Monday, June 17, 2013

ALEC says it's above the law in Wisconsin

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is yet again up to something very un-American in Wisconsin. This time, it's trying to halt access to ALEC documents under the state's public records law.

ALEC, you'll remember, writes legislation that empowers billionaires, weakens workers' rights, suppresses voting, eliminates consumer and environmental protections and undermines public education. It gets those bills passed by hosting state lawmakers at lavish resorts, where they meet corporate campaign donors.

And now ALEC is saying the public has no right to see the documents it hands to lawmakers.

This is especially rich: ALEC says because they are stamped as internal ALEC documents, they don't have to be turned over as part of a public records information request. (If they were stamped as dog food, would that make them dog food?)

Wisconsin state Sen. Leah Vukmir, treasurer of ALEC's board, is refusing to disclose documents she received from ALEC to The Center for Media and Democracy (CMD). CMD took her to court.

Brendan Fischer, CMD's general counsel, noted Vukmir attended ALEC's annual meeting in Oklahoma City last month and should be forced to turn over documents under Wisconsin's open government laws:
It seems difficult to believe that a legislator who is on the national board of ALEC, has been the ALEC State Chair for Wisconsin, and who recently attended an ALEC meeting in Oklahoma City does not have a single record from that meeting in her custody.
Fischer said the lawsuit seeks to clarify that Wisconsin lawmaker's duty is to state residents and not to a special interest group like ALEC. Though the lawsuit only applies to Wisconsin, ALEC has declared itself immune from every state's public records law.

A column in the Baraboo News Republic reported ALEC is trying to get around the disclosure law by using Internet drop boxes to contact legislators on the down low. But the move is just the latest in ALEC's long history of secretly influencing government.

People generally don't like what ALEC's up to, once they find out. The CMD and a network of other groups (including the Teamsters) have been working to expose ALEC's stealth attack on the working and middle classes. The effort has succeeded, as 45 corporations and six nonprofits cut their ties to ALEC. You can find out more -- a lot more -- at