Tuesday, September 27, 2011

ALEC's Lackeys: Who's the boss? edition

Previous installments of ALEC's Lackeys here on the Cucking Stool have focused on the legislators who are carrying the water for corporations. This edition turns its attention to the Minnesota-connected corporations who are members of ALEC or have been in the past.

ALEC is the embodiment of crony capitalism. Every state's delegation is co-chaired by a corporate member and a legislative member. The Minnesota State Chair of ALEC is currently Rep. Mary Kiffmeyer (R - Big Lake), "appoint[s] a Private Sector State Chairman to serve concurrently with the State Chairman. . . . State Chairmen duties shall include recruiting new members, working to ensure introduction of model legislation, suggesting task force membership, establishing state steering committees, planning issue events, and working with the Private Enterprise State Chairman to raise and oversee expenditures of legislative scholarship funds." Those legislative scholarship funds are corporate money raised to send legislators to the annual ALEC conference. Since they are "educational," they don't run afoul of state ethics laws that prohibit gifts.

Minnesota's corporate co-chair is Bloomington resident John Gibbs, Vice President of State Government Affairs for Comcast. He's well acquainted with Minnesota Republicans, having donated $18,000 to Republican PACs and federal candidates (including Erik Paulsen and Tim Pawlenty) over the last three election cycles.

But the area that has gotten the most attention recently is the connection between ALEC's corporate sponsors and model legislation that serves their interests. For example, I detailed the connection between ALEC, Altria/US Tobacco, and proposed changes to Minnesota's moist snuff taxation in August. In an August Twin Cities Daily Planet article, Rep. Kiffmeyer brushes off the connection between corporate members and influence on legislation:
Kiffmeyer bristles at questions about corporate influence on model bills at ALEC. She said it’s her constitutional right to associate with whomever she wants, and said it would be “anti-American” to exclude any one party. “You mean I actually talk to people in other states who are legislators. Oh my gosh, what a shock,” she said. “How terrible that I’m serving my district by getting more educated and informed, using my time to do so, and having it portrayed as somehow that’s abnormal.”
And, continuing the "I'm just talking to people in other states" theme:
Kiffmeyer said that hasn’t been her experience at ALEC. She said the conference included many more nonprofits than companies, and said she hasn’t seen any Minnesota companies present.
I'm sure it will come as a shock to Rep. Kiffmeyer how many large Minnesota companies have been involved over the last decade.

Present Members
UnitedHealth Group: Minnesota's largest publicly-traded corporation is a significant supporter of ALEC. It was Chairman level ($50,000) sponsor of the 2011 ALEC Conference and led a presentation titled "Medicaid Crisis in the States: Private Sector Solutions You Can Use" at the 2011 ALEC Conference. I'm sure that Sen. Hann got the notes from somebody.
Xcel Energy: Minnesota-based Xcel is one of many energy companies that support ALEC. 2011 Wisconsin Delegation co-chair Amy Boyer is a Wisconsin-based lobbyist for Xcel and Koch Enterprises.
Vogel Law Firm: Vogel is a law firm with offices in North Dakota, Moorhead, and the Twin Cities. Bismarck based partner Joel Gilbertson is the 2011 North Dakota Delegation Corporate Co-Chair.

Past Members
Hutchinson Technology
West Publishing

Rep. Kiffmeyer hasn't seen any Minnesota companies? C'mon.

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