-By Paul I. Tascoupe
February 13, 2012- MADISON – Today, Democratic legislators formally submitted a bill for introduction that would clamp down on special interest organizations that write bills for legislators.
Recently, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has drawn criticism for acting as lobbyists for corporate legislation while being exempted from registering as a lobbying group with the Government Accountability Board. Many ALEC bills became law this session, including several of Governor Walker’s special session bills that made it harder for victims to sue corporations for wrongdoing.
“Last August, I infiltrated the ALEC convention and got a first-hand look at what they are up to,” said Pocan. “ALEC is like a speed dating service for lonely legislators and corporate executives. The corporations write bills and legislators sign their names to the bills. In the end, we’re stuck with bad laws and nobody knows where they came from.”
During one of Governor Walker’s special sessions, which were supposed to focus on job creation, ALEC saw several of their bills become law in Wisconsin. One such bill diminishes a victim’s right to sue corporations if they are harmed by irresponsible business practices.
“If they look like a lobbyist, talk like a lobbyist and walk like a lobbyist, they should be regulated like a lobbyist,” said Larson. “Wisconsin’s lobbying laws are intended to instill as much integrity and transparency in our government as possible. ALEC shouldn’t get a free pass to anonymously do their lobbying.”
Pocan has crashed ALEC’s conventions twice, becoming a member in an effort to learn more about the secretive lobbying group. In doing so, he exposed a giant loophole in Wisconsin’s lobbying law in which corporations do not have to report their efforts to persuade legislators to sponsor their personally crafted model legislation.
The ALEC Accountability Act would apply existing lobbying laws to any organization or person who advocates for the introduction of model legislation. The bill would also regulate the reporting of any “scholarships” organizations dole out to legislators, including a list of corporate sponsors. Additionally, the bill would prohibit state taxpayer funds from being used to pay for these lobbyist conventions.
The bill, LRB-3867/1 is currently waiting for a bill number and committee referral.