ALEC docs reveal relationship with lawmakers no voter could expect to enjoy
‘I will act with care and loyalty and put the interests of the organization first’
Leaked reports prepared this summer by the American Legislative Exchange Council — a “free market” organization that advocates on behalf of corporations and is known by the acronym ALEC — highlight the priorities of the group and its intimate relationships with and expectations of state lawmakers, including lawmakers in Colorado and specifically state ALEC “chairs,” such as latest-listed Colorado chairs Senator Bill Cadman from Colorado Springs and Representative Libby Szabo from Arvada.
In a section entitled “State Chair Job Description and Agreement,” part of a 53-page board-meeting agenda produced in August and posted online Tuesday by the Guardian, Cadman and Szabo are asked to increase lawmaker membership, appoint legislators to various task forces, manage funds provided by ALEC for events and travel, organize and attend all ALEC events and “training sessions” and develop a “state strategic plan” to advance the interests of ALEC and its corporate member-donors, which include oil, telecom, drug, insurance and tobacco industry giants like Exxon Mobil, AT&T, Pfizer, State Farm and Altria. (Click on the document images to expand.)
In addition to these commitments, the board asks the office holders to sign off on a loyalty oath that might shock constituents.
“I am morally responsible for the health and well-being of this organization,” lawmakers are asked to agree. “I will act with care and loyalty and put the interests of the organization first.”
State chairs signing the document also would agree to “inform ALEC of any public records/FOIA requests that include ALEC documents.”
Guardian writers first reporting on the documents, which appear to have been leaked exclusively to the outlet, said the drafters appear unabashed about running over elected officials’ obligation to hold the public interest as their first priority.
“The duty of elected politicians to put the interests of Alec first, with no mention of their obligations to the voters who put them in office, would have set up an apparent conflict of interest,” write reporters Ed Pilkington and Suzanne Goldenberg.
Cadman, the Senate minority leader, and Representative Szabo didn’t respond immediately to messages seeking comment this morning.
An ALEC executive told the Guardian that the draft agreement with state chairs was not adopted at the meeting.
“All legislators are beholden to their constituents’ interests first – if they are not, they will be held accountable at the ballot box,” said Bill Meierling, senior director of public affairs.
The cache of documents also details how ALEC has lost members and donors over the past year as its public profile has grown and its policy positions have become more widely known. The documents make clear that the organization is also concerned it will be increasingly subject to laws intended to tax lobbying organizations and throw light on their financial dealings. Board members planned to create a sister organization, called the “Jeffersonian Project,” that would be designed to fall into a separate tax category than ALEC and that would carry out the kind of activities for the organization that would sound alarms in watchdog tax and ethics offices.
ALEC is one of the most influential political interest groups in the nation. It writes bills for lawmakers to introduce and provides coaching on how to present and pass them. Its membership includes nearly “a quarter of all elected representatives at state level across the nation,” according to the Guardian. That includes many of the top Republican officeholders in Colorado including, for example, Senator Greg Brophy, who is now running for governor.
The organization anticipated pulling in $3.9 million in membership dues this year, although bad press may cut that amount by a third.
ALEC is hosting a three-day meeting in Washington for state legislators beginning today. Scheduled speakers include national figures like anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist and U.S. lawmakers Ted Cruz and Paul Ryan.
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