By Denise Tessier
Because the Albuquerque Journal has the resources – a team of investigative reporters and excellent politics and government reporters – I have been waiting for the state’s leading daily to produce a story explaining how many, if any, of New Mexico’s legislators are under the influence of the American Legislative Exchange Council.
ALEC trains state legislators and gives them boilerplate legislation to introduce in their states, furthering the national agenda of ALEC’s corporate backers. Read this story in The Nation to learn about its connection to the Koch brothers. Last week, four legislators were “outed” as supporters of this “bill mill”, but not by the Albuquerque Journal.
But according to the Center for Media and Democracy, the list of New Mexico supporters in the Legislature goes beyond four names. According to CMD, ALEC counts as members 13 from the New Mexico House and four from the New Mexico Senate.
And at least five ALEC bill templates were introduced in the New Mexico Legislature during the 2013 session, according to CMD:
Voter ID Act HB 103
Right To Work Act HB 351
Disposal and Taxation of Public Lands Act HB 292
The Animal and Ecological Terrorism Act SB 552
The Disclosure of Hydraulic Fracturing Fluid Composition Act HB 136
This list of bills can be found in the CMD report, “ALEC at 40: Turning Back the Clock on Prosperity and Progress.” That report found that 466 ALEC bills were introduced in 2013, in every state and in Washington, D.C., and that 84 of them became law.
And, according to CMD, ALEC — which just this month celebrated its 40th anniversary — has started going to new lengths to hide its lobbying of legislators from the public eye. According to CMD, ALEC:
. . .has taken to stamping all its documents as exempt from state public records laws, dodging open records with a “dropbox” website, and other tricks. After Watergate, many states strengthened their laws regarding open meetings and open records, but real sunshine on government is anathema to ALEC.
Dodging open records laws would seem in itself a topic of interest to the Journal. Thanks to CMD, however, readers don’t need to wait for the Journal to do a story in order view a list of ALEC supporters in New Mexico, a list that includes links to supportive citations after each entry when viewed online. According to CMD, the list includes these members of the House, and, where noted, the ALEC “task forces” with which they were/are affiliated:
- Rep. Thomas A. Anderson (R-29), ALEC Communications and Technology Task Force Member
- Rep. Alonzo Baldonado (R-8), ALEC Education Task Force Member
- Rep. Paul Bandy (R-3), ALEC State Chairman, Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force Member and Guest at the December 2010 International Relations Task Force meeting
- Rep. Lee Cotter (R-36)
- Rep. Anna M. Crook (R-64), ALEC Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force Member
- Rep. Nora Espinoza (R-59), ALEC Health and Human Services Task Force Member
- Rep. Nathaniel Quentin Gentry (R-30), ALEC Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force Alternate
- Rep. William Gray (R-54), ALEC Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force Alternate – Full Name and Address], Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force Membership Directory, August 2011, obtained and released by Common Cause
- Rep. Jimmie Hall (R-28)and Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force Alternate
- Rep. Larry A. Larranaga (R-27), ALEC International Relations Task Force Member
- Rep. William R. Rehm (R-31), ALEC Public Safety and Elections Task Force Member
- Rep. Dennis Roch (R-67), ALEC Education Task Force Member
- Rep. James R.J. Strickler (R-2), ALEC Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force Member
And CMD’s list says the following are ALEC supporters in the state Senate:
- Sen. Sue Wilson Beffort (R-19), ALEC Health and Human Services Task Force Member
- Sen. William H. Payne (R-20), ALEC State Chairman and International Relations Task Force and Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force Member
- Sen. Sander Rue (R-23),Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force Member
- Sen. William E. Sharer (R-1), ALEC Commerce, Insurance and Economic Development Task Force Member
In its list of Legislators Who Have Cut Ties to ALEC, CMD says Sen. George K. Muñoz (D-4), was a member of ALEC’s Commerce, Insurance and Economic Development Task Force , but announced he was cutting ties to ALEC in an April 2012 letter to constituents. Note that Munoz was the only Democrat on either of these lists.
CMD says New Mexico has three “state chairmen” in ALEC: Sen. William Payne and Rep. Paul Bandy (as noted in the lists above), and Gaspar Laca, who is registered as a New Mexico lobbyist for GlaxoSmithKline with a residency in Arizona.
CMD put ALEC under increased scrutiny after launch of its “ALEC Exposed” project in July 2011. At that time, the group says it made “the entire ALEC library of more than 800 ‘model’ bills publicly available for the first time.” This, after the group had been in existence and operating to influence state policy for 38 years.
“Since then, groups including Color of Change, Common Cause, Progress Now, People for the American Way, the voters Legislative Transparency Project, and others have put ALEC in the spotlight like never before,” CMD says.
ALEC, meanwhile, is busy issuing reports on timely topics like pension reform, the Environmental Protection Agency’s “assault on state sovereignty” and education. On each of these topics, ALEC offers its solutions.
And what about those ALEC templates CMD says were introduced in the New Mexico State Legislature this past session?
According to the New Mexico Legislature web site:
- Voter ID Act (HB 103) was introduced by Rep. Cathrynn Brown, Carlsbad Republican. The bill died.
- ALEC’s Right To Work bill (HB 351) was introduced as the Employee Preference Act by Candy Spence Ezzell, a Roswell Republican. The bill died.
- Disposal and Taxation of Public Lands Act (HB 292) was introduced as the Transfer of Public Land Act by Yvette Herrell of Alamogordo, a Republican, and Richard C. Martinez of Espanola, a Democrat. The bill died.
- The Disclosure of Fracturing Fluid Composition Act (HB 136) was introduced by Brian F. Egolf, Jr. of Santa Fe, a Democrat. The bill, which would have required disclosure of fluids used in fracking to nearby residents, died.
- The Animal and Ecological Terrorism Act (SB 552) was introduced as the Livestock Interference Act by Cliff R. Pirtle, a Roswell Republican. The bill died.
I could not find a bill corresponding to a sixth CMD listing for New Mexico, allegedly based on an ALEC template, which was described by CMD as “Local Government Transparency Act SB 63.” This discrepancy points up the value of having a working local reporter/journalist do a thorough piece on ALEC’s influence and reach.
CMD has done the legwork on exposing that influence in New Mexico. There’s still plenty of room for the Journal to put this all in context, clear up any discrepancies and provide continuing reportage on how much New Mexico policy is emanating from corporate board rooms and the ALEC “bill mill”.