It’s no secret that the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) offers its corporate sponsors a variety of options for buying access to state lawmakers.
Now, new documents reveal just how much — or little — it costs.
For $50,000, a corporate or industry executive can give a main stage presentation to all ALEC members in attendance at its annual meeting. For $35,000, a corporation or industry group can work with ALEC’s policy staff to design a workshop for lawmakers.
Materials obtained and reviewed by the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) reveal a menu of opportunities for corporate sponsors interested in purchasing access to lawmakers at ALEC’s annual conferences. The documents were prepared in advance of last year’s three-day annual policy meeting in Atlanta, which focused on efforts to combat “woke capitalism,” reproductive healthcare, voting rights, and the administrative state, as CMD previously reported.
Fees for sponsoring this year’s 50th anniversary annual meeting were likely the same, if not higher. Opportunities to buy access to lawmakers and shape legislative priorities range from buying “special” pre- and post-conference sessions for an unspecified price to hosting ice cream socials ($15,000) and the “Kids’ Congress” ($25,000), which allows the sponsor to give t-shirts with their corporate logo to children of legislators in attendance.
Most of the sponsorship packages offer substantial face time with lawmakers, including multiple complimentary meeting registrations (which tend to cost approximately $800 for private sector members) and invitations to each of ALEC’s VIP events, as well as extras such as free banner ads in the meeting app.
All of these sponsorship options are add-ons to what corporations pay to have a seat on ALEC’s Private Enterprise Advisory Council or any of its 10 policy task forces. The price tags for those remain closely guarded.
ALEC’s pay-to-play structure dates back to its 1996 “business plan,” which called for the organization to “begin to function more like a business, and recognize that it has a product that it provides to a defined customer base for a ‘profit.’” According to that plan, “ALEC’s product is policy, and its customers are state legislators and private sector supporters.”
Main Stage Presentations and Late Night Cigars ($50,000 – $60,000)
ALEC’s highest-tier sponsorship — Chairman level — comes at a cost of between $50,000 and $60,000, and sponsors the policy meeting’s breakfast or lunch sessions. What makes this sponsorship level enticing is the opportunity for a “main stage presentation by an executive from your industry” during the meal.
“This meal session offers an excellent speaking opportunity for a representative of your company to provide insight into an important issue facing state governments and the private sector,” the sponsorship document reads. “At the event, an executive or organization representative will join a national public policy official to provide a well-rounded view on an emerging topic.”
In addition to the main stage presentation and five free VIP passes, the Chairman-level sponsorship includes the opportunity to display corporate materials and swag, access to video and photography from the session, and seating at the head table for a speaker and guest.
This year’s lone Chairman-level sponsor was Consumers’ Research, a right-wing group backed by Leonard Leo that has played a leading role in the Right’s escalating war against socially conscious and sustainable investing.
Two opportunities to sponsor breakfast sessions at the conference include plenaries and a breakfast main stage presentation for a fee of $50,000.
Corporate sponsors are also invited to spend $50,000 on a mid-conference “Late Night Reception” at which “the ALEC Board of Directors, State Chairs, Task Force Chairs and other key legislative leaders” mix and mingle over cocktails and cigars.
Designing Policy Workshops ($35,000)
While most sponsorship levels include passes to the conference, a subset of Vice Chairman-level sponsorships include what might be the most consequential access: the opportunity for a corporate sponsor to design the content of a policy workshop on subjects ranging from technology, supply chains, and housing and land use, to federalism, environmental health, and fiscal reform.
Sponsors at this level receive “assistance from [the] ALEC Policy Department in planning the issue workshop.”
This year’s Vice Chairman-level sponsors included Leo’s voter suppression group Honest Elections Project (HEP), tobacco giant Altria, Charles Koch’s Stand Together, UPS, PhRMA, as well as several trade groups representing hotel chains and the telecom and tech industries. Right-wing think tanks including the Foundation for Government Accountability, the James Madison Institute, and Energy & Environment Legal Institute, among others, were also Vice Chairman-level sponsors.
That explains the focus of many of the workshops offered to ALEC legislators on subjects like public investments in broadband, “Stopping ESG,” “Education Freedom,” and two policy task force presentations by Altria on deregulating flavored tobacco and e-cigarettes.
Networking with ALEC’s Chair and Board Members ($25,000 – $40,000)
Corporate sponsors are invited to host various ALEC receptions and board dinners. Sponsors of the leadership reception, for example, have the opportunity to access an “exclusive, invitation-only event” that “brings together the ALEC Board of Directors, State Chairs, Task Force Chairs and state legislative leaders for an evening of social interaction and networking.”
Brand Visibility ($5,000 – $25,000)
From swag bags, lanyards, and hotel keycards to sponsoring the hotel’s complimentary internet access, sponsors have the opportunity to “receive brand recognition” throughout the conference. At ALEC’s 50th annual meeting in July, hotel keycards featured information about rank choice voting, one of the group’s bête noires. “The meeting bag gets high visibility not only with ALEC meeting attendees but also around town as attendees visit off-site venues throughout the city,” the sponsorship document reads.
Interested parties are also encouraged to reach out to ALEC to design custom sponsorship packages, “including pre-conference and post-conference sessions, state nights, special events and other promotional opportunities” that aren’t otherwise highlighted in the packet.
Several right-wing groups have held these types of sessions in conjunction with ALEC conferences in recent years. For instance, ALEC has collaborated with Honest Elections Project for at least three such events. The Christian right Family Research Council held a “Pro-Life Legislative Summit” with ALEC legislators after ALEC’s December 2022 policy summit. And ALEC has helped organize three “Academy of States” meetings for groups campaigning for a constitutional convention to radically rewrite the U.S. Constitution.
A Cookie-Cutter Approach
ALEC is not alone in selling access to lawmakers. The Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA) maintains a price list of its own that, as of 2019 (the last available document), capped out at $125,000 for a host of benefits, including an “opportunity to lead issue briefings with Republican Attorneys General.”
“While law enforcement officers courting money in exchange for influence may seem beyond the pale, attorneys general in states across the country have — largely under the radar — been doing just that,” CMD’s Arn Pearson has previously reported.
“Republican state attorneys general granted private, confidential meetings to the nation’s biggest fossil fuel companies in exchange for six-figure contributions to a fund to help reelect Republican attorneys general,” Pearson wrote.
The State Financial Officers Foundation (SFOF), an organization of GOP state treasurers and auditors that has become a key player in the Right’s war on “woke,” uses a similar pay-to-play model.
With ALEC, RAGA, and SFOF, sponsorship information is heavily guarded. “AGs in at least five states have denied CMD’s open records requests by saying the meetings were ‘campaign related,’ legal ‘work product,’ or that they had no documents covered by their state’s sunshine laws,” Pearson wrote.
David Armiak contributed research to this report.