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As Scandal Engulfs American Legislative Exchange Council’s U.K. Affiliate, A Closer Look At Its US Operation

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"As Scandal Engulfs American Legislative Exchange Council’s U.K. Affiliate, A Closer Look At Its US Operation"

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Disgraced UK Defense Secretary Liam Fox speaks at an American Legislative Exchange Council conference in Chicago

The Atlantic Bridge, the British affiliate organization to the American Legislative Exchange Council, is quickly erupting into a scandal that may force the public to scrutinize the practices of both right-wing groups. Earlier this month, the U.K.’s Charity Commission shut down Atlantic Bridge after an investigation revealed that the nonprofit has operated as little more than a front for various corporate lobbying and Tory party interests. The scandal has already forced the resignation of David Cameron’s Defense Secretary Liam Fox after the revelation that the Atlantic Bridge’s London-based director, Adam Werritty, had improperly acted as a high level advisor to Fox while employed by a number of military industry and lobbying clients.

In 2003, Fox and Werritty officially partnered with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) to form the Atlantic Bridge nonprofit. The relationship flourished; ALEC supplied staff to the Atlantic Bridge, and Fox and his associates frequently spoke at ALEC events, which are comprised of meetings between American politicians and business lobbyists. But with the implosion of the Atlantic Bridge, which has already ensnared lobbyists for Pfizer and several defense firms, the controversy has brought ALEC into the limelight.

ThinkProgress has covered ALEC for years, and what we have found closely resembles the pay-to-play allegations against Atlantic Bridge. Our investigations helped expose the fact that health insurance lobbyists used ALEC to write anti-health reform legislation, that Koch Industries and coal lobbyists had used ALEC to kill clean energy programs, and that private prison corporations pushed immigrant detention laws with assistance from ALEC. At the last major ALEC conference, a convention with state lawmakers and business lobbyists held in August in New Orleans, ThinkProgress tried to gain access to what has become a deeply secretive, yet expansive organization:

Watch the ThinkProgress video report of the 2011 American Legislative Exchange Council conference:

Speaking at a 2008 ALEC conference in Chicago, Fox said, “we at Atlantic Bridge have been delighted at the success of our partnership with ALEC and we’re excited about what we might achieve together in the future.” “In particular,” he added, “we are patting ourselves on the back at having chosen such a disguised and solid values-based organization to be our partner because the values that you have need to be embedded at every level of government — not just national or federal government.” Given the way Fox exported ALEC’s stealth lobbying agenda to the UK, one must wonder when the Atlantic Bridge corruption scandal will hit the United States.

Shortly after news broke of the Atlantic Bridge controversy, the websites for ALEC and Atlantic Bridge went down. Both now claim to be undergoing maintenance.

Presidential candidate Herman Cain’s spokesperson and foreign policy adviser also has strong ties to Atlantic Bridge.

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