The villains of state-level policy over at the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) have run into serious trouble
over the past couple years, losing enough members to create a budget shortfall and have them launching a "Prodigal Son Project" to get back member who've fled, papers obtained by The Guardian
show. ALEC's business is bringing state legislators and major corporations together to write "model" bills that then get pushed in multiple states; its role in pushing Florida's "stand your ground" law got some very, very bad publicity after George Zimmerman shot and killed Trayvon Martin, and membership suffered:
Alec's own internal records of its membership states that it has 1,810 state legislators on its membership books – amounting to almost a quarter of all elected representatives at state level across the nation. That support base has declined though over the past two years, from a peak in 2011 of 2,200, underlining the structural problems that the group faces in the wake of the Trayvon Martin outrage.
Alec has also suffered heavy losses in its private backing from corporate members that have declined from a similar 2011 peak of 280 to 214. Among the documents are Alec's own list of 38 companies that have allowed their membership to lapse, including The Home Depot, the over-50s organisation AARP, healthcare insurers such as WellPoint and the pharmaceutical company Roche Diagnostics.
As a result of these lost members:
Over the first six months of this year, the network suffered a shortfall on its projected budget of $547,500 in sponsorship of its thrice-yearly national conferences, and a further shortfall of $440,792 on its general support from memberships.
By 30 June this year it had developed a hole in its income of $1.4m on expected dues of $3.9m.
And that's despite having funding from the Koch brothers and their ilk. Now, ALEC is in damage-control mode, trying to get back 41 companies that have fled its bad reputation. The group is also trying to avoid getting in trouble for illegal lobbying by spinning off a 501(c)(4) organization. ALEC's current 501(c)(3) status means it can't legally lobby; it claims not to have been doing so and that the new 501(c)(4) isn't an admission of past lobbying but just "provides further legal protection."
Seeing ALEC on the defensive is a beautiful thing, but that means it's time to throw them an anchor, not sit back and enjoy the sight.