Jefferson City – The right-wing, corporate funded American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) claims not to lobby, but recently disclosed documents and the group’s own actions show otherwise.
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.
“ALEC exists to get its corporate sponsors’ bills passed into law, and to facilitate corporate lobbying of state lawmakers,” Morgan, the bill’s sponsor, said.
“ALEC tells the public and IRS they aren’t lobbying in Jefferson City and other state Capitols around the country, but that doesn’t pass the smell test. If ALEC has nothing to hide, they’ll have no problem following the rules required of every other lobbyist in Missouri.”
As introduced, the ALEC Transparency Act would:
• Require ALEC and anyone else who asks legislators to file model legislation to register as lobbyists, and disclose any gifts or junkets provided to legislators, just like other lobbyists do.
• Require legislative bill summaries to note if bills or resolutions are based on models provided by ALEC or other organizations
“So-called ‘right-to-work’ legislation we see year after year is a great example of how the ALEC scheme works,” Otto, a co-sponsor of the bill said.
“Politicians here in Missouri claim the bills as their own ideas, without disclosing that corporations crafted and pre-voted on the model legislation that serves as the basis for their attacks on working families at some closed-door meeting a long way from here,” Otto said.
Right-to-work, the anti-union, anti-worker measure designed to strip unions of the financial ability to fight for workers, failed in the Missouri Legislature this year but is expected to come back – perhaps as early as next year – likely as a ballot measure to be placed before voters.
DON’T WANT THE PUBLIC TO KNOW
“I am really troubled by what we’re learning about ALEC and what I’ve seen firsthand in Jefferson City,” Norr, another bill co-sponsor, said.
“ALEC has gone to great lengths to hide its activities and the corporate authors of the bills it wants legislators to introduce. Why? It’s pretty obvious: They don’t want the public to know that the politicians in their pockets have outsourced their work to corporations who don’t care a lick about the Missouri families we’re here to represent.”
ALEC has been subject to three separate citizen complaints challenging its charitable, tax-exempt status.
• The late Bob Edgar, formerly the leader of good government group Common Cause, and his wife filed a “whistleblower” complaint with hundreds of pages of supporting documents demonstrating that ALEC has abused its charitable status by engaging in substantial undisclosed lobbying.
• Former IRS Exempt Organizations director Marcus Owens filed another complaint on behalf of Clergy VOICE, a group of Christian ministers in Ohio, alleging that ALEC operates primarily for the private benefit of its corporate members rather than for any sort of public welfare.
• The Voters Legislative Transparency Project has also filed a complaint challenging ALEC’s charitable status based on its lobbying and its corporate funded trips for lawmakers (documented by the Center for Media and Democracy, even though ALEC repeatedly told the IRS it spent no money on travel for lawmakers).
Corporations foot the bill for much of the legislator travel to ALEC meetings, gifts that can buy influence, even if ALEC calls them ‘scholarships.’
Through the ALEC ‘scholarship’ program, corporations and their lobbyists give ALEC money that is used to reimburse legislators from that state for their flights, hotel rooms, and meals for ALEC meetings. Some legislators are informed which corporations paid their way, and even asked to send lobbyists a thank you note.