With its involvement in a highly contested Wisconsin labor bill, some union backed groups are calling foul on the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).
Since its start in 1973, ALEC has been the target of many groups on the left who claim they manipulate local legislatures to benefit business interests. Though ALEC reps argue they bring lawmakers and business leaders together in the hopes of creating and recommending bills that advance free market principals, limited government, and federalism.
Cara Sullivan, a task force director at ALEC, dismisses the criticism as a difference of opinion, rather than legitimate concern.
“[Businesses and politicians] come to ALEC to engage in ideas,” Sullivan tells The Daily Caller News Foundation. “If we have a policy that passes at ALEC, that doesn’t mean it will be law.”
Mary Bottari, the deputy director for the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD), recently argued in an opinion piece that Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is pushing an ALEC-backed, right-to-work bill to promote the interests of out-of-state corporations at the expense of local workers.
The Wisconsin bill outlaws forced union dues as a condition of employment. The policy has passed in 24 states already with several currently considering it.
Sullivan argues there is no merit to the claims that they are only out to promote corporate interests, noting that though its basic principals are free markets and limited government, they are open to all perspectives.
“We open our task force meetings to lawmakers of all ideologies,” Sullivan notes. “I view myself and my colleagues as mutual arbitrators.”
Bottari also argued that the similarities between the Wisconsin bill and the ALEC proposals show Republican lawmakers are clearly pushing outside ideologues and special interests. Sullivan however counters by saying it should not at all be surprising since right-to-work is a fairly straightforward idea.
“If it were radically different, it wouldn’t be a right-to-work bill,” Sullivan notes. “This is the language that has worked.”
Meaning the air-tight legal justifications, indeed even the specific language, in any right-to-work bill needs to be precise in order to hold up to scrutiny.
“We have had that model policy since 1995,” Sullivan continued. “Right-to-work is a pretty mainstream free market idea.”
These claims of corporate conspiracies to manipulate lawmakers are not at all surprising though. Sullivan says that groups with differing views on labor find it more difficult to challenge ALEC in the area of legitimate public debate and discourse, so they resort to baseless attacks and shady conspiracies.
Indeed, groups like CMD are heavily endorsed by unions and other left-leaning organizations. Unions and those on the left, for the most part, have been adamantly opposed to right-to-work legislation, even before the Wisconsin debate.
According to a report by the Center for Union Facts (CUF), it was only after Walker became governor that CMD quietly changed its tune on union contributions. The group was once was able to say it did not take union funds to accomplish its goals but that all quietly changed.
“CMD, which criticizes conservative groups for a lack of transparency, does not disclose this union funding in its annual IRS filings or on its website,” CUF states in its report.
The report details, “According to an analysis of the organization’s 2013 tax return which was recently filed, CMD’s six largest ($25,000 or more) contributors…account for 72% of CMD’s grant and contribution revenue.”
These large contributors include unions like the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) along with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).
The union contributions also seemed to have a huge influence on the group’s priorities. It started concertedly going after Walker in February 2011, not too long after unions started handing them money. This included a detailed “special report” on the governor’s relationship with a conservative foundation.
CMD oversees several publishing venues, including PRWatch, ALECexposed, and SourceWatch, in an attempt to expose who is influencing conservative groups and politicians with political contributions.
Reps from CMD did not provide comment to TheDCNF before the publishing of this story.
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