Dec 7, 2013
by Bob Sloan
Lots of reassuring news for those pursuing transparency in legislation AND the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) this week. As ALEC met in DC this past week for their annual States and Nation Policy Summit, the Guardian released a scathing expose on that organization, using more leaked ALEC documents. In addition VISA announced they were quitting ALEC…after Visa’s Vice President of State Relations, Paul Russinoff, received ALEC’s “Private Sector Member of the Year” award in 2012.
Documents acquired and made public by the Guardian in the ALEC article; “ALEC facing funding crisis from donor exodus in wake of Trayvon Martin row” revealed just how badly publicity and activism has hurt ALEC over the past three years since the Center for Media and Democracy first released all of ALEC’s model legislation and other documents on July 13, 2011. At every ALEC meeting, “Summit” and conference since then, protesters have demonstrated and others have provided public teach-ins or community action seminars to inform the public about ALEC and their activities.
Last week the ALEC Summit in DC was also protested by activists and informed citizens working to abolish ALEC and stop their interference with writing and proposing state laws designed to enrich corporations and their elite owners. Union workers, food service workers, teachers and postal workers showed up Thursday and marched from Franklin Park to the Hyatt in Northwest DC where ALEC’s meeting was taking place.
While working Americans marched in the streets of DC, Keynote GOP speakers such as Ted Cruz and Indiana Governor Mike Pence took to the stage at the ALEC convention, applauding ALEC and their efforts of lowering taxes for the rich, privatizing education and making private scholastic corporations unbelievably rich…for holding down wages for working Americans to further enrich the 1%. Cruz actually advised ALEC to “Stand Your Ground” (@4:12) in the face of the increasing pressure to abolish them.
As usual, ALEC refused entry to legitimate media; reporters, journalists and refused to allow any cameras or video equipment or crews into the hotel during their “Summit”.
Labor representatives were ejected when they attempted to get legislators attending the conference to sign a pledge to put the needs of their constituents first. John Williams, Head of the Washington DC Central Labor Council, was thrown out of the Hyatt lobby when he tried to get legislators to sign what he called a “Rights Priority Pledge.” “Nobody wanted to sign the pledge because they said it did not apply to them,” he said.
Washington Post reporter, Dana Milbank was excited to be attending an ALEC meeting last week, anticipating learning about the initiatives presented by ALEC that would be discussed in task force meetings and working groups…
“I descended the escalators at the Grand Hyatt downtown, two floors below street level, excited by the possibilities listed on the ALEC agenda: “The environment and energy task force, led by private-sector American Electric Power. The tax and fiscal policy task force, headed by Altria. The international relations task force, run by Philip Morris. The commerce and insurance task force, by State Farm. And the health and human services task force, by Guarantee Trust Life Insurance.“
However, like journalists and reporters from as far away as Toronto previously discovered, entrance to an ALEC function was not possible unless reporting for a “friendly” Right Wing outlet – as reported by CMD:
“Select media have been allowed to hear keynote addresses from politicians and to attend “workshops,” but ALEC has denied press credentials to news outlets including Al Jazeera, The Nation, and Think Progress. Hotel security has even accosted and questioned credentialed press speaking to other reporters without credentials or interviewing protestors, such as the Toronto Star and the Arizona Republic.“
Like dozens of other credentialed journalists over the past three years, Mr. Milbank was refused entry to any of the functions – except a luncheon…which ALEC’s security advised he could attend only if he did not record it:
“Alas, I was quickly regurgitated from the belly of the beast. Outside the meeting rooms, a D.C. police officer, stationed to keep out the riffraff, turned me away. “Our business meetings are not open, and so the subcommittee meetings and task force meetings are not open,” explained Bill Meierling, an ALEC spokesman. I could wait a few hours and then attend a luncheon and some workshops, as long as I promised not to record them.”
ALEC has promised critics that they will provide “transparency” about their activities, lobbying, model bills and about legislative actions taken at their 3 annual events. But to date, the organization has worked overtime to bury any semblance of transparency behind a facade built upon new layers of secrecy. They have gone so far as to now claim that any communications between ALEC and state lawmakers is privileged and thus exempt from disclosure through responses to FOIA requests.
An even darker development is a draft agreement prepared for the Summit proposing that Alec’s chairs in each of the 50 states, who are drawn from senior legislators, should be required to put the interests of ALEC first before the interests of their constituents, thus setting up a possible conflict of interest with the voters who elected them.
Under multiple IRS complaints by whisteleblowers claiming ALEC has been abusing, misusing or hiding their lobbying activities and expenditures as a 501 (c)(3) tax exempt “charity”, ALEC has offered up a new program designed to circumvent such IRS tax prohibitions and restrictions: “The Jeffersonian Project” (@pg. 15) which will be a 501 (c)(4) with much more lenience in performing lobbying activities. A Memorandum (provided below) from ALEC’s counsel, Alan P. Dye admits that activities performed heretofore by ALEC could indeed be considered “lobbying” by IRS definitions – as could activities of this “Jeffersonian Project”. It also advises that “it is possible that at some point the IRS will audit ALEC”…
In concert with ALEC’s 40th States and Nation meeting last week, dozens of news articles, blog posts and reports have hit the media. Each reporting on one or more of ALEC’s initiatives relating to; voter ID, voter suppression, environmental deregulation, criminal justice, immigration, healthcare, worker’s rights, wages, anti-union and similar “model legislation” efforts. Each of these are/were critical of ALEC efforts and written to inform and warn voters about upcoming legislation proposed and now being pushed by ALEC nationwide. Below examples of some of the articles about ALEC this week and a video of the DC protest march against ALEC and corporate greed:
This mass reporting about ALEC is a welcome development. As recent as 2010 few were aware of ALEC and any media reference to their activities were usually found only in articles written and published by Conservative leaning outlets – and were published to applaud ALEC’s work to that faction.
Late last month it was an expose by CMD linking the State Policy Network (SPN) and their dozens of affiliates to ALEC and their cabal funded by the likes of the Koch brothers that helped many understand precisely how dangerous this huge cabal has become to our democracy. Through these organizations with members and acolytes throughout our U.S. Congress, state legislatures and former ALEC members holding key positions within many state and federal agencies this minority made up of Conservatives and ultra-Conservatives have been able to obstruct our entire government and defeat the will of the majority of Americans. They have become so powerful and influential over the past 4 decades that today ALEC has dozens of foreign elected officials on their membership roles…foreign conservatives who come here on travel paid for by ALEC to help them and the SPN/Koch cabal set policies for Americans to live and abide by.
VLTP applauds the work of CMD, PFAW, ProgressNow, Color of Change, Common Cause, the AFL-CIO, American Postal Worker’s Union, Daily Kos Bloggers and the other organizations that have joined forces to keep exposing ALEC, the SPN and all of Koch’s cabal for their lack of transparency and pursuit of anti-democratic activities. Through the work of these dedicated groups, organizations and individuals our democratic heritage and rights are beginning to win out. Hopefully through these efforts ALEC will soon become a thing of the past – as will corporate corruption and control of our elected officials.