To Coghill, that relationship is good thing. To others, it's a back door for powerful interests such as gun manufacturers, the pharmaceutical industry, private educators and corporate prisons to influence laws in state houses across the country without leaving a fingerprint.
When conservative measures spring up in state legislatures, such as the "Stand Your Ground" bill made infamous in Florida with the killing of Trayvon Martin, or bills requiring voters to present photo IDs, there's a good chance that they were promoted at ALEC conferences. Forms of both measures have been introduced in Alaska's Legislature, though the sponsors say the texts of their bills did not come from ALEC directly.
Critics say such bills are often "solutions in search of problems" because they stem from national agendas, not responses to local concerns. Anchorage Rep. Lynn, an ALEC member and chief supporter here of photo IDs for voters, has said he knows of no cases of voter fraud in Alaska that his measure would have prevented, but proposed the law as a precaution just in case.
Where photo ID laws have been enacted in other states, they've been cited as tools to suppress voting among minorities, college students and the elderly -- blocs that tend to vote Democratic more often than Republican.
Keller said he wasn't aware of any ALEC-inspired legislation that would be introduced in the Alaska Legislature this year or next. Rep. Mark Neuman, R-Big Lake, the sponsor of the 2011 Stand Your Ground bill, which died in the Senate, said last spring he would keep reintroducing it until it passed.
RENEWABLE ENERGY ROLL BACKS
Nick Surgey, staff counsel for Common Cause, said one hot ALEC issue is an effort pushed by the coal industry and other traditional energy sources to roll back renewable energy targets and mandates adopted by some 30 states, including Alaska.
Backers of the roll-back call the targets a "tax" on power consumers who might have to pay more, at least in the short term, because the capital costs can be expensive. But supporters say they will reduce carbon emissions, establish 21st-century industries in the United States and make the country less reliant on imports.
For McGuire, whose strong support of renewables ended up in a bill passed by the Legislature in 2010, her experiences on the issue with ALEC soured her on the group. She attended the 2009 ALEC convention in Memphis.
McGuire said industry experts she met were helpful when it came to providing information on hydrocarbon development. But when the subject turned to any other energy source -- wind, hydro, tidal, solar, geothermal -- "they were very myopic," she said.
"Their views certainly were not reflective of the broad-based concerns that a place like Alaska would need to consider," she said. "I worked for years on both responsible hydrocarbon development but also renewable energy development, and the two ought to proceed side by side."
Developing hydrocarbons -- oil, coal and gas -- makes great sense as a revenue base, she said. But for local consumption, especially in rural Alaska, "wherever you can find a resource that provides power to a community that is renewable, that's certainly the one you want," she said. "That's the kind of thinking that ALEC doesn't accept."
ALEC's spokeswoman, Kaitlyn Buss, said in an email that she would make someone available from the organization for an interview, then stopped responding to messages.