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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Joint Budget defeats bill to end study group dues

Posted By on Wed, Feb 22, 2012 at 10:40 AM

JUNKETEER: Rep. Nate Bell (R-Mena).
  • JUNKETEER: Rep. Nate Bell (R-Mena).
The Joint Budget Committee today killed on a clear voice vote a measure by Rep. Nate Bell to end more than a quarter-million-a-year in state spending on legislative dues for the National Conference of State Legislatures, a non-partisan research group. Bell and his ideological kin prefer to get their input from ALEC, the Koch- and corporate-funded lobby that produces conservative agenda legislation on a cookie cutter basis for a mostly, but not exclusively, Republican following. Corporate sponsors often provide "scholarships" for legislators to attend ALEC confabs, thus making legislators all the more willing to take their legislative handouts.

The NCSL, by way of contrast, doesn't write legislation and forbids corporate influence on its work. You can see where a Koch-head would prefer ALEC spending over this rigorously non-partisan approach.

Bell Twittered: "Voted down overwhelmingly. I think there are several here who enjoy taxpayer subsidized conference travel."

BHD award of the day to Nate Bell.

Here's Bell's statement of financial interest for 2011. It reports he took:

* $1,100 trip from the Council of State Governments of Decatur, Ga.

* $1,100 trip from the Friedman Foundation for a conference on "rural education reform." Friedman likes "choice" — vouchers and such.

* $735 for an Americans for Prosperity conference in Virginia.

* Two trips, $1,100 and $1,200, for Heartland Institute meetings in Chicago on climate change and "emerging issues."

And while we're talking about free spending of tax (or special interest) money, this junket list doesn't include the bogus "expense" reimbursements he's enjoyed courtesy of taxpayers. I should add that if trips are worthwhile to educate legislators, the state should pay. Better the state than special interests to whom lawmakers like Bell become too beholden.

Only the Council of State Governments among Bell's junkets is non-partisan. (Naturally, having had his junket, he wants to stop paying dues to them, too.) The others are funded by corporations or deep pockets like the Koch brothers, who created AFP and have backed, along with energy companies, the climate-change deniers at the Heartland Institute. When acolytes like Bell can succeed in strangling non-partisan research outfits like NCSL, the conservative "think tanks" have the fields to themselves.

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