OH Lawmaker Accused of Lobbying for ALEC Corporations

On Wednesday night, Fox19 news in Ohio aired an investigative piece examining the influence of ALEC in that state. I was interviewed as part of the segment, which was based in part on Common Cause’s investigation of ALEC over the past 18 months. This story, parts of which were included in a front page New York Times story in April, demonstrates the lengths some legislators will go to please ALEC and its corporate financiers.

Last year, Common Cause obtained a memo written by Ohio State Senator, and ALEC board member, Bill Seitz, addressed to Ohio Representative, and ALEC state chair, John Adams. The memo revealed attempts by ALEC and Seitz to block a bi-partisan bill in Ohio. The False Claims Act would have enabled the state of Ohio to re-claim money from corporations who commit fraud against taxpayers.  Every year, billions of dollars are recovered through similar federal and state laws. The legislation has traditionally been strongly supported by Republicans. The Ohio bill was introduced by two Republican Senators, Sen. Jim Hughes (R) and Sen. Scott Oelslager (R).

Sen. Seitz explained in the private memo that he was concerned about the recent upsurge in “false claims” legislation across the country. He wrote: “While this is understandable, as states are broke, the considered advice from our friends at ALEC was that such legislation is not well taken and should not be approved.”

According to the non-profit Taxpayers Against Fraud, over $40 Billion has been recovered from corporations using state and federal false claims legislation since 1987, with $9 Billion recovered in 2012 alone.

According to Seitz’s memo, he was persuaded to intervene following discussions at ALEC’s Civil Justice Task Force meeting in Ohio in April 2011. Seitz chairs this particular ALEC task force, sitting alongside many corporations who have paid billions because of recent false claims actions, including UK based GlaxoSmithKline ($3Billion) and Pfizer ($1Billion).

The main question I have been grappling with since I first saw this memo is: Who’s interest was Seitz considering when he decided to oppose this bill? Did he have Ohio taxpayers on his mind, or ALEC and its corporate funders?

Perhaps the answer is considered in Seitz’s own words: he signed off his memo to Rep. Adams with the words: “Thanks again for all your hard work on behalf of ALEC.”

Watch the full video, courtesy of FOX19here:

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