Stealth Lobbying by Corporate "Charity"
The American Legislative Exchange Council (aka ALEC) is registered with the IRS as a 501(c)(3) charity. But it is clear that ALEC has been operating as a massive lobbying organization for corporations and conservative billionaires. And now the mainstream press is finally reporting on this secretive and corrupt organization.
Yesterday, the New York Times wrote about their practices after reviewing a number of documents about how they operate:
The records offer a glimpse of how special interests effectively turn ALEC’s lawmaker members into stealth lobbyists, providing them with talking points, signaling how they should vote and collaborating on bills affecting hundreds of issues like school vouchers and tobacco taxes.
And NPR reported on Common Cause's complaint filed with the IRS that the organization is fraudulently claiming to be a charity while actively lobbying for conservative causes.
Common Cause said that ALEC violates the 501(c)(3)limit on lobbying and that it serves the business interests of the corporate donors, not a public, charitable purpose.
"We've actually seen their talking points, that are the same talking points that lobbyists use," says Bob Edgar, president of Common Cause. "We've seen their emails, the same emails that go to legislators, trying to lobby. All of that looks and smells like lobbying to us."
Some more from the Times:
Although its board is made up of legislators, who pay $50 a year to belong, ALEC is primarily financed by more than 200 private-sector members, whose annual dues of $7,000 to $25,000 accounted for most of its $7 million budget in 2010.
Some companies give much more, all of it tax deductible: AT&T, Pfizer and Reynolds American each contributed $130,000 to $398,000, according to a copy of ALEC’s 2010 tax returns, obtained by The Times, that included donors’ names, which are normally withheld from public inspection. The returns show that corporate members pay stipends — it calls them “scholarships” — for lawmakers to travel to annual conferences, including a four-day retreat where ALEC spends as much as $250,000 on child care for members’ families.
So nice that companies get a charitable deduction for writing laws that make them even richer.
All this bad news for ALEC is great news for us. Let's see some more.