Common Cause and the Center for Media Democracy put out details today about how the American Legislative Exchange Council funnels corporate money into a “scholarship fund” for state legislators to attend ALEC conventions. Many of them pick up legislative templates written by ALEC for introduction back home.
The legislation is corporate-friendly, to be expected given the corporate backing, including early influence from teh Koch brothers. Says Common Cause:
ALEC’s agenda includes the privatization of schools and other public assets, anti-labor laws, weakened protections for clean water and air, and telecom deregulation bills. ALEC’s legacy includes a national drive on behalf of “Stand Your Ground” laws like the Florida statute at issue in the Trayvon Martin shooting, and restrictive Voter ID measures that make it harder for students, elderly, minority and disabled voters to cast their ballots. then introduce cookie-cutter corporate-friendly legislation back home.
ALEC takes big money from drug, tobacco, insurance, phone and other major corporation and then pays it out in “scholarships.” to cover trip expenses. The money is tax deductible, meaning taxpayers effectively subsidize the junkets — this week to the Palmer House in Chicago for ALEC’s 40th anniversary soiree Aug. 7-9. The money laundering makes it hard to trace the source and payout of the money.
Many Arkansas legislators attend ALEC conferences, most at state expense, but sometimes with the aid of “scholarships.” This year’s convention is even listed on the Arkansas General Assembly’s website among meetings this week.
Common Cause has complained to the IRS about the practice of funding these trips. It is also seeking to identify legislators who received direct ALEC payments to attend.
A spokesman for the Arkansas Senate said these senators are scheduled to attend: Cecile Bledsoe, Linda Chesterfield, Jane English, Bruce Holland, Jeremy Hutchinson, Johnny Key, Michael Lamoureux and Eddie Joe Williams. She referred questions to Williams, the Senate chair for ALEC, about “scholarship” recipients. I haven’t heard back to an e-mail yet.
Here’s the House list approved for reimbursement by either Legislative Council, Legislative Audit or the House itself: Randy Alexander, Bob Ballinger, Nate Bell, Ken Bragg, Andy Davis, Jim Dotson, Charlene Fite, Douglas House, Andrea Lea, Mark Lowery, Micah Neal, Richard Womack. I was told Rep. Andrea Lea is the chair on the House side for ALEC. I’ve sent her a note, too, about “scholarships.” UPDATE: She said no Arkansans will attend on “scholarship.”
With the exception of Chesterfield, all attendees are Republicans.