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Groups Claim Conservative Nonprofit Lobbies Fla. Legislators, Influences State Law

Several progressive groups are saying Florida lawmakers are being manipulated by the conservative-leaning American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC. They released a report on Thursday that says ALEC enables corporate influence over state law by receiving funding from several industries and inviting corporate lobbyists to meet with state legislators at its annual conventions. But ALEC says the report is a distorted attack by liberal activists.

The groups who sponsored the report include Common Cause and Progress Florida. Progress Florida’s Damien Filer says, 60 of Florida’s 160 state lawmakers have had ties to ALEC since 2010. He says controversial Florida bills, like the so-called “parent trigger” and prison privatization, included word-for-word excerpts from ALEC’s model legislation.

But, state Rep. Jimmy Patronis (R-Panama City), who serves as the council’s Florida chairman, says ALEC makes suggestions but doesn’t direct anyone to pass specific laws.

“There is not a single piece of legislation that Florida has filed this past year that, me, as the chairman of the state of ALEC, has distributed to any member of the Florida Legislature, asking them to file this," he says.

Patronis also says many groups, including the American Cancer society, draft model legislation to further their interests. He dismisses the report as an election-year smear campaign by groups that, he says, are trying to help liberals win back majorities in several state legislatures.

The report also says ALEC should lose its non-profit status because its activities amount to lobbying, an activity the IRS does not allow for tax-exempt organizations. It calls for all state legislators to drop their membership in the organization.

Meanwhile, Rep. Patronis says ALEC conventions are a great place for state lawmakers from all over the U.S. to share ideas, and he says, he encourages all Florida legislators to join.