The Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices voted 3-2 today to subpoena the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) for information about its provision of sophisticated campaign software to its legislative members.
The Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) filed a complaint with the Ethics Commission last July alleging that ALEC’s gift of valuable voter management software, developed by Republican operatives and linked to the Republican National Committee’s voter database, constituted an illegal and unreported in-kind campaign contribution.
CMD also filed an IRS whistleblower complaint against ALEC over the controversial program, valued at as much as $6 million per election cycle.
After a lengthy hearing, the Ethics Commission voted to investigate ALEC’s program, dubbed ALEC CARE, at its September 2021 meeting. ALEC, however, has taken a combative stance and refused to cooperate with the investigation or allow commission staff to view its CARE software.
“Today’s Ethics Commission vote is a big step forward in exposing ALEC’s illegal electioneering scheme,” said Arn Pearson, CMD’s executive director. “ALEC CARE is the exact same thing as VoterGravity, which is sold for political campaigns by a right-wing for-profit company.”
ALEC, a pay-to-play corporate front group that brings together mostly GOP legislators and lobbyists, claims the software is a “constituent communications” tool. The group is registered with the IRS as a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization, and is barred from intervening in elections.
“ALEC’s CARE software is merely repackaged VoterGravity campaign software linked to the RNC, for which ALEC’s 501(c)(4) affiliate, ALEC Action, pays VoterGravity $250,000 per year,” Pearson wrote in a Jan. 25 memo to the Ethics Commission.
In addition, “the CARE database does not have a full list of constituents, but rather only Republican voters and some Democrats who have microtargeting data points that make them an ‘Inferred Republican’ or a potential Republican pickup,” Pearson stated. “Clearly, the CARE software is not a constituent database for managing legislative services and communications; it is a partisan voter targeting database.”
Although ALEC is a tax-exempt and ostensibly nonpartisan organization, it hired Jason Torchinsky, a prominent GOP attorney and general counsel for the National Republican Redistricting Trust, to defend against CMD’s complaint. Torchinsky has steadfastly refused to provide information to the Ethics Commission and has instead chosen to challenge its authority to investigate ALEC.