* 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.