Dome: Common Cause asks N.C. attorney general to investigate ALEC

FROM STAFF REPORTSMay 9, 2012 

An advocacy group is asking Attorney General Roy Cooper to investigate the tax status of the American Legislative Exchange Council, a conservative group that counts House Speaker Thom Tillis as one of its top members.

Common Cause sent the letter Tuesday just weeks after it filed a whistleblower complaint against ALEC with the IRS, saying it is operating as a tax-exempt nonprofit while lobbying state legislatures across the country.

“Common Cause has discovered compelling evidence that ALEC is a corporate lobby masquerading as a charity. ALEC’s compliance with state tax, gift, solicitation and lobbying laws should be reviewed by your office and/or appropriate state regulatory authorities,” the letter states. “As attorney general, you’re charged with responsibility for ensuring that North Carolina laws are properly applied and enforced. In view of the overwhelming evidence that ALEC is engaged in lobbying, I urge you to review its compliance with all applicable state laws or to refer this matter to the appropriate state regulatory authorities for their action.”

ALEC maintains it doesn’t do any lobbying. But the organization is facing intense public scrutiny for supporting controversial legislation such as voter ID measures and “stand your ground” gun-rights provisions like those in place in Florida where Trayvon Martin was killed in February.

In recent weeks a dozen companies disowned ALEC under public pressure. The organization is still supported by Bank of America, Reynolds American and Duke Energy, all North Carolina-based companies.

ALEC named Tillis, a Republican from the Charlotte area, as one of its state legislators of the year in 2011. The organization is holding a task force meeting in Charlotte on Friday and Saturday to consider “model legislation” for lawmakers to introduce.

Common Cause, a nonpartisan watchdog group, said similar letters have been sent to attorneys general in dozens of other states.

On MSNBC, Perdue opposes amendment - and gay marriage?

On the day voters went to the polls to cast ballots on the constitutional amendment banning gay marriage and civil unions, Gov. Bev Perdue acknowledged she opposes gay marriage.

Pressed by MSNBC’s Chuck Todd, Perdue danced around the issue but eventually said she supported the state law banning gay marriage. At the same time, she said she voted against the amendment.

Todd suggested her position is walking a thin line, much like President Barack Obama, who faced a day of questions Monday about his position on the issue after Vice President Joe Biden said Sunday he supports gay marriage. Perdue initially ducked the question and tried to emphasize the civil rights implications. You can watch her appearance at http://bit.ly/JnQhw4. Watch at 3:06 for the gay marriage question. And then at 4:30 as Perdue is pressed on the line she and the president are trying to walk. Perdue’s position is not new to North Carolina readers - but certainly put her on the spot nationally.

Obama planned, then pulled Election Day visit to N.C.

President Barack Obama was scheduled, albeit briefly, to visit North Carolina on Election Day to make a speech in Asheville about the economy.

The White House sent the notice Wednesday last week but reversed course about five hours later, saying the trip wasn’t taking place, according to a North Carolina congressional office notified about the trip. The false alarm isn’t unprecedented - but the fact the White House even considered visiting the state on primary election day is interesting.

A controversial vote on a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage and civil unions was on Tuesday’s ballot. Obama issued a statement against the amendment earlier this year - but polls show it is likely to win by a solid margin.

The White House initially did not respond to questions about the scheduling snafu but later spokeswoman Joanna Rosholm issued a statement: “Any confusion around today’s travel plans is due to an internal miscommunication at the White House. The President will travel to North Carolina again soon.”

The alert about the Obama visit came about noon last Wednesday and was changed by 5 p.m. The White House’s official week-ahead schedule released at the end of last week put the president in New York today, not Asheville.

Given the gay marriage conversation that consumed the White House on Monday, a visit to North Carolina on the day of a gay marriage vote would only increase the questions about where the president stands on the issue - questions Gov. Bev Perdue took the brunt of Tuesday on an appearance on MSNBC.

N.C. Republican Party spokesman Rob Lockwood later issued this statement, suggesting Obama was trying to distance himself from the amendment vote.

“President Obama wanted to distance himself from the marriage amendment so badly, that he cancelled his trip to North Carolina?” Lockwood said. “The same North Carolina that he has visited so many times in the past few months, and the same North Carolina where he put his convention. If liberals were looking for a leader on this issue, they clearly don’t have one in the White House.”

Staff writer John Frank

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