Wisconsin’s GOP legislators are, according to PR Watch, “routinely deleting emails concerning their involvement with the controversial American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), exploiting a loophole that exempts the Legislature from records retention rules that apply to all other state and local government officials.”
Is anyone really surprised?
ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, has had an outsized influence in the politics of state governments. In private meetings between corporate representatives and legislators, ALEC crafts extremely conservative bills and tactics for pursuit at the state level. One of the group’s greatest though most visible victories (they like to keep hidden in the shadows) occurred when Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker attacked public union pensions and health benefits. ALEC’s fingerprints were all over Walker and the Wisconsin GOP’s agenda.
In July, former IRS official Marcus Owens, working on evidence obtained by CMD, filed a complaint with the Commissioner of the IRS that ALEC is misrepresenting its activities to the IRS—namely, violating its charitable status by paying for legislator travel and engaging in lobbying.
“ALEC is doing an extraordinary amount of lobbying, but reporting to the IRS they are doing NO lobbying,” Owens told CMD. “Even when North Dakota forced two of ALEC’s attorneys to register as lobbyists, they still reported [on their IRS filings] they did no lobbying. That is astounding.”
According to the Center for Media & Democracy’s PR Wawtch, “At least 49 current Wisconsin legislators are known ALEC members, and at least 32 bills or budget provisions introduced in Wisconsin’s 2011-2012 session include language from ALEC.”
In December of 2011, the Center for Media & Democracy (CMD) requested email and other records from those Wisconsin legislators with known ties to ALEC. The responses revealed that those legislators are “either not complying with the records law or are actively deleting ALEC-related records.”
Rep. Scott Suder, R-Abbotsford, a longtime ALEC member and the group’s state chair for Wisconsin, denied having a single ALEC-related record in his entire office or email system. But records released by other legislators show that Suder was a recipient of emails sent from ALEC to members of the Wisconsin Legislature.
That Suder lied about having received ALEC emails is typical political behavior, but allowing these Wisconsin GOP jackasses to delete public records is atrocious. It is the very opposite of open, transparent government. Public records exist for a reason—to keep politicians, whatever their party affiliation, honest and accountable to their constituents and prevent as much as possible the corrosive influence of corporate and other forms of corruption.