THURSDAY UPDATE: A little clarification on the special status the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, enjoys in Colorado, from the Center for Public Integrity:
In Colorado, the late state Rep. Thomas Ratterree successfully introduced a bill back in 1991 to amend ethics laws to exempt ALEC from lobbyist status. As a result, for ALEC legislators, “the expenses of such members for travel, board, and lodging related to such attendance [at ALEC events] may be paid from appropriations,” the state law reads.
The law also stipulates that if taxpayers are to foot the bill, then delegations to ALEC events “shall reflect equally the percentage of members from each party of the General Assembly.” All 18 of the state’s members, however, are Republican. Only a tiny fraction of ALEC’s 2,000 legislative members are not in the GOP, though the organization insists it is bipartisan.
In short, ALEC does defray some travel expenses for legislators who attend ALEC functions, and this Colorado statute would presumably exempt ALEC functions from Amendment 41's prohibitions on accepting lobbyist gifts. It's a little more complicated regarding taxpayer reimbursement of ALEC-related expenses. Sources tell us that taxpayers have not footed the bill for ALEC travel in at least the last ten years due to the requirement that the delegations to ALEC events be bipartisan.
These details are worth clarifying. Does it mean ALEC should enjoy any such exemption in the law? We still don't think so.
UPDATE #2: A great column from Bill Grant at the Grand Junction Sentinel (paywalled) ties ALEC to local "stink tanks" like Colorado's own Independence Institute:
Colorado’s ironically named Independence Institute has been shown by a recent report to not to be as independent as the public image it projects.
A report released by the Center of Media and Democracy last month “documents the more than $83 million that right-wing billionaires and corporations are spending each year” to support 64 state organizations dedicated to increasing the power of corporations, and the 1 percent who control them, over state governments.
In an article for The Nation, Lee Fang described these state groups as “media-savvy organizations — which frequently employ former journalists to churn out position papers, news articles, investigations and social media content with a hard-right slant — (that) bolster the pro-corporate lobbying efforts of the American Legislative Exchange Council.”
UPDATE: The Colorado Independent's John Tomasic with an early read of the cache of documents released by the Guardian:
Leaked reports prepared this summer by the American Legislative Exchange Council — a “free market” organization that advocates on behalf of corporations and is known by the acronym ALEC — highlight the priorities of the group and its intimate relationships with and expectations of state lawmakers, including lawmakers in Colorado and specifically state ALEC “chairs,” such as latest-listed Colorado chairs Senator Bill Cadman from Colorado Springs and Representative Libby Szabo from Arvada.
In a section entitled “State Chair Job Description and Agreement,” part of a 53-page board-meeting agenda produced in August and posted online Tuesday by the Guardian, Cadman and Szabo are asked to increase lawmaker membership, appoint legislators to various task forces, manage funds provided by ALEC for events and travel, organize and attend all ALEC events and “training sessions” and develop a “state strategic plan” to advance the interests of ALEC and its corporate member-donors, which include oil, telecom, drug insurance and tobacco industry giants like Exxon Mobil, AT&T, Pfizer, State Farm and Altria…
In addition to these commitments, the board asks the office holders to sign off on a loyalty oath that might shock constituents.
“I am morally responsible for the health and well-being of this organization,” lawmakers are asked to agree. “I will act with care and loyalty and put the interests of the organization first.” [Pols emphasis]
…Cadman, the Senate minority leader, and Representative Szabo didn’t respond immediately to messages seeking comment this morning.
An ALEC executive told the Guardian that the draft agreement with state chairs was not adopted at the meeting.
That's a relief, because it's our view a lawmaker's constituents should generally, you know, come first.