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Wisconsin Dem Introduces the “ALEC Accountability Act”

Mark Pocan (D-Madison)

The overt and immeasurable influence of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) over U.S. policy has been well-documented on this site and others. For the most part, little has been done legislatively to change this unfortunate fact. But a Madison, Wisconsin Democrat, Mark Pocan, has been circulating a bill that aims to rein ALEC in:

Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Madison) has been circulating the “ALEC Accountability Act,” a bill that would require ALEC to register with the state as a lobbyist and report the funding sources for the “scholarships” funding legislators’ travel. Pocan refers to ALEC as a “dating service” for right-wing politicians and corporations who exercise undue influence over state law by crafting “model” legislation behind closed doors.

Pocan believes that while ALEC is doing the work of a lobbyist, it is not complying with the reporting and registration requirements asked of all lobbyists. The bill would redefine “lobbying” to include contact with any member, employee, or agent of a body that “proposes uniform, model, suggested, or recommended legislation.”

Under his new bill, Pocan says, “any group that advocates model legislation has to register and follow the regulations of a lobbyist in Wisconsin. That provides a transparency so we know who is advocating for what.”

In Wisconsin, ALEC is as present as anywhere. Pocan knows this, in part from being a politician in the state, and in part because of his days writing for a progressive magazine:

A variety of legislative proposals in the 2011-2012 session have been sourced from ALEC, everything from “tort reform,” to voter ID, to school choice and charter bills, to tobacco tax policy, to aspects of Governor Scott Walker’s bill that limited public sector bargaining rights. The bills are introduced with no indication they had been pre-approved by global corporations at ALEC meetings. This past year the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) unveiled over 800 ALEC “model bills” at the website, which allows citizens to match the “model” bills with legislation in their state.

Wisconsin state government is thick with ALEC connections. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker was a long time ALEC member during his time as a state legislator, from 1993 - 2002, and listed his ALEC membership in the official Blue Book. Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald and Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald, and Robin Vos, and Alberta Darling, chairs of the Wisconsin Joint Committee on Finance, are also ALEC members. CMD has identified at least 52 ALEC members in the state legislature.

Pocan has long been concerned with ALEC. In August, he paid his $50 in dues and attended ALEC’s Annual Meeting in New Orleans to write about it for the Progressive Magazine. Pocan described how he was bounced from the Reynold’s Tobacco cigar reception held off Bourbon Street, even though he is a legislator and dues paying member of ALEC.

Lord knows Wisconsin could use a kink in its current cronyist armor. For more on ALEC, read this New York Times editorial from Sunday.


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