REPORT: STATE POLITICIANS USE TAXPAYER FUNDS TO JOIN CORPORATE SPECIAL INTEREST GROUP, ALEC

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – August 23, 2011
CONTACT: Zack Pohl (We Are the People), 517-980-6190
Dawn Kettinger (Progress Michigan), 517-614-6810

GOP lawmakers spent thousands to join controversial group pushing to cut education funding

LANSING – A report released today by We Are the People and Progress Michigan shows that current and former Michigan Legislators spent thousands of taxpayer dollars on membership fees to join the controversial American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

The group is a vehicle through which wealthy corporations and state politicians collaborate and vote behind closed doors to design legislation to benefit the corporations funding ALEC. These so-called “model bills” include undermining environmental protections, imposing voting restrictions, and defunding public education.

“At a time when state politicians are slashing education and raising taxes on seniors to balance the budget, it’s outrageous that our taxpayer dollars were wasted on this corporate special interest group,” said Zack Pohl of We Are the People. “Even worse is the possibility that wealthy corporations may have helped draft the very bills that paid for their own $1.8 billion tax break this year.”

According to records obtained from the Michigan House Business Office, $6,300 of taxpayer funds have been used to subsidize ALEC membership and meeting registration fees for members of the House since 2005. Meanwhile, the Secretary of the Senate reports that $1,300 of taxpayer funds have been spent to subsidize ALEC memberships for members of the Senate.

The list includes the following current legislators: Dave Agema (R-Grandville), Darwin Booher (R-Evart), Jud Gilbert (R-Algonac), Mike Green (R-Mayville), Geoff Hansen (R-Hart), Dave Hildenbrand (R-Lowell), Ken Horn (R-Frankenmuth), Rick Jones (R-Grand Ledge), Mike Kowall (R-White Lake), Eileen Kowall (R-White Lake), Arlan Meekhof (R-West Olive), John Moolenaar (R-Midland), Mike Nofs (R-Battle Creek), and Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake).

Also among those whose dues were paid by taxpayers is former Senator Patricia Birkholz, who is now Governor Rick Snyder’s Director of the Office of Great Lakes.

“These lawmakers should immediately reimburse Michigan taxpayers for these wasteful membership fees and start answering questions about their involvement with ALEC,” said David Holtz of Progress Michigan. “The people have a right to know who is really writing our laws – our elected officials, or corporate special interests. To move our state forward, lawmakers must be held accountable and provide honest and open government to the people of Michigan.”

The ALEC Database is available to reporters. In July 2011, the Center for Media and Democracy created the first of its kind database containing 800 pages of leaked documents from an ALEC whistleblower. The ALEC database is intended to help journalists, bloggers and the public better understand the web of connections between legislation introduced—and passed—in state houses, the legislators who introduce it, and ALEC.

Michigan Legislators Use Taxpayer Funds to Pay for ALEC Memberships

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