CHICAGO, IL -- As hundreds of state legislators, lobbyists, and CEOs celebrated ALEC's 40th anniversary this week with a new round of closed-door talks and bill-writing, Common Cause and our allies gathered in the city to demand an end to ALEC's secretive corporate lobbying and model legislation practices.
More than 2,700 activists turned out for a midday rally on Thursday to demand that ALEC end its attack on our democracy. With chants of "Hey Hey, Ho Ho -- ALEC has got to go," the demonstrators served notice that ALEC can no longer hide in the shadows and that Common Cause and our allies will keep the pressure on until ALEC stops its work to corporatize statehouses.
Despite ALEC's promise to become more transparent, the group clearly does not want the public to know that corporate members draft model legislation, wine and dine legislators, and sign large checks (ALEC members call them "scholarships") to state legislators to secure their cooperation and passage of pro-corporate legislation. As at previous ALEC events, journalists and activists alike were blacklisted and barred entrance to the meetings.
Common Cause has filed a whistleblower complaint against ALEC with the IRS, submitting thousands of internal ALEC documents that document the group's involvement in lobbying. ALEC insists it is not a lobby however, and dodges taxes by claiming it is a "social welfare" organization covered by Section 501 (c)(3) of the tax code. Because the money is tax deductible for corporate contributors, taxpayers effectively subsidize the junkets.
On Wednesday evening, more than 100 people attended a screening of The United States of ALEC," a documentary by veteran journalist Bill Moyers. A panel discussion including Rey Lopez-Calderon, executive director of Common Cause Illinois; Bryan Echols, principal of "B.E...The Change Consulting;" Illinois State Representative Mary Flowers; Robert G. Reiter, Jr., secretary treasurer of the Chicago Federation of Labor; Rashad Robinson, executive director of ColorOfChange; and Nick Surgey, director of research at the Center for Media and Democracy.
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Office: Common Cause National
Issues: More Democracy Reforms