(Courtesy of Flickr user Mikasi)
In the two years since the ALEC Exposed project revealed the role that the secretive American Legislative Exchange Council plays in shaping the laws of states across the nation, the group has had a much harder time hiding its meddling.
In fact, so much national attention has been paid to ALEC’s role in promoting restrictive voter ID laws and controversial Stand Your Ground initiatives that ALEC officials announced last year that they would shut down the task force that was responsible for promoting those measures.
But ALEC is still putting representatives of corporations together with state legislators to craft “model legislation”—especially with regard to economic and regulatory issues. And the group’s national treasurer has come up with a novel scheme for keeping the projects secret.
The Wisconsin Republican says she is exempt from open-records laws, and her state’s Republican attorney general says that’s cool with him.
Wisconsin State Senator Leah Vukmir, a key confidante of Governor Scott Walker who serves as ALEC’s national treasurer, has for months been stonewalling a legitimate open-records request from the Madison-based Center for Media and Democracy (CMD), which worked with The Nation on the 2011 ALEC Exposed project that revealed how the corporate-funded council has been working with state legislators across the country to enact measures developed by special interest groups.
As Vukmir has emerged as one of the most prominent figures in ALEC, the Center for Media and Democracy has sought information regarding bills she has proposed in cooperation with the national group. Because of her refusal to cooperate with those requests, CMD is suing to force her to turn over the records.
Vukmir is not the first legislator to try to thwart the public’s right to know. Just last year, CMD had to sue a group of Wisconsin Republican legislators to get them to turn over ALEC-related documents under the open-records law.
But Vukmir has taken things to a new, and bizarre, level.
She’s claiming that a constitutional protection against targeting legislators with nuisance lawsuits exempts her from following the open-records laws that was established by the legislator—and that legislators, state officials and the courts have respected for decades.