Republicans say ALEC becoming more transparent
- Associated Press
- December 12, 2013 - 9:50 AM
MADISON, Wis. — Wisconsin Republicans say a pro-business group known for secretly drafting model legislation for conservative lawmakers throughout the country is trying to become more transparent.
The move by the American Legislative Exchange Council comes as some Republicans have dropped their taxpayer-funded membership in recent years and corporate sponsors have pulled back. Liberals have been highly critical of the group's practice to write bills in secret for Republicans to introduce in statehouses.
Republican Rep. John Nygren, of Marinette, recently became the Wisconsin state Assembly chairman for ALEC. He told the Wisconsin State Journal in a story published Thursday (http://tiny.cc/m5gz7w ) that ALEC needs to do a better job telling its story to the public.
"They've let the folks who disagree with us define who we are. That's their biggest mistake," Nygren said of the group. "If that means telling their story more, sharing more information, so be it."
ALEC spokesman Bill Meierling said the organization now posts its model legislation, meeting agendas and IRS forms online and no longer stamps communications to members as confidential. Liberal critics such as the Madison-based Center for Media and Democracy have highlighted that practice as particularly troubling.
CMD lawyer Brendan Fischer noted that ALEC still doesn't disclose which lawmakers and corporations collaborate with the group. He also said the public still isn't privy to certain ALEC committee meetings in which lawmakers propose draft legislation that corporate interests can then amend before ALEC touts it as model legislation.
Sen. Leah Vukmir, R-Wauwatosa, the state Senate chairwoman who last week became ALEC's second vice-chairwoman, defended the group as a valuable resource for developing legislation that supports free markets, limited government and other conservative ideals.
"There have been setbacks, I won't deny that," Vukmir said. "And that's because of this continual attack on the left trying to make this organization out to be something that it's not."
Vukmir said what happens at ALEC isn't that different from the bill-creation process in Wisconsin, where drafts aren't public records until a bill is introduced, or from what happens at the National Conference of State Legislatures.
NCSL spokeswoman Jane Andrade disputed Vukmir's claim, pointing out that every state legislator and legislative staffer in the country belongs to the bipartisan NCSL, which very rarely writes model legislation and is mostly focused on providing legislators with data and research.
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