Carlson Takes Aim at ALEC, Seeks to Rein In Undeclared Lobbyists

District 51 Sen. Jim Carlson (DFL) has backed a proposal that would define groups that distribute model legislation to lawmakers as lobbyists.

When it comes to the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, District 51 Sen. Jim Carlson (DFL) says he just wants a little transparency.

Carlson is one of several co-authors listed on a bill authored by District 61 Sen. Scott Dibble (DFL) that would define ALEC—and other organizations that propose "model legislation" for legislators as lobbyists. Such a move would require those groups to adhere to stricter financial reporting requirements under Minnesota campaign finance laws.

ALEC, a nonprofit, conservative think tank, works to advance the principles of free-market enterprise and limited government, according to the group's website. Many of the group's members are state legislators, who pay a membership fee to belong to the organization. The organization also draws funding from a number of corporate members.

For its part, ALEC distributes model legislation—as many as 800 to 1,000 model bills a year, according to a CBS report—to members nationwide for consideration. The group's activities made headlines last year, when the shooting death of Trayvon Martin in Florida called into question the integrity of "stand-your-ground" laws—measures which ALEC had promoted.

Carlson said Dibble's proposal, if passed, would help watchdog groups better track the organization's influence.

“[SF 26] certainly is primarily directed at the group ALEC, and any that might form on that model," Carlson said. "Because it is primarily just a corporate-funded organization, and most of the legislation had some corporate influence to it, they were doing the bidding of some corporate members."

But Carlson insists his support of the bill isn't just based on partisan grounds.

“It’s fair to everyone, there won’t be any left-leaning group or moderate group that would be excused from this,” Carlson said. "If the unions decide to do something like ALEC did, writing model bills, they would also fall under the same requirements as ALEC."


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