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APS ending ALEC membership; SRP considers doing same

In this November 2011 file photo, protestors wave homemade signs outside of the American Legislative Exchange Council summit in Phoenix. (Photo by Ryan Cook/RJ Cook Photography)

In this November 2011 file photo, protestors wave homemade signs outside of the American Legislative Exchange Council summit in Phoenix. (Photo by Ryan Cook/RJ Cook Photography)

Arizona’s largest energy company will join the growing ranks of corporations that are severing ties with the American Legislative Exchange Council.

Arizona Public Service lobbyist Jessica Pacheco said the company will not renew its membership in ALEC, a conservative state lawmakers’ organization known for drafting model legislation for members to sponsor in their respective states.

The company’s membership expires this summer, she said.

Pacheco said the decision was economic, not political. She said APS’s new lobbying team, which formed about nine months ago, is reviewing all of its organizational memberships. The company is cutting costs, Pacheco said, and that cost-cutting includes ending APS’s memberships in organizations that don’t bring sufficient value.

“We did an assessment of the organizations that we belong to and the value that they bring to our company, to our customers and our shareholders. And ALEC was one of the organizations that we were not receiving a commensurate amount of value for,” Pacheco said. “We have been working very diligently toward certain cost-cutting goals. And that means that we have less to spend on organizations and memberships, and we feel those dollars are better spent supporting organizations here in Arizona.”

Pacheco said APS, whose parent corporation is Pinnacle West Capital Corporation, is ending its membership in other organizations as well, though she did not know which ones.

APS’s decision comes as corporate giants across the country are leaving the conservative legislators’ organization, which has come under increasing pressure and scrutiny from liberal activists in recent years. Coca-Cola, Intuit Inc., Kraft Foods, McDonald’s and PepsiCo have all recently severed ties or declined to renew their memberships.

Pacheco said APS hasn’t come under pressure to distance itself from ALEC and said the decision had nothing to do with the increasing controversy and anti-ALEC advocacy. She emphasized that APS is simply declining to renew its membership and is not withdrawing from the group.

“It really has nothing to do with the state that ALEC is currently in,” she said.

Salt River Project is also considering ending its membership in ALEC, according to SRP lobbyist Russell Smoldon. The energy giant will make a decision whether to renew its membership, which currently runs through the end of 2012, in the next few weeks, he said.

Smoldon, who serves as one of ALEC’s Arizona chairmen – each state has a private sector and public sector chair – defended the organization, but acknowledged that it has come under increasing nationwide scrutiny.

“You have to consider it, considering all of the negative press that’s out there,” Smoldon said. “We’re looking at everything at the moment, trying to figure out what want to do, just trying not to be too quick to jump into the fray, so to speak.”

Smoldon said SRP still believes ALEC is a worthwhile organization, but has faced mounting pressure from liberal advocacy groups, public employee unions and the “spending lobby.” He said SRP has not received much pressure itself to distance itself from ALEC, outside of a few letters to the company.

“George Soros’ guys are the ones kind of driving the boat on this thing. So there’s a lot of misinformation at the moment associated with what ALEC does,” he said of the wealthy liberal financier. “This has been an ongoing assault on ALEC for the last couple of years by those folks who basically don’t want political discourse that disagrees with them.”

Smoldon said SRP would consult with many of the 56 Arizona legislators – all Republicans – who are ALEC members before making a decision. He said APS’s decision surprised him, considering how many Arizona lawmakers are ALEC members.

Arizona Working Families, a coalition of liberal interest groups, held a press conference on Thursday on the Senate lawn to denounce ALEC and decry its influence over the Legislature. Coalition members took specific aim at several education-related bills and HB2571, Gov. Jan Brewer’s personnel plan that would eliminate many civil service protections for state employees.

Coalition member John Loredo, a former Democratic legislator, said ALEC woos lawmakers with trips, fancy meals and expensive gifts to promote its “extremist agenda.” Loredo predicted that more of ALEC’s corporate sponsors would follow the lead of companies like Coca-Cola and McDonald’s.

A call to ALEC’s Arizona public-sector chairwoman, Rep. Debbie Lesko, was not immediately returned.

14 comments

  1. Look at the groups attacking ALEC. That should tell you all you need to know about where this is coming from.

    APS took the Federal Money from Obama and is installing Smart Meters as fast as they can. The minions of Obama’s left don’t like ALEC because it opposes everything this current Washington Administration stands for and hope to achieve.

    Look at the facts and look at who is behind this attack -

  2. It’s interesting that there’s no mention made of why ALEC is in “the state that ALEC is currently in,” to quote Pacheco. No mention of ALEC’s recent successes, or legislation that was made law in states like Arizona, Wisconsin, and Florida and is now, later, under far deeper scrutiny and surrounded by intense debate.

    I think it’s entirely reasonable that APS claims that its decision was not political; ALEC seems to have made it clear that its priorities are politically extreme and out-of-line with those of APS. Additionally, APS (as well as Coca-Cola, Wendy’s, and other public corporations which have recently withdrawn support from ALEC) may have found that its dollars weren’t as effective at ALEC as they might be in other lobbying groups.

  3. It’s laughable that the anti-ALEC movement here is an extension of George Soros. No, there are actually concerned citizens in Arizona that like to think that in this supposedly independent state, our leaders would actually do their own thing – think about Arizona’s specific challenges and draft up policy responses and legislation to suit our particular needs. ALEC as a generator of model legislation isn’t such a bad idea, but it’s their relentless 700-pound gorilla lobbying efforts that crowd out all local input with the Arizona legislature. If you’ve never written to one of your Arizona house or senate leaders, you won’t know what I’m talking about. They are *bought and sold* by ALEC. Corporation Commissioner Brenda Burns used to be the chair of ALEC. The ties are deep here. The Arizona legislature needs to stop using the ALEC crutch and start doing their own thinking about what our state needs. That’s all citizens are asking. And it’s the very least we should expect from our elected and appointed officials.

  4. Thank you AZCapitolTimes for the good news re APS & SRP!

    Knowing that other high-information, democracy-loving members of the 99% and groups oppose ALEC is good enough for me! The US Constitution says We the People ~ NOT we the corporations.

    Corporations are figuratively and literally making a killing under current circumstances, notably:

    > ALEC’s domination of the political process (thank you Wall St. 1%; the NRA & Wal-Mart “Stand Your Ground” laws; the military-industrial corporate complex)

    > The US Chamber of Commerce’s domination of the judicial process (qv Santa Clara County vs the Southern Pacific RR (1886) et al, up through Citizens United vs FEC (2010).

    Government of, by, and for the corporations is fascism. How tragic that some people are fascism-loving.

    AZ’s Constitution prohibits any money or anything of value being spent by any corporation on any political campaign. Period end of discussion.

  5. NO Abu Ghraib in Arizona!

    joyce smith, Your comment is spot-on! I would add the private prison corporations, who are members of ALEC. The private prison corporations grew the prison population in America and the “take-over” of state’s prisons, jails, etc. which is now a crisis that has been swept under the rug. The legislators refuse to reform outdated and failed laws.

    These private prison corporations “controlling” legislators should raise serious questions of conflicts of interest. Which of these legislators are questioning the mass industrial prison complex of Arizona and those who benefit from its growth? CCA (Corrections Corporation of America), advisor to the Governor, Chuck Coughlin, High Ground lobbyists — driving Arizona policy — turning Arizona into a “prison state”. Three state regents on the board of CCA should concern ALL. GEO Corp. Florida based, MTC and more. It’s time to stop the “celling” of Arizona and America that ALEC is the force behind. This is a terrible business model for the people, families and communities as well as a brighter future for Arizona. What business or family wants to live in a “prison state”? ALL are at risk with the obvious out of control criminal justice system that for years has gone on far too long. Those who remain silent are complicit in the destruction taking place in Arizona. ALEC’s agenda favors incarceration over education and reform of outdated, draconian laws that “grow” the mass industrial prison complex.

  6. NO Abu Ghraib in Arizona!

    Mr. Duda, Great journalism. Thank you for shining the spotlight on who drives Arizona laws and who the legislators are serving which is not for the common good of Arizona’s people.

    “Will Arizona Hold ALEC Accountable?” — In These Times

    http://www.inthesetimes.com/article/12525/will_arizona_hold_alec_accountable/

    excerpt:

    “The GOP-dominated Arizona Legislature is something of a testing ground for ALEC model legislation–Arizona is, as Farley puts it, an ALEC “model state.” (See “ALEC’s Arizona Escort Service.”) House Speaker Andy Tobin is a longstanding ALEC member, as is House Majority Leader Steve Court. ALEC’s Arizona public-sector chair is House Majority Whip Debbie Lesko.

    Records obtained by In These Times from the office of Rep. Lesko show that from December 31, 2009 through January 4, 2011, more than 30 ALEC private-sector members contributed a total of $98,040 to ALEC’s “scholarship fund.” During this period, all but $469 was distributed to 43 Arizona ALEC member lawmakers (and one legislative assistant) for the purpose of lawmaker travel to plush resorts.

    To cite just one example of the friendly relationships between ALEC-connected lobbyists and state lawmakers: On January 26, 2011, ALEC Private Sector Chair and Salt River Project (SRP, an Arizona utility provider) top lobbyist Russell Smoldon chauffeured ALEC member lawmakers to an ALEC dinner in Santa Fe after the lawmakers had been whisked from Phoenix to New Mexico in an SRP-owned plane.”

  7. SRP considers doing the same? After reading article on “Will Arizona Hold ALEC Accountable?” we know why they are “considering”. SRP, you have a conflict of interest and are NOT serving the people. Drop out now!

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