ALEC cover-sm72A Phoenix television station’s “Candid Camera” caught Arizona Republicans eating $70 steaks and drinking bourbon while schmoozing with ALEC lobbyists. Check out the TV news video here and listen to Arizona Representative and ALEC Chair Debbie Lesko explain how great ALEC is.

From ProgressNow Arizona…

With a tip and assistance from ProgressNow Arizona, KPHO-TV 5 News aired an eye-opening hidden-camera investigation Tuesday night that reveals how the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) wines and dines Arizona politicians to advance its right-wing corporate agenda.

KPHO investigative reporter Morgan Loew crashed a lavish back-room ALEC recruitment dinner attended by at least 17 Republican state legislators at one of the finest chop houses in Phoenix. ALEC is an out-of-state right-wing corporate bill mill that has wielded heavy influence in Arizona and at state legislatures around the country. 

The report – “Hidden cameras catch lobbyists and lawmakers wining and dining” – can be seen here. A highlight of the investigation was Senate Appropriations Chair and Tea Party hero Don Shooter of Yuma – who has faced ethical issues for allegedly intimidating a teacher at his grandson’s school and for padding his mileage expenses – strutting through the restaurant carrying a full bottle of bourbon shouting “as promised!” and then later telling a cameraman “hey, put that away!”

“For years Arizona has been one of the most wholly owned subsidiaries of ALEC. Now the public can finally see how the system really works,” said Robbie Sherwood, ProgressNow Arizona Executive Director, who tipped off KPHO and sat at the restaurant bar as lawmakers came and went. “ALEC has spread its right-wing agenda throughout the country by skirting ethics laws and taking politicians on lavish junkets, where the public and media are not allowed. That’s where corporate lobbyists craft model legislation for politicians, who dutifully return home and introduce it in state legislatures.  The public and their constituents play no significant role. This week, Arizonans got a taste for how ALEC recruits and operates thanks to some excellent investigative reporting by KPHO News.”

In addition to Shooter and local ALEC chairwoman Rep. Debbie Lesko, Arizona lawmakers spotted at the dinner included Senate President Andy Biggs Reps. Eddie Farnsworth, John Kavanagh, Carl Seel, Brenda Barton, Bob Thorpe, David Livingston, J.D. Mesnard, Justin Olson, Michelle Ugenti, T.J. Shope, Adam Kwasman, Jeff Dial; and Senators Nancy Barto, Chester Crandell and Don Shooter.  There were no Democratic lawmakers seen at the event.

Arizona has consistently had one of the highest participation rates in ALEC in the nation, with the majority of the Republican caucus counting themselves as members and attending luxurious out-of-town policy retreats each year. Those expense-paid retreats – where bills are written and shaped without public input — have had profound results for ALEC’s corporate backers. Arizona Legislators have strongly backed several ALEC priorities, including the anti-immigrant Senate Bill 1070, efforts to undermine public schools through expansion of private-school vouchers and charter schools, expanding private prisons and numerous attacks on wage protection, workplace rights and retirement security.

In late December, a major expose by The Guardian revealed that ALEC is facing a membership and fundraising crisis. The downturn comes in the wake of dozens of corporations dropping their memberships in the wake of Trayvon Martin killing and scrutiny of “Stand Your Ground” laws, which ALEC helped spread around the country.  ALEC even flirted with the idea of asking legislators to sign oaths of loyalty to ALEC over their constituents, but ultimately dropped the proposal.