Archive for New Mexico State Government
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
We found ourselves not-too-terribly surprised to read recent articles (“Charter School Warned,” “PED warns charter school against religious teachings“) regarding accusations by the New Mexico Public Education Department (PED) that the Estancia Valley Classical Academy (ECVA) may have strayed over the line between religious and secular education. Our lack of surprise – and, to some extent, our amusement – stems from the fact that both articles mention an individual who was featured in the context of his views on “science” (including an apparent bent toward creationism or, at least, anti-evolutionism) in one of our previous articles (See our August 11, 2011 article, An Article About Articles). That individual, Roger Lenard, is variously described as “one of the school’s founders” and the president of the school’s governing council.
Given the subject of these stories and the concerns reportedly expressed by parents regarding what their children are being taught about science, we find ourselves perplexed that Mr. Lenard’s fame in the creationist universe has thus far been ignored by the journalistic community. In addition to our article and the New Mexicans for Science and Reason (NMSR) article cited therein, we find references to Mr. Lenard as a “creation scientist” (here), and a “celebrated creationist,” (here). He is prominently figured in the NMSR article Creationism In New Mexico, and quoted here as saying “Creation scientists hold revealed Truth as supreme, other forms are subordinate.”
Given the many references to Mr. Lenard’s reported creationist beliefs and purported attempts to insert them into academic curricula, we certainly understand why parents would be concerned about what may be taught in science classes at a school over whose curriculum Mr. Lenard likely wields substantial influence. We urge parents to get involved and continue to engage the PED on this issue and get to the bottom of the matter.
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 published an article on the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman case, in part a response to a Sandia Tea Party article on the subject. We urged our readers – and everybody else, although we’re not sure how they’d know we were urging without reading – to refrain from speculating on the degree to which race was a factor in the tragedy until the facts are in. We repeat that request, and want our readers to understand that our interest in mentioning the case is associated with Florida’s now-infamous “Stand Your Ground” law. It is not the merits of this law, but its origins that interest us today. Multiple sources have linked the law to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a consortium of conservative state legislators and corporate interests. Put simply, this “consortium” drafts legislation for enactment at the State level, and its members then bring that legislation forward in their individual State legislative bodies. The range of legislative subjects is incredibly broad, and the legislation typically focuses on advancing conservative approaches but especially corporate interests.
In response to the Martin/Zimmerman tragedy, a number of corporate/nonprofit entities – Kraft, Pepsi, Coca-Cola, and Intuit, and the Gates Foundation – were reported to have pulled out of the organization. You might, and should, question why they were there in the first place. We question whether some of them left at all: as of 7:30 MDT today, the organization’s web site continues to list Derek Crawford of Kraft Foods as one of its Private Enterprise Board members. With the recent announcement that ALEC is discontinuing its efforts associated with gun laws and other “non economic” causes came a few articles (a random one here) reporting that ALEC will no longer promote “social policy,” we saw a few articles suggesting that ALEC was doing the National Rifle Association’s bidding. On the other hand, a few news outlets did some reporting casting some doubt with respect to the question as to who was errand boy to whom (one here). Leaving aside that question, we’ll simply note that ALEC, an organization of which we’ve been aware for years, found itself back in the slightly dim area next to the spotlight. The entire ALEC issue had received less attention than one might have expected – but then again, those corporate sponsors do buy television, radio, and TV time.
As a result of the attention, ALEC issued a statement that they were discontinuing their “non-economic” efforts. We move on to another subject associated with ALEC, albeit one that has received even less attention in the popular press, that is certainly economic in nature: the recent and relatively quiet repeal of a law in Wisconsin requiring equal pay for women. As our readers know, we do tend to want to go for “mainstream” news sources where we can, but these seem so far down on the search indices on this subject that we have our choice of linking to a Huffington Post article or Monday’s Daily Show coverage – and while we are providing a link to the latter, and we think it’s worth watching, we’d like some of our more family-oriented readers to know that there’s a bit of raunch toward the end of the latter story. Of these two sources, only the Daily Show short brings forward the role of Wisconsin legislator ALEC member Glenn Grothman – and again, since some of our readers are perhaps not interested in some of the imagery that might be found in that video, we’ll summarize to the extent that Mr. Grothman is on record as saying that making money is perhaps more important to men than women because young men may want to be breadwinners some day (New York Daily News article here). We invite our readers to weigh in on that position… According to the Daily News article, other pieces of legislation of interest to women included one “barring abortion coverage through health insurance exchanges” and another “mandating doctors to consult privately with women seeking abortions.”
With all the renewed attention on ALEC, we started wondering just who in the New Mexico legislature might be involved – because, quite frankly, having New Mexico laws written by a consortium of business interests and predominantly out-of-state legislators does not sit any better with us than it probably does with most New Mexicans. The ALEC site doesn’t list all the members, but we found the following list in a Sourcewatch article:
House of Representatives
- Rep. Paul Bandy (R-3), ALEC State Chairman and Guest at the December 2010 International Relations Task Force meeting
- Rep. Jimmie Hall (R-28) and Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force Alternate
- Rep. William Gray (R-54), ALEC Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force Alternate
- Rep. Nathaniel Quentin Gentry (R-30), ALEC Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force Alternate
- Rep. Rick L. Little (R-53), ALEC Commerce, Insurance and Economic Development Task Force Member
- Rep. Alonzo Baldonado (R-8), ALEC Education Task Force Member
- Rep. Dennis Roch (R-67), ALEC Education Task Force Member
- Rep. Paul Bandy (R-3), ALEC Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force Member
- Rep. Nora Espinoza (R-59), ALEC Health and Human Services Task Force Member
- Rep. Larry A. Larranaga (R-27), ALEC International Relations Task Force Member
- Rep. William R. Rehm (R-31), ALEC Public Safety and Elections Task Force Member
- Rep. Anna M. Crook (R-64), ALEC Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force Member
- Rep. James R.J. Strickler (R-2), ALEC Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force Member
- Rep. Thomas A. Anderson (R-29), ALEC Telecommunications and Information Technology Task Force Member
- Rep. Dennis J. Kintigh (R-57), ALEC Civil Justice Task Force Member
- Sen. Sander Rue (R-23),Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force Member
- Sen. George K. Munoz (D-4), ALEC Commerce, Insurance and Economic Development Task Force Member
- Sen. William E. Sharer (R-1), ALEC Commerce, Insurance and Economic Development Task Force Member
- Sen. Mark L. Boitano (R-18), ALEC Education Task Force Member
- Sen. Vernon Asbill (R-34), ALEC Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force Member
- Sen. Sue Beffort (R-19), ALEC Health and Human Services Task Force Member
- Sen. William H. Payne (R-20), ALEC State Chairman and International Relations Task Force and Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force Member
- Sen. Rod Adair (R-33), ALEC Civil Justice Task Force Member
- Former Sen. Kent L. Cravens (R-21) (resigned September 2011 to become lobbyist for [[New Mexico Oil and Gas Association), former ALEC State Chairman, and Public Safety and Elections Task Force member
Now, that’s 21 legislators, not counting former Senator Kent Cravens, who apparently experienced the ALEC version of the Rapture – all but one of them Republicans. What we found most interesting was that our locality is quite well represented among the ALEC ranks. Senator Sue Wilson-Beffort, of Senate District 19 is prominently listed, as are ALEC State Chairman Senator William Payne of District 20, Senator Mark Boitano of Albuquerque’s District 18, Senator Sander Rue of “just across the river” District 23, and Senator Rod Adair of District 33, just to our south. On the House side we have Jimmie Hall, Nathaniel Quentin, Larry Larranaga, and Bill Rehm of Albuquerque; Thomas Anderson of western Bernalillo County; District 8’s Alonzo Baldonado; and another neighbor to the south, Dennis Kintigh.
We are asking our readers to alert these people to the existence of this article, and we are inviting them to provide us with a disclosure of their involvement with ALEC and a list of bills that they have introduced or supported that are or were supported by ALEC or based on its model bills. We are also, quite bluntly, asking that every New Mexico legislator with any ties to ALEC sever them immediately and henceforth serve their State’s interests and not those of other entities. We especially direct this request to our own Senator, Sue Wilson-Beffort -and to be fair, to our Representative Jim Smith, whose name we are very glad not to see on the list. We suggest that all our readers contact their Senators and Representatives, and demand to know whether they are a part of the ALEC network or supporting its initiatives. Let’s keep the running of New Mexico to those who live here.
A few related links:
- Source Watch – American Legislative Exchange Council
- NPR – Who Writes Our Laws?
- WCVB TV Boston – NRA, ALEC Team Up For Causes Beyond Gun Laws
- WFIE TV – ALEC Stops Pushing “Stand Your Ground” Laws
- Crooks and Liars: Gates Foundation Announces It Will Withdraw Funding From ALEC
- Sarah Kennedy: Our Resident Smart Aleck Talks About ALEC
by John Weckerle
As reported by Elaine Baumgartel at KUNM.org, a report by the State Integrity Investigation (SII, a joint project of the Center for Public Integrity, Global Integrity, and Public Radio International) – assigns New Mexico a grade of D- and a rank of 39th among all states on the state’s Corruption Risk Report Card.
The study evaluated 14 categories associated with government integrity and accountability. New Mexico’s highest grade – B-minus – was awarded in the Internal Auditing and Redistricting categories, and the State received grades of F in State Insurance Commissions, Lobbying Disclosure, and Ethics Enforcement Agencies. There’s a little something for everybody: State employees will be delighted to know that their pension fund is well managed (grade of D); open government advocates will appreciate the grade of D+ in Public Access to Information; voters should be gratified by the grades of D in Executive Accountability and Legislative Accountability; and big-money campaign donors should be positively aglow over the D- in Political Financing.
To be fair, not all of New Mexico’s low grades are entirely the result of misconduct or skulduggery, and not all the news is quite as bad as it sounds. The SII article on the issue, New Mexico: The Story Behind the Score, credits the Martinez administration for some advances in open government while noting that state laws on access to information are not uniformly obeyed by various State agencies. The use of executive privilege in denying access to information remains a concern. Staffing levels at the state auditor’s office – 25 employees compared to 69 at the Livestock Board and 75 at the Commission for the Blind – remain inadequate, and the PRC is described as “dysfunctional.” As for legislative ethics, the article states: “The state House and Senate each have ethics committees that are effectively dormant; they have not met, reviewed complaints or administered sanctions in recent memory.”
While the grades are fairly dismal, it should be noted that the article does make it clear that improvements have been seen in some areas. Here’s hoping that future report cards will give New Mexico at least a grade that would allow it admission to one of the State universities.