Saturday, September 25, 2021

Watchdog groups allege campaign finance violations against ALEC in PA, 14 other states

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Three national watchdog groups filed campaign finance complaints in more than a dozen states Monday, including Pennsylvania, against a nonprofit organization that drafts model legislation for Republicans lawmakers, alleging improper use of its nonprofit status.  The Pennsylvania Capitol in Harrisburg. Credit: Tom Sofield/LevittownNow.com

The watchdog groups are arguing that this access illegally provided campaign contributions in violation of its 501(c)(3) tax status. 

The groups, The Center for Media and Democracy (CMD), Common Cause, and Alliance for a Better Utah announced this week that it had filed or was planning to file campaign finance complaints in Arizona, Connecticut, Florida, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, New York, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and Wisconsin against the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) for allegedly giving GOP lawmakers access to voter management campaign software, which the groups argue helped more than 2,000 lawmakers and ALEC members rake in more than $6 million during the 2020 election cycle. 

“Voters deserve to know who is buying influence with their elected officials and that is exactly what ALEC is doing in providing this software to legislators,” Karen Hobert Flynn, president of Common Cause said. “This is sophisticated software worth thousands of dollars that aids the reelection efforts of these legislators, and the legislators know that. This isn’t buying a legislator a cup of coffee to bend their ear about your bill. These are valuable in-kind contributions plain and simple.”

The software in question, known as “ALEC CARE,” is owned and operated by Voter Gravity, a Virginia-based voter data company, whose database, whistleblowers have alleged, only contains the data of registered Republicans and those who have voted for GOP candidates in the past, according to a July 20 Associated Press report.

“It is crystal clear from CMD’s investigation and internal ALEC sources that the CARE program provided by ALEC is just a repackaging of VoterGravity’s highly partisan campaign software, designed to help Republicans win and retain elected office,” Arn Pearson, CMD’s executive director said in a statement. “ALEC CARE is a brazen scheme to help ALEC’s overwhelmingly Republican members win reelection.”

According to a statement issued by the groups on Monday, the complaint calls on the oversight agencies of the 15 states listed to “investigate the scheme and use their subpoena powers to determine the full list of ALEC state legislators receiving the voter software and whether the software was used by legislative staff on state time or in state offices.”

ALEC did not immediately respond to the Capital-Star’s request for comment Wednesday.

CMD officials told the Capital-Star Wednesday that the complaint was in the process of being filed and could be expected as soon as this week or next week. 

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