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ALEC Accountability Act In Arizona, Wisconsin Would Make Conservative Group Disclose Funding

Scott Walker Jan Brewer

First Posted: 02/10/2012 3:47 pm Updated: 02/10/2012 4:34 pm

Democratic lawmakers in Arizona and Wisconsin have introduced state legislation seeking public disclosure of who funds the conservative group known as the American Legislative Exchange Council

ALEC, as the group is known, finances trips for Republican state lawmakers to learn about model legislation it pushes at the state level. Arizona tate. Rep. Steve Farley (D-Tucson) and Wisconsin state Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Madison) have separately put forward legislation designed to disclose ALEC's funding sources. The bills, called the Alec Accountability Act and pending in their respective Republican-controlled legislatures, would redefine ALEC as a lobbying organization since it develops model legislation.

"It is a pretty big lobbying group," Farley told HuffPost. "People deserve to know who is funding ALEC," added Farley, who has collaborated with Pocan as well as discussed the issue with legislators in other states.

Among the two bills' provisions would be an attempt to define any organization promoting model legislation as a lobbying group and require disclosure of its funding sources.

Pocan described ALEC as a "dating service" matching model legislation with lawmakers in various states, according to a Center for Media and Democracy release.

Farley's and Pocan's bills are in introductory stages of consideration by their respective legislatures, awaiting committee hearings. The Republican leadership has yet to assign Farley's bill to a committee, he said, and time is running out for a committee hearing, according to Arizona's legislative rules. Farley plans to introduce his bill as a floor amendment to another piece of legislation so as to win a debate and a full chamber vote on the issue, he said.

Arizona state Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-Glendale), the state chairwoman for ALEC in Arizona, has read a brief summary of Farley's legislation, she said, but did not have an opinion about it or whether ALEC should be required to disclose its funding. "I have not thought about it," Lesko said, adding that she is working with Farley and other legislators on what she described as bipartisan "candidate public disclosure and transparency."

In Wisconsin, Pocan expects committee action this spring on his bill, but noted that he does not expect it to pass given the GOP dominance of the legislature. "My guess is it won't pass given the makeup of the legislature."

ALEC's public affairs department did not return a call for comment.

Formed in 1973 as a "nonpartisan" group for "conservative state lawmakers" interested in "limited government, free markets, federalism, and individual liberty," ALEC creates model legislation that has resulted in the introduction of 1,000 bills a year at the state level with 20 percent becoming law, its website claims.

At ALEC's November conference in Phoenix Republican Gov. Jan Brewer of Arizona used her speech to unveil proposed changes to her state's personnel system to make all workers be employees at will. Brewer, and her Wisconsin counterpart, Gov. Scott Walker, became involved in ALEC as state legislators, according to the Center for Media and Democracy, which operates the website ALEC Exposed.

Over the last several years ALEC has successfully promoted legislation to eliminate collective bargaining, require voter identification and allow for school vouchers to be used. Wisconsin and Arizona are both engaged in a current debate over collective bargaining legislation that similar model legislation that ALEC has been promoting.

Gov. Walker, who signed a measure to ban collective bargaining last year, now faces the likelihood of a recall election after labor and progressive grops submitted more than a million signatures in an effort to remove him from office as a result of that legislation.

While Republicans in the Arizona Senate have introduced a similar collective bargaining ban, Gov. Brewer has indicated that she will not consider the bill until after the legislature passes her proposal to redefine state government employees as employees at will, another ALEC priority. Last week, opponents filed paperwork to launch recall petitions against Brewer because of her support for the personnel and collective bargaining measures.

For their part, both Pocan and Farley are engaged in bids for higher office. Pocan has declared his candidacy for a Madison area congressional seat being vacated by U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin. Farley is seeking a seat in the state Senate and will decide this month whether to run for Gabrielle Giffords' former congressional seat in southern Arizona.

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