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One of the fun things about having an RSS feed is that you can be almost supernaturally aware of the stuff that the various elements of the vast right wing conspiracy have been up to.  For me it's the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). These are the guys (and gals, we'll see) that brought you Fitzwalkerstan, the attacks on labor in Ohio and Indiana, and the financial martial law act in Michigan. Basically, they're serious pricks. They're seriously organized, and they are all over the country influencing state legislation.

Back to the RSS feed.  For the most part it's mundane, but today a kicker came up.

According to our sources, then-S.C. Rep. Haley and her husband attended the VIP Club – a prominent adult entertainment destination in Chicago, Illinois – during a 2008 conference sponsored by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

As with an alleged visit to a Myrtle Beach, S.C. strip club the following year, Haley is said to have received multiple lap dances during her visit to the Windy City club.

The Chicago ALEC Conference was held from July 30 – August 3, 2008, and the attendance of Haley and her husband at the event has been confirmed by multiple lawmakers and lobbyists. Also, Haley’s campaign finance filings include a $1,621.68 reimbursement for an “ALEC Conference” dated on July 28, 2008 – as well as an unspecified $536 reimbursement (claimed that same day).

Let's be clear. Having little idea who Nikki Haley was before the moment (my interest is in ALEC, remember) it's clear that she has an "adventurous" lifestyle. The strip club, while not someplace I make a habit of visiting, is a fairly normal part of life for many Americans, including those who are married.  It would be easy to go after the hypocrisy of a party that attacked Rep. Wiener for his indiscretions while failing to see this plank that they've got in their own party down in South Carolina. But that's not the thing that bothers me.

A quick search of the South Carolina State Ethics Commission confirms that Gov. Haley did in fact reimburse herself from campaign funds for her trip to the ALEC annual meeting in Chicago:

Further, looking at the contributions end, we find that ALEC did in fact reimburse Haley for her trip to the ALEC conference in Chicago.

As entertaining as the image of one of Sarah Palin's chosen few breaking loose in the club is, that isn't the story.

 ALEC is a 501 (c)(3) exempt non-profit.  Which raises a lot of questions about this particular series of transactions.

First, if ALEC is really a non-profit, why is it making campaign contributions?

Second, does it really seem appropriate for legislators to personally benefit from contributions in this way?

Finally, even if this is just a roundabout way of fulfilling ALEC's "educational" mission, what exactly is the "educational" value of a lapdance?  How does this further public policy in any state?

It's true that their are a lot of loose ends here, but the problem is that the lack of transparency with which ALEC operates means that paying for legislator's lapdances could be a regular part of their conferences.  

Am I the only one who feels that this might provide the organization a certain amount of undue leverage over legislators?  That this skirts awfully damn close to unlawful lobbying?

If Nikki Haley's thing is going to strip clubs, I say more power to her.  But....... I have a problem if an organization that wants to influence public policy is picking up the bill while hiding under the 501 (c) (3) shield.

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