Thursday, May 10, 2012

Documents reveal taxpayer dollars spent on controversial corporate lobbying group

Internal Senate and House records show hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on cheesecake lollipops; junkets to Orlando, Las Vegas, Monterrey; membership dues and direct support donated to the lobbying group, the American Legislative Exchange Council

(HARRISBURG, PA)—Pennsylvania taxpayers have spent at least a quarter of a million dollars to support the controversial corporate lobbying group the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), according to documents obtained this week by Keystone Progress.  

According to the documents:

·      The House of Representatives reported spending $234, 775.041 on ALEC from 1/1/00 through 5/2/12.
 ·      The Senate’s spending was $76,042.351 from 7/1/04 through 4/30/12.

Included in the spending was $3,000 for cheesecake lollipops, $3,600 for crabcakes made to order; junkets to Orlando, Las Vegas, Monterrey and other cities; dues for their legislators’ membership in ALEC; and at least $50,0001 paid directly from the General Assembly to ALEC.

The top five spenders of taxpayer dollars for ALEC are:
1.     Sen. John Pippy (R, Allegheny, Washington) $12,901.70
2.     Rep. Ron Marsico (R, Dauphin) $9,920.10
3.     Rep. Joseph Petrarca (D, Armstrong, Westmoreland) $5,108.43
4.     Rep. John Taylor (R, Philadelphia) $3,975.50
5.     Rep. Stephen Barrar (R, Chester, Delaware) $3,264.80

Keystone Progress filed Right to Know Law requests with the Pennsylvania House and Senate last week asking for financial records and correspondence between legislators and ALEC.  While the correspondence request was denied, both chambers released their financial records.
“It is beyond belief that legislators are spending taxpayer money to hobnob with corporate lobbyists in Las Vegas and Orlando, while cutting funding for education, healthcare and the environment,” said Michael Morrill, Executive Director of Keystone Progress.  “We think the legislators should give the money back and sever their ties with this corporate front group.”
ALEC has been under intense criticism for its role in writing, and lobbying for, controversial legislation that strips away union rights, scales back child labor laws, attacks the regulation power of environmental agencies, suppresses voter rights with strict identification requirements, eliminates the social safety net, and privatizes public services.

Through ALEC, behind closed doors, corporations hand state legislators the changes to the law they desire that directly benefit their bottom line. Along with legislators, corporations have membership in ALEC. Corporations fund almost all of ALEC's operations. Participating legislators, overwhelmingly conservative Republicans, then bring those proposals home and introduce them in statehouses across the land as their own brilliant ideas and important public policy innovations—without disclosing that corporations crafted and voted on the bills. ALEC boasts that it has over 1,000 of these bills introduced by legislative members every year, with one in every five of them enacted into law.  
At least 52 PA legislators are members of ALEC.2 There have been numerous PA bills have been ghost written by corporate lobbyists and submitted verbatim by PA legislators.3
In the past few days, dozens of legislators around the country and major corporate sponsors of ALEC have indicated they will not renew their memberships to the controversial corporate front group. Twelve PA former members of ALEC have severed ties in the past few days.

All documents can be viewed here.

1Both the Senate and House documents report an expenditure of $50,000 paid directly ALEC.  It is unclear if this is one payment of $50,000 authorized by both chambers or two payments totaling $100,000.
3”Behind Closed Doors: The American Legislative Exchange Council and Pennsylvania Legislation”

Keystone Progress is Pennsylvania’s largest online progressive organization, with over 270,000 subscribers. KP uses the Internet and new media to organize online at the state and local level; and utilizes cutting-edge earned media strategies to promote a progressive agenda and counter right-wing misinformation.

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