Conservative Rep. Jon Brien, of Woonsocket, will be attending his first ALEC meeting as a member of the far right wing group’s board of directors when he travels to Charlotte, NC on Thursday for its annual Spring Task Force meeting where, he said, one of the orders of business will be “coming up with a strategy to win the war against the left wing media.”
ALEC task forces pair state legislators with corporate sponsors to formulate policy and write model legislation to be used in state legislatures across the country. At this year’s spring meeting, ALEC members will discuss, according to an agenda: 21st century commerce and taxation; insurance; education; energy, environment and agriculture; health and human services; and tax and fiscal policy, among other topics.
Brien said the American Legislative Exchange Council will reimburse him for the cost of his plane ticket, which cost under $400 and two nights in a hotel. Because ALEC is not a registered lobbyist with the state and has no bills before the General Assembly there are no requirements that Brien disclose the money ALEC is paying for him to attend to conference.
Interestingly, but unrelated to Brien’s trip, Common Cause Rhode Island sent a letter to the state Ethics Commission yesterday “requesting greater disclosure of gifts and travel of elected officials.”
In an email sent out yesterday, Common Cause wrote:
“In light of recent events in Rhode Island, with expensive travel by elected officials not being reported, Common Cause requests the Ethics Commission enact a regulation requiring disclosure of any gift over $25 received by an elected official by virtue of their being an elected official. Rhode Islanders have a right to know who is trying to influence their public officials. Without a complete picture of the flow of influence, citizens cannot fully determine who is behind the laws that govern them.”
John Marion, the executive director of Common Cause Rhode Island, agreed with Brien that under the current rules, he does not need to disclose the trip to the ALEC conference. “Because ALEC doesn’t have any bills before the legislature – its members do – there’s no requirement to disclose,” he said. “ALEC essentially acts as the pass through.”
But, he added, it’s important that citizens know “who is influencing our legislators,” he said. “These entities are out there paying for things for legislators and the only way we know about it is when a reporter happens to stumble onto it.”