2012: The Year We Exposed ALEC
Written by Nick Surgey
Common Cause has been working to expose the activities of the American Legislative Exchange Council for several years. But the corporate-backed lobby group was in the public eye like never before in 2012. In February, the tragic death of Trayvon Martin in Florida sparked unprecedented attention to ALEC when a Florida law known as “Stand-Your-Ground” was initially used to protect Martin’s shooter from prosecution. ALEC was instrumental in spreading that law to dozens of states.
With the national conversation that followed the Martin shooting came increased attention to ALEC’s role in advancing the agendas of groups like the National Rifle Association, and the role it plays promoting other types of legislation for sponsors like Koch Industries, Exxon Mobil and PhRMA.
ALEC bills concern almost every area of our lives — education, healthcare, the environment, access to the courts and even our ability to vote. ALEC should not be ignored, and we have worked tirelessly to make sure it is not. Here are some of the highlights of a busy year:
- Challenged ALEC’s charitable tax status. Common Cause filed a 4,000-page whistleblower complaint with the IRS in April, providing extensive evidence of ALEC’s lobbying work on behalf of its corporate members. In December, Bloomberg News obtained an ALEC board memo describing its plan to set up a new organization because of an expected IRS audit.
- Called for state Attorney General investigations into ALEC’s tax status. Common Cause made requests in 48 states for Attorney General and state ethics investigations in 2012. Expect to see more on this in 2013.
- Engaged in cutting edge research. We filed hundreds of public record requests in dozens of states, analyzed thousands of pages of ALEC materials, reviewed legislator disclosures and other corporate documents. This research – done on a shoestring budget- enabled Common Cause to make public hundreds of internal ALEC documents, release the names of ALEC’s corporate members, and shared many other crucial documents that have helped make ALEC a household name in 2012.
- Blew the whistle on ALEC’s legislative agenda. We connected the dots between ALEC and the Stand-Your-Ground legislation, exposed ALEC’s efforts to overturn the Affordable Care Act, drew attention to ALEC’ role promoting the Keystone XL pipeline, and discovered the role ALEC play helping Exxon Mobil and the rest of the fracking industry keep their toxic chemicals secret.
- Caught Eric Cantor taking a secret ALEC gift. We exposed House Majority Leader Eric Cantor for an ethics gift rule violation, when he failed to report a gift from ALEC. We alerted the Office of Congressional Ethics, forcing Cantor into making amendments to his financial disclosures.
- Received extensive media coverage. Our ALEC research was featured in a major front page New York Times story in April, and our work has been covered in hundreds of other stories in other national and local publications across the country. We even received favorable coverage on a local Fox TV station. Much of our ALEC research was featured in a Bill Moyers PBS documentary. Common Cause has launched a website to promote his film and to publicize screenings in 2013. Check this out at www.unitedstatesofalec.org
- Released state-level ALEC reports across the country. In 2012, Common Cause co-released reports in six states exposing ALEC’s activities and identifying ALEC member legislators and the model bills they’ve introduced.
- Challenged corporations to quit ALEC. Common Cause supporters helped challenge corporations’ membership in ALEC. The push resulted in at least 42 corporations dumping ALEC in 2012 alone, including Mars, General Electric and Walmart. If you haven’t yet signed our petition, please consider doing so.
All our accomplishments this year couldn’t have happened without your generous support. Make a tax-deductible year-end gift to Common Cause today, and we’ll send you a free DVD of Bill Moyers’ newest documentary, “THE UNITED STATES OF ALEC” as our thanks to you.