Charles Koch Ramps Up Investment in ALEC as the Lobbying Group Loses Corporate Funders Over Far-Right Ties
Major corporate donors said they would not be giving to the GOP-allied legislative group, citing its ties to far-right figure David Horowitz.
The American Legislative Exchange Council is holding a conference in Washington, D.C., this week, providing a venue for lobbyists to meet behind closed doors with newly elected state legislators.
The group, which is celebrating its 45th year, has long shaped state law, designing bills that imposed three-strikes mandatory sentencing, restricting the minimum wage, curbing municipal broadband, and other shared goals in areas of interest to corporate America and the GOP. Earlier this year, the group put on a corporate-sponsored anniversary celebration at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, which featured White House adviser Kellyanne Conway and other administration officials.
Many of the major donors to the conservative bill-writing organization, however, have decided to quit their membership, expressing fear that the group has become too associated with the toxic politics of the far right.
The latest companies to discontinue financial support for ALEC include AT&T, Dow Chemical, and Honeywell.
The latest companies to discontinue financial support for ALEC include AT&T, Dow Chemical, and Honeywell, spokespersons for the companies told The Intercept.
The news comes on the heels of an announcement two months ago that Verizon, another major donor, decided to leave ALEC.
The group has been roiled by negative stories over several years. Verizon announced it was ending its support following a hate-fueled speech by anti-Muslim activist David Horowitz at ALEC’s annual meeting in August. Horowitz, who is well known for taking extremist views on a range of topics, used the platform at ALEC to attack marriage equality and suggested that the Constitution’s three-fifths compromise was not about black people.
“We have ended our membership with ALEC and their convention speaker was a key factor in the decision,” Jim Greer, AT&T’s spokesperson, said in a statement.
Dow Chemical said in the statement that the group had not donated recently, but also noted the extremist ties. “Dow has not contributed to this organization in several years,” said Jarrod Erpelding, a spokesperson for the company, in a statement. “Respect for people is one of Dow’s core values. We do not tolerate discrimination in any form or support organizations that demonstrate discriminatory language and/or actions.”
“Honeywell has not contributed to ALEC in 2018,” said Victoria Ann Streitfeld, a spokesperson for the company.
ALEC did not respond to a request for comment.
AFTER THE HOROWITZ speech, a coalition of 79 organizations, including civil rights, good government, and environmental groups, called on ALEC’s corporate funders to end their financial support. The coalition sent 21 letters to corporations that had recently been identified as funding ALEC.
A representative from Diageo, the U.K.-based company that produces Smirnoff and Johnnie Walker, told the good-governance watchdog Common Cause that it had “not been associated with ALEC for quite some time.”
The loss of corporate members came as Republicans faced massive setbacks in statehouse elections this year. At least 333 state legislative seats flipped to Democrats. Though ALEC bills itself as a bipartisan organization, its members are overwhelmingly Republican.
Another, more reliably right-wing funder appears to have stepped up as ALEC has faced increasing scrutiny. Tax disclosures show that the Charles Koch Foundation and Charles Koch Institute increased annual giving to the group, providing $779,068 to ALEC in 2017, a contribution level nearly $200,000 higher than the previous year. The groups tied to the billionaire donor did not respond to a request for comment.