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Stink Tanks: Historical Records Reveal State Policy Network Was Created by ALEC

9:24 am in Uncategorized by Steve Horn

Cross-Posted by DeSmogBlog 

The Madison Hotel, DC

A 1991 report tracked down by DeSmogBlog from the University of California-San Francisco’s Legacy Tobacco Documents reveals that the State Policy Network (SPN) was created by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), raising additional questions over both organizations’ Internal Revenue Service (IRS) non-profit tax status.

Titled “Special Report: Burgeoning Conservative Think Tanks” and published by the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, the report states that State Policy Network’s precursor — the Madison Group — was “launched by the American Legislative Exchange Council and housed in the Chicago-based Heartland Institute.”

Further, Constance “Connie” Campanella — former ALEC executive director and the first president of the Madison Group — left ALEC in 1988 to create a lobbying firm called Stateside Associates. Stateside uses ALEC meetings (and the meetings of other groups) as lobbying opportunities for its corporate clients.

“Stateside Associates is the largest state and local government affairs firm,” according to its website. “Since 1988, the Stateside team has worked across the 50 states and in many local governments on behalf of dozens of companies, trade associations and government and non-profit clients.”

Named Constance Heckman while heading ALEC, Campenella also formerly served on the Board of Directors of Washington Area State Relations Group, a state-level lobbyist networking group. 

“The Washington Area State Relations Group (WASRG) is one of the nation’s largest organizations dedicated exclusively to serving state government relations professionals,” explains its website. “Since the mid-1970s, WASRG has been providing its corporate, trade association and public sector members with a unique and valuable opportunity to interact with their peers, key state officials and public policy experts.”

Shadow Lobbying All Along

ALEC is currently under fire for potentially abusing its 501(c)(3) non-profit IRS charity tax status, acting as a shadow lobbying apparatus and “corporate bill mill” throughout its 40 years of existence.

In response to criticism, internal documents recently revealed by The Guardian show that ALEC created a 501(c)(4) group called the Jeffersonian Project, a move activists said was a tacit admission ALEC has illegally served as a lobbying apparatus from the beginning.

What Campanella understood and cashed in on by creating Stateside Associates was how the “shadow lobbying” process works. Her career move from serving as ALEC’s executive director to setting up Stateside is another indicator ALEC and related groups facilitate lobbying.

“Stink Tanks” Ideas Factory

While ALEC facilitates passage of “model bills” — what the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) has coined a “corporate bill mill” — State Policy Network proliferates the ideas legitimizing the myriad models that become legislation in statehouses nationwide.

These ideas come in the form of what CMD and Progress Now call “Stink Tanks,” modeled to be “mini-Heritage Foundations” by one of its original funders, Thomas Roe. State Policy Network has 64 state affiliates.

Roe, who passed away in 2000, served as vice chairman and finance chairman of the Republican Party in South Carolina and as a member of the Republican National Finance Committee. The Heritage Foundation, where Roe served on the Board of Trustees, now houses the Thomas Roe Institute for Economic Policy Studies.

Though current State Policy Network president Tracie Sharp claimed SPN member groups don’t coordinate with one another in a November Politico article, Roe explicitly funded the organization to do just that.

“Starting in 1987, these organizations began meeting regularly as the Madison Group…to trade information and discuss strategies,” a history of SPN published in 2007 explains. “Roe believed that these get-togethers were so helpful that they should be formalized through a professional association that would host annual conferences, provide services, and improve communications among its members.”

To this day, State Policy Network hands out an annual Roe Award.

“The annual Roe Award pays tribute to those in the state public policy movement whose achievements have greatly advanced the free market philosophy. It recognizes leadership, innovation and accomplishment in public policy,” explains the SPN website. “The award is an eagle, a symbol of liberty and the courage and conviction necessary for its preservation.”

“Winning is the Operative Word”

In introducing the “Burgeoning Conservative Think Tanks” report in a July 1991 letter to Kurt Malmgren — then the Senior Vice President of State Activities for the Tobacco Institute — former ALEC Executive Director Sam Brunelli wrote “winning is what ALEC is all about.”

“Winning is the operative word. It is an experience you can appreciate because winning the public policy debate will continue to have a tremendous positive effect on the ‘bottom line’ of your company,” Brunelli wrote.

“At ALEC, we bring together, in an intellectually and challenging environment, state legislators and corporate and business executives, wherein we provide the mixture of determination, dedication, preparation, and teamwork — those elements so necessary to winning!”

Yet, it’s fair to say after a week of hard-hitting investigative journalism by The Guardian and many other outlets, both ALEC and the State Policy Network have doubled down on defense and are not “winning” for now. Read the rest of this entry →

Leaked Documents Reveal IRS Concerns, Funding Crisis At ALEC

1:35 pm in Uncategorized by Steve Horn

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

The Guardian has published a major investigative piece that once again exposes the scandalous ways of the right wing lobbying group, American Legislative Exchange Council(ALEC).

Among the biggest revelations: ALEC may soon face a budget crisis, and is feeling the heat of public pressure from activists and its own membership in the aftermath of the Trayvon Martin shooting by George Zimmerman in FloridaDozens of corporations have jumped ship from what critics have coined a “corporate bill mill” for statehouses nationwide.

Another explosive revelation: ALEC State Chairs were handed a draft pledge to put ALEC’s interests over its constituents’ interests, asked to “act with care and loyalty and put the interests of [ALEC] first.” ALEC confirmed to The Guardian that it was “not adopted by the membership committee or by any of the state chairs.”

The Guardian obtained ALEC’s Board of Directors’ meeting minutes which reveal that ALEC has created a 501(c)(4) non-profit organization called The Jeffersonian Project.

Creation of the Jeffersonian Project – paralleling ALEC’s self-serving branding as standing for “Jeffersonian principles” - could be seen as a tacit admission that ALEC had been illegally operating as a shadow lobbying organization on behalf of its corporate members for the past four decades.

ALEC’s budget hole from the exodus of corporate members has inspired a campaign to win corporate members back to the exclusive club, calling it thebiblically-inspired ”Prodigal Son Project.” Desperate for more member-based funding, ALEC is considering recruiting gambling companies into its member base.

Jeffersonian Project Legal Lifeline

Not going so far as to admit it has acted as an illegal shadow lobbying organization for the past four decades, ALEC’s attorney Alan Dye weighed in on the Jeffersonian Project in a letter, “though we do not believe that any activity carried on by Alec is lobbying, the IRS could disagree…Alec has been approached by donors who are willing to make sizable donations, but insist that the donations go to a section 501(c)(4) organization.”

Put another way, the Jeffersonian Project could be ALEC’s lifeline to keep itself in legal territory and therefore, afloat. ALEC says so itself, in fact.

“Any activity that could be done by Alec may be done by Jeffersonian Project if legal counsel advises it would provide greater legal protection or lessen ethics concerns,” notes from its Board Meeting state, adding 501(c)(4) status answers “questions of ethical violations made by our critics and state ethics boards and provides further legal protection.”

Lisa Graves, Executive Director for the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) responded to ALEC’s lifeline creation, saying, “It should have disclosed its lobbying long ago.”

Pro-Fracking, Anti-Regulatory Agenda for Upcoming Meeting

These findings by The Guardian come just one day before ALEC’s forthcoming States and Nation Policy Summit in Washington, DC, in which pro-fracking and anti-regulatory model bills and presentations will be the centerpiece of the Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force’s convening. Shale gas industry lobbying powerhouse America’s Natural Gas Alliance will be named as a corporate member at the meeting.

As CMD’s PR Watch revealed in an August article, the “United States of ALEC” has already proposed 77 ALEC anti-environmental “model bills” in statehouses nationwide in the first three quarters of 2013.

DeSmogBlog will be covering the events of the upcoming DC meeting closely in the coming days.

Three States Pushing ALEC Bill To Require Teaching Climate Change Denial In Schools

7:23 am in Uncategorized by Steve Horn

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) - known by its critics as a “corporate bill mill” – has hit the ground running in 2013, pushing “models bills” mandating the teaching of climate change denial in public school systems.

January hasn’t even ended, yet ALEC has already planted its ”Environmental Literacy Improvement Act“ - which mandates a “balanced” teaching of climate science in K-12 classrooms - in the state legislatures of Oklahoma, Colorado, and Arizona so far this year.

In the past five years since 2008, among the hottest years in U.S. history, ALEC has introduced its “Environmental Literacy Improvement Act“ in 11 states, or over one-fifth of the statehouses nationwide. The bill has passed in four states, an undeniable form of “big government” this “free market” organization decries in its own literature.

ALEC’s ”model bills” are written by and for corporate lobbyists alongside conservative legislators at its annual meetings. ALEC raises much of its corporate funding from the fossil fuel industry, which in turn utilizes ALEC as a key - though far from the only - vehicle to ram through its legislative agenda through in the states.

A Frankenstein Co-Created with Heartland Institute

DeSmogBlog investigation last year found that the Environmental Literacy Improvement Act’s origins date back to 2000.

The Act’s creation is directly connected to the ongoing efforts of another corporate-funded group, the Heartland Institute – of “Heartland Institute Exposed” fame – a group well plugged into the climate change denial machine.

ALEC’s Natural Resources Task Force, now known as its Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force, adopted this model at a time when the Task Force was headed by Sandy Liddy Bourne. Bourne, who served in this capacity from 1999-2004, would eventually ascend to the role of Director of Legislation and Policy for ALEC in 2004.

Upon leaving ALEC in 2006, Bourne become Heartland’s Vice President for Policy Strategy. Today she serves as Executive Director of the American Energy Freedom Center, an outfit she co-heads with Arthur G. Randol. Randol is a longtime lobbyist and PR flack for ExxonMobil, a corporation which endowed the climate change denial machine for years.

Heartland’s website still lists Bourne as one of its “experts,” stating that ”Under her leadership, 20 percent of ALEC model bills were enacted by one state or more, up from 11 percent.”

Importantly, Heartland is still a member of ALEC’s Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force that originally passed the Environmental Literacy Improvement Act.

According to internal documents leaked to and published by DeSmogBlog in Feb. 2012, Heartland obtained funding for a “Global Warming Curriculum for K-12 Classrooms” project beginning in 2012. This curriculum aims to teach that there “is a major controversy over whether or not humans are changing the weather.”

If this sounds similar to ALEC’s model bill, it should, given the fact that the two outfits share funding from the same honey pot. In fact, Heartland actively promotes the ALEC model on its website.

Model Bill Introduced in OK, CO, and AZ
Read the rest of this entry →