A day after a front-page New York Times investigation highlighted the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) as a “conservative nonprofit” that “acts as a stealth business lobbyist,” a good-government group announced it has filed an IRS complaint against the corporate front group.
ALEC, the “association for conservative state lawmakers who shared a common belief in limited government, free markets, federalism, and individual liberty,” has pushed an extreme legislative agenda in states across the country, pushing shoot-first” “stand your ground” laws and voter suppression efforts. In recent weeks, at least a dozen companies announced they would no longer fund ALEC — following pressure from a Color of Change national campaign — and ALEC announced it would refocus its efforts away from “non-economic issues.” Last week, the group’s Louisiana state chairman resigned from the group.
Now, Common Cause is asking the Internal Revenue Service to take action; the group is requesting the agency audit ALEC’s work, impose penalties, and compel payment of back taxes. Common Cause President Bob Edgar (a former Democratic U.S. Rep. from Pennsylvania) said the group is masquerading as a public charity.
As a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt “charitable” organization, donations to the group are tax-deductible. But IRS rules state that (c)(3)s must “not be organized or operated for the benefit of private interests” and “may not attempt to influence legislation as a substantial part of its activities.”
ALEC claims its work is not lobbying. But, Edgar argues, ALEC’s mission “is to bring together corporations and state legislators to draft profit-driven, anti-public-interest legislation, and then help those elected officials pass the bills in statehouses from coast to coast. If that’s not lobbying, what is?”
ALEC’s legal counsel said in a statement that the Common Cause complaint “mostly ignores applicable law and distorts what it does not ignore,” adding “without question, Common Cause is a partisan front group masquerading as an ethics watchdog.”