The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) delivered a letter Monday rebuking Illinois Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin’s inquiry into hundreds of think tanks and corporations known to have donated to the Washington D.C.-based non-profit.
In an Aug. 6 letter to ALEC, a free-market organization of legislators, businesses, and think tanks, Durbin wrote that he was “seeking clarification whether organizations that have funded ALEC’s operations in the past currently support ALEC and the model ‘stand your ground’ legislation.” (RELATED: Durbin under fire for ‘stand your ground’ inquiries)
Durbin plans to convene the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights in September to explore the law, which came to prominence last year after the Trayvon Martin shooting.
ALEC helped craft a ‘stand your ground’ bill which was enacted in Florida in 2005 and in over 20 other states. Stand your ground — which precludes the duty to retreat before using deadly force in self-defense cases — was initially cited as Zimmerman’s rationale for shooting and killing Martin. It ended up playing no role in his defense.
ALEC responded to Durbin’s request Monday by defending First Amendment and Tenth Amendment rights.
“The contents of your letter are eerily similar to the questions asked by the Internal Revenue Service of other citizen groups the IRS deemed as politically conservative,” read the letter, which was also sent Minnesota Democratic Sen. Al Franken, Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham and several others. The letter was also signed by 296 state legislators from across the country.
In the letter, ALEC suggested that Durbin would be prudent “to ensure our Constitution protects the civil and human rights of all Americans to exercise their voices and engage in general assembly with those who share their values and ideas, absent your own political motivations.”
In its statement, ALEC also reiterated that it “does not maintain model policy on ‘stand your ground.'” ALEC backed away from its support of the policy amid the political pressure swirling after the 2012 shooting of Martin.
ALEC spokesman Bill Meierling expanded on the organization’s letter in a phone interview with The Daily Caller News Foundation, calling Durbin’s request “intimidation.”
The liberal Common Cause Illinois’ executive director, Rey Lopez-Calderon, disagreed, telling TheDCNF, “I think that what Sen. Durbin’s doing in terms of asking for information… is a legitimate request.” Common Cause was one of many that protested ALEC’s 40th annual convention in Chicago last week.
Lopez-Calderon said he’s troubled by ALEC’s lobbying efforts. “Groups including Common Cause have officially filed complaints with the IRS saying that ALEC is lobbying and their tax exemption is in question.” He added that “there needs to be some sort of hearing just like there was with ACORN.”
Several news outlets condemned Durbin’s letter last week. The Chicago Tribune called Durbin’s request his “enemies list.”
The Wall Street Journal editorial page commented, “Mr. Durbin knows that if he can drive a wedge between ALEC and its corporate donors, it will help cripple the group’s influence on issues like tax policy and education and remove a significant voice for conservative reform in the states, including Illinois.”
Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz called the request “inappropriate” and urged targeted organizations not to respond to the Illinois senator’s request.
Reached for comment by TheDCNF, J. Scott Moody of the conservative Maine Heritage Policy Center, which received a letter from Durbin, said his organization “will not be sharing any confidential information with Sen. Durbin. At a time when the IRS is targeting Americans for dubious reasons, this witch-hunt does little to restore confidence and trust in the federal government.”
Durbin’s office did not respond to TheDCNF’s request for comment.
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