FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 16, 2016
Contact: Nikolina Lazic, email@example.com
Watchdog Group Calls on ALEC to Disclose Information Concerning Member Legislators and "Scholarships" in the Spirit of Sunshine Week
In the spirit of national Sunshine Week, the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) has written a letter to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and its state chairs (see list) calling on them to live up to their own statements about the importance of transparency and release basic information about their legislative operations.
ALEC recently wrote on its website, that:
"Government transparency is absolutely critical for government accountability. The government that works best is the government that is accountable to the people. But, there can only be accountability when the public is aware of what the government does. Government transparency comes in many different forms, from making bills in the legislature easier to access to listing government expenditures.
All levels of government should be open to public scrutiny… By enhancing transparency, taxpayers are better able to keep their representatives accountable and ensure that the government is operating in their best interest."
"It's interesting that ALEC has touted the principles of public transparency for government accountability," said CMD executive director Lisa Graves. "Now we'd like to see ALEC apply those principles to their own legislative activities and interactions between ALEC legislators and ALEC corporations that undermine accountability."
In the letter, CMD wrote:
As you know, the primary purpose of ALEC and its sister organization, the Jeffersonian Project, is to move a legislative agenda in the states through the promotion of "model" legislation approved by ALEC task forces where corporate lobbyists and special interests vote as equals with state legislators. ALEC has claimed that more than 1,000 of its bills are introduced each year. In one mailing to its corporate funders, and echoed in public materials from 2011, ALEC boasted: "With our success rate at more than 20 percent, I would say that ALEC is a good investment. Nowhere else can you get a return that high."
The watchdog group then called on ALEC and its state chairs to release:
- Details and amounts of payments made to the ALEC scholarship fund in each state, from which gifts of travel related expenses are provided to legislators to attend ALEC conferences. Typically these payments are solicited by you from lobbyists, corporations and others in your role as ALEC state chair, but are reported by legislators simply as being gifts from "ALEC."
- A full and complete membership list of ALEC legislators and private sector funders.
- A record of which legislators from each state have attended ALEC conferences and other events, and the amount of any "scholarships" they received for that purpose.
- A list of ALEC "model" bills, or legislation based on ALEC "model" bills, introduced in each state.
CMD asked ALEC to provide that information for the past five years, and to make the information public on a regular and timely basis each year moving forward.
"ALEC is a tool for global corporations to secretly influence state legislators and turn their corporate wish lists into legislation," Graves said. "The public has a right to know who is trying to re-write their state laws, and what special interests are the real underwriters paying to fly their elected officials around the country for ALEC junkets."
"CMD urges the press and good government advocates in each state to insist that ALEC legislative leaders not just tout transparency but actually behave with transparency regarding ALEC's corporate funding in order to better ensure that government is accountable to the people they are elected to represent," Graves said.