Common Cause reports that AOL has joined the list of corporations ending financial support of the American Legislative Exchange Council, a thinly disguised lobby for corporate interests at the state level.
ALEC has long wooed conservative legislators to meeting at which they are supplied with cookie-cutter legislation to take home. Arkansas lawmakers have been steadily feeding the state law factory with such work product.
ALEC’s positions have grown too extreme for the science-based community. Google’s chair, Eric Schmidt, said ALEC has been lying about climate change. Google, Facebook, Yelp, Yahoo, International Paper, Occidental Petroleum, News Corp., Overstock.com and SAP have all left ALEC. The Kochs are still around, so ALEC won’t be short of money.
Common Cause has complained to the Internal Revenue Service that ALEC is masquerading as a charity while functioning as a corporate lobby. Contributors to ALEC get to deduct the expense from their taxes, essentially a taxpayer subsidy for political activity.
Alas, Issue 3, the so-called ethics amendment, included among its several flaws a carefully considered loophole that still allows Arkansas legislators to be swilled by the hog sloppers at ALEC. In prohibiting gifts to lawmakers, the amendment provides this exception to the definition of gifts:
(vi) Payments by regional or national organizations for travel to regional or national conferences at which the State of Arkansas is requested to be represented by a person or persons elected or appointed to an office under subsection (a) of this section;
If ALEC invites someone, they may go. First class. Free.
PS — David Couch, an attorney who worked on drafting this, insists travel means only travel. The cost of transportation. You can bet arguments will be made that travel means air, hotel and meals. The fight before the Ethics Commission’s codification of this amendment will be important about how much ethics really will be improved by the “ethics” amendment.
SPEAKING OF ETHICS: Here’s an early look at Ernest Dumas’ column this week, about legislators and lobbyists rasslin’ with — and looking for loopholes in — the new world of no gifts created by Issue 3. Don’t you wish YOU knew there was a table with an open tab where you could pick up your breakfast every day?