The Guardian has learned that the American Legislative Exchange Council (Alec), which shapes and promotes legislation at state level across the US, has identified more than 40 lapsed corporate members it wants to attract back into the fold under a scheme referred to in its documents as the "Prodigal Son Project".It has also lost state legislators:
The target firms include commercial giants such as Amazon, Coca-Cola, General Electric, Kraft, McDonald's and Walmart, all of which cut ties with the group following the furore over the killing of the unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin in Florida in February 2012.
The Guardian has learned that by Alec's own reckoning the network has lost almost 400 state legislators from its membership over the past two years, as well as more than 60 corporations that form the core of its funding. In the first six months of this year it suffered a hole in its budget of more than a third of its projected income.And it is going stealth, by setting up a new outfit:
The documents seen by the Guardian show that Alec is hoping to avoid legal, tax and ethical challenges by creating a separate sister organisation it calls the "Jeffersonian Project". The new body would be categorised as a 501(c)(4) social welfare organisation, a designation that would allow Alec to be far more overt in its lobbying activities than its current charitable status as a 501(c)(3).
"Any activity that could be done by Alec may be done by Jeffersonian Project if legal counsel advises it would provide greater legal protection or lessen ethics concerns," a note on the proposed new body to Alec's board of directors says. The note adds that the Jeffersonian Project would remove "questions of ethical violations made by our critics and state ethics boards and provides further legal protection".
The Guardian has received a cache of documents,
Among them is a draft agreement that was prepared for Alec's board of directors that set out the proposed responsibilities of the group's state chairs from prominent, largely Republican, legislators. The draft agreement contains the proposed commitment from state chairs that: "I will act with care and loyalty and put the interests of the organization first."But no worries, the draft agreement was not adopted:
The duty of elected politicians to put the interests of Alec first, with no mention of their obligations to the voters who put them in office, would have set up an apparent conflict of interest. But Alec said that the draft agreement was not adopted by the membership committee or by any of the state chairs. "All legislators are beholden to their constituents' interests first – if they are not, they will be held accountable at the ballot box," Meierling said.No scandal here. The logic of the GOP is to privatize government functions, so it makes sense that the government function of legislating would be taken over by a corporate funded private enterprise. The only surprise is that some of the corporations have gotten cold feet.