Common Cause has produced a great report on how the corporate-financed American Legislative Exchange Council spends millions on “scholarships” to take state legislators to posh resorts. There, in addition to food, drink and golf, they are filled with ALEC propaganda and cookie-cutter legislation to take home to pass to aid the corporate cause.
Lower taxes, voter ID laws, anti-regulation bills and roadblocks to national health legislation are among pet ALEC causes. Republican legislators are particularly likely to join ALEC activities. One Arkansas Republican, Sen. Missy Irvin, even used ALEC staff to testify for her cookie-cutter legislation in 2011. Writes Common Cause:
Corporate backers of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) have funneled more than $4 million in gifts to state legislators for travel, hotel rooms and meals at posh resorts since 2006, according to estimates based on internal ALEC records. The corporate lobby front group is already facing an Internal Revenue Service review of claims that it violated federal law by posing as a charity.
A report by DBAPress, the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) and Common Cause says hundreds of “scholarships” provided to lawmakers by ALEC were actually expense-paid junkets to resorts where ALEC hosted meetings to advance its pro-business legislative agenda. The report reflects ALEC’s complete record of travel-related payments to lawmakers from 2006 through 2008, when the group was spending about $600,000 annually on the trips, and partial data for the years since then, a period when ALEC has increased its membership by several hundred legislators.
“ALEC has created a scheme to funnel money from corporations to pay for legislators’ trips, amounting to a million dollar-plus slush fund that leaves constituents in the dark about who is really footing the bills for their representatives,” the report said.
The top 10 corporate contributors to ALEC is heavy with drug, tobacco and telephone money. Amazingly, the top 10 recipient states do not include Arkansas, but if the Republicans can snare a majority, a lot more ALEC travel will certainly be in the plans.
“The audacity of ALEC and its corporate sponsors continues to amaze,” said Common Cause President Bob Edgar. “They have the right to lobby for laws they believe will make their businesses more profitable, but when that lobbying includes expense-paid weekends at posh resorts, concealed from but subsidized by the taxpayers through a cynical manipulation of the tax code, they go too far.”
The report said ALEC promotes its meetings at resorts “in vacation-like terms.” And, ALEC meetings regularly include special and exclusive events for lawmakers such as cigar parties or tickets to the party deck of a Major League Baseball game with special food and drink.
The Regnat Populus measure to end gifts of any sort to legislators would prevent this scam in Arkansas. That might help you understand why so many Republican legislators opposed it, particularly those who don’t have other gainful employment.
And here’s a good appendix. It shows the state-by-state contributions from corporations and lobbyists to this travel — and to the extent possible in a three-year period — the names of legislators who benefitted. Most from Arkansas are Republicans, but not all. There’s about $20,000 worth of travel in the 2006-08 period in Arkansas.