Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Congressman calls for federal investigation of illegal lobbying by ALEC

Rep. Raul Grijalva of Arizona asked the U.S. Interior Department's Inspector General to investigate ALEC for secretly lobbying state lawmakers to transfer federal lands to state control -- presumably so ALEC members can get hold of the oil, gas and coal from them.
And investigated?

Grijalva notes that ALEC's internal documents show its concern over an IRS audit and points to ALEC's 501c4 spinoff to avoid an investigation into its charitable status. He wrote that ALEC for years has lobbied in state legislatures without registering as a lobbyist.

"The consequences of ALEC's positions are severe and deserving of careful scrutiny," wrote Grijalva.

Niraj Chokshi at the Washington Post reports Grijalva,
...called for an investigation into the American Legislative Exchange Council’s “aggressive effort” to change state laws regarding public land use. The group’s work constitutes unregistered lobbying, he argues. 
“Despite actively pressing state lawmakers on a range of issues, ALEC has failed for decades to register as a lobbying organization in states where it has promoted changes to state laws,” Grijalva writes. 
In the letter, Grijalva also requests an investigation into how ALEC’s efforts have affected department employees. ALEC’s position, he argues, is consistent with those of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, whose decades-long fight resulted in a weekend showdown between government officials and anti-government militia groups.
Brendan Fischer at the Center for Media and Democracy explains:
Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, who had refused to pay grazing fees for 20 years, risked having his cattle confiscated by the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Bundy, who says his ownership rights go back to his 1870 Mormon ancestors and says he believes in a “sovereign state of Nevada” but doesn't "recognize the United States government as even existing," likewise had refused to recognize the authority of the BLM. 
As the feds began to round-up Bundy's cattle, hundreds of state's rights protesters and armed militiamen prompted a string of raucous confrontations. Over the weekend, the BLM halted the roundup "because of our serious concerns about the safety of employees and members of the public," said BLM chief Neil Kornze.
Fischer notes one of ALEC's arguments is that al Qaeda might burn down the forests because they're federally owned. We're not kidding. Writes Fischer:
One of ALEC's arguments in favor of this resolution, in its own words, was the following: 
"Because of the inordinate buildup of fuel in the national forests due to decades of unduly restrictive federal 'preservationist' policies, the FBI and Department of Homeland Security have recently issued criminal activity alerts warning that Al Qaeda is actively publishing in their 'Inspire' terrorism magazine of the opportunity to burn down our national forests — causing billions of dollars in damage and destroying our watersheds for decades — with only a few matches."