At least three GOP presidential hopefuls are set to appear in San Diego in late July as part of the conservative ALEC annual meeting at downtown’s Manchester Grand Hyatt.

Image from change.org petition launched by UC San Diego political activist.

Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee are listed as speakers at the 42nd annual meeting of the American Legislative Exchange Council.

Cruz, 44, and Huckabee, 59, have formally announced bids for the Republican nomination. Walker, 47, is expected to join the 14-candidate field in coming weeks. Walker is a former ALEC member.

San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer also is slated to address the group, which had drawn fire from liberals over its financial backers and role in advancing certain causes.

In fact, a petition launched on change.org urges Faulconer to withdraw from the July 21-25 event. Fewer than 60 had signed the petition as of Tuesday night.

Based in Arlington, Virginia, ALEC describes itself as a nonpartisan membership association for state lawmakers “who [share] a common belief in limited government, free markets, federalism and individual liberty.”

The group posts its reactions to news at americanlegislator.org. Its critics include the Center for Media and Democracy, which notes what it considers hurtful ALEC activities.

San Diego County Democratic Party Chairwoman Francine Busby called ALEC “a shadowy front group that spawns anti-woman, anti-voter, anti-environmental, anti-worker and other extreme legislation across the country.”

She announced a protest July 22 to “expose and shame the group’s corporate backers, which include Exxon Mobil, Pfizer, Altria and Koch Industries, as well as politicians like San Diego County’s own [state] Sen. Joel Anderson, who serves on ALEC’s Board of Directors.”

Faulconer’s office did not respond to a request for comment on the change.org petition.

The petition, posted by UC San Diego political activist Maximilian Cotterill, asks: “Why is our self-declared ‘moderate’ mayor … speaking at their meeting alongside radical and hateful Tea Party leaders? … If Kevin Faulconer supports combating climate change, equal rights for the LGBT community, and women’s right to choose, why is he speaking with these movements’ most outspoken opponents?”

Other featured speakers at the ALEC meeting are:

  • Elbert Lin, solicitor general in West Virginia and a former law clerk to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas who takes part in Federalist Society events.
  • State Rep. Rick Miller of Texas, a Republican member of the Texas House of Representatives since 2012. He was a naval aviator who later served in the Pentagon.
  • Retired Army Lt. Col. Allen West, who represented a Florida district in Congress for one term and Monday told a Fox News program that the Confederate flag issue is “a manufactured political crisis” by liberals to distract people. “We’ve gone from 77 percent of two-parent households in the black community to 25 percent,” he said on “Fox and Friends.” “That’s what we should be talking about, not about a piece of cloth.”

Also set to speak are former Reagan adviser Arthur Laffer, the supply-side economics author, and Travis Brown, a strategist and fundraiser for the Republican Governors Association.

ALEC is the target of a 2012 “whistleblower complaint” by Common Cause, which alleges that the nonprofit group “misuses charity laws, massively underreports lobbying, and obtains improper tax breaks for corporate funders at the taxpayers’ expense.”

In recent years, ALEC has lost dozens of corporate members.

“Thanks to pressure from shareholders, unions and public interest organizations, more than 90 companies have severed ties with ALEC since 2012,” says the Center for Media and Democracy. “The list of deserters comprises a veritable Who’s Who of U.S. business, including Amazon, Bank of America, Coca-Cola, General Electric, General Motors, IBM, Kraft, McDonald’s, Microsoft, Procter & Gamble and Wal-Mart.”

Two weeks ago, another GOP hopeful, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, was the main speaker at the San Diego Republican Party’s annual Lincoln Reagan Dinner at the Hilton San Diego Bayfront.

Early registration for the ALEC meeting has closed, but members and nonmembers can still sign up for the event.

Fees range from $150 for spouses and guests to $1,400 for private sector nonmembers registering on site.

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