Special-interest groups would need to be more transparent in their attempts to influence Minnesota lawmakers under an amendment proposed by State Senator Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis today. Senate Republicans rejected the amendment, however, because it would have disclosed the large sums of money and influence that conservative-leaning American Legislative Exchange Council has imposed on the current Senate Republican majority.
“This was a common-sense amendment that would have added more transparency to our political system,” Sen. Dibble said. “This is the type of information every Minnesotan deserves to have. Our state already has very strong campaign finance and lobbying laws that require lawmakers to disclose which lobbyists send them money; this amendment simply makes sure there’s not a loophole that allows certain special interests to hide from public view.”
The ALEC group has come under fire from lawmakers, the Governor and some non-profit groups for pushing legislative ideas in Minnesota scrutiny-free, concealing themselves as charitable organization that does not perform lobbying duties. Yet, more than 60 ALEC-backed bills have been introduced in the Minnesota legislature in the past two years, and 19 legislators are part of ALEC’s legislative task forces. Corporations pay up to $25,000 a year to join those ALEC task forces that develop and push policies in state legislatures.
Senator Dibble’s amendment would have required organizations such as ALEC that advocate “model legislation” to register as a lobbyist principal. In addition, organizations that distribute scholarship funds for lawmaker to attend conferences would need to disclose that information, and all legislators receiving scholarship funds from those organizations would be required to report them on annual statements of financial disclosure registered with the Campaign Finance Board.
Senator Dibble said it was disappointing to see the amendment rejected, but even more alarming to witness Local Government and Elections Committee Chair Ray Vandeveer, R-Stillwater, seeming to mislead the public in Senate Floor debate.
“Sen. Vandeveer suggested this measure should have been vetted during normal committee meetings,” Sen. Dibble said. “That suggestion is frustrating, because I requested two separate committee hearings on this bill, Senate File 2249, and twice was ignored by Chair Vandeveer himself. It seems Republicans will go to any length needed to protect their special-interest influences.”