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ALEC ties put allies on edge

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which writes ready-made conservative legislation for Republican state legislators, has traditionally been anonymous, working behind the scenes to advance a far-right agenda. Shadowy obscurity allowed ALEC to be more effective.

But as ALEC finds itself where it didn't want to be -- in the spotlight -- the group is losing corporate sponsors and finding its political allies on edge.

Take Virginia, for example, where ProgressVA released a report on ALEC's influence on policymaking in the Commonwealth. Virginia House Speaker Bill Howell (R) wasn't pleased with the report, so today, ProgressVA Executive Director Anna Scholl asked Howell directly about his concerns. The Washington Post posted a video excerpt of the exchange.

The point of contention seemed to be over the taxpayer money Virginia spent to send lawmakers to ALEC events. ProgressVA's report claimed that the trips cost the state roughly $230,000 over the last decade, while in reality, the trips cost the state ... roughly $230,000 over the last decade.

Howell pointed to this as an inaccuracy, even though it's true, because Virginia also sent state lawmakers to a different conference that cost even more.

Puzzled as to why this makes ProgressVA's report untrue, Scholl pressed further. The Republican leader, agitated, said, "I guess I'm not speaking in little enough words for you to understand."

The ProgressVA chief responded, "I'm a smart girl, actually. I went to the University of Virginia; I benefited from public education; I think words with multiple syllables would be just fine for me."

That questions about ALEC are making its allies this uncomfortable suggests a shifting landscape for the organization.