Louisiana Rep. Harrison solicits $1000 contributions from ALEC, using state stationary

Optimized-ALEC-logosIt’s been awhile since we’ve written about the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), but State Rep. Joseph Harrison (R-Gray) has proven himself a more than capable successor to former Rep. Noble Ellington (R-Winnsboro).

ALEC is a national organization comprised of hundreds of state legislators from around the country as well as corporations which fund the bulk of the organization’s expenses. Heading the list of those corporations is Koch Industries.

ALEC’s corporate members write “model legislation” for lawmakers to take back to their states for passage into law. Foremost among those are education reform, prison privatization, Medicaid reform, state employee pension reform and reductions of public services.

Ellington is the former state representative who served as national president of ALEC in 2011 and hosted ALEC’s national meeting in New Orleans last August. Ellington, after 24 years in the legislature, did not seek re-election last fall and upon leaving office in January, was hired as Chief Deputy Commissioner for the Louisiana Department of Insurance at $150,000 per year.

Now, not to be outdone, Harrison, the state ALEC chairman, has sent out a form letter on state letterhead soliciting contributions of $1,000 each to finance the travel of Louisiana legislative ALEC members to an ALEC conference in Salt Lake City July 25-28. The identities of the recipients of his requests for money were unknown.

The letter opens by saying, “As State Chair and National Board Member of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), I would like to solicit your financial support to our ALEC Louisiana Scholarship Fund.”

But this letter wasn’t for college scholarships.

“Why does the scholarship fund need your support?” Harrison asked, perhaps rhetorically, in his letter of Monday, July 2. “With over thirty Louisiana Legislators serving on ALEC Task Forces, your support will allow the opportunity (for legislators) to attend conferences funded by the ALEC Scholarship Fund.

“These conferences are packed with educational speakers and presenters, and gives (sic) the legislators a chance to interact with legislators from other states, including forums on Medicaid reform, sub-prime lending, only privacy, environmental education, pharmaceutical litigation, the crisis in state spending, global warming, and financial services and information exchange. All of these issues are import (sic) to the entire lobbying community (note the reference to “lobbying community”).

“I, along with other members of the Louisiana Legislature, greatly appreciate your contribution to the scholarship fund. Your $1,000 check made payable to the ALEC Louisiana Scholarship Fund and can be sent directly to me at 5058 West Main Street, Houma, Louisiana 70360. ALEC is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational organization as designated by the IRS.”

It is no surprise that ALEC would be concerned about pharmaceutical litigation, environmental education, Medicaid reform and sub-prime lending since many of its corporate members comprise pharmaceutical companies, oil and chemical companies, medical providers and mortgage lenders.

Even though ALEC picks up the tab for legislators to attend conferences all over the nation, at least 16 Louisiana legislators filed expense reports with the House and Senate for reimbursement of more than $20,750 in expenses related to their attendance at last August’s annual meeting in New Orleans. Additionally, ALEC reimbursed many of those same legislators, plus 19 other members and former House and Senate members an additional $56,200 for other ALEC conferences in such locales as San Antonio, Chicago, San Diego and Washington, D.C.

It is not known if Harrison received any “scholarship” money to attend ALEC conferences, but records obtained from the Louisiana House of Representatives by LouisianaVoice show that he received $9,295.78 in expense reimbursements from the state to attend six conferences in New Orleans, San Diego and Washington, D.C. over a four-year period, from December 2008 to August 2011.

Those included:

• December 2008: Washington, D.C. ($1,896.43);
• September 2009: New Orleans “Out of the Storm Conference ($496);
• December 2009: Washington, D.C. ($1,981.24);
• August 2010: San Diego, California ($970.50);
• November 2010: Washington, D.C. ($2,031.14);
• August 2011: New Orleans ($1,920.97).

LouisianaVoice has submitted two public records requests to Harrison. The first asks for the names of the “over thirty” legislators who are members of ALEC and the second requests, since the contribution solicitation was made on state letterhead, that Harrison provide the identities of every person to whom the solicitation was sent.

It would also be of more than passing interest to know how much in state postage was spent on soliciting funds for a lobbying organization that denies it’s a lobbying organization.

Tom Aswell is the publisher of LouisianaVoice.com.

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