The video below explores why many conservative Republican legislators in Utah support the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), while groups on the Left such as Alliance for a Better Utah, Occupy Salt Lake and ALEC Welcoming Committee are critical of the organization. Senate President Michael Waddoups, fellow Senators Curtis Bramble and Wayne Niederhauser, and Representatives Brad Daw and Gage Froerer explain their support. KVNU’s Jason Williams raises some concerns and more concerns are explored in a City Weekly article and a leftist website.
VOICE-OVER: With more than 2,000 members, the American Legislative Exchange
Council, or ALEC, is one of the nation’s largest nonpartisan, individual, public-private
membership organization of state legislators. ALEC provides its members with unique
opportunities to work together to develop policies and programs that promote free
markets, limited government, federalism and individual liberty. Senate President
Michael Waddoups says ALEC is partly responsible for helping Utah become the best-
managed state in the nation.
PRESIDENT MICHAEL WADDOUPS 9:22: “Their agenda and their goals are similar to
Utah’s goals and mine and my constituents’. I think overall Utahns should say ALEC
is part of the reason that we’re the best-managed state in the nation; part of the
reason why we are business friendly, part of the reason, part of the reason we are best
positioned to come out of the recession, part of the reason why we have a positive net
worth, part of the reason that Utah is the place to be.”
VOICE-OVER: ALEC is holding its 39th annual meeting in Salt Lake City July 25-28.
Lawmakers will be joined by experts in various fields to discuss topics ranging from
taxation to public pension reform. ALEC also develops model bills and resolutions on
economic issues, which has been a helpful resource for many Utah legislators.
SENATOR WAYNE NIEDERHAUSER 48:44: “It’s been a huge education for me, especially
as a freshman being able to go to some ALEC meetings and learning about tax policy;
that’s where I focus on budgets and taxes. Being able to understand some of the
concepts of good legislation, good policy for budget and tax, I’ve received a great
education at ALEC.”
REPRESENTATIVE BRAD DAW 01:00: “It’s allowed me to become a better legislator. I’ve
become more informed; I’ve seen more topics that I can discuss more freely. I have a
broader perspective now because I’ve been able to go to these national conferences
and see what’s going on across the nation. So just having a little bit more depth to my
background helps me make better decisions for the state.”
REPRESENTATIVE GAGE FROERER 15:12: “It’s benefited me directly because as I’ve
bounced ideas off other legislators and been able to give them some of my input on
legislation that I was involved with. It allows you to basically home in on any problems,
potential issues, before you present bills in our own Legislature.”
SENATOR CURTIS BRAMBLE 53:16: “Having a forum to discuss the ideas, to discuss the
concepts, to again counsel with legislators from across the country, can be very helpful
so that every state is not reinventing the wheel.”
VOICE-OVER: While these legislators and others appreciate the work ALEC is doing,
there are people and groups with concerns. Jason Williams, the host of KVNU’S “For the
People,” says one of his biggest complaints about ALEC is transparency.
JASON WILLIAMS 26:28: “My concerns with ALEC began very early on and center almost
primarily under the question in my head of if you’re proud of what you do, and if you’re
proud of the bills you’re pushing into these state legislatures, why don’t you want to put
your name on it; why do your backers not want you to put your name on it?”
VOICE-OVER: Senator Bramble, a board member of ALEC and one of the Utah state
chairs, says model legislation is in fact labeled.
SENATOR BRAMBLE 55:42: “Legislation that’s come forward in Utah, that’s been ALEC
model legislation, has been readily identified. For example, the hotel intermediary
bill, one I presented and said, ‘Look, there are two pieces of model legislation; one
comes from ALEC, one comes from the multi-state tax commission.’” 56:09: “I don’t
see this secrecy, there are allegations from the left, from very left-leaning, very liberal
organizations that are attempting to attack ALEC that are making claims that I
have not experienced in my 12 years of association with the organization.”
VOICE-OVER: Williams also says a good chunk of the ALEC bills that have appeared in
Utah have failed.
WILLIAMS 32:12: “Most often though, we have seen that that ALEC bills have come
here and failed or have been changed greatly before they’re passed because they aren’t
a good fit for Utah. So I guess the concern goes back to the idea of maybe this idea of
outside organizations drafting legislation just to distribute to the states, maybe that’s a
flawed way to go about it in the first place.”
VOICE-OVER: However, Representative Froerer and Senator Niederhauser, who is also a
Utah state chair for ALEC, have had great success with ALEC’S model legislation.
REPRESENTATIVE FROERER 16:23: “I’ve worked on several pieces of legislation that
I’ve had some support from ALEC, I’ve been actively involved in property tax legislation
for the past several years and I’ve taken some model legislation from ALEC and given
them some of our ideas, my ideas on property tax assessments, interest rates, penalties,
those types of things.”
SENATOR NIEDERHAUSER 49:29: “In 2008, I opened up a bill file and ran the financial
transparency bill, the accountability bill for the state of Utah. You now can go online and
see where your tax dollars are being spent. That partially came from model legislation
at ALEC. The next year I passed a bill that required school districts, sewer districts, and
cities and counties to also put their finances on the Web – that was again discussions we
had at ALEC.”
STAND UP: Sutherland invited Alliance for a Better Utah, the ALEC Welcoming
Committee, and Occupy Salt Lake to share their concerns on camera, but they declined.
However, according to a City Weekly article, a concern the ALEC Welcoming Committee
has, along with other groups around the country, relates to ALEC’s tax-exempt status.
VOICE-OVER: They claim ALEC exists for the “private benefit” of its members and not
for charitable, educational or other exempt purposes that serve the public interest and
qualify for special tax treatment.
SENATOR BRAMBLE 1:07: “As a tax professional there are many organizations on
the left – this is a pot calling the kettle black, to be completely frank about the
situation. ALEC is educational; it educates legislators on conservative principles,
limited government, open markets, less regulation, more individual freedoms and
accountability. Those are the things that ALEC is founded on and educating legislators in
that arena is no different than Planned Parenthood or the left educating legislators on
very liberal progressive policies.”
VOICE-OVER: The ALEC Welcoming Committee claims on its website that behind closed
doors, corporations are handing state legislators the changes to the law they desire that
would directly benefit those corporations. However, Senator Niederhauser disagrees.
SENATOR NIEDERHAUSER 54:45: “That is completely untrue. There is a private sector
and a public sector at ALEC. The public sector are legislators, the private sector are
businesses, there’s think-tanks, there’s associations; all kinds of people can come and
join in those discussions for model legislation, and the more the merrier as far as I’m
concerned.”58:24: “It isn’t a place for some corporation or business to overrun. In my
tax and fiscal policy task force, most of the members are associations and think tanks
from across the country.”
SENATOR BRAMBLE 2:12: “Before any legislation becomes law it has to go back
through that process, and whether that idea comes from George Soros himself or the
Koch brothers themselves or anywhere in between, if those are the bookends of this
debate, then it doesn’t matter because ALEC doesn’t have any standing in a legislative
committee here in Utah. ALEC doesn’t have a vote on the floor of the House or the
Senate here in Utah; ALEC isn’t in the governor’s office signing the bill.”
VOICE-OVER: Senator Niederhauser also said that the majority of the opposition to ALEC
comes from the left.
SENATOR NIEDERHAUSER 54:00 “If you don’t like free markets, limited government,
federalism and Jeffersonian principles, you’re going to hate ALEC because that’s what
they stand for; that’s the principles that we base all our model legislation on.”
REPRESENTATIVE FROERER 18:34: “I would say to those people that have concerns
is that they really need to look at what we’ve done in the state of Utah, what other
states have done in keeping taxes low, in making sure that free enterprise that there is a
competitiveness in each industry that comes to Utah that can benefit both the employer
and the employee ’cause it creates jobs.”
VOICE-OVER: Sutherland Institute is a proud sponsor of ALEC’s annual meeting being
held in Salt Lake City this year. The principles of free markets, limited government, low
taxes and reasonable regulations benefit all Utahns. For Sutherland Institute, I’m Alexis
Young, reminding you that public policy changes lives.