The Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) joined with United Republic, Rebuild the Dream and ColorofChange.org in a letter to the 20 members of the "Private Enterprise Board" of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). The letter asks the corporations to sever ties with ALEC and end their financial support of the organization. The request is made out of respect for Trayvon Martin, an unarmed 17-year old who was shot and killed in Florida last month. Trayvon's killer could be protected from justice under a Florida "Stand Your Ground" law that became a template for an ALEC model bill introduced and adopted in over 20 states.
MADISON --The Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) filed a complaint today with the Government Accountability Board (GAB) based on newly discovered documents revealing that numerous Wisconsin legislators have received corporate-funded gifts through their connections to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Although ALEC describes itself as the largest membership group for legislators, over 98% of its $7 million budget is from corporations and sources other than legislative dues. Documents obtained via Wisconsin open records law and other sources show that ALEC corporations are funding lawmakers' out-of-state travel expenses to posh resorts for ALEC meetings with corporate lobbyists, in addition to gifts of entertainment and exclusive parties.
--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.
The links between the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and "voter ID" legislation have been well-documented, but newspapers in the states impacted most severely by the voter suppression legislation have been largely silent on this connection. A new analysis by Media Matters finds that "the largest newspapers in the seven states that enacted voter ID laws in 2011 have largely ignored ALEC's influence." ALEC is a group that brings together right-wing state legislators and corporations to vote on cookie-cutter "model" bills behind closed doors. The bills largely benefit corporations and Republican political interests.
A Florida law that may protect the man who shot and killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in February is the template for an American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) "model bill" that has been pushed in other states. The bill was brought to ALEC by the National Rifle Association (NRA), and fits into a pattern of ALEC bills that disproportionately impact communities of color.
Florida's "stand your ground," or "castle doctrine," law could prevent the prosecution of George Zimmerman, the 28-year-old "neighborhood watch" vigilante who shot the unarmed Martin as the teen returned from a trip to 7-11 with an iced tea and a pack of Skittles. The law, also pushed by its supporters under the name the "Castle Doctrine," changes state criminal justice and civil law codes by giving legal immunity to a person who uses "deadly force if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony." It also bars the deceased's family from bringing a civil suit.
The Center for Media Democracy contacted Governor Scott Walker and the four candidates who have filed to run in the recall election against him. We asked them all to comment on the influence of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) on the state of Wisconsin and what they might do about it as governor.
Three Democrats and one Independent have announced that they are running against Governor Walker; a primary is likely May 8. There is speculation that other candidates may still announce their intentions to run. The general election is expected to be June 5.
Governor Walker did not respond to our request, but the other candidates did. Below we reprint their comments in full.
A state judge has declared Wisconsin's American Legislative Exchange Council-inspired voter ID law unconstitutional, making him the second judge in one week to block the law's unnecessary burdens on the right to vote.
"The people's fundamental right of suffrage preceded and gave birth to our Constitution," wrote Dane County District Judge Richard Niess, "not the other way around."
The judge rebuffed assertions by Governor Scott Walker and legislative Republicans that they possessed the authority to impose new burdens on voting. "[D]efendants' argument that the fundamental right to vote must yield to legislative fiat turns our constitutional scheme of democratic government squarely on its head," he wrote.
The pharmaceutical drug lobby PhRMA gave $356,075 to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) "scholarship fund" in 2010, but listed the recipient's address at a lobbying firm steps away from the Wisconsin State Capitol, rather than ALEC's Washington, D.C. offices, according to filings with the Internal Revenue Service. The PhRMA contribution is leading to calls for greater transparency about how the ALEC scholarship fund operates.
In its 2010 IRS filings, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, better known as PhRMA, listed a $356,075 contribution to the "ALEC Scholarship Fund." That fund pays for flights and hotels for state legislators to attend ALEC conferences in places like New Orleans or Florida.
The herbicide atrazine, one of the most heavily used herbicides in the United States has been found in almost 94 percent of U.S. groundwater and can harm human health in multiple ways. ALEC has promoted "model" legislation friendly to Syngenta, atrazine's primary manufacturer, across the country. At least once, this legislation was introduced to ALEC by a lobbyist paid by Syngenta.
A Wisconsin judge has issued a temporary injunction against Wisconsin's new voter ID law, calling it "the single most restrictive voter eligibility law in the United States." Wisconsin's voter ID law, like many others introduced in 2011 and 2012, is based on an American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) model bill.
Dane County Circuit Judge David Flanagan halted the voter ID law in time for the April 3 presidential primary and local general election, saying the law "is addressed to a problem which is very limited" and "fails to account for the difficulty its demands impose upon indigent, elderly and disabled citizens."