Out-of-state lobbyists sway legislators, watchdog says

  • Article by: BRAD SCHRADE
  • Star Tribune
  • January 18, 2012 - 9:40 PM

An election watchdog group issued a report Wednesday accusing out-of-state corporate lobbyists of having undue influence at Minnesota's Capitol.

The group, Common Cause Minnesota, took aim at the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which it claims influenced lawmakers in Minnesota who introduced 60-plus pieces of legislation that mirrored proposals originating from the group's activities. The conservative group has come under increased scrutiny in the past year from liberal groups for the perceived influence it carries in shaping state laws.

"Corporations are bringing legislators to some of America's most exclusive hotels and resorts to share their wish list of special-interest legislation," said Mike Dean, executive director of Common Cause. "Our legislators were elected to represent Minnesota families, not corporate bottom lines."

Rep. Mary Kiffmeyer, R-Big Lake, who is state chairwoman for ALEC, called the claims ridiculous and insulting. She said lawmakers meet with all sorts of groups and that Common Causes's claims are part of a liberal paranoia trying to demonize the group.

She said there are corporations present at ALEC events, but lawmakers steer the agenda much more than businesspeople.

"It's very legislatively driven," Kiffmeyer said. "We as legislators do have a brain. I go out and campaign and say 'I want government to live within its means. We need to do things more efficiently and effectively.' I come with that. Coca-Cola doesn't have to tell me that."

An ALEC spokeswoman called the report recycled information from an August Common Cause report on its activities nationwide. An earlier ALEC statement said that report was misleading and distorted the group's activities.

Brad Schrade • 612-673-4777

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