FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: November 28, 2012 CONTACT: Brendan Fischer
MADISON, WI -- Several Wisconsin legislators are attending this week's conference of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) at the Grand Hyatt in Washington D.C., and likely doing so on corporate-funded "scholarships," which the Center for Media and Democracy believes violate state ethics and lobbying laws. The three-day meeting, held November 28-30, will bring state legislators together with corporate lobbyists and special interests to craft "model" bills -- many of which will likely be introduced in the ALEC-majority Wisconsin legislature in the session that begins in January.
As corporate lobbyists and state legislators from across the country meet in Salt Lake City for the 39th annual meeting of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a group of open government advocates have released a report called "ALEC in Florida" that sheds further light on ALEC's "unprecedented influence over Florida."
If you listen to Milwaukee talk radio you have no doubt heard WTMJ's Charlie Sykes crying to high heaven about the outrageous, politically motivated witch hunt of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker being run out of the Milwaukee District Attorney's office. Milwaukee DA John Chisholm has been spearheading a secret "John Doe" criminal investigation of Walker's former staff and associates for two years now. Trials for four of Walker's associates are pending this fall.
According to Sykes, the DA's office is "leaking like a sieve" and is the source of a damaging article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel -- a serious charge, since people can be criminally prosecuted for violating the secrecy rules of the John Doe. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Dan Bice has broken most of the stories about the investigation, but has repeatedly denied that he is getting leaks from prosecutors.
It's big news when one of the largest corporations in the world changes its policy. And, today, the really big news is that Wal-Mart announced it was leaving the controversial American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which has been called "a corporate lobby masquerading as a charity."
The Center for Media and Democracy launched ALECexposed almost a year ago to shine a spotlight on ALEC. CMD's analysis and ongoing investigation have fueled hundreds of news articles and other reports exposing deeply troubling information about ALEC's operations and extreme agenda. And, CMD has served as a research engine that has helped empower hundreds of thousands of people to speak out against ALEC's agenda and activities. Through ALEC's task forces, corporate lobbyists are voting behind closed doors as equals with legislators on templates to change our laws.
Mitt Romney won the Wisconsin Republican presidential primary on Tuesday, but not before word of the "SubGate" scandal rocketed around the state. Romney spent much of the week campaigning with Republican Congressman Paul Ryan, but in a "get out the vote" effort on Primary Day, Romney and Ryan were videotaped handing out free sandwiches to voters at a Cousins Subs shop in an apparent violation of Wisconsin law.
At the campaign stop Romney said: "I want to thank you for voting. Get your friends to go vote, get your friends to go with you, that's how you can legally vote multiple times. So bring your friends to the polling place, get out and vote, and if you want another sandwich, there are more back there."
--by Nick Surgey of Common Cause; originally posted on CommonBlog.
In February, Common Cause wrote to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, asking for an explanation about an apparently unreported $1,350 gift from the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) in 2009. Cantor's office immediately responded, claiming our inquiry was without foundation, but last week his office quietly amended his financial disclosures to include the gift from ALEC.
At that time, I wrote about Cantor's failure to disclose:
ALEC, the so-called "free market, small government" lobby group underwritten by some of the nation's largest corporations, reported in its tax filings for 2008 and 2009, making "cash grants" to the recipients of several annual awards. Common Cause has identified 22 legislators who received ALEC awards in those two years, including Rep. Cantor, who ALEC records indicate received $1,350 in 2009 as part of their Thomas Jefferson Freedom Award.
In the nearly 40 years since Wisconsin created an ethics panel to try judges for misconduct, charges had been filed only twice against members of the Wisconsin Supreme Court. Justice David Prosser became the third on March 16, when the Wisconsin Judicial Commission announced that wrapping one's hands around the neck of another justice would establish probable cause of judicial misconduct. Under normal procedures, the complaint would now go to a three judge panel picked by the Court of Appeals who would then make a recommendation to the Supreme Court itself for final action. However, in his most recent move, Prosser has demanded his fellow justices recuse themselves from any final action.
In honor of "Sunshine Week," a national initiative to promote a dialogue about the importance of open government and freedom of information, the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) would like to recognize Wisconsin's champions of backroom deals, secret pledges and cloaked campaign contributions.