Nov 4, 2013
Of late, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has been searching for new revenue streams. With more than 50 corporations and non-profits abandoning ALEC and their agenda over the past couple of years, ALEC has lost a considerable amount of “dues, fees” and “event sponsorship” financing.
Facing such losses, ALEC now seeks to expand their search for funding to supplement what they now receive from their corporate and non-profit members…and believe it or not, they are now reaching out to deceased conservatives through a new “Legacy Membership” program that allows individuals to remember ALEC in their will…name ALEC as insurance beneficiaries or name ALEC in a “life income plan!”
Another new program is to open membership to former legislators from the U.S. and elsewhere through their “Alumni Membership” program.
Another revenue stream is being sought through fundraisers held state by state, promoted, sponsored and paid for by ALEC corporate companies – and used to further ALEC’s agenda while generating income through “ticket sales”. In ND, legislators will pay $250.00 to attend the latest ALEC fund raiser sponsored and paid for by Montana-Dakota Utilities (MDU). MDU is ALEC’s North Dakota private sector chair.
As you will find, ALEC is no stranger to North Dakota – and the illegal tactics they have used to promote legislation beneficial to corporate interests:
From North Decoder.com
The corrupt ALEC organization is coming to North Dakota next week. And your public utility company is paying for it with money you are required to pay to the MDU monopoly if you want electricty. (Unless you’re served by a cooperative or are in the eastern part of the state.) A lot of people don’t know what “ALEC” is, so I’m going to tell you. I’ve written about ALEC a few times before, but I’ll do it again. ALEC is a corrupt organization that lobbies legislators in North Dakota and other states on behalf of polluters, oil companies (but I repeat myself), private for-profit prisons, big banks, bad insurance companies and big pharma. If you see a proposed law that will take accountability away for polluters, oil companies, private prisons, big banks, bad insurance companies or negligent pharmaceutical companies, you can bet the legislation is the handiwork of some ALEC minion.
Back during the 2009 North Dakota legislative session, ALEC sent two of its operatives into North Dakota to lobby to protect one specific asbestos company from liability when that company’s product hurt or killed someone. After I busted them for lobbying illegally (without registering), those two lobbyists promptly filed the proper paperwork with the North Dakota Secretary of State’s office. (You can read all about that by clicking here.) Of course, neither the Secretary of State nor the Attorney General nor any State’s Attorney ever prosecuted those lobbyists for illegally lobbying. They are not in the business of enforcing the laws against their corporate masters and owners.
Then, in July of 2010, when its operatives filed its IRS form 990 (non-profit tax return), ALEC lied on its 2009 tax return. Non-profits are required — under federal tax law — to disclose whether they “engage in lobbying activities” on their tax return. When ALEC filled out its 2009 return, they lied to the IRS and said they had not engaged in lobbying activities in 2009, despite the irrefutable fact that two of its operatives registered as lobbyists in North Dakota, and they lobbied here, during the 2009 legislative session. They checked the box that says “No” in response to the question “Did the organization engage in lobbying activities?” (See my blog post about this, with a copy of their Form 990, here.) This was a big enough deal, nationally, so that it raised the attention of a top IRS administrator — Marcus Owens, “who for a decade directed the [IRS] division responsible for approving organizations’ charity status.” (RollCall.com) Here’s what RollCall.com wrote about it after one group filed an IRS complaint about it at the time:
The complaint, filed on behalf of Clergy Voice, a group of Christian clergy in Ohio, notes that ALEC denied engaging in lobbying activity in its federal tax filings covering the years 2008 and 2009. At the same time, two of its lawyers were registered to lobby in at least one state, North Dakota. False reporting on these forms has been found to be a criminal offense considered perjury in at least four recent cases, Owens said.
RollCall.com (emphasis added) (go read the whole story)
Let’s be clear about something: You’ve never read, heard or seen anything about any of this in any North Dakota mainstream media outlet. That’s because they are all bought-and-paid-for by ALEC and its owners.
So yesterday’s Bismarck Teabune had a nice little story in it by one of its cub half-journalists, Nick Smith; someone who obviously knows nothing about ALEC, or doesn’t care about publishing the whole story. His fluff piece reads like something from any small town social register. “Mary Lou Hindsworth hosting a ladies tea party next Friday.” Here’s part of his unhelpful, half-story drivel.
A social event will be held next week in Bismarck for lawmakers to meet and raise money for a legislative organization that pushes for free-market legislation.
MDU Resources will be hosting a beer and wine tasting for lawmakers Wednesday at its corporate campus in Bismarck. The event is to promote and raise money for the American Legislative Exchange Council.
ALEC is a corporate-funded organization that works with conservative legislators as well as businesses and foundations to create models for state legislatures to pass.
The group on its website lists its main legislative principles as free-market enterprise, limited government and federalism. Policies the group has pushed in several states in the past include reducing corporate taxation and regulations, promoting gun rights and minimizing environmental regulations.
This award-winning, passes-for-journalism-in-North-Dakota mush reminds me of something in the Farewell Column written by past-editor Lee Morris of the Valley City Times Record back in 2011. Remember that? Morris snuck his good-bye column into the newspaper by putting a fake title and author at the top, but then wrote an honest piece about how his corporate masters were demanding that the paper produce “more coverage on events such as Chamber of Commerce luncheons and ribbon-cutting ceremonies” (more here) and that he couldn’t continue to pretend he was producing real journalism under those circumstances. Then Morris promptly resigned. Today we get to watch the Bismarck Tribune’s “reporters” write about social events hosted by MDU that pretend to be “fundraisers” for ALEC.
So what’s the truth? The truth is that ALEC is — and should be — scared to death to come back into North Dakota to do more lobbying, like it always does, because it accidentally admitted it was lobbying in 2009. The truth is ALEC lied on its 2009 tax return. The truth is they haven’t been prosecuted — to my knowledge — and that’s probably because the IRS and/or the Justice Department is afraid of being accused of engaging in politics. Legislators won’t be paying $250 to attend this fundraiser. They just won’t. The truth is the corrupt ALEC organization is trying to recover from its “rough spot” in North Dakota. The truth is that we’re not getting the news from our “newspapers.” And we should all be upset by this.
But we’re not.
We’re too busy listening to knuckleheads on the radio complaining about how the Democrats think even poor people should have access to health care. We’re too busy focusing on hater(s) in Leith. We’re all mad that the federal government’s website isn’t able to enroll in private health insurance the people Republicans don’t want enrolling anyway.
Maybe we don’t deserve anything better than the nonsense we get from the Bismarck Tribune. Maybe Nick Smith is serving us the crap sandwich we deserve.
Someone on DailyKos suggests North Dakotans ought to organize a protest. What are you going to do about it?
(For more on ALEC, read this report from the American Association for Justice. NorthDecoder is cited in several endnotes (e.g. 1, 36, 37, 47). That’s because we sniffed out (some of) ALEC’s corruption in North Dakota and broke the illegal-lobbying story.)