Art Pope

ALEC in the News – Update on ALEC Activities…

ALEC in the News – Update on ALEC Activities…

by Bob Sloan

Been a hectic month since I last posted, so I have to apologize to readers and followers for the lack of material offered during the past thirty or so days.  Not that there wasn’t plenty of ALEC articles and material making the news circuits, I have simply been swamped with research and conferring with multiple government agencies inquiring about ALEC’s tax exempt and “charity” status.  I will write more on these conversations in the future – for right now, mum’s the word for obvious reasons.

Click on the headline for a link to the material, articles or documents posted below…

Sallie Mae drawing all-around fire

Written by Wade Malcolm
The News Journal

“In late May, Sallie Mae held its annual shareholders meeting, a routine, uneventful affair for most companies.

But not for the nation’s largest student lender. About 150 protesters gathered outside the meeting, and some managed to gain entry and the right to speak.

They demanded a meeting with company leaders to talk about student debt problems and questioned the company’s participation in the American Legislative Exchange Council, a controversial free market group that helps businesses lobby state lawmakers and is despised roundly by liberals.

CEO John F. “Jack” Remondi agreed to meet with the students in June, and last month, the company quietly withdrew its ALEC membership…

…Sallie Mae says it joined ALEC to promote a different part of its business, separate from student loans, which collects unpaid debts on behalf of states and municipalities.

The company quit ALEC because, “the noise level was distracting from the original business purpose,” said Martha Holler, a senior vice president at Sallie Mae. “We will pursue other venues in which to share our collections expertise with state and local governments, and hopefully now our discussions with students … can focus on what matters most to us all, the success of our education loan customers.”

The same group of student activists that leveraged a meeting with the CEO and pressured the company to end its ALEC membership recently started circulating a petition asking the U.S. Department of Education to terminate a contact it has with Sallie Mae to providecustomer service for government-issued student loans…”

After Student Protests, Sallie Mae Becomes 50th Corporation to Dump ALEC – From PRWatch…

Sallie Mae has dropped its membership in the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) after a student-led campaign demanding that the nation’s largest student loan lender cut ties with the controversial organization. Sallie Mae is the 50th corporation to publicly drop its ALEC membership in the past year-and-a-half as the organization has come under increasing public scrutiny.

Many students and young people were outraged that a company that profits from student debt would use their loan payments to fund ALEC, which (among other things) works to make the education system a for-profit endeavor and advances laws that make it harder for many college students to vote.

In August, at ALEC’s Annual Meeting in Chicago, organizers with the Student Labor Action Project and the United States Students Association gathered nearly 14,000 signatures on a petition demanding Sallie Mae drop its ALEC membership. A few months earlier, in May, at least 200 student activists protested outside Sallie Mae’s annual shareholder meeting, demanding that it end its relationship with ALEC and increase transparency about its other lobbying and political activities.

The announcement that Sallie Mae dumped ALEC came quietly, in a September 7 article in the Delaware News-Journal.

Colorado Republicans Are Out Of Step With Their Constituents On Climate Change

Coloradans overwhelmingly believe in climate change and acknowledge its impact on drought, wildfires, and their lives, according to new research by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication.

Specifically, the report found that most Coloradans — 70 percent — believe global warming is happening. Relatively few — only 19 percent — believe it is not. Of the Coloradans polled, nearly half believe global warming is caused mostly by human activities and three in four say the issue of global warming is very or somewhat important to them personally.

While a large majority of Colorado residents recognize climate change is occurring, they’re less sure of the cause. The research revealed that while “virtually all climate scientists agree human-caused global warming is happening, many Coloradans, like most Americans, are unaware of this fact. Fully half (50 percent) believe that ‘there is a lot of disagreement among scientists’ about whether or not global warming is happening…”

…The state’s Republican politicians, on the other hand, are singing a very different tune. Last month, unsuccessful 2010 Senate candidate Ken Buck announced he would once again run for a U.S. Senate seat, this time against Sen. Mark Udall (D). Touring the state with climate denier Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK), Buck endorsedInhofe’s conspiracy theory: “Sen. Inhofe was the first person to stand up and say this global warming is the greatest hoax that has been perpetrated. The evidence just keeps supporting his view, and more and more people’s view, of what’s going on.”

And Buck isn’t alone in his refusal to acknowledge the overwhelming scientific consensus — and the opinion of Colorado voters — regarding climate change. All four of the state’s GOP Congressmen are on the record questioning the existence of climate change or whether or not human activity has any bearing. Rep. Mike Coffman in particular has come under fire from the League of Conservation Voters, with the group launching multiple ads against the Congressman for ignoring the scientific facts regarding climate change.

Buck is running against two state senators, Randy Baumgardner and Owen Hill, in the Republican Senate primary. Sen. Baumgardner was opposed to the recently-passed bill increasing Colorado’s renewable energy standard, telling the Colorado Statesman, “It’s a slap in the face of rural Colorado.”

“I know it’s been said that we need ‘all of the above’ [in terms of energy sources] but the prime agenda from Washington, D.C. seems to be that renewable is the answer to everything,” Baumgardner told the Daily Caller. “People don’t like to be mandated that they have to meet certain renewable standards which seems to be another push not only at the state level but at the federal level.”

In addition to working to slash the carbon pollution that fuels climate change, the state’s renewable energy laws have been effective economic drivers. Between 2005 and 2010, the clean technology sector in Colorado grew by 32.7 percent and the state now has over 1,600 clean technology companies employing over 19,000 workers — fourth nationwide.

As for Sen. Hill, earlier this year he co-sponsored a so-called ‘academic freedom’ bill that would have permitted the teaching of antievolution and climate change denial in schools. While the measure died in committee, DeSmog blog notes that the language in the bill closely matched model legislation pushed by the ultra-conservative American Legislative Exchange Council.

The Other NRA: How the Insidiously Powerful Restaurant Lobby Makes Sure Fast-Food Workers Get Poverty Wages and Have to Work While Sick

From PRWatch by Steven Rosenfeld (click on above link to read the entire informative article)

“While thousands of fast-food workers were preparing to walk off their jobs earlier this summer to seek raises to $15 an hour, the industry’s corporate lobbyist, the National Restaurant Association, was celebrating a string of political victories blocking state minimum wage increases and preempting local sick day laws.

“In June, the NRA boasted that its lobbyists had stopped minimum wage increases in 27 out of 29 states in 2013. In Connecticut, which increased its state minimum wage, a raise in the base pay for tipped workers such as waitresses and bartenders vanished in the final bill. A similar scenario unfolded in New York State: It increased its minimum wage, but the NRA’s last-minute lobbying derailed raising the pre-tip wage at restaurants and bars. The deals came despite polls showing 80 percent support for raising the minimum wage…

…“These are horrible things, but there are amazing things that are happening to change it,” said Saru Jayaraman, co-director and co-founder of the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United (ROC), which has been working a dozen years to slowly change the industry’s exploitive business model and labor practices. “And there will be increasingly important stuff coming up…”

“…Most tellingly, almost every national chain—from fast-food outfits such as Yum! Brands Inc. (Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, KFC) and McDonald’s to full-service dining such as Darden Restaurants Inc. (Olive Garden, Red Lobster, Capital Grille)—have reported higher revenues, profits, margins and cash holdings to Wall Street analysts despite the recession, according to the National Employment Law Project. Giants like McDonalds had 7.8 percent revenue growth over the past decade, according to Gurufocus.com, a financial reporting site. Yum had 10-year revenues of 8.7 percent, and Darden’s 10-year revenues grew 9.1 percent.

“The NRA is the worst employer lobby in the U.S.,” Jayaraman said, speaking about its lobbying and PR operation that pretends it is not an industry dominated by Fortune 500 companies, but instead a rickety mom-and-pop operation teetering on the brink of ruin. “The [earnings] data does not bear any resemblance to what they say is true.”

“The business model—where almost everyone except for top management earns an average of slightly morethan $11 per hour—is premised on paying workers the lowest legal salary and has not changed in decades. AsThe New Yorker’s James Surowiecki recently explained, many of today’s largest service-sector companies, particularly restaurants and big-box retailers, were founded decades ago and sought to hire young people and housewives as low-wage, part-time employees, to give them work experience and spending money. “The reason this has become a big political issue is not that the jobs have changed; it’s that the people doing the jobs have…”

“…New York’s passage of sick leave legislation grabbed headlines, especially as it became law when the city council overrode Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s veto. But in the past two years, NRA lobbyists have pushedeight states to preempt or repeal local labor laws that include requiring paid sick leave. The industry—helped by prominent Democrats such as Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter—also beat proposed sick leave laws in Denver and Philadelphia.

“This trend started in Wisconsin and shows how right-wing alliances spread anti-labor legislation. In 2011, Wisconsin’s Republican Gov. Scott Walker backed an industry-led effort to ban paid sick leave laws, like the one Milwaukee’s voters adopted as a ballot measure in 2008 while Walker was county executive — its top elected official. Seventy percent of voters had backed paid sick leave. That spring, the passage of Wisconsin’s bill preempting local laws was touted as a model by the NRA at meetings of the American Legislative Exchange Council, the pro-corporate lobbying mill. ALEC members, almost all Republicans, introduced copycat bills in their states, Wellstone Action’s Goldfarb said, saying this was how the NRA’s priority spread and “scaled.” These were passed by GOP-majority statehouses, sometimes using strongarm tactics that dismayed labor organizers.

“This summer, for example, Republicans in Florida’s Orange County—near Walt Disney World—were lobbiedby fast-food giants, including Darden, which owns Red Lobster, Olive Garden and Capital Grille, and Disney, and intentionally delayed acting on another sick leave ballot measure that had 80 percent support in polls. That tactic gave the restaurant lobby time to push its preemption bill through its legislature, which GOP Gov. Rick Scott signed into law in July. Arizona, Mississippi, Louisiana, Kansas, Indiana and Tennessee have all passed bans on local sick leave laws. Michigan, Alabama, Oklahoma and South Carolina are considering it.”

National Civil Rights Coalition Launches Campaign to End For-Profit Private Prison System

Corporate Investors and Board Members Urged to Drop Exploitative Business

“NEW YORK–(ENEWSPF)–September 4, 2013 – Today, ColorOfChange, in partnership with Grassroots Leadership, launched a national campaignto put an end to the for-profit private prison system. Through extensive and direct outreach, the campaign is asking investors and board members of for-profit prison companies to divest themselves of that business practice — or face being held publicly accountable…

“…Federal agencies and state governments contract with three main companies to lock people up: Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), GEO Group, Inc., and the Management and Training Corporation (MTC). The top two prison companies, CCA and GEO, are publicly traded and financed by investors, major banks and corporations, who hold shares in the industry. CCA and GEO Group make money by charging a daily rate per body that is sent to them — costing taxpayers billions for dangerous, ineffective facilities. The industry also makes money by avoiding tax payments. CCA will dodge $70 million in tax payments this year by becoming a real estate investment trust (REIT) and designating their prisons as “residential”.

“In order to maximize profits, prison companies cut back on staff training, medical care, and rehabilitative services — causing assault rates to double in some private prisons as well as by lobbying for and benefiting from laws that put more people in jail. In the 1990’s CCA chaired the Criminal Justice Task force of shadowy corporate bill-mill, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which passed “3 strikes” and “truth in sentencing” laws that continue to send thousands of people to prison on very harsh sentences…”

Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas Files Brief in Opposition to ALEC’s Effort to Evade Open Records Law

From PRWatch by Brendan Fischer

“The Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas has filed a brief with state Attorney General Greg Abbott in support of the Center for Media and Democracy’s request for records pertaining to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), and further refuting ALEC’s effort to declare its communications immune from the state public records law.

ALEC’s arguments reflect a dangerous trend of claiming a constitutional right to close the public off from governmental body deliberations,” says attorney Joe Larsen, a member of FOIFT’s Board of Directors. “However, the real purpose of the First Amendment is to further the ‘free trade in ideas.’ That’s done through transparency, not behind closed doors.”

“As ALEC has come under increasing public scrutiny in recent years, they’ve taken new steps to cover their tracks and escape public accountability. In recent months, they’ve begun stamping documents with a “disclaimer” asserting that materials like meeting agendas and model legislation are not subject to any state’s open records law. In late July, Texas became the first state where ALEC formally asked the Attorney General for an exemption from sunshine-in-government laws.

“On August 15, CMD filed a brief with the Texas Attorney General asking his office to reject arguments by ALEC and Texas State Rep. Stephanie Klick that the lobbying organization’s communications with lawmakers should be kept secret from the public.

“FOIFT’s brief, filed last week, supports CMD’s position and adds additional arguments countering claims by Rep. Klick and ALEC — noting, among other things, that the arguments made by each are “mutually inconsistent…”

From the Sunbelt to Capitol Hill, Students Mass for Racial Justice

“As Sallie Mae Sits, Arne Duncan Gets Mailed

“Since late August, Jobs with Justice and the Student Labor Action Project have sent Secretary of Education Arne Duncan more than 25,000 e-mails demanding that the Department of Education end its contract with Sallie Mae. Dating back to February, Jobs with Justice has raised concerns over Sallie Mae’s membership in the American Legislative Exchange Council and violations of the Equal Credit Opportunity Act that led to lawsuits, which are now resurfacing due to accusations from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation that Sallie Mae violated the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act and other “unfair or deceptive” practices. On May 9, students from the US Student Association, Student Labor Action Project and Jobs with Justice met with Duncan to raise these concerns about Sallie Mae and were told by the secretary to “hold him accountable.” Now, we’re holding Secretary Duncan accountable as the calls to put an end to this $300 million dollar contract scandal grow louder.

—Chris Hicks

Shareholder Activists: ‘We’re No Angels’ Edition

Among the activist initiatives pursued by the Community Church and Walden are:

UPS (United Parcel Service) – Community Church co-filed a resolution to UPS “seeking lobby disclosure, as the company still refuses to reveal its lobbying through trade associations. UPS also continues to support ALEC [the American Legislative Exchange Council], which is [sic] works to challenge renewable energy regulations at state levels.”

City Cable Channel Isn’t So Basic

State law could leave viewers in the dark

“WTMJ-4 is the current casualty in the dust-up between Journal Broadcast Group and Time Warner Cable.

“But Milwaukee’s City Channel could be the next to go dark, thanks to a 2007 bill pushed by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), its corporate member AT&T, former Democratic Sen. Jeff Plale, now working for the Walker administration, and former Republican state Rep. Phil Montgomery, Walker’s appointee to head the Public Service Commission… 

“…The Video Competition Act of 2007 took cable franchise agreements out of the hands of municipalities and gave them to the state. So when Time Warner warned its customers recently that 11 of its basic cable channels—including the City Channel—would no longer be included for free in its analog cable packages, it didn’t need to inform the Milwaukee City Council about that change. Time Warner will give a free digital to analog converter box to customers who request it by Nov. 11. But these customers will have to pay an extra $.99 for the formerly free service a year from now…

“…According to the Center for Media and Democracy, the Wisconsin law is modeled on ALEC’s Cable and Video Competition Act, a model bill written by its corporate members for use in statehouses around the country. Supporters promised it would lead to more competition, better customer service and lower cable rates.

“Bohl scoffed at those promises.

“I can only tell you it’s gotten worse,” he said.

“Time Warner could not be reached for comment.”

 

The Stranglehold on Our Politics

 

“Most of the electorate can’t be bothered with midterm elections, and this has had large consequences—none of them good—for our political system and our country. Voting for a president might be exciting or dutiful, worth troubling ourselves for. But the midterms, in which a varying number of governorships are up for election, as well as the entire House of Representatives and one third of the Senate, just don’t seem worth as much effort. Such inaction is a political act in itself, with major effects…”

“…The Republicans who took over the states following the 2010 elections arrived with an agenda strongly based on model laws supplied by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), heavily funded by the Koch brothers along with some other big corporations. The other group that benefited most from the 2010 elections was the passionately anti-abortion Christian right—which is not only an essential part of the national Republican Party’s base but also dominates the Republican Party in about twenty states, and has a substantial influence in more than a dozen other state parties. The Christian right is tremendously effective in motivating its followers to go to the polls—and then threaten a loss of support if their agenda isn’t adopted.

“The overall result of the new Republican domination has been that these states have cut taxes on the wealthy and corporations and moved toward a more comprehensive sales tax; slashed unemployment benefits; cut money for education and various public services; and sought to break the remaining power of the unions. Not only did Republican officials in these states manipulate the constitutionally guaranteed right to vote in their effort to win the presidency in 2012 and preserve their own power by keeping Democratic supporters from voting, but they are at it again. The constitutional right to abortion granted under Roe v. Wade has been flouted. The new strategy among anti-abortion forces is to limit legal abortions to the first twelve weeks of pregnancy. Several states have adopted this measure and others are in the process of doing so…”

Gun Fanatics Score Big Victory in North Carolina

“For years, police officers in North Carolina had a choice when it came to confiscated guns. They could use them for law enforcement purposes—training, testing, examining—or they could destroy them.

“But a new law (PDF) passed by Republican lawmakers in the state changes that. Police officers can still use confiscated guns, but as of this week, they can’t destroy them. Instead, if a department wants to get rid of a gun, it has to sell it or auction it. Effectively, men and women who once worked to keep guns off of the streets must now moonlight as gun dealers.

Crafted by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and passed at the urging of the National Rifle Association, the specifics of the “Save the Gun” law are straightforward. When faced with confiscated guns, law enforcement agencies must either donate, keep, or sell the items to licensed firearm dealers. The only guns that can legally be destroyed are those that are damaged or missing serial numbers, the latter an indication the gun was stolen. (In practical terms, that group doesn’t add up to many weapons; nationwide, stolen guns account for just 10 to 15 percent of those used in crimes.)

“As for what law enforcement thinks? After ALEC developed this proposal in 2011, the Fraternal Order of the Police, a national labor union, said that it preferred discretion when it came to dealing with confiscated weapons—a reasonable position. In North Carolina, the Sheriff’s Association, a trade group, declined to comment on the measure while it faced debate in the legislature. Still, it’s hard to imagine that local police are happy with a law that not only limits their options but also blocks judges from ordering the destruction of weapons used in a crime. Indeed, there’s something perverse about forcing a police department to sell guns that may have been used for assault or murder.”

All these laws come from individual concerns

“There ought to be a law. How many times have you heard that said?

“There’s also the common refrain: “We have too many laws…”

“…Every year, hundreds of bills are filed in Nashville by legislators who deal with issues brought to them by constituents, public officials and business interests. Every one of these bills addresses a specific concern of these individuals.

“In some cases the bills are actually drafted by lobbyists representing business or special interest groups. There’s also the American Legislative Exchange Council, which is responsible for drafting many of the “model” bills that are sponsored by Republicans in Tennessee and elsewhere. One of ALEC’s most popular is the voter ID law that is now facing a legal challenge here (and in North Carolina).

Plain Talk: Wisconsin’s school vouchers are a scam

“The recent news release from the State Department of Public Instruction revealing that 67 percent of the applicants to the Walker administration’s expanded school voucher program are already attending private schools elicited cries of “scam” from many quarters.

“And well it should have.

“That two-thirds of the voucher applicants had their children already enrolled in private schools lays waste the argument by Wisconsin legislative Republicans and the governor that vouchers are needed so poor families can rescue their children from poorly performing public schools.

“Not only was it a scheme to avoid the messy constitutional issue of sending tax dollars to private schools often run by churches, but in reality it was a foot in the door for a well-funded extreme conservative movement to weaken public education.

“The Koch brothers, the Heritage Foundation, the DeVos (Amway) family, the Walton family (Walmart) and right-wing front groups have been behind the push for so-called choice schools. Now that several states, like Wisconsin, are controlled by the new far-right Republican Party, they are pushing vouchers as never before.  And the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), of course, has provided the model legislation…

 

04/29 Daily Report on Activities, Legislation and Initiatives of the ALEC/Koch Cabal

04/29 Daily Report on Activities, Legislation and Initiatives of the ALEC/Koch Cabal

By Bob Sloan

In order to keep readers with an interest in ALEC up to date on stories related to ALEC, we’re posting this page with brief descriptions of ALEC activities and links to the articles or material(s).

Included  this update are links to measures or articles published by ALEC (if available) , showing their take on issues.  Simply click on the title and a link will take you to the full article(s).

GOP Legislator Defends ALEC

A decision by the South Dakota legislature’s Executive Board to possibly include paying for trips to American Legislative Exchange Council meetings has created some controversy. ALEC as it is known has advocated for major changes in public education and the role of government. Senator Dan Lederman of Dakota Dunes, a republican, has been a member of ALEC for some time.

Legislative ‘circus’ had its moments of dignity

“The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a corporately financed orchestrator of legislators nationwide, provided the ventriloquy for yet another “smart-ALEC” puppet promoting the use of what would be public funds for private schooling. A contortionist managed to make a bill that limited access to justice for wrongfully discharged employees look like tort reform. After 85 days of cape-swirling and abra-cadabras about tax relief, the majority magician managed to pull two sorry little sparrows out of the hat, both tax breaks for the few at the expense of the many.”

Art Pope Groups Push Extreme ALEC Tax Agenda in North Carolina

“When McCrory appointed Pope as his budget director in 2012, many progressives in the state feared sweeping tax cuts were on the way. The governor has been mostly silent, so far, but the three Pope-tied groups have each released their own highly regressive tax plans.

“The Civitas tax plan was written by Arthur Laffer, the author of the annual American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) tax publication “Rich States, Poor States.” The two plans are like peas in a pod. Like the ALEC publication, the Civitas plan proposes austerity coupled with abolishing individual and corporate income taxes and replacing them with an increased state sales tax. A sales tax is regressive, since the less a person earns, the greater proportion of their income is eaten up by the tax. According to the North Carolina Justice Center, such a shift would mean a tax cut for the wealthiest 20 percent, while placing a greater financial burden on the bottom 60 percent. This would translate into a $500 tax increase for somebody earning $24,000, but a $41,000 decrease for a $1 million earner.”

Did Johnson & Johnson succumb to ‘race baiting’?

“A conservative policy expert recently attended Johnson & Johnson’s annual shareholder meeting last week where he challenged the company for caving to left-wing extremists and deciding to stop working with mainstream conservative organizations.

“At Thursday’s annual meeting of shareholders in New Brunswick, New Jersey, Justin Danhof, general counsel for The National Center for Public Policy Research (NCPPR), criticized Johnson & Johnson CEO Alex Gorsky’s decision to stop working with the American Legislative Exchange Council – a respected, 40-year-old national organization of supporting state legislators.

Audio: National expert on swift, certain sanctions: ‘Rest of the country has its eyes on Washington state

“Swift and Certain Sanctions”…another model bill from ALEC. This “Act” was adopted by the full ALEC membership on June 3 2010.  Assoc. Professor Angela Hawken, PhD of Pepperdine’s School of Public Policy has been touring the U.S. speaking alongside representatives of American Enterprise Institute (AEI) , a staunchly conservative think tank associated with the American Legislative Exchange Council and funded at least in part by the Koch family foundations in similar manner to the Americans For Prosperity organization.  Hawken is an “expert” on topics other than swift and certain sanctions…often speaking on legalization of marijuana.

Many projects of Pepperdine’s School of Public Policy are funded by the Charles G. Koch Foundation:

April 1, 2013, The School of Public Policy and the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation present an Economic Seminar on Wednesday, April 3, at 12 p.m. in LC 159, with a reception to follow. School of Public Policy students Catherine Bampoky (MPP candidate ’13) and Aolong Liu (MPP candidate ’13) will present their research paper titled “The Impact of Entrepreneurship on Economic Growth.” In addition, students Ji Gu (MPP candidate ’13) and Tonghui Zhu (MPP candidate ’13) will present “Research and Development and Economic Growth in the United States.” These projects are joint work with Dr. Luisa Blanco and Dr. James Prieger. Funding for these projects was provided by the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation.

 

Our Voice: State should not pay lawmakers’ dues to ALEC

 “South Dakota’s Republican-controlled legislative Executive Board last week decided that each member of the Legislature should be a member of ALEC — the American Legislative Exchange Council.

“That’s $10,500 of your money: $100 membership each for 105 South Dakota lawmakers’ memberships to a partisan group that is not looking out for the people of South Dakota.

“Then, when lawmakers go out of state to ALEC conventions, South Dakota will foot the travel bill, too.

 

Koch Brothers’ Plans for Their Upcoming GOP Donor Retreat Revealed

Koch Brothers’ Plans for Their Upcoming GOP Donor Retreat Revealed

From Mother Jones article “EXCLUSIVE: Read the Koch Brothers’ Plans for Their Upcoming GOP Donor Retreat” By l…

For more than a decade reports of attempts by the Brothers Koch – Charles and David – to assert their ideological branding upon American politics have been in the news. Founders or funders of nearly every ultra-conservative PAD or organization from the Tea Party to Americans for Prosperity, Americans for Tax Reform and dozens of other extreme organizations existing to advance conservatism, these two billionaires have spent hundreds of million in pursuit of that ideology.
 
Koch BrothersEvery year the Koch’s hold “donor retreats” where America’s wealthy conservative family representatives, Congressional members and corporatists are invited to attend.  At these meetings Charles and David issue marching orders for the coming year and in some cases set the agenda all the way to the next general election.  Attendees generously and individually throw millions of dollars into the pot to fund the activities and goals set by the Kochs.
Between 2010 and 2012 the billionaire brothers spent hundreds of millions of dollars in an attempt to defeat the re-election of President Obama and increase the GOP majority in the House of Representatives as well as secure a majority in the Senate.  They failed miserably in all three as the  President was re-elected and in the House Republicans actually lost seats to Democrats who continue to control the Senate.
Koch Industries has been a long time member of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and in the late 90’s when ALEC was financially strapped and on the verge of disappearing, the Koch’s loaned ALEC a half million dollars to keep the organization alive and pursuing the conservative dogma ALEC is so well known for.  Since then the Kochs have supported ALEC’s initiatives such as voter suppression and voter ID legislation, deregulating the EPA and climate denial – to name just a handful of topics pursued jointly by the Kochs and ALEC.
Mother Jones reports:

“According to a previously unpublished preview of the April 28-29 gathering, the Kochs will unveil a new plan to recruit and train political candidates who will advance their free-market worldview. Another priority is improving the conservative movement’s outreach to “growing demographics” such as Latinos, young people, and women. The preview, obtained by Mother Jones, was emailed to attendees in March by Kevin Gentry, a top Koch aide. (A Koch spokeswoman did not respond to requests for comment about Gentry’s email.)”

“The Kochs and their acolytes believe it is their duty to stop what Charles Koch calls “the greatest assault on American freedom and prosperity in our lifetimes.” Hebegan a September 2010 letter (PDF) outlining plans for an upcoming donor retreat by asking, “If not us, who? If not now, when?” At the Vail retreat, Koch said the 2012 elections will be “the mother of all wars.”

In this informative article from MJ the entire memo sent out to those invited to attend the upcoming “Retreat” is provided to readers.  Read the full article and memo at Mother Jones -> HERE<-

 

 

Media campaign against windfarms funded by anonymous conservatives

Secretive funding network channeled millions to stop state governments moving towards renewable energy

Anti wind farm lobby :  near Shabbona, Illinois

The trusts, Donors Trust and Donors Capital Fund, served as the bankers of the conservative movement over the past decade, have funded a campaign against windfarms. Photograph: Alex Garcia/Getty Images

(editor’s note:  this article is describing the activities of groups involved in the ALEC/Koch Cabal)

 

Conservatives used a pair of secretive trusts to fund a media campaign against windfarms and solar projects, and to block state agencies from planning for future sea-level rise, the Guardian has learned.

The trusts, Donors Trust and Donors Capital Fund, served as the bankers of the conservative movement over the past decade. Promising anonymity to their conservative billionaire patrons, the trusts between them channelled nearly $120m to contrarian thinktanks and activists, wrecking the chances of getting Congress to act on climate change.

Now the Guardian can reveal the latest project of the secretive funding network: a campaign to stop state governments moving towards renewable energy.

The campaign against wind and solar power was led by a relatively new entity, the Franklin Centre for Government and Public Integrity. The Franklin Centre did not exist before 2009, but it has quickly become a protege of Donors Trust.

The Franklin Centre, headquarters barely one-tenth of a mile away from the nondescript Alexandria, Virginia town home of its funders, received $6.3m from the two funds in 2011. It was the second largest disbursement to any entity by the Donors that year, according to tax records.

The largesse to the Franklin Centre signals a shift in priorities for the conservative billionaires who are funding the anti-climate cause towards local and state-level organising.

The backers of the anti-climate cause have eased off in their support of DC-centric thinktanks, said Whitney Ball, the chief executive and president of Donors Trust. “They are not as prominent any more.”

Instead, it appears the donors are banking on an aggressive anti-climate media strategy, led by the Franklin Centre, to push back against climate action.

In 2011, Donors Trust helped the Franklin Centre expand its media operations to Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, Ohio and Virginia, the Centre for Public Integrity reported in an investigation on conservative funding networks.

The Franklin Centre purports to be a hub for a network of “citizen journalists” and “watchdog” groups reporting from state capitals. It claims on its website to provide 10% of all daily reporting from state capitals across the country. It says it is on a mission to uphold a media culture of “transparency, accountability, and fiscal responsibility at the grassroots level”.

But the Pew Research Centre’s Project for Excellence in Journalism has ranked Franklin’s watchdog.org affiliates as “highly ideological”. Many of the media organisations listed on Franklin’s website as affiliates are ultra-conservative groups.

Among them are several that have been active in the past year or two to stop the expansion of solar power and windfarms.

In North Carolina, the two Franklin affiliates, the John Locke Foundation and the John W Pope Civitas Institute, also led effort for a ban on the term “sea-level rise”. The state legislature eventually voted in June last year to bar state agencies from taking into account future sea-level rise in development planning.

The groups have also led opposition to offshore wind development in North Carolina, organising workshops against windfarms.

Another Franklin affiliate, the New Jersey Watchdog, pushed for the state to drop out of a regional emissions cutting programme.

Other Watchdog affiliates have cast doubt on the link between extreme weather and climate change.

CPI found multiple ties between the Franklin Centre and groups such as Americans for Prosperity, which has been funded by Donors Trust as well as the conservative oil billionaire Koch brothers. Some of the Franklin Centre’s blogs have received funds from AFP. There was also cross-over of board members in the two groups.

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The article was written by, US environment correspondent for the guardian.co.uk,

Governor McCrory: Try living on $350 a week

NC Unemployment remains historically highRepublicans in the North Carolina General Assembly have hatched a plan to cut unemployment benefits to those hurt most by the Great Recession, hard-working North Carolinians who were laid off and are struggling to find work again.

Republican leaders like Davie County Rep. Julia Howard (R-ALEC), who helped write the new unemployment scheme, seem to think that unemployment benefits are too generous. Under the current system, the maximum unemployment benefit is around $535 a week. The GOP plan is to cut the maximum benefit to $350 a week and reduce coverage from 26 weeks to 12. Most beneficiaries will receive even less.

Gov. Pat McCrory has indicated he is likely to support the plan, but will make a final decision in the next week.

I am writing for a very simple purpose – to challenge Gov. McCrory, Rep. Howard and other members of North Carolina legislature to literally put their money where their mouth is, and agree to live for one week on the proposed maximum unemployment insurance benefit of $350 a week.

Before our state lawmakers make any final decision, they should see firsthand what they are asking unemployed folks in North Carolina to endure. If this proposal became law, tens of thousands of North Carolinians would find it impossible to support themselves or their families.

Two weeks ago, the governor gave his cabinet secretaries huge pay raises “so they can afford to live.” Governor, if your cabinet can’t live on more than $120,000 a year, how the heck are struggling middle-class families supposed to scrape by on less than $20,000 a year? Let’s find out.

Here is the challenge:

Take $350 and subtract $145, a week’s worth of the median rent in North Carolina.

That’s $205 a week for everything else – food, medicine, transportation, clothing, utilities, cell phone, TV, etc. Need to check your email? Better add in a week’s worth of Internet connection. Need to take a phone call? That cell bill counts, too.

Every day, tally what you spent, and post it on our “Take the 350 Challenge” Facebook page.

If you agree to take the challenge, I will do it, too.

The point, of course, is that we all understand what we are asking folks to live with before we make it law. Each and every one of us is a single day away from being unemployed – except for the governor, of course. We want you to understand what you are asking this state to accept.

That’s it! It’s that simple. Take the 350 Challenge and show North Carolina that you really are a representative of the people.

On behalf of the over 400,000 North Carolinians currently unemployed, we dare you to make the same sacrifice for just one week that you are asking hundreds of thousands of others to make until our fragile economy rebounds.

Gov. McCrory, Rep. Howard – the ball is in your court. This is your challenge.

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This article was written by Kevin Rogers (Kevin Rogers is the policy and public affairs director of Action NC)  and published in the Winston Salem Journal.  The original article can be viewed at http://www.journalnow.com/opinion/columnists/article_fa1f6814-6c00-11e2-a8d6-001a4bcf6878.html.
winston-salem journal

State Legislature to Consider Raising Taxes on 80% of North Carolinians – Updated

editor’s note:  We would like to extend our thanks to Alexandra Forter Sirota of the NC Justice Center, who took the time not only to read our re-posted article, but to let us know that the graph used in the report had been updated by the NC Budget and Tax Center.  Aside from just adding both to my daily RSS feeds, this updated article includes their updated graph.

 

North Carolina State Senate leader Phil Berger (R-Eden) (R-ALEC) is indicating that the preferred “Tax Overhaul” which will be put before the legislature by the Republican majority and designed by Art Pope’s (R-ALEC 1995) Civitas Institute will eliminate most corporate taxes, do away with personal income taxes, and raise sales/consumption taxes to as much as 8.5%. According to a study by The North Carolina Justice Center released last week, one of the effects of this change would be to raise the taxes of a family of four earning $24,000.00 a year (the Federal poverty line) by $500.00 and give those making over $1 million are year a $41,000.00 tax cut. The plan eliminates the personal income, corporate income and franchise taxes, which, combined, generate $12 billion in revenue for North Carolina schools, infrastructure and other public priorities. The revenue loss would be replaced via a higher sales tax that would cover more goods and services, a business license fee and a real estate transaction fee.

For North Carolina’s top 20% of North Carolina’s wage earners the change in the tax code would be a major financial boom while the remaining 80% comprised of the working class and the working poor would bear the brunt of the new burden.
Civitas-Laffer Plan Increases Taxes for Middle- and Low-Income Taxpayers

The plan, called the Civitas/Laffer Plan after billionaire Art Pope’s Civitas Institute and an economist named Arthur Laffer (ALEC “Scholar”), who was on Ronald Reagan’s Economic Advisory Board where he championed the (proven wrong) philosophy of Supply Side Economics. The Civitas/Laffer Plan, if implemented, would do the following:

  • Eliminate the personal income tax, which generated $10.3 billion during fiscal year 2011-12.
  • Eliminate the corporate income tax, which generated $1.1 billion.
  • Eliminate the business franchise tax, which applies to businesses that are incorporated in North Carolina and generated $650 million.
  • Raise the state sales tax to 6.53 % from 4.75 % and expand it to include currently exempt goods, as well as services that are currently not taxed. The plan purports that the sales tax would generate an additional $7.6 billion.
  • Create a real estate transaction fee that would apply a 1 % tax on the total value of commercial and real estate transactions when they are transferred, which would raise an estimated $390 million according to the plan.
  • Implement a business license fee that would apply to businesses based on their earnings, assets and losses, with a minimum fee of $500, which would raise an estimated $4 billion.

Opponents of the plan and organizations such as the NC Justice Center contend that the negative effects of implementing the Civitas/Laffer plan would be:

  • Will not raise enough revenue to meet North Carolina’s current and future needs.
  • It is most generous to the wealthiest North Carolinians while raising taxes on
  • middle-income households.
  • Its structure threatens the state’s ability to respond to changing economic conditions.

Thom Tillis with gavelThe plan comes as no surprise to those who have followed the recent career of General assembly Speaker Thom Tillis (R-ALEC). In 2011 Tillis was named ALEC’s (American Legislative Executive Council) Legislator of the Year. Also in 2011 ALEC released their “Tax Commandments” which included the “commandment” to ALEC legislators to:

First, thou shalt keep taxes low.
Second, thou shalt reduce taxes on income and wealth.
Third, thou shalt keep marginal tax rates low and relatively uniform.

ALEC has since scrubbed these “commandments” from the internet, but they no doubt had an effect on ALEC legislators like Tillis. One of ALEC’s (and many Conservatives) contentions is that lowering corporate and income taxes will spur economic growth. According to the study done by the NC Justice Center:

There is no evidence of a direct relationship between top tax rates and economic or job growth. According to a 2012 study by the Congressional Research Service. Moreover, states that Laffer himself has termed “high income tax states” turn out to have economic conditions comparable to, if not better than, states that do not have a personal income tax, according to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy.

In fact, states with low income tax rates actually have lower employment growth and lower median household income than Laffer’s designated high-tax states according to a recent study by Good Jobs First and the Iowa Policy Project.

Furthermore, the industry composition in a state has a greater impact on a state’s economic performance. Similarly, an educated workforce, the presence of research centers like major universities and other knowledge factors boost per capita income growth. Accordingly, states will likely suffer in the long run because they lack the resources needed to invest in education and other building blocks of economic growth.

Wednesday morning at an event in Chapel Hill, state Budget Director and Civitas financier Art Pope told reporters that he doesn’t think that eliminating personal and corporate taxes would not be a “good idea”. This after Pope’s Civitas Institute has been promoting an article titled, “Why All U.S. States Should Eliminate The Income Tax.”

Also Wednesday Thom Tillis muddied the water further mixing the messages when according to News 14 he told small businessmen in Charlotte:

“If we can get to a point to where we no longer have a corporate and personal income tax that would be great,” he said. “The devil’s in the details in how you get there.”

While it is not clear exactly what any final legislation will look like, it appears that the State Legislature is heading in the direction of raising taxes on 80% of North Carolina’s population. Governor Pat McCrory is yet to make a statement to indicate his Administration’s position on the tax raise. Art Pope is an art popeAdministration official, however, and it is possible that his statements reflect the position of the McCrory Administration in spite of Pope’s financial sponsorship of the Civitas Institute.

 

 Art Pope (photo)

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This article was posted at the Camel City Dispatch, at http://www.camelcitydispatch.com/state-legislature-to-consider-raising-taxes-on-80-of-north-carolinians/    It was the best written explanation I found of the Civitas-Laffer plan using the data from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy.

To read the entire Budget and Tax Center report on the Civitas-Laffer Tax Plan, please click here

 

Prospective Charter Schools Applications Surge Into Raleigh

A short while ago we posted The Assault on Public Education Continues in NC which noted the growth in Charter school applications in NC.  Here is a follow up article expanding on the subject.

This post is from the Carolina Journal Online, published by the John Locke Foundation–Art Pope’s think tank here in NC.  A well formed and influential magazine that supports radical right wing dogma.  They are part of the conservative echo chamber by which they overwhelm the public with “expert” supporters for the rad-right agenda.  This is a site worth looking at for no other reason than to see how it promotes this agenda.  I encourage you to learn about the John Locke Foundation by clicking here (once you have read the rest of this blog, I hope).

[Just for background for those who have not been following our blogs on NC:  Art Pope, is an ex-member of ALEC – might still be, we don’t know for sure–yet) and has been involved in Americans For Prosperity with, among others, David Koch.  Pope is said to use brother Charles Koch as a role model.  On the smaller stage of North Carolina as opposed to the international stage of ALEC, Pope has been incredibly influential in NC politics and is widely given credit for the super-majority that conservatives have in the state capitol.

Thom Tillis, who will be referred to later, is the Speaker of the House.  He is also a member of ALEC and was ALEC’s 2011 Legislator of the Year.  He is involved with their International Relations Task Force (chaired by NC’s Tim Moffit and the Philip Morris Corp.).  VLTP has written about ALEC’s international influence before, and is working to connect some final dots showing how multinational corporations are at the heart of a major amount of ALEC Model Legislation.]

The article is entitled Prospective Charter Schools Applications Surge Into Raleigh, and subtitled “But critics fear that state regulators will stifle innovation“.  Well framed as talking ponts–conservatives do this so well.  Sounds interesting, and it is–for the wrong reasons:

RALEIGH — Potential charter school operators, including two that would operate online, flooded the state with 154 letters of intent to open in fall 2014, punctuating a growing appetite for alternatives to traditional public education.
More →

NC judge tosses law that represented GOP revenge against public school employees

A law passed by North Carolina’s Republican-led legislature to punish the state teachers’ association for fighting education budget cuts has been thrown out as unconstitutional.

In an order filed last month, a Wake County Superior Court judge ruled that a law banning the N.C. Association of Educators (NCAE) from deducting dues from its members’ paychecks constituted “retaliatory viewpoint discrimination” and violated the state constitution’s free-speech clause.

“We are extremely pleased with the court’s decision in this important More →

Big Tobacco has a ball in NC via Reynolds, an ALEC Corporate Member

After helping elect N.C. Gov. McCrory, Reynolds is sponsoring inaugural events.After helping elect N.C. Gov. McCrory, Reynolds is sponsoring inaugural events.  (editor’s note:  Reynolds is a member of ALEC)

This week, North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory is ringing in the new Republican administration with a series of events including a Gala Presentation and Inaugural Ball — events that share a common sponsor: tobacco giant Reynolds American.

Winston-Salem, N.C.-based Reynolds American Inc. is the parent company of R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., as well as three other tobacco-related companies, and it is a longtime powerhouse in North Carolina politics.

In 2012, Reynolds continued to flex its political muscle, with the company and its people using a variety of avenues to help McCrory and other Republicans. Among Reynolds’ political expenditures in the 2012 election cycle*: More →