Monday, January 27, 2014

ALEC wilting under exposure

Here's numerical proof that a whole bunch of ordinary people are beating the big money behind ALEC.

ALEC, or the American Legislative Exchange Council, operated secretly for years. Its modus operandi was to treat state lawmakers to posh vacations where they met corporate donors who funded their political ambitions. Lawmakers repaid that largesse by filing the bills handed to them by ALEC's corporate sponsors.

Led by the Center for Media and Democracy, a battalion of citizens has been working to expose ALEC's work to lower wages, destroy unions, eradicate public education, weaken food safety standards and sell tobacco to children. The campaign was launched under the name ALEC Exposed.

Much as the Wicked Witch of the West melted when exposed to water, ALEC is melting away when exposed to public scrutiny. Here are the numbers:
  • 390 state lawmakers have quit ALEC
  • 23.6 percent, or nearly one in four, of corporate and nonprofit members dropped ALEC from July 2011 to August 2013
  • ALEC's projected budget deficit as of July 2013 was at least $1,379,902
  • Percentage increase in ALEC press mentions per day since ALECexposed launched:  approximately 538%
  • Amount ALEC paid consultants in 2012 for public relations (AKA Crisis Communications from Edelman PR and Vox Global): $542,500
The news isn't all good. ALEC is still managing to loot money from the public treasury, having used $224,5878 in taxpayer dollars to send lawmakers on their posh vacations. And ALEC is still receiving money from the Benedict Arnold Koch brothers -- $150,000 in the first half of 2013.

It's having some success, too, in eliciting special government favors for its members. Nineteen states enacted ALEC legislation that immunizes a singular ALEC member (Crown Holdings) from legal liability for asbestos claims.

ALEC is also operating off the IRS's radar screen. Though it's clearly a lobbying organization, ALEC claims it has spent nothing -- zip, zilch, nyet, nada -- on lobbying from 1973 to 2012. The good news is ALEC is worried about an IRS investigation. The Guardian reported last month
A letter ... from Alec's lawyer, Alan Dye, warns that "though we do not believe that any activity carried on by Alec is lobbying, the IRS could disagree". It also makes clear that major potential donors are holding back because they are anxious about Alec's tax status. 
"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," Dye writes.
Still plenty of work to do.