Common Cause Pa seeks investigation of ALEC

    Common Cause Pennsylvania has asked State Attorney General Linda Kelly to investigate the American Legislative Exchange Council, charging that the organization  is “a corporate lobby front group masquerading as a public charity on the taxpayers’ dime.”

    ALEC is an organization that includes state legislators and corporations as members, and drafts model legislation which is introduced in legislatures around the country.

    Several large corporations, including McDonald’s and Coca-Cola recently withdrew from the organization because of its sponsorship of legislation including “stand your ground” self-defense laws.

    The Common Cause Pa complaint about ALEC follows a national Common Cause complaint challenging the organization’s status as a federally tax-exempt charity. The organization grants “scholarships” to state legislators to discuss policy issues, and the Pennsylvania complaint says many of the groups activities meet state definitions of lobbying.

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    The Common Cause Pennsylvania press release announcing the complaint has another interesting wrinkle – it notes that when ALEC held its 2007 convention in Philadelphia, the meeting got a $50,000 subsidy from the legislature. “Questions have been raised as to whether Pennsylvania lawmakers “double-dipped”; taking ALEC scholarships and submitting for reimbursement from the state,” Common Cause says.

    You can read the Common Cause announcement here. The complaint to the Pennsylvania Attorney General is here. And the documentation on the state subsidy for the ALEC convention and the catering bills it covered are  here.

    Alan P. Dye, legal counsel to the American Legislative Exchange Council responded to the national Common Cause complaint with the following statement:

    “The attacks on the American Legislative Exchange Council are based on patently false claims being made by liberal front groups that differ with ALEC on philosophical terms.

    “The current complaint mostly ignores applicable law and distorts what it does not ignore. After three decades of counseling clients on nonprofit and federal disclosure requirements, it’s clear to me that this is a tired campaign to abuse the legal system, distort the facts and tarnish the reputation of ideological foes.

    “Without question, Common Cause is a partisan front group masquerading as an ethics watchdog.”

    You can hear Terry Gross’s interview with journalist John Nichols about ALEC on Fresh Air here.

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