Kane County Commissioner Doug Heaton made a pitch for membership during the Grand County Council’s meeting on May 7. There was little discussion then, but the issue arose again during the council’s Tuesday, May 21, meeting with an agenda item to approve memberships and subscriptions for 2013.
Membership in the American Lands Council would have cost $5,000. However, that wasn’t the main reason council members vetoed the idea.
Council vice chairman Lynn Jackson said there are “fundamental problems” with the organization.
“They are a secret Super PAC,” he said. “They are not required to report who gives them money or how much money they have.”
Jackson said such political action committees “allow our democracy to be purchased.”
Officially known as “independent-expenditure only committees,” Super PACs are not allowed to give money directly to political candidates’ campaigns or political parties. But unlike traditional PACs, there is no legal limit on the size of donations they can accept from individuals, unions, corporations or other groups.
Jackson said many residents of Grand County probably agree with the American Land Council’s philosophies while just as many probably are opposed. He said it is wrong to use taxpayer money to support a particular political agenda.
Council chairman Gene Ciarus said he is a member of American Lands Council. Still, he said, “You can question using public money” for membership.
Council member Elizabeth Tubbs also went on record against joining the group, saying she doesn’t agree with its primary goal of returning federal lands to states. Tubbs added that $5,000 is too much money to spend for a membership.
Council member Jim Nyland cited the group’s private nature in opposing membership.
“I hate to see taxpayer dollars go to a private organization and I’m not sold on this organization,” he said.
The American Lands Council’s mission is to “secure and defend local control of land access, land use and land ownership,” according to an information brochure from the group.
“Federal control of public lands is destroying forests and watersheds, shutting off access, constricting economic opportunity, breaking state and local government budgets, and threatening our way of life,” the brochure states.