ALEC spent more than $40,000 on junkets for Missouri legislators in just four years
Jefferson City – The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) spent more than $40,000 on travel for Missouri legislators from 2008-2012 in gifts exclusive of what ALEC’s corporate members disclosed on lobbying gift reports, research by Progress Missouri reveals.
ALEC flew their legislators, including Speaker Tim Jones (R-Eureka), State Co-Chair Sen. Ed Emery (R-Lamar), and now Congressman Jason Smith (R-Salem) to so-called “educational” conferences at luxury hotels in New Orleans, San Diego, Los Angeles, Charlotte, and Washington, where they were presented with model bills to take back to Missouri and present as their own. Missouri legislators have taken at least 50 ALEC-funded trips since 2008.
The Missouri Ethics Commission does not post Personal Financial Disclosures online; however, Progress Missouri has created an online repository (http://progressmissouri.org/data-dump-missouri-legislators-personal-financial-disclosure-docs) to make the data available to the public.
WHAT IS ALEC?
ALEC describes itself as a “nonpartisan public-private partnership of America’s state legislators, members of the private sector and the general public,” but ALEC has also been characterized by the New York Times as a “stealth business lobbyist” and as a “bill laundry” for corporate policy ideas by Bloomberg BusinessWeek.
ALEC is best known for producing model legislation for state governments that maps closely to the economic interests of the firms that are members of the group.
In recent years, ALEC has promoted bills that would privatize state services, cut taxes, weaken unions (especially in the public sector) and soften or eliminate labor and environmental regulations.
SPEAKER JONES TOOK 11 TRIPS
From 2009-2012, Speaker Jones took 11 trips worth nearly $12,000 funded by ALEC. In August 2010, ALEC spent nearly $2,500 to fly Jones, his wife, and children to San Diego for a family vacation at ALEC’s annual meeting.
OTHERS TOPPING THE LIST
Also topping the list of ALEC funded travel are former State Senator Jane Cunningham (R-Chesterfield) with 10 trips worth nearly $9,000, State Senator Emery with five trips worth $6,000, former State Representative and current Congressman Smith with 11 trips worth nearly $6,000, and Representative Andrew Koenig (R-Manchester) with seven trips worth nearly $4,000.
NEED FOR TRANSPARENCY
Due to Missouri’s weak lobbying laws, ALEC is not required to register as a lobbyist nor are they required to report lobbying expenditures each month. Lawmakers are required to disclose the ALEC funded trips on their personal financial disclosures, but these forms are filed annually, sometimes a full year after the expenditures actually took place, and the MEC does not post these disclosures online for public review.
Missouri representatives Judy Morgan (D-Kansas City), Bill Otto (D-Maryland Heights) and Charlie Norr (D-Springfield) recently filed an ALEC Transparency Act to require ALEC staff and any other organizations or individuals who distribute “model legislation” to register as lobbyists with the Missouri Ethics Commission.
Under the legislation, ALEC would finally be required to register as a formal lobbying group and to regularly disclose the junkets it provides to legislators, just like all other lobbying interests in the state.
For more on ALEC’s historical and growing influence in the Missouri legislature, see Progress Missouri’s reports at www.ProgressMissouri.org/ALEC.
(Some information for this story from Alexander Hertel-Fernandez, doctoral candidate in government and social policy at Harvard University and a member of the Scholars Strategy Network.)