Campaign Finance Board to Investigate ALEC
Mike Dean, Common Cause Minnesota
Minnesota is first to launch public investigation into ALEC’s activities from complaints filed across the country
Saint Paul, MN — The Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board today became the first in the nation to launch an investigation of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) for lobbying violations. To date, 37 other states have received requests to investigate, and the national organization of Common Cause has filed a formal complaint with the IRS alleging tax fraud. Common Cause Minnesota filed a complaint several weeks ago alleging that the group failed to register as lobbyist despite evidence that the group does lobby Minnesota legislators to support ALEC modeled legislation.
“Corporations can no longer hide behind ALEC, as they try to influence state law behind closed doors,” said Mike Dean, executive director of Common Cause Minnesota. “This investigation should expose how ALEC has attempted to avoid laws that regulate lobbyists in Minnesota,” Dean said.
Read the letter confirming the investigation: http://www.scribd.com/doc/95155062/Campaign-Finance-Board-Launched-investigation-into-ALEC
“All evidence indicates that ALEC is a corporate lobby front group masquerading as a public charity,” said Common Cause President, Bob Edgar. “It tells the IRS in its tax returns that it does no lobbying, yet it exists to pass legislation that serves the economic and partisan interests of its corporate members in states all over the country. ALEC is not entitled to abuse its charitable tax status to lobby for private corporate interests, and stick taxpayers with the bill.”
The investigation could also explore whether ALEC gave Minnesota legislators illegal gifts in subsidizing junkets and conferences at luxury resorts. The complaint found three Minnesota legislators attended such junkets that bring corporations and lawmakers together in closed-door sessions to draft and propose ALEC legislation. Past events have included an annual clay pigeon shoot and barbeque sponsored by the NRA, and a “cigar reception” sponsored by Reynolds Tobacco. Minnesota law prohibits legislators from accepting gifts of travel from any registered lobbyist in the state of Minnesota.
Despite being registered as a 501(c)3, it is clear that ALEC does in fact engage in lobbying activity in Minnesota and across the country. The Common Cause complaint uncovered evidence that ALEC was writing emails to Minnesota legislators urging them to support specific legislation in Minnesota.
The Minnesota complaint states, “it seems incontrovertible that ALEC is substantially and indeed primarily engaged in attempting to influence legislation. All of its efforts are geared toward developing and promoting favored state legislation. These proposals are generated in a private process where the business interests of its corporate members are highlighted, then shared only with the organization’s legislator members so they can take the proposals back to their states and introduce them as their own ideas. Its governing documents state that promotion of introduction of bills at the Federal and state levels and formulation of legislative action programs are two of the seven means by which ALEC pursues its purposes.”
Read the complaint to the Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board: http://www.scribd.com/doc/93591674/ALEC-Complaint-FINAL
This investigation comes on the heels of two Minnesota based corporations, Scantron and Medtronic, that have ended their relationship with ALEC because of its extremist agenda to limit voting rights, privatize schools and prisons, weaken environmental protections, and promote ‘Stand Your Ground’ gun laws based on the controversial Florida law at issue in the Trayvon Martin shooting.
ALEC has faced intense public scrutiny in recent months losing a total of sixteen corporate members as a result of direct action:
Amazon, Scantron Corporation, Kaplan Higher Education, Procter & Gamble, YUM! Brands, Blue Cross Blue Shield, American Traffic Solutions, Reed Elsevier, Arizona Public Service, Mars, Wendy’s, McDonald’s, Intuit, Kraft Foods, PepsiCo, and Coca-Cola. The addition of Amazon.com brings the total to 16. Four non-profits — Lumina Foundation for Education, the National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA), the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS), and the Gates Foundation — and 54 state legislators have also cut ties with ALEC.
 “Contrast this approach with other organizations that develop model legislation, most notably the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws, which works through an open process, accepts members from any ideological position, and generates work products that are publicly disseminated and include detailed analysis and comment rather than just legislative text made available only to members who share a common ideology.