State attorney general asked to investigate American Legislative Exchange Council
Saturday, May 5, 2012
The national debate over the American Legislative Exchange Council continued in New Hampshire this week when a national advocacy group called on the state attorney general to look into the controversial organization.
Common Cause, a Washington, D.C.-based lobbying organization, issued a letter this week to New Hampshire Attorney General Michael Delaney asking him to investigate ALEC’s tax status.
ALEC has drawn criticism from across the country for allegedly shaping and pushing legislation. It is registered as a charitable organization in New Hampshire, freeing it from paying taxes on donations. But ALEC’s lobbying activities may disqualify the group from its tax exemptions, according to Bob Edgar, president of Common Cause.
Representatives from the attorney general’s office acknowledged receiving Common Cause’s letter, although they declined to comment further.
“ALEC is a corporate lobby front group masquerading as a public charity on the taxpayers’ dime,” Edgar wrote. “New Hampshirites shouldn’t have to subsidize ALEC’s agenda.”
ALEC, which consists of state legislators and corporate members, has taken heat for allegedly writing and lobbying for legislation on education, environmental, health care and gun rights bills, among others.
In New Hampshire, the group has led the charge on a number of bills, including the Stand Your Ground law, which allows people to use deadly force when they feel threatened, said Zandra Rice-Hawkins, executive director of Granite State Progress, a statewide advocacy group.
Last month, the group called on all state legislators to distance themselves from ALEC.
“Corporations already funnel money into our political system,” Rice-Hawkins said. “They’re literally writing legislation that benefits corporations without any thought of the constituents.”
In recent weeks, a number of national corporations, including Proctor & Gamble, McDonald’s and Coca-Cola, have abandoned their support for ALEC, and in New Hampshire, Rep. Robert Theberge, D-Berlin, recently gave up his membership. But other members have stood by the group.
Membership rolls have even increased in recent weeks as House Speaker William O’Brien, R-Mont Vernon, and other legislators joined ALEC.
“Opponents’ attacks are happening because ALEC members support free-market health care, tax fairness, tort reform and a limited, more transparent government,” O’Brien wrote last month in a letter to The Telegraph.
“This organization allows legislators from across the nation to gather to discuss common problems and developing issues,” Rep. Jordan Ulery, R-Hudson, a state ALEC co-chairman, wrote in a Telegraph commentary. “These attacks are simply politically motivated ad hominem attacks designed to deflect attention from the real issues facing New Hampshire.”
Jake Berry can be reached at 594-6402 or email@example.com.
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