A Texas legislator with ties to energy interests and billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch is the new national chairman of the American Legislative Council (ALEC), the secretive and powerful lobbying group behind hundreds of state laws that put private profit ahead of the public interest.
State Rep. Phil King, a member of the Texas legislature since 1999, will take office in January; he was selected last week at ALEC’s annual conference in Dallas.
While ALEC bills itself as a bi-partisan organization, King is a former chairman of a Republican political action committee in Texas, GOPAC-TX. He also sits on the board of the Texas Conservative Coalition Research Institute and is listed as an “expert” at the Texas Public Policy Foundation; both of those organizations are part of the State Policy Network, which has deep connections to the Koch brothers.
Common Cause previously identified King as the recipient of at least four corporate-financed “scholarships” from ALEC in 2013, totaling $5,142.46. ALEC scholarships cover travel and lodging for the group’s legislator members to attend ALEC events, typically at pricey resorts. Although the trips are funded by corporations, disclosure reports filed by the legislators typically list ALEC as the source of the money. Available evidence indicates that at least some legislators know which corporations are paying for the trips.
ALEC picked up the tab for King’s trip to Calgary, Canada, last year to attend ALEC’s secretive “Oil Sands Academy” to promote construction of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline. According to Greenpeace, King was one of nine legislators on the exclusive, expense-paid jaunt, sponsored by TransCanada and the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers. The trip included a tour of Alberta’s tar sands.
According to records obtained by the Center for Media and Democracy, ALEC urged legislators who made the trip to send “thank you” notes to the corporate lobbyists who accompanied them and served as sponsors. King’s personal financial statement did not mention that the trip was to Canada or which corporations paid his way.
King has previously been accused of using campaign funds to cover personal expenses; the Texas Ethics Commission fined him $1,300 in that case in 2010. And just a few months ago, King admitted to failing to report details of more than $37,000 in campaign donations. ALEC corporate members are among King’s largest campaign funders; the group includes AT&T, Verizon, Energy Future Holdings, Entergy, American Electric Power, Time Warner Cable, and Comcast.
Common Cause is pursuing a tax “whistleblower,” complaint against ALEC, accusing the group of violating the terms of its tax exempt status. While actively lobbying legislatures on behalf of its corporate members, ALEC operates as a charity for tax purposes.
At meetings like this month’s gathering in Dallas, ALEC’s corporate and legislator members sit side-by-side and vote as equals on “model” legislation typically drafted by corporate lobbyists. With ALEC’s seal of approval, the members carry the legislation back to their statehouses and work for its passage, usually concealing ALEC’s involvement in the drafting process.
Office: Common Cause National
Issues: More Democracy Reforms