(Bloomberg Politics) -Companies have been resigning from the Republican policy shop ALEC in droves, thanks to bad publicity about its forays into the issues of guns and voting laws. Yet the much-maligned group still proves irresistible to corporations and interest groups that want a say in state lawmaking. That’s because once ALEC—the American Legislative Exchange Council—blesses “model policy,” drafts of new state laws can spread like wildfire across the country.
So when ALEC decided to take up the issue of dental care—it’s weighing whether to urge states to allow non-dentists to do routine procedures like filling cavities—it suddenly seemed like a really good idea for the American Dental Association (ADA) to pay their dues and hang out at the group’s policy summit in Washington. On Thursday, an ADA guy wearing a “new member” badge was frantically cornering lawmakers after an hourlong workshop on the issue of regulating oral care. The dentists, no surprise, are decidedly against outsourcing their work to non-dentists.
When it comes to accessing these conservative policy shapers, ALEC has no equal. And since Republicans now control 31 state legislatures, the group may be more desirable than ever. ALEC doesn’t disclose its private-sector members, who pay dues of up to $25,000. But the group’s policy summits, which are open to reporters, provide a partial answer vis-a-vis the ribbon-coded name badges that must be worn at all times. Private sector members are flagged with a blue ribbon, and many of them also wear a yellow one stamped “sponsor.”
Executives from Pfizer, Teva Pharmaceuticals, Takeda Pharmaceuticals and Purdue Pharma flitted into conference rooms at the Hyatt Regency near Capitol Hill on Wednesday and Thursday, taking seats alongside some of the 500 state lawmakers in attendance. Peabody Energy, a coal company, sent at least two representatives, including its Arizona lobbyist Tom Dorn, to roam the hallways.
The American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (a pro-coal lobby group) had someone on hand to attend ALEC’s private energy committee meeting Thursday. And holding court over a clique of Kansas lawmakers at the bar Wednesday night was Mike Morgan, a top government affairs consultant for Wichita-based Koch Industries sporting a brown ribbon signifying his elevated status as a “Jeffersonian” member.