Corporations are “paying for an opportunity to connect directly with legislators,” said Jeremy Kalin, a former Democratic Minnesota state representative. “It’s an end-run around transparency and disclosure laws. Corporate interests that would otherwise be required to register as lobbyists are writing legislation behind closed doors.”
Koch Industries Inc. and Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM) are among companies that would benefit from almost identical energy legislation introduced in state capitals from Oregon to New Mexico to New Hampshire — and that’s by design.
The energy companies helped write the legislation at a meeting organized by a group they finance, the American Legislative Exchange Council, a Washington-based policy institute known as ALEC.
The corporations, both ALEC members, took a seat at the legislative drafting table beside elected officials and policy analysts by paying a fee between $3,000 and $10,000, according to documents obtained by Bloomberg News.
The opportunity for corporations to become co-authors of state laws legally through ALEC covers a wide range of issues from energy to taxes to agriculture. The price for participation is an ALEC membership fee of as much as $25,000 — and the few extra thousands to join one of the group’s legislative-writing task forces. Once the “model legislation” is complete, it’s up to ALEC’s legislator members to shepherd it into law.
“This is just another hidden way for corporations to buy their way into the legislative process,” said Bob Edgar, president of Common Cause, a Washington-based group that advocates for limits on money in politics.
As a tax-exempt organization, however, ALEC doesn’t disclose its corporate donors. ALEC doesn’t reveal its corporate and legislative members beyond those who serve as committee chairmen. Its model bills, which now total almost 1,000, are listed on its website, although their full texts can be called up only by members.