For Immediate Release Updated Report on ALEC in Oregon Now Available

Posted on June 1, 2012

For immediate release: June 1, 2012

For more information contact: Janice Thompson at 503-283-1922

Updated Report on ALEC in Oregon Now Available

Common Cause Oregon has updated its American Legislative Exchange Council in Oregon report to reflect the ALEC membership of an additional eight Oregon legislators beyond the 14 earlier identified as having ALEC affiliations. As reported in the Oregonian, ALEC's co-chair in our state, Representative Gene Whisnant, identified 22 current legislators as being members of ALEC.

The updated report includes an analysis of trips to ALEC meetings paid for either by ALEC or a legislator's campaign funds. Key points from the report are:

Analysis of campaign finance transactions since 2007 and statement of economic interest reports filed in 2011 and 2012 indicates that just shy of $21,300 has been spent by nine ALEC legislator members for travel and other costs related to ALEC meetings and membership from 2007 through May 2012. The current legislators in this group are: Sal Esquivel (R-6/Medford), Wally Hicks (R-3/Grants Pass), Bill Kennemer, (R-39/Oregon City), Shawn Lindsay (R-30/Hillsboro), Kim Thatcher (R-25/Keizer), Gene Whisnant (R-53/Sunriver), and Matt Wingard (R-26/Wilsonville). Past legislators who traveled to ALEC meetings were Representatives Linda Flores and George Gilman.

The source of this money was a combination of campaign funds, $7,918, and money from ALEC, $13,374. Given that the bulk of ALEC funding comes from its corporate members, this means legislators traveled using money from businesses presumably affected by the policies discussed at these ALEC meetings. Locations of ALEC meetings included Memphis, Tennessee, New Orleans, San Diego, Scottsdale, Arizona, and Washington D.C.

ALEC is allowed to pay for trips taken by Oregon legislators because it is a charity established under IRS rules that limit its lobbying. Also discussed in the report, however, are complaints to the IRS made by Common Cause based on indications that ALEC's lobbying activities exceeded what is allowed by IRS for charitable, 501 c 3 nonprofit groups.

One of the harms to taxpayers identified in Common Cause's complaint to the IRS Tax Whistleblower program is that "ALEC's corporate members improperly deduct from their taxable income the dues and other contributions made to ALEC.In fact, because ALEC solicits very few contributions from individuals, its false claims of tax-exempt status appear driven by the desire of ALEC corporate members to deduct lobbying expenses as charitable contributions."

Oregon has a robust community of political nonprofits that play by the rules," said Janice Thompson, executive director of Common Cause Oregon. "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."

If this complaint is upheld, then it would mean that ALEC could no longer pay for trips by Oregon legislators and shouldn't have been doing so in the past.

The updated report also summarizes reporting by the Oregonian that ALEC's private-sector-co-chair is lobbyist Paul Cosgrove and the secrecy of an ALEC scholarship fund controlled by Cosgrove and Representative Gene Whisnant.

The updated report also summarizes discussion by the Oregonian about why ALEC is not like other groups like the National Conference on State Legislators. Sen. Bruce Starr, a Republican from Hillsboro and NCSL vice president, identified for the Oregonian the following differences:

In ALEC, private individuals and elected lawmakers have equal voice on model legislation. NCSL does not do that, Starr says. "There's not an opportunity for anybody but legislators and legislative staff to sit at the table and discuss what those policies look like. And the only ones that have the vote are legislators."

Also updated are Tables 3 and 7 in the report to reflect updated numbers of Oregon legislators who are members of ALEC. The tables indicate that ALEC affiliated corporate contributors give to ALEC legislators at a greater level than their representation in the pool of all legislative candidates. Republican candidates received more campaign support, but that ALEC donors also saw the value of contributing to Democrats is illustrated by these broad pools of legislative candidates.

Table 3 - Legislative Contributions from ALEC corporate board affiliates, 2001-2010

Contributions to Legislative Candidates


Number of Legislative Candidates


Contributions to ALEC Legislators


Number of ALEC Legislators


ALEC Contributions

19% of Total

ALEC Legislators

11 % of Total

Table 7 - Legislative Contributions from 2011 ALEC Affiliated Companies, 2007 through May 29, 2012

Contributions to Legislative Candidates


Number of Candidates


Contributions to ALEC Legislators


Number of ALEC Legislators


ALEC Contributions

30% of Total

ALEC Legislators

18% of Total

"ALEC demonstrates the depth of corporate influence in our democracy, to the detriment of public interest," concluded Thompson.

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.

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