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Monday, April 23, 2012

ALEC, a Tax-Exempt Group, Mixes Legislators and Lobbyists | Mike McIntire, NYTimes.com

As a regular, wiling contributor to both charitable causes (through workplace giving) and political causes and candidates, I know and accept that there's a big difference between those types of contributions come income-tax time.

I can deduct my contributions to nonprofit charitable organizations and agencies--to help people, generally. But I can't deduct them to political causes and candidates--to help lobby for or against matters facing our government. That's the law. I respect it. It makes sense to me. I bet it makes sense to many people.

And that's why I'm so disturbed--heck, angered!--by the information in this article. As reported by the New York Times, the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, is registered as a public charity under section 501(c)(3) of the U.S. tax code. That means when people, organizations and businesses contribute money to ALEC, it's tax-deductible for them come income-tax time.

That pisses me off, to be honest.

McIntire writes:
Despite its generally low profile, ALEC has drawn scrutiny recently for promoting gun rights policies like the Stand Your Ground law at the center of the Trayvon Martin shooting case in Florida, as well as bills to weaken labor unions and tighten voter identification rules. Amid the controversies, several companies, including Coca-Cola, Intuit and Kraft Foods, have left the group.
And McIntire  continues:
Most of the attention has focused on ALEC’s role in creating model bills, drafted by lobbyists and lawmakers, that broadly advance a pro-business, socially conservative agenda. But a review of internal ALEC documents shows that this is only one facet of a sophisticated operation for shaping public policy at a state-by-state level. The records offer a glimpse of how special interests effectively turn ALEC’s lawmaker members into stealth lobbyists, providing them with talking points, signaling how they should vote and collaborating on bills affecting hundreds of issues like school vouchers and tobacco taxes.
Common Cause, a good-government watchdog organization that I've
respected and supported for decades, has investigated ALEC. It's filed a complaint with the U.S. Internal Revenue Service asserting that ALEC has abused its tax-exempt status.

Says Bob Edgar, president of Common Cause:
We know its mission is to bring together corporations and state legislators to draft profit-driven, anti-public-interest legislation, and then help those elected officials pass the bills in statehouses from coast to coast. If that’s not lobbying, what is?
I couldn't have said it any better! And I don't accept the crap ALEC says in its defense.

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