STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – House Democrats will introduce a bill today that would require disclosure of lobbying activities and special perks to legislators by groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC.
The ALEC Accountability Act requires ALEC to adhere to the same laws that other lobbying entities follow and shines the light on who funds special perks and which legislators are taking them.
“This bill keeps our elected officials in line and focused on getting results for Arizona’s families, not for special interests,” said Assistant House Minority Leader Steve Farley, the sponsor of the bill. “It’s high time that transparency becomes a priority down here, and lawmakers work to get the job done, not carry the water for out-of-state corporations.”
The bill is one of the first to come out of Democratic lawmakers’ 2012 plan to move Arizona forward and leave the Tea Party’s extremism and divisiveness behind.
The ALEC Accountability Act works to change a long-standing, back-door system of lobbyist-funded scholarships that pay for lawmaker participation in conferences with ideological agendas and provide fancy accommodations, upscale dining and entertainment "networking" opportunities in cities around the country.
Apart from that system, legislators and legislative staff also regularly attend conferences of groups such as the National Conference of State Legislators and the Council of State Governments to share policy information with lawmakers from other states. These meetings sometimes provide junket-like perks to lawmakers. But the activities of ALEC are unique. Like traditional lobbyists, ALEC actively promotes bills in the legislature (see attached document for examples).
“ALEC model legislation that has been promoted and adopted by the legislature is evidence of this,” Farley said. “Right now, ALEC operates outside the rules that limit lobbyist influence in Arizona. The public has the right to know who funds ALEC's activities, who funds legislators' costs associated with attending ALEC meetings and conferences around the country and which legislators are accepting those funds.”
The ALEC Accountability Act would:
—Require ALEC to adhere to the same laws that other lobbying entities must follow.
—Shine the light on who funds ALEC and who funds the travel and other participation costs of legislators active in groups like ALEC.
—Make information easily accessible through the Secretary of State’s website about which legislators are taking “scholarship” or other funding to pay for travel and lodging costs for ALEC and other conferences, including NCSL and CSG, and what special interests are paying for those trips.
—Make sure any entity acting in a lobbyist capacity is required to register as a lobbyist and comply with the regulations and public disclosure laws applicable to lobbyists.
“Some special-interest groups, such as the Goldwater Institute, define their regular testimony in front of legislative committees as ‘technical assistance’ or ‘legal advice,’ thus skirting the lobbyist registration requirements,” Farley said. “These loopholes must be closed so that any person or entities acting as lobbyists are required to register as lobbyists.”