Business In Politics

The American Legislative Exchange Council wrapped up its annual meeting in Denver on Friday, and activists say they’ll keep watching as the group’s agenda unfolds in coming months.

The national organization, funded by more than 300 corporations and conservative foundations, brings lawmakers and campaign contributors together to review so-called model legislation to be introduced in multiple states.

Caroline Fry, advocacy and media manager at Colorado Common Cause, says ALEC creates an uneven playing field that prioritizes the needs of big business.

Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman disagrees – she says the notion that independent-minded politicians could be swayed by ALEC “laughable.”

Topics at this year’s meeting included using public money to pay for private and religious schools, and ways to block renewable energy development and shield the identities of large campaign donors. Fry says her group hopes to lead a statewide effort to inspect any new bills introduced in the General Assembly for ALEC’s fingerprints.

Common Cause has filed numerous complaints with the IRS over ALEC’s tax exempt status as a charitable nonprofit. It most recently documented ExxonMobil’s use of ALEC to lobby state lawmakers to advance policies challenging the scientific consensus on climate change.

Fry says she believes if corporate actors and their facilitators are not held accountable, the basic tenets of democracy are undermined.

Representatives from ALEC have not yet responded to the criticism from Colorado Common Cause.