State Rep. Paul Bandy, co-chair of the American Legislative Exchange Council in New Mexico, gave a surprisingly candid, on-the-record interview that Progress Now New Mexico attended and recorded.
In the clip above, Bandy says that he never solicited a single donation and that money just appears in his mailbox from ALEC-related corporations. Some in the audience laughed at the remarks, but Bandy didn't bristle at being called a 'corporate-sponsored legislator,' something that should give pause to New Mexico voters.
Bandy was extremely confused about what the word 'lobbying' means and completely got the definition wrong in reference to ALEC, who he said didn't lobby. Lobbying, according to Bandy at one point, only takes place during the legislative session in the literal lobby of the state house. He later backed off those comments. He refused to answer a question about the secrecy associated with the corporate sponsors of the bills that come through ALEC, although he did admit that at least one law that he helped push through the legislature wouldn't have passed (or would've passed with a smaller margin) if he had told anyone that ALEC was involved. Bandy also refused to reveal all the legislators who were involved in ALEC, although he did reveal that more of them were associated with the group than was publicly known. He had the membership dues to know that for a fact, although he refused to produce the membership list.
An issue that came up quite a bit was how legislators were able to afford to attend ALEC events. Bandy had no problem with them using taxpayer funds to travel to the events because the organization is 'non-partisan.' He also had no problem with the fact that he and his ALEC co-chair, Sen. Bill Payne, run a corporate-sponsored slush fund to cover costs for the trips as well. Unsurprisingly, Bandy didn't reveal how the fund was paid for and seemed not to have any problem with the fact that legislators were attending ideological events using both taxpayer funds and corporate 'donations.' Bandy himself had received the funds, but didn't answer a question about whether or not they should be considered campaign contributions.
Bandy said that he didn't like the use of tax deductible money being used for political purposes, but had no comment on ALEC using tax-deductible money for political purposes. He refused to explicitly state how he felt about the Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United, refusing to state how he voted on the legislature's resolution condemning the ruling. Public records reveal that he refused to vote on the resolution.
Anyone interested in getting legislation passed, Bandy said, should do like ALEC and write him a check for $2,300, buy him lunch and he will consider the legislation. Theoretically, this comment was a joke.
The strangest comment to come out of the session so far was what Bandy said about the Occupy movement:
And my, uh, experience is that I have a lot in common with some of the Occupy protestors, I mean we have a lot of ideas that are similar. I think if we can get past some of the rhetoric, you know, we can come to some kind of a head and that's why I invited everybody to breakfast - my breakfast.
Bandy was one of a number of state legislators that Progress Now New Mexico has called upon to resign from ALEC. While he didn't agree to that suggestion, he was critical of the partisan nature of ALEC:
"ALEC has become more polarized," he told us. "I've heard, at various meetings, from Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich... Herman Cain, Rick Perry. So, we've heard from all of these people, and they give very partisan speeches... So, I've told people, if we want to keep this a non-partisan organization, we don't need to do that."
Like a typical ALEC member, Bandy decried the 'liberal social agenda' in public schools as the reason for educational decline in the United States. When pressed on what that meant, he said that it meant that kids were being taught 'conflict resolution' and 'self esteem.' These things are bad according to Bandy and he'd prefer them to learn about balancing checkbooks.
Full audio of all the clips is available on the Progress New New Mexico web site.