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The Alliance for a Better UTAH is accusing the American Legislative Exchange Council of using its clout to silence dissent at its upcoming annual conference in Salt Lake City.

The alliance sought to rent space in the Little America Hotel, where it could host speakers and information about ALEC's influence on state legislatures.

But the group says that after the reservation had been confirmed, the hotel called back and said ALEC refused to let the alliance rent space in the hotel during the conference.

Alliance for a Better UTAH Executive Director Maryann Martindale said that apparently ALEC has the right to refuse other groups space, according to their contract with the hotel.

"Better UTAH believes in the First Amendment and the open sharing of ideas," Martindale said, "while ALEC prefers, by shutting Better UTAH out of the hotel, to work in secrecy and silence their opposition."

A spokeswoman for Little America did not respond to a request for a comment.

ALEC has been in the crosshairs of progressive groups, like the Alliance for a Better Utah, for using conferences such as the one in Salt Lake City in July to bring corporate lobbyists together with lawmakers to try to get favorable legislation passed in as many states as possible.

ALEC will be using space at the Grand America and the adjacent Little America hotels for the conference.

gehrke@sltrib.comTwitter: @RobertGehrke

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