In PA: The Battle Against ALEC Rages On

At the end of April, the New York Times and Common Cause ran a story regarding the internal operation of ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council. Their angle was to explore the challenge that was levied to the group’s tax-exempt status which ALEC is defending.

ALEC has come under scrutiny after they pushed several proposals that were viewed as controversial. First, they pushed the “stand your ground” law, known in Pennsylvania as the “castle doctrine” which was enacted in 2011. A similar law was enacted in Florida and is being used in the defense of George Zimmerman against Trayvon Martin. Second, ALEC pushed the voter ID legislation which has also been seen as controversial.

Recently, ALEC announced it would be reorganizing in the wake of the opposition that the “stand your ground” legislation brought to the organization.

In the time since the New York Times story ran, a group of Pennsylvania progressives exposed the funneling of taxpayer money toward the policy-writing group, American Legislative Exchange Council in the Pennsylvania state legislature, 14 lawmakers have decided to sever their ties with the group.

Keystone Progress, a liberal activist group based in Harrisburg, say that members of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives and Senate spent a combined $310,817.39 since 2000 in support of ALEC. Included in the spending was food and trips to different cities in the country.

ProgressVA did a similar review of the state legislature in Richmond, Virginia.

The group says at least 51 legislators in Pennsylvania remain members of ALEC, with exact figure being unknown because ALEC doesn’t release membership information.

According to their website, ALEC “works to advance the fundamental principles of free-market enterprise, limited government, and federalism at the state level.” The organization advances their cause by partnering with legislators, members of the private sector and the general public.

An example of an ALEC-proposed bill can be found in Matthew Baker’s (R-Tioga) H.B. 42, a proposal that challenged the Affordable Healthcare Act by prohibiting the government from penalizing individuals, employers or health care providers for participating in a healthcare system of their choosing.

Critics of ALEC say the group disproportionately supports legislation that furthers the interests of corporations. David Ward, a media representative from Keystone Progress, said ALEC has pushed an “extreme” policy agenda that marginalizes the consumer.

“ALEC pushes a lot of extreme laws, and members of congress use that exact same language to pass a lot of bills,” Ward said. “We stand on the side of the everyday person; the everyday consumer.”

Ward said the investigation of legislative spending toward ALEC began when Keystone Progress requested spending reports and correspondence reports between legislators and ALEC through Pennsylvania’s Right to Know Law. The group compiled a list of the top five legislators who distributed public funding toward ALEC.

At the top of the list was Sen. John Pippy (R-Allegheny, Washington), who Keystone Progress allege spent $12,901.70 of taxpayer funding toward ALEC. Pippy said the claims were “completely incorrect,” and his only association with ALEC ended in 2006.

He added that he worked with the group after his return from active duty in 2001 while working with the Department of Homeland Security.

“The state was reimbursing my travel expenses for some of the meetings I was going to in [Washington] D.C.,” Pippy said. “The money didn’t go to ALEC; it went to pay for the different conferences I was attending.”

Keystone Progress has also released a petition calling for the public denouncement of ALEC by the 60 Democratic legislators who have yet to do so. The petition placed added emphasis on Rep. Joseph Petrarca (D-Westmoreland, Armstrong) and Rep. W. Curtis Thomas (D-Philadelphia), whom Keystone Progress say remain members of ALEC.

Rep. Petrarca denied any involvement with ALEC, saying in an email that he “has no ties and has never been a member of ALEC.”

ALEC’s national organization denied any wrongdoing, and insisted that ideology fuels Keystone Progress’s attacks. Kaitlyn Buss, communications director for ALEC, said in an email that attacks against the group threaten to undermine productive discourse on policy.

“These attacks are coming from extreme liberal front groups who are trying to suppress the open exchange of idea and debate on public policy when it does not align with their big-government ideology,” Buss said. “ALEC legislators will continue to provide free-market solutions to the problems they face in their states.”

May 16th, 2012 | Posted in Front Page Stories, Harrisburg, Top Stories | 5 Comments

5 thoughts on “In PA: The Battle Against ALEC Rages On”

  1. Susan Powers says:

    I want to see the legislators put in jail who put into actual law these ALEC proposed laws. I am not sure if this is feasible, if it is not, I do want legislation written to make sure this never can happen again. Our trust has been broken with our own elected legislators, so many people hurt in so many ways by ALEC. Alec has caused the decline of America. Not only is ALEC not non profit, these laws hurt the public, the people who the legislators we voted into office are supposed to serve. Please look up ALEC and the laws they wrote that were put into actual law and make up your own mind. I challenge everyone to care enough to write their legislators about ALEC and ask them to leave ALEC if they have not done so and ask that laws ALEC wrote be taken out of law. Without being outed so to speak, those legislators and businesses that have quit ALEC would not have done so. Some legislators still belong, find out who they are and write them. The information is online. ALEC must be made a for profit and the IRS should prosecute them for having a non profit status while making a profit. I am not sure what laws apply to legislators but they should be held accountable We must be on the alert for this organization to come back under another name and for other organizations with the same type of unethical and immoral agenda and stop them before they cause damage. The damage that has been done with these corrupt laws should be overturned. These are laws that stop voters from voting, hurt education, hide the chemicals involved in fracking, privatize government operations (please look up how the laws written by ALEC as ONE example fill beds in prisons run by privatized companies that belong to ALEC) and also laws that destroy the middle class among so many other things. The laws ALEC wrote that were put into law can also be found online. Do NOT forget to vote and vote those who were or are on the side of ALEC out of office. This is not a partisan issue, this is an American issue.

  2. John P. says:

    Great, using our tax dollars against us just to make the Corporations richer. That sounds like the Republican back door deals.

  3. Harry says:

    So what, exactly, is the point of reprinting a tendentious press release from a far-left pressure group under the guise of journalism?

  4. Adam says:

    I doubt that Keystone Progress would deny that ideology is behind their attacks. That isn’t the issue, because Keystone Progress ISN’T GETTING TAXPAYER FUNDS! ALEC seems to be, and they would be absurd to deny that ideology is behind the things that they do.

  5. Common Cause making the case against issues advocacy by a non-profit??

    For the record, HB 42 was this sessions version of HB 2053 from the previous session, which was introduced before the Affordable Healthcare Act was delivered to and passed by Congress.

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