After our 11Alive Investigators report, the organization that put the corporations and lawmakers together at a Savannah resort is responding.

WXIA

ATLANTA (WXIA) -- The 11Alive Investigators caught legislators and lobbyists meeting behind closed doors in an investigation that has been seen by millions nationwide.

Now, the organization that put the corporations and lawmakers together at a Savannah resort is responding.

They're the back rooms where laws are born. The Investigators traced a Georgia asbestos law to its origins inside a Las Vegas casino hotel.

Last month's meeting was at a Savannah resort, where the American Legislative Exchange Council -- or ALEC – had us kicked out when we tried to get into the "back room" where Georgia lawmakers and corporations were creating legislation.

"You need to be credentialed at registration," an ALEC spokesperson said when 11Alive's Brendan Keefe tried to enter the meeting room.

"Please step over here," the woman said, stepping away from the doorway. "Please step over here."

We were wearing Georgia State Capitol credentials – but those were not good enough to observe Georgia state legislators discussing potential laws in Georgia.

Bill Meierling, ALEC's Vice President of Communications and Public Relations, then spoke with Keefe.

"Okay," Meierling said, motioning to four deputies nearby. "Well, then I'd like to have you escorted out of the building, please."

"Okay, I'm a guest of this hotel," Keefe said. "I'm actually staying here at this hotel."

"So here's the question," Keefe said. "If Georgia legislators are meeting here; we're credentialed, right here to see Georgia legislators making laws. Are they discussing things that could become law here?"

"Georgia legislators are here participating in discussions where they're learning from legislators from other states," Meierling said.

"They're not lobbyists – the ones that we recorded in the bar last night aren't lobbyists that are here as members?" Keefe asked.

In the conversation in question, lobbyists could be seen talking about their affiliation with ALEC in the hotel's bar.

State Rep: Well on a trip like this, (he turned to the lobbyist seated next to him) – and this is where you would come in ma'am -- on a trip like this, I'm the state, (bleep) state chair of ALEC, and I look for financial supporters.

State Rep: Lobbyists and the like (turning to lobbyist once again) such as yourself to send us a couple thousand bucks every so often that gives me money to help those folks with. Now, on the other hand --

The "back room" was inside a resort hotel in Savannah, guarded by uniformed sheriff's deputies we saw taking their orders from ALEC staffers – which included kicking us out.

ALEC Responds to Atlanta TV Station’s Investigative ReportPolice officers outside one of the meeting rooms (Photo: WXIA)

"I'm going to have ask you to leave," a deputy said.

"Did we violate some law or something?" Keefe asked. "I mean, are we violating a law?"

"Don't say nothing," the deputy said to a second deputy who had come over to assist with throwing us out.

ALEC responded on its website, saying the 11Alive report "exhibited a fundamental misunderstanding of ALEC… ALEC is a forum for the exchange of ideas and free-market policies by a diverse array of members including legislators, business and thought leaders, think-tank scholars and individuals."

"Is it an organization that Joe Public can join? Or do you have to be a lobbyist or legislator?" Keefe asked.

The ALEC spokesperson in the video said we caught him off guard, and then referred to his media policy, which allows the organization to hand-pick which reporters are allowed in. It requires written permission to rebroadcast legislative meetings like the one we walked into.

So we asked ALEC for permission to show you the video from inside that committee room.

As for the deputies that kicked us out of the hotel? They were Chatham County Sheriff's deputies, but it is not clear what law they were actually enforcing. The Chatham County Attorney is reviewing our open records request for invoices and other documents which will let us know who was actually calling the shots on that day at the hotel.

ALEC statement on NBC Atlanta (WXIA-TV)

For several years, ALEC has welcomed journalists from prominent outlets to ALEC workshops and plenary sessions. In December 2014, 34 journalists were credentialed to attend the Washington, D.C. meeting. The ALEC media policy clearly states which meetings are open.

Unfortunately, the recent piece on the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) broadcast by NBC Atlanta (WXIA-TV) sensationalizes and misrepresents ALEC member engagement and policy discussions. ALEC is a forum for the exchange of ideas and free-market policies by a diverse array of members including legislators, business and thought leaders, think tank scholars and individuals.

11 Alive Atlanta takes issue with the format of policy discussions as well as ALEC travel reimbursement and media policies, all of which are clearly posted at ALEC.org. The report exhibits a fundamental misunderstanding of ALEC.

All ALEC policy discussions are abstract, educational in nature and use examples from existing state policy as the basis for academic discussion and professional development. All drafts are posted at ALEC.org, as are those models approved by the Board of Directors, comprised solely of state legislators. This was not made clear in the 11 Alive piece.

Unlike other state legislative organizations, ALEC is not taxpayer funded. Travel reimbursement for continuing education is a universally accepted practice and conforms to regulations set forth by the IRS and state ethics commissions. ALEC reimbursement guidelines are posted at ALEC.org.

ALEC members look forward to future meetings where they will exchange ideas as they have for 42 years. Policy formulation is a collaborative process whereby all stakeholders impacted by a given issue should be engaged. There is no greater demonstration of American democracy than the gathering of people to discuss and exchange ideas.