April 26, 2012

South Carolina ALEC Member Literally Exempted ALEC From State Lobbying And Ethics Laws

There have been complaints in states like Minnesota that the American Legislative Exchange Council violates state lobbying laws, particularly with gifts for state lawmakers and undisclosed meetings with corporate lobbyists. ALEC, as we’ve reported, is the secretive bill-writing front group responsible for risky privatization schemes, massive taxpayer giveaways to big business, and dozens of other laws.

But Boyd Brown, a politician in South Carolina who is critical of ALEC’s agenda, pointed out that ALEC is actually exempt from state lobbying laws:

One day after State Representative Boyd Brown (D-Fairfield) sent a letter to his colleagues in the South Carolina General Assembly urging them to resign from the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), Rep. Brown discovered that ALEC had been written into the South Carolina Code of Laws several years ago. In Section 2-17-90 (1) ALEC is specifically exempted from the law prohibiting lobbyist’s principals from offering, soliciting, or facilitating loding, transportation, entertainment, food, meals, beverages, or an invitation to a function paid for by a lobbyist’s principal. […]

The lobbyist’s exemption for ALEC was written in 2003 by former Republican Speaker of the House and ALEC member, David Wilkins. Wilkins later served as President Bush’s Ambassador to Canada and as the Transition Committee Chairman for Governor-elect Nikki Haley, also a former ALEC member.

Announcing a new piece of legislation to close the ALEC loophole, Brown said he is “disgusted that this group has been specifically exempted from ethics laws in the state of South Carolina.

The relevant portions of the lobbying law are below:

(A) Except as otherwise provided under Section 2-17-100, no
lobbyist’s principal may offer, solicit, facilitate, or provide to a
public official or public employee, and no public official or public
employee may accept lodging, transportation, entertainment, food,
meals, beverages, or an invitation to a function paid for by a
lobbyist’s principal, except for:

(1) as to members of the General Assembly, a function to which
a member of the General Assembly is invited if the entire membership
of the House, the Senate, or the General Assembly is invited, or one
of the committees, subcommittees, joint committees, legislative
caucuses or their committees or subcommittees, or county legislative
delegations of the General Assembly of which the legislator is a
member is invited. However, the Speaker of the House and Speaker Pro
Tempore of the House may be included in an invitation to one of the
above groups. In addition, invitations may be extended and accepted
when the invitation is extended to all members in attendance at (a)
national and regional conventions and conferences of organizations for
which the General Assembly pays annual dues as a membership
requirement and (b) American Legislative Exchange Council conventions
and conferences;