as well as towns and even villages. Indiana's Open Door law seems to forbid these planned actions, so I asked the Public Access Counselor for his opinion. Can you use your State Law to stop ALEC's expansion?
I was dismayed to read in yesterday's Guardian that ALEC has generated an offshoot that will bring ALEC's legislation-shaping tactics to cities, counties, towns and even 'villages' across the United States.
According to the Guardian article (link below), corporations will pay big bucks to become members of the ALEC spin-off, then these 'members' will be brought into closed-door 'committee meetings' with elected officials from the cities, counties, towns and villages. The attending elected officials will be presented with ALEC-like products to take back to their council chambers.
Indiana has an 'Open Door' law -- as I expect many states do -- that requires meetings of elected officials that effect public business to be, well, public -- with the time and location announced beforehand, so that the public can attend, voice their opinions, record the meeting -- you know, the whole 'participatory democracy' thing.
Indiana also has an appointed Public Access Counselor (PAC), with the authority to decide whether a meeting falls under the 'Open Door' law, and if a meeting was conducted lawfully or unlawfully. (In one instance, the PAC opined that yes, the gathering of three city council members in the parking lot after the scheduled council meeting, and the decision agreed upon in the parking lot, was covered by, and unlawful under, the Open Door law.)
This afternoon, I wrote to Indiana's Public Access Counselor through his 'Contact Us' form. The message I sent (with one embarrassing omission corrected here, in [square brackets]) is below. When I receive a response, I will post that as a follow-up to this diary.
If your state has a person equivalent to Indiana's Public Access Counselor, you may be able to stop ALEC's expansion by raising these same questions and receiving an authoritative opinion on the lawfulness or unlawfulness of local elected officials receiving ALEC-like legislative 'guidance' in closed-door 'committee meetings'.
If your state has a Public Access Counselor (or similar position), please post a link to that site in the comments; if you send a message to your PAC-equivalent, please post a comment or a diary about the response you receive.
This ALEC offshoot for cities, counties, towns and villages is just getting off the ground -- it is not yet established. There is an opportunity, right now, to expose its plans and stop it before it takes root.
Here's the message I sent:
3/7/2014 2:27:15 PM
message sent 3/7/14 to Mr. Britt, IN Public Access Counselor, through in.gov 'Contact' form.
I ask for your opinion, as Indiana's Public Access Counselor, on whether the planned actions of the American City County Exchange (ACCE) to influence the elected representatives of villages, towns, cities and counties [is lawful] in Indiana.
The ACCE is an offshoot of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). ACCE plans to create 'committee' forums where Corprate members (who have paid between $10K -$25K for membership) present legislative concepts and/or packages to legislators who will vote on the packages in the 'committee' meetings then bring those packages to their recognized chambers.
Please read the linked article, which describes how ACCE member corporations would meet privately with elected officials to determine specific legislation to be brought forward by those elected officials.Article: 'Conservative group Alec trains sights on city and local government'Mr. Britt, these proposed ACCE 'committee' meetings appear to me to run counter to Indiana's Open Door law.
"the American City County Exchange (ACCE) that will target policymakers from “villages, towns, cities and counties”.
"The new organisation will offer corporate America a direct conduit into the policy making process of city councils and municipalities. Lobbyists acting on behalf of major businesses will be able to propose resolutions and argue for new profit-enhancing legislation in front of elected city officials, who will then return to their council chambers and seek to implement the proposals."
"Alec spokesman Wilhelm Meierling . . . confirmed that its structure would mirror that of Alec’s work in state legislatures by bringing together city, county and municipal elected officials with corporate lobbyists."
"In committee meetings, lobbyists will be allowed to “present facts and opinions for discussion” and introduce resolutions for new policies that they want to see implemented in a city. At the end of such meetings, the elected officials present in the room will take a vote before returning to their respective council chambers armed with new legislative proposals."
Please provide your opinion as soon as you possibly can, Mr. Britt. This message to you will be published in an online public forum, as will your reply.
6:29 PM PT: UPDATE: A wonderful resource -- a 50-State 'Open Government Guide' -- has been provided by occupystephanie in the comments. You can go to http://www.rcfp.org/... to find your state's laws in a well-organized, accessible format. I plan to spend some time there, reviewing my state's law (which has grown to include e-communication since I last read the law), and arm myself with The Letter of the Law for further correspondence regarding ACCE's planned invasion. Check it out!
7:29 PM PT: Update 2: My goodness! This little diary has made the Rec list. My thanks to you all. It's 10:30pm here, I haven't eaten yet, I must step away now and may not be back until tomorrow, but will read all comments.
This diary represents, I hope, one way that you, even acting alone, can make a positive difference in your little corner of the world. I think we have time, right now, to stop this ALEC offshoot in its tracks.