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Daniel HannanChris Heaton-HarrisLiam FoxNirj DevaSyed KamallRichard AshworthRobert SturdyMartin CallananRoger Helmer
Daniel HannanChris Heaton-HarrisLiam FoxNirj DevaSyed KamallRichard AshworthRobert SturdyMartin CallananRoger Helmer

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The Legal Status of ALEC


The New York Times, April 21, 2012,  reports

a review of internal ALEC documents shows that this is only one facet of a sophisticated operation for shaping public policy at a state-by-state level. The records offer a glimpse of how special interests effectively turn ALEC’s lawmaker members into stealth lobbyists, providing them with talking points, signaling how they should vote and collaborating on bills affecting hundreds of issues like school vouchers and tobacco taxes.

Going on to quote Bill Seitz, a member of ALEC's governing board

Mr. Seitz, who sits on ALEC’s governing board, said he believed that liberal groups like Common Cause are attacking the organization out of frustration that “they don’t have a comparable group"

That would seem to rule out the defence that 'we are only doing what the other side do'.

A membership brochure last year boasted that ALEC lawmakers typically introduced more than 1,000 bills based on model legislation each year and passed about 17 percent of them. A members-only newsletter from 1995, found in an online archive of tobacco company documents, bluntly characterized that success ratio as “a good investment.

“Nowhere else can you get a return that high,” it said.


Would that not seem to be an admission that ALEC is buying votes? If that assertion is too strong, we don't believe that to be so, how about the claims that ALEC is acting as an illegal lobbying group under US law?

Alan P. Dye, a lawyer for ALEC, acknowledged that the group’s practice of communicating with lawmakers about specific bills could meet the federal definition of lobbying, if not for an exception that he said applied when such interactions were a result of “nonpartisan research and analysis.” ALEC simply offers independently produced material for elected officials to consider, Mr. Dye said.

Where does this 'independently produced' 'nonpartisan research and analysis' originate? In the screenshot below, from their International Task Force, they quote two organisations that are neither independent nor non-partisan under any reasonable definition of the words.

Alec Source Mayerial

and even more explicit

ALEC sources Helmer

the article 'Swaying American Opinions Congress Should Investigate EU Advocacy in the United States' was written by Sally McNamara. When the EU sent a delegation to the USA as part of its investigation into extraordinary rendition one of the organisations with which they met was ALEC. ALEC was represented by?

ALEC Sally McNamara

just in case there's any doubt as to whether there could be more than one Sally here is part of a speech from a UK member of ALEC

Roger Helmer, Speech to American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), Washington DC – December 1 2004

Mr. President, Ladies and Gentlemen,

As always, it’s a huge pleasure for me, and my colleagues Chris Heaton-Harris and Martin Callanan, to be here with you at another ALEC Conference. I’d like especially to thank Duane Parde, and his fellow officers at ALEC, for the invitation, and I’d also like to thank ALEC staffer Sally McNamara for organising our programme. Sally previously spent five years working for Chris Heaton-Harris and me in the UK and Brussels, before coming to Washington.

The research used by ALEC for the purposes of complying with its legal obligations falls far short of the requirements necessary to satisfy those duties.

Former Head of IRS complains

This month, a former leader of the Internal Revenue Service filed a complaint that the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has violated the terms of its nonprofit status by operating primarily for the private benefit of its corporate members, based on documents and research from the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD), which manages PRWatch, ALECexposed, and SourceWatch. The complaint, which also alleges that ALEC misrepresented itself in tax filings, raises additional allegations beyond those in earlier IRS complaints filed by Common Cause

The Complaints

1/ Illegal Lobbying

“ALEC is doing an extraordinary amount of lobbying, but reporting to the IRS they are doing NO lobbying,” Owens told CMD. “Even when North Dakota forced two of ALEC’s attorneys to register as lobbyists, they still reported [on their IRS filings] they did no lobbying. That is astounding.”

2/ Acting for the benefit of the corporate members not the common good

In the complaint, Owens and Clergy VOICE allege that ALEC operates primarily for the benefit of its corporate members by offering “not only unprecedented access to state lawmakers — the very individuals who introduce and support the state laws that positively impact the corporations’ bottom lines — but also the opportunity to draft those laws.”

3/ Partisan nature of the organisation

The complaint also notes that ALEC’s legislative board and most legislative members are Republicans — and that most of ALEC’s operations provide a private benefit to the Republican Party.

4/ BRIBERY

ALEC’s annual meetings and task force summits are usually held in vacation spots like New Orleans and at swank resorts like the Westin Kierland Resort in Scottsdale, Arizona.

ALEC member corporations covering hundreds or thousands of dollars worth of plane tickets for lawmakers and hotels for them and their families raises serious concerns about such gifts under many states’ ethics and lobbying laws. But by calling this spending a “scholarship” and filtering it through a bank account designated as the “ALEC scholarship fund,” corporations have, so far, been maneuvering around laws designed to limit improper influence. Watchdog groups like CMD, Common Cause, People for the American Way, Progress Now, and others are calling these practices into question.

Scholarship Fund Mechanics

According to ALEC’s bylaws, scholarship funds are raised from corporate and special interests in each state by the ALEC “Public Sector State Chair” (a legislator) and the “Private Enterprise State Chair” (a representative from the private sector, usually a lobbyist).

Based on documents obtained through open records requests by DBA Press and the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD), it appears the contributions typically are made via a corporation’s lobbyist. For example, contributions to the Ohio ALEC scholarship fund included $1000 from an Eli Lilly lobbyist and $10,000 from a Time Warner Cable lobbyist, in addition to many other contributions.

In 2010, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) reported in public IRS filings that it gave a $356,075 contribution to the “ALEC Scholarship Fund” in Wisconsin, and told CMD in March 2012 it was directed by ALEC to send the entire contribution to the address of Wisconsin’s Private Enterprise State Chair. In a more recent press release, ALEC claims that only $2,500 of that contribution went to Wisconsin legislators, but with no public accountability this cannot be independently verified.

Those contributions to the ALEC “scholarship fund” are used to pay for legislators’ flights and hotel rooms. As CMD has documented, ALEC’s corporate members pay tens of thousands to be present at ALEC meetings — and even more to be the named corporate sponsor of lunches, dinners, or receptions — and by making additional contributions to fund legislative “scholarships,” companies help ensure that elected officials also attend.



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