Peeking Under the Rock That Is ALEC

Written by Jay Riestenberg and James Browning on June 19, 2014

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A powerful new documentary from Montana PBS, “Brought To You By ALEC,” looks under the rock that is the American Legislative Exchange Council — and what we see isn’t pretty.

ALEC members include more than 1,800 state legislators and some of America’s most powerful and politically influential corporations and organizations, among them ExxonMobil, tobacco giant Altria, and the National Rifle Association. Together these corporate and politicians draft "model" state legislation that reaches into areas of American life ranging from education to gun control to environmental protection. 

Though its model bills have been introduced in every state and the District of Columbia, and it boasted in 2012 of a 20 percent success rate in getting them enacted, ALEC insists it’s a charity, not a lobby, and continues to enjoy a tax status that allows its corporate members to deduct their contributions to its treasury.

“Brought To You By ALEC” documents ALEC’s role in pushing the fiction that “corporations are people.” Yet, if people behaved like ALEC and refused to comply with state lobbying laws, they would get in serious trouble.

In the film, ALEC’s director of communications Bill Meierling makes several demonstrably false assertions about how ALEC operates. We’re pleased to correct the record and debunk afew myths about ALEC mentioned in the documentary:


ALEC’s Meierling says:

The facts show:

“ALEC is a transparent organization”

The public and press are not allowed behind ALEC’s closed door task force meetings.

ALEC does “zero” lobbying. “None” at all.

ALEC activity lobbies state legislators and has been described as a “stealth business lobbyist” by The New York Times. A complaint to the IRS, filed by Common Cause in April 2012, chargesALEC with misusing charity laws by not disclosing its lobbying activity.

“We don’t work on bills. We work policies.”

Documents obtained by Common Cause and the Center for Media and Democracy show that ALEC tracks legislation in the states and has sent “issue alerts” to legislators with specific bills included.

“60-70%” of ALEC’s revenue “comes from the private sector.”

According to the figures compiled by the Center for Media and Democracy, 98% of ALEC’s revenue comes from sources other than legislators’ dues, including corporations, trade associations, and foundations.

“Travel reimbursement funds are anonymous donations…Legislators themselves don’t know what money is in or where it came from.”

A report released by Common Cause, the Center for Media and Democracy, and DBA Press documents how legislators have been advised to send thank-you notes to specific corporations in recognition of their support for the “scholarships” ALEC provides to cover travel and meeting expenses.

Office: Common Cause National

Issues: More Democracy Reforms

Tags: ALEC

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