As part of a national campaign to draw attention to the American Legislative Exchange Council’s (ALEC) activities, Common Cause Minnesota is asking state Attorney General Lori Swanson and the Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board to investigate whether the group has violated state law.
In a letter to Swanson, Common Cause Executive Director Mike Dean contends that ALEC, a tax-exempt charitable organization, lobbies state lawmakers, and has therefore misrepresented its purpose under state laws regarding charities.
“In view of the overwhelming evidence that ALEC is engaged in lobbying, I urge you to review its compliance with all applicable state laws or to refer this matter to the appropriate state regulatory authorities for their action,” Dean wrote.
Meanwhile, Common Cause is also filing a complaint with the state’s campaign finance board contending that ALEC should be registered as a lobby but isn’t.
Groups organized as a 501(c)(3) under the Internal Revenue Code are allowed to lobby, as long as it doesn’t constitute a substantial part of a group’s activities.
ALEC is a national group with a conservative bent that caters to state lawmakers. It is best known for bringing together lawmakers and business interests to write model legislation.
ALEC’s lawyer, Alan Dye, says that the group abides by legal lobbying limits, but that the organization is free to communicate with state lawmakers in ways not covered by those definitions, such as sending out research and analysis.
But Common Cause, a national liberal group that has been targeting ALEC’s activities, says the group’s talking points, model legislation, and other communications with state lawmakers are evidence of ALEC’s lobbying efforts.
The letters sent to Swanson and the state campaign board by Common Cause Minnesota are part of the group’s nationwide effort to scrutinize ALEC’s activities. At least 29 state attorneys general have received similar requests, according to Common Cause.
Among other bits of lobbying evidence, Common Cause Minnesota points to memos sent from ALEC to Minnesota lawmakers regarding bills similar to ALEC model legislation, including one that would have allowed defendants to challenge whether a case should be defined as a class action suit, one that would have lowered the interest rate on judgements over $50,000, and one that urged Minnesota legislators to support the repeal of a moratorium on radiation therapy facility construction.
Common Cause recently filed a request with the Internal Revenue Service to look into ALEC’s activities.
Dye called Common Cause’s claims “patently false.”