conservative think tanks

Virginia legislators list tax-paid travel, gifts – Including ALEC Paid Conferences

Virginia legislators list tax-paid travel, gifts – Including ALEC Paid Conferences

From Virginia’s News Advance.com by Ray Reed…

Virginia lawmakers who hold membership in ALEC and other organizations, have been receiving reimbursement for expensive travel and hotel accommodations for attending predominantly conservative functions.

“The busiest travelers among the Lynchburg area’s delegation to the General Assembly are Dels. Kathy Byron and Lacey Putney, according to personal finance statements they reported during the past three years.

“Byron also said she took a trip to Taiwan, sponsored by its cultural office, that she didn’t report because Virginia taxpayers didn’t pay for it.

“Putney and Byron both filed statements of economic interests with the House of Delegates for trips they made to conferences held by the American Legislative Exchange Council, which describes itself as a think tank that helps state lawmakers deal with public-policy issues and solutions.

“The trip to Taiwan that Byron didn’t report occurred in 2012, and three other Virginia legislators took the trip with her.

“Other travel, listed on local legislators’ disclosure forms, included the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) conferences.

Taxpayers paid about $2,300 for three ALEC trips, one by Putney in 2010 and two by Byron in 2011 and 2012. The trips cost more than that, but the council’s corporate sponsors also cover part of the expenses. The ALEC conferences were held in Phoenix, Salt Lake City, San Diego and Washington.

About 35 Virginia lawmakers are members of ALEC, although not all of them attend its meetings. House Speaker William Howell, R-Spotsylvania County, is a member of the ALEC board of directors.

Byron said she has attended ALEC’s meetings for several years and is now chairwoman of its innovation and technology committee, focusing on topics such as data-storage centers like a Microsoft facility that was built in Mecklenburg County two years ago.”

Read the full News Advance article -> HERE <-

5/15 ALEC/Koch Cabal Review of Articles, Proposed Laws & Conservative Initiatives

5/15 ALEC/Koch Cabal Review of Articles, Proposed Laws & Conservative Initiatives

By Bob Sloan

Below are stories, articles and material related to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and their corporate members, funders and supporters – that include the notorious Koch brothers, Charles and David.  Initiatives of ALEC and pursued by the Koch brothers and other conservatives are provided in one place for readers to review and study.

Click on headline to visit the sites and read the full article(s)…

Got Science? ALEC Threatens Food Safety With ‘Ag Gag’ Laws

“In an effort spearheaded by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), and bankrolled by the Koch brothers and other corporate sponsors, state legislatures in most major agricultural states are being beset this year with so-called “ag-gag” bills — repressive and misguided legislation that proposes to make it a crime to photograph or videotape operations at factory farms where animals are being raised. 

“The problem with such legislation,” says Doug Gurian-Sherman, senior scientist in the Union of Concerned Scientists’ food and environment program, “is that industries that should be cleaning up their practices are instead digging in their heels to try to shield their actions even further from the public eye.” As Gurian-Sherman explains, both science and democracy demand transparency. “In a democracy, and in the marketplace, information is critical and the public has a real right to know about the food they buy,” he says. “These laws move in the wrong direction from the standpoint of public health and safety.”

 

Analysis – States’ bids to slash renewables targets slows US progress

UNITES STATES: Anti-renewables legislation being proposed in many states is hampering the growth of wind energy across the US, according to researchers and wind industry officials.

“Political attacks on renewables range from attempts to place moratoriums on new wind development in states such as New Hampshire and Vermont, to efforts to repeal or significantly roll back targets in North Carolina, Kansas and Ohio. Other states, including Connecticut, are looking at watering down their mandates by allowing electricity from large-scale hydro to be used to meet the requirements.

“This year, we saw bills introduced across the country that would have wiped out nearly 50% of the demand created through state policies,” a Vestas spokesman told Windpower Monthly.

“In all, according to a database compiled by the law firm Keyes, Fox & Wiedman, there have been at least 35 bills to weaken renewable portfolio standards (RPS) proposed in 16 of the 29 states that have them on the books.

“Activity to undermine the standards has been increasing, said Jeff Deyette, assistant energy research director at the Union of Concerned Scientists.”

These legislative state bills originate within ALEC, written with the help of oil and gas corporate members.  Once “adopted” by the full membership they are then distributed to each state as proposed and “necessary” laws by ALEC’s legislative members.  Corporate interests then contribute to campaigns of those lawmakers agreeing to support the legislation.

NC Moral Monday demonstrations bring more arrests

RALEIGH Nearly 200 protesters crowded inside the Legislative Building early Monday evening, singing, chanting and echoing many of the same concerns that demonstrators have for the past three Mondays.

As members of the state House of Representatives tended to business, North Carolinians dissatisfied with tax plans, education policies, health care proposals, welfare cuts, environmental deregulation and new voting policies grew louder and louder.

Forty-nine women and men were arrested, zip-ties binding their hands as they were walked onto a bus which took them to the Wake County Detention Center on Hammond Road for processing.

The week before, 30 people were arrested, and the week before that there were 17 arrests.

The protesters contend the new-to-power legislators are dismantling decades of progress in public education, race relations, environmental protections and more. They are critical of proposed tax reforms that they argue would offer big breaks for state residents who make the most while pulling more from those at the middle and lower-income rungs.

“In North Carolina, Gov. McCrory and his merry men, Tillis and Berger, are engaging in Robin Hood in reverse,” Barber told about 150 people gathered before the protest at Davie Street Presbyterian Church, about a mile from the Legislative Building.

Barber said at an organizing session that he thought the legislators should be more transparent. He argued that North Carolina’s Republican leaders entertain advice from American Legislative Exchange Council, a largely private conservative group backed by major corporations that proposes model legislation for like-minded lawmakers, but has little time for the NAACP and their critics.

“You should not be arresting us,” Barber said. “You should thank us for having the courage to tell it like it is.”

Between the Lines — We shouldn’t foot ALEC bill

“What could be wrong with South Dakota taxpayers footing the bill for legislators’ membership and travel to ALEC meetings?

“Especially when you consider that in December 2011, ALEC adopted model legislation, based on a Texas law, addressing the public disclosure of chemicals in drilling fluids used to extract natural gas through hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. The ALEC legislation, which has since provided the basis for similar bills submitted in five states, has been promoted as a victory for consumers’ right to know about potential drinking water contaminants.

“So, hooray for us taxpayers. Right?

“A close reading of the bill, however, reveals loopholes that would allow energy companies to withhold the names of certain fluid contents, for reasons including that they have been deemed trade secrets. Most telling, perhaps, the bill was sponsored within ALEC by ExxonMobil, one of the largest practitioners of fracking — something not explained when ALEC lawmakers introduced their bills back home.

Don’t squander travel money

“Argus Leader, Sioux Falls, S.D.: Sometimes the value of something is nowhere worth what it costs.

“We think that is the case of the recent debate over whether the state should pick up the tab for memberships and travel for all legislators to go to the American Legislative Exchange Council conferences.

“No matter where you are politically, it’s clear that the state shouldn’t buy memberships for everyone to belong to ALEC. It’s ridiculous that state taxpayers would pay those fees.

“It’s fine for lawmakers to pay their own membership and travel to any professional conference they choose, no matter who sponsors it. This group’s membership and conferences just are not something for which the taxpayer should be billed.”

From ALEC affiliated sources:

Competition improves education

 

“In a recent guest column, Rep. Franke Wilmer, an MSU professor, said, “Keep education system public, not privatized,” and said the Legislative session had many bills that bore a striking similarity to model bills from the legislative agenda of the corporate bill-mill American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC. Whether a particular bill is an ALEC bill, or written by a former ALEC member like the National Association of Charter Schools, a bad idea driven mainly by out-of-state interests is still a bad idea. Representative Wilmer mentions the American Legislative Exchange Council as if it were a bad organization. Google “ALEC” and you will find that it is a “Partnership of America’s state legislators and members of the private sector that works to advance free-market enterprise and limited government.” She says that it is driven mainly by out-of-state interests which gives a totally false impression that we Montanans are not concerned about improving education.

A response in needed! I too served the people of Montana. As a state senator I was on the Senate Education Committee, and am also the only first-year legislator ever appointed to the Legislative Council (now Legislative Services). As a member of the Council I was chairman of the committee on school construction. My committee and I visited, questioned, and listened to numerous school administrators, board members, and faculty around Montana…Two personal examples vividly show the difference between public and private education. New York state required public school students to pass a regents exam for each subject at the end of the year before moving on to the next year in that subject. At the private school regents exams were utilized at times, such as when I took Spanish I. We were required to take, and pass, a Spanish II regents exam at the end of our first semester. Yes, in one semester we accomplished what the public schools were accomplishing in two years. Next example. At Purdue I took a biology class. I literally did not have to study. We had covered the material thoroughly in high school.” 

Rich Danker: For real pension reform, inequality must be stressed

“Just a few years ago, pension reform appeared inevitable. The drop in asset prices during the financial crisis had left public pension funds trillions of dollars behind on meeting future obligations. The defined benefit model was under fire as unduly expensive.

“Utah in early 2010 passed a law to put new workers into 401(k)-style accounts. Later that year the American Legislative Exchange Council adopted model legislation (which I coauthored) that did the same thing. We thought this would take off around the country and save state and local governments from accumulating more pension debt.

Related article or content:

Surprise, Surprise: Pension Cuts Are Legal

“For the past year or so, as the public pension crisis has been exposed across the country, unions have cited the law as the reason that states cannot restrain their retirement system costs. Pension deals between government and workers are ironclad, their legal theory went, and compensation can’t be trimmed even for workers’ future years of service. So when three states, Colorado, Minnesota and South Dakota, cut the cost-of-living allowances (COLA) in their pension formula last year, their reform efforts were expected to be scuttled by the courts in favor of the union plaintiffs.

“Cutting the COLA is one of the reforms needed (along with rolling back excessive pension accruals, eliminating the practice of “spiking,” and raising the retirement age) to stave off pension insolvency. Along those lines, the American Legislative Exchange Council, an organization of nearly 2,000 conservative state legislators, earlier this year adopted model legislation drafted by the American Principles Project that caps pension payouts at the private sector median. By green-lighting the COLA adjustments, the two court rulings signal to lawmakers that they may proceed to do what’s needed to make their retirement systems sustainable.

 

 

5/14 – Today’s Review of ALEC/Koch Cabal Related Articles and Material

5/14 – Today’s Review of ALEC/Koch Cabal Related Articles and Material

 

Today’s stories, articles and material related to ALEC and the Koch funded conservative cabal.

Click on headline link to read the full article(s)…

Are Vouchers Dead?

“When news broke Tuesday that the Louisiana Supreme Court struck down Louisiana’s voucher system, which uses public dollars to pay for low-income students to go to private schools, the fight over vouchers made its way back into the headlines. The Louisiana program, pushed hard and publicly by Republican Governor Bobby Jindal, offers any low-income child in the state, regardless of what public school they would attend, tuition assistance at private schools. It’s something liberals fear will become commonplace in other states in the future if conservative lawmakers get their way on education policy…

“…Meanwhile, voucher opponents focus on the potential losses to public schools such policies threaten. Each time a student leaves with a voucher, schools lose the funding they would otherwise have gotten. Yet their costs—for things like salaries and infrastructure—don’t go down because usually only a handful of kids leave.  (Supporters respond that enrollments fluctuate anyhow and that vouchers shouldn’t change the calculus much.) Conservative groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council have long supported vouchers as yet another way to privatize previously public institutions. Furthermore, private schools are often religiously affiliated, which means that through vouchers, public dollars can wind up supporting church-based institutions. This was a major point of contention in Louisiana, where one activist drew considerable attention to the program by identifying 19 of the 119 schools participating in the voucher program as having various anti-science curriculums. According to Mathis, top-notch private schools often aren’t interested in participating in voucher programs, so voucher programs end up supporting sketchier alternatives. On top of all this, opponents of vouchers argue that the policy doesn’t improve educational outcomes or performance.”

 

Scientists support renewable electricity standards

“The white paper comes as an increasing number of RESs in states are under attack. For instance, in North Carolina a bill has been working its way through the legislature that would repeal the state’s RES. The bill comes despite the popularity of renewables in the state, and despite the original bill having bipartisan support.

“This is happening across the country. “Of the 30 RES policies in place, 14 were enacted with Republican governors in office and half had either Republican control of both houses of the state legislature or two houses that were split between Democrats and Republicans,” UCS said. “Recently, however, renewable energy has become more politically divisive. Attacks on RES policies are now being led by organizations such as the American Legislative Exchange Council, Beacon Hill Institute, and Heritage Foundation, which often receive funding from fossil fuel interests and use biased analysis to advocate for the repeal or scaling back of RES policies.”

Campaign contribution disclosure, the perfect storm at the SEC

“Ten well-recognized academics, several advocacy organizations, some Congress members, and hundreds of thousands of petitioners have patiently been waiting for the new Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Commissioner Mary Jo White to rule on a petition for disclosure of all political campaign contributions to shareholders.

“McGarrah referred to the stampede of corporations that left membership at the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) in 2012 due to the expose of the organization’s involvement together with the National Rifle Association’s (NRA) in the Stand Your Ground legislation, believed to be an important factor in increasing gun violence in the United States.”

Green Desert: Don’t leave climate change off curriculum

“The lack of a broad-based understanding of the science of climate change among American students has emerged as a major concern among science educators in the country.

“In a recent story broadcast on National Public Radio, Mark McCaffrey, programs and policy director at the National Center for Science Education, said only 1 in 5 students feel like they’ve got a good understanding of climate change from what they’ve learned in school, while surveys show two-thirds say they’re not learning much at all about it…

The important thing here is that climate change will be taught as science, not as a controversial theory or a point of debate — an approach advocated in model legislation called the Environmental Literacy Improvement Act, developed by the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council. The law, introduced or passed in various forms in a small number of states, characterizes the topic as controversial and calls for teaching different views on climate change as a way to help students develop “critical thinking” skills.”

 Kansas views on sales tax, legal fees, redistricting, school drug test

“When Gov. Sam Brownback said he intended to create jobs in Kansas, who knew he was talking about lawyers? Derek Schmidt, the Republican attorney general, has asked the Legislature to add $1.2 million to his two-year budget to help defend bad laws that Brownback signed this session. It’s worth noting that the Legislature didn’t pass these expensive laws in response to a groundswell from constituents. The drug-testing bill was pushed by the American Legislative Exchange Council, which works on behalf of corporations, including drug companies. The paycheck deduction bill was supported by the anti-union Kansas Chamber of Commerce. Those groups certainly got their money’s worth from the Legislature. Too bad taxpayers are left holding the bill.”

Column: Chris Fitzsimon on dark days in Raleigh

“If you were wondering if the tea-party crazy train was slowing down in Raleigh these days, the beginning of last week ought to remove any doubt. It’s actually picking up steam as it drags North Carolina further to the right and further out of the mainstream.

“The headline event was the long-awaited unveiling of the tax “reform” plan of the far-right Senate leadership, complete with its own website and slickly produced video featuring Senate President Pro Tem and likely U.S. Senate candidate Phil Berger standing in a factory while animation presenting misleading facts appear over his shoulder.”

“Fittingly, the week began as the News & Observer reported on the vast influence of the far-right American Legislative Exchange Council on the current General Assembly, with many bills coming straight from the group’s conservative and lobbyist-funded playbook.

 Star Ohio tax witness paid $150K a year by trust

“COLUMBUS, Ohio — COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) – An Ohio Statehouse witness on tax and economic issues who’s relied upon for his objectivity draws a hefty stipend from a conservative trust fund, an Associated Press review has found.

“Retired Ohio University economics professor Richard Vedder has been paid a $150,000 annual consulting fee through the Alexandria, Va.-based Donors Trust, which supports free-market nonprofits focused on shrinking the role of government.

“Donors Trust’s stated mission is supporting charities that alleviate society’s most pressing needs by encouraging “private philanthropy and individual giving and responsibility as an answer to society’s needs, as opposed to government involvement.”

“Among its dozens of beneficiaries are universities and think tanks including the Cato Institute, Freedom Works, Americans for Prosperity and the American Legislative Exchange Council.”

Let’s take a closer look at some of those gifts Pennsylvania pols got: As I See It

“Here’s my list of the top 10 gifts that Pennsylvania politicians reported receiving in 2012:

“8) Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R-Butler)

“Mr. Smart Alec took $2,224 to attend two American Legislative Exchange Council meetings so he could learn how to cut and paste right-wing memos into legislative proposals.”

Animal cruelty laws stir free speech debate

“A feverish debate in Tennessee over a law that would compel people with video of alleged animal cruelty to hand a copy over to police has set off a debate about wider First Amendment issues.

“Lawmakers in Tennessee have passed a Livestock Cruelty Protection Act and sent it on to the state’s governor, Bill Haslam, to sign or veto. The measure is similar to laws in at least nine states.

“At the end of the day it’s about personal property rights or the individual right to privacy,” said Bill Meierling, a spokesman for he American Legislative Exchange Council, in a statement to the Huffington Post. “You wouldn’t want me coming into your home with a hidden camera.”

State ‘business climates’ — more myth than reality?

“Is there a “right business climate” to draw industries and jobs to a state? A look at the organizations that rank states on business climate suggests such rankings may be overblown, writes Neal Peirce.

“Another major rating system that Good Jobs First takes on is the annual report, “Rich States, Poor States” written by supply-side economist Arthur Laffer. It’s issued by ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, with its support by major corporations and such major right-wing players as Charles and David Koch. Laffer’s chosen index items all favor lower taxes on corporations and the wealthy, reduced public revenues, and holding down workers’ earning power by restraining minimum-wages levels and weakening the bargaining power of unions.

“But Fisher’s study checked the five-year performance of states by Laffer’s 2007 ranking and found, in terms of actual economic growth, there was no tendency for better-ranked states to do any better or worse than lower-ranked states.

Unreliable Sources: How the Media Help the Kochs and ExxonMobil Spread Climate Disinformation

Unreliable Sources: How the Media Help the Kochs and ExxonMobil Spread Climate Disinformation

From Huff Post by 

A six part expose on the Koch’s and how they use the mainstream media as a means of spreading disinformation about climate change and global warming.  This important series begins with:

Part 1: A Glaring Lapse in Climate and Energy Coverage

“The NPR story featured a spokesman for a small Iowa wind project who explained how the tax credit benefits rural communities. For balance, it also included a naysayer: Thomas Pyle from the American Energy Alliance, who wanted Congress to kill the subsidy.//

“…But who is Thomas Pyle and what is the American Energy Alliance? The story didn’t say.

“It turns out that the American Energy Alliance is a front group for the oil and gas industry. Pyle, AEA’s president, is a former lobbyist for the National Petrochemical and Refiners Association and Koch Industries, the Wichita, Kansas-based coal, oil and gas conglomerate owned by the billionaire brothers Charles G. and David H. Koch (pronounced “coke”). Koch Industries is the second largest privately held company in the country.

“Digging a little deeper, I learned that AEA is the political arm of the Institute for Energy Research, where Pyle also serves as president. From 2006 to 2010, IRE received hundreds of thousands of dollars from the oil and gas industry’s trade association, the American Petroleum Institute; ExxonMobil; and the Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation, a philanthropy controlled by Charles Koch.”

A must read to understand how the Koch’s use the media to spread disinformation while relying upon the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) to craft and distribute legislation favoring the oil and gas industry – and specifically Koch Industries, which just happens to own a seat upon ALEC’s “Private Enterprise Advisory Council.

Read the complete Part 1 of Negin’s article -> HERE <-

 

5/11 ALEC Articles and Review

5/11 ALEC Articles and Review

Today’s news and articles related to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the Koch funded cabal.

Click on a headline to read the full article…

Dennis Van Roekel on exposing ALEC’s agenda

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has been hard at work for decades. Its members are organized, well-funded and connected–too bad they aren’t using their powers to do what’s right for students and schools.

Instead, they use all their resources to push an agenda to open up the public school system to vouchers and privatization, lobbying legislators to restrict everything from voting rights to workers’ rights to help pave the path to their success. 

Ohio Consumers And Businesses Come Together To Support Energy Efficiency

Most states have long-term renewable energy and energy efficiency targets.  Ohio’s energy efficiency resource standard saves over 700,000 kilowatt-hours of energy annually, more than the energy generated by a new fossil fuel power plant.  Ohio’s energy efficiency law is under attack, even though Ohio’s targets are right in the middlecompared to other states’ targets.

Ironically, the consumers who pay for energy efficiency are not leading this attack.  Rather, the attack comes from certain electric utilities and the advocacy groups they support: the American Legislative Exchange Council and the Heartland Institute.  The utilities claim to be protecting consumers from the costs of the energy efficiency programs, but they really want to protect their own electricity sales.

Company to expand e-cig operation

Reynolds American Inc.’s experiment with making electronic cigarettes is about to move to a larger distribution scale, the company said Thursday at its annual shareholders meeting.

The company provided several strategic updates during formal remarks by Daan Delen, its chief executive and president, and during a question-and-answer session that wasn’t consumed by farm-worker issues.

The company did not contribute directly to any North Carolina candidate or committee in 2012. It was heavily involved in campaigns in Arkansas, California, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, New Jersey, New Mexico, Virginia and Washington, contributing primarily to Republican candidates but with sizable support to Democratic candidates.

The biggest organizational contributions were $14 million to a California group fighting an initiative to raise the state’s cigarette excise tax; $526,000 to the Republican State Leadership Committee; $350,000 to the Republican Governors Association; $175,000 to Americans for Tax Reform; $160,000 to California Republican Leadership Fund; $111,920 to N.C. Chamber of Commerce; and $100,000 each to Justice for All, N.C. Judicial Coalition, Partnership for Ohio’s Future and Real Jobs.

Reynolds has received criticism at past shareholder meetings for its contributions to the American Legislative Exchange Council, a nonprofit organization that promotes a conservative political agenda. Some liberal advocates consider ALEC as anti-worker, anti-consumer, anti-environmental and anti-immigrant.

SD Lawmakers Who Travel The Most

SIOUX FALLS, SD –

There’s been a lot of talk about out-of-state travel by South Dakota legislators in the past few weeks.

Democrats are criticizing Republicans for taking trips to the American Legislative Exchange Council also known as ALEC. Democrats say the meetings push a conservative agenda and taxpayers shouldn’t reimburse the trips.

The South Dakota Legislative Research Council provided KELOLAND News with the trips lawmakers from both parties have taken over the past five years.

A total of 79 different South Dakota lawmakers have traveled out of state on the taxpayers’ dime spending more than $364,000.

How much is an attorney worth? WI bill caps legal contingency fees

“When a contingency fee lawyer prosecutes a case on behalf of the state, the process ceases to be fair because the state’s power is combined with the lawyer’s perverse financial incentive to maximize damages, and not simply to see justice done.”

Kuglitsch said at least nine states have passed similar legislation to cap contingency fees, and another half dozen are considering it.

Jaskulski asserts there’s a good reason for that, contending that curbing contingency fees is part of the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC,“cookie cutter” legislation that “special interests are trying to pass throughout the country.

“It’s designed to adversely affect trial lawyers, based on the assumption that trial lawyers don’t support Republicans,” the attorney said.

ALEC has developed the Private Attorney Retention Sunshine Act (PARSA) to address the “increasing prevalence of government officials hiring outside private attorneys on contingency fee to conduct litigation on behalf of the state,” the organization website states.

ALEC Gives FoIA the Finger

Much of the work that has been done over the past years to expose ALEC has been done in many ways – mostly using ALEC documents.

WELL  ….

ALEC is trying to shut the door on that.

At the last ALEC meeting – ALEC pulled something out the rabbit hat that supposedly shuts the door on what we are doing and tries to hide ALEC in the shadows again – all of it – every document produced by ALEC.

New Report Exposes Show-Me Institute’s Ties to Koch Brothers Network

Progress Missouri today released a new report exposing direct ties between the Show?Me Institute (SMI) and the Koch Brothers-funded State Policy Network (SPN), a national network of like?minded ‘think tanks’ that promotes disinformation and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) agendas in state Capitols. The Show?Me Institute has also received significant funding from the Donors Capital Fund, which is also connected to the notorious Koch Brothers, and other out?of?state right?wing organizations such as the Roe Foundation and the Cato Institute.

“Issue Ad” Charade by American Federation for Children Uncovered in Wisconsin

Dark money nonprofits spent hundreds of millions in the 2012 elections, but reported only a fraction of that thanks to an “issue advocacy” loophole that requires only limited disclosure for ads that don’t explicitly urge viewers to vote for or against a candidate. Federal and state elections officials have rarely probed whether a group’s so-called “issue ads” are really intended to influence elections — but in Wisconsin, a politically-active nonprofit exposed its issue ad charade on its own.

The American Federation for Children, a 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization that supports school privatization through “vouchers” and other programs, told Wisconsin’s elections board it spent only $345,000 on state legislative races in 2012. Like many nonprofit groups active in the 2012 elections, the actual total spent around the elections was much higher, but it was never disclosed publicly because AFC claimed the spending was about “issues” rather than supporting or opposing a particular candidate.

AFC sang a different tune for funders.

In a document titled “2012 Election Impact Report” obtained by Dan Bice of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, AFC boasted that it spent $2.4 million in Wisconsin helping elect nine pro-privatization legislators to office. The disparity between what was reported and actually spent is likely attributable to the “issue advocacy” loophole. And most importantly, voters never knew who actually provided the funding for the ads.

“This episode exposes what a hoax this ‘issue ad’ charade really is,” said Mike McCabe, director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, which filed a complaint with Wisconsin’s Government Accountability Board about the undisclosed spending.

 From ALEC…

ALEC chief: Group provides lawmakers a chance to share, learn and grow

In recent days, attention has been given to last week’s national meeting of state lawmakers, including members from the North Carolina delegation, at the American Legislative Exchange Council.

While some suggest exchanging ideas and learning from other legislators is a bad idea, continuing education and exposure to a variety of viewpoints enable legislators to make more informed decisions…

…The American Legislative Exchange Council provides lawmakers with a valuable opportunity to learn from the ideas and experiences of their counterparts from around the country, to see how policies have worked in other states and to learn from others’ mistakes so they are not repeated. Legislators are offered academic research and policy analysis from industry experts who actually work with the issues, processes and problem-solving strategies upon which they vote.

During these meetings, policymakers engage in candid and informative dialogue. They seek the best solutions for government accountability, removing unnecessary regulations and trimming state budgets to allow taxpayers to keep more of their money, enable businesses to grow, hire more people and improve state economies.

5/09 ALEC Articles and News in Review

5/09 ALEC Articles and News in Review

Today’s stories related to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the Koch funded cabal ALEC fronts for.

Click on the headline of the article to view the entire story…

ALEC in Nevada spotlight

“For many years, the Nevada Legislature has paid $1,000 a year dues to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), just as it does to groups like the National Conference of State Legislatures and the Council of State Governments.

“But in the case of ALEC, the lawmakers were actually making a contribution of taxpayer dollars to a right wing political group.”

ALEC Exposed in Nevada – Nevada State Report on ALEC Legislation and Members

ALEC is not OK

“MORE THAN 600 protesters, the majority of them union members, turned out in Oklahoma City on May 2 to against a task force summit meeting of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).”

Bank of America Faces Backlash Over Decision to Drop Free-Market Advocate and Helping to Label Voter Integrity Proponents as “Racist”

The National Center for Public Policy Research continues to criticize corporations, banks, financial institutions and non-profits who drop membership in ALEC.  BoA is the latest to come under fire from this right wing think tank on that issue.

 

Charlotte, NC / Washington, D.C. – At today’s annual Bank of America shareholder meeting in Charlotte, N.C., an attorney with the National Center for Public Policy Research criticized Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan for caving to left-wing race bullies and dropping its membership the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a venerable network of conservative state legislators.

 

Bank of America dumped ALEC after a concerted effort by Color of Change, Common Cause and the Occupy movement to defund ALEC by intimidating its corporate members.

 

NC renewable energy repeal advanced by committee despite losing vote

“Last week North Carolina’s Senate Finance Committee advanced a bill to repeal the state’s renewable energy standard in a controversial voice vote where the outcome was unclear.

“It turns out that if committee co-chair Bill Rabon (R-New Hanover) had actually counted the votes as Democrats requested, the measure would have lost. Rabon ignored calls for a show of hands.

“WRAL News interviewed the members of the committee who were present for the vote — 25 Republicans and 10 Democrats. All of the Democrats voted against the bill, and eight Republicans said they did as well. Two Republicans refused to say how they voted.

“That means the measure got 17 votes at most. It needed 18 to pass.”

Wendy Greuel and Eric Garcetti Stop Hesitating and Support Parent Trigger

Parent Trigger is a key legislative measure advanced by ALEC nationwide as part of their attacks upon public education.  Parent Trigger’s are used to turn public schools “around”…that is to turn them into charter schools run by private for-profit and non-profit companies and corporations.

Mayoral candidates in Los Angeles hesitated to endorse parent trigger, but just announced their support for the legislation.

“It took a while, but Los Angeles mayoral hopefuls Eric Garcetti and Wendy Greuel finally met with parents and students on Monday at Los Angeles Unified’s chronically failing 24th Street Elementary School, where the district’s first “Parent Trigger” took place.

“The Parent Trigger, which is viewed as a controversial yet unique education reform tool, allows parents to take over a chronically failing school through petition, which is what recently happened at 24th Street Elementary.

“While current L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa quickly supported the takeover at 24th Street, Garcetti and Greuel — especially Garcetti — hesitated. That’s all over now.

 

Deal on taxes and spending in Kansas could be near

“Lawmakers return to Topeka on Wednesday after a monthlong break with a deal just out of grasp to cut income taxes and balance the budget.

“Even with deeply rooted differences over renewing a sales-tax hike, key lawmakers say a bargain could crystallize as early as this weekend.

“I have been very optimistic all along,” said Rep. Richard Carlson, a St. Marys Republican and one of the key budget negotiators. “We intend to find an amicable solution that benefits all the taxpayers in Kansas.”

“Still, the shape of a solution remained unclear Tuesday after leadership teams from the House and Senate exchanged ideas in Oklahoma City. They’d met there at a conservative American Legislative Exchange Council conference last week.

“House Speaker Ray Merrick said three or four tax plans remained in play but declined to provide details.

Rep. Ray Merrick (R-27), is quite active in ALEC and a staunch member who serves as a State Chairman,[18] was ALEC’s “Legislator of the Year” in 2010,[3]  is an Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force member[19] , sits on the ALEC Board of Directors [20] and attended 2011 ALEC Annual Meeting[2].

OK gov. and legislators ponder next steps on state Medicaid program

“Some foes of the ACA, aka “Obamacare,” fear the Sooner State‘s leaders may be inclined to implement the president’s agenda indirectly. In a recent speech at the task force meeting for the American Legislative Exchange Council, Fallin reiterated her opposition to Obamacare Medicaid expansion, but said officials were working on a state reform that would involve waivers.” 

Raging Grannies Arrested After Fighting for Poor Kids

When elderly women get arrested for protesting, people pay attention.

That’s what happened on Monday in Durham, North Carolina.

More than 200 people from various organizations, including lawyers, students, preachers from across the state, physicians, leading historians, and a group of senior citizens known as the “Raging Grannies,” held a peaceful “pray-in” and “teach-in” at the statehouse to protest the Republican-controlled legislature’s agenda. The grannies even sung some anti-war and anti-poverty protest songs.

More than 30 people, including some of the Raging Grannies, were arrested during the protest.

Several of the bills that have gotten pushback from the Raging Grannies, and other groups, are similar to bills that have been introduced by Republicans in other Southern states, including Arkansas, South Carolina, and Louisiana.

Barber said many of the bills are pushed by the American Legislative Exchange Council, a private conservative group backed by major corporations that proposes model legislation on an array of issues such as more vouchers and charter schools.

ALEC’s War on Workers

ALEC’s War on Workers

By James P. Hoffa on Huffington Post…

Finally the Teamsters and other unions are beginning to “get it”…

Corporations are upping the ante in their attempt to take control of the political process. Under the guise of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the nation’s most powerful are drafting legislation that is appearing in statehouses across the country. And the target is not just union members, but the entire middle class.

Funded in large part by billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, ALEC is casting a wide net as it attempts to empower CEOs while undermining democracy. ALEC wants to make it harder for workers to contribute to political campaigns and causes. They want to alter telecommunications laws so that large phone companies can increase consumer costs while reducing consumer protections. They want gut public education by cutting student funding and implementing a voucher system. These are but a small sampling of ALEC’s work across the country.

Read the full Hoffa article on Huff Post -> HERE <-

05/08 Daily Report on Activities, Legislation and Initiatives of the ALEC/Koch Cabal

05/08 Daily Report on Activities, Legislation and Initiatives of the ALEC/Koch Cabal

By Bob Sloan

ALEC’s Latest “Transparency” Move: Asserting Immunity From Freedom of Information Laws

ALEC Assembles “Most Wanted” List, and Oklahomans Say “ALEC Is Not OK”

SD Legislators Spend Thousands On Travel

SIOUX FALLS, SD – 

Over the past five years, South Dakota taxpayers have spent more than $360,000 for lawmakers to attend out-of-state meetings.

The latest trip was this weekend. More than a dozen Republicans traveled to Oklahoma City for a summit hosted by the conservative-leaning American Legislative Exchange Council known as ALEC.

One of the state co-chairs of ALEC says no tax dollars will be spent on the latest meeting because it’s considered a task force meeting and paid through fundraisers.

However, Democrats are still criticizing the recent approval of tax dollars to pay for ALEC dues and trips even though the state has spent much more on travel expenses for other organizations.

 

Private conservative group ALEC carries sway in legislature

RALEIGH — One bill protects a Fortune 500 company from costly asbestos lawsuits. Another shields food companies from obesity-related liability claims.

North Carolina lawmakers advocating the measures during a recent committee meeting touted how many other states had approved or considered similar measures. It’s good public policy, they argued, and now it’s North Carolina’s turn.

What didn’t get mentioned is the organization that helped coordinate the effort and draft the bills: the American Legislative Exchange Council, a largely private conservative group backed by major corporations that proposes model legislation for like-minded lawmakers to introduce across the country.

Despite being shunned by many of its members amid controversy a year ago, ALEC continues to exert substantial influence in North Carolina. House Speaker Thom Tillis is a national board member, and former Rep. Fred Steen, the past state ALEC chairman, is Gov. Pat McCrory’s legislative lobbyist.

ALEC FINGERPRINTS

A handful of bills filed by N.C. lawmakers include passages with identical language to model legislation supported by the American Legislative Exchange Council, a conservative organization criticized for its close ties to businesses that help write the measures. Here are a few examples:

• Charter schools: Senate Bill 337 creates an independent board to manage charter schools and includes paragraphs near-verbatim to ALEC’s Charter School Growth with Quality Act. It goes for a full Senate vote Tuesday.

• Asbestos: The measure is designed to insulate one company, Philadelphia-based Crown Holdings, from asbestos exposure lawsuits related to a former subsidiary. An ALEC measure pushed by the company matches North Carolina’s House Bill 415 and efforts in other states. A House Judiciary committee heard testimony Wednesday but did not take a vote.

• Obesity lawsuits: The Commonsense Consumption Act is much like an ALEC measure by the same name. It shields food companies from lawsuits related to obesity and weight gain. A House Judiciary committee heard the bill Wednesday but took no action.

• State sovereignty: House Resolution 617 to express support for the state’s rights under the 10th Amendment includes large portions verbatim from an ALEC resolution to “restate state sovereignty.” The resolution, sponsored by Rep. Larry Pittman, a Concord Republican, and others, is sitting in the House Rules committee.

• Anti-union: North Carolina law restricts unions, but lawmakers want to put it in the state constitution. House Bill 6 sponsored by Speaker Thom Tillis is similar to an ALEC “Right to Work” measure and includes some of the same language. The bill is scheduled for a hearing Tuesday.

Exposing ALEC’s Agenda to Defund and Dismantle Public Education

I recently watched: The United States of ALEC.

This film, featuring Bill Moyers, does a masterful job of explaining how the closed-door manipulations of the American Legislative Exchange Council and its corporate lobbyists affect public policy in every realm of our society — including education.

Our nation spends about $500 billion in local, state and federal funds on public schools from kindergarten through high school. Most Americans view this as a wise investment in our nation’s future. Throughout the 20th century the U.S. was the clear leader in public education. We created the most vibrant economy the world has ever known. The record speaks for itself — public education is a great investment.

State Renewable Energy Policy Developments – April Recap

 Media coverage of renewable energy developments at the state level continued to center on the efforts led by the Koch Brothers-backed American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) to try and weaken, repeal, or “repeal-by-weaken” renewable energy portfolio standard (RPS) in a couple dozen of the 29 states plus Washington, D.C. that have them.

There are several, perhaps less well known, positive developments too.

The figure below from a recent report by Justin Barnes and Chelsea Barnes of Keyes, Fox & Wiedman, LLP, categorizing active legislative proposals as either ‘strengthening’ or ‘weakening’ state RPSs, provides what I think is a more accurate and more complete picture of what is going on with clean energy in state legislatures. (The starred states denote the four states with in-depth reviews further down this posting.)

US States 2013 RPS legislative activity map (Barnes, J. 2013)

ALEC’s guy is Thom Tillis

Curious, it seems. N.C. House Speaker Thom Tillis headed off recently to the spring conference of the American Legislative Exchange Council in Oklahoma City. It’s a national group funded mainly by large corporations that advocates for conservative causes and even takes the step of helping lawmakers of a like mind in various states draft laws.

ALEC, as it’s known, has provided language for bills that’s even been used this session in North Carolina, ranging from creating an independent board to take charter school governance away from the State Board of Education to protecting a Philadelphia-based company from lawsuits involving asbestos exposure to installing an anti-union amendment in the state constitution. Closer to home, the Civitas Institute, a conservative group, used ALEC literature in an indoctrination…er, training…session for freshman lawmakers.

This “Partnership” is the Gun Pointed at the Heart of Democracy

There’s a gun pointed at the heart of representative democracy, and your Congressperson has their finger on the trigger.

It’s called the American Legislative Exchange Council-or ALEC for short.

And while its name may sound perfectly harmless, it’s the single reason why your vote no longer matters.

You see, due to the influence wielded by this mysterious group, elected officials have become little more than high-paid rubber stamps.

As for representation, thanks to ALEC, you don’t really have any.

 

Rifts Deepen Over Direction of Ed. Policy in U.S.

“In statehouses and cities across the country, battles are raging over the direction of education policy—from the standards that will shape what students learn to how test results will be used to judge a teacher’s performance…

“…Even as antipathy to the common core fosters some otherwise unlikely alignments, support for charter schools and so-called “parent trigger” laws brings together many Democrats and Republicans in the name of more choice and power for parents.

The lineup on the side of such proposals includes long-standing and new advocacy groups like Stand for ChildrenDemocrats for Education Reform, and StudentsFirst(founded by former District of Columbia Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee). And it features such influential conservative groups as the American Legislative Exchange Council.

 

More Lack of Transparency by ALEC Revealed and Reported

More Lack of Transparency by ALEC Revealed and Reported

From an article at PRWatch by Brendan Fischer

Here we go again, with more information coming out about ALEC’s Spring Summit event in Oklahoma City. While advising the public that the ALEC organization is pursuing “transparency” they send out instructions to members to in effect, be non-transparent…

“Shortly after the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) told the press “we really believe in transparency,” new documents show the organization directing legislators to hide ALEC meeting agendas and model legislation from the public. This effort to circumvent state freedom of information laws is being called “shocking” and “disturbing” by transparency advocates.

ALEC disclaimer

“A disclaimer published at the bottom of meeting agendas and model bills from ALEC’s most recent meeting in Oklahoma City, obtained by the Center for Media and Democracy, reads: “Because this is an internal ALEC document, ALEC believes it is not subject to disclosure under any state Freedom of Information or Public Records Act.”

“If you receive a request for disclosure of this or any other ALEC document under your state’s Freedom of Information or Public Records Act, please contact Michael Bowman, Senior Director, Policy and Strategic Initiatives,” it says.

It isn’t just VLTP, PRWatch, CMD and Common Cause making the claim that what ALEC is attempting to do is unethical and raising questions of legality regarding the release of documents sought.  Mark Caramanica, the Freedom of Information Director at the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press told CMD’s Fischer;

“Private individuals or organizations cannot simply label a document private and say it is private on their own. It is not their decision to make.”

Legislators attend ALEC meetings in their official capacity, and ALEC has claimed that they do so “on behalf of and for the benefit of the state.” Under almost every state’s public records law, all documents related to official business are considered public unless there is a specific exemption, defined and passed by the legislature, and embodied in the statutes. “ALEC cannot create exemptions of [its] own imagination,” Caramanica told the Center for Media and Democracy.”

“This certainly raises the question,” asks Caramanica, “what are their motives for trying to keep their documents secret?”

Time and time again those of us researching, investigating and reporting on ALEC activities have told the public that ALEC simply cannot be trusted.  They lie, lie again and swear it isn’t a lie, then decline to comment when the facts and documents clearly show they have lied.  Again, they have demonstrated that ALEC cannot be believed and that is worrisome. They continue to assert that what they’re doing in secret behind closed doors causes no harm to Americans…is that simply another of their continuous lies?

This is one key reason ALEC needs to be abolished from our political landscape.  Behind their continued secrecy they are working diligently to craft laws and resolutions that benefit the GOP’s conservative wing – at a cost to all Americans, regardless of party affiliation.

Read the in-depth Brendan Fischer article from PRWatch -> HERE <-

ALEC Assembles “Most Wanted” List, and Ejects Journalists From Annual Spring Summit

ALEC Assembles “Most Wanted” List, and Ejects Journalists From Annual Spring Summit

From PRWatch by Brendan Fischer and Nick Surgey

At the recent Spring Summit of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) held in Oklahoma City, ALEC security staffers went to great lengths to assure that only journalists involved with conservative media outlets were allowed access to the Cox Convention Center where the organization’s members were meeting to develop, vote on and adopt proposed conservative model legislation.

Earlier this year ALEC publicly announced they were making changes to promote transparency in their activities.  One major change was the public release of ALEC’s 2013 model legislation.  They claimed:

“The move will allow the group to become more transparent and better showcase the policies it supports, according to its spokesman.

“We really believe in transparency,” ALEC spokesman Bill Meierling told The Huffington Post. “We believe that more eyes on our model policies will create better policies. We are hoping to engage with the public.”

Groups and organizations that have been pursuing just such transparency were skeptical in March when the announcement was made by ALEC.  That skepticism turned out to be accurate – as the article quoted from and linked to below informs…

“In anticipation of protests at ALEC’s recent meeting in Oklahoma City, state legislators were handed a set of talking points that read “The American Legislative Exchange Council recognizes the first amendment rights of free speech and assembly, and asks that _____ do the same,” apparently to prepare legislators for press questions about citizen activism. But ALEC didn’t live up to those spoon-fed talking points: ALEC assembled a dossier of disfavored reporters and activists, kicked reporters out of its conference who might write unfavorable stories, and managed to boot a community forum critical of ALEC from its reserved room.

“CMD later obtained a document titled “OKC anti-ALEC photos” at the ALEC conference.

“The page featured the pictures and names of eight people, four of whom work with CMD, including Surgey, CMD’s general counsel Brendan Fischer and its Executive Director Lisa Graves, as well as CMD contributor Beau Hodai.

“It is not known whether the photo array of people who have reported on or criticized ALEC was distributed to ALEC members or shared with Oklahoma City law enforcement.”

With ALEC it is always the same…use propaganda to make claims of transparency, “that ALEC is open to the public” or that proposed state legislation did not originate with ALEC.  Later, when each of these claims turns out to have been falsehoods, ALEC will have “no comment” when questioned by actual journalists.  Of course, ultra-right wing conservative “reporters” working for Breitbart, Fox News or similar forums will insist that ALEC is transparent, that their claims are all factual and anyone accusing ALEC of not being transparent, are all left wing conspiracy theorists.

The Fischer/Surgey article should put all claims of “conspiracy” to rest.   Take the time to read the entire PRWatch article -> HERE <-