The Georgia Legislature has a message for voters: don’t ask us about our meetings with corporate lobbyists behind closed doors.
The 11Alive Investigators tracked lawmakers to a resort hotel in Savannah last week, where we observed state legislators and lobbyists mingling in the hotel bar the night before they gathered in private rooms to decide what new laws would best serve the corporations.
The meetings were part of the Spring Task Force Summit of the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC.”
What is ALEC?
“It’s really a corporate bill mill,” said Sen. Nan Orrock, an Atlanta Democrat who has served in both houses of the Georgia General Assembly for years. “They’re cranking out legislation, putting it into the hands of legislators who go back and file it.”
Orrock would know. She was once a member of ALEC.
“The corporations that are there have equal standing with the legislators,” Sen. Orrock said.
“You mean they can vote?” we asked.
“They absolutely can vote, and truth be told, they write the bills,” she answered, referring to the lobbyists.
There really are back rooms where corporate lobbyists have direct access to lawmakers completely out of sight, with no transparency or public filings. They’re also wined and dined after hours at these events with nothing recorded on ethics reports.
We know because we saw one of these back rooms with our own eyes, and were kicked out with the aid of off-duty police officers on orders from ALEC staff.
Reaction to the story:
“The sudden change in policy at the American Legislative Exchange Council was made after the 11Alive Investigators were kicked out of an ALEC legislative committee meeting inside a Savannah resort hotel. Chatham County Sheriff’s deputies, directly hired and paid by ALEC, were used to remove us from the entire hotel even though we had paid for a room.”