At least twenty American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) member state legislators and alumni ran for higher office in Tuesday's election, in races from U.S. House and Senate to governor and other executive branch state positions. How did they fare? The short answer is that most won their elections with the support of Koch-tied groups.
North Carolina's Senate Race: Tillis
ALEC board member Thom Tillis (R-98) engaged in a race against incumbent U.S. Senator Kay Hagan (D) that broke records for money in politics. The Koch brothers' new Super PAC, Freedom Partners Action Fund (FPAF) made a huge seven-figure ad buy attacking Hagan in the final weeks of the race that pushed it over the top, making it the all-time number one Senate race in outside spending, as CMD reported. Tillis' participation at ALEC meetings connected him with a national network of high-powered corporations and donors. Koch Industries lobbyist Mike Morgan, for example, sits on ALEC's private sector "advisory council," which meets jointly with the board of directors on which Tillis sits. After a very close race and with most of the votes counted, Tillis defeated Hagan with 49% of the vote.
Colorado's Senate Race: Gardner
Colorado U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner (R-4) was an ALEC member as a state legislator and is prominently claimed as an ALEC alumnus. He has received corporate gifts via ALEC's "Scholarship Fund." He challenged incumbent U.S. Sen. Mark Udall (D) in Tuesday's election. While Udall's campaign outspent Gardner's, outside spending favored Gardner by nearly $10 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP). The combined total of campaign and outside spending made this Senate campaign the second most expensive in the country, according to CRP. Gardner won the race with 49% of the vote.
Spending supporting Gardner or attacking Udall came from the Koch-tied 60 Plus Association, Freedom Partners Action Fund, Freedomworks for America, National Federation of Independent Business, and Tea Party Patriots Citizens Fund; Karl Rove's Super PAC American Crossroads and 501(c)(4) Crossroads GPS; the Koch-founded and -funded (and ALEC-tied) Americans for Prosperity; the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and more.
Iowa's Senate Race: Ernst
Iowa state Senator Joni Ernst paid for ALEC membership with campaign funds, and her ALEC ties became an issue in her race against Democratic U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Tom Harkin (D), according to Mother Jones. Ernst, the underdog early in the crowded Republican primary, soon became the darling of outside spending groups, maintaining a $12 million lead in outside spending over Braley into the final weeks of the race, according to CRP. This Senate campaign joined North Carolina's and Colorado's in the top three biggest spending in the country. Ernst won the election with 52% of the vote.
Spending supporting Ernst or attacking Braley came from the Koch-tied 60 Plus Association, American Future Fund, Freedom Partners Action Fund, Freedomworks for America, National Federation of Independent Business, and Tea Party Patriots Citizens Fund; the ALEC member American Chemistry Council; Karl Rove's Super PAC American Crossroads and 501(c)(4) Crossroads GPS; the Tea Party-affiliated American Majority Action; the Koch-founded and -funded (and ALEC-tied) Americans for Prosperity; the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and more. (In a race that consistently skirted serious issues, the Chamber's ad attacking Braley featured a chicken dance.)
Wisconsin Races: Walker, Grothman
Wisconsin's outspoken, gaffe-prone state Senator Glenn Grothman has been a member of ALEC's Education and International Relations Task Forces, having paid for his ALEC membership with taxpayer money. When U.S. Rep. Tom Petri (R-6) announced that he would not run for reelection, Grothman announced his candidacy, although Petri refused to endorse him. Grothman ran against Democratic Winnebago County Executive Mark Harris in a district drawn up to be "safe" for Republicans. Grothman won with 56% of the vote.
Oregon Governor Race: Richardson
Oregon ALEC member Rep. Dennis Richardson (R-Central Point) ran for governor versus the incumbent, Democratic Governor John Kitzhaber, who was ahead by a narrow margin in the polls coming into Tuesday's election. Kitzhaber's campaign raised more than Richardson's, according to the National Institute for Money in State Politics. The Democratic incumbent won, defeating Richardson to secure a forth term.
Arizona Races: Tobin and Reagan
Arizona Speaker of the House Andy Tobin (R-1), who has had a seat on ALEC's anti-worker rights Commerce, Insurance, and Economic Development Task Force, ran for the first U.S. House district seat against Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick, whom Politico called "one of the most endangered Democratic incumbents in the country." Having raised only about a third of what Kirkpatrick did, to the aggravation of GOP strategists, Tobin received millions in support from outside groups -- as did Kirkpatrick. The race was one of the most expensive in the country. At the end of a tight race, and according to unofficial number reported by NPR affiliate KNAU, Kirkpatrick looks to be out in front, although the race has not yet been called.
Also in Arizona, ALEC state Senator Michele Reagan (R-8) ran for Secretary of State against Democrat Terry Goddard. Both Reagan and Goddard ran for the state's top elections post on pledges to expose "dark money." But the last few weeks of the race saw hundreds of thousands spent on ads attacking Democrat Goddard by the Koch-affiliated 60 Plus Association, which does not reveal its donors. Reagan refused to condemn the expenditure, according to the Arizona Republic. Goddard ran with funding from Arizona's public campaign-finance program, which meant he agreed not to fundraise from private sources. The outside spending by the Koch-tied group eclipsed the money to which he had access. Reagan won the election.
California House Races: Logue and Knight
Of California's three known ALEC members, two ran for higher office in this election: state Rep. Dan Logue (R-3) for U.S. House district three against incumbent Rep. John Garamendi (D). Garamendi, who outspent Logue, won his race with 52% of the vote. ALEC member state Sen. Steve Knight (R-21) ran for U.S. House district 25 against fellow Republican former state Sen. Tony Strickland. Knight won the election.
Virginia House Race: Comstock
Virginia ALEC member Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-34) won her race against Democratic Fairfield County Supervisor John Foust for the U.S. House in the 10th Congressional district. Spending for Comstock, both from her campaign and from outside groups, outstripped spending for Foust. Comstock participated in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Workforce Fairness Institute -- whose members include Richard Berman's front group the Center for Union Facts and National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB).
Georgia House Race: Loudermilk
Georgia ALEC member former Sen. Barry Loudermilk, who has had a seat on ALEC's Communications and Technology Task Force, became the presumptive U.S. Rep. for Georgia's 11th Congressional district when he won a July 2014 runoff primary against Bob Barr, as there is no Democratic candidate. Loudermilk won the uncontested election.
Michigan House Race: Moolenaar
In Michigan, ALEC member state Senator John Moolenaar (R-36) ran for U.S. House district four against Democrat Dr. Jeffrey Holmes, a family physician. Moolenaar was a member of ALEC's since-disbanded Public Safety and Elections Task Force, which pushed voter ID and "Stand Your Ground" bills. Moolenaar's campaign vastly outspent Holmes' and was also supported by hundreds of thousands in outside spending. No outside spending groups supported Holmes or opposed Moolenaar, according to CRP. Moolenaar won the election.
New Hampshire House Race: Garcia
New Hampshire Rep. Marilinda Garcia (R-4), an alternate member of ALEC's Commerce, Insurance, and Economic Development Task Force, ran against incumbent Anne McLane Kuster (D) for U.S. House in the second Congressional District.In this instance, Kuster won and Garcia lost the election.
Nevada Race: Cegavske
ALEC state chair Barbara Cegavske, who has been an ALEC member for at least 17 years and is on its Education Task Force, faced off against Democratic State Treasurer Kate Marshall for the role of Secretary of State, the state's top election official. Polling showed a tight race between Cegavske, who wants a new voter ID law (an ALEC bill), proposed a bill eliminating early voting, and has voted against increasing disclosure of money in politics; and Marshall, who supports same-day voter registration and increased transparency in political spending. Cegavske has said that she "supports increasing transparency in reporting gifts, travel, and campaign contributions to elected officials," according to the Las Vegas Sun. But as CMD has reported, her role as ALEC state chair means that she has solicited "corporate money for the ALEC 'Scholarship Fund' that was then used to pay for lawmakers' trips. Records show that ALEC legislators know who's paying their way -- some state leaders even urge lawmakers to send thank-you notes to their patrons -- but everyone else is kept in the dark." Cegavske won the election.
Other State Races
Other ALEC members in elections for higher office on Tuesday include:
- Arkansas Rep. Andrea Dean Lea (R-68), in election for state Auditor - Lea won the election.
- Illinois Rep. Tom Cross (R-84), in election for State Treasurer - too close to call.
- South Dakota Sen. Shantel Krebs (R-10), in election for Secretary of State - Krebs won the election.
- Texas Sen. Ken Paxton (R-8), in election for Attorney General - Paxton won the election.
In addition to ALEC members, this year's election saw Gary Palmer enter the race for U.S. House in the sixth Congressional district in Alabama. Palmer is the former president of the board of directors of the ALEC-allied web of right-wing "stink tanks," the State Policy Network (SPN), and chief development officer and former president of the SPN member Alabama Policy Institute. Palmer faced Democrat Mark Lester, but in what has been called "the reddest district in the country," Palmer won easily, outspending Lester along the way.
CMD's Nick Surgey contributed to this article. Feel free to send tips and election updates to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.