Barbara Shelly: ALEC wants more influence

12/06/2013 12:00 AM

12/05/2013 4:15 PM

The Guardian newspaper got hold of a nice trove of documents that apparently come straight out of the inner sanctum of the American Legislative Exchange Council, commonly known as ALEC, the conservative group that seeks to carry out its agenda by influencing state legislation.

The documents were prepared in advance of ALEC’s board meeting in August, the Guardian reported. They contain a few revelations:

•  ALEC hasn’t rebounded from the hits it took after word got out that the group had teamed up with the National Rifle Association to promote the controversial “stand your ground” laws, which came under scrutiny after a Florida man shot and killed Trayvon Martin, an unarmed teenager. More than 60 corporations dropped their membership after that, and ALEC became less of a draw for GOP state lawmakers.

The group is trying to reclaim its lucrative corporate support, even launching a “prodigal son” project to lure back such giants as Walmart, Amazon, Boeing, Home Depot and McDonald’s. Let’s hope the prodigals stay far afield.

•  ALEC has created a sister group called the “Jeffersonian Project.” It’s a 501(c)(4) social organization, which will enable it to be more obvious about its lobbying function.

Under its current 501(c)(3) structure, ALEC specializes in drawing up model bills for its members to push in their respective state legislatures. So now the same folks can write the model bills and lobby for them openly. Such a deal.

•  One of the most interesting documents is a proposed job description for the legislators designated to head up their state delegations. Along with striving to increase membership in ALEC by 10 percent a year and informing the group of all public information requests that include ALEC documents, it was proposed that state chairs take a loyalty oath: “I will act with care and loyalty and put the interests of the organization first.”

What? These are elected officials. They are to put the interests of their states and constituents first. Apparently at some level people realized that, because the draft job description was never adopted. But the very suggestion demonstrates ALEC’s eagerness to control these lawmakers.

ALEC is well-represented in the Republican caucuses of the Kansas and Missouri legislatures. Kansas House Speaker Ray Merrick, R-Stilwell, is the state chairman for ALEC.

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