Chris Larson (D-WI) On ALEC: "If They Look Like A Lobbyist, Talk Like A Lobbyist And Walk Like A Lobbyist, They Should Be Regulated Like A Lobbyist”
Two of the Wisconsin legislature's best members-- one from the Assembly, Mark Pocan, and one from the Senate, Chris Larson-- have teamed up to pull back the curtains of one of America's most insidious and dangerous anti-democract groups, the Koch-backed American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). ALEC works with crackpots, extremists, racists and fascists in state legislatures wherever the Republicans have seized control. Their agenda is to undermine and discredit democracy itself on behalf of the one percent. Although the ALEC agenda dominates every legislature in the Old Confederacy, since 2010 they have also gained control in normal states as well, particularly Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Monday Pocan and Larson formally submitted a bill to clamp down on special interest organizations that write bills for legislators, ALEC's M.O.
Recently, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has drawn criticism for acting as lobbyists for corporate legislation while being exempted from registering as a lobbying group with the Government Accountability Board. Many ALEC bills became law this session, including several of Governor Walker’s special session bills that made it harder for victims to sue corporations for wrongdoing.
“Last August, I infiltrated the ALEC convention and got a first-hand look at what they are up to,” said Pocan. “ALEC is like a speed dating service for lonely legislators and corporate executives. The corporations write bills and legislators sign their names to the bills. In the end, we’re stuck with bad laws and nobody knows where they came from.”
During one of Governor Walker’s special sessions, which were supposed to focus on job creation, ALEC saw several of their bills become law in Wisconsin. One such bill diminishes a victim’s right to sue corporations if they are harmed by irresponsible business practices.
“If they look like a lobbyist, talk like a lobbyist and walk like a lobbyist, they should be regulated like a lobbyist,” said Larson. “Wisconsin’s lobbying laws are intended to instill as much integrity and transparency in our government as possible. ALEC shouldn’t get a free pass to anonymously do their lobbying.”
Pocan has crashed ALEC’s conventions twice, becoming a member in an effort to learn more about the secretive lobbying group. In doing so, he exposed a giant loophole in Wisconsin’s lobbying law in which corporations do not have to report their efforts to persuade legislators to sponsor their personally crafted model legislation.
The ALEC Accountability Act would apply existing lobbying laws to any organization or person who advocates for the introduction of model legislation. The bill would also regulate the reporting of any “scholarships” organizations dole out to legislators, including a list of corporate sponsors. Additionally, the bill would prohibit state taxpayer funds from being used to pay for these lobbyist conventions.
It's a start-- in one state. And speaking of one state-- Wisconsin will be electing much of its state legislature again this year and Chris Larson is running for reelection in the suburbs south of Milwaukee. If you'd like to help him win, you'll find him on the page with America's most progressive and effective state legislators-- right here.