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Matt Singer on March 21, 2006 - 3:26pm
Casper Star-Tribune Editorial March 17, 2006
As national “Sunshine Week” winds down, we thought we’d squeeze in one more commentary on what elected officials do behind your back. If you think Wyoming’s “citizen legislature” is strictly a homegrown outfit, writing Wyoming laws in response to Wyoming’s needs, think again. As a story on Monday’s front page explained, many of our legislators may be getting their ideas from little-known national lobbying organizations. One group in particular seems to wield a startling level of underground influence. Nearly half of Wyoming’s state legislators are members of the American Legislative Exchange Council, according to state Rep. Pete Illoway, a member of ALEC’s national board. ALEC is one of several national organizations of state legislators. But it’s not a typical good-government association. Rather, it’s a conduit for corporate interests to influence legislators. [...] Even though most Wyoming voters would cheerfully approve of their legislators’ involvement in a conservative group, some aspects of ALEC are troubling. When you watch government officials, it’s a good idea to follow the money. In ALEC’s case, the trail is pretty clear. A state legislator pays only $50 a year to join. Corporate sponsors put up $5,000 to $50,000 -- for which they are privileged to write “model” laws that ALEC distributes to legislators nationwide. Legislators attend ALEC's conventions in touristy locales, where they rub elbows with the corporate benefactors who subsidize the whole shebang. (This year's gathering is in San Francisco.) Secrecy is another red flag. Illoway, a Cheyenne Republican, refused a Star-Tribune request for a list of Wyoming legislators who are ALEC members. The next question is obvious: What do those legislators have to hide?Read the whole editorial.