North Carolina’s Conservative Shift Good for ALEC

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House Speaker Thom Tillis greets Representative-elects during an orientation session for new House members at the Legislative Building in Raleigh, NC, in December 2012. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

The Raleigh News & Observer’s John Frank writes that one side effect of that state’s conservative shift is an increased American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) presence in the North Carolina legislature.

ALEC is a conservative organization that brings corporations and state legislators together behind closed doors to produce to write what it calls “model” bills that the lawmakers then introduce as their own. Frank previously reported that the group’s fingerprints could be seen on numerous pieces of legislation introduced in the General Assembly, including new voter ID requirements, private school vouchers, anti-union measures, a bill to shield fast food companies from lawsuits related to obesity and a bill to quash asbestos-exposure lawsuits. The organization also has a man in the governor’s office: Former State Rep. and State ALEC Chairman Fred Steen is now Governor Pat McCrory’s legislative lobbyist.

And last year, Frank writes, ALEC’s influence grew.

The American Legislative Exchange Council counted 54 out of 170 North Carolina lawmakers as members through June, or roughly one-third of the General Assembly. The state is one of only seven to increase membership more than 40 percent [in 2013].

The numbers are highlighted in new internal ALEC documents, obtained and published by the British newspaper The Guardian, that shed new light on the organization’s presence in the state.

After “Stand Your Ground” laws pushed by ALEC received national attention in the wake of the Trayvon Martin killing in 2012, ALEC lost about 400 legislators and 60 corporate members and faced a budget shortfall. The organization’s “funding crisis” was the subject of a recent report in The Guardian. Among the organizations that let their membership lapse are major North Carolina players: Duke Energy, Lowe’s, Blue Cross Blue Shield and the John Locke Foundation, a conservative think tank.

But leaked documents show that ALEC is relying on a few current and former state legislators in 19 states — including North Carolina’s speaker of the House, Thom Tillis, ALEC’s 2011 “legislator of the year” — to each woo three or more major funders to help the organization recover.

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