South Dakota Pays For Lawmakers’ ALEC Membership

South Dakota will now subsidize a hundred lawmakers’ memberships to the American Legislative Exchange Council, a conservative corporate front group, after a vote Tuesday by the Republican-controlled Legislature Executive Board. Lawmakers will also continue to receive perks like unlimited travel to out-of-state ALEC meetings.

Aberdeen News reports that these two-year memberships will cost $100 apiece, and so far since July 1, lawmakers took 25 trips at a cost of over $31,000. During South Dakota’s peak year of subsidized travel to ALEC events, 71 legislators took 171 trips for a cost of $200,000.

But South Dakota’s relationship with ALEC goes in both directions. Lawmakers in South Dakota and other states have been on the receiving end of over $4 million in “scholarships” to conferences, according to a Center for Media and Democracy report.

In return, ALEC’s imprint can be found in state law. South Dakota ranks among two dozen states that have some form of the so-called “Stand Your Ground” law, a policy pushed by ALEC’s now-defunct Public Safety and Elections task force, which authorizes the use of deadly force in the face of a perceived threat. The states with Stand Your Ground have seen, on average, an 8 percent increase in homicides without deterring robbery or assault.

In addition to gun violence, South Dakota has also passed ALEC-like resolutions to teach climate change denier arguments in schools, based on the “Environmental Literacy Improvement Act.”

Across the country, ALEC’s corporate and polluter interests have become state law in the form of voter suppression efforts, lowering corporate tax rates, and enacting so-called “right to work” laws.

Iowa also subsidizes lawmakers’ ALEC membership, where lawmakers have advanced so-called “right to work” measures and “ag gag” bills that undermine food safety.

While states continue subsidize ALEC, schools, infrastructure spending, and social services have all faced budget cuts.