Chairman Burn Calls on GOP Legislature to Reimburse Taxpayers for Outrageous and Improper Spending on Right Wing Organization
Harrisburg, PA - Today, Pennsylvania Democratic Party Chairman Jim Burn called on Republicans in the state legislature to reimburse taxpayers for the money they gave to an extreme right wing organization, American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). As reported by Salon, many Republican lawmakers, including House Leader Mike Turzai, use taxpayer dollars to pay their membership dues and the Republican caucus spent $50,000 to cater a conference for ALEC in Philadelphia.
"This is a completely unacceptable use of taxpayer dollars and Republicans in the state legislature must reimburse taxpayers for these outrageous expenses," said Burn. "How can any Republicans cut funding for education and kick people off their health insurance while spending over $30,000 on chicken and lollipops for a conference hosting an extreme right wing group. Aside from the outrageousness of these expenses, it is completely improper for taxpayer dollars to go toward supporting a clearly partisan organization. Republicans must reimburse all expenses and membership dues associated with ALEC immediately."
A taxpayer-supported campaign against Big Government (Salon) Taxpayer dollars in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Tennessee and Kansas are being spent to fund state lawmakers' memberships in the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which provides model state legislation drafted with the help of big business. In some of the states, public money has gone to travel and food expenses as well, including in Pennsylvania, whose taxpayers spent $50,000 to cater ALEC's 2007 conference in Philadelphia.
The most notable disbursement of public money to ALEC, discovered in documents obtained by this reporter from Common Cause for a separate Philadelphia City Paper article, took place in Pennsylvania, where a $50,000 appropriation to cater the ALEC meeting was slipped into the 2007 state budget. The food bill for that gathering ended up including $30,450 for roasted chicken breast, $4,000 for Philly cheese-steaks and $3,000 for cheesecake lollipops -- all of it paid for by Pennsylvania taxpayers.
Pennsylvania also paid per diems to legislators attending ALEC conferences, and reimbursed them for other expenses relating to their travel -- $6,667.78 since 2007. One Republican state representative, Daryl Metcalfe, perhaps the state's most outspokenly conservative legislator, has received per diems for three ALEC conferences, including one as recently as last December. According to state documents Metcalfe received state per diems for ALEC conferences in both 2007 and 2009, two years that ALEC also reimbursed Metcalfe for, respectively $832.91 and $1,464.51.
Alexis Brown, the comptroller for the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, refused to explain how her office decides what is and is not a permissible business expense that can be reimbursed with public funds. Republican Majority Leader Michael Turzai has also had membership dues paid for by the state, something that Turzai's spokesman, Steve Mishkin, defended.