July 2 ALEC Statement on WXIA Atlanta
The 11 PM ET broadcast of WXIA/ NBC 11 Alive tonight will include a segment that follows a common yet erroneous storyline that has played out repeatedly over the past four years.
WXIA will make claims of impropriety when ALEC member engagement is both commonplace in the state policy arena and incredibly valuable for the continuing education of state legislators. As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational organization, ALEC works in the public interest by providing nonpartisan research study and analysis of state policy issues.
WXIA will claim a lack of transparency when in fact ALEC is among the most transparent state policy organization. ALEC releases draft policy, adopted model policy, financial statements, reimbursement policies and all reports to the public.
In addition, ALEC has made the following statements:
ALEC state reimbursement policy
ALEC transparency and public engagement
Below is the statement sent by ALEC to WXIA in advance of the story.
From: Wilhelm Meierling
Sent: Wednesday, July 01, 2015 8:53 PM
To: Jennifer Rigby; Ericka Palmer
Subject: ALEC and 11Alive – Thursday 11pm
Dear Jennifer and Erika:
Brendan Keefe’s twitter feed indicates you will air a story tomorrow night at 11:00 PM that calls into question the tax-exempt status of the American Legislative Exchange Council. Any allegation of the sort is purely false. The Exchange Council is compliant with all IRS regulations and state ethics laws. I presume the story will be based on a 2011 Common Cause-IRS complaint. To date, the IRS has taken no action (because we are compliant with their regulations). In 2012, Common Cause Minnesota filed a complaint with the state ethics commission based on the original IRS complaint. Attached are the findings issued this February by the independent Minnesota panel. In short:
- ALEC does not lobby
- ALEC is a nonprofit organization
- ALEC policy discussions are in the abstract and not focused on any state
- ALEC did not violate ethics/registration laws
This has been covered by U.S. News and World Report. Before you broadcast a potentially inaccurate segment, I wanted you to have all the facts.
In addition, in previous stories Keefe has manufactured outrage regarding ALEC meetings where legislators meet with stakeholders of all types to discuss and draft model policy in an academic context when our operation is not only accepted, but commonplace in the state policy arena. The meetings ALEC hosts are nearly identical to those held by the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), the Council of State Governments (CSG), the Southern Legislative Conference and the State Innovation Exchange to name just a few. All of the aforementioned groups along with the National Conference of Commissioners of Uniform State Laws (NCCUSL) produce model policy. In fact, from July 18-22, the Southern Legislative Conference is meeting at the same hotel where ALEC members met in May.
In 2014, Georgia taxpayers paid nearly half-a-million dollars to NCSL ($267,212.00), CSG ($215,753.00) and NCCUSL ($55,000.00) (spreadsheet attached; source: http://www.open.georgia.gov/psa/poSearch.aud). This is likely only a small fraction of the actual taxpayer expenditure as publicly available information reports only the appropriation, not the (taxpayer-funded) travel reimbursement for state legislators who attend their meetings.
The difference between ALEC and these other groups is that ALEC is not taxpayer-funded, while all other groups accept taxpayer funds as well as nonprofit, foundation and corporate donations. Perhaps the story should not be about ALEC doing exactly what any number of organizations do. Perhaps instead the story should be about where taxpayer funds are being spent and what ROI those expenditures have returned.
ALEC supports legislators’ continuing education from whatever sources they find valuable. Many Georgia legislators attend ALEC, NCSL, CSG and SLC meetings because they want to hear as many differing viewpoints as possible to ensure they make the best possible decisions for the Georgians they represent. Good government comes from the assessment of a vast marketplace of ideas, not a paucity of thought.
Vice President, Public Affairs