Archive for Tuesday, May 1, 2012

House committee votes to stop use of state funds for legislators to participate in several organizations, including ALEC

May 1, 2012

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— The House Appropriations Committee on Tuesday approved a budget provision that would prohibit state funds from being used for legislators to participate in several organizations, including the American Legislative Exchange Council.

State Rep. Pete DeGraaf, R-Mulvane, proposed the ban on state funds for legislators who are members of the National Conference of State Legislatures and the Council of State Governments.

But state Rep. Doug Gatewood, D-Columbus, said ALEC should be part of that ban too.

DeGraaf said he had no problem including ALEC, adding that he has attended ALEC meetings and his expenses have been paid through "scholarships" and not state funds.

The Appropriations Committee approved adding the ban to its proposed budget bill that now goes to the full House.

Since ALEC scholarships are funded by corporate interests, the proposed ban may have little impact on most ALEC members, although legislators said later that some state funds have been expended on registration for ALEC meetings but didn't know exactly how much.

ALEC has been at the center of controversy in recent months for pushing laws benefiting corporations, voter ID requirements and so-called "stand your ground" laws, which was cited in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed Florida teen. In the past several weeks, some of ALEC's largest corporate members have broken ties with the organization.

Even before the Martin shooting, ALEC was under fire from public watchdog groups that alleged the organization was a front for corporate interests, including Kansas-based Koch Industries, to influence state laws and public policies.

In Kansas, a contingent of approximately two dozen legislators, all Republicans, have been active in ALEC, going to its meetings, serving in leadership positions on its board and returning to Kansas with model legislation that they then start pushing through the legislative process. Most of those expenses have been funded through ALEC, which collects money from corporations.

ALEC, which enjoys tax-exempt status as a non-profit, describes its mission as advancing free markets, limited government, federalism and individual liberty. The group includes legislators and representatives of corporate interests that produce “model legislation.”

But the Center for Media and Democracy, which has been critical of ALEC, says there is a big difference between ALEC and the National Conference of State Legislatures.

The center says that ALEC has corporate leaders and members, who vote on bills behind closed doors, while NCSL doesn't. In addition, ALEC is funded almost entirely by corporations and nearly all of ALEC's legislative leaders are Republican, while the NCSL leadership is bi-partisan.

NCSL describes itself as a bi-partisan organization that provides research, technical assistance and opportunities for policymakers to exchange ideas on the most pressing state issues.

The Council of State Governments describes itself as a nonpartisan organization that brings state leaders together to share ideas, providing them the chance to learn valuable lessons from each other. The executive director is David Adkins, a former state senator from Kansas.

Comments

Paul R Getto 3 years ago

"DeGraaf said he had no problem including ALEC, adding that he has attended ALEC meetings and his expenses have been paid through "scholarships" and not state funds." === Language is such fun, isn't it? I think he's talking about "bribes" but scholarship sounds better. ALEC is getting a looksee and that is good.

chootspa 3 years ago

Yes, but this bill is mostly targeted at the National Conference of State Legislatures and the Council of State Governments, since those are intentionally bipartisan organizations that don't let corporations dictate model legislation for them.

ALEC funds most of their corporate lobbyist love-fests through "scholarships," so it will have very little impact on them. Meanwhile, it will give all the ALEC member legislators cover when they claim they supported the bill. I hope someone amends the bill to also say that ALEC scholarships aren't allowed, either. As you point out, it's pretty much a bribe.

texburgh 3 years ago

Let's recognize this motion for what it is: Moderate Republican Senator Steve Morris is president of NCSL. Moderate Republican Senator Jay Emler is president of CSG. DeGraaf's motion is about denying them their leadership positions in two prestigious organizations - neither of which depends on corporate sponsorships to pay the legislators' expenses. ALEC was left out because it is aligned with DeGraaf's extremist agenda. He has no problem adding ALEC in because corporate America is willing to pick up the tab if it means they can get more anti-worker legislation written by corporate lobbyists introduced and passed.

costello 3 years ago

"The Council of State Governments describes itself as a nonpartisan organization that brings state leaders together to share ideas, providing them the chance to learn valuable lessons from each other."

So legislators who wish to attend the nonpartisan conferences will now have to pay their own way, while those wishing to go to ALEC will continue to be paid for by special interest money?

chootspa 3 years ago

Pretty much sums it up. ALEC devotees like to claim CSG and NCSL are "liberal" organizations and therefore somehow equivalent in evil. Or something. It's a lame defense of allowing lobbyists to write your legislation for you.

pace 3 years ago

It made me sick to see so much tax money going to Alec, which was against working family rights.

overthemoon 3 years ago

Ha. A little? I've been lost for hours on that site. When you start following the various trails and cross references be prepared to be shocked...or just have your worst suspicions confirmed.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years ago

Translation: nanna nanna boo boo, screw you if you disagree with me.

progressive_thinker 3 years ago

The bigger goal should be to hold members of the legislature to the same standard that executive branch employees are held to in terms of accepting gifts, travel, and admission to conferences. [See K.S.A.46-237a].

Unfortunately, the ALEC is still permitted to use it's deep pockets to exert undue influence over lawmakers in terms of scholarships for admission to "events" and other benefits. Note that a line level state employee can be disciplined if they accept so much as a ball point pen as a gift that is offered because of their position.

The double standard is breathtaking.

overthemoon 3 years ago

The ALEC people are very clever, they've been at it since 1973. They have figured out every little loophole and turn of phrase or wording that allows them to be what is really a shadow legislative body.

WilburNether 3 years ago

Translation: Pathetic liberals 'R' us.

overthemoon 3 years ago

Sweetie, one of these days you're going to realize just how badly you're gonna be screwed by 'your side'. We'll welcome you to the people's party, even if you have been mean for like forever.

Carol Bowen 3 years ago

Does anyone else have a problem with our elected representatives accepting "scholarships". Elected reps are not supposed to accept gifts related to their work. Am I missing something?

overthemoon 3 years ago

The people studying ALEC intently have also been working with the legal folks to bring lawsuits, mainly on IRS statutes as ALEC operates as a non-profit and gets tax exemptions.

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