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ALEC to be met with Chicago protests

Tuesday, Aug 6, 2013

* The American Legislative Exchange Council is meeting in Chicago this week to celebrate its 40th anniversary, and opposition groups are gearing up. From a Common Cause and Center for Media and Democracy press release…

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is running a secretive, multi-million dollar slush fund that finances lavish trips for state legislators and has misled the Internal Revenue Service about the fund’s activity, two government watchdog groups charged today.

Common Cause and the Center for Media and Democracy said the “scholarship fund” scheme also raises serious questions about ALEC’s compliance with state gift and disclosure laws, and the ethics of lawmakers who accept ALEC’s travel payments.

The watchdogs said that by funneling money through ALEC, that group’s corporate sponsors are able to take a federal tax deduction for the cost of wining, dining and housing lawmakers and their families at resorts and events like ALEC’s 40th anniversary meeting this week at Chicago’s posh Palmer House Hilton (August 7-9). Meanwhile, ALEC conceals the sources of the funds from the public and hides the amount of spending from the IRS by claiming that it only holds the funds in “trust,” while writing lawmakers’ checks to cover their trips.

Common Cause and CMD laid out details of the fund’s operation in an IRS tax whistleblower complaint and letter to the IRS Commissioner.

The groups have built their case based on documents obtained through open records requests, and are taking a number of actions this week to urge a crackdown on the ALEC

The IRS tax whistleblower complaint is here. The letter to the IRS Commissioner is here. An investigative report, Buying Influence, is here.

* A protest is planned for Thursday. From a Center for Media and Democracy press release…

According to ALEC, up to 2,000 state legislators and lobbyists are expected to be meeting behind closed doors inside the Palmer House Hilton in downtown Chicago. Although ALEC’s leaders have told the press its meetings are open to the public, reporters have been blocked from meetings where corporations and politicians vote as equals, bounced from other meetings, denied credentials, and even threatened with arrest.

In its latest move to shield its activities from pubic scrutiny, ALEC has begun stamping legislation and materials it gives to lawmakers as exempt from state open records laws. It has also resorted to using a drop box service Box.com in an attempt to evade legislators’ open records obligations. CMD is litigating this issue in Wisconsin in a suit against ALEC’s National Treasurer. Read more here.

Outside the ALEC conference, protests are planned for noon on August 8, led by the Chicago Federation of Labor.

* For background, this is from a December, 2012 Bloomberg report

ALEC this week released its 2013 state legislative priorities and proposed legislation to accomplish them, including ending traditional pensions for newly hired public employees, repealing requirements that utilities buy electricity from environmentally friendly sources, using taxpayer dollars for religious schools, and limiting lawsuits by consumers injured by faulty products.

There was a small protest at the Palmer House yesterday and a handful of people were arrested. The big event is Thursday. Fred Klonsky has video.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

16 Comments
  1. - OneMan - Tuesday, Aug 6, 13 @ 9:48 am:

    Sorry the alternate Chicago video unit is going to chaperoning a middle school band trip to a waterpark…


  2. - x ace - Tuesday, Aug 6, 13 @ 9:52 am:

    Wow


  3. - shore - Tuesday, Aug 6, 13 @ 9:53 am:

    these guys aren’t a pop up freakshow organization and this smacks of over sensitivity + makes the city look horrendous. They’ve been around a long long time and I’m pretty sure Rauschenberger worked for them after he lost a gov or senate bid moons ago.


  4. - Rich Miller - Tuesday, Aug 6, 13 @ 9:54 am:

    Shore, Rauschenberger was an NCSL official, not ALEC. Big dif. Very big dif.


  5. - OneMan - Tuesday, Aug 6, 13 @ 9:56 am:

    Shore…

    Lots of folks (I have some liberal pals who think these guys are all that is evil) have a beef with these guys, I think in part because of their agenda and in part because of their success…

    Suffice to say I think it will more than just the usual suspects protesting on Thursday.


  6. - wordslinger - Tuesday, Aug 6, 13 @ 10:19 am:

    I wonder what kind of booths are going to be set up at the ALEC conference:

    –Transvaginal probe demonstrations

    –Free urine tests

    –The Flinstones as history

    –Rock the disenfranchisement

    –SNAP surf n’ turf cooking demonstrations

    Lots of possibilities.


  7. - Boog - Tuesday, Aug 6, 13 @ 10:23 am:

    CMD and Common Cause…now there are a couple of unbiased organizations…


  8. - 47th Ward - Tuesday, Aug 6, 13 @ 10:48 am:

    Word, don’t forget the panel on how to pass Stand Your Ground laws. It’s working well in Florida I hear.


  9. - walkinfool - Tuesday, Aug 6, 13 @ 11:45 am:

    They shop already drafted bills, customized for your state, to (mostly GOP) legislators, — more than any other organization or lobby I have seen. That is a disturbing intervention in the governmental process.

    It’s legal, effective, and is made to work by lazy legislators and staff. When language in a bill repeated some national GOP or Conservative radio talking points, we would ask “Is that an ALEC bill?” amid laughter.


  10. - Think. - Tuesday, Aug 6, 13 @ 11:52 am:

    The SMART ALEC
    Secretly shapes public policy in states where Republican legislators are in the majority.

    Model bills are created that promote the pro-business ideology of big corporations.

    Anti-public interest and anti-union views are implied in much of its model legislation.

    Retains a non-profit status, but furthers the profit-driven agenda of wealthy companies.

    Teaches conservative lawmakers how to sponsor, lobby, and vote for its policies.

    ALEC’s legislative members often introduce its model bills without changing the text.

    Legislation is modified to make sure that powerful corporate interests are satisfied.

    Extreme initiatives do not reflect the views of the majority of the citizens in the USA.

    Corporate greed will continue to grow, unless people work to boycott ALEC corporations.

    Americans must speak out and vote against any politician who promotes the initiatives of this SMART ALEC, known as the American Legislative Exchange Council.


  11. - b - Tuesday, Aug 6, 13 @ 12:12 pm:

    Thanks for the post. People need to wake up. These guys are behind lots of suboptimal policies. Telecom dereg being one of them.


  12. - Old and In The Way - Tuesday, Aug 6, 13 @ 12:35 pm:

    Sadly the telecomm rewrite has been under the radar. ALEC has had a big influence in Illinois both in telecomm and utilities whether people realize it or not. It’s not just the GOP that is lazy and can be bought!


  13. - countryboy - Tuesday, Aug 6, 13 @ 1:00 pm:

    Is Dillard still the Illinois honcho for ALEC?


  14. - Adam Smith - Tuesday, Aug 6, 13 @ 2:18 pm:

    Extremists on both ends of the spectrum share their paranoia gene.

    I was active in ALEC in a previous corporate position. Businesses and business groups gathered to share information with ALEC staff and legislators. Yes, they have an agenda, just like the left-leaning groups that draft model legislation and bring their allies together to advocate for their agenda.

    It’s all part of this big messy thing we call democracy. It isn’t sinister, unless you disagree with the policies. But are our “progressive” friends trying to expose the ways that their allied organizations play the same games with money, influence and access? Not likely.


  15. - wordslinger - Tuesday, Aug 6, 13 @ 2:48 pm:

    –It’s all part of this big messy thing we call democracy. It isn’t sinister, unless you disagree with the policies.–

    No, I’d say a lobbying group/phony tax-exempt that promotes a national agenda of perverting the law to disenfranchise legal voters is a wee bit sinister.

    Still trying to figure out how they rationalize a goal of mandatory transvaginal probes for those seeking abortion with their mission statement of “limited government.”

    Apparently, not limited to any intrusion.


  16. - Arthur Andersen - Tuesday, Aug 6, 13 @ 3:46 pm:

    Adam, maybe at one time, but the bedroom-probing, pension-killing ALEC is not a straight-up shop any more. If you visit here often, you would know that AA would seldom be described as a lefty.


Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.


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