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Friday, August 5, 2011

Kiffmeyer: 30 Minnesota legislators are ALEC members

Kiffmeyer: 30 Minnesota legislators are ALEC members

'If you’re believing in socialism,' group is not for you, says group's state chair
by Jon Collins, The Minnesota Independent, August 5, 2011

“About 30″ Minnesota legislators are members of a controversial nonprofit that critics say allows corporate members to lobby lawmakers and write bills without disclosure, according to the group’s state chair.

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) includes around 2,000 legislative members nationwide. It’s sometimes viewed as secretive because it does not disclose its membership, although leaked ALEC files have provided a partial picture of some Minnesota lawmakers that are involved (see chart below), and the Minnesota Independent is attempting to confirm lawmakers’ involvement with the group.

ALEC’s Minnesota chair, state Rep. Mary Kiffmeyer, hasn’t yet responded to a Minnesota Independent request to release members’ names. The Big Lake Republican, who is currently attending the ALEC conference in New Orleans, told the Minnesota Independent Thursday that all 30 Minnesota members are Republicans. She said she invited Democrats to join the organization, which she describes as “Jeffersonian,” but none took her up on it.

“If you’re believing in socialism and want more government control and don’t want limited government, you might not be so interested in ALEC,” Kiffmeyer said. “So we understand that some Democrats like [Sen.] Linda Berglin might not have found this an agreeable organization to pay with her money, or her campaign money, because she doesn’t see the world in Jeffersonian principals.”

The chaotic legislative session was part of the reason why only Kiffmeyer and Rep. Ron Shimanski (R-Silver Lake) are attending the ALEC conference this week from Minnesota, Kiffmeyer said: “Our first focus is our legislative agenda, not ALEC.”

State Sen. Linda Runbeck (R-Circle Pines) told the Minnesota Independent via email that she paid $100 for a two-year membership to the organization, and she says she’s never used ALEC’s “model legislation,” bills that are sometimes written by corporate members of the group and that pop up in state capitols across the country.

ALEC has been connected to a host of recent bills in Minnesota, including legislation that undermines greenhouse gas limits and shields food corporations from consumer lawsuits. It’s currently unclear how many ALEC-linked bills have been passed into law.

State Sen. Roger Chamberlain (R-Lino Lakes) was identified in leaked documents as a member of the ALEC Public Safety and Elections Task Force, but he told the Minnesota Independent in an email that he only receives ALEC informational materials. He hasn’t worked with ALEC to draft bills, he wrote, or encountered the group in meetings.

ALEC took its current form in the early 1980s. But former Sen. Roger Moe told the Minnesota Independent that it didn’t get on his radar until the late 1980s and early 1990s. As Senate Majority Leader, Moe said he never signed off on any state-funded travel expenses to ALEC conferences for members, which is now prohibited, because of concerns that there was no firewall between business interests and lawmakers in the group.

Common Cause Minnesota Executive Director Mike Dean told the Minnesota Independent that the public has a right to know which of their elected representatives belongs to the organization, and what special interests are behind the ALEC legislation lawmakers introduce in state capitols across the country.

“For decades ALEC has operated behind closed doors to avoid public scrutiny of their work,” Dean said. “ALEC would be less effective if the public knew that corporate lobbyists were the ones behind so much legislation. That is why ALEC members rarely admit that they are a part of this secret organization.”

Kiffmeyer has not yet provided the Minnesota Independent with a list of the state’s approximately 30 ALEC members, but Common Cause Minnesota put together a list of 19 members based on ALEC documents leaked to Madison’s Center for Media and Democracy. The Minnesota Independent has inquired with each listed lawmaker in an attempt to confirm their membership status and will publish legislator responses.

ALEC members in Minnesota (updated: 8/5/2011 8:30 a.m.)
NameConfirmedALEC Task Force
Rep. Carol McFarlane (R-53B) 
Sen. Chris Gerlach (R-37)Yes, confirmed via March email to constituent.Commerce, Insurance, and Economic Development Task Force
Rep. Michael Beard (R-35A)Commerce, Insurance, and Economic Development Task Force
Sen. Gen Olson (R-33)Yes, confirmed via March email to constituent.Education
Rep. Pat Garofalo (R-36B)Education
Rep. Sondra Erickson (R-16A)Yes, confirmed via March email to constituent.Education
Sen. Gretchen Hoffman (R-10)HHS
Rep. Paul Anderson (R-13A)Yes, confirmed via March email to constituent.HHS
Rep. Mary Kiffmeyer (R-16B)Yes, confirmed by state chair.International Relations Task Force
Rep. Matt Dean (R-52B)Yes, confirmed by campaign finance records.International Relations Task Force
Sen. Roger Chamberlain (R-53)No, denies working with ALEC on bills or in meetings, but receives informational mailings.Public Safety and Elections Task Force
Rep. Ron Shimanski (R-18A)Yes, confirmed by state chair and campaign finance records.Public Safety and Elections Task Force
Sen. Ted Daley (R-38)Public Safety and Elections Task Force
Rep. Linda Runbeck (R-53A)Yes, confirmed via email.Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force
Rep. Pam Myhra (R-40A)Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force
Rep. Bruce D. Anderson (R-19A)Telecommunications and IT Task Force
Rep. Connie Doepke (R-33B)Telecommunications and IT Task Force
Sen. Mike Parry (R-26)Telecommunications and IT Task Force
Rep. Steve Drazkowski (R-28B)Yes, confirmed via March email to constituent.Civil Justice
Rep. Joyce Peppin* (R-32A)Yes, confirmed via March email to constituent.
Rep. Mike Benson* (R-30B)Yes, confirmed via March email to constituent.
Rep. Dean Urdahl* (R-18B)No, denied via March email to constituent, but said he does offer ALEC bills.
House SpeakerKurt Zellers* (R-32B)Yes, but said via March email to constituent that he isn’t active.
Original list compiled by Common Cause Minnesota based on leaked documents published by the Center for Media and Democracy. Each member was contacted by the Minnesota Independent to confirm their membership status and offer comments. *Indicates lawmakers added to the original list.
Are you a member of the legislature or legislative staff with knowledge of ALEC’s work in Minnesota? Send us an email:

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