It’s worse than you thought. And we have the documents to prove it. Last week, The Guardian published internal documents from the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Those documents show an unprecedented and disturbing view into how the secretive corporate bill factory really operates. This new evidence makes it clear what many have suspected all along – ALEC has misled reporters, the public, its members, and even the Internal Revenue Service. ALEC’s primary purpose is to influence legislation at the state level, yet for years it has claimed on its tax returns that it’s never spent a penny on lobbying. This is silly, and that’s why Common Cause, the Voters Legislative Transparency Project, Clergy Voice, Center for Media and Democracy, Better Georgia and other watchdogs have all called bull on ALEC’s claims. You can add your name to the list here — sign this MoveOn petition requesting that the IRS investigate whether ALEC has violated federal tax law by making substantial misrepresentations on its sworn tax returns. But beyond ALEC’s dishonesty about its lobbying activities, here’s what you need to know about these new documents and additional research we’ve done at Better Georgia on ALEC’s influence in the Georgia General Assembly. The American Legislative Exchange Council is remarkably powerful in Peach State politics. ALEC and its legislative leaders in the state have supported and pushed some of Georgia’s most devastating legislation. Some quick facts about why ALEC matters here:
- Georgia has more ALEC legislators than nearly any other state. The new ALEC documents reveal 90 members of the legislature, all Republicans, are associated with ALEC. Georgia has the most ALEC lawmakers of any Southern state and more than any state but South Dakota.
- The large number of legislators outside the limelight attracts swarms of lobbyists. Legislators have received more than $140,000 in lobbyist gifts while attending ALEC conventions. In addition, ALEC has a special fund set up to avoid disclosure.
- Georgia doesn’t have many ALEC bills; Georgia has ALEC laws. Dozens of ALEC bills have been enacted into law recently. Better Georgia’s report highlights a selection of the ALEC bills enacted in Georgia, and expose the real world results of those policies. The results have been horrible.
- ALEC’s education policies enacted in Georgia are a catastrophe. Georgia has enacted ALEC’s model voucher policies, and deliberately foregone the accountability efforts that should come with such legislation to disastrous results.
- ALEC’s healthcare policies enacted in Georgia are a series of ineffective giveaways to the insurance industry. Sen. Judson Hill has gone to great lengths to work with insurance and pharmaceutical corporations to pass whatever they want, and even had the audacity to try to make these models for the nation. These policies are failures, not models. Georgia has the fifth highest percentage of people who lack health insurance.
- ALEC’s brand of crony capitalism has produced bills to rig the legal system for corporations, prevent capitalist competition, and even outsourced the design of tax plans to ALEC and its corporate allies.
Read Better Georgia’s full report: ALEC’s Corporate Stranglehold on Georgia Laws In ALEC board documents published by The Guardian, ALEC proposed that state chairs – and possibly other legislators – take a secret oath to ALEC. Georgia’s state chairs who would be bound by a loyalty oath are State Sen. Judson Hill (R-Marietta) and Rep. Josh Clark (R-Buford). The oath would require legislators to “put the interests of the organization [ALEC] first” and to be “morally responsible for the health and well being” of ALEC. It also demanded legislators “inform ALEC of any public records/FOIA requests that include ALEC documents,” which underscores ALEC’s pattern of trying to hide communications with lawmakers from long-standing state transparency laws. In the midst of the widespread public criticism of ALEC over its undisclosed corporate influence and its destructive agenda — including “Stand Your Ground” gun laws and “Voter ID” laws that make it harder for Americans to vote — at least 50 corporations have left ALEC in the last two years. Georgia’s own Coca-Cola was the first to publicly acknowledge leaving ALEC because the group was too toxic. The new documents published by The Guardian reveal that even more corporations stopped funding ALEC. Instead of changing policy, ALEC set up a “prodigal son” program to get the corporations that left to rejoin. Included in ALEC’s targets are Coca-Cola, Kraft Foods, McDonalds, MillerCoors, Bank of America and Walmart. Georgia-based UPS, Georgia Pacific and Cox Enterprises have never severed ties with ALEC and are still corporate funders and members. If you’re looking for more information on ALEC and its influence in Georgia and in state Capitols across the country, check out these recent stories:
- The Guardian: ALEC in funding crisis after donor exodus
- The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: 38 percent of state lawmakers are ALEC members
- Washington Post: ALEC stands its ground
- The Guardian:ALEC calls for penalties on ‘freerider’ homeowners
- Gawker: The Secret Misspelled Comeback Plan of America’s Creepiest Lobbyists
- Right Wing Watch: Newly Uncovered Documents Expose ALEC’s Anti-Gay Past
Like we said — it’s worse than you thought. We know this is a lot to grasp at one time but it’s important to know who runs Georgia’s General Assembly — even if they are trying to hide their own work. If you haven’t already, please sign the petition to ask the IRS to review ALEC’s tax records and claims that it never lobbies our lawmakers.