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I have been waiting patiently for someone to post this - cause I wanted to see what your response and reaction was.

To be frank - I have not been able to wrap my head around the TOTAL impact of what I am about to tell you - so I come to you, looking forward to your comments and reactions.

Background

Much of the work that has been done over the past years to expose ALEC has been done in many ways - mostly using ALEC documents.

Just some basic examples:

A listing of ALEC "model legislation" on ALEC Exposed was leaked by a whistleblower.
The documentation of ALEC's role in gerrymandering congressional districts was achieved through a FoIA request.
Lists of ALEC BIG $$ sponsors were photographed out of the ALEC meeting programs.
Three separate IRS complaints were filed  (Common Cause, Clergy Voice, Voters Legislative Transparency Project) using copies of actual ALEC documents.
A partial list of ALEC legislators were compiled by reviewing ALEC task Force minutes.
A report on the distribution of ALEC scholarship fundswas completed by using ALEC documents
WELL  ....  
ALEC is trying to shut the door on that.
At the last ALEC meeting - ALEC pulled something out the rabbit hat that supposedly shuts the door on what we are doing and tries to hide ALEC in the shadows again - all of it - every document produced by ALEC.

As reported last week at PR Watch -
ALEC's Latest "Transparency" Move: Asserting Immunity From Freedom of Information Laws
otherwise known by me as
ALEC gives FoIA the Finger

ALL documents that were distributed at the meeting last week included the following disclaimer - please read it carefully and digest the content:

© 2013 American Legislative Exchange Council. This document is the property of American Legislative Exchange Council (''ALEC"), and may not be copied or distributed without the express written permission of ALEC. Because this is an internal ALEC document ALEC believes it is not subject to disclosure under any state Freedom of Information or Public Records Act. Should you want to make copies, or if you receive a request for disclosure of this or any other ALEC document under your State's Freedom of lnformation  or Public Records Act, please contact Michael J Bowman, Senior Director, Policy and Strategic lnitiatives, ALEC.(202) _________
Every piece of material distributed by ALEC to ANY ALEC legislator now has this disclaimer on it - everything.

I look forward to your comments and reactions - because YOUR comments are the real DKos diary on this.
Go at it!
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Originally posted to MNDem999 on Thu May 09, 2013 at 04:44 PM PDT.

Also republished by American Legislative Transparency Project.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Not familiar with ALEC? Need more info? (5+ / 0-)

    This DKos comment has lots of info and links to help educate you on ALEC.

  •  I thought FOIA only applied to federal agencies. (10+ / 0-)

    I've never heard of a private organization being subject to FOIA.

    Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over humanity, nothing exceeds most of the criticisms made on the habits of the poor by the well-housed, well-warmed, and well-fed. --Herman Melville

    by ZedMont on Thu May 09, 2013 at 04:49:09 PM PDT

    •  State's Records Request - whatever. (6+ / 0-)

      The correspondence between this "private organization" and my legislator ARE my business - when it affects legislation in MY state and correspondence with US Congressional members regarding issues of the  federal government.

      Whether or not they are subject to it - is not the issue here.  It will be a cold day in hell before I defend or discuss  ALEC's rights.

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting and getting those two issues out of the way.

      •  Congress is exempt from FOIA. (4+ / 0-)

        There is no other legal mechanism for the public to request federal records other than FOIA, unless you count groveling.

        It really seems strange to me that ALEC being a private organization not subject to FOIA, and Congress being exempt, that they would "announce" that they're not subject to it.

        Neither is McDonald's, but you don't see them standing on the street corner thumbing their nose and screaming "nyah nyah nyah"  Well, actually McDonald's is not that good an example, because they at least have to tell you what's in a Big Mac (but not the secret sauce!!)

        This is what is so insidious about ALEC - their ability to operate in the shadows with subject matter that should be public.

        Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over humanity, nothing exceeds most of the criticisms made on the habits of the poor by the well-housed, well-warmed, and well-fed. --Herman Melville

        by ZedMont on Thu May 09, 2013 at 05:06:22 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  But it *is* the issue here (9+ / 0-)
        Whether or not they are subject to it - is not the issue here.
         They aren't subject to FOIA. Much as we want to know, much as it would be useful to know, much as what they as a private entity are doing to influence decisions in our government arena - they still aren't subject to FOIA.  That's not "defending their rights"; it's recognizing a reality. It's a "curses, foiled again" moment. In some ways it's surprising it took them this long to find this solution. So now, what can be done about it?

        “Texas is a so-called red state, but you’ve got 10 million Democrats here in Texas. And …, there are a whole lot of people here in Texas who need us, and who need us to fight for them.” President Obama

        by Catte Nappe on Thu May 09, 2013 at 05:13:07 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  MND - I don't see how ALEC would be subject to (5+ / 0-)

        FOIA requests. Any corporation can determine what is confidential and not allow it's distribution without it's consent, unless it is required by law. FOIA does not apply to private organizations.

        "let's talk about that"

        by VClib on Thu May 09, 2013 at 05:42:35 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Anyone who manages to get/allow their stuff to go (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          MNDem999, 6412093

          "public" is going to end up in the public sphere. And if they make the mistake of sueing to try to keep their public stuff private, they'll get slaughtered in the public arena.

          That's the true rules of the game.

          There can be no protection locally if we're content to ignore the fact that there are no controls globally.

          by oldpotsmuggler on Thu May 09, 2013 at 08:07:23 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  oldpotsmuggler is right (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            MNDem999

            once anyone starts handing their stuff out to public officials, it's a public document, and anyone can use the state public records laws to make a state legislator cough up a copy.

            Orly, it isn't evidence just because you downloaded it from the internet.

            by 6412093 on Thu May 09, 2013 at 09:42:52 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

      •  You shouldn't be snippy because YOU (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        valion

        Got the terminology wrong and confused people.

  •  How is ALEC subject to FOIA requests? (7+ / 0-)

    It's a private entity.  You can only make FOIA or public records requests to a governmental or public body.  

  •  I think that it is an excellent idea (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    MNDem999

    if you want to prevent any and all transparency. A person could still smuggle it out or just ignore the warning.

  •  Oh, I think I get it now (helps to read the links) (8+ / 0-)

    I had never heard FOIA in connection with state open records laws, but either some states call their statutes that, or the author of the original story (not the diarist) just used the wrong terminology.

    But if he's talking about state open records laws, I think I know what they're doing.  They're trying to influence the states who hold the records and might be subject to releasing them, by "suggesting" that their documents are exempt under some exception to the law, like "trade secrets" or "proprietary information."  Basically, I think they are trying to "chill" state governments who might release the records.  

    Of course in the case of state governments controlled by Republicans, it's more of a "high sign" than a warning.

    Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over humanity, nothing exceeds most of the criticisms made on the habits of the poor by the well-housed, well-warmed, and well-fed. --Herman Melville

    by ZedMont on Thu May 09, 2013 at 05:19:48 PM PDT

  •  The Answer to this roadblock is simple. (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    MNDem999, Lujane, oldpotsmuggler, antirove
    Some-one needs to JOIN "ALEC", and not get caught putting all the information shared by "ALEC"out to the PUBLIC. YES I'm talking about a SPY...
    •  I think planting a spy could have been easy five (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      MNDem999, andalusi, ZedMont, Lujane

      years ago, but would be much harder today. My guess is that they scrub new employees well and the state legislators have a track record.

      "let's talk about that"

      by VClib on Thu May 09, 2013 at 05:46:15 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  You want to count on politicians to do "the right (0+ / 0-)

        thing", even (or especially) the wingnuts?

        Here's a hard and fast rule of life (which I sincerely believe that you're more than sophisticated enough to already know) "tell one person, and you might possibly have a secret, tell two, and good luck!"

        There can be no protection locally if we're content to ignore the fact that there are no controls globally.

        by oldpotsmuggler on Thu May 09, 2013 at 08:17:59 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  oldp - I think this is more about documents (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          MNDem999

          There is no doubt that speeches at their meeting can be recorded or summarized. I think this diary is about accessing copies of confidential documents.

          "let's talk about that"

          by VClib on Thu May 09, 2013 at 09:08:11 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Documents - I've seen trcukloads in my myriad (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            MNDem999

            careers. Literally billions of dollars worth of business (and I'm obviously talking about the post- potsmuggler phase).

            "Confidential documents" - truly confidential - never yet seen or heard of one of those.

            Good luck with that!

            There can be no protection locally if we're content to ignore the fact that there are no controls globally.

            by oldpotsmuggler on Thu May 09, 2013 at 09:39:53 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

    •  I know!!! Lets wire a cat and send it in!!!! (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      MNDem999

      The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy;the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness

      by CTMET on Thu May 09, 2013 at 05:49:07 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  If the document becomes public record their (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    MNDem999, jan4insight, JerryNA, 6412093

    disclaimer is useless. They don't get to pick and choose. In a democracy.

    •  Public Records - That's the question at hand. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      jan4insight, marina, Lujane

      When does it become public record?

      ALEC is using an internet lockbox for email correspondence to all their legislators now.  Documents are removed after 72 hours.

      They are distributing their information to ALEC legislators through that same internet lockbox.  Documents are removed after 72 hours.

      If the document never hits the state run and operated email or never comes into the state office through snail mail - thereby becoming a public record - do we really have access to it?

      And now ALEC "believes" that if any of their documents "accidentally" become public  - the ALEC legislator has to clear it with ALEC before the public can have access to them.

      Thanks for reading and the comment - appreciated.

      •  Not quite. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        MNDem999, Horace Boothroyd III

        Records that pass through government computer systems are essentially copied into the government system.  That's how someone can see them, after all.  It's not like a file you access from a remote server stays there.  Those files may be temporary or permanent.  Once a file hits a government computer system, government rules apply.  The big question is, what are the disclosure and storage rules of that particular government system?

      •  It becomes a public record when someone finds it (3+ / 0-)

        and exposes. However, whoever, whenever.

        Everything else is trying to get the horses back into the barn, and good luck with that.

        There can be no protection locally if we're content to ignore the fact that there are no controls globally.

        by oldpotsmuggler on Thu May 09, 2013 at 08:20:49 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  I have always assumed that Congress would not let (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lujane

    anyone else in the federal government other than themselves and their staffs see an ALEC document.  But I wonder if at times they have occasion to send these documents to federal agencies for review or comment, to make sure the agency is not of the opinion that there is a  conflict with some regulation that would need to be "fixed."  In that case FOIA could come into play.  Even then I suspect a Congressional staff would sanitize the documents, redacting anything they don't think is necessary for the agency to see in order to address whatever concern they have.

    Now, documents from private organizations or individuals can be exempt in whole or in part from FOIA because of the myriad "exceptions" to release, such as proprietary information and trade secrets, as mentioned before.  Sometimes the situation is not that clear cut and a great deal of individual judgment on the part of the FOIA officer comes into play about whether something can be released, and if so, what has to be redacted.  

    If there was a concern on ALEC's part that an agency might release one of their documents in error, then ALEC's statement could be an attempt to intimidate and put on notice agencies who might release them, but also to enlist the "assistance" of their allies in Congress, who are the only Congress members likely to see an ALEC document anyway.

    It is not difficult for me to imagine a "friendly" Congress member passing along a document with the caveat that since Congress is exempt from FOIA, by extension anything Congress sends to a federal agency is exempt from public disclosure by the agency as well.  

    A problem with my "thinking out loud" scenario is that the Obama administration has seen ALEC's declaration too, and they could refer the matter to counsel for an opinion as to whether or not Congress can in fact extend their Congressional exemption to a document that travels from them to a federal agency who is not otherwise exempt, because after all, the executive branch does control what federal agencies do.

    On the other hand they could just not give a rat's ass.

    Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over humanity, nothing exceeds most of the criticisms made on the habits of the poor by the well-housed, well-warmed, and well-fed. --Herman Melville

    by ZedMont on Thu May 09, 2013 at 06:25:05 PM PDT

  •  This is pretty amusing, considering all the time (0+ / 0-)

    Congress gives us to read their 2,000+ page laws before they are passed.

  •  It may be a good thing actually! (0+ / 0-)

    I guess Congress will finally have to write their own legislation as it can no longer be copied and sent directly to the house for a vote. Unless, stamped on the bottom, is "This Document has been approved for publication/distribution by ALEC"

    "Never argue with stupid people, they will drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience." Mark Twain

    by Urbee on Fri May 10, 2013 at 06:35:16 AM PDT

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