Last August the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) held their annual meeting in New Orleans. ALEC is the conservative corporate funded group who writes the model legislation for lawmakers that later pops up during legislative sessions all over the country. The annual meeting is a virtual cut and paste-fest for Republican lawmakers everywhere.
In Florida much of the laws recently passed and many bills being brought up right now have a familiar ALEC "ring" to them. While those ALEC meetings are extremely secretive, we know that our legislators in Tallahassee are among the attendees. In fact, when they went to New Orleans last year many of those lawmakers either missed the memo to keep quiet about it, got the memo but ignored it, and/or weren't smart enough to realize that bragging about being there was probably a bad idea. Among those "kiss and tell" lawmakers, one candidate from the dimwit braggart option was Rep. Jeanette Nunez (R-Miami) who used campaign money to pay her way to the conference where she held more fundraisers while shuffling ALEC-made bills and donor checks:
"Obviously there are going to be lobbyists there, and I figure it would be an easy place, if they have checks, to come by," Nunez said.
The powers that be with ALEC and those who fund them like the Koch brothers don't want the exposure, and for a good reason. Despite all the secrecy involved, luckily for the rest us the word still gets out and probably would even in the absence of blunders from those above who just can't contain their glee when all that money and power is available for the taking.
To make matters worse it doesn't help when you have lawmakers who aren't bright enough to write legislation themselves. While those behind this cut and paste industry may see them as ideal candidates, dumb is dumb and it's going to backfire.
Enter another case of you get what you pay for: Republican Rep. Rachel Burgin, apparently a loyal foot soldier in the "Rick Scott corporate tax cuts above all else Army," with an added bonus: Like Rick Scott she's a fan of keeping secrets, but can't quite pull it off.
Is it live, or is it ALEC?
When Florida Rep. Rachel Burgin (R- 56) introduced a bill in November calling on the federal government to reduce taxes for corporations (HM 685), she made an embarrassing mistake. Rep. Burgin was introducing a bill she had received from the corporate-funded American Legislative Exchange Council. A bill written by the Tax Foundation, corporate members of ALEC’s ‘Tax and Fiscal Policy task force” and a group founded and funded by major corporate interests, including the billionaire Koch brothers.
All ALEC model resolutions contain a boilerplate paragraph, describing ALEC’s adherence to free market principles and limited government. When legislators introduce one of ALEC’s bills, they normally remove this paragraph. Sometimes (but only sometimes) legislators will make some slight alterations to an ALEC model bill, perhaps to include something specific to them or to their state. Rep. Burgin didn’t do that. Instead she introduced a bill that was the same as the model word-for-word, forgetting even to remove the paragraph naming ALEC and describing its principles.
The next day, Rep. Burgin quickly withdrew the bill hoping that no one had noticed and then re-introduced it 24-hours later, with a new bill number (HM 717), but now without the problematic paragraph. Nobody seems to have noticed until now.
Here's that paragraph she forgot to remove:
On the corporate tax cut front, it's not surprising to find that the Florida Chamber of Commerce is at the top of Burgin's contributor list. All the big names are there and they'll no doubt reap the benefits.
And they're not the only ones:
Rep. Burgin’s (revised) bill to reduce corporate taxes has already been voted out of the Federal Affairs Subcommittee, and is due to have a hearing in the State Affairs Committee soon. Only one external voice was heard at the subcommittee hearing, a lobbyist from the Associated Industries of Florida (AIF), a lobby group who themselves have links to ALEC. AIF is now run by notorious ex-Congressman and Florida Speaker Tom Feeney, who not only was caught up in the Jack Abramoff scandal, but was once named one of the “20 Most Corrupt Members of Congress” by the organization Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.