Brendan Fischer

More Lack of Transparency by ALEC Revealed and Reported

More Lack of Transparency by ALEC Revealed and Reported

From an article at PRWatch by Brendan Fischer

Here we go again, with more information coming out about ALEC’s Spring Summit event in Oklahoma City. While advising the public that the ALEC organization is pursuing “transparency” they send out instructions to members to in effect, be non-transparent…

“Shortly after the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) told the press “we really believe in transparency,” new documents show the organization directing legislators to hide ALEC meeting agendas and model legislation from the public. This effort to circumvent state freedom of information laws is being called “shocking” and “disturbing” by transparency advocates.

ALEC disclaimer

“A disclaimer published at the bottom of meeting agendas and model bills from ALEC’s most recent meeting in Oklahoma City, obtained by the Center for Media and Democracy, reads: “Because this is an internal ALEC document, ALEC believes it is not subject to disclosure under any state Freedom of Information or Public Records Act.”

“If you receive a request for disclosure of this or any other ALEC document under your state’s Freedom of Information or Public Records Act, please contact Michael Bowman, Senior Director, Policy and Strategic Initiatives,” it says.

It isn’t just VLTP, PRWatch, CMD and Common Cause making the claim that what ALEC is attempting to do is unethical and raising questions of legality regarding the release of documents sought.  Mark Caramanica, the Freedom of Information Director at the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press told CMD’s Fischer;

“Private individuals or organizations cannot simply label a document private and say it is private on their own. It is not their decision to make.”

Legislators attend ALEC meetings in their official capacity, and ALEC has claimed that they do so “on behalf of and for the benefit of the state.” Under almost every state’s public records law, all documents related to official business are considered public unless there is a specific exemption, defined and passed by the legislature, and embodied in the statutes. “ALEC cannot create exemptions of [its] own imagination,” Caramanica told the Center for Media and Democracy.”

“This certainly raises the question,” asks Caramanica, “what are their motives for trying to keep their documents secret?”

Time and time again those of us researching, investigating and reporting on ALEC activities have told the public that ALEC simply cannot be trusted.  They lie, lie again and swear it isn’t a lie, then decline to comment when the facts and documents clearly show they have lied.  Again, they have demonstrated that ALEC cannot be believed and that is worrisome. They continue to assert that what they’re doing in secret behind closed doors causes no harm to Americans…is that simply another of their continuous lies?

This is one key reason ALEC needs to be abolished from our political landscape.  Behind their continued secrecy they are working diligently to craft laws and resolutions that benefit the GOP’s conservative wing – at a cost to all Americans, regardless of party affiliation.

Read the in-depth Brendan Fischer article from PRWatch -> HERE <-

ALEC Assembles “Most Wanted” List, and Ejects Journalists From Annual Spring Summit

ALEC Assembles “Most Wanted” List, and Ejects Journalists From Annual Spring Summit

From PRWatch by Brendan Fischer and Nick Surgey

At the recent Spring Summit of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) held in Oklahoma City, ALEC security staffers went to great lengths to assure that only journalists involved with conservative media outlets were allowed access to the Cox Convention Center where the organization’s members were meeting to develop, vote on and adopt proposed conservative model legislation.

Earlier this year ALEC publicly announced they were making changes to promote transparency in their activities.  One major change was the public release of ALEC’s 2013 model legislation.  They claimed:

“The move will allow the group to become more transparent and better showcase the policies it supports, according to its spokesman.

“We really believe in transparency,” ALEC spokesman Bill Meierling told The Huffington Post. “We believe that more eyes on our model policies will create better policies. We are hoping to engage with the public.”

Groups and organizations that have been pursuing just such transparency were skeptical in March when the announcement was made by ALEC.  That skepticism turned out to be accurate – as the article quoted from and linked to below informs…

“In anticipation of protests at ALEC’s recent meeting in Oklahoma City, state legislators were handed a set of talking points that read “The American Legislative Exchange Council recognizes the first amendment rights of free speech and assembly, and asks that _____ do the same,” apparently to prepare legislators for press questions about citizen activism. But ALEC didn’t live up to those spoon-fed talking points: ALEC assembled a dossier of disfavored reporters and activists, kicked reporters out of its conference who might write unfavorable stories, and managed to boot a community forum critical of ALEC from its reserved room.

“CMD later obtained a document titled “OKC anti-ALEC photos” at the ALEC conference.

“The page featured the pictures and names of eight people, four of whom work with CMD, including Surgey, CMD’s general counsel Brendan Fischer and its Executive Director Lisa Graves, as well as CMD contributor Beau Hodai.

“It is not known whether the photo array of people who have reported on or criticized ALEC was distributed to ALEC members or shared with Oklahoma City law enforcement.”

With ALEC it is always the same…use propaganda to make claims of transparency, “that ALEC is open to the public” or that proposed state legislation did not originate with ALEC.  Later, when each of these claims turns out to have been falsehoods, ALEC will have “no comment” when questioned by actual journalists.  Of course, ultra-right wing conservative “reporters” working for Breitbart, Fox News or similar forums will insist that ALEC is transparent, that their claims are all factual and anyone accusing ALEC of not being transparent, are all left wing conspiracy theorists.

The Fischer/Surgey article should put all claims of “conspiracy” to rest.   Take the time to read the entire PRWatch article -> HERE <-

ALEC Covering Tracks in Advance of Oklahoma Meeting

ALEC Covering Tracks in Advance of Oklahoma Meeting

From PRWatch by Brendan Fischer

For months now the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) has been submitting FOIA requests to Wisconsin lawmakers.  They have requested emails to/from legislators and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).  These requests for documentation is in pursuit of transparency…to determine model legislation emanating from ALEC that is introduced in Wisconsin.  In addition, CMD asked for materials that would be distributed by ALEC at their Spring Task Force Summit this week in Oklahoma City, Ok.

Regardless of claims of transparency given to MSM and conservative media outlets by ALEC, their actions refute such claims.  For instance, in March ALEC announced it was making their “library” of model bills public in an effort of promoting transparency.  They not only made their model legislation publicly available, in the press release they made their first attempt at distancing themselves from the stigma surrounding the acronym “ALEC”, by now referring to their organization as the “Exchange Council”:

“[T]he Exchange Council develops model policies based on academic research, existing state policy and proven business practices. The Council and its task forces closely imitate the legislative process of state government. Ideas are introduced and assigned to an appropriate task force based on subject and scope. Meetings are conducted where experts present facts and opinions for discussion, just as they would in committee hearings. These discussions are followed by a vote.”

Now we’re informed that actual model bills written and circulated by ALEC to members, for the upcoming conference are so secret ALEC is dispersing them using time sensitive links available only to select members – with a “need to know”.  So much for ALEC’s style of transparency…

“Despite ALEC trying to spin itself as a “transparent” organization, ALEC records have miraculously been disappearing from legislative offices and the organization is engaged in a box drop dodge to avoid disclosure. But while ALEC legislators are meeting behind closed doors with corporate lobbyists, citizens will be rallying in the streets raising awareness about how ALEC’s agenda favors large corporations at the expense of average Americans.

“In the past, the Center for Media and Democracy had obtained advance agendas for ALEC meetings through open records requests to legislators in multiple states. But in recent months ALEC records have miraculously been disappearing from legislative offices.”

Such obfuscation is not a new development…

“This is not the first time that ALEC legislators have attempted to dodge open records requests. Last year, CMD filed a lawsuit against five Wisconsin legislators who had tried evading their responsibilities under the open records law by shifting their ALEC correspondence to a personal email account (like Gmail or Yahoo). When CMD prevailed in the lawsuit, as part of the settlement the legislators acknowledged they had failed to release ALEC-related emails and agreed to comply with the law.”

Someone needs to have a heart-to-heart with ALEC’s new PR Director, Meierling and provide him with Webster’s definition of “transparency.” Nothing about ALEC is transparent – as we have come to understand after several years of research and investigation.  For this an other reasons, demonstrations, marches and union organized events protesting ALEC are being planned for this week in OK. City.  VLTP would urge those located near OK. City to attend and lend their voices to the ALEC inspired protests this week.

Read the entire PRWatch article -> HERE <-

Wisconsin Ethics board fails to curb ALEC shell game

Wisconsin Ethics board fails to curb ALEC shell game

From Brendan Fischer at Capital Times

Analysis by Bob Sloan

The Center for Media and Democracy has had great successes in exposing the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).  Through their efforts ALEC has recently been attempting to change their image by dropping “American Legislative” from their vocabulary, asking members and the media to now refer to them simply as the “Exchange Council”.

While the constant pressure upon ALEC has caused dozens of corporate members to drop or not renew membership…and more than seventy legislative members to do likewise…there in Wisconsin the Ethics Board appears to not be swayed by allegations of improper lobbying by ALEC.  This is sad and a feather in ALEC’s cap, so to speak as Wisconsin is the home of CMD and the base from which it has launched many anti-ALEC projects since mid 2011.

In a state where it is illegal to even buy a cup of coffee for an elected official…the Ethics Board has decided it’s okay to use corporate funding to send dozens of Wisconsin’s lawmakers to posh resorts to be educated in pro-corporate initiatives and ultimately adopt such as model bills.  Other states have passed legislation that recognizes ALEC’s influence but has exempted their activities from lobbying laws (such as Indiana) but in Minnesota the opposite was decided.  In MN. in 1997 they banned ALEC’s “scholarships” as gifts.

Wisconsin’s Ethics Board  should have ruled similarly to the determination made in Minnesota 15 years ago.  Perhaps the fact that Wisconsin has so many ALEC members and their departments and agencies filled with staffers willing to do the bidding of ALEC is why the Board ruled as they did upon a complaint filed last year by CMD.  Whatever the case, Wisconsin continues to be fertile territory for ALEC’s model “legislation” even as CMD and their tireless staff keeps up the pressure to throw the bums to the curb.

Read the full Brendan Fischer article -> HERE <-