Wisconsin Republicans say a pro-business group known for secretly
drafting model legislation for conservative lawmakers throughout
the country is trying to become more transparent.
The move by the
American Legislative Exchange Council comes as some Republicans
have dropped their taxpayer-funded membership in recent years and
corporate sponsors have pulled back. Liberals have been highly
critical of the group's practice to write bills in secret for
Republicans to introduce in statehouses.
John Nygren, of Marinette, recently became the Wisconsin state
Assembly chairman for ALEC. He told the Wisconsin State Journal in
a story published Thursday (http://tiny.cc/m5gz7w
) that ALEC needs to do a better job telling its story to the
the folks who disagree with us define who we are. That's their
biggest mistake," Nygren said of the group. "If that
means telling their story more, sharing more information, so be
Bill Meierling said the organization now posts its model
legislation, meeting agendas and IRS forms online and no longer
stamps communications to members as confidential. Liberal critics
such as the Madison-based Center for Media and Democracy have
highlighted that practice as particularly troubling.
Brendan Fischer noted that ALEC still doesn't disclose which
lawmakers and corporations collaborate with the group. He also
said the public still isn't privy to certain ALEC committee
meetings in which lawmakers propose draft legislation that
corporate interests can then amend before ALEC touts it as model
Sen. Leah Vukmir,
R-Wauwatosa, the state Senate chairwoman who last week became
ALEC's second vice-chairwoman, defended the group as a valuable
resource for developing legislation that supports free markets,
limited government and other conservative ideals.
been setbacks, I won't deny that," Vukmir said. "And
that's because of this continual attack on the left trying to make
this organization out to be something that it's not."
Vukmir said what
happens at ALEC isn't that different from the bill-creation
process in Wisconsin, where drafts aren't public records until a
bill is introduced, or from what happens at the National
Conference of State Legislatures.
Jane Andrade disputed Vukmir's claim, pointing out that every
state legislator and legislative staffer in the country belongs to
the bipartisan NCSL, which very rarely writes model legislation
and is mostly focused on providing legislators with data and