Rep. Greg Forristall Ignores Public Records Request, Claims All Iowa Legislators are ALEC Members
Des Moines, Iowa — Rep. Greg Forristall ignored a request to release information about the May 2-3 meeting of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), where he will serve as Chair of the Education Task Force, according to correspondence released by Progress Iowa today. Forristall also claimed that all Iowa legislators are members of ALEC, despite reports to the contrary from members of the Iowa House and Senate.
“Representative Forristall failed to meet his own definition of participatory democracy,” said Matt Sinovic, executive director of Progress Iowa. “In order for Forristall’s constituents and all Iowans to fully participate in the democratic process – which he claims to want – the Representative should release all documents related to the ALEC meeting in May, as well as information detailing how much of our tax dollars are being spent to fund this secretive organization.”
The records request was sent in part as a response to a column Forristall wrote last month defending ALEC. Progress Iowa has engaged in a longstanding effort to educate the public about ALEC, which has been described as a “corporate bill mill” by local and national media due to the influence it grants to corporations with legislators.
Rep. Forristall’s column, published in the Des Moines Register on March 20, 2013, described the “participatory” nature of government, and described ALEC as having a “voluntary membership.” Despite what he wrote, Forristall chose to ignore a request to make public documents that would shed light on the otherwise secret activities of ALEC. The Iowa Supreme Court has denoted the House is exempt from disclosing the data Progress Iowa is seeking.
In an email message to Rep. Forristall on April 17, Progress Iowa’s Executive Director Matt Sinovic requested that he release the following information: any “35-Day Mailing” from ALEC (they typically send a mailing 35 days prior to their meeting with information about upcoming proposals); the roster of ALEC members in Iowa; the roster of membership in Forristall’s education task force; financial records detailing payments from the State of Iowa to ALEC for the payment of membership dues and any other payments.
Forristall responded with just one sentence, ignoring the remainder of the requests: “Mr. Sinovic, All Senate and House members of the Iowa Legislature are members of ALEC, NCSL, and CSG.” However, the Iowa House Democratic caucus sent a request before the legislative session that none their members join ALEC. During the past several years House members have automatically been “opted in” to ALEC membership, and their request was meant to pre-empt that membership and any taxpayer funded dues associated with membership.
Progress Iowa is asking all Iowans to contact Rep. Forristall to ask him to live up to his definition of participatory democracy, and release the requested information about ALEC membership and the May 2-3 meeting in Oklahoma City. For more information visit progressiowa.org.