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Furthermore! – If You Can’t Stand the Heat

April 24, 2012

Furthermore

Furthermore! – If You Can’t Stand the Heat

Mrs. Squirrel wanted to make a mixed nut and seed salad for dinner last night. She had found plenty of seeds and sent me to ask if Chef had some extra macadamias, and some other nuts for variety. I wandered in just as Chef was finishing the Chicken Scampi she made for dinner, so I had to wait while she drained the pasta. Within seconds the steam from the boiling water had settled on my ear tufts and tail. I began flicking and cleaning them, but my paws were damp so that only made me wetter. Chef laughed and said “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.”

“Tell that to ALEC,” I replied.

As Winning Progressive wrote in today’s Morning Feature, the American Legislative Exchange Council – ALEC – are feeling the heat as their corporate sponsors respond to boycott pressure from progressive organizations like Color of Change and the Center for Media and Democracy. On Friday, Proctor & Gamble became the thirteenth major corporate sponsor to abandon ALEC, joining a list that includes Coca Cola, Kraft Foods, McDonald’s, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Human Events‘ Steven Greenhut and Breitbart.com‘s Mike Flynn use terms like “strong-arming” and “working to silence conservative voices,” which hints at threats of censorship or even violence. Yet by urging supporters to contact ALEC’s sponsors and say they’ll stop buying products unless the companies sever ties with ALEC, the progressive groups are using the free market that ALEC purports to defend.

Greenhut claims ALEC arose in response to what he calls “left-leaning” groups like the National Conference of State Legislatures and the National League of Cities. He says that all of these groups have corporate sponsors and propose model legislation, and the only difference is that ALEC advocates for conservative policies. But he ignores two important differences. First, ALEC seats corporate sponsors alongside elected legislators on task forces to propose and debate model bills. In contrast, the NCSL’s standing committees include only state legislators and legislative staff, and the NLC’s policy committees include only elected local officials. Second, ALEC’s meetings are private and the bills they propose are kept secret. Were it not for painstaking research at sites like ALEC Exposed, non-members would have no way of knowing what bills ALEC proposes. In contrast again, the NCSL publish their policy positions, and so do the NLC.

Oh, and there’s another difference. While the NCSL Foundation is a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) charity that supports the NCSL’s programs, it does no legislative advocacy. That is done by the NCSL itself, which is not tax-exempt. Nor is the NLC. But ALEC claims to be a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) charity like a church or the Red Cross, and its members check “No” when asked if the group lobbies for legislation. In fact ALEC’s sole reason for existing is to lobby for legislation, and should be a 501(c)(4) corporation like any other lobbying interest group. But its donors wouldn’t get a tax write-off.

Simply put, the NCSL and NLC are not “left-leaning” versions of ALEC. Both the NCSL’s and NLC’s working committees are comprised solely of elected officials and their staff. You can read every bill the NCSL and NLC propose. And neither the NCSL nor the NLC use tax-exempt funds for political advocacy.

Anti-ALEC groups are pushing back against corporate-dominated government, using peaceful tactics that urge supporters to “vote with their wallets” against corporate sponsors. Thirteen of those sponsors, so far, have decided they would rather drop ALEC than lose customers. That’s not “strong-arming.” It’s the “free markets” that ALEC celebrate on their masthead.

If ALEC can’t stand the heat, maybe they should get out of the kitchen.

Good day and good nuts.


  • winterbanyan

    Excellent article! You make the differences very clear and go straight to the point. I am among those sincerely hoping that ALEC gets into legal trouble. It is clearly a lobbying organization and as such should not have tax exempt status. I hope their corporate donors get into trouble as well for taking a tax deduction to which they aren’t entitled.

    And, as you point out, if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. We consumers have every right to make our points by where we spend our dollars… just as ALEC and it’s sponsors do. Only unlike them, we make no secret of it.

    Secrecy is not good for democracy.

    • http://bpicampus.com The BPI Squirrel

      ALEC is currently chartered as a 501(c)(3) organization, so donations are legally tax-deductible. Common Cause has asked the IRS to investigate ALEC’s 501(c)(3) status, but the IRS has not yet said they have opened or will open that investigation. If they investigate, the IRS could file a complaint demanding ALEC refile as a 501(c)(4) political action group. If they did, and if the complaint were upheld, I don’t think the status would be retroactive. In other words, ALEC’s donors would not owe back taxes on donations made while it was a 501(c)(3), but they could no longer deduct those donations in the future.

      Good day and good nuts.

  • addisnana

    Great article, BPI Squirrel! You totally nailed the problems with ALEC and I echo winterbanyan’s hope that an IRS investigation results in a reclassification.