A few weeks ago, a local TV station in Atlanta went undercover at a conference of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a secretive corporate lobbying group.
The Atlanta news station’s story comes as Common Cause and the Center for Media and Democracy filed new evidence to the IRS showing ALEC is committing tax fraud by registering as a public charity, but operating as a lobbying group. In response to the NBC11 report, ALEC issued a response which further misleads citizens about its illegal lobbying activities and the corporations and legislators involved. Here are just a few examples:
ALEC claims it exists for “academic discussion and professional development,” conveniently leaving out the part where corporate lobbyists and legislators sit behind closed doors and vote as equals on model bills to be introduced in statehouses across the country. In fact, according to ALEC’s own bylaws, the organization exists to “formulate legislative action programs” and “promote the introduction” of model bills.
ALEC also claims it “is not taxpayer funded.” The truth is, though, many parts of ALEC’s activities are funded by taxpayers. Legislators’ dues and travel to ALEC meetings often come from taxpayers, as legislators claim the expense is for “educational purposes.”
Just this year, a Montana legislator proposed an amendment to the state’s budget providing $5,000 in Montana taxpayer funds to pay for ALEC dues. In states such as South Dakota, taxpayers have paid for ALEC memberships for all members of the state legislature, no matter if the legislator wants to be a member of not.
A 2011 report by Salon shows that legislators in other states, including Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Tennessee, and Kansas, also have used taxpayer funds to pay for their ALEC memberships. And when legislators are not using taxpayer money to fund their trips and dues to ALEC, they are often getting secretive “scholarships” from corporations to pay their way.
Dues and travel are not the only thing taxpayers are paying for in ALEC. For instance, when ALEC had a conference in Philadelphia in 2007, taxpayers footed the bill for $4,000 for Philly cheese-steaks and $3,000 for cheesecake lollipops.
Don't be fooled by ALEC -- it's a lobbying group, not a charity, and the IRS needs to put a stop to their scheme. Demand an investigation today.
Office: Common Cause National
Issues: More Democracy Reforms