For immediate release: August 4, 2011
For more information contact: Janice Thompson, 503-283-1922
Common Cause examines money, power of corporate-legislative alliance
ALEC contributions to Oregon campaigns
Twenty-two firms on the "private enterprise board" of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) have given $370 million to state campaigns since 2001, including $16 million to Oregon candidates and measures.
"Top ALEC donors to Oregon campaigns include tobacco and insurance companies as well as pharmaceutical drug interests," said Janice Thompson, executive director of Common Cause Oregon. "Obviously these are national corporations with interests in state legislation across the country, but it is worth noting that many of the policies promoted by ALEC are opposed by groups controlled by Oregonians."
ALEC opposes federal and state environmental regulations, the federal health care reform law, state minimum wage laws, and trade and public employee unions. ALEC's agenda includes support for public subsidies for private schools, the development of privately-owned prisons, and restrictions on the voting rights.
Yesterday, the national office of Common Cause released a report documenting contributions of $370 million to state candidates and measures from these 22 corporations. "ALEC is a stunning example of how deeply corporate influence penetrates our democracy and undermines the public interest," said Common Cause President Bob Edgar. http://www.commoncause.org/atf/cf/%7Bfb3c17e2-cdd1-4df6-92be-bd4429893665%7D/MONEYPOWERANDALEC.PDF
Last month Common Cause asked the Internal Revenue Service to examine whether ALEC is engaged in lobbying that goes beyond what is allowed to groups in its tax-exempt category. "Oregon has a robust community of political nonprofits that play by the rules," said Thompson. "A notable exception is Bill Sizemore's fraudulent operation of several groups. Oregon doesn't need any more sham nonprofits, so IRS scrutiny of allegations about ALEC is important." http://www.commoncause.org/atf/cf/%7Bfb3c17e2-cdd1-4df6-92be-bd4429893665%7D/COMMON-CAUSE-COMPLAINT-TO-IRS-RE-ALEC.PDF
Many other groups provide model legislation without running afoul of IRS rules, notes the complaint by Common Cause to the IRS about ALEC. For example, the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws works through an open process and publicly disseminates its products including sample legislative text. The complaint to the IRS also notes that ALEC model bills are listed on its website but text is hidden behind a password-protected wall, accessible only to its members. The largest portion of ALEC's work is conducted through nine Task Forces, each with two co-chairs, one a state legislator and one a corporate representative.
In Oregon contributions to candidates, leadership and party PACs, and ballot measures from these ALEC affiliated corporations, their affiliated PACs, and employees came to slightly more than $16 million since 2001. The top Oregon donor was Altria giving $7,884,223. Altria is the parent company to Phillip Morris, Kraft Foods, and Miller Brewing and this figure aggregates their contributions under the Altria corporate umbrella.
Reynolds American tobacco, including contributions from RJ Reynolds, gave $5,254,142 in Oregon since 2001. State Farm Insurance, primarily from corporate headquarters, gave $967,834 in Oregon. Pfizer, a prescription drug corporation, gave $497,505. Georgia Pacific, an affiliate of Koch Industries controlled by Koch brothers, has made $309,312 in Oregon contributions since 2001. (See Table 1.)
Table 1 - Top Contributions to Oregon Campaigns from ALEC affiliates, 2001-2010
Total Contributions to Candidates, Leadership and Party PACs, and Measures, 2001-2010
Parent Organization on ALEC's "Private Enterprise Board" and Affiliate Making Contributions in Oregon
Altria - Altria, Phillip Morris, Kraft Foods, and Miller Brewing
State Farm Insurance
Koch Industries - Georgia Pacific
Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers Association or PHRMA
AT & T
Contributions to ballot measures came to $13,020,328 from parent organizations and affiliates on ALEC's "private enterprise board between 2001 and 2010. In this time period these entities gave $2,094,794 to Republican candidates and leadership and party PACs in Oregon with contributions to Democratic candidates and leadership and party PACs coming to $1,008,026. (See Table 2 .)
Table 2 - Contribution Categories from ALEC affiliates, 2001-2010
Oregon ALEC Contributions, 2001-2010
Republican Candidates, Leadership and Party PACs
Democratic Candidates, Leadership and Party PACs
Altria and its affiliate Phillip Morris gave almost $7 million to the successful campaign in November 2007 to defeat Measure 50 regarding tobacco taxes. Reynolds American gave just shy of $5million to defeat Measure 50. State Farm Insurance gave $803,030 to defeat use of credit reports in setting insurance rates, Measure 42, in November 2006 and $125,300 to defeat a health reform proposal, Measure 23, on the November ballot in 2002. Pfizer gave $150,000 in 2004 to support Measure 35 that would have imposed limits on non-economic damages that may be claimed in certain legal actions. (See Table 3.)
Table 3 - Top 5 Oregon Ballot Measure Contributions from ALEC affiliates, 2001-2010
Ballot Measure PAC Name/#
Altria and Phillip Morris
Stop the Measure 50 Tax Hike
Oregonians Against the Blank Check - No on 50
State Farm Insurance
Oregonians Against Insurance Rate Increases - No on 42
Oregonians for Qualify Affordable & Reliable Health Care - Yes on 35
State Farm Insurance
Oregonians Against Unhealthy Taxes - No on 23
Office: Common Cause Oregon
Common Cause is a nonpartisan grassroots organization dedicated to upholding the core values of American democracy. We work to create open, honest, and accountable government that serves the public interest; promote equal rights, opportunity, and representation for all; and empower all people to make their voices heard in the political process.