Wisconsin Lawsuit Shines Spotlight On ALEC
Common Cause and its partners have been at the forefront of efforts to expose the American Legislative Exchange Council’s dirty backroom dealings. ALEC had been bringing state lawmakers and corporate executives together under the guise of charity for almost 40 years, and they were getting away with it until Common Cause and allies blew the whistle.
In Wisconsin, ALEC lawmakers have tried to cover their tracks by moving their dealings from official e-mail accounts to personal ones outside the public eye. One lawmaker even had the audacity to specifically request (emphasis his) “Please send ALL ALEC material to the Representative’s PERSONAL e-mail.”
Lawmakers using personal accounts for official business isn’t a problem in and of itself, so long as they follow the law. Wisconsin state law even allows legislators to use personal accounts to conduct official government business, but any accounts used are subject to the same disclosure requirements that public accounts are.
When we asked five Wisconsin state legislators to turn over their ALEC communications, they ignored this law and excluded personal emails from their search entirely. Common Cause and the Center for Media and Democracy have filed suit against these five lawmakers to make sure they aren’t hiding any information that the public has a right to know.
We’ve been watchdogging ALEC for a while now- in August 2011, we released a report documenting the financial contributions from ALEC’s corporate members to legislators. And, since then, we’ve been working with Color of Change and others, pressuring big companies to dump ALEC and stop funding its attacks on our democracy.
Last April, we filed a whistleblower complaint against ALEC with the IRS, using their own documents to expose them as a corporate lobby, not a tax-exempt charity. We also made sure the media was shining its spotlight on ALEC , leading to a cover story in the New York Times.
As long as ALEC is letting corporate executives write laws and lobby lawmakers under the guise of charity, Common Cause will be there to expose their activities. This lawsuit is just the latest step in making sure ALEC is held accountable.