Kentucky ALEC Co-Chair Says Challenge to Tax Exemption Unlikely to Change IRS Status

A national battle between two legislative groups has reached Kentucky.

The advocacy group Common Cause is asking federal agencies to remove the non-profit tax-exempt status of the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC.  ALEC provides lawmakers with sample legislation and talking points, often to promote conservative issues, and Common Cause says the organization is a lobbying group.

This week, the Kentucky affiliate of Common Cause filed a similar request to remove ALEC’s non-profit status with the Kentucky Attorney General’s office.

But Kentucky’s ALEC co-chair , Senator Tom Buford, says he doesn’t believe the request has merit.

“(It’s) never a bad idea to challenge, you know, these issues that they present, that’s OK. I think they have to be open-minded to those. But even Common Cause could be in the same area, many say they promote a certain agenda,” Buford says.

Buford says Common Cause could be considered a Democratic group, whereas ALEC is being targeted as a Republican group. He doesn’t think ALEC’s non-profit status is at risk–either nationally or at the state level–because the IRS vets exemptions fairly rigorously.

“So I would say, if the Attorney General decided to take a look at this, I don’t know that he would rule on it or not, it would be difficult I would assume for him to determine that the Internal Revenue Service has not done due diligence to grant a tax exempt status for a non-profit organization,” he says.

Previously, Buford’s co-chair, state representative Mike Harmon, said that ALEC does not have much influence in Kentucky due to it’s low membership and the political split of Kentucky’s two legislative chambers. Many state senators are current or past members of ALEC, but the group’s legislation rarely passes the state House.

But the head of Common Cause Kentucky disputes Buford’s comparison between the two groups as fair. Richard Beliles says the two groups don’t operate their finances the same way and Common Cause does not say their membership dues are tax exempt.