ALEC, (American Legislative Exchange Council), the organization that writes right-wing cookie cutter legislation for state legislators to put into law, largely operated in the dark up until the last couple of years. Now that they, and their actions, have become public knowledge, they're living the Justice Louis Brandeis' quote "Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants."
On the eve of their 2013 States & Nation Policy Summit in Washington tomorrow, The Guardian has obtained documents that reveal a new plan ALEC is launching to combat the bad publicity that has led to a stark drop in funding, largely due to a mass exodus in the wake of the Stand Your Ground controversy after the death of Trayvon Martin in Florida.
According to The Guardian, ALEC is reaching out to lost donors by launching what they're calling the "Prodigal Son Project," have set up a sister 501(c)(4) group called the Jeffersonian Project, and are requiring state legislators to pledge to put ALEC interests first over the interests of voters, among other revelations.
From The Guardian:
The Guardian has learned that the American Legislative Exchange Council (Alec), which shapes and promotes legislation at state level across the US, has identified more than 40 lapsed corporate members it wants to attract back into the fold under a scheme referred to in its documents as the "Prodigal Son Project".
The target firms include commercial giants such as Amazon, Coca-Cola,General Electric, Kraft, McDonald's and Walmart, all of which cut ties with the group following the furore over the killing of the unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin in Florida in February 2012.]
[The Guardian has learned that by Alec's own reckoning the network has lost almost 400 state legislators from its membership over the past two years, as well as more than 60 corporations that form the core of its funding. In the first six months of this year it suffered a hole in its budget of more than a third of its projected income.
The reference to the Prodigal Son Project is just one of many revelations contained in a batch of internal Alec documents that have been obtained by the Guardian. The documents, prepared for its most recent annual board meeting in Chicago in August, cast light on the inner workings of the group.
They show that:
• Alec has set up a separate sister group called the "Jeffersonian Project" amid concerns over possible government inquiries into whether its activities constitute lobbying – which would threaten its tax-exempt status;
• the network has suffered a decline in its membership among state-based Republicans and among big corporations following the Trayvon Martin controversy;
• its income raised from conferences, membership fees and donations has fallen short, leaving the group with a potential funding crisis;
• a draft agreement prepared for the board meeting proposed that Alec's chairs in each of the 50 states, who are drawn from senior legislators, should be required to put the interests of the organisation first, thus setting up a possible conflict of interest with the voters who elected them;
• Alec also considered extending its remit to include the gambling industry, particularly online gambling, as a possible source of new members and revenue.]
[The documents seen by the Guardian show that Alec is hoping to avoid legal, tax and ethical challenges by creating a separate sister organisation it calls the "Jeffersonian Project". The new body would be categorised as a 501(c)(4) social welfare organisation, a designation that would allow Alec to be far more overt in its lobbying activities than its current charitable status as a 501(c)(3).
You can read the article and view the documents uncovered by The Guardian here.