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Recently I wrote a blog calling for the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) to be investigated by the Department of Justice for violating their 501c3 tax status across state lines. It is a violation of the RICO Act to commit and/or conspire to commit illegal acts across state lines. That very reason is why Newt Gingrich threatened to pursue RICO action against me personally for leading demonstrations against him, and urging folks to continue the demonstrations in other states and against Newt’s allies.

    - ALEC has written, pursued, and lobbied for — in violation of their tax status — some
       of the most odious, dangerous, and undemocratic state legislation in the history of

    - ALEC has pursued voter suppression, voter intimidation, and voter
      disenfranchisement in state after state. Is that harmful to democracy? I think so.

    - ALEC has tried to pass laws in state after state to destroy unions or weaken them.
      It has also threatened the people who organize them. Is that good for the
      economy? Only if you want all the benefits of the economy and growth to go to the
      few at the top.

    - ALEC doesn’t just lobby at the edges of its existence. ALEC exists to lobby and to
      pass some of the most harmful legislation to our democracy and to our economy.

I admit I am not a lawyer, but I’m not a fool. If one of the organizations most destructive to popular democracy and shared prosperity is violating federal law to spread their hateful and malevolent state legislation they should be stopped legally.

All of us should call on the Department of Justice to investigate ALEC for racketeering violations. Some lawyers will tell us we are wrong. They will talk down to us. They will act as if life started when they entered law school.

We can no longer blindly follow any political professionals. It is time we stood up, raised hell, spoke out, called for the lawyers to get outta the damn way, and we started leading. Politicians and political pros — much as I love them — cannot lead on our values and our principles. We must lead and if we do, the best of them will follow us.

Image source: DonkeyHotey on Flickr via Creative Commons License: Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

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Originally posted to StewartAcuff on Tue Nov 19, 2013 at 04:39 AM PST.

Also republished by American Legislative Transparency Project.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (8+ / 0-)


    by StewartAcuff on Tue Nov 19, 2013 at 04:39:06 AM PST

  •  I agree completely. A congressional committee (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Horace Boothroyd III, rubyr

    should be formed to investigate this.

    Find out about my next big thing by reading my blog. Link is here:

    by Kimball Cross on Tue Nov 19, 2013 at 04:52:00 AM PST

  •  Are there democrats supporting this action? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Is there a movement in the democratic circles to actively support action against ALEC? Or is it an issue for the liberal media?

    Why is it that Thom Harman makes a better case for Democrats than they do for themselves?

    If the Democrats had their inner New Deal, they would be all over this issue.

    ALEC has been behind horrible things at the state level for years now. Including the 3 Republican governors elected in 2010 who immediately cancelled the rail money from the federal government.

  •  If ALEC is violating tax laws, then the complaint (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Don midwest, Andrew F Cockburn, rubyr

    has to be filed with the IRS and, if found valid, the IRS would have reason to lift the status, demand a refiling of reports and the payment of the appropriate tax. If individuals deducted their contributions to ALEC from their own tax obligations to the IRS, they probably did that in good faith and cannot be held liable for being misled by ALEC.

    In any event, writing blog posts is not the same as filing a formal complaint with a governmental agency and complaints is what they are all set up to respond to. I know that's how that works because I filed a complaint (wrote a letter with specific info) with the Comptroller of the Currency back in about 1980 about an S&L and that institution was eventually shut down and handed to some other financial outfit to run. Which means that management was replaced, as has happened with over 300 banks in the last few years.

    Our agents of law enforcement are primed to respond to complaints. Sometimes they fail to take complaints or to log them appropriately, but in those cases it is possible to follow up with whatever superior agency exists. The presidency is not it and, when it comes to financial regulation, the Department of Justice isn't it either. I think the importance of complaints is signalled by the fact that many an agency tries to pre-empt them by seeking compliance. That is, compliant citizens are less likely to lodge a complaint.
    Congress has an investigative and auditing function. However, their only recourse is to withhold future funding from functions that don't work as expected or designed. So, complaining to Congress about groups petitioning on behalf of restrictive laws hardly seems worth while. Better to recognize that, ultimately, law enforcement is a citizen function. If there are scofflaws in office, they need to be removed.
    There are good reasons why elections are held every two years for legislative offices. There are also good reasons why legislative candidates focus attention on their morals and their hair. That they intend to deploy the law as a tool to dominate the citizenry would not be a good campaign issue.

    For that matter, Congress deploying tax collection or non-collection to reward or punish the citizenry is inappropriate. The object of federal tax collection should be to keep the currency moving at a tood rate and to return dollars to the Treasury for accounting and re-distribution, instead of having to issue more and more.
    That they have accomplished the opposite is evident from this graph:

    •  hannah, are you saying that the only way to (0+ / 0-)

      combat ALEC is through running them out of office?

      "Southern nights have you ever felt a southern night?" Allen Toussaint ~~Remember the Gulf of Mexico~~

      by rubyr on Tue Nov 19, 2013 at 07:15:43 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  More correctly, run their patsies and enablers (0+ / 0-)

        out of office.
        Republicans and Democrats used to contest which segment of society they should cater to -- the propertied or the working stiffs. Politicians serving themselves by disadvantaging whichever segment of the populace they could get away with dumping on (women, immigrants, old folks, students, gays, hippies) is a relatively new phenomenon. I think various religious sects tempted them to play moralists in direct proportion to the citizenry awakening to the authority that was released by the adoption of universal suffrage, public access to information and the consumer rights agenda.
        After all, if the people govern, then legislators are reduced to the status of public servants. No more petty potentates under the gold state house dome.

  •  ALEC represents (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Don midwest, a2nite, rubyr

    the worse of America;

    ALEC represents Citizens United fact

    that Legislation can be bought.

  •  Take action. (3+ / 0-)

    Start a petition.

    11:11 being mindful and keepin' it real

    by Raggedy Ann on Tue Nov 19, 2013 at 05:29:57 AM PST

    •  This is a good (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Adam B, Victor Ward

      idea, if it is reality based, and not the hyperbolic RICO bullshit we have here.

      Everyday, we get more and more information about which politicians have ALEC connections.

      Color of Change kicked the shit out of ALEC when they went with force after corporate members, and not in some vague sense against the organization.  I was losing hope that anything would ever happen in that period after the leak of the model legislation and the CoC campaign.  CMD has been great with the airwars, getting the latest info about ALEC out, but they don't do ground game.  CoC did, and they started an exodus of corporate sponsors.  

      There has been less effort to go after the politicians connected to ALEC.  I think that if they were faced with a coordinated public campaign to call upon them, as members or ALEC alum, to get ALEC to open up, it would have an effect.  Abolishing ALEC isn't going to happen.  Getting them to publish full lists of private/public members and disclose their finances is a possibility.

      Pressing affiliated politicians to get on board with the campaign to get ALEC to be transparent?  That's where petitions could make a difference.  When a representative with 50,000 people in their district starts getting petitions from hundreds of their constituents to get on board, that is going to make a difference.

      by ManfromMiddletown on Tue Nov 19, 2013 at 06:08:27 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  This is not helpful (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Adam B, Victor Ward, VClib

    ALEC is bad news.

    We agree on that.

    And there is good work being done on unveiling what ALEC has been up to.  The sort of work which produces evidence.  It's being done by ordinary people who aren't seeking out the limelight.  People like MNDEM99 here on Daily Kos, without whose work CMD's list of ALEC politicians would not have happened. I know how much time was put into that project by MNDEM99, and I know how little credit she's gotten for it. I know the students who did the shit work of putting together the protest in Cincinnati that resulted in the leak of ALEC's model bill library.

    It was the shit work that led to payoff, not hyperbolic bullshit like calling for a RICO investigation against ALEC, as an organization. (If a RICO case is to be made, it's against ALEC's private and public sector members, not the organization itself. The scholarships are were the potential for criminality is at, not the model legislation.) There's plenty of more shit work to be done. Sorting through old ALEC documents from libraries is no fun, but it does pay off.  The membership lists from the 1995 sourcebook haven't been fully combed through yet.  But one of the surprises has been that Charlie Crist, now a democrat running for governor of Florida, was a member of ALEC's Tax and Fiscal Policy committee in 1995.

    Sorting through the 1995 Sourcebook has taken dozens of hours, but this is what it yields.  Actionable intelligence. If we can connect Crist to ALEC, then we can press him to challenge ALEC to open up. (In Cincinnati, the asks were disclosure of model legislation, private and public members, and donations. ) ALEC now releases its model legislation.  If we can id ALEC politicians, and push them to get ALEC to open up, we can get the rest too. But shit work is what makes that happen.

    You want to fight ALEC?  Don't subject the people actually doing the shit work making this happen to ridicule because you went off half-cocked.  

    ALEC will almost certainly never be the subject of a RICO investigation.  But if we go after their members, we can wrench transparency from them. Don't fuck that up because you're trying to plug your book. (FYI, ending your diary with a solicitation is straight shady.)

    by ManfromMiddletown on Tue Nov 19, 2013 at 05:50:47 AM PST

    •  Why are you so hostile to the diarist? Different (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      people have different ways to approach and solve problems.
      Sometimes they are equally good solutions.

      People plug their books all over the place on Daily Kos. This is not shady, or if it is, lots of people on the GOS are shady.

      "Southern nights have you ever felt a southern night?" Allen Toussaint ~~Remember the Gulf of Mexico~~

      by rubyr on Tue Nov 19, 2013 at 07:20:05 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Thanks everyone for their responses. (0+ / 0-)

      I have to say I don't understand the hating I get from someone every time I suggest that folks should register their complaints against ALEC with Congress. Are we to sit back and let lawyers and political pros handle it like they have fucked up the Trans Pacific Partnership negotiations?

      1) I hope everyone knows an email from an MOC to the IRS or DOJ has a lot more weight than a letter of complaint.

      2) Everyone who's done any kind of campaigning (issue, community, union) other than political knows that a strategy involves a multitude of tactics. Those serious about challenging ALEC should welcome pressure from all sides. Did someone on DK forget that whole thing about the right to petition government for the redress of grievances? It applies to all of us and not just those with a monopoly on our actions. Oh, I've done more shit work than you would do in 10 lifetimes. Let's leave this up to the smartasses who are trying to give everything away in TPP.


      by StewartAcuff on Tue Nov 19, 2013 at 07:36:52 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  You're still wrong on the tax law issues, though. (4+ / 0-)

        As has been pointed out before.  501c3s can lobby.

      •  Their (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Adam B, Victor Ward, VClib

        are a number of organizations that have been on ALEC for years.

        CMD, Color of Change, Greenpeace, and too many others to count have been on this.

        I don't disagree that having a member of Congress on your side helps, but I would tell you that no one is talking about RICO charges.

        Sen. Durbin has been highlighting the role that ALEC played in spreading SYG legislation.  Rep. Mark Pocan actually went on the inside to expose ALEC.

        Their are multiple complaints in to the IRS about ALEC, starting with the lead effort by Common Cause. This is the avenue by which ALEC is taken to account.  It has nothing to do with the Federal RICO Act.  If you want get people mobilized to press Congress into action, then these complaints are what we need to have Congressional hearings.

        You are conflating the idea of an IRS status on the 501C3 status of an organization with RICO law.  RICO law requires a pattern of predicate offenses.  Bribery (and under many state RICO laws, public corruption) are predicates.  There is presently no evidence to establish predicate offenses. The unsexy process of forcing an IRS audit is going to reveal a lot of ALEC's finances.  

        The indication (from statements that ALEC has made) is that they don't actually hold the scholarship funds.  They are placed in bank accounts controlled by state chairs, who are supposed to solicit contributions from the private sector.  This is probably enough to kickstart ethics investigations in the states, but it isn't going to touch ALEC as an organization. Organizations are not the subject of criminal investigations, individuals are.

        It's the scholarships, not the model legislation that are the key. By spreading misinformation, about the legality of model legislation, you are making it more difficult for Common Cause, CMD, and the rest to do their work.

        by ManfromMiddletown on Tue Nov 19, 2013 at 08:43:54 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Where is the House or Senate . . . . (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Un-American Activities Committee when you really need it?  Joe McCarthy would have done the Nation a real service had ALEC been investigated with the zeal he went after "communists" back then.  Maybe Darrell Issa could champion that cause instead of harassing Obama every chance he gets

    •  He wouldn't have investigated ALEC. ALEC would (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      have been right up his alley. ha ha

      "Southern nights have you ever felt a southern night?" Allen Toussaint ~~Remember the Gulf of Mexico~~

      by rubyr on Tue Nov 19, 2013 at 07:20:43 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Funny thing (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Victor Ward, rubyr

        When Sen. Durbin launched an investigation into ALEC's role in spreading SYG, they

        by ManfromMiddletown on Tue Nov 19, 2013 at 09:43:35 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  "they" ???? n/t (0+ / 0-)

          "Southern nights have you ever felt a southern night?" Allen Toussaint ~~Remember the Gulf of Mexico~~

          by rubyr on Tue Nov 19, 2013 at 11:10:57 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  damn computer (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Adam B

          This fall Sen. Durbin launched an investigation into SYG.

          The response from ALEC and friends was to compare Durbin to McCarty.  Many organizations produce model legislation, and that's what this defense builds upon.  They say it's a which hunt, with them being singled out.  They don't say a damn word about the scholarships, because that is where the danger is at. Very few other groups provide "scholarships" like this.  And in general they are much more transparent about their  operations.

          As a ploy, this invocation that the movement against ALEC is a witch hunt only gains credibility when you have people talking RICO who don't know what a predicate is.

          by ManfromMiddletown on Wed Nov 20, 2013 at 04:09:20 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  And so if one of our friends (0+ / 0-)

            is compared to Joe McCarthy we run and hide? And what kind of progressive denigrates homeless people? I don't know who y'all haters are, but surely you have something better to do. If we left our vision and action to the Democratic Party instead of leading ourselves this would be a very different country.


            by StewartAcuff on Thu Nov 21, 2013 at 04:45:42 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

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