Investigative reporter Brendan Keefe, with 11Alive, went to Savannah to find out how Georgia lawmakers create legislation in back rooms.
But even we were surprised to find out how far our lawmakers will go to keep the public in the dark.
Keefe’s undercover report exposes — on video — a level of corruption that we’ve only heard about until now.
Although 11Alive found Georgia lawmakers in the meetings, they would not allow the reporter inside to find out which bills were being discussed.
In fact, the organizers of the meeting brought in armed sheriff’s deputies to escort the reporter out of the hotel — even though the reporter was a paying guest.
And not one Georgia lawmaker in attendance stood up for the reporter.
The meetings in Savannah were sponsored by ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council.
Better Georgia released a report on ALEC’s influence over Georgia’s lawmakers in 2013.
Read more: ALEC’s Corporate Stranglehold on Georgia Laws
At the time, we discovered that Georgia had the most ALEC Legislators of any state in the country. While ALEC’s members are secret, we were able to find public records to show 71 members of the legislature, all Republicans, were associated with ALEC.
Since then, we uncovered a fundraising letter for ALEC signed by Speaker of the House David Ralston. The letter was mailed to corporate lobbyists.
Sen. Nan Orrock, a former member of ALEC, describes how corporations use the organization to draft legislation:
“The corporations that are there have equal standing with the legislators,” she told 11Alive.
“You mean they can vote?”
“They absolutely can vote, and truth be told, they write the bills,” she said, referring to the lobbyists.
And Republican Sen. Renee Unterman has also abandoned ALEC.
She told 11Alive that she left ALEC years ago because she was one of the only female members of the organization.
Sen. Unterman called ALEC a group of “angry white men” and said the organization that was once controlled by legislators is now “controlled by industry.”
No wonder they don’t want you, or any Georgian, to see how they work.
Wealthy corporations, writing legislation in back rooms while they wine and dine lawmakers at fancy resorts isn’t the way government is supposed to work.