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DES MOINES — The House Ethics Committee dismissed with prejudice a complaint against Majority Leader Linda Upmeyer.

The complaint from Nick Harper of Iowa City claimed that Upmeyer, R-Garner, is a lobbyist for the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, which would be in violation of House ethics rules.

ALEC is a conservative political organization made up of private citizens and elected officials across the country. Founded in 1973, the group’s mission is to promote “Jeffersonian principles of free markets, limited government, federalism and individual liberty through a nonpartisan public-private partnership of America’s state legislators, members of the private sector, the federal government, and general public,” according to the group’s website, www.alec.org.

As a practical matter, the group produces sample legislation that is consistent with its views, hosts conferences and puts on educational seminars.

Upmeyer is the organization’s national treasurer, although she is one of 64 members of the Iowa House who are dues-paying members of the organization, according to the staff of House Speaker Kraig Paulsen, R-Hiawatha. The memberships cost taxpayers $100 per member, or $6,400 a year.

The Ethics Committee, which is made up of three Republicans and three Democrats, decided unanimously Wednesday that Upmeyer wasn’t a lobbyist because she was never paid by the organization nor listed by the organization as a lobbyist.

“That’s the technical difference here,” said Rep. Kevin Koester, R-Ankeny, chairman of the committee. “It would certainly be permissible for a person to belong to that organization and advocate for a bill that is on their platform.”

Adam Mason, an organizer with Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement  who attended the Statehouse hearing, said Upmeyer’s role deserves further investigation.

“Any thinking person would have serious questions about where Rep. Upmeyer is getting her marching orders,” given her leadership roles in the House and in ALEC, Mason said.

But Ethics Committee member Dan Kelley, D-Newton, said advocacy groups play a key role in the process.

“I think it’s important that legislators get information from various sources to be able to arrive at the correct decisions,” he said. “I attended the Progressive States’ Conference in Baltimore last week and got a lot of good information … I feel I’m a better legislator for having access to that information.”


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