Marriott security personnel, accompanied by police, evicted reporters covering for PR Watch on two occasions.

The guards and police were operating at request of the American Legislative Exchange Council, an organization of 2,000 state legislators and 300 corporate representatives that prepares “model” bills for submission to legislatures. ALEC, whose EIN is 52-0140979, had $9,218,069 in revenues in 2011, a gain of 28%, and net assets of $3,604,784 at the end of the year, a gain of 141% from previous assets of $1,492,240. Current chair is Connecticut State Rep John Piscopo, senior Republican whip of the state legislature. 

Executive director is John Scheberle, who was paid $204,000 in 2011.

Although ALEC describes itself as non-partisan, PR Watch says there is only one Democrat among the 104 legislators in leadership positions. It says ALEC is a lobbying organization in violation of its 501/c/3 “charity” tax status

PRW representatives were evicted from ALEC meetings after being denied press credentials.

sealPiscopo 
The story resonates with this writer because PR Society of America ordered my eviction from the lobby of the Marriott Marquis in San Francisco Oct. 13, 2012 after I talked to another reporter.

Both police and hotel guards had surrounded me earlier when I started talking to PR people in a corridor that led to the Society meeting rooms. Initial warning had been that I could stand in the corridor but in back of a line, which had been the policy in 2011.

However, after several people said hello to me, guards and police ordered me to take two escalators up to the lobby and remain there where I was not to talk to anyone nor hand out anything. When a reporter talked to me, I was evicted and told not to come back. A guard walked me shoulder-to-shoulder and said I had no option except to leave. I felt under threat of being bodily evicted. He said the only place I could legally be was across the street from the hotel.

Reporters Booted in Tucson, New Orleans

PRW said ALEC told police to evict one of PRW’s reporters from a hotel in Tucson who was having a drink with another reporter.

In a second instance, at the Marriott in New Orleans, hotel security forced PRW reporter Beau Hodai of www.DBApress.com to leave after ALEC denied him credentials and they also “accosted” reporter Lee Fang of the Nation Institute.

ALEC’s media policy says reporters will not be credentialed if they are with outlets funded by think tanks, political candidates, activist groups, lobbying groups, or trade associations. 

Reporters are not allowed to distribute materials.

Requests to record or videotape any sessions are subject to approval and journalists who disobey any of the rules may be “removed from the meeting.”

PRW says that while ALEC describes itself as not being involved in lobbying, it actually “makes old-fashioned lobbying obsolete. 

Once legislators return to their state with corporate-sponsored ALEC legislation in hand, the legislators themselves become super lobbyists for ALEC’s corporate agenda, cutting out the middleman. Yet ALEC enjoys 501/c/3 (charity, educational) classification which lets it keep its tax-exempt status while taking grants from foundations, corporations and other donors.”

Koch Brothers Longtime Supporters

Charles and David Koch, each worth $31 billion according to Forbes, are among the longtime supporters of ALEC.

They are owners of Georgia-Pacific which is headquartered in Atlanta and whose employee Julia Davis sits on the board of PRSA/Atlanta.

Other companies supporting ALEC include ExxonMobil which gave it $1.4 million from 1998-2009 and Johnson & Johnson. 

Foundations supporting it include those controlled by the Koch family such as the Claude R. Lambe Foundation, the Scaife family Allegheny Foundation and Coors family Castle Rock Foundation.

Students: You Are in a Red State

College students and grads attending the “Real World” career day of the Society chapter Feb. 22 at the Crowne Plaza Atlanta Perimeter at Ravinia must be aware of the way political winds are blowing in the business world or they could commit fatal gaffs.

It would not be a good idea, for instance, for an attendee to walk around with a President Obama pin on his or her lapel.

Students have to be careful of what they say not only at career day but at a reception the night before at the hotel when there will be an informal social mixer from 6-9 p.m. Registrants are told they will “meet the PRSA/GA college relations committee and have face time with PR professionals before the big day.”

The South is solidly Republican, as shown by the recent national election, and the Society can be described as a Southern institution.

Four of the current six executive committee members are from the South or Southwest including chair Mickey Nall of Atlanta; treasurer Blake Lewis, Dallas; secretary Kathy Barbour, Baptist Health South Florida, Coral Gables (formerly with Mayo Clinic), and immediate past chair Rosanna Fiske, now with the Miami PR firm Republica. She was director of the Global Strategic Communications program and a faculty member of Florida International University until last August.

McCormick Quit But Came Back

Gary McCormick, with HGTV, Knoxville, Tenn., was 2010 chair. He resigned from the board on Oct. 5, 2011 citing “personal and professional reasons.” He refused to expand on that explanation when asked by this reporter at the 2011 conference when he passed by me on the way to the Assembly. He returned to active Society service last year as head of the nominating committee.

Three of the four most recent chairs thus were from the South—Nall, Fiske and McCormick.

When Fiske ran for chair-elect in 2009, her only opponent was counselor Leslie Backus, located about 20 miles away in Davie, Fla. 

Dave Rickey of Birmingham, who chaired the bylaws re-write committee in 2009, was secretary in 2011. Phil Tate, Charlotte, N.C., was treasurer in 2011-12, the first time in Society history someone had been treasurer two years in a row.

Leaders of the Society’s accreditation process including the Universal Accreditation Board (majority of members being from the Society) are mostly from the South. Current co-chairs are Jay Rayburn of Florida State University and John Forde of Mississippi State. The audit chair in 2011 was Cheryl Ball of Knoxville.

Another period of Southern dominance of the chair was from 2003-2006. Reed Byrum of Austin, Texas was chair in 2003; Del Galloway of Jacksonville, Fla., chair in 2004, and Judith Phair, Laurel, Md., chair in 2006.

Mention of O’Dwyer’s Is Dangerous

A student who asks why the career day rejected offers of O’Dwyer’s directories, magazines, list of PR recruiters, list of books and other job-hunting materials might cause a case of hiccups among chapter leaders.

The “PR” for career day, in which a communications lockdown took place almost from Day One but did not stop this website from writing thousands of words about it, is a sample of what students will experience should they go into PR.

They will be under severe constraints as to what they can say but will be unable to stop a tsunami of press reports based on information that is available on the web including social media, tax documents and historical records. Dissidents of one sort or another will talk to the press.

Should they enter corporate/institutional PR, they will have someone else answer their phones and only e-mails from the friendliest of reporters will be answered. Legal will check incoming and outgoing e-mails.