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Report: ALEC faces financial, possibly legal, problems

NEW YORK, Dec. 3 (UPI) -- A conservative U.S. lobbying group critics say has undue influence on public policy faces a funding crisis and possible legal trouble, internal documents show.

The documents, obtained by The Guardian, indicate the American Legislative Exchange Council is appealing to major donors for help in averting a financial crisis, and is establishing a new project with a different name to help remove "questions of ethical violations made by our critics and state ethics boards," the British newspaper said.

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ALEC -- which describes itself on its website as a "non-partisan membership association for conservative state lawmakers" -- has drawn fire from liberals who accuse it of using its influence in state legislatures to win passage of bills intended to weaken public employee unions, reproductive rights and voters rights.

The Guardian said major donors have left the organization in recent years in response to such criticism, and ALEC has undertaken a campaign known as the "Prodigal Son Project" to try to get more than 40 members to rejoin -- including Amazon, Coca-Cola, General Electric, Kraft, McDonald's and Walmart.

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The report said those companies, among others, left ALEC after the shooting death of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin drew attention to the group's sponsorship of stand-your-ground laws.

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The Guardian said nearly 400 state legislators, including many Republicans, have dropped their membership in ALEC during the past two years, and the organization sustained a shortfall of more than one-third in its funding in the first half of 2013.

The documents indicate ALEC has established the "Jeffersonian Project" as a tax-exempt entity to vehicle to carry on its so-called social welfare efforts, allowing ALEC to operate more overtly as a lobbying agency, The Guardian said.

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ALEC is scheduled to hold its annual meeting Wednesday in Washington, the report said.

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