ALEC News, Views and Material for Week of April 8th

News and articles relating to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) for the first week of April 2014.  Click on the headline to visit and read the full article or page where the information originates.

New developments in North Carolina and Wisconsin are forcing legislators to be more transparent regarding “model legislation” and identifying where bills originate…

Court: NC Legislators Must Reveal Documents, Purpose Behind Challenged Voting ‘Reform’

A U.S. District judge has ruled that Republican legislators in North Carolina must provide documents revealing their work in passing and implementing a radical election reform bill which, when it was passed last year, was described by opponentsas the “worse-than-anyone-would-have-ever-imagined voter suppression bill.”

Late last week, U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge Joi Elizabeth Peake issued anOrder [PDF] in which she rejected a blanket refusal by NC Republican state legislators to provide any documents that relate to the question of whether the sweeping legislation known as the Voter Information Reform Act (“VIVA” aka HB 589) amounted to nothing less than a racially-motivated attempt to deprive African-Americans of their constitutional right to vote…

…The effort is national in character because it has been concocted by Republicans along with the Koch brothers-funded, Paul Weyrich co-foundedAmerican Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), an organization of rightwing legislators and corporations seeking to pass “model legislation” on issues from election reform to so-called “stand your ground” gun laws to other so-called “free-market” initiatives.

The speed with which the NC GOP was able to ram through what the NAACP described as an “armada of amendments” to VIVA would surprise only those who are unfamiliar with the ALEC scheme to privatize the legislative process; secretly drafting, delivering and, in those states where the GOP maintains a legislative majority, passing ALEC-model bills, such as polling place Photo ID restrictions, all without any meaningful public debate.

Similar bills have been introduced in various state legislatures by one or more of some 2,000 ALEC legislative members. It seemed little coincidence that NC’s state Sen. Tom Apodaca (R), who, within hours of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Shelby County announced, “Now we can go with the full bill,” just happens to be a legislative member of ALEC.

“Before the bills are publicly introduced in state legislatures by ALEC politicians or alumni in the governor’s offices,” according to Lisa Graves, whose Center for Media and Democracy obtained copies of more than 800 ALEC model bills, “they will be cleansed of any reference to the secret corporate voting or who really wrote them.” 

More lawmakers pushing identical bills written by national groups

Arizona lawmakers introduced six bills this session seeking a U.S. constitutional amendment to impose new fiscal restraints on the federal government.

The bills mirror measures introduced in legislatures across the country and are nearly identical to model legislation written by the conservative, corporate-backed American Legislative Exchange Council.

The five Republican lawmakers who introduced the bills in Arizona all attended the group’s conferences over the past year.

Across the nation, state legislatures this year have been considering bills to expand education choices, restrict union influence and guarantee employees sick time off. In state after state, including Arizona, the wording of those bills is nearly identical. And it’s no coincidence.

Rather, it’s an orchestrated use of “model legislation” by national political organizations on both sides of the aisle that have discovered it’s easier to change national policy one state at a time than to get anything through Congress.

ALEC has been the most successful of these groups. Member lawmakers nationwide, including several in Arizona, introduce more than a hundred pieces of model legislation each year…

The Republican ‘Great White Hope:’ Manipulating Election Laws

Across the land, Republican state legislators have shouted “voter fraud, voter fraud” to justify various schemes to restrict voting. Legislative actions, written by the corporate-funded American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), are intended to hamper African-American and Latino voting. Legislators have all but said that they can smell the Rio Grande on new voters. But they “cry wolf” and have created a public understanding that in no way reflects reality. In short, voting restrictions are the very fraud.

The disputed Bush-Gore election of 2000 galvanized Republicans, keenly aware how America’s unfolding demographics threatened to make them a permanent minority national party, overwhelmed by emergent, enlarging blocs of ethnic and racial groups. Since then, we have been victimized by carefully-calibrated public relations campaigns alleging that loyal, upstanding, law-abiding Americans are being negated by voter corruption. It is not true.

Make no mistake: This is a Republican, corporate-funded effort to exclude American citizens from the voting process…

ALEC, heavily funded by the Koch brothers and like-minded allies, has designed the legislation to restrict voting, and circulated their draft bills around the nation, which their members, essentially well-financed Republican state legislators, eagerly adopt as their own. Republicans are blatantly trying to limit the electorate and rig elections. They have actively, enthusiastically launched the fray with an unrestrained prattle of fraud.

Paul Weyrich, a leader of numerous conservative causes and a founder of ALEC,minced no words more than 30 years ago: “I don’t want everybody to vote. Elections are not won by a majority of people. They never have been from the beginning of our country, and they are not now. As a matter of fact our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.

Weyrich and his clients would not rely on voter apathy, indifference or ignorance to ensure low voter turnout. Enter the handle of “voter fraud” to justify legislation to prevent the “unwashed” from voting. Ideologically-driven mandates have little affinity for the truth. Voter ID laws are reminiscent of legislation enacted in the late 19th century by elites increasingly concerned by the emergence of new voters. Read working class immigrants from Eastern or Southern Europe, different in language, religion and class than most Americans. At the same time, southern states enacted Jim Crow laws which denied suffrage to former slaves, who, under the terms of the 14th Amendment nevertheless were citizens of the United States. The nation remained largely white, rural and Protestant for another half century…

Will There Be a Happy Ending to Ohio’s Close Brush with a Rightwing Fantasy? 

Three years ago, on March 31, 2011, the Republican-dominated Ohio legislature passed Senate Bill 5 in the face of overwhelming public protests. That evening Gov. John Kasich had a celebratory signing ceremony covered by statewide television. Senate Bill 5, derived mainly from the right-wing American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), was designed to crush public unions across the state.

Championed by Gov. Kasich, SB 5 was the centerpiece of his legislative agenda, and was defended as necessary to close a $6 billion budget gap. Proponents inaccurately blamed public workers for the deficit when, in fact, it was produced by years of irresponsible income tax cuts imposed on the state combined with the recessions. Since 2005, the income tax had been slashed by 31 percent. The crisis atmosphere was exploited by the Republican Party to try to impose extreme ideological positions on Ohio that in ordinary times Ohioans would not accept…

ALEC Loses Wisconsin Open Records Law Fight

MADISON, Wis. – Republican State Sen. Leah Vukmir of Wauwatosa has settled a lawsuit brought by the Madison-based Center for Media and Democracy regarding emails involving her work with ALEC, the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council.

The messages contained a disclaimer that the content was not subject to Wisconsin’s Open Records law.

Vukmir, who paid a $15,000 settlement in the case, also acknowledged that the ALEC email disclaimer had no force of law.

Brendan Fischer, general counsel for the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD), says ALEC’s efforts to avoid Wisconsin’s Open Records law have not been successful.

“We’ve had strong commitment to open and transparent government, and one of the best ways you can maintain a transparent and accountable government is through the Open Records law,” he stresses. “So, we would hope that all legislators, all elected officials from both parties would give the Open Records law the proper amount of respect.”

Vukmir also has agreed to release other emails about ALEC business from her private email account…

Our View: Lawmakers Dance While ALEC Pulls the Strings

An ag-gag in Kentucky, guns on campus in Georgia, protection for businesses that want to deny service to gays in Kansas; sound familiar? You can thank the American Legislative Exchange Council’s one-size-fits-all bills that are gutting local control.

ALEC is the clearinghouse for conservative ideas, a highly secretive non-profit that puts big business and state lawmakers together to draft model legislation in an effort to undermine regulation, cut taxes and advance other often far-right agendas, all while avoiding the very disclosure of its members. It’s the spoke in the wheel of dozens of conservative organizations that’s weakening the very purpose of the states, especially in Republican-dominated regions. Grassroots state governance and local control has been replaced with confidential meetings with big-money backers. America’s red states are becoming little more than chimeric twins, absorbed by their more powerful plutocratic siblings.

State. Sen. Jim Patrick told us this week that ALEC had nothing to do with the controversial ag-gag legislation he pushed through this year. But Patrick is the ALEC’s state chairman, says internal documents acquired by Sourcewatch.org. The Kentucky state Senate’s Agriculture Committee quietly slid an ag-gag of its own into legislation passed by the lower House designed to protect animals from abuse. Four members of that committee are also ALEC members, according to documents leaked to various news outlets. Coincidence? We don’t think so…

New Law Saddles Kentuckians with Big Electricity Bills; Aims to Block Benefits of Fighting Climate Change

NRDC: Carbon Copy Efforts by Shadow Group ALEC Rebuffed in Other Statehouses

WASHINGTON–(ENEWSPF)–April 3 – A new Kentucky law approved late yesterday will raise Kentuckians’ electricity bills. This bill mirrors efforts that big polluters and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) have unsuccessfully pushed in other states to undermine upcoming federal standards reducing carbon pollution from dirty power plants—the key driver of climate change.

David Doniger, director of the Climate and Clean Air Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council, issued this statement:

“This misguided measure will saddle Kentuckians with higher electricity bills while padding the profits of the state’s biggest polluters. It will also make it harder for the state to increase energy efficiency and switch to cleaner, lower cost energy.

“Coal companies and their political backers want to lock Kentucky into the most expensive way of curbing power plants’ dangerous carbon pollution. Their ultimate agenda is to block every effort to cut the pollution driving the worst impacts of climate change.

“Luckily for consumers elsewhere, ALEC and big polluters haven’t been successful: Lawmakers in Virginia and Florida blocked the polluters’ bills. And cooler heads prevailed in Kansas and even in coal-dominated West Virginia, where legislatures instead passed bills that allow state officials to write carbon reduction plans that will meet the nation’s clean air laws…”

Vermont expands solar net metering, gives finger to ALEC

Bad news for the polluter-fundedAmerican Legislative Exchange Council, but wonderful news for the planet.

In 2012 and 2013, ALEC tried to roll back states’ renewable energy standards, and failed. Now it’s trying to roll back solar net-metering programs, which let homeowners sell electricity from their rooftop panels into the grid, and that campaign isn’t going so well either.

Case in point: In Vermont, Gov. Peter Shumlin (D) just signed a bill that will expand the state’s net-metering program, allowing solar panel owners to sell more of their clean electricity into the grid.

The bill will nearly quadruple the size of a cap on the amount of solar power that utilities must be willing to buy from their customers. It also creates pilot projects that could allow for solar projects as large as 5 megawatts to be built under the scheme…

Voice of the People, Apr. 03

Analyzing the state of our state

The March 30 editorial “How Illinois ranks in the U.S. on key indicators; A state of distress” paints a very disheartening picture of our state.

And in many respects, the problems it points out are real.

However, when one looks at where some of the rankings that are assigned come from, one would be well-advised to take them with more than a grain of salt.

Four of the rankings come from the American Legislative Exchange Council, a supposed non-profit that has been exposed by Bill Moyers and by the Center for Media and Democracy as one of the most influential conservative corporate-funded lobbying tools, working to increase corporate profits at public expense.

ALEC was the driving force behind the Stand Your Ground laws and the voter ID restriction laws.

ALEC not only lobbies but actually allows corporations to draft bills that they then hand to legislators to be introduced in state legislatures.

After their backroom dealings were exposed, more than 70 corporations withdrew from ALEC in 2012 and 2013.

I do not think Illinois should care what ALEC thinks of our state.

Coal-reliant states readying for EPA power plant rules

WASHINGTON – Long before the Obama administration promised sweeping rules to limit pollution from power plants, states in the crosshairs of what critics call a “war on coal” have been finding ways to meet the expected new standards.

President Barack Obama last June directed the Environmental Protection Agency to propose national standards to lower carbon emissions from the more than 1,000 U.S. power plants, a centerpiece of his national climate strategy.

On Tuesday those plans moved a step closer to reality when EPA’s proposed rule arrived at the White House for review by the Office of Management and Budget, which is expected to evaluate the proposal by June 1…

…Local lawmakers in Kentucky and several other states, some with close ties to the coal industry, are considering bills or resolutions that would make it harder for states to comply with new EPA rules or would block compliance altogether.

Some of the bills follow legislative templates introduced by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a lobbying group that focuses on limited government. Arizona, Florida, Ohio, Illinois and West Virginia are considering such actions. 

“Although ALEC resolutions will not change state law, ALEC and its industry supporters are hoping these resolutions will discourage governors and impede EPA action,” said Aliya Haq, who tracks such bills as special projects director with the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental group…

RNC Calls Upon ALEC to Dismantle Campaign Finance Reform

 

The powerful right-wing organization, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has long claimed that it “respects diversity of thought” and that it is a “non-partisan policy resource for its members,” Democrats and Republicans alike.  Indeed, in a television interview with FOX news, an ALEC spokesperson once stated, “we have legislators of all political stripes coming together to talk about the most critical issues facing the states,” and adamantly defended the non-partisan nature of the organization.

It does not take much examination of ALEC policies, funders, or public-sector membership rolls to put these claims into true perspective. ALEC’ s right wing policies are so extreme that over 43 corporations – from Wal-Mart to General Electric – havecut ties with the organization.  As documented by the Center For Media and Democracy, more than 99% of ALEC’s public sector leaders are Republican lawmakers.  And a quick perusal of ALEC funding reveals that the same funders who back the network are also major sponsors of many Republican initiatives.

Yet what may be the most telling evidence of ALEC’s ties to the GOP emerged just this morning. Today, the Republican National Committee (RNC) released its wide-ranging “autopsy” report in response to the party’s disastrous 2012 elections. The report, entitled “Growth and Opportunity Project,” outlines a variety of policy recommendations including, among other base ideas, abolishing campaign spending regulations and contribution limits. In the report, the RNC specifically calls on ALEC to help develop and implement model legislation to “improve” these campaign finance laws.

The RNC places ALEC alongside the Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC)  and the RNC as an organization that is well-suited to “improve” campaign finance laws and propagate them nationwide:

The RNC has called upon ALEC to do its bidding because it knows that ALEC is 100% in support of its anti-democratic agenda.  Beyond pushing for Voter ID laws and adopting restrictive registration requirements – like the registration requirements that ALEC adopted years ago as model policy and that today are being argued over in the Supreme Court – ALEC has a history of opposing campaign finance reform.  The organization has consistently opposed public financing of elections and even issued a resolution in favor of the Supreme Court’s disastrous 2010 Citizens United decision…

Tennessee is a political test tube for Koch brothers

By the time this session of the Tennessee General Assembly comes to an end, Tennesseans understandably should feel a little like the animals used in laboratory experiments — at least the ones that survive.

Our state, thanks to the dominance of a single political party, has been selected for a series of not-so-scientific experiments. The objective? Whatever Charles and David Koch want it to be.

The billionaire Kochs do not live in Tennessee and never have. That is not important, as they, through their group Americans For Prosperity (AFP), and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), also not Tennessee-based, are increasingly deciding what laws the General Assembly should impose on the people of our state…

…The force of the Kochs came down last week when the Tennessee Senate voted to stop Nashville’s Amp project. Stop­Amp.org Inc. publicly thanked AFP for its help. Regardless of what you think of the pricey and controversial bus rapid-transit project, such out-of-state interference is troubling, because it supersedes local knowledge and authority on either side of the issue.

Apparently, there is more to come. AFP’s state director, Andrew Ogles, says that “Tennessee is a great state to pass model legislation that can be leveraged in other states.” Such words give no assurance these organizations care whether the laws that are passed help or hurt Tennesseans. They just need an easy “win” so that they can boost their influence against elected officials elsewhere…