In a blog post earlier this week, I told you how Common Cause filed a complaint with the Internal Revenue Service against the American Legislative Exchange Council about the latter's tax-exempt status. I profiled ALEC in a piece earlier this month, in which Common Cause argued that they are a pro-business lobbying organization that presents itself merely as a research nonprofit aiding legislators, and that taxpayers were being cheated as a result.
On the education front, ALEC has created model legislation encouraging the growth of online education, supporting school vouchers, and enacting parent-trigger laws. It has also discussed approving a resolution discouraging the use of the Common Core State Standards.
On Friday, Common Cause attempted to buttress support for its IRS complaint by releasing a big batch of documents that it classifies as meeting agendas, talking points and legislative "scorecards" distributed by ALEC to its members. Under the "education" heading, you can see these documents for the last five ALEC meetings dating back to 2010, as well as what Common Cause says is the upcoming plan for its May meeting in Charlotte.
At the April 29, 2011 ALEC meeting, for example, "private sector" members slated to attend, according to Common Cause's documents, included Kenneth Meyer of Scantron, Brian Newman of the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities, and three officials from K12 Inc.: Bob Fairbank, Bryan Flood, and Don P. Lee. Revisions to proposed model legislation are also included.
But in a statement on the group's website, ALEC's legal counsel, Alan P. Dye, said Common Cause was trying to use its political disagreement with ALEC as leverage for a frivolous and misleading tax complaint, and that Common Cause was in fact just a partisan front group.
"The current complaint mostly ignores applicable law and distorts what it does not ignore. After three decades of counseling clients on nonprofit and federal disclosure requirements, it's clear to me that this is a tired campaign to abuse the legal system, distort the facts and tarnish the reputation of ideological foes," Dye said.
I called the IRS earlier this week to ask how many times the agency has actually revoked a nonprofit group's tax-exempt status after a complaint like the one from Common Cause. So far, I have not heard back.