Sunday, January 27, 2013

ALEC - Training Ground for Unethical Behavior

"Virtually every interaction that a lobbyist
has with a congressman
is money well spent,
from the lobbyist's point of view,"
Abramoff told ABC News.

I believe the actions of ALEC could be deemed as highly unethical.   I also believe when legislators are allowed to attend ALEC meetings – unethical behavior is being reinforced by their attendance at ALEC meetings.
  • Most ALEC legislators know when you pass off a bill you did not write, as your own - that is plagiarism - which they know is wrong.  But ALEC condones it and encourages this unethical behavior.
  • Most ALEC legislators know when they spend more time with corporate lobbyists at ALEC meetings than they do with their constituents - that this is wrong.   But ALEC condones it and encourages this unethical behavior.
  • Most ALEC legislators know when they accept "scholarships" paid for by corporate lobbyists to attend ALEC meetings  - this is wrong. But ALEC condones it and encourages this unethical behavior.
That is why most ALEC members are reluctant to admit their association with this extremist right-wing organization - cause they know it is wrong.  Most ALEC legislators are ashamed and embarrassed to admit they are associated with the ALEC. 

Think about it –
When we allow – yes allow (if we are not stopping it), our legislators to attend ALEC meetings – where we are condoning their attendance in closed door private meetings with corporate lobbyists – we are basically telling them that unethical behavior is okay.

Take a look at some of the behaviors of members of the ultraconservative, extremist, right-wing American Legislative Exchange Council that most would consider unethical.  I didn't have to dig more than a couple of months to find these examples.

If you want it to stop – you have to make it stop.  Legislators work for you.
If they won’t stop going to ALEC meetings – you vote them out of office.

ID – ALEC Member Phil Hart
Rep. Phil Hart was the subject of three ethics complaints in 2011 and 2010, over his ongoing fight against paying back state and federal income taxes, his repeated invoking of legislative privilege to win delays in his tax cases, and his illegal logging of state school endowment land in 1996 for logs to build his log home, for which he never paid an outstanding judgment.  Hart lost his seat on the House Tax Committee as a result, and also gave up his post as vice-chair of the Transportation Committee to avoid further ethics sanctions.  He apologized to the House in February.

ID ALEC Member John McGee
An Ada County judge today sent former Idaho Sen. John McGee straight to jail, revoking his withheld judgment for a 2011 DUI and imposing another six-month jail term for a disturbing the peace charge related to allegations that McGee sexually harassed a Senate staffer.

MO – ALEC Member Tim Jones
But some legislators use campaign funds to pay back thelobbyists.  That practice has raised questions in the capital because state law says campaign contributions "shall not be converted to any personal use."

House Speaker Tim Jones and his wife received free tickets to watch an NCAA men's basketball game on March 25 from AT&T’s suite at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis.  AT&T lobbyist John Sondag initially reported the tickets as unspecified entertainment costing $100 for Jones and $100 for his wife.  But on July 3, Jones' campaign committee paid $200 to AT&T, calling it a campaign "fundraising expense."

Sondag then amended his lobbying report to show Jones had reimbursed AT&T.  Thus, the expense was no longer included in the total that lobbyists spent in March on Jones, who was majority floor leader at the time. 
Critics say the practice of spending campaign contributions on private outings with lobbyists skirts the edge of what the law allows

GA – Many ALEC legislators
The Georgia World Congress Center is seeking to boost its borrowing limit as part of a deal to build a $1 billion retractable-roof stadium for the Atlanta Falcons.  Some lawmakers defended their use of the tickets, saying it does not influence their decisions.

"I can assure you that a ticket to a Falcons game does not affect my opinion one way or another," said state Rep. Jimmy Pruett, a member of the committee overseeing the World Congress Center.  Pruett saw a Falcons-New Orleans Saints game on the World Congress Center tab ($328) and has received $480 in tickets from a lobbyist associated with the Falcons' owner, show records.

The 12 members of the Georgia World Congress Center Legislative Overview Committee have received nearly $9,000 in gifts since 2010,     They get first dibs on the coveted luxury box seats at the Georgia Dome, say officials.

Georgia World Congress Center Legislative Overview Committee members
Sen. Ronnie Chance, R-Tyrone - ALEC
Sen. Judson Hill, R-Marietta - ALEC
Sen. Bill Hamrick (who has since left the state senate), R-Carrollton - ALEC
Sen. Ronald Ramsey, D-Decatur
Sen. Chip Rogers, R-Woodstock - ALEC
Sen. David Shafer, R-Duluth - ALEC
Rep. Jan Jones, R-Milton - ALEC
Rep. Edward Lindsey, R-Atlanta - ALEC
Rep. Billy Mitchell, D-Stone Mountain
Rep. Butch Parrish, R-Swainsboro
Rep. Jimmy Pruett, R-Eastman - ALEC
Rep. Donna Sheldon, R-Dacula - ALEC

(ALEC) House Speaker David Ralston accepted $1,704 in tickets from the Falcons,
And then there is this
a lobbyist spent $17,000 to take House Speaker David Ralston, his family, and staff to Europe to learn about high-speed trains. 

And you have this ALEC member
House Ways and Means Committee Chairperson Mickey Channell spent much of June at Florida resorts with lobbyists picking up the bill in exchange for his attendance at industry conferences.

And you have this ALEC member 
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) has launched a criminal investigation of state Sen. Don Balfour for filing false expense reports, confirmed state law enforcement officials.  The GBI's involvement marks the first criminal investigation of a state senator since 2005, when former Sen. Charles Walker was convicted in federal court on 127 counts including mail fraud, tax evasion, and conspiracy.  Balfour, chairperson of the Senate's powerful Rules Committee, has repeatedly said he inadvertently made mistakes on expense reports going back to at least 2009.     Balfour was accused of billing the state for mileage while out of town on lobbyist-funded trips, and for failing to create a subcommittee to audit all senators’ reimbursement vouchers. 

And you have this one
The call for (ethics) reform in Georgia began after then-Speaker Glenn Richardson resigned in 2009 after his wife told an Atlanta television station that Richardson had an affair with a lobbyist. 
Wonder where he met her/him?  three day private meeting, behind closed doors?

MS – ALEC Member Kevin McGee
Mississippi Rep. Kevin McGee resigned his seat and agreed topay a $10,000 fine to resolve an ethics case the state brought against him over public contracts that went to his family's printing company.  Gov. Phil Bryant will set a special election to fill the seat in Senate District 59.

The Mississippi Ethics Commission ordered McGee in February to repay the state $346,554 from 258 public printing contracts that went to his family business, Service Printers. 
FL – ALEC Member David Rivera
Already facing FBI probes and a daunting re-election, U.S.Rep. David Rivera was charged by state authorities with 11 counts of violating ethics laws for filing bogus financial disclosure forms, misusing campaign funds, and concealing a consulting contract with a Miami gambling business while serving in the Florida Legislature.

Investigators with the Florida Commission on Ethics found Rivera's secret deal to work as a political consultant for the Magic City Casino created a conflict-of-interest for the lawmaker.  The ethics panel also said he broke state ethics laws by failing to fully disclose his finances from 2005 to 2009. Rivera was first elected to the Florida House in 2002.

When we allow – yes allow (if we are not stopping it), our legislators to attend ALEC meetings – where we are condoning their attendance in closed door private meetings with corporate lobbyists – we are basically telling them that unethical behavior is okay.

More to come another day - - - - - - - - - - -

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