On July 22, the American Legislative Exchange Council's (ALEC) annual meeting will once again see corporations and state lawmakers gather to discuss and vote on model legislation meant for introduction in state legislatures across the country. On the eve of the three-day conference in San Diego, Media Matters looks back at five examples of great reporting by local news teams who pulled back the curtain and held ALEC accountable for hosting lobbyists and legislators in secret meetings -- where they wrote corporate-supported bills blocking minimum wage hikes, attacking unions, and eliminating environmental regulations -- and previews this year's agenda.
Tampa Bay Fox television station WTVT left out the fact that Florida Republican Gov. Rick Scott and the Republican-led legislature refused to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in its story about an ailing young boy whose family might have to struggle to pay for health care as a result of reductions in federal Low-Income Pool (LIP) funding, even though experts say that expanded Medicaid would cover many such people at risk.
In a July 13 report, WTVT - which is owned and operated by parent company 21st Century Fox -- profiled a seriously ill young boy whose medical care could be jeopardized by reductions in federal LIP funding - money provided by state and federal resources "to support health care providers that provide uncompensated care to Florida residents who are uninsured or underinsured." While the report noted that federal matching funds for LIP would be phased out in the near future, it made no mention of the fact that expanding Medicaid in Florida -- which the state legislature and Gov. Scott has rejected -- would protect many families and individuals affected by LIP funding reductions:
Experts agree that expanding Medicaid could solve many of the problems created by reduced LIP funding. As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities explained, reductions in LIP funding are a result of the ACA's "creation of an explicit pathway for Medicaid coverage for adults with incomes below 138 percent of the poverty line, which changed CMS's (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services) criteria for approving state plans to fund uncompensated care." As Politifact Florida reported, the two programs are not directly connected, but Gov. Scott's acceptance of the Medicaid expansion funds could mean continued health care coverage for many who currently benefit from LIP funding (emphasis added):
The LIP started in 2005 and was renewed until 2013. But when it came time to negotiate another extension for 2014 and beyond, Florida upped the funding request to a whopping $4.5 billion to expand the program. This was after the state refused some $51 billion in Medicaid expansion money over 10 years under the Affordable Care Act, to expand that program to anyone making up to about 133 percent of the poverty level, as the Obama administration wanted. The U.S. Supreme Court in 2012 ruled states had a choice whether to take the money or not.
In many ways, LIP isn't associated with Medicaid expansion, [Joan] Alker said, given that LIP started while Jeb Bush was governor and George W. Bush was president. But an expanded Medicaid would cover many of those patients, or use preventive care to keep them out of the hospital to begin with, she said.
Washington and Lee University professor Timothy Jost added that money for the Medicaid expansion was guaranteed by law in the Affordable Care Act, something not true about the program that created LIP, which is doled out as discretionary spending. (Jost supports the health care law.)
Of course, it's technically possible the federal government could change the law to do away with whatever program they like, including Medicaid. But that would require both houses of Congress and the president to agree on the terms, something "that isn't likely to happen anytime soon," Jost said.
Now Florida faces a tough set of choices: Find a new source of LIP funding, end the program altogether or negotiate with CMS to either revamp the program or get another extension, possibly for as short as one month. Florida also could decide to cover those patients by expanding Medicaid.
From the July 15 edition of KEYE TV's K-EYE News at Ten:
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Journalists planning to cover the upcoming Family Leadership Summit in Ames, Iowa should be aware of the extreme anti-gay rhetoric regularly voiced by several of the event's sponsors and speakers, including host Bob Vander Plaats, president and CEO of The Family Leader and one of the most influential conservative activists in Iowa. Attendees will also hear from Tony Perkins, the head of the anti-gay hate group Family Research Council and Brian Brown, the head of the anti-gay National Organization for Marriage, among others.
In the years since the Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United decision, political spending has skyrocketed, much of it in secret. The ruling has kept the media and public from knowing where this "dark money" comes from and what conflicts of interest exist. However, if President Obama decides to issue an executive order requiring contractors to disclose their political donations, as he is reportedly considering doing, journalists will soon be able to expose the hidden relationships between contractors and elected officials.
Citizens United opened the financial floodgates to dark money groups - organizations that raise unlimited money from donors to pay for political advertising and campaign organizing but are not obligated to disclose where the money came from. The decision has allowed corporations and wealthy individuals to have enormous influence over elections because it allows them to get around the legal direct donation limits to candidates and parties, creating what many view as a corrupting influence.
As a recent New York Times editorial noted, President Obama is considering issuing an executive order that would force federal contractors to disclose donations to dark money groups. The editorial, which advocated for an order "requiring federal contractors to disclose their donations to political candidates," also noted that House Republicans are currently crafting legislation to further decrease transparency in political spending. Because of entrenched Republican opposition to campaign finance reform, the proposed executive order requiring disclosure on the part of federal contractors may be the only forthcoming measure to address the crisis of money in politics.
[Center for Responsive Politics, accessed 7/14/15]
Some of the larger implications of the Citizens United decision and the ability of federal contractors to skirt federal law have been the subject of investigative reporting by national media, who have looked into the origins of dark money groups. But federal contractors' political spending has received little coverage, mostly because so little reliable information is available, given the secretive nature of the donation process. That is slowly changing, thanks to a renewed push by media outlets and advocacy groups for executive action to force contractors to disclose donations. Their efforts could soon produce results and give media the power to report on how contractors try to gain influence by supporting candidates through dark money groups.
Citizens United gave federal contractors a huge incentive to contribute to these third-party groups as a way to curry favor with politicians who award lucrative government contracts. Washington hands out hundreds of billions of dollars annually in federal contracts and grants, and a vast majority go to large corporations. According to the Brennan Center, "Since 2000, the top 10 federal contractors have made $1.5 trillion from the government." In some states, these federal contractors are an outsized influence on the local economy.
Though the law says 23 percent of federal contracts must go to small businesses, large defense contractors like Lockheed Martin and Raytheon have found ways to qualify as small businesses in certain circumstances. Nine of the top 10 contract winners so far this year have been defense contractors whose political action committees (PACs) were among the largest contributors to federal candidates in the first quarter of 2015:
Requiring contractors to disclose donations would not only affect companies that survive off of federal contracts, like many defense firms, it would also shed light on companies for whom contracts are only part of a larger business model, such as the billionaire Koch brothers-controlled Koch Industries, which has a history of winning federal contracts.
The potential conflict of interest inherent in allowing contractors to donate to politicians who decide which companies get government contracts was acknowledged as far back as 1940. As The Brennan Center for Justice's Ciara Torres-Spelliscy reported, the 1940 Hatch Act made it illegal for contractors to donate "directly or indirectly to make any contribution of money or other things of value, or to promise expressly or impliedly to make any such contribution to any political party, committee, or candidate for public office or to any person for any political purpose or use." However, courts have decided that a contractor may set up its own super PAC as a separate entity to get around the Hatch Act. As the Brennen Center explained in a report on one of the legal challenges to the law:
In 2013, Public Citizen launched a complaint against Chevron for giving $2.5 million to a super PAC called the Congressional Leadership Fund (CLF). This expenditure was the largest one from a for-profit publicly traded company in the 2012 election cycle.
This should have be a slam dunk of a case since Chevron is a government contractor covered by the Hatch Act. But the FEC did not see it that way. As Mother Jones reported, "The FEC bought the company's argument, which is that Chevron Corporation (the organization that donated to CLF) and Chevron U.S.A. (the organization with government contracts) are entirely different entities." It did not matter that Chevron U.S.A. is 100 percent owned by Chevron Corp. Now it is open season for government contractors to spend in federal elections since all they have to do is spend through a different subsidiary. The Hatch Act is now barely worth the paper it's written on if this is how the FEC is going to "enforce" it.
And while super PACs are transparent, listing publicly where they got their funds, the donors to super PACs can be dark money conduits like 501(c)(4)s or 501(c)(6)s. Consequently, federal contractors could be hiding among the donors of $600 million in dark money that has been spent in the past four years.
While an executive order would not eliminate contractors' ability to donate to dark money groups, as the Brennen Center points out, it would give journalists and citizens a clearer view into which organizations are supporting which candidates, and could go a long way toward deterring corrupt pay-to-play practices:
Such disclosure [of federal contractor's donations] would not bring all dark money to light, but it would expose a type of dark money that should be especially troubling: campaign contributions that could have been given to influence a contract awarded by the government.
WisconsinWatchdog.org marked Republican Governor Scott Walker's presidential announcement with an article that made no mention of the economic struggles Wisconsinites have endured under his tenure and praised Walker campaign chair Michael Grebe without disclosing its conflict-of-interest connection to him.
While many members of Wisconsin's media have warned of Walker's "extreme" politics, "polarizing character" and disappointing economic record, WisconsinWatchdog.org cheered the governor's presidential campaign announcement in a July 13 article that praised his recall election survival and touted his successful crippling of unions. Watchdog.org said Walker is "once more on the precipice of history, set to bring his big government-reform message to the national stage."
WisconsinWatchdog.org also made little mention of Walker's shaky economic record in its discussion of his qualifications to become president. The article praised him for enacting damaging tax cuts and dismissed widespread criticism that he drained the state of revenue by parroting the state Republican party's argument that the tax revenue "came from the hard-earned money of Wisconsin taxpayers, and it belongs to them."
As local Capital Times reporter John Nichols told Media Matter's Joe Strupp, "The Wisconsin economic story is not a particularly good story. Wisconsin trails a lot of neighboring states in economic vitality; its job growth is not particularly good."
WisconsinWatchdog.org previously tried to distort Walker's economic record by relying on a methodologically flawed report produced by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). The "Rich States, Poor States" report by ALEC has been called "snake oil" by The Iowa Policy Project and labor advocacy group Good Jobs First for its promotion of deregulation and reliance on cutting public services. Business Insider's Joe Weisenthal called the maps in ALEC's report "a joke" because they ranked strong states like New York and California at the bottom of the list, and said, "ALEC is ranking states based on each state's level of deregulation and awarding the most deregulated states, but the outcomes seem to have very little bearing in where companies actually want to launch and do business."
Bloomberg's more objective state ranking index, the Economic Evaluation of States, places Wisconsin in 38thplace using indicators like home prices and wage growth. Even by his own measure, Walker's record on job creation has come up short. His campaign promise to bring 250,000 new private sector jobs by the end of his first term "failed miserably" according to former mayor of Minneapolis R. T. Rybak, writing in an op-ed for The Hill. Fewer than 150,000 jobs were created during Walker's first term.
The governor's strong stance against raising taxes in the face of deficit spending created a budget fight that delayed his presidential candidacy announcement. While neighboring Minnesota has raised taxes and seen economic growth, Walker's continued push for spending cuts had members of his own party rebelling against his budget, which passed with the largest legislative Republican opposition so far in his tenure.
The Walker budget that finally passed last week included controversial and possibly economically harmful changes. Chief among these are a $250 million-dollar cut to higher education, provisions to weaken tenure protection at state schools, elimination of wage protections for construction laborers working on state projects, and the replacement of a provision that said workers must be paid a "living wage" with wording that says workers must only be paid "minimum wage." Current minimum wage in Wisconsin is projected to remain at $7.25 per hour until at least 2018.
WisconsinWatchdog.org's support of Walker comes as no surprise -- the website formerly known as the Wisconsin Reporter has a long history of defending him. During the "John Doe" investigations into possible campaign finance violations during Walker's 2010 and 2012 campaigns, WisconsinWatchdog.org ran more than 180 articles pushing back against his critics.
As part of the Franklin Center's Watchdog.org media group, WisconsinWatchdog.org operates aspart of a collective of state-based media outlets that use funding from the likes of the billionaire industrialist Koch brothers to push conservative views and misinformation into state policy conversations. The Franklin Center also receives funding from the Bradley Foundation, which is run by Walker's campaign chairman, Michael Grebe. Though WisconsinWatchdog.org's article mentions Grebe, his position, and a reprints a quote from the Weekly Standard praising his experience, it never discloses Grebe's position as president and CEO of the Bradley Foundation.
From the July 6 edition of iHeartRadio's The Michael Berry Show:
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Texas-based radio host Michael Berry, whose racially-charged comments regularly draw widespread criticism, hosted presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) on his show to discuss their long friendship and Cruz's new book, but steered clear of controversial issues like Berry's support for the Confederate flag.
During the June 30 episode of The Michael Berry Show, Berry gave Cruz a platform to promote his new book and upcoming book tour. During a discussion about an old nickname Cruz got for being so serious, Cruz confirmed his long friendship with Berry:
BERRY: You're not always so serious.
CRUZ: Well, you have got to have fun. You can't survive a campaign without having fun, without laughing and cutting up. You and I have, more than once, had the opportunity to perhaps kill a few liver cells and laugh at the joy of life.
According to Berry, his friendship with Cruz goes back over a decade. In 2012, after Cruz won the Republican primary in the Texas Senate race, Berry introduced Cruz at the victory party by saying "I am proud to say that Ted Cruz has been my friend for over 10 years." At a 2012 rally, Cruz also singled out and thanked Berry, who was standing beside him.
While Berry's long history of racially-charged, sexist and Islamaphobic remarks haven't caused Cruz to distance himself from his old friend, they have drawn wide criticism. The Texas Observer called Berry "more than your average hatemonger," adding, "He's a notable local figure, a three-term former city councilmember who ran for mayor in 2003" whose Twitter account is "full of racist and xenophobic tweets."
Berry has a history of referring to African-Americans as "animals" and discounting the views of minorities. After the McKinney, Texas pool party that resulted in the controversial arrest of black teenagers, Berry called the teens "jungle animals." In 2014, he said African-American students at UCLA who called for greater campus diversity were "pack animals" and suggested they "get the F over themselves." He has also claimed "black people don't believe black lives matter," and suggested that the election of Barack Obama "prompted the poorest, most violent segment" of African-Americans to clash with police in places like Baltimore.
Comedian Chuck Knipp, who performs in blackface as "Shirley Q. Liquor" has often appeared on The Michael Berry Show. Knipp's act includes making light of welfare recipients and the use of Ebonics. During Knipp's latest performance, right after Berry's June 30 interview with Cruz, the comedian posed mockingly as an Affordable Care Act navigator, doling out incorrect information about the health care law.
Berry has also vehemently defended the Confederate flag, claiming it represents "the heritage" of South Carolina, and has downplayed the racial motivations of the white man accused of the June 17 mass shooting at a black church in Charleston.
During his interview with Cruz, Berry avoided discussion of any of these topics. Cruz has taken pains not to state a firm position on whether the Confederate flag should continue to fly over the South Carolina Statehouse, but his South Carolina campaign co-chair seems to share Berry's views. According to Politico:
State Sen. Lee Bright, Cruz's South Carolina co-chair, has emerged as one of the most vocal opponents of the move. Bright told the Charleston Post and Courier that taking the flag down was akin to a "Stalinist purge," a claim he expanded on in an interview with POLITICO on Tuesday.
"It's not just the flag," Bright said. "They want to take down the Confederate monuments; I've gotten emails from people who want to rename streets. ... Anytime you want to basically remove the symbols of history from a state, that's something that just is very bad. ... These are honorable men who fought for their homes, their home state; to disgrace them in the name of political correctness is just wrong. They're not here to defend themselves."
The full interview between Berry and Cruz, followed by blackface comedian Chuck Knipp, is below:
As national media begin to focus their political coverage on campaigning by Republican presidential candidates in the lead-up to the New Hampshire primary, it's incumbent upon journalists to disclose the history of misinformation and conservative bias of the state's top newspaper, the New Hampshire Union Leader, as well as the ties between the Koch brothers and oft-quoted state political expert Charles Arlinghaus.
A June 30 report by Politico highlighted how the crowded field of GOP contenders are viewing next January's first-in-the-nation primary in New Hampshire as "do or die" and already jostling for position. The piece said, "Never before have so many White House hopefuls bet so much on a single primary," and included quotes from Charles Arlinghaus, president of the Josiah Bartlett Institute, and Drew Cline, editor of the New Hampshire Union Leader. But Politico failed to mention Arlinghaus' ties to the Koch brothers and American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), or the Union Leader's long history of publishing conservative misinformation.
As other New Hampshire newspapers have been closing their state house bureaus because of budget cuts, the Union Leader's voice in statewide politics has gained prominence. Fox News is co-hosting a debate in August with the paper and presidential candidates are lining up to be interviewed by the Union Leader's publisher via live streaming. With so much access to candidates, and hardly any competition, the Union Leader's outsized influence could push candidates further to the right.
Publisher Joe McQuaid enjoys a prominent role as a must-visit member of the media for presidential primary candidates. In addition to his publishing duties, McQuaid has written sensationalist editorials for the paper, including one that called for a travel ban during the Ebola outbreak in West Africa -- a move most experts agreed would only exacerbate the spread of the virus. As the Daily Beast pointed out in the run-up to the 2012 election, McQuaid "is one of the more influential voices in American politics." McQuaid himself "figures that the Union Leader 'may be able to sway a few percentage points in close elections,'" much of that due to the editorial stance of the paper, which is written by only two people: McQuaid and editor Cline, who also runs the editorial page.
Although the 2012 Union Leader-endorsed candidate, Newt Gingrich, failed to win the primary, Gingrich's polling numbers spiked following the endorsement. However, as Politico explained, because of the way the Union Leader operates, the endorsement the paper gives is more than just a "one-time front-page feature," because the paper "tends to interweave its endorsement with its news coverage, bolstering its pick and attacking the other candidates ... most likely in addition to the opinion columns that tend to run in the paper echoing the official choice."
The two-man editorial board of McQuaid and Cline often echoes national conservative media talking points. The board has fabricated a need for harmful voter ID laws, attacked successful Head Start programs -- which help provide a pre-K education for New Hampshire's children - and even downplayed the impact of sequestration's steep budget cuts.
The Union Leader's editorial board has been attacking President Obama and the Affordable Care Act (ACA) since 2010 and published a massive amount of misinformation on the law. The board warned of spiking insurance premium prices that never came to pass, criticized cost-saving measures in the law, and said initial glitches in the rollout of the online exchanges meant the entire law was a failure. The board also attacked Medicaid expansion and promoted a misguided voucher program to privatize the program.
On foreign policy issues, the Union Leader has demonstrated reckless bias by calling opponents of the release of the Senate report on CIA torture "wusses," and pushed a false narrative that blamed Hillary Clinton for the kidnapping of hundreds of African girls by the terrorist group Boko Haram.
Outside of its opinion pages, the Union Leader has also at times blatantly misinformed its readers. In 2013, the paper published a lightly-edited press release authored by Americans for Prosperity (AFP) -- the Koch brothers-funded conservative advocacy group -- attacking the ACA. The article gave free publicity to AFP while helping to fulfill its larger mission, which, according to The Washington Post, is to "spread as much confusion and dishonesty about the [health care] law as possible."
The conservative slant to the Union Leader's news section is also apparent in what the paper chooses not to cover. A 2012 Media Matters study found that it failed to report on the "environmental, health, and economic benefits" of new government regulations in stories that emphasized how they would hurt the economy.
The Union Leader also publishes a regular op-ed by Charles Arlinghaus, the president of the Josiah Bartlett Institute, a think tank with strong connections to the American Legislative Exchange Council's conservative model-legislation mill (ALEC). In 2012, Arlinghaus and ALEC representatives co-hosted an event to denounce the Affordable Care Act.
The Josiah Bartlett Institute is part of the Koch brothers-funded State Policy Network -- state-based think tanks that incubate and legitimize conservative policy ideas that often benefit corporate sponsors. A representative for the Center for Media and Democracy told the Nashua Telegraph that Koch donations associated with Arlinghaus and the institute show that Arlinghaus is "working on a national conservative agenda, not a local, New Hampshire-based agenda."
Like Americans for Prosperity, the Beacon Hill Institute, and the State Policy Network before it, the National Black Chamber of Commerce (NBCC) is the latest oil industry front group to run a deceptive op-ed campaign against the EPA's climate change plan, with NBCC president Harry C. Alford alleging in newspapers across the country that the Clean Power Plan will impose "economic hardship" on blacks and Hispanics. None of these newspapers disclosed that the NBCC has received $1 million from the ExxonMobil Foundation, and the op-eds themselves rely on climate science denial and thoroughly debunked industry-linked studies in an attempt to dismiss the financial and health benefits the Clean Power Plan will provide to black and Hispanic communities.
Conservative media were outraged after the Supreme Court ruled to uphold health insurance tax credits for millions of Americans under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), just as Congress intended.
Following an investigation by Atlanta's 11Alive into the inner workings of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) -- the secretive organization that brings together corporate lobbyists and state legislators to draft model legislation businesses want to see passed - RedState editor-and-chief, Fox News contributor, and Atlanta-based radio host Erick Erickson gave an ALEC spokesman a platform to deflect questions raised by the report and used his own microphone to question the investigative reporter's character.
On May 21, Atlanta's 11Alive News Tonight aired a report by Brendan Keefe that exposed what went on at an ALEC conference at a hotel in Savannah, Georgia. Keefe's reporting laid bare the cozy relationships between lobbyists and legislators that ALEC facilitates and revealed ALEC's hostile attitude towards the press. Keefe and his crew were denied access to meetings between Georgia legislators and corporate representatives, even though they displayed official press credentials. ALEC's vice president of public affairs, Bill Meierling, even tried to get Keefe thrown out of the hotel, where Keefe was a registered guest, with the help of uniformed police officers hired by ALEC as private security.
ALEC responded to 11Alive's investigation by saying Keefe's questions had "caught [Meierling] off guard," but had no comment on the story's revelations.
But Meierling had plenty to say on the June 4 broadcast of The Erick Erickson Show. During the interview, Meierling attacked Keefe's reporting by claiming he "snuck into a conference room" under a fake name "not for the purpose of interviewing anyone or having a frank discussion but to shove three cameras in people's faces and have a 'gotcha' moment." Meierling said if Keefe applied for media credentials from ALEC, the group could "try to shape the things that he was interested in." Erickson also defended the group and attacked 11Alive's report by claiming that Keefe had attempted to portray ALEC as a "vast right wing conspiracy group fueled by money" and "wining and dining legislators and shaping evil policies," all of which Erickson posited is untrue.
Keefe responded to Erickson's interview in a June 11 article on 11Alive's website that contained screenshots of ALEC's website showing that the group had changed its media policy since 11Alive's investigation aired. He also noted that 11Alive had repeatedly requested an interview with someone from ALEC but received no response.
The sudden change in policy at the American Legislative Exchange Council was made after the 11Alive Investigators were kicked out of an ALEC legislative committee meeting inside a Savannah resort hotel. Chatham County Sheriff's deputies, directly hired and paid by ALEC, were used to remove us from the entire hotel even though we had paid for a room.
The ALEC media policy remains nearly identical to the one in place when we launched our investigation, but after our report the line barring media was quietly removed and replaced with, "plenary sessions and workshops are open to members of the media."
A screen grab obtained by The Investigators in May and a capture of the same web page from earlier this year on archive.org both show the original line prohibiting reporters and their cameras: "business meetings and networking events are not open to members of the media."
That media prohibition was quietly removed, and the new line was inserted at the same time ALEC complained to a political commentator that we had never contacted the organization before the event. It turns out we did reach out to ALEC media relations twice in the months leading up to the closed-door Savannah meeting, but we never received any response to our requests.
Keefe also addressed the charge that he had used a fake name, or tried to conceal his motives for seeking an interview, and corrected Meierling and Erickson's claim that it was a Georgia Democrat who criticized ALEC in 11Alive's report; it was, in fact, a Georgia Republican and former ALEC member who said the group was full of "angry white men...controlled by industry."
While Meierling still won't talk with us, he did speak to conservative talk show host Erick Erickson, insisting that we would have been welcome inside the meeting had we simply pre-registered for ALEC credentials. Erickson and Meierling insisted we had booked the hotel "under an assumed name." My whole family stayed at the hotel that week, and my wife and I booked the room under the name "Keefe" which I assumed 46 years ago at birth.
The radio interview also attributed a quote that ALEC was a group of "angry white men" to the wrong Georgia senator. Meierling and Erickson told listeners the quote came from Senator Nan Orrock, a democrat who was a member of a "left wing competitor of ALEC."
But Senator Orrock didn't say that. Republican senator and former ALEC member Renee Unterman told us ALEC was a group of "angry white men...controlled by industry."
Despite Meierling and Erickson claims that media have an easy time gaining access to ALEC meetings, attempts by journalists to investigate what really goes on inside ALEC meetings between legislators and lobbyists are often shut down by the group. And while Meierling tried to downplay the monetary influence these lobbyists have on legislators, saying "there's absolutely nothing nefarious about discussing limited government," lawmakers pay a very small proportion of ALEC's membership fees, while corporations pay up to $10,000 a year for access to legislators -- payments that add up to 98 percent of ALEC's revenues.
11Alive's investigation isn't the first to prove Erickson's claim that ALEC isn't "wining and dining" legislators wrong. In fact, ALEC's generosity towards lawmakers goes far beyond dinner, and includes "scholarship" programs that often involve paying legislators' way on trips to meet lobbyists at resorts and other vacation destinations, like the hotel in Savannah where Keefe tried to find out more about the group's activities. The same legislators who go on these junkets have supported such ALEC-promoted laws as "Stand Your Ground," which has been used to defend the reckless use of firearms; dangerous climate initiatives that promote corporate profits over public interests; and legislation to block increases in the minimum wage.
From the June 11 edition of iHeartRadio's The Michael Berry Show:
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Texas radio host Michael Berry has a long history of making sexist, homophobic, anti-Muslim, and anti-African-American comments on his radio show. He also has posted several racially-tinged videos to his show's YouTube channel that criticize African-Americans, and posted racially insensitive comments on social media like Facebook.
From the June 8 edition of iHeartRadio's Michael Berry Show:
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