ALEC, of course, says it's work is not lobbying, and that its 501(c)(3) status with the IRS (the standard charitable organization classification) is justified because it essentially just provides education for lawmakers. Which is a curious assertion for a group that writes legislation and peddles it to state lawmakers. And for a group that has received special lobbyist exemptions in three states.
But in three states—South Carolina, Indiana, andColorado—ALEC has quietly, and by name, been specifically exempted from rules for lobbyists.There's little question that what ALEC does is lobbying, but its tax exempt status allows it to avoid disclosing just how much it's spending on lobbying activities, including all the money it spends on its conferences and supposedly non-lobbying contact with legislators.
The laws in those states allow ALEC to spend millions annually hosting corporate lobbyists and legislators at three yearly conferences, send "issue alerts" to legislators recommending votes on pending legislation, and draft boilerplate press releases for legislators to use when pushing ALEC model bills—all without registering as a lobbyist or reporting these expenditures. Legislators can receive scholarships from ALEC's corporate donors to attend conference events, or they can legally go on the taxpayer dime.