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ALEC Legislators Fly Under the Radar to Junkets Around the Country

The story behind the American Legislative Exchange Council’s secret lobbying activities just keeps getting worse and worse. From 2008 to 2012, ALEC spent more than $40,000 flying members of the Missouri legislature across the country to “educational” conferences where they present them with model bills to take back to Missouri and present as their own. On these trips, records reveal ALEC puts the legislators up in swanky four-star hotels like the Hotel Contessa and Grand Hyatt. All told, legislators have taken more than 50 ALEC funded trips since 2008 to locations like New Orleans, San Diego, Los Angeles, Charlotte, and Washington, DC. Despite the tens of thousands of dollars ALEC spends to encourage legislators to pass their model legislation that would enrich corporations at the expense of Missouri families, they laughably claim that they are not a lobbying organization. 

Because of Missouri’s weak lobbying laws and ALEC's dubious claims that they're a non-lobbying charity, ALEC is not required to register as a lobbyist and report their expenditures monthly. Instead, lawmakers are required to disclose the ALEC funded trips on their personal financial disclosures. Those disclosures are filed just once a year in May, sometimes a full year after the expenditures actually took place. Combined with the fact that the MEC does not post PFDs online, ALEC is able to easily hide their lobbying activities from the public eye. 

That may soon change with the ALEC Transparency Act, filed by Representatives Judy Morgan, Bill Otto, and Charlie Norr. It would require any organization or person who distributes model legislation to register as lobbyists and disclose their activities. Cheers to Morgan, Otto, and Norr for taking a stand against ALEC’s attempts to secretly influence the Missouri legislature. 

So, who in the Missouri legislature has been taking these ALEC junkets? Unsurprisingly, Missouri’s most frequent-flyer with ALEC is birther Speaker Tim Jones. From 2009-2012, Jones took 11 trips worth nearly $12,000 on ALEC’s dime. In August 2010, ALEC spent nearly $2500 to fly Jones, his wife, and children to San Diego for a family vacation at ALEC’s annual meeting. Also topping the list of ALEC funded travel are former State Senator Jane Cunningham with ten trips worth nearly $9,000, State Senator Ed Emery with five trips worth $6,000, former State Representative and current Congressman Jason Smith with 11 trips worth nearly $6,000, and Representative Andrew Koenig with seven trips worth nearly $4,000. 

Full details on all of ALEC’s junkets in the table below, straight from each legislator's personal financial disclosures. Since the MEC does not post PFDs online, Progress Missouri has created an online repository here to make the raw data available to the public.

@ProgressMO

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