BAD FOR BUSINESS
Certainly, there is no end to suspicion of ALEC and its partners’ motives. ALEC is well aware of the fallout, as at least 10 corporations (Walmart, Kraft, Pepsi and Coca-Cola, Intuit, the Gates Foundation, McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Arizona Public Service, Mars Inc., American Traffic Solutions and Reed Elsevier, according to ALEC Exposed) have left. ALEC is attempting to staunch the bleeding.
ALEC posted a letter—“Statement by ALEC on the Coordinated Intimidation Campaign Against its Members”—from its executive director, Ron Scheberle, on its website on April 11, 2012.
“ALEC is an organization that supports pro-growth, pro-jobs policies and the vigorous exchange of ideas between the public and private sector to develop state-based solutions,” it reads. “Today, we find ourselves the focus of a well-funded, expertly coordinated intimidation campaign.
“At a time when job creation, real solutions and improved dialogue among political leaders is needed most, ALEC’s mission has never been more important. This is why we are redoubling our commitment to these essential priorities. We are not and will not be defined by ideological special interests who would like to eliminate discourse that leads to economic vitality, jobs and fiscal stability for the states.”
On April 12, Scheberle posted another letter about the outpouring of support for ALEC. “First, the people now attacking ALEC and its members are the same people who have always pushed for big-government solutions. Our support for free markets and limited government stands in stark contrast to their state-dependent utopia. This is not about one piece of legislation. This is an attempt to silence our organization, and it has been going on for more than a year.
“Second, ALEC is one of America’s premier ideas laboratories when it comes to advocating free- market reforms. We are a target because our opponents believe they have the opportunity to attack an effective, successful organization that promotes free-market, limited-government policies that they disagree with. We work to promote the Freedom of Choice in Health Care initiative against ObamaCare’s individual mandate. We support fair tax policies and tort reform. This is an all-out intimidation campaign designed to promote government-based solutions rather than the free-market principles that we have seen work.”
Cordray counters that ALEC is a target because it has been carrying on the public’s business in private and facilitating money transfers from large corporations to state legislators.
For instance, Provo Sen. Bramble, who’s another ALEC co-chair, received $90,000 in ALEC-related campaign contributions, according to the website ALEC Exposed. That includes $4,000 from U.S. Smokeless Tobacco.
While not a particular problem in Utah, smokeless tobacco is big news in Germany, where the ALEC international-relations committee would like to see a ban lifted. The European Union is striving toward a tobacco-free Europe, a step that’s obviously bad for business.
Bramble, however, says he has no idea which of his donors are ALEC supporters, and he has no interest in German politics. As an example, he says he took money from tobacco interests, but then sponsored a bill to raise the tobacco tax. He took money from breweries, and yet sponsored a bill to ban alcopops in Utah grocery stores.
“These groups like the Alliance for a Better Utah—their agenda is they don’t like conservative philosophies and they’re trying to connect dots that don’t connect,” Bramble says. “It’s just not there.”
On ALEC’s Salt Lake City conference agenda are committees involved in commerce and taxation; energy; public-pension reform; commerce, insurance and economic development; fiscal policy; health-insurance exchanges; communication and technology; social-media training; international relations; national security; and, of course, federalism.
ALEC protesters, aka the ALEC “Welcoming Committee” (ALECWC.org), have planned a series of events from July 23 to July 28 on the west side of Washington Square. But that’s not all. The committee has filed a “demand” with the Utah Attorney General’s office, the Utah Division of Consumer Affairs and the lieutenant governor to investigate the group’s tax-exempt, 501(c)3 status and its failure to register in Utah as a lobbyist.
“Despite prohibitions against lobbying for 501(c)3 organizations, ALEC brags that its model legislation that is provided to lawmakers has become state law in all 50 states,” the complaint says. “ALEC has even bragged in the past that 21 percent of its model legislation eventually becomes law. This rampant illegal behavior, the ALEC Welcoming Committee believes, continues because ALEC has powerful and wealthy backers, including the largest corporations in the country.”
Says Cordray, “It’s criminal for the Legislature and the governor to be meeting with the corporate elite in a five-star hotel in secret, and claim to be a charity.”
Several groups around the country are also challenging ALEC’s tax-exempt status. Common Cause has filed a complaint, as has CLERGY Voice. “The clergy’s complaint goes beyond allegations of improper lobbying, claiming that ALEC exists for the ‘private benefit’ of its members rather than for charitable, educational or other exempt purposes that serve the public interest and deserve special tax treatment,” writes the Center for Public Integrity. The clergy maintains that ALEC “deliberately and repeatedly failed to comply with some of the most fundamental federal tax requirements applicable to public charities.”
Ivory sees the United States on an unsustainable path. “We have a nation without a balance, with debt and overspending,” he says. “Nothing we do at this point will come easy.”
And that is an understatement.
ALEC 39th-annual meeting
Grand America Hotel, Salt Lake City