conservative think tanks

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“According to a previously unpublished preview of the April 28-29 gathering, the Kochs will unveil a new plan to recruit and train political candidates who will advance their free-market worldview.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<-

 

 

ALEC: Pursuing Universal Stewardship – Part One

ALEC: Pursuing Universal Stewardship – Part One

VLTP Special Report logo

Editor’s Note:  Over the next few weeks VLTP will be publishing a series exposing the American Legislative Exchange Council’s (ALEC) involvement with advancing their conservative agenda, model legislation and resolutions worldwide.  We have discovered and begun to monitor the activities of ALEC overseas as they pursue developing and  sponsoring legislation they favor in foreign countries. Unfortunately these activities are a two way street, in that ALEC has numerous foreign elected officials serving as full members, who come to America, meet with U.S. state lawmakers and develop new laws they favor for America’s citizens.  All this will be covered and exposed through this new series beginning today – Bob Sloan, Executive Director.

_____________________________________

By Susan Kraykowski

News of the death of former Conservative British Prime Minister, MargaretThatcher, on April 8, 2013, threw American conservatives’ idolatry of Lady Thatcher into a bright spotlight. It’s entirely appropriate, that President Obama speak to the nation upon the passing of important world leaders – especially those from our allies – and send an official Boehner at ALECdelegation to their funerals. Why, however, has House Speaker, John Boehner (R-OH), insisted upon a special resolution in Thatcher’s honor, as well as upon sending his own, hand-picked representatives to the funeralin addition to the official delegation? Why also is an American presidential library-style memorial to Thatcher – money almost entirely raised in the US – in the planning stages?

One might assume, given this evidence, that perhaps the “special relationship” between American conservatives and their cousins-across-the-pond is a bit more special than usual – and one would be correct in this assumption.

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has been busy in the United States for a couple of decades, writing the “cookie-cutter” bills that turn up in state legislatures all over the country – the bills which have practically identical wording in them and always seem to benefit corporations and conservative causes over ordinary individuals or community health, education and welfare funding. ALEC and its associated think tank, The Heritage Foundation – of which Lady Thatcher was patron – have recently been extending their tentacles into international territory.

Recently – over most of the past decade – interesting similarities in policy and in the wording of legislation have been turning up in the United Kingdom, especially in England, as well as in the European Parliament. ALEC member organizations have sponsored British MPs as speakers for ALEC events in the United States. Young British Conservative Party trainees – across the pond, one has a “traineeship” as opposed to an internship – attend CPAC each year in droves (one wonders exactly how their ALEC sponsors explain all our 2nd Amendment frothing-at-the-mouth to them). And, there are some strangely easy-to-obtain masters degrees in such disciplines as international relations and public policy from certain sub-institutions of higher learning, offered to British MPs who slip into the US through a loophole in the law that allows them to skip registration as foreign agents if they are in the country pursuing educational opportunities. That seems to be set up to work the opposite way, as well, for American ALEC members.

On the surface, none of this looks especially threatening. Neither does a special resolution in the House of Representatives, honoring MargaretThatcher, after the near-unanimous passage of which, Speaker Boehner declared the House in recess, so no other business could be transacted. That is part and parcel of his prime directive from ALEC, of course: pass no legislation favored by President Obama, even if Republicans originally proposed it and/or a majority of Americans support it. Of course, everyone knows that every dangerous iceberg has an innocuous looking tip, sticking out of the water.

Thatcher - JonesIn subsequent articles, we shall explore the international ALEC iceberg. For each of the above-mentioned issues into which ALEC has insinuated itself on the international stage, we will trace contacts, examine timelines and connect the dots between ALEC, its subsidiary organizations and shells, its members – both individuals and corporations – and the Members of Parliament in the UK and the European Union. MargaretThatcher, deceased though she now is, was one of the architects of the structure built over the years to advance international corporate interests over the interests of either national governments or the social well-being of the people governed. The most important point here is, unless registered as foreign agents, Americans influencing British and European domestic policy, are committing illegal acts. If foreign nationals attempt the same in the United States without registering as agents of a foreign power, they are also committing illegal acts.

 

_________________________________________________

Acknowledgement to the following for providing research and materials used in the Expose –

Former VLTP Program Director, Ron Rabatsky

EU/UK Research team led by na~Saighneain

Jeb Bush: “ALEC’s Report Card on American Education is a helpful guide…”  Look Out MI.!

Jeb Bush: “ALEC’s Report Card on American Education is a helpful guide…” Look Out MI.!

By Bob Sloan

As many have begun to write, ALEC is pursuing privatization of everything “public” in America.  Perhaps a better description for their actions is “profitizing”, a term VLTP has used for nearly two years to describe efforts by the conservative Koch-funded cabal of think tanks and corporations to turn tax dollars into profits through policy and legislative changes.

Many of these policies are designed to redirect state taxpayer dollars from public schools to private or for-profit education corporations. It is perhaps unsurprising that corporate beneficiaries of these policies have also been the corporate benefactors of the non-profit groups promoting them, including FEE and ALEC.

Today there are numerous stories about the cabal’s education initiatives.  Literally dozens of ALEC “model bills” related to privatizing public education exist.  Written by corporations, their attorneys or lobbyists, the models are found within the ALEC arsenal.  Drawing upon these templates, state lawmakers holding membership in ALEC take these boilerplate model bills from ALEC’s extensive “library” and introduce them across our country, state by state.  Corporate members funnel huge amounts of money into buying “support” and sponsorship for these legislative monstrosities.  Together ALEC’s membership of lawmakers and corporate interests then pressure non-ALEC state lawmakers to sign on to sponsor ALEC written and introduced bills.

A major effort of this cabal involves key states where Republicans hold majorities in legislature and a Republican Governor occupies the people’s “house”.  Right now one state stands out as being at the core of a huge struggle over control of that state’s education system.  This battle involves a tug-o-war between corporate profits and the future of tens of thousands of Michigan students.  It pits voter and citizen guarantees of an adequate and proper education against corporate profits sought by ALEC affiliated “educational” companies and their investors.  Pawns in this epic war are; teachers, students and taxpayers aligned against corporate interests represented by bought and controlled state lawmakers.

A similar battle now rages across the U.S. involving gun control.  As that issue has become nationalized we’ve all been able to factually assess the power of the NRA and the “Cabal” as corporate campaign funding and lobbying has been used to defeat the will of nearly 90% of Americans polling in favor of background checks.  Millions of corporate dollars spent on lobbying and campaign contributions have bought (there really is no other word for it) Congressional votes against the will and safety of the people.

Privatizing education is simply another initiative advanced by the same cabal as gun control, denying climate change, voter ID and Right to Work (for less) legislation now being pursued in Michigan.  The methodology, tools, tactics and “players” on the conservative cabal’s side are identical.  Develop a plan to profit off some form of government service, bring in the think tanks to write studies, reports and compile “data” that supports privatization, supply ALEC with the wording of desired legislation to legalize or authorize the wishes of the profiteers then adopt the finished and polished legislative crafting as model legislation.

Next, bring in the corporate owned media outlets and give them a script of why privatizing [insert need here] is necessary and will save taxpayers tons of money and finally give your 2,000 state legislative members marching orders along with a copy of the proposed legislation and send them “home” to their districts to introduce what the media has begun calling “critical and necessary” legislation to cure a failing government program, department of service.

Each topic is advanced using the same fill in the “[Title of Bill”] here, “[Your state] here”, “[cite as statute number __________ here]” template.  It really is that simple – and effective.  In this manner the public has become “informed” on the issue through media disinformation and are easily convinced the government is failing and the only way to save [insert program name here] is to turn it over to corporate control. This strategy worked for tort reform, privatizing prisons and creating prison industries, Right To Work, Stand Your Ground, privatizing school transportation, state toll roads, state lotteries and to end collective bargaining in many states.

In the battle over Michigan’s education system, the formula and playbook have been utilized once again.  Vouchers, charter schools, long distance learning and standardized testing bills to turn state education funds over to corporations,  have all followed a successful campaign to privatize school transportation.  The Koch-funded Mackinac Center and a new conservative think tank, the Oxford Foundation have joined with the likes of the DeVos family foundations to fund the concerted effort of privatizing the state’s public education system.  Lately they have been joined by another conservative “heavy hitter” in the education game; Jeb Bush and his “Foundation for Excellence in Education” (FEE).

In November of last year, PRWatch published an article on FEE and their connectivity to ALEC’s educational pursuits.  Lisa Graves, Executive Director of the Center for Media and Democracy wrote:

“Aptly named FEE, Bush’s group is backed by many of the same for-profit school corporations that have funded ALEC and vote as equals with its legislators on templates to change laws governing America’s public schools. FEE is also bankrolled by many of the same hard-right foundations … that have funded ALEC. And, they have pushed many of the same changes to the law, which benefit their corporate benefactors and satisfy the free market fundamentalism of the billionaires whose tax-deductible charities underwrite the agenda of these two groups.

“FEE and ALEC also have had some of the same “experts” as members or staff, part of the revolving door between right-wing groups. They have also collaborated on the annual ALEC education “report card” that grades states’ allegiance to their policy agenda higher than actual student performance. That distorted report card also rewards states that push ALEC’s beloved union-busting measures while giving low grades to states with students who actually perform best on standardized knowledge tests.

“The ALEC/FEE scoring is based in part of whether states have embraced changes to the law to advance charter schools or virtual schools (which FEE touts as “digital education”) or other corporate-backed reforms. Yet, studies of the actual performance of such schools raise serious questions of the costs versus benefits of market-driven primary and secondary education.

“These shortcomings have not stopped FEE’s founder, Jeb Bush, from putting his name on the preface to the 16th Edition of the ALEC’s Report Card on Education, asserting: ‘ALEC’s Report Card on American Education is a helpful guide for anyone who wants to achieve a quality education for all students.’

A close affiliate of both FEE and ALEC is an organization known as Chiefs for Change (CfC). Another conservative outfit lending support to Jeb Bush and ALEC in the pursuit of privatizing education, CfC is instrumental in securing corporate funding for privatization efforts.  CfC’s Chair for 2012 was Dr. Tony Bennett.

Bennett was the former head of Indiana’s school system until his defeat in the 2012 election.  In that capacity, Bennett toured the country on behalf of ALEC, touting their legislation and pursuits of virtual education, long distance learning, school vouchers and Charter schools.  Under Bennett’s sponsorship, Indiana passed legislation to allow charter schools and implemented other education programs beneficial to corporate interests.

Recently Schools Matter blog reported on FOIA’s secured by In The Public Interest that found:

“Emails between the Foundation for Excellence in Education (FEE), founded and chaired by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, and state education officials show that the foundation is writing state education laws and regulations in ways that could benefit its corporate funders. The emails, obtained through public records requests, reveal that the organization, sometimes working through its Chiefs For Change affiliate, wrote and edited laws, regulations and executive orders, often in ways that improved profit opportunities for the organization’s financial backers.

Many of ALEC’s model bills were found to be used by CfC and FEE in Maine and elsewhere:

K-12 is a for-profit corporation that pushes “virtual” schooling. It is traded on the New York Stock Exchange as LRN. While most American families have struggled financially in the four years since Wall Street crashed the economy at the end of the Bush Administration, K-12’s revenues have increased by over 300%, from over $226 million in 2008 to over $708 million this year. Member of ALEC’s Education Task Force.

Connections Academy, which previously co-chaired ALEC’s Education Task Force for a number of years and funded ALEC, is also a funder of FEE. Connections Academy is a division of Connections Education LLC, an entity based in Baltimore, Maryland, that contracts with charter schools, school districts, or governmental entities to provide “online” lessons to students…

State Farm Insurance. State Farm, the largest seller of auto insurance in the US, was listed on FEE’s “Meet the Donors!” page. State Farm has a seat on ALEC’s corporate board. Its CEO, Ed Rust, is also the co-chair of the Business Roundtable, which includes the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and he previously chaired the Financial Services Roundtable, which advances the interests of Wall Street bank and investment firms. In 2010, State Farm had revenue of $1.8 billion and paid Rust $10.2 million in compensation…

Intel. This computer chip maker has been a financial supporter of both ALEC and FEE.

Microsoft. Bill Gates’ company has previously paid for a seat on ALEC’s Communications and Technology Task Force, where its corporate representative has voted as equals with legislators on bills to change state laws on telecomm issues.

Other corporations that are not donors to ALEC but have given to FEE include, Apple, Inc.TargetMcGraw Hill, and Electronic Arts, and acronymed corporations such as ETSSMART, and SAS, The Walton Foundation, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation,The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation and The Dick and Betsy DeVos Family Foundation.

All of the foregoing are funders, contributors and/or members of ALEC, FEE or CfC – or of all three. Not surprisingly most of these same corporate players – along with the named foundations and FEE, CfC – all participated in the 2011 Philanthropy Roundtable where Education was on the menu as the “main entree” served up to conservative philanthropists and prospective investors as a new potential for profits.  Here is a list of the speakers at the 2012 Philanthropy Roundtable and most of the names mirror those of attendees the previous year.

Here is a graphic showing how the cabal influenced recent events involving education in Maine (from the Portland Press Herald). This represents precisely what is being done today in Michigan and other states across America.

virtualschoolssmall

It’s time for voters and parents of school age children in Michigan and elsewhere across this vast country to wake up and realize while they’ve been sleeping, corporate interests have been working hard to sacrifice quality public education for corporate profits. They want your tax dollars to go toward enriching them as a reward for lessening the quality of teaching your children will receive through “their” publicly funded programs.

Public education took us to the moon and back, sent exploratory missions to Mars and beyond and in essence helped build America and develop the middle class. Corporate interests would have us disregard all that and turn our entire education system and all it’s programs over to them to use as tools to attract investors and increase profits.

My question is what happens if/when these vulture capitalists get tired of playing school…or education doesn’t provide the projected and expected returns?  If the likes of Bain Capital decides to “speculate” and take a controlling interest in corporate education, looking to amass a huge windfall by selling off assets and eliminating jobs…where will America be then?  Education, like criminal justice, court systems, policing and fire protection are all services that should always remain government controlled.  None exist or provide services expecting to make profits.  No, they are necessary programs that require only the funding needed to operate fully and efficiently.  The concept of turning such duties over to a bunch of corporations looking to profit off them is ludicrous and leads to drops in quality, protections and timely service as dollars MUST go to provide dividends to investors, not to rebuilding infrastructures or improving quality.

Everyone should remember what it meant 40 years ago to own something “made in America.” Manufacturers took pride in their products, provided lengthy warranties on their products and valued consumer loyalties.  Console TV’s made in the U.S. had long and dependable usage lasting 20 or 30 years before needing replacement.  Today those same products barely last 1 year.  Craftsmanship and quality of materials of products sold by American manufacturers have dropped as those products are now made by foreign workers, using lesser quality raw materials.  Expensive extended warranties are now needed if you want to use a product longer than 1 year without costly replacement.

Let us not allow our public education system to go the way of our manufacturing at the hands of corporate raiders and venture capitalism.  This cabal has been pursuing access to taking over public education for a quarter of a century now.  Every year their legislative members have worked to defund education programs, cut back on subsidies to higher education, research and sciences. Charles and David Koch along with many corporate funding sources such as BB&T bank have stepped forward, taking advantage of the dire financial straits created by these cuts.  They offer money in exchange for policy changes that allow “their” brand of economics to be taught in colleges and universities…their brand of science that denies global warming exists or about the age of Earth or life itself.  Charter school legislation comes with fine print that drops the requirement that their “teachers” be certified or state accredited.  While claiming they can “fix” public education, they insist they can do it profitably while providing education to larger classes, thousands of students being taught by one teacher from thousands of miles away.  No need to pay standard wages to teachers when one can do the work of dozens through virtual software, so they’ve introduced legislation to mandate students in public school must complete one or more virtual classes to graduate.  They’ve set teacher salary caps and to implement salaries based upon testing and graduation rates.

All of those radical concepts are finding their way into our schools – K-12 and higher education.  Once these exploiters get their hands on the “Full Monty” these polices and practices will become standard.  Not only the future of students will be adversely impacted…all of us will ultimately pay the price for not rejecting all attempts to profitize our education systems.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read Rick Muir’s article <- HERE ->

Paid Sick Days Defeat in Philadelphia Followed Familiar Script

Paid Sick Days Defeat in Philadelphia Followed Familiar Script

By Brendan Fischer at PRWatch

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

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

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

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

Read the full PRWatch article <- HERE ->

Wisconsin Ethics board fails to curb ALEC shell game

Wisconsin Ethics board fails to curb ALEC shell game

From Brendan Fischer at Capital Times

Analysis by Bob Sloan

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

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

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

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

Read the full Brendan Fischer article -> HERE <-

Darden Restaurants Dumps ALEC in Favor of National Restaurant Assoc.

Darden Restaurants Dumps ALEC in Favor of National Restaurant Assoc.

From PRWatch by Rebekah Wilce

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

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

Read the full CMD article <- here ->

How ALEC Subverts Democracy

How ALEC Subverts Democracy

I just saw a nasty ad about Jay Nixon, the very popular democratic governor of Missouri, being paid for by an organization called United for Missouri.  Letunited for missouri me tell you they are not united for Missouri, at least not the Missouri we want.  It affects us all on a national level because it’s happening all over the country. I’m just using my home state as an example.  If you’ve wondered why your representatives never seem to be concerned about your issues and national politicians seem to blithely ignore what the voters say then you need to read this.

The Executive Director of United for Missouri and United for Missouri’s Future Carl Beardenis Carl Bearden, who is a Republican politician and also a member of ALEC.  He also runs a “consulting firm” in Missouri and I’ll guarantee you have some like this in your state too.  Both of these organizations are classified as non-profit even though through ALEC they probably see more money changing hands than we, and everyone we know, will see in a lifetime combined.  ALEC stands for the American Legislative Exchange Council so let’s look at what they’re “exchanging.”

Let’s start with the definition of subvert and you can tell me at the end if you think it appropriate in this case.

sub·vert

tr.v. sub·vert·ed, sub·vert·ing, sub·verts

1. To destroy completely; ruin: “schemes to subvert the liberties of a great community” (Alexander Hamilton).

2. To undermine the character, morals, or allegiance of; corrupt.

3. To overthrow completely: “Economic assistance … must subvert the existing … feudal or tribal order” (Henry A. Kissinger). See Synonyms at overthrow.

Briefly, ALEC is a clearing house where our elected officials (nearly all poster 12Republicans) get together with big business lobbyists to auction off our interests by letting them write the law in their favor including tax law, labor laws, regulations, etc.  There were more than 2400 state legislators as members in 2002, nearly a third of the nation’s total.  (Mother Jones, 2002)  In return they get megabucks thrown at their campaigns and who knows what other “perks.”

You can look for yourself to see who the members of ALEC are.  They are all of the companies destroying our economy and environment while they run away with the bank.  They are bankers, Exxon-Mobile, AT&T/telecom, big oil/energy, pharmaceuticals, insurance, the Koch brothers, etc.  Foreign interests are even represented, but you and I don’t have a voice there and we’re footing the bill.  That is the problem in a nutshell.

(editors note:  “Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of State and corporate power.”
 — Benito Mussolini)

You’ll also notice that there are many members who aren’t actually businesses but right wing groups promoting their agenda such as the Cato Institute, Americans for Prosperity, the Heritage Foundation, Crossroads GPS, etc.  They kochtopusclaim to be non-partisan but I think it’s clear that they’re not and it’s all one big nasty batch of snakes twisted together with the Koch brothers.  Their tentacles reach all the way from the federal government down to local school boards strangling the voice of the people and choking the life from our democracy.

Some businesses bailed out of ALEC when it was first exposed but the others seem to think we’re too stupid to understand what’s going on—or too powerless to stop it. Here is a link that shows who the business lobbyists are, who they work for and which of our legislators are meeting them to sell out our interests.  Adding insult to injury, in at least 3 states they can do it on the taxpayers’ dime.  These are “the powers that be” that we’re so angry about.  This is who we need to “take our country back” from because they hold it in a vicious grip.  They are still controlling public policy in secret with money and influence to make sure they retain the money and influence.

Billionaires control the political conversation by staying hidden and paying others to promote their brutal agendas (The Guardian, 2013)

Anybody who is part of this organization is the problem.  They need to be targeted in their districts and thrown out like the sold-out scum they are. If you don’t know for sure about your legislators call them and ask them if they are members of ALEC.

If we want to see government that listens to the people we have to get rid of all of these unprincipled, unethical, and subversive politicians be they Republican, Democrat or whatever.  Throw them out of office and let them go to work directly for their true bosses, like Scott Brown did, so we at least know who they’re representing.

There is nothing in the constitution that gives any elected official the right to meet in the dark to do dirty business with a select group of mega-rich people giving them power over the rest of us.  It’s a shame Nixon’s dead because slush funds are evidently legal now or might as well be.

Contrary to their opinion we are the government; we just need to take back the reins.

References

ALEC Thought of Non-Profit — Then Thought Not – Bloomberg. (n.d.). Bloomberg – Business, Financial & Economic News, Stock Quotes. Retrieved April 7, 2013, from http://go.bloomberg.com/political-capital/2012-12-13/alec-thought-of-non-profit-then-thought-not/

Biography of Missouri Governor Jay Nixon. (n.d.). Governor Jay Nixon. Retrieved April 7, 2013, from http://governor.mo.gov/about/Jay-Nixon.php

Carl Bearden | United for Missouri. (n.d.). United for Missouri | The Missouri Minute – covering grassroots and political issues in the state of Missouri. Retrieved April 6, 2013, from http://www.unitedformissouri.org/about/carl-bearden

Carl Bearden – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. (n.d.). Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Retrieved April 6, 2013, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carl_Bearden

clever, w. d., well-trained., dustbin, w. u., taxes, w. w., Anger, d. t., unions, t., et al. (n.d.). The educational charities that do PR for the rightwing ultra-rich | George Monbiot | Comment is free | The Guardian . Latest US news, world news, sport and comment from the Guardian | guardiannews.com | The Guardian . Retrieved April 7, 2013, from http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/feb/18/charities-pr-rightwing-ultra-rich

http://www.npr.org/blogs/itsallpolitics/2013/02/28/173170193/after-tough-2012-conservative-koch-brothers-regroup

Olsson, K. (n.d.). Ghostwriting the Law | Mother Jones. Mother Jones | Smart, Fearless Journalism. Retrieved April 7, 2013, from http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2002/09/ghostwriting-law

subvert – definition of subvert by the Free Online Dictionary, Thesaurus and Encyclopedia.. (n.d.). Dictionary, Encyclopedia and Thesaurus – The Free Dictionary. Retrieved April 6, 2013, from http://www.thefreedictionary.com/subvert

The separation of profit and state – chicagotribune.com. (n.d.). Chicago Tribune: Chicago breaking news, sports, business, entertainment, weather and traffic – chicagotribune.com. Retrieved April 7, 2013, from http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/sns-201302271700–tms–rkoehlerctnbk-a20130228-20130228,0,2907076.column

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This article is written by cherisplace and is posted at http://thebigslice.org/how-alec-subverts-democracy/

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ALEC’s Involvement in Criminalizing HIV/AIDS Sufferers

ALEC’s Involvement in Criminalizing HIV/AIDS Sufferers

by VLTP Executive Director, Bob Sloan

A recent article from the Advocate and the American Independent caught my attention the other day…then it was picked up and republished by Salon yesterday.

These articles help us to dissect how the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) involves themselves in issue specific initiatives in an effort of promoting their “free market,” pro-corporate agenda.  Not to assist the public in overcoming a health or other issue, not to alleviate the false claims or misunderstandings causing members of our society fear – but rather to capitalize off of that fear and if possible to increase the fear for monetary and political gain.

As we’re told by reading these articles, 1988 was the first time ALEC formed a task force to take up a single issue – HIV and AIDS.  During that period in our history there was much misunderstanding, disinformation and outright lies spread about the disease.  While many were trying to come to grips with the issue, ALEC and one of their pharma members were busy fueling the fires, so to speak…ending with the creation of legislation to criminalize the spread of HIV or AIDS.

I would urge everyone to read the linked articles to fully grasp the way in which ALEC is able to accomplish their agenda – and why they continue to be so successful on advancing their conservative model legislation…

I believe this was a pursuit of ALEC to drive those with the disease to the “cure” which was being manufactured by Hoffman La Roche and was then being studied in trials:

“This pharmaceutical company had the HIV-treating drug zalcitabine (also known as ddC) in clinical trials a couple of years prior. That drug would ultimately win Food and Drug Administration approval in 1992 after three successful trials conducted in cooperation with, among others, the National Cancer Institute.

It was bad enough that Hoffman La Roche was anxious to capitalize off a new drug designed to lead the way in treating a new and dangerous worldwide disease.  The fact that they funded the publishing of a book put out by ALEC that called for criminalizing those with the disease unless they divulged to potential partners that they had such a disease, made it worse.  They weren’t actually trying to cure, rather they were attempting to fuel the flames with incendiary proposals that made it a “law” for those with the ailment to publicly disclose derogatory personal health information…and if they failed to inform, they could face prison.

“The efforts of ALEC’s AIDS policy working group were published that year in a 169-page book containing 13 HIV-specific legislative recommendations. Some of those model laws would, after becoming real state laws, go on to effectively criminalize the behavior of people living with HIV and perpetuate a lasting stigma against HIV-positive people. Today, a majority of states have laws on the books that criminalize HIV exposure regardless of whether the virus was transmitted or there was an intention to infect another person with HIV.”“Every half hour in America someone dies of AIDS!” wrote ALEC’s then-executive director (and former Denver Bronco) Samuel Brunelli and Florida state representative Frank Messersmith, then ALEC’s chairman, in 1989 in their introductory letter published in the AIDS working group’s final report. “Yet, despite this terrible toll, we have been unable to implement a coherent public health strategy for dealing with this modern plague. Instead, we have allowed political special interests to paralyze the legislative process and block effective public health measures. This politicization of the public health process is exacting a deadly price.”

One of the pieces of model legislation drafted by the working group was the HIV Assault Act(adopted by ALEC’s membership as Model legislation in 1995).

“This model bill created a felony charge if a person knew he or she was infected with HIV while engaging in “intimate contact” with another person (exposing one’s bodily fluids to another in a way that could transmit HIV); donating blood, organs, or tissues; or sharing intravenous or intramuscular injection equipment.

There are some who would argue that there were already laws on the books in many states in 1988 making the spread of HIV a criminal act and that ALEC’s efforts were therefore inconsequential.  However, that claim would be false:

“When ALEC produced its model HIV Assault Act in 1989, nine states had HIV-specific criminal laws on the books. Today, 32 states and two U.S. territories have laws criminalizing HIV exposure, according to the Center for HIV Law and Policy. Only a handful of laws require intent to transmit the virus, and none requires an actual transmission for criminal prosecution to proceed. Since 2010, HIV-related criminal charges have led to more than 80 prosecutions against people living with HIV in the U.S., according to the LGBT legal advocacy group Lambda Legal.

ALEC now admits that the creation of the task force and publication of the book was due to the urging of “private interests.”

“Tanner said ALEC, which brings lawmakers and corporate interests together to hammer out legislative recommendations, came to address the HIV epidemic because of pressure from “private interests.””Specifically, he recalled that drugmaker Hoffmann-La Roche was a “big mover” and “put up a lot of funding behind publication of the book…”

The most incriminating aspect of this terrible story?  The names of those sitting upon the ALEC “HIV working group”…

“The co-chairs of the ALEC working group were J. Brian Munroe of Hoffmann-La Rocheand Delaware state Rep. Richard DavisRepresentatives from Nationwide Insurance and Alexander Hamilton Life Insurance also served on the AIDS working group.”

All this sad story is missing is the links between this pursuit of HIV prosecutions, profiting off of the illness and funding and the input from individuals such as Charles or David Koch…but wait, here comes another well known name that weighed in on behalf of ALEC and Hoffman La Roche…:

“Long criticized for not doing enough about the AIDS epidemic, which exploded onto the American medical scene in June 1981, President Ronald Reagan established the first Presidential Commission on the Human Immunodeficiency Virus Epidemic in 1987.The first months of the commission, which deliberated for a year, were plagued by public infighting, leading to the resignation of the chair and another member. The final commission included Richard DeVos, co-founder of Amway and frequent donor to social conservative causes; the late Cardinal John O’Connor, who had served as the archbishop of New York and who openly opposed condoms as an HIV-prevention method; and Penny Pullen, a conservative lawmaker from Illinois.

Penny Pullen
Illinois State Representative Penny Pullen has slipped under the radar of ALEC researchers – until now.  Pullen was a member of ALEC for 14 years, serving on the Board of Directors and upon ALEC’s Education Task Force.  A staunch conservative she complained during the hearings of the Commission on HIV about the tax dollars spent on pursuing the HIV/AIDS epidemic…saying it was paid for by taxpayers and should be used by them and not just as a “headline”, but actually read.
DeVos
DeVos is a well known contributor to ALEC and conservative think tanks and heavily involved in privatization 

efforts of public education.  So President Reagan’s “Commission on the Human Immunodeficiency Virus Epidemic ” included ALEC members and supporters sent there with an agenda.  These folks went right to work finding ways to capitalize off a terrible and frightening disease and to enrich fellow ALEC member, Hoffman La Roche.

Here is a story that only comes out nearly 25 years after the act was accomplished and the damages began to accrue.  This single case demonstrates how ALEC and their conservative cabal use fear to create the illusion that “their” solution is the salvation…how they use the contributors (DeVos and their financial and political influences), their corporate members and influential lawmakers to coordinate their pursuits of profits through crafting legislation that attaches a criminal penalty for failure to comply.

This is precisely what the cabal had already been doing for nearly a decade by filling the public with a fear of crime then crafting criminal justice legislation on three strikes, minimum mandatory sentences and other harsh criminal laws used to fill prisons.  That was followed by creating a prison industrial complex using prisoners for slave labor for corporate manufacturers (claiming the prisoners they worked so hard to imprison needed training for rehabilitation)…when the AIDS/HIV epidemic came along, they put their tried and true skills to work to capitalize off that debilitating disease.  Today they use the same skill sets and tactics to pursue right to work, voter ID suppression and to end collective bargaining.

Still today, the laws ALEC helped to write are still being used to prosecute those with HIV or AIDS in many states.  Hoffman La Roche scored big time, raking in millions in sales of their HIV drug by consumers who’s fears had been elevated by the disease and the legislation put out by ALEC to criminalize those with the disease.

I’m hopeful that the LGBT community takes ALEC and their PhRMA members to task for how this was accomplished, the non-transparent way in which it was done and the mental and physical harm caused by their actions.

The Criminal Justice Industrial Complex: Seeking Transparency Through Revelation

The Criminal Justice Industrial Complex: Seeking Transparency Through Revelation

By Bob Sloan

Like the military/industrial complex, the criminal justice industrial complex is an interweaving of private business and government interests. Its twofold purpose is profit and social control. Its public rationale is the fight against crime.  To accomplish the goals the public must be made to fear their neighbors, fellow employees…to walk in a public park or to the corner store.  If the public is not made to fear all these things, they will not acquiesce to spending billions in tax dollars on more and more police, more judges, jails or prisons.

The business niche created to profit from imprisoning fully 5% of all Americans has become hugely rewarding.  Companies have pumped billions into expanding “system-gulag” here in the U.S. to generate similarly huge rewards in profits and investor dividends.  Companies such as Corrections Corporation of America have provided an incentive and way for the “small” individual investor to share in the wave of money made off of incarceration in all it’s forms.  Corporations long ago learned that to enable such schemes it was important to get the word “fear” – and what to fear – out to the public.

To accomplish this, those being made wealthy off incarceration diversified and began to buy media outlets; a newspaper here, a radio or tv station there, digital media was created and is now controlled by a handful of such individuals.  Now entire broadcast networks are owned by criminal justice entrepreneurs and they keep Americans fearful and willing to spend billions to overcome that fear…billions that flow smoothly into company coffers and can be used to continue to expand and enlarge revenue streams. Surrounding this criminal justice industry is a curtain that keeps society’s eyes from penetrating a web of intentionally created disinformation.  Think tanks such as the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) have been swept into the fold and used to craft and lobby for ever harsher laws, longer sentences and to “legalize” more privatization efforts.

All of this has been rolled into a cabal of companies, individuals, organizations and institutes dedicated to keeping the criminal justice industry functioning flawlessly and generating ever growing profits.  Articles and studies sometimes written by those who have had a taste of this industry from the inside, are kept from the public by the mainstream media refusing to print them.  Even when alternative outlets publish such articles and attract attention, the MSM immediately goes all out to discredit the facts given and the author.  In just such a non-MSM posting from “Transmissions”, the truth about the criminal justice industry was eloquently and factually stated back in 2001.  Don’t look for the subject or discussion reported by the MSM over the last dozen years, you won’t find it.  I’ve taken the liberty of quoting from that decade old article here:

“Not so long ago, communism was “the enemy” and communists were demonized as a way of justifying gargantuan military expenditures. Now, fear of crime and the demonization of criminals serve a similar ideological purpose: to justify the use of tax dollars for the repression and incarceration of a growing percentage of our population. The omnipresent media blitz about serial killers, missing children, and “random violence” feeds our fear. In reality, however, most of the “criminals” we lock up are poor people who commit nonviolent crimes out of economic need. Violence occurs in less than 14% of all reported crime, and injuries occur in just 3%. In California, the top three charges for those entering prison are: possession of a controlled substance, possession of a controlled substance for sale, and robbery. Violent crimes like murder, rape, manslaughter and kidnapping don’t even make the top ten. Like fear of communism during the Cold War, fear of crime is a great selling tool for a dubious product. As with the building and maintenance of weapons and armies, the building and maintenance of prisons are big business. Investment houses, construction companies, architects, and support services such as food, medical, transportation and furniture, all stand to profit by prison expansion. A burgeoning “specialty item” industry sells fencing, handcuffs, drug detectors, protective vests, and other security devices to prisons…

Research shows that many of the hundreds of companies holding memberships in ALEC, the NCIA, American Correctional Association or other affiliates, have been involved and raking in money off of incarceration in several ways.

“…Communication companies like AT&T, Sprint, and MCI are getting into the act as well “ gouging prisoners with exorbitant phone calling rates, often six times the normal long distance charge. Smaller firms like Correctional Communications Corp., dedicated solely to the prison phone business, provide computerized prison phone systems” fully equipped for systematic surveillance. They win government contracts by offering to “kick back” some of the profits to the government agency awarding the contract. These companies are reaping huge profits at the expense of prisoners and their families; prisoners are often effectively cut off from communication due to the excessive cost of phone calls…

In February of last year CCA’s extensive lobbying contributions to Florida’s Governor Scott and the GOP led legislature in an effort of privatizing the state’s entire southern prison system, failed.  In response, CCA distributed a letter to all Governors offering to buy their state owned prison facilities.  This proffer included terms that CCA would have an exclusive 20 year contract for managing and operating each facility and requiring the state to guarantee to keep the prisons at 90% of capacity during the term of the contract.

ALEC’s Public Safety and Elections “Task Force” is responsible for writing nearly every law that has been adopted nationwide to incorporate Three Strike (Habitual Offender Act), Mandatory Minimum sentences, Truth in Sentencing, Private Correctional Facility ActTargeted Contracting for Certain Correctional Facilities and Services Act,  Prison Industries Act…all to incarcerate more men and women, keep them in prison for the longest term possible and to replace parole with “privatized parole” in the form of a “Conditional  Early Release Bond Act” to allow profiting off the release of offenders prior to end of sentence completion.

“… Like any industry, the prison economy needs raw materials. In this case the raw materials are prisoners. The prison/industrial complex can grow only if more and more people are incarcerated even if crime rates drop. “Three Strikes” and Mandatory Minimums (harsh, fixed sentences without parole) are two examples of the legal superstructure quickly being put in place to guarantee that the prison population will grow and grow and grow…

It is no longer a “U.S.” effort.  This cabal or network of companies and investors micro-managing the criminal justice industry have realized the potential for an additional windfall of profits if expansion to the EU, UK, Poland, New Zealand, Australia and beyond can be accomplished.

“Correctional Corporation Of America, one of the largest private prison owners, already operates internationally, with 48 facilities in 11 states, Puerto Rico, the United Kingdom, and Australia. Under contract by government to run jails and prisons, and paid a fixed sum per prisoner, the profit motive mandates that these firms operate as cheaply and efficiently as possible… The basic transnational corporate philosophy is this: the world is a single market; natural resources are to be exploited; people are consumers; anything which hinders profit is to be routed out and destroyed. The results of this philosophy in action are that while economies are growing, so is poverty, so is ecological destruction, so are sweatshops and child labor. Across the globe, wages are plummeting, indigenous people are being forced off their lands, rivers are becoming industrial dumping grounds, and forests are being obliterated. Massive regional starvation and “World Bank riots” are becoming more frequent throughout the Third World.

Today the same cabal that created initiatives to outsource American jobs to foreign countries for cheap labor,  tax breaks and the ability to not pay taxes on foreign income, are hard at work here in the U.S. – again, led by ALEC – and working hard to take their network international.  They have been writing and lobbying for legislation to end collective bargaining, union organizing, to restrict or abolish minimum wage requirements and eliminate union dues – worldwide.

All over the world, more and more people are being forced into illegal activity for their own survival as traditional cultures and social structures are destroyed. Inevitably, crime and imprisonment rates are on the rise. And the United States law enforcement establishment is in the forefront, domestically and internationally, in providing state-of-the-art repression. For private business, prison labor is like a pot of gold. No strikes. No union organizing. No unemployment insurance or workers’ compensation to pay. No language problem, as in a foreign country. New leviathan prisons are being built with thousands of eerie acres of factories inside the walls. Prisoners do data entry for Chevron, make telephone reservations for TWA, raise hogs, shovel manure, make circuit boards, limousines, waterbeds, and lingerie for Victoria’s Secret. All at a fraction of the cost of “free labor.

Prisoners can be forced to work for pennies because they have no rights. Even the 13th Amendment to the Constitution which abolished slavery, excludes prisoners from its protections.”

The influx of manufacturing and service jobs to nations such as China has led to the creation of working or middle classes in those countries, just as it did in America in the middle of the 20th century.  Wages of these foreign nations have been climbing, labor has begun to organize and CEO’s of companies that have been created due to the integration of American manufacturing in their nations, have begun to seek – and receive – larger and larger salaries and benefits.  The cabal has realized it is no longer logistically possible to continue to manufacture overseas and transport products back to the U.S. due to increasing labor, utility and other costs associated with overseas production.  These rising costs cut into profits and have caused many of these labor-exploiting companies to contemplate a return to the U.S. with their manufacturing.

In order to do this, American worker’s wages must be controlled.  Through hidden legislation they have found a way to bring their manufacturing needs back to America and do it in a way that provides a huge, silent, captive and hugely underpaid workforce: prisoners serving sentences in state and federal prisons.  Through authorization from Congress in 2011 UNICOR secured the ability to participate in the Prison Industries Enhancement Certification Program (PIECP).  This allows all federally owned and operated prison factories the ability to “partner” with private companies, lease them manufacturing space and provide adequate labor via inmate workers.

Along with this new authorization came another “innovative” program titled: Repatriation.  Repatriation as used in this context is the return of U.S. manufacturing jobs to America – under a provision that products no longer made in the U.S. by American companies (or that a company says “may be moved offshore”) can be brought back to the U.S. by those companies.  The products will be made within the industrial facilities of the federal prison industries (UNICOR) by federal prisoners. at wages of between $.23 and $1.35 per hour:

“Federal Prison Industries — also known by the trade name UNICOR — is a self-sustaining, self-funding company within the US Bureau of Prisons. It is owned wholly by the US government and was created by an act of Congress in 1934 to function as a rehabilitative tool to teach real-world work skills to federal inmates. These inmates were historically limited to producing goods for government use, such as furniture, uniforms, even, believe it or not, components for Patriot missiles. “Indeed, FPI/UNICOR’s 2012 annual report states that the board of directors “has approved 14 pilot programs for repatriated products.”  It also details “substantial losses” incurred and asserts that “inmate employment levels have dropped precipitously.” To be sure, not every job being reshored will be filled by an inmate. But according to the report, “FPI anticipates these pilot projects will assist in further reducing its losses,” which would logically induce the Bureau of Prisons to funnel as much business as possible to its 109 existing UNICOR factories, which currently employ just over 21,000 inmates.”

Today with minimum wage jobs disappearing and no longer available to those without degrees or diplomas, work for young men and women has become harder to find.  Employers can pick and choose who to hire and how much they’re willing to pay in wages.  A young Black or Hispanic man with education but few skills, has little value to employers…but they do to the criminal justice industrial complex.  With each new admission to a private prison, taxpayers fork over an average of $32,000 per year for housing, feeding, medical care and clothing. Because of this, poor people of color are being locked up in grossly disproportionate numbers, primarily for non-violent and drug possession crimes. On average they serve 3.5 years of a 5 year sentence for the first offense.  Meals, health services and transportation needs, canteens, personal clothing and banking have all been outsourced so in addition to the private prison company, several other private companies profit off of providing those “services.”

Drug, alcohol and other counseling and rehab programs have been cut.  Education – especially higher education – have all been eliminated and no longer available to prisoners.  So there is no real effort of rehabilitation.  Instead they rely upon the possibility of a job paying as little as $20.00 every other week to keep prisoners behaving in the hope of getting such work – eventually.  And when they’re finally released it is back into the same community with now even fewer jobs and for the ex-convict with a record, any hope of acquiring work to support themselves or even a small family is nonexistent.

In this manner the cycle of incarceration is begun and becomes perpetual.  Those invested in incarceration continue to rake in huge profits as more than 6 out of every 10 prisoners released return to prison within 3 years and are put back to work churning out products and generating income for investors and corporate owners who reinvest their earnings by contributing to campaigns of those legislators responsible for creating more laws, harsher and longer sentences and other means of profiting off human miseries. As the article linked to above, “Prisons are Big Business” informed readers over a decade ago:

As “criminals” become scapegoats for our floundering economy and our deteriorating social structure, even the guise of rehabilitation is quickly disappearing from our penal philosophy. After all: rehabilitate for what? To go back into an economy which has no jobs? To go back into a community which has no hope? As education and other prison programs are cut back, or in most cases eliminated altogether, prisons are becoming vast, over-crowded, holding tanks. Or worse: factories behind bars.  And, prison labor is undercutting wages –something which hurts all working and poor Americans.

Those among our society who have supported “tough on crime” legislation and adopted the “lock ’em up and throw away the key” mantra have helped enrich those individuals and companies profiting off the hard earned tax dollars spent on incarceration.  That philosophy has to be stopped by citizens realizing how they have been manipulated by the MSM and others reaping huge rewards from imprisonment.  To those involved in incarceration, it is no longer a moral or societal duty, it has become a business and like any other business, it exists to make a profit for owners and investors.

Profiting off the misery of fellow human beings is immoral and creates the incentive to imprison more – for additional profit.

VLTP would urge readers to help us battle this means of widening the gap of inequality in our culture and society.  Spread the word about profiting off incarceration, the use of prisoners to rob us of our jobs and how this “system” has developed and works against us all.  Contribute to support our continued research, studies and reporting on this topic.  We do not have paying memberships, receive no corporate contributions or government grants to support our work.  You could not receive a better return for your investment in our work and your society.