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Continuing Education and Privatization Disclosures in MI. Reveal “Skunks” at Work – Including ALEC

Continuing Education and Privatization Disclosures in MI. Reveal “Skunks” at Work – Including ALEC

An analysis of two recent articles from Michigan and why they are ALEC-related.

Analysis by Bob Sloan

Logo     ALEC’s attention to America’s education “reform” is focused and advancing state by state as they promote privatization of public school systems.  Vouchers, “parent trigger”, long distance learning, “vitrual schools” and a “Public-Private Fair Competition Act” are all ALEC model legislative bills.

    What all these “bills” have in common of late is that all of them are submitted, sponsored and supported by conservative Republican lawmakers from coast to coast…another commonality of late is that most of them can be found swirling ominously through the Michigan statehouse.

    Now Michiganders have discovered a secret group of individuals working to advance these ALEC-styled legislative franken-bills behind closed doors with members of Governor Snyder’s staff.  Members of this secretive cabal have dubbed their group the “Skunk Works”, referring to defense contractor Lockheed Martin’s secret program under the same name that developed fighter planes during and after World War II.  An article published Friday by the Detroit News reported on this strange development.

Lansing — A secret work group that includes top aides to Gov. Rick Snyder has been meeting since December to develop a lower-cost model for K-12 public education with a funding mechanism that resembles school vouchers.

“The education reform advisory team has dubbed itself a “skunk works” project working outside of the government bureaucracy and education establishment with a goal of creating a “value school” that costs $5,000 per child annually to operate, according to meeting minutes and reports obtained by The Detroit News.

What are some of pursuits of these group?

…explore using fewer teachers and more instruction through long-distance video conferencing. Each “value school” student would receive a “Michigan Education Card” to pay for their “tuition” — similar to the electronic benefits transfer used to distribute food stamps and cash assistance for the poor.

Students could use leftover money on the “EduCard” for high school Advanced Placement courses, music lessons, sport team fees, remedial education or cyber courses, according to an outline of the advisory team’s agenda…

“…ideology and political agenda of the creation of a for-profit and parallel enterprise market for schools. Part of its goal is to take down the education establishment: superintendents, school boards and teachers unions.

It appears this panel of Skunks were formed in December in response to failed GOP legislation related to charter schools:

“The panel’s quiet proceedings began in mid-December after GOP lawmakers abandoned controversial legislation in the lame-duck session that would have allowed corporations, municipalities and cultural institutions to run charter schools.

Who are some of the members of this education cabal? Besides Governor Snyder’s chief information officer, David Behen, who leads the group most are from the information technology field:

“The group consists of nearly 20 individuals, mostly from the information technology field, including Behen and the state’s chief technology officer, Rod Davenport. The group includes employees from the software and tech companies Vectorform in Royal Oak, InfoReady in Ann Arbor and Billhighway in Troy. Also involved is Tim Cook of the Huizenga Group, a Grand Rapids firm that owns and operates West Michigan manufacturing companies.”

Another member is well known Lansing attorney, Richard McLellan who has so far unsuccessfully pursued installing a school voucher system in Michigan to allow parents to use choose between private and public schools — with state tax dollars – something prohibited by the Michigan Constitution.  McLellan helped draft such legislation and proposed sweeping changes in November to the way Michigan schools are funded. McLellan is a director at the Oxford Foundation, which developed that plan at Snyder’s request.  He is also a co-founding member of the Koch funded Mackinac Center, another conservative think tank that has been pursuing similar efforts of privatizing Michigan’s public education.

Interesting note to the “plan” memo linked to immediately above…McLellan insisted that the Project “be conducted with maximum transparency.”  He apparently decided that such transparency would not be so “maximum” or sought at all with regard to the project involving the skunk works.  This group is so secretive, they were instructed to use alternative email accounts when corresponding.  “In January, participants were instructed in a memo to use “alternative” email accounts. Records show Behen, Davenport and two other Department of Technology, Management and Budget employees have since used private email addresses to correspond.”

‘McLellan said the other participants are justified in using private emails. “Well, they should,” he said. “It’s not a government project.  Isn’t a skunk works by definition unorganized, backroom?” he asked rhetorically.’

“Why are we using private email addresses? Because it’s just easier,” Behen said. “There’s nothing secret or anything about this.”

 

This panel originally included one educator, Paul Galbenski, Michigan’s 2011 Educator of the Year.  Galbenski left the group when he discovered the cabal “discussing a special kind of school being created outside of the Michigan public school system,” and began questioning his own involvement with such a group.

Galbenski was the only educator even briefly chosen to be on the panel.  A memo of the group stated that they wanted to avoid working with education consultants who are “wedded to the education establishment.

Behen said he “purposely didn’t put a bunch of teachers on (the panel)” to generate a different approach to delivering K-12 education through rapidly changing technology.

Michigan officials and authorities representing Governor Snyder and a private “foundation” and think tank such as Mackinac, have been found working secretly to completely alter the state’s education system – without any input from educators or educational consultants.  What could possibly go wrong?

So, here’s how this trick is supposed to work, for those of you in other states who would like to attempt something similar… You defund education to the point of collapse, and, then, pointing to the inevitable failure, you make the case that the only option left available is to essentially hand the whole thing over to corporate America. And you bring in an anti-public education operative with ties to ALEC and the Koch Brothers, hiding behind the facade of a pro-education foundation with “Oxford” in its name, so that it sounds super smart, to support and adopt the whole enchilada.

In a related article from Progress Michigan, ALEC member MI. Rep. Greg MacMaster introduced a bill copied and pasted from the “Public-Private Fair Competition Act,” adopted by ALEC’s Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force and approved by ALEC’s Board of Directors in January 1995.

“The bill would prohibit public entities from competing against the private sector, and its definitions are so restrictive that it would allow corporations to take the state to court and force it to stop providing valuable public services. ALEC’s Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force includes the Tax Foundation (funded by the Koch Brothers and ExxonMobil), The Mackinac Center’s Richard Vedder, and other State Policy Network-funded groups including the Freedom Foundation, Goldwater Institute, and the Illinois Policy Institute.

If this legislation were to pass – along with the education initiatives proposed by ALEC, Mackinac Center, Oxford Foundation, etc. – Michigan’s education system would be privatized and fall under this provision.  The private “educators” would be able to sue any remaining state operated schools to force them into privatization.  Not only take the school system out of the hands of the state but force taxpayers to foot the bill for any litigation costs associated with “providing public services”…such as education.

ALEC is the legislative arm of this huge conservative, Koch-funded cabal.  Perhaps Michigan today presents us with the best and clearest example of both the agenda and mechanisms utilized by this network to wrench control, oversight and operations involving public services out of the hands of state government. The goal is to get their greedy hands on tax dollars being spent for education and other necessary services and divert much of that money to profits realized by ALEC’s corporate partners.

Just as Nevada is now ground zero for the war against prison labor displacing workers under ALEC’s Prison Industries Act, Michigan is now at the center regarding attempts to privatize education, utilizing another of ALEC’s models.

Teamsters Planning To Present Toxic “Welcome” For ALEC in OK. City Next Month

Teamsters Planning To Present Toxic “Welcome” For ALEC in OK. City Next Month

Announcement from Teamsters Local 886: http://teamsternation.blogspot.com/2013/04/expose-alec-take-pledge-today.html

“Our brothers and sisters in Oklahoma are spreading the word about the nefarious ALEC as the group heads toward Oklahoma City for an annual confab. Teamsters Local 886 is working hard to shine a bright light on ALEC’s misdeeds during its stay in Oklahoma City on May 2-3. ALEC “delegates” will be treated to a boisterous march for the middle class (we’re getting visuals of Teamsters trucks here) and a rally at a yet-to-be-disclosed location.

“If you’re new to ALEC, it’s the corporate dating service for lobbyists and state lawmakers. Funded by the Benedict Arnold Koch brothers, it’s a major tentacle in the vast right-wing conspiracy. ALEC is responsible for many state laws that are helping to make your lives miserable. No Rights At Work legislation is straight out of ALEC. So are most bills that punish workers and empower billionaires.”

Union and non-union workers, educators, grassroots activists, environmentalists, healthcare workers and organized protesters should all take note and try and attend or support this effort next month.  ALEC is holding their Annual Spring Task Force Summit in Oklahoma City, Ok. May 2-3 this year.  Last year they held this event in Charlotte and the year before in Cincinnati.  Many of us, including VLTP, MoveOn.org, Center for Media and Democracy, AFSCME and other Union members attended and held demonstrations and teach-ins to inform the community about ALEC and their toxic agenda and anti-American activities.

Since the first ever protest against ALEC in April 2011 in Cincinnati each successive ALEC event has drawn large protests, demonstrations and public awareness events.  Help all of us work to weaken ALEC’s grip upon our legislators and government services and departments by taking part in this event.  If you can’t attend in person, help by supporting the efforts of those who can.  Contact Teamsters Local 886 in Oklahoma for more information.

In the meantime, please TAKE THE PLEDGE to help expose ALEC here.

The GOP’s free-market reforms are aimed at public education … More ALEC!

The GOP’s free-market reforms are aimed at public education … More ALEC!

by Will Huntsberry, published by NC’s Indy Week

VLTP and our editors and authors have attempted to inform the public that education is the next big initiative of ALEC.  Not to educate, but rather to privatize public schools and turn teaching over to private corporations.  These corporate “teachers” are not required to be state certified instructors and charters basically are less regulated than public schools.

This article by Huntsberry describes ALEC’s efforts of privatizing education and why…

“At least seven bills are moving through the Legislature that would divert money from public schools to private hands, eliminate teacher tenure, instill performance pay and potentially increase class sizes in public schools. As for charters, they would have less accountability to local school boards; in effect, they would be deregulated.

“Introducing all the reform bills at once is a national strategy, not a state one. A conservative think tank the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) developed the plan, and over the past two years, it has been deployed in Republican-controlled states.

ALEC’s goal is to promote “limited government, free markets, federalism, and individual liberty,” according to its website. The organization writes conservative legislation, which state lawmakers can use in their home states. Many major corporations sponsor ALEC: Duke Energy, ExxonMobil, Bayer, AT&T, Cracker Barrel and Koch Industries are just a few of the organization’s current members, according to the Center for Media and Democracy.”

Ramming through the education reforms is like a game of whack-a-mole. “If all the moles pop up at once, there is no way the person [i.e. progressive education advocates] with the mallet can get them all,” reads an ALEC strategy guide on education policy.

“Instead of being forthright and aggregating all of the reforms into one education bill, they are making it difficult to see,” says Patty Williams of Public Schools First NC, an organization that advocates for progressive education policy. “It’s just a way of not being transparent to the public. We should be proposing laws in a way that’s easy to understand.”

A school voucher bill, HB 994, introduced Tuesday and originated in the office of Rep. Paul Stam, R-Wake, is the centerpiece of conservative education bills. Not only does the bill come straight from the ALEC playbook, Stam, like many other North Carolina lawmakers, is a member of ALEC.

Please take the time to read and share this highly important and informative article by Will Huntsberry -> HERE <-

Question from the UK: Why is the American right closing prisons?

Question from the UK: Why is the American right closing prisons?

In response to an article by RICK MUIR PUBLISHED 18 APRIL 2013 11:58 in the “New Statesman”

As conservative parties in nations across the pond attempt to emulate America’s Right Wing policies and initiatives, Rick Muir questions if replicating the “NEW” U.S. stance on imprisonment and criminal justice is warranted.

Mr. Muir accurately depicts many of the changes U.S. states are making to reduce the number of Americans imprisoned.  He reports on efforts of diverting drug offenders from prison through community rehab and court programs, stopping new construction of prisons and understanding that locking up non-violent offenders is costly and does nothing more than create a revolving door for first offenders to return time and again throughout their lives.

However in reporting that it is the GOP or Right Wing pursuing proposals that have long been advocated by liberals and progressives, he failed to fully connect the dots on where and how this mass incarceration began – and who stands to profit from these proposed changes to America’s criminal justice system.

It began with the ultra right think tank, American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) in the late 1970’s. They got together with corporate interests and wrote legislation that began a trend that turned 1970’s 338,000 incarcerated into today’s 2.3 million. They crafted minimum mandatory sentencing laws, truth in sentencing, three strike and habitual offender laws.  They helped abolish parole and wrote more legislation to require convicted offenders serve 85% of imposed sentences.

Once the laws were written by ALEC and wholeheartedly backed by President Reagan in pursuing his “war on drugs”, ALEC wrote more legislation to allow private companies to begin to profit off imprisonment.  They wrote the Private Correctional Facilities ActPrison Industries Act and the Uniform Bail Act.  

The first was to authorize states to allow ALEC’s corporate members, Corrections Corporation of America, and Wackenhut (now Geo Group) to begin operating private prisons to house the huge numbers of new prisoners that arose due to the harsh laws written to imprison.  

The second written to create a low wage workforce accessible by private companies for manufacturing – and to allow these companies to lease publicly owned prison industrial facilities for as little as a dollar a year.

The third was written to require all bonding of those charged with criminal acts to be accomplished by commercial bonding companies at substantial fees.  This was to enrich ALEC’s long time member, the American Bail Coalition.

What all this did was to industrialize imprisonment and create a large conglomerate of companies realizing huge profits off imprisoning, working, feeding, providing healthcare, canteens and phone services to America’s incarcerated.  This defines and represents ALEC’s form of “Free-market”, “federalism” and “limited government” principles.  By turning humans into commodities with pre-determined shelf lives, ALEC was able to create a criminal justice industrial complex where private companies could capitalize and reap billions in profits off incarcerating the most individuals possible.

This new prison industrial revolution begun by ALEC and the ultra right drove up the costs of criminal justice from mere millions in 1970 to nearly $75 billion in 2011 (Geo and CCA raked in $2.9 billion of this in corporate income).  These billions in dollars are taken directly out of taxes paid by Americans.  Over the years state by state had to begin cutting education, healthcare programs, social welfare and similar programs to continue to increase spending on imprisonment.  In 2000 many states finding nothing left to cut to continue paying for housing and caring for more and more prisoners, began to look for ways to reduce the costs of incarceration itself.  They turned away from rehabilitation and began cutting education programs for prisoners.  Then vocational training went, then counseling and drug and alcohol programs and finally, recreation.  None of these reductions sufficed, prison continued to overflow and for every dollar saved through cutting important programs, that dollar and one more were needed to pay for more privatization.

Finally in 2010 many state authorities – even those considered solidly and forever conservative Republican – realized changes in criminal justice systems had to be made.  States verged on bankruptcy due to the continued increase in prison population and the costs associated with imprisonment.  Only then did the Right Wing fully understand that their “tough on crime” agenda advanced over the past 30 years was responsible for the dire financial position of state governments.  ALEC members and alumni such as Newt Gingrich formed a new “Right On Crime” organization (a joint project with the Texas Public Policy Foundation and prison fellowship). now stating that they had been wrong for years and that it is time to “right the ship” and begin thinking smart about crime.  Of course the Texas Public Policy Foundation and Prison Fellowship are ALEC members or supporters.

The first thought went to creating a new “product line.”  They turned to immigrants as a means of continuing to capitalize off prison beds that were beginning to sit vacant.  Americans out – “illegal immigrants” in…and at a higher per diem cost per inmate.  Because the federal government paid higher daily per diems for holding immigrants than paid for incarcerating prisoners the profits would increase.  So ALEC with the help of CCA crafted SB 1070 and introduced it in Arizona.  Once it became law, it has been redirected to dozens of other U.S. states and CCA and Geo Group (though no longer members of ALEC) secured more and more contracts to house immigrants and increase their profits exponentially.

In essence those who created mass imprisonment to enrich investors and company owners through corporatism were now going to step forward and provide a “solution” to the problems they created.  This has always been the ALEC and ultra-right meme; create a faux problem and then provide the perfect solution.  Once again ALEC member companies would profit off the new “Right on Crime” initiative…ALEC member, Prison Fellowship Ministry would reap huge grants and donations to offer reentry programs for offenders released from prison…the American Bail Coalition who had profited for years off bonding of criminals would also begin to see increased profits through a new ALEC initiative: the Conditional Early Release Bond   This legislation would allow prisoners to seek parole through posting a bond to the state to ensure they would not reoffend.  Of course this bond is provided to the state by a surety company represented by the ABC and for a commercial fee.

So in essence the new “Right on Crime” project represents another ALEC initiative. Being right on crime does not mean being “Smart on Crime.”  We need to get ALEC and their members completely out of our criminal justice system.  They have incarcerated enough and profited way too much off incarceration.  Today the UK is where America was in the 1990’s, pushing for longer sentences, more incarceration and to use inmate labor for manufacturing and labor for private companies.  America has already begun to realize those concepts are taking American worker’s jobs and the cost of incarcerating someone for 5 years for possessing a joint of marijuana is completely insane and too costly.

Hopefully those non-conservatives in the UK can convince politicians over there that following in America’s path is not always the best course to chart.

Read Rick Muir’s article <- HERE ->

Paid Sick Days Defeat in Philadelphia Followed Familiar Script

Paid Sick Days Defeat in Philadelphia Followed Familiar Script

By Brendan Fischer at PRWatch

This article precisely describes how the ALEC cabal’s corporate members fund the initiatives they have brought to ALEC and sent out to all states through the ALEC legislative members.  After the bills or initiatives are proposed these corporations then pursue getting the legislation passed.  In this case in Philadelphia, they pursued defeating a bill passed by the city council allowing paid sick days – which then was vetoed by Democratic Mayor, Michael Nutter…not once but twice.

Anything to oppose worker’s rights or wages is pursued by ALEC and their corporate (employer) membership.

“Major opponents of Philadelphia’s paid sick days effort included the National Restaurant Association, the Chamber of Commerce, and the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), which presents itself as “the voice of small business” but lobbies primarily for big corporate interests. Each group is tied to ALEC and has consistently opposed similar legislation in other cities and states.

“Nationally, an estimated 40 million workers, or forty percent of the workforce, cannot take sick days without losing wages or possibly their jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Seventy-nine percent of food industry workers — who are especially likely to spread illness if they go to work sick — don’t get paid sick days, according to a Food Chain Workers Alliance study.”

Read the full PRWatch article <- HERE ->

Bush Administration Practiced Torture After 9/11, Nonpartisan Review Concludes

Bush Administration Practiced Torture After 9/11, Nonpartisan Review Concludes

From By  at NY Times.

This new report identified by the NY Times, lays blame for deliberate torture following 9/11 at the foot of former George W. Bush and key members of his administration.

Many readers and those who follow our work at VLTP may question how this kind of activity involving torture could in any way be related to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) or their activities.  In response we would remind everyone that many who served in the George W. Bush administration had close ties to or was a supporter of ALEC.  President George Bush was a frequent speaker at ALEC events and received ALEC’s highest “award” the Thomas Jefferson Freedom Award:

Bush receiving Jefferson award at ALECbush_alec_rect-460x307

 

Vice President Cheney likewise received the same Jefferson Freedom Award:

Cheney Jefferson Award at alec

 

And Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld served as ALEC’s Chairman of Business Policy Board (Private Enterprise Board) while President of Searle Pharmaceuticals:

Rumsfeld ALEC Chairman of Bus. Policy Board

 

Though it would appear ALEC has no direct link to rendition, waterboarding or other forms of torture…those who advocate ALEC’s brand of ideology are susceptible to perform acts most other Americans would consider vile.  They are then rewarded with ALEC’s top honors demonstrating ALEC’s public appreciation of those acts.  In the case of the Bush regime, ALEC obviously had no qualms about awarding Bush and Cheney for their acts of torture.  How ironic the awards given to President Bush and VP Cheney contain the term “Freedom”.

______________________________________

 

“The sweeping, 577-page report says that while brutality has occurred in every American war, there never before had been “the kind of considered and detailed discussions that occurred after 9/11 directly involving a president and his top advisers on the wisdom, propriety and legality of inflicting pain and torment on some detainees in our custody.” The study, by an 11-member panel convened by the Constitution Project, a legal research and advocacy group, is to be released on Tuesday morning…

“…The panel found that the United States violated its international legal obligations by engineering “enforced disappearances” and secret detentions. It questions recidivism figures published by the Defense Intelligence Agency for Guantánamo detainees who have been released, saying they conflict with independent reviews…”

“…It describes in detail the ethical compromise of government lawyers who offered “acrobatic” advice to justify brutal interrogations and medical professionals who helped direct and monitor them. And it reveals an internal debate at the International Committee of the Red Cross over whether the organization should speak publicly about American abuses; advocates of going public lost the fight, delaying public exposure for months, the report finds.”

Read the substantial NY Times article <- HERE->

Wisconsin Ethics board fails to curb ALEC shell game

Wisconsin Ethics board fails to curb ALEC shell game

From Brendan Fischer at Capital Times

Analysis by Bob Sloan

The Center for Media and Democracy has had great successes in exposing the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).  Through their efforts ALEC has recently been attempting to change their image by dropping “American Legislative” from their vocabulary, asking members and the media to now refer to them simply as the “Exchange Council”.

While the constant pressure upon ALEC has caused dozens of corporate members to drop or not renew membership…and more than seventy legislative members to do likewise…there in Wisconsin the Ethics Board appears to not be swayed by allegations of improper lobbying by ALEC.  This is sad and a feather in ALEC’s cap, so to speak as Wisconsin is the home of CMD and the base from which it has launched many anti-ALEC projects since mid 2011.

In a state where it is illegal to even buy a cup of coffee for an elected official…the Ethics Board has decided it’s okay to use corporate funding to send dozens of Wisconsin’s lawmakers to posh resorts to be educated in pro-corporate initiatives and ultimately adopt such as model bills.  Other states have passed legislation that recognizes ALEC’s influence but has exempted their activities from lobbying laws (such as Indiana) but in Minnesota the opposite was decided.  In MN. in 1997 they banned ALEC’s “scholarships” as gifts.

Wisconsin’s Ethics Board  should have ruled similarly to the determination made in Minnesota 15 years ago.  Perhaps the fact that Wisconsin has so many ALEC members and their departments and agencies filled with staffers willing to do the bidding of ALEC is why the Board ruled as they did upon a complaint filed last year by CMD.  Whatever the case, Wisconsin continues to be fertile territory for ALEC’s model “legislation” even as CMD and their tireless staff keeps up the pressure to throw the bums to the curb.

Read the full Brendan Fischer article -> HERE <-

Inspection of Kasich’s CCA owned prison shows staff assaults up over 300% – Thanks ALEC!

Inspection of Kasich’s CCA owned prison shows staff assaults up over 300% – Thanks ALEC!

For the second time in six months, Correction Corporation of America’s (CCA) privately owned Lake Erie Correctional Institution (LaECI) has received a dismal report from prison inspectors.  A report, issued in February by the Correctional Institution Inspection Committee (CIIC) presents some very alarming statistics.

“From 2010-2012, inmate-on-inmate assaults at LaECI have increased by over 180 percent while inmate-on-staff assaults increased by over 300 percent. Inmate violations for fighting have increased 40 percent, and the total number of prison disturbances in 2012 doubled in comparison to prior years.”

lake erie CIThis is the second failed inspection report received by CCA for LaECI since CCA bought the institution in 2011.  When negotiating for purchasing and operating the facility, CCA promised to operate the facility to meet the standards set by the ODOC for all prisons in the state.  However, as with nearly every other such contract signed based upon promises and assurances from CCA, once they take possession both assurance and promise are tossed out the window.

The report advises that CCA will be given another six months to clean up the institution and their act.  With two dismal reports already and worsening conditions between the first inspection and the second, it is unlikely CCA will make more than a cursory effort of compliance.  For Ohio to take back the institution and run it properly would involve a lengthy period of litigation and paying CCA for the facility.  Ohio sold the prison to CCA because they needed cash to operate the rest of the prison system and that money is long gone.  Thinking they could scrape together nearly $300 million to repurchase LaECI and pay for litigation costs is unrealistic.  This all began years ago with legislation written by a right wing think tank to allow states to lease state prison facilities to private companies – “Private Correctional Facilities Act“.  This legislation has now been disseminated coast to coast and is the basis for dozens of privately run prisons today housing hundreds of thousands of prisoners at taxpayer expense.

Governor Kasich appointed Gary Mohr to the position of Director of the Ohio Department of Corrections in January 2011.  Mohr came back to Ohio from Corrections Corporation of America where he was a managing director.  Kasich’s former congressional “chief of staff” was hired by CCA the same month Mohr was appointed:

“Mohr is a former consultant and managing director for Corrections Corporation of America, a Nashville-based company that is eligible to bid on the state prison contracts once they are made available next month.

“The company, which bills itself the leading private-sector provider of corrections services to governments, also hired Kasich’s former congressional chief of staff, Donald Thibaut, as a lobbyist in January.”

So there are several close ties and connections between Ohio’s current Governor and CCA similar to an ongoing relationship between CCA and Arizona Governor Brewer,  In Arizona, two of Brewer’s top staffers worked as lobbyists for CCA immediately prior to the introduction and passage of SB 1070 in 2010.  CCA has been identified as helping write the SB 1070 legislation that was crafted at a meeting of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).  Governor Kasich and Governor Brewer are ALEC Alumni – as is CCA who quit the organization in 2010 after their part in SB 1070 was revealed.

CCA has a history of operating prisons in a manner to generate profits.  Profits that are used to pay dividends to investors and to lobby lawmakers for more criminal laws, longer sentences, less regulation and to vote to sell or lease state prisons to CCA.  All of this fills their beds, creates “products” to fill those beds and a shelf life that continues to increase through longer sentences and the absence of parole (which incidentally ALEC helped to abolish nationwide).  This drives up the costs of incarcerating millions of Americans and turns those tax dollars into corporate profits.  In 2011 it was reported CCA and Geo Group, the two top U.S. private prison companies earned $2.9 billion dollars…nearly all of that from tax expenditures by the feds and state issued contracts to incarcerate.

Taxpayers should receive a proper return on their investment.  They are paying CCA in Ohio to operate their privately run prisons in compliance with existing laws and administrative regulations.  This is not being done, and as always, CCA is given leniency and provided more time to come into compliance.  Such leniency would not be given to state run prisons and heads would roll if this was a state operated facility.  Staff and inmates alike are risking their lives every day they serve in LaECI – as workers or prisoners – and the state ultimately bears a responsibility to offer both protection from violence.

Over the next six months CCA will continue to operate as they have and the CIIC will go back, find more of the same and shrug it off…because prisoners have no voice, no lobby and no representative to speak on their behalf.  Most will return to the streets of Ohio cities and towns after serving time in this CCA prison.  Housed three deep in cells designed for one inmate, with no rehabilitation, drug or counseling programs  – and citizens will ask why they are so angry when they return and why released offenders commit further crimes an return to prison?  The answers are simple, because that is how the “system” has been designed, to operate as a revolving door to accept prisoners and keep them as long as possible, return them to their communities with a deep anger and no possibility of securing a job…then welcome them back a second or third time and with longer sentences.

If Governor Kasich and his CCA appointed ODOC Director cannot hold CCA’s feet to the fire to come into compliance and are unwilling to take back this publicly owned prison that they sold to their “friends” or former employers, then they should both go, replaced by others with less propensity for such open corruption.  A Department of Corrections is supposed to incarcerate prisoners and “correct” the behavior that sent each man or woman to prison.  These kind of contracts between state actors and companies such as CCA are barely average on the incarceration requirement and completely failing in providing any form of correction.

Below is the overview summary taken from the CIIC report that shows clearly the severity and potential harm that exists in LaECI:

“The inspection of LAECI raised a number of significant concerns. At CCA staff’s invitation, CIIC will conduct a full re-inspection in six months’ time to reevaluate; this report is therefore to be considered a progress report.

“LAECI’s primary issue is safety and security. Staff interviews, inmate focus groups, the inmate survey, and institutional data all indicate that personal safety is at risk at LAECI. Assaults, fights, disturbances, and uses of force have all increased in comparison to prior years. There is a high presence of gang activity and illegal substance use. Inmates reported frequent extortion and theft.

“Incident reports indicate that staff hesitate to use force even when appropriate and at times fail to deploy chemical agents prior to physical force, risking greater injury to both inmates and staff. Staff also do not appropriately sanction inmates for serious misconduct. At the time of the inspection, the facility had no options for sanctions other than the segregation unit, which was full.

“The above issues are compounded by high staff turnover and low morale. New staff generally do not have the experience or training to be able to make quick judgments regarding the appropriate application of force or how to handle inmate confrontations. Staff also reported that they are often required to work an extra 12 hours per week, which may impact their response.

“Staff have relayed that they have already instituted additional security measures to control contraband and that they are in the process of implementing a stratification plan that will improve the overall facility environment and violence levels. Following the inspection, LAECI staff were very responsive to CIIC’s concerns. Staff promptly developed extensive action plans and engaged in several follow-up discussions with CIIC regarding the identified issues. LAECI staff also relayed that they are actively engaging local stakeholders to build positive relationships with the surrounding community.

“CIIC welcomes the opportunity to return in six months to reevaluate.”

I believe CCA staffers were “very responsive” to the first inspection and developed actions plans and made promises.  As seen from this latest report, this is CCA’s way of doing business and stalling compliance that would cut into their profits.

Here is another report from Idaho on CCA’s falsification of employee shift records.  In this case they not only was the prison understaffed, CCA was charging the state for imaginary staffers working shifts of as long as 48 hours.  In all CCA employees falsified nearly 4,800 hours of staffing records over seven months last year in violation of its contract with the state.  CCA has now admitted to this falsification of staff work records, saying,  “Workers involved will be reprimanded, and the company told the Department of Correction it will reimburse the state.”  I’m thinking if this was committed by state workers or for that matter, you or I, we’d receive much more than a reprimand and would very likely find ourselves sitting in one of CCA’s prisons…

Darden Restaurants Dumps ALEC in Favor of National Restaurant Assoc.

Darden Restaurants Dumps ALEC in Favor of National Restaurant Assoc.

From PRWatch by Rebekah Wilce

The Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) reports that Darden Restaurants which operates Red Lobster, Olive Garden, and other chain restaurants has stated they have not renewed their ALEC membership as of 2010.  Darden representative Rich Jeffers, Director of Media Relations told CMD that the company had not renewed its ALEC membership since January 2010 because it “felt that different organizations like the National Restaurant Association would . . . serve us best.”

Unfortunately the “other NRA” continues to be a member of ALEC so Darden will still have representation within ALEC’s task forces and working group through representation by the National Restaurant Association. This NRA is involved in pursuing “ag-gag” bills and legislation eliminating paid sick days or leave for employees.

Read the full CMD article <- here ->

More ALEC Model Legislation Passing Committees in North Carolina

More ALEC Model Legislation Passing Committees in North Carolina

From Global Solar Industry Website

Bill to repeal the North Carolina’s renewable portfolio standard (RPS) passes a committee of the House of Representatives

“A bill to repeal the US state of North Carolina’s renewable portfolio standard (RPS) has passed a committee of the state’s House of Representatives 11-10. The bill must now pass more committees, the full House and the North Carolina Senate before it can go to the governor to be signed.

“House Bill 298, the “Affordable and Reliable Energy Act” was introduced by House Majority Whip Mike Hager (R), and three other members of the state’s Republican Party. The bill is one of many state-level efforts to repeal RPS policies that have been advanced by Republicans through a national effort by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).”

Not surprising that the bill’s sponsor, Mike Hager is an ALEC member – or that this same legislation is advancing nationally through ALEC’s efforts.  Also not surprisingly, Duke Energy, a powerful and influential ALEC member with a seat on the Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force,  is headquartered in NC and is undoubtedly helping fund lobbying for this legislation.

Read the Global Solar article here…and a second GL article about this same legislation passing another NC committee here.