The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a secretive, corporate-backed, lobby will have its annual conference next week in Dallas. More than 1,000 state lawmakers from across the country will convene for closed-door meetings with corporate lobbyists and executives to write “model bills” dealing with everything from education to telecommunications to environmental policy.
While ALEC claims to have become transparent in response to investigations by Common Cause, the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD), and other coalition partners, it’s still unclear who actually is paying for legislators to attend ALEC’s secret conferences.
Common Cause, CMD, and DBA Press previously exposed ALEC’s corporate-funded scholarship program, detailing how corporations funnel money into an ALEC scholarship account to fly politicians across the country for ALEC conferences at luxury hotels, where they are wined and dined by lobbyists and attend cigar parties. ALEC claims legislators do not know which corporations are paying for the scholarships, but evidence suggest otherwise. Records show that in some states, ALEC leaders have asked legislators to send “thank you” notes to corporations underwriting their scholarships.
Regardless of whether legislators know who is paying their way to attend ALEC conferences, the public should know. And when ALEC’s “scholarship” program isn’t covering travel and accommodations for politicians to attend ALEC conferences, taxpayers often are stuck with the bills. Many states use public funds to reimburse legislators who attend out-of-state ALEC conferences. In two states, Iowa and South Dakota, taxpayers even pay for legislators’ membership dues in ALEC.
In advance of ALEC’s Dallas conference, citizens should ask if their legislators plan to attend and if so who will be picking up the tab -- ALEC itself? A corporation? A lobbyist? Or the taxpayers?
Office: Common Cause National
Issues: More Democracy Reforms