By Jessica Mason and Matthew Rothschild
Thursday afternoon, a group of 75 Wisconsin...
By Steve Horn
The Guardian has published a major investigative piece that once again exposes the scandalous ways of the right wing lobbying group, American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).
Among the biggest revelations: ALEC may soon face a budget crisis, and is feeling the heat of public pressure from activists and its own membership in the aftermath of the Trayvon Martin shooting by George Zimmerman in Florida. Dozens of corporations have jumped ship from what critics have coined a "corporate bill mill" for statehouses nationwide.
Another explosive revelation: ALEC State Chairs were handed a draft pledge to put ALEC's interests over its constituent's interests, asked to "act with care and loyalty and put the interests of [ALEC] first." ALEC confirmed to The Guardian that it was "not adopted by the membership committee or by any of the state chairs."
Creation of the Jeffersonian Project - paralleling ALEC's self-serving branding as standing for "Jeffersonian principles" - could be seen as a tacit admission that ALEC had been illegally operating as a shadow lobbying organization on behalf of its corporate members for the past four decades.
ALEC's budget hole from the exodus of corporate members has inspired a campaign to win corporate members back to the exclusive club, calling it the biblically-inspired "Prodigal Son Project." Desperate for more member-based funding, ALEC is considering recruiting gambling companies into its member base.
Not going so far as to admit it has acted as an illegal shadow lobbying organization for the past four decades, ALEC's attorney Alan Dye weighed in on the Jeffersonian Project in a letter, "though we do not believe that any activity carried on by Alec is lobbying, the IRS could disagree...Alec has been approached by donors who are willing to make sizable donations, but insist that the donations go to a section 501(c)(4) organization."
Put another way, the Jeffersonian Project could be ALEC's lifeline to keep itself in legal territory and therefore, afloat. ALEC says so itself, in fact.
"Any activity that could be done by Alec may be done by Jeffersonian Project if legal counsel advises it would provide greater legal protection or lessen ethics concerns," notes from its Board Meeting state, adding 501(c)(4) status answers "questions of ethical violations made by our critics and state ethics boards and provides further legal protection."
Lisa Graves, Executive Director for the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) responded to ALEC's lifeline creation, saying, "It should have disclosed its lobbying long ago."
These findings by The Guardian come just one day before ALEC's forthcoming States and Nation Policy Summit in Washington, DC, in which pro-fracking and anti-regulatory model bills and presentations will be the centerpiece of the Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force's convening. Shale gas industry lobbying powerhouse America's Natural Gas Alliance will be named as a corporate member at the meeting.
As CMD's PR Watch revealed in an August article, the "United States of ALEC" has already proposed 77 ALEC anti-environmental "model bills" in statehouses nationwide in the first three quarters of 2013.
DeSmogBlog will be covering the events of the upcoming DC meeting closely in the coming days.
------ Featured photo: Flickr user LaDawna Howard, creative commons licensed.