FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 18, 2012
CONTACT: Sara Jerving, firstname.lastname@example.org
The Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) applauds Senator Van Wanggaard's move to distance himself from the corporate-funded American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) "scholarship" program, and is asking that he now renounce his membership in the organization.
CMD https://www.prwatch.org/news/2012/04/11420/cmd-documents-alec’s-contradictory-claims-wisconsin-ethics-board filed a complaint with the Government Accountability Board (GAB) in March describing how the so-called ALEC "scholarship fund" that pays for ALEC member legislators' travel to resorts for ALEC meetings is funded entirely by corporations. CMD asked the GAB to issue a public ruling that these gifts violate Wisconsin's ethics and lobbying laws, which prohibit elected officials from accepting anything of value -- even a cup of coffee -- from corporations that employ lobbyists in the state. Wanggaard has insisted that he has never accepted a corporate-funded plane ticket or hotel room through his membership in ALEC, the controversial group responsible for policies that attack working people and environmental protections, and has pushed laws like Stand Your Ground/Shoot First.
"We applaud Senator Wanggaard for acknowledging through his actions that corporations buying plane tickets and hotel rooms for elected officials could reasonably be expected to influence their official judgment," said Lisa Graves, CMD's Executive Director. "However, the structure of ALEC itself, where corporations vote as equals with legislators to approve 'model' legislation for introduction in all 50 states, warps the democratic process and puts corporations before people. We call on Senator Wanggaard to follow the lead of 45 legislators of both parties from across the country and renounce his membership in ALEC today."
In recent weeks, 14 companies including Coke, PepsiCo, Kraft, McDonald's, Intuit, and more have quit ALEC. The Gates Foundation will no longer fund ALEC. CMD has records indicating that Senator Van Wanggaard has been a member of the ALEC Communications and Technology Task Force and an alternate on the Tax and Fiscal Polity Task Force. He has sponsored six bills in the Wisconsin legislature that reflect ALEC model bills and priorities, and he has received at least $12,925 from ALEC corporate members in campaign donations since 2008.
In its complaint to the GAB, CMD named all known ALEC members in the Wisconsin legislature because ALEC and the ALEC scholarship program operate under a cloak of secrecy, and information about which legislators had received the corporate-funded "scholarships" was not publicly available. Wanggaard has told the GAB he has never received an ALEC scholarship.
"We have asked the GAB for a ruling that the ALEC scholarship program violates Wisconsin ethics and lobbying laws, so that ALEC members -- like Senator Wanggaard -- cannot accept these gifts in the future," said CMD Law Fellow Brendan Fischer. "The best way for Senator Wanggaard to assure his constituents that he will never accept gifts of flights and hotel rooms from these corporate interests is to drop his ALEC membership."
CMD recently released a report on ALEC's influence in Wisconsin, identifying 49 ALEC members in the Wisconsin legislature and 32 bills or budget provisions that echo ALEC model legislation.