, hold down steady work, and engage in good behavior in their communities-while saving Marylanders’ taxpayer dollars as recidivism and re-incarceration rates consequently drop.

These aren’t partisan issues. They’re not even ideological, unless common sense and good-governance reforms are ideological. Everyone in every state has a direct interest in effective criminal justice, in safe communities, and in efficient, cost-conscious governance.

Yet prison reform is exactly the sort of activity that ALEC’s attackers have attempted to shut down with relentless criticism and pressure on donors and members.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Health-care reform, pension reform, and a whole range of public-policy challenges will go unconsidered and unmet if ALEC and institutions like it disappear. In their place will be exactly what ALEC’s antagonists publicly decry: a debate dominated by special-interest groups.

Almost two centuries ago, Alexis de Tocqueville wrote: “[T]he unrestrained liberty of association for political purposes . . . offers security against dangers of another kind; in countries where associations are free, secret societies are unknown. In America, there are factions, but no conspiracies.”

ALEC, and the people who constitute it, are not a conspiracy. They are the natural products of a free and vigorous society under the aegis of our First Amendment. We at the Texas Public Policy Foundation are proud to be a part of that.

Ms. Gramm is chairman of the board, and Ms. Rollins is president and CEO, of the Texas Public Policy Foundation.