Today, Common Cause is announcing a whistleblower complaint against ALEC filed with the Internal Revenue Service. We are submitting several thousand pages of ALEC’s internal records that we believe demonstrate beyond debate that ALEC for years has evaded federal taxes by masquerading as a charity and that it has lied to the IRS and the American public about its activities.
We’re asking the IRS to end this charade, cancel ALEC’s tax exemption, collect years of unpaid taxes and “impose necessary penalties.”
Up to now, most press and public attention has focused on ALEC support for legislation like the Florida “Stand Your Ground” gun law at the center of the Trayvon Martin case and a slew of voter identification requirements that would turn hundreds of thousands of students, elderly, disabled and minority voters away from the polls.
Those bills, and ALEC’s other legislation, merit scrutiny; many are clearly crafted to protect business interests regardless of the cost to the public. As the New York Times reported Sunday, ALEC has even tried to keep states from penalizing contractors that attempt to defraud the taxpayers.
But Common Cause’s tax filing focuses on a less-noticed but perhaps more fundamental problem with ALEC — its attack on democratic values. ALEC practices stealth advocacy, investing millions of dollars to entertain and lobby elected officials at swank resorts; it writes bills for them, refines that legislation through task forces where its business members wield a veto power, then stays carefully in the background while shepherding the finished “model” bills to passage. Their mission accomplished, ALEC’s business members reward their legislative allies with campaign contributions — nearly $400 million from 2000-10 — to keep the party going.
ALEC does all this, and then has the audacity to call itself a charity and ask the rest of us to support its work with a tax exemption. That’s just wrong.