An advocacy group is asking Attorney General Roy Cooper to investigate the tax status of the American Legislative Exchange Council, a conservative group that counts House Speaker Thom Tillis as one of its top members.
Common Cause sent the letter Tuesday just weeks after it filed a whistleblower complaint against ALEC with the IRS, saying they are operating as a tax-exempt nonprofit while lobbying state legislatures across the country.
"Common Cause has discovered compelling evidence that ALEC is a corporate lobby masquerading as a charity. ALEC’s compliance with state tax, gift, solicitation and lobbying laws should be reviewed by your office and/or appropriate state regulatory authorities," the letter states. "As attorney general, you’re charged with responsibility for ensuring that North Carolina laws are properly applied and enforced. In view of the overwhelming evidence that ALEC is engaged in lobbying, I urge you to review its compliance with all applicable state laws or to refer this matter to the appropriate state regulatory authorities for their action."
ALEC maintains it doesn't do any lobbying. But the organization is facing intense public scrutiny for supporting controversial legislation such as voter ID measures and "stand your ground" provisions like those in place in Florida where Trayvon Martin was killed in February.
In recent weeks a dozen companies disowned ALEC under public pressure. The organization is still supported by Bank of America, Reynolds American and Duke Energy, all North Carolina-based companies, Common Cause said.
ALEC named Tillis, a Republican from the Charlotte area, as its state legislator of the year in 2011. The organization is holding a task force meeting in Charlotte on Friday and Saturday to consider "model legislation" for lawmaker to introduce.
Common Cause, a nonpartisan watchdog group, sent similar letters have been sent to attorneys general in dozens of other states.