Archive for State Government
by John Weckerle
In our most recent American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) article, we indicated that we had sent an e-mail to our local State Representative, Jim Smith, and Senator, James White, containing several questions inquiring into whether they had ties to ALEC and, if so, what those ties involved. Not surprisingly, we received a response from Mr. Smith the following day, and are providing his answers verbatim here:
- Are you a current or former member of ALEC? “No, I’m not now or a former member of ALEC. I will go further to say that I will never be a member.”
- Have you attended any ALEC-sponsored meetings or events? If so, when, how many and what was the focus of the meeting (s) or event(s)? “I told you years ago (probably 5 or 6) that I attended a dinner during the legislative session that was sponsored by ALEC. I remember numerous legislators from both sides of the aisle being present and don’t recall any particular legislation being discussed. That was the only ALEC-sponsored event that I’ve ever attended.”
- Have you participated in any of ALEC’s task force activities? “No, I’ve never attended any ALEC task force activities.”
- Have you introduced, sponsored, co-sponsored, voted for, or otherwise supported legislation resulting from ALEC’s activities? “I’ve never introduced, sponsored or co-sponsored any legislation that resulted from ALEC activities. I can’t say that I’ve never voted for any that ALEC supported because my limited understanding of ALEC is that they support some things that fiscal conservatives may vote for. But, I’ve never been asked by anyone to vote for a particular bill on behalf of ALEC.”
- Have you received campaign contributions or other support from ALEC, its members, or its supporters? “I’ve never received a campaign contribution from ALEC. However, I’m sure that some businesses that are members of ALEC may have contributed to my campaigns. However, none of those contributors have ever asked me to support a particular ALEC-endorsed legislation.”
We appreciate the forthrightness in Mr. Smith’s response, as well as the brevity, as these articles go a bit long as it is. In terms of brevity, however, Mr. Smith has nothing on Mr. White who, like his predecessor and ALEC member Sue Wilson Beffort in 2012, provided no response at all to our questions. You just can’t get any more brief than that.
Having known Mr. Smith for years, we take him at his word with respect to a direct relationship with ALEC. He does raise some interesting points, though, in his responses to the last two questions. Mr. White’s non-responses may not indicate anything, although we’ll note that one out of two State Senators who did not respond to our ALEC questions was listed as an ALEC member – perhaps not a statistically significant sample, but it certainly gives us pause for thought. With that in mind, we ask the question – just how much interest are ALEC and its allies taking in our legislators, whether they themselves are interested or not?
In researching this article, we reviewed dozens of sources (in addition to those used in our previous article) in an attempt to track down information on ALEC member status of contributors :
- ALEC Corporations – Sourcewatch
- ALEC Trade Groups – Sourcewatch
- ALEC Law Firms – Sourcewatch
- ALEC Non-Profits – Sourcewatch
- ALEC Governmental Groups – Sourcewatch
- List of Members of the American Legislative Exchange Council – Wikipedia
- FollowTheMoney.org – The National Institute on Money in State Politics (NIMSP)
We began by using the NIMSP database to gather information on the legislators’ campaign contributions beginning in 2010. We copied the information into series of Microsoft Excel spreadsheets, and sorted it in a variety of ways to get a feel for patterns in the contributions, noting a substantial number of donations to both candidates from fossil energy and electricity interests, lobbyists, political action committees, and other candidates. We then used the sources above and dozens of others to assess which contributors could be reasonably reliably linked to ALEC. These are color coded in two spreadsheets, one for Mr. Smith and one for Mr. White, with yellow denoting corporate contributors listed in one or more sources as affiliated with ALEC, and salmon-color denoting corporate contributors that claim to have discontinued their relationship with ALEC but were members at the time the contribution was made. Legislators associated with ALEC were colored yellow. Note that these are just the contributors that were listed in the sources we reviewed as directly linked to ALEC, or linked to ALEC through their national organizations; we cannot state as an absolute fact that any of them is a member, except for those listed on ALEC’s web site as listed in last week’s article. We caution our readers, however, that the list may be incomplete, and that there is a substantial similarity between the purported ALEC members and many of the other contributors on the two lists of contributors. We did not count the contributions of members’ spouses, although there were quite a few of those. As the spreadsheets show: of the $107,813 in contributions listed for Mr. Smith, $26,225 came from ALEC contributors; of the $136,954 listed for Mr. White, $22,400 came from ALEC supporters. We again take Mr. Smith at his word, and have received none from Mr. White, but regardless of either gentleman’s interest in ALEC, ALEC appears very interested in them – as do people doing business in the same areas as the ALEC-related entities. Mr. White, for example, received $15,500 from the Oil and Gas general industry sector, including $7,250 from major multinational producers, the overwhelming majority of which came from out-of-state contributors. Similarly, Mr. Smith received $15,300 from the Oil and Gas sector, again nearly all of which came from outside the state, with $5,150 coming from the major multinationals. Mr. Smith and Mr. White received $6,850 and $4,125 from the Lobbyists & Public Relations business sector, respectively (we did not investigate the source of the money due in part to the sheer number of contributions and in part to difficulty using the NM Secretary of State’s web site, which appears to be having some problems running queries). Mr. White received 51 contributions valued at $38,100 from outside the state (out of a total of 317), with Mr. Smith receiving 70 out-of-state contributions valued at $29,475 out of 334 total contributions. Mr. Smith fared better with the tobacco industry, collecting $2,050 to Mr. White’s $850, but trailed Mr. White in the Beer, Wine & Liquor sector – $1,600 to $2,248. Oddly, between the two legislators, we found only one $250 contribution from the Agriculture broad industry sector. Both gentlemen were also generously supported by the Gas & Electric Utilities sector, received contributions from the National Rifle Association, and were supported by Big Pharma, including Pfizer (both), Merck (Mr. Smith), and Abbott Laboratories (Mr. White) – all ALEC members.
Mr. Smith has received a total of $4,375 from ALEC-related New Mexico politicians, somewhat behind Mr. White’s $6,050. In terms of their own contributions to other candidates affilliated with ALEC, Mr Smith has made a total of two contributions to two identified candidates, Nora Lee Espinoza and Janice Arnold-Jones, totaling $400. Mr. White has made six contributions to three such candidates, totaling $2,150.
There are a number of reasons that ALEC members – and those who perhaps share their interests – would invest in our local legislators. Perhaps they are members of ALEC, or perhaps not. Whether they are seeking to directly influence them, supporting candidates who may be generally more friendly to their agendas and therefore more likely to vote for legislation favorable to their industry, or just seeking to maintain or expand the influence of a given political party, the fact remains that these entities are likely to be most concerned with their own interests and far less with those of New Mexicans. Mr. Smith has been up front about his non-involvement with ALEC. Mr. White, on the other hand, apparently chose to follow the lead of his predecessor, ALEC member Sue Wilson-Beffort, and provide no response to our inquiry – and we suspect that this is likely somewhere in the ALEC member playbook, as it were. While we can make no statement of fact on the issue, it is hard to escape the impression that Mr. White is up to his armpits in ALEC. Absent any statement on his part, we see no reason to think otherwise.
Given ALEC’s history of developing and disseminating self-serving legislation, we should be cautious, and vigilant, in knowing what we can about our legislators, the sources of their campaign funding, and how this may affect the future of our State. The denizens of New Mexico Central take a dim view of corporations and out-of-state politicians writing our laws for us, ESPECIALLY without the disclosure requirements that apply to lobbyists, and those who feel the same may wish to take a hard look at those who have been elected to serve them – as opposed to serving those who serve themselves.
The question then arises: how does one take that hard look? In our next ALEC-related article, we will provide a step-by-step description of how we gathered the information we needed to assess the issue. It took a long time to figure out – but once known, the process doesn’t take long.
Editor’s note: This is the most recent in what is now an ongoing series regarding the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and its influence of State – and now local – legislation and decision making. A list of web resources used to prepare this article, and two tables containing associated information, are presented at the end of the article.
by John Weckerle
Back in 2012, New Mexico Central ran several articles on the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC):
- ALEC and Us
- ALEC and Us – IRS Complaint and Lobbying Issues
- East Mountain Representative Smith Reveals sordid ALEC Past
As the ALEC and Us article notes, ALEC was the involved in the drafting and passage of “Florida’s now-infamous ‘Stand Your Ground'” law. Further research into ALEC at the time revealed that the organization, which has often been described as a corporate-sponsored “bill mill,” is an association of industry associations, corporate entities, and State legislators that drafts industry-friendly legislation, then sending it to State legislatures via its legislative members and supporters for introduction, sponsorship, or other support. The Nonprofit Information Networking Association article describes ALEC’s activities as follows:
ALEC drafts “model” state legislation for conservative members of state legislatures. The model legislation sometimes becomes law, such as Arizona’s infamous immigration law. ALEC has also generated state resolutions against EPA regulation of greenhouse gasses, bills on privatizing public education, restricting public employee unions, and opposing state aspects of President Obama’s national health care reform. Many of the ALEC-generated model bills are seen as industry-friendly, in part because corporations pay well for participation at ALEC conferences giving them access to state legislators. However, despite its influence with many model bills, ALEC’s visibility with the public is limited and legislators often don’t disclose that the bills they are introducing come from ALEC.
In our 2012 article, we listed New Mexico State legislators in the House and Senate who were identified by Sourcewatch as members of ALEC’s various task forces. For some time after these articles were published (and certainly not as a result of those articles, as bigger fish were targeting ALEC), ALEC seemed to fall on hard times. The organization’s web site was static for some time, and it seems that corporations were abandoning it in droves (last year, Enterprise Rent-A-Car joined and rapidly left ALEC following an outcry from its customers). ALEC has been accused in many articles as essentially being a lobbying organization masquerading as a charity (the entity is a 501(c)(3) tax exempt organization), and its tax-exempt status has been challenged.
Since 2012, ALEC has reasserted itself as a force to be reckoned with, and seems as influential as ever. As always, the organization seems reticent to publish its list of members; however, some information can be gleaned from its website, and we can now at least begin to identify its supporters. One of the most likely suspects is…
If you enjoy wine by Chateau Ste. Michelle, or smoke tobacco produced by Phillip Morris (both owned by Altria), buy your insurance from State Farm Insurance Companies, acquire cell phone services from AT&T, send packages or otherwise pay for shipping via UPS, purchase electricity through any of the nation’s rural electric cooperatives, or spend money in any number of states and municipalities, some amount of your expenditures is probably headed for ALEC.
At the end of this article, we are providing two tables we have compiled from information on the ALEC web site regarding the membership in its committees. Note that this is not the entire membership; again, the organization does not publish a comprehensive membership list, and it is likely that the majority of its members cannot be easily identified.
We believe that citizens have a right to know where the bills being introduced in their legislatures originate. Accordingly, we have sent the following questions to our State Representative, Jim Smith, and our State Senator, James B. White:
- Are you a current or former member of ALEC?
- Have you attended any ALEC-sponsored meetings or events? If so, when, how many and what was the focus of the meeting (s) or event(s)?
- Have you participated in any of ALEC’s task force activities?
- Have you introduced, sponsored, co-sponsored, voted for, or otherwise supported legislation resulting from ALEC’s activities?
- Have you received campaign contributions or other support from ALEC, its members, or its supporters?
We’ve requested responses by January 28, 2017, and will share what we receive with our readers – as well as the results of other research we are conducting into the matter. We also encourage our readers to pose these questions to their State and local legislators (ALEC has created a subsidiary organization focusing on local government, the American City County Exchange (ACCE)).
Among the articles and resources we reviewed on this issue include (but are certainly not limited to):
- The American Legislative Exchange Council
- ALEC Corporations – Sourcewatch.org
- American Legislative Exchange Council – Guidestar.org
- List of membes of the American Legislative Exchange Council – Wikipedia.org
- ALEC Energy, Environment and Agricultural Task Force – Sourcewatch.org
- ALEC Exposed – Center for Media and Democracy
- Exxon Illegally Funded ALEC under Tillerson’s Tenure, CMD Tells Committee – Center for Media and Democracy
- ALEC Pay to Play on Display in Washington, DC – Steve Arnold, Mayor of Fitchburg, Wisconsin via Center for Media and Democracy
- American Legislative Exchange Council – Sourcewatch.org
- American Legislative Exchange Council – Wikipedia
- Fact Sheet on the IRS Whistleblower Complaint against ALEC – Common Cause via PRWatch.org
- Groups File IRS Complaint Alleging ALEC is a Lobbying Vehicle, Not A Charity – DESMOG
- Exxon and ALEC Running Illegal Lobbying Scheme, Watchdog Groups Charge In IRS Complaint – Center for Media and Democracy
- List of members of the American Legislative Exchange Council – Wikipedia
- The Hidden Influence of the American Legislative Exchange Council – Nonprofit Information Networking Association
- American Legislative Exchange Council – Guidestar.org
- ALEC Corporations – Sourcewatch.org
|ALEC Private Enterprise Advisory Council|
|American Bail Coalition||Bill Carmichael|
|Exxon Mobil Corporation||Cynthia Bergman|
|Peabody Energy||Michael Blank|
|VISTRA Energy||Sano Blocker|
|Pfizer, Inc.||Josh Brown|
|Guarantee Trust Life Insurance Company||Marianne Eterno|
|K12 Inc.||Don Lee|
|Not specified (Americans For Prosperity)||Frayda Levin|
|Not specified (Heritage Foundation)||Stephen Moore|
|Koch Companies Public Sector, LLC||Michael Morgan|
|Asian American Hotel Owners Association||Chip Rogers|
|Altria Client Services||Daniel Smith|
|State Farm Insurance Companies||Roland Spies|
|National Federation of Independent Business||Steve Woods|
|State Budget Solutions (ALEC)||Bob Williams|
|Automotive Trade Association Executives||Jennifer Colman|
|ALEC Task Forces|
|American City Council Exchange (ACCE)|
|Mayor, Gulfport, Mississippi; Capitol Gain, LLC; Billy Hewes Real Estate; Former State Senator/Senate President Pro Tempore||Billy Hewes||Public Chair|
|Not Sepcified (formerly of American Bail Coalition||Nick Wachinski||Private Chair|
|Tennessee State Senate||Brian Kelsey||Public Chair|
|Shook, Hardy and Bacon LLP||Mark Behrens||Private Chair|
|ALEC||Amy Kjose Anderson||Director|
|Commerce, Insurance and Economic Development|
|Iowa House of Representatives||Dawn Pettengill||Public Chair|
|United Parcel Service||Frank Morris||Private Chair|
|Communications and Technology|
|South Carolina House of Representatives||Garry Smith||Public Chair|
|National Cable and Telecommunications||Rick Cimerman||Private Chair|
|Criminal Justice Reform|
|Oklahoma Legislature||Lisa Billy||Public Chair|
|Stop Child Predators||Stacie Rumenap||Private Chair|
|ALEC||Ronald J. Lampard||Director|
|Education and Workforce Development|
|Utah State Senate||Howard Stephenson||Public Chair|
|Goldwater Institute||Jonathan Butcher||Private Chair|
|Energy, Environment, and Agriculture|
|Illinois House of Representatives||David B. Reis||Public Chair|
|National Rural Electric Cooperatives Association||Jennifer Jura||Private Chair|
|Federalism and International Relations|
|Oregon House Public Chair||C. Gene Whisnant||Public Chair|
|Americans for Tax Reform||Lorenzo Montanari||Private Chair|
|Health and Human Services|
|Georgia Senate||Judson Hill||Public Chair|
|Takeda Pharmeceuticals, U.S.A.||John Schlatter||Private Chair|
|Tax and Fiscal Policy|
|New Hampshire House of Representatives||Ken Weyler||Public Chair|
|Altria Client Services||Amanda Klump||Private Chair|
|ALEC/Center for State Fiscal Reform||Jonathan Williams||Director|
by John Weckerle
Our readers know that, given our relative disinclination toward hyperbole, the word “sordid” is not one we make a habit of using. In fact, until now, we have never used it – and as of now, we can say we have used it only twice, both in the same article, but never seriously.
In response to our first ALEC and Us article on New Mexico legislators involved with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and a follow-up inquiry, State Representative Jim Smith provided a prompt (last Monday) response disclosing his sinister past with ALEC – or, more accurately, the lack thereof. Mr. Smith indicated that his involvement with the organization was limited attendance at an ALEC-sponsored dinner in Santa Fe, at which many lawmakers from both sides of the aisle were present. The dinner was interrupted by the Occupy movement, and Mr. Smith recalled that “a couple of members spoke briefly about being pro-business” but no legislative agenda was discussed.
Mr. Smith indicated: “Although I do attend a lot of meetings sponsored by various groups, I don’t actually join many, if any, of them.” This sounds like good policy for a legislator, and we’re glad to see it operative in this situation.
State Senator Sue Wilson-Beffort, to whom we sent essentially the same e-mail message as Mr. Smith, has not yet replied. If a response is not forthcoming soon, then perhaps research will substitute. We’ll keep our readers posted.
Editor’s note: In our previous ALEC And Us article, we called upon New Mexico legislators in general and our own District legislators – Sue Wilson-Beffort and Jim Smith – to disclose and clarify the nature and extent of their involvement, if any, with the American Legislative Exchange Council. We followed up with an e-mail to Ms. Wilson-Beffort and Mr. Smith on Friday. We have not yet received a response, but let’s remember it’s the weekend and the e-mail went out on Friday. We hope to hear from them soon.
by John Weckerle
The New York Times has run an article expanding on the activities of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), including its lobbying, and also its status as a tax-exempt, 501(c)(3) organization. An NPR article also casts doubt upon the organization’s charity status. Both articles note that a watchdog agency, Common Cause, has filed a complaint with the IRS alleging that ALEC has abused its tax-exempt status. The NPR article provides some analysis indicating that precedent suggests ALEC may be on the wrong side of the law in this regard.
The Times article characterizes ALEC as a “stealth business lobbyist.” Of particular interest to us in this regard is whether the group’s activities in New Mexico may have violated New Mexico laws governing lobbying. A quick look over the list of registered lobbyists in New Mexico does not reveal any indication that ALEC has any registered lobbyists. It is unclear which legislators may have received input from ALEC’s members, whether those members were registered as lobbyists in the state, and to what extent individual New Mexico legislators may have received campaign contributions from ALEC members. While we have not completed a detailed analysis of information available through FollowTheMoney.org, a preliminary review suggests connections among the various ALEC members.
by John Weckerle
We recently read the following articles from Clearly New Mexico:
- Public Records Request Shows Gov’s “Small Business-Friendly Task Force” Met In Secret; Is Packed With Lobbyists for Oil and Gas, Mining and Dairy
- Are You Sitting Down? Here Are The Recommendations From The Gov’s “Small Business-Friendly” Task Force
The articles, which appear very thoroughly researched and provide links to references, discusses the establishment, configuration, and interim recommendations of Governor Susana Martinez’s “Small Business-Friendly Task Force.” We encourage our readers to follow the links and read through the articles.
After being stonewalled by the Governor’s office in response to informal requests, the folks at Clearly New Mexico submitted an Inspection of Public Records request to obtain information on the task force’s makeup and activities. The article makes several points: that the task force was established and has operated outside the view of the public eye; that small business is underrepresented and big business is overrepresented on the task force; that the task force is packed with lobbyists representing major sources of funding for Ms. Martinez’s campaign; and that rather than focusing on problems and potential solutions, the task force is focused primarily on supporting Ms. Martinez’s large business-friendly regulatory agenda. We’ll acknowledge that some of the people on the task force appear to be small business owners, but it does appear that the task force is dominated by large business interests and Martinez Cabinet appointees.
There are a few things we find disturbing about the situation. First, the primary focus does appear to be supporting the Governor’s regulatory agenda. As quoted in the second article, the preamble to the task force’s Interim Report states:
“The task force does not wish to present a laundry list of problems to the Governor but develop solutions (sic). The goal is to provide the Governor and/or agencies cover when repealing or revising a rule or regulation thus avoiding litigation if possible.
The final report to the Governor will include a road map of short and long-term tactics and strategies, including the use of executive orders and legislative strategies. Each troublesome regulation identified will be accompanied by a recommendation on the best way to remove their negative impacts (sic).”
So much for identifying problems and finding solutions. It would appear that the entire purpose is to advance – without any attention to fact or analysis – the interests of big business, most notably (but not exclusively) those of the “conventional” energy and construction/development industries. Among the top industries listed as contributing to the Martinez campaign are Oil & Gas ($1,008,201) and several construction/development industries totaling over $1,000,000, making these two broad sectors responsible for much more than a quarter of the Martinez campaign’s revenues. According to the Interim Report from the committee, the construction subcommittee is looking to repeal , modify, or replace collective bargaining provisions in the 2009 amendments to the Public Works Minimum Wage Act. New Mexico is turning into Wisconsin. Lawyers and lobbyists, very prevalently visible on the committee according to the Clearly New Mexico article, were the sixth highest contributing industry at $242,144. We’ll point out that Koch Industries, which has gotten some media attention of late, provided $10,000 to the Martinez campaign.
The Clearly New Mexico articles do a great job in looking through the committee. We decided to take a closer look at some of the personnel, looking at various web sources, especially Followthemoney.org. Here’s a little of what we found: