corporate behavior

Destroying Access to Local Democracy

Most of you will have no idea what I am writing about – because you are fortunate to have more than just basic cable, and were born after the advent of cable TV.

Many of you – might not know or care – but you should –  if you claim to care about the democratic process – or are a progressive, or a liberal, or just like to spout off something about caring for your fellow man when you’re drunk.

While taking my somewhat regular look at the ALECexposed webpage today to research some model legislation, I was reading about the intricate web of legislation woven in Wisconsin.

As very similar legislation  has already been passed into law here in NC it piqued my interest.  And let me tell you Wisconsinites something — you should really care about this one.

For those of you in the industry – please excuse my simplistic approach to this issue – this is the best I could surmise from my research.

HISTORY

rabbit ears antennaBack in the “good old days”, if people wanted to watch TV they had to have an antenna either on top of the TV, next to their house or on top of their house.

Back in the seventies – cable broadcasting came about in order to provide more TV service to more people.  Because the signal to an antenna was often interfered with by tall buildings or mountains,  cables were dug underground to improve reception and to bring it to areas beyond the limited reach of broadcast antennae.

The underground areas that the corporations wanted to use for installing these cables were generally located in cities across the United States.  This is referred to as the “right-of-way” where the electric, telephone, and gas lines (aka utilities considered necessary needed to live) were then located.

right of wayThis ”right-of-way” is PUBLIC land – owned by you and me.  Back in the old days, it was determined that cable TV was entertainment, a luxury – not really needed.  So if the private, for-profit cable companies wanted to run their cables in the PUBLIC right-of-way – the cable companies would need to pay a franchise fee (aka rent payment) to the cities to use that space located underground land that belongs to the PUBLIC.

Public Access TVpublic access tv

As part of those franchise agreements allowing private for-profit cable companies to use the PUBLIC right-of-way, was the establishment of PEG programs.  PEG stands for Public, Educational and Government programming.  This is your local public access TV station.

Public – This means that the public access station is available to most any person to use their first amendment rights to do a TV show.  In my area  – every one of these shows is a local citizen spouting right wing babble.  Although in many parts of the country there are many interesting shows focusing on local and national issues, including ethnic groups, youth, seniors, the LGBT… community programming.

Educational – This is available to the schools to broadcast school board meetings, high school sports programs, high school graduations, band concerts, grade school programs, etc. on the public access TV station.

Government – This is available to government to broadcast city and county board meetings, planning meetings, utility board meetings and a host of other meetings that are suppose to be “open meetings”.

vocational programming on public access tvAnd let’s not forget job creation.  Many Public Access TV stations broadcast programming that provides valuable training  to local teens and adults which can help them to learn employable skills.

But don’t believe for a split second that the funding for this was given to the cities out of the cable companies’ goodwill.  The negotiation of franchise renewals continues to be a bitter and horrendous process – a Private v. Public “death-match” every time.

Meanwhile,  the well financed private corporations are effectively acting as a cartel–carving up the country between themselves so that they do not have to have any costly competition with each other…essentially monopolies in their own marketing areas.

In these franchise renewal negotiations the arrogance of the Private cable companies is on display as the use of YOUR Public right-of-way is a bone of contention.  These corporations want to be able to use the right-of-way for Corporations are not Peoplefree–this is just taken for granted.  Apparently this fits well with their corporate personhood,  No restrictions on their profits are acceptable.  Regulations to ensure that Public Access TV remains Public are anathema.  In the pursuit of ever greater revenues – these corporations demonstrate nothing but absolute disdain for the Public services that are part and parcel of Public Access TV.

And that is where the association with ALEC comes in along with cable-company-specific ALEC “model” legislation comes in.

Many Public Access stations across the United States are losing their funding from the cable companies because of ALEC legislation.  The aim of this ALEC legislation is take the franchise negotiations away from the city level and put the negotiations at the state level – where ALEC’s Corporate Member cable companies negotiate with ALEC Legislative Members in the state legislatures.
ALECexposed

Quoting very liberally from ALECexposed, here is an interesting timetable for you to consider:

First, in Wisconsin,, there was the The Broadband Deployment Act of 2003, which freed the telecom industry from oversight.  Check out the resemblance to ALEC’s Broadband and Telecommunications Deployment Act

Then came  a Municipal Broadband bill from 2004, which blocked municipalities from competing with corporate providers of broadband services.  A remarkable resemblance to ALEC’s Municipal Telecommunications Private Industry Safeguards Act

And a 2007 Telephone Deregulation Bill, ending public oversight and regulations in Wisconsin for telephone services, looks like the ALEC Advanced Voice Services Availability Act of 2007

And the Video Competition Act, eliminating municipal cable franchises and freeing companies from their previously-negotiated contracts.  Considering that it looks like the ALEC Cable and Video Competition Act, there certainly appears to be a strategy at work for the possible takeover (perhaps privatization?) of Wisconsin’s Public Access TV,


Do Not Forget
The services that are provided by Public Access TV to the public include:

Public – which gives people the chance to voice their first amendment rights to a larger audience.

Educational – which gives people the opportunity to see events that they cannot physically or financially attend.

Government – which gives the public access to their government.  Even when they are working 10 – 12 hour days – the public can watch the government meetings on TV and know what is happening in their community and comment to their city / county representatives.  They can see for themselves just who their elected representatives are indeed representing,  Transparency in government.

Many of you may not watch public access TV – but many people do.

Just because some don’t watch it – does not mean that public access TV should not be available.

As I stated earlier – franchise negotiations appear to be fierce – with the cable companies wielding their well-paid lawyers against public servants.  Many towns don’t have the expertise or the money to pay for the legal expertise to properly negotiate with the legions of highly paid cable lawyers.  And thus many cities across the United States are losing most funding for public access TV or all funding for public access TV.

Think about it – just for a moment. There is something horribly wrong with this ALEC, legislators, corporationsscenario.  ALEC Corporate private sector members come into the state legislature and negotiate cable franchise agreements (for the cities) with ALEC state legislators.  If this piece of ALEC “model” legislation has not already been implemented in your state (and it has been in some) – it will be introduced by an ALEC state legislator sooner than later.

When the public no longer has access to their local government (as provided by public access TV), democracy at the most local level is diminished and that is what ALEC’s pro-cable company “model” legislation and your state ALEC legislator are doing – reducing access to democracy  to increase profits / revenues for some very large corporations.

If you check the corporations listed at ALECExposed – you will find your cable provider.  They attend ALEC meetings to promote legislation that increases cable corporate revenues / profits – with total disregard for the needs of the public.

 

 

Fracking on Proxy Ballots at Chevron and Exxon

Described as laggards for their failure to address investor concerns, the oil and gas giants face shareowner resolutions addressing environmental and social risks associated with hydraulic fracturing.

SocialFunds.com — Shareowners have filed 11 resolutions this year with oil and gas companies, requesting that they quantifiably measure and reduce the environmental and social impacts of hydraulic fracturing. The nature of the shareowner requests were honed in part last year when a coalition of institutional investors called on companies to observe the best practices set out in an Investor Guide issued by the Investor Environmental Health Network (IEHN) and the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR).

“We’re encouraging a corporate race to the top in adopting best practices,” Richard Liroff of IEHN said.

Also last year, a consortium of oil and gas companies engaged in hydraulic fracturing in Appalachia created the Recommended Standards and Practices for Exploration and Production of Natural Gas and Oil from Appalachian Shales.

One of the signatories to the document was Chevron, which as one of the 12 coalition members agreed to “strive to be responsible operators that conduct business in a transparent and sustainable manner, and openly communicate with stakeholders.” Chevron and the other members also asserted that the consortium’s “consensus-based approach…provides a roadmap to enhance transparency and regulatory compliance.”

But according to the resolution filed by ICCR members, “By their own language, these standards describe what companies ‘should do’ rather than what companies currently do or commit to doing.”

“Proponents suggest the report include specific data on emission reduction measures taken such as the number or percentage of ‘green completions’ and other low-cost emission reduction measures; systems to track and manage naturally occurring radioactive materials; the extent to which closed-loop systems for management of drilling residuals are used; the numbers of community complaints or grievances and portion open or closed; and quantifying the amounts of water used and the source for shale energy operations by region,” the resolution concluded.

“By its own admission Chevron knows what it should do, yet continues to drag its feet on implementation putting the health of millions of communities at great risk,” Sr. Nora Nash of the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia said. “How does a company of its size and status justify this position?”

Exxon Mobil is not a member of the Appalachian consortium, but its subsidiary XTO Energy is and signed the Recommended Standards document. Exxon is also a target of a resolution addressing hydraulic fracturing. The resolution, co-filed by the New York City Pension Funds and As You Sow, includes requests similar to those made by ICCR members to Chevron.

“Exxon has repeatedly resisted calls that it provide investors with detailed information on its safety measures,” an As You Sow press release states.

“Exxon has repeatedly failed to measure the harms its fracking operations cause to air, water, and nearby communities, or any progress it is making towards reducing those harms,” said Danielle Fugere, As You Sow President. “Exxon shareholders need this information to make sound investment decisions.”

And New York City Comptroller John Liu, the trustee for the NYC Pension Funds, said, “Fracking carries significant concerns about poisoned drinking water, toxic chemical leaks, and explosions. Exxon Mobil says, ‘Don’t worry, we’ve got it covered’ and asks us to take it at its word. Until the company shows us hard data on what it has done to protect the public and environment, shareowners cannot be confident that the necessary safeguards exist.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

This article is written by Robert Kropp and is published by SocialFunds.com at http://www.socialfunds.com/news/article.cgi/3756.html

Social Funds

Michigan Children Slip Further into Poverty

images[9]Some Michigan Democrats are holding a press conference today in Lansing that Republican lawmakers and the Snyder administration intend to completely ignore. The name of the group is Save Our EITC (Earned Income Tax Credit), and they are on a mission to keep families and children out of poverty — not a top priority of the state’s Republican dominated legislature. Not by a long shot.

It’s been nearly two years since the Snyder administration pushed through a series of tax bills that the state and its businesses are just now beginning to feel. While corporations will enjoy somewhere between $1.6 and $1.8 billion in tax gimmies (with no job-creating strings attached), Michigan residents are getting hammered, particularly the very young and the old — households already tipping on the event horizon of poverty.

Save Our EITC lists the following “fast facts” about the Earned Income Tax Credit:

Fact 1: Think ‘fertilizer’ for the local economy

A study by Anderson Economic Group says for every $1 provided by the EITC, the economy gets $1.67 as those dollars turn over locally.

Fact 2: You have to work to earn the EITC.

The Earned Income Tax Credit is a tax credit designed for working families, who apply for it when they fill out state income tax forms.

Fact 3: Losing $432 can plunge a child into poverty.

The Earned Income Tax Credit returns an average of $432 to working families, most with children. Without the EITC, an estimated 14,000 children in working families will be plunged into poverty.

Michigan is rapidly becoming known for its childhood poverty. The Annie E. Casey Foundation publishes the Kids Count Data Center, a state-by-state statistical database tracking the well-being of children on a variety of criteria. Michigan is an utter disgrace. Currently, one quarter of their children live in poverty, half of all their students qualify for free or reduced lunch, another quarter do not graduate on time. A whopping 37.4 percent of children between newborn and 5 years of age receive some form of food assistance. Fully one third of Michigan’s babies are born with inadequate prenatal care. As if that’s not bad enough, those numbers are destined to get plenty worse under Snyder’s tax plan as it kicks-in.

$432 per working family = Chump-change for the governor and most lawmakers, but to a family of four, that’s school clothes and supplies, and then some….

Amy Kerr Hardin from Democracy Tree

democracy tree logo

Shareowners Press on with Anti-Fracking Campaign

Nine oil and gas companies face shareowner resolutions this proxy season requesting quantitative reporting of risks associated with hydraulic fracturing and the management of fugitive methane emissions.

Socialstop frackinigFunds.com — Nine leading oil and gas companies—Cabot Oil and Gas, Chevron, Exxon Mobil, EOG Resources, ONEOK, Pioneer Natural Resources, Spectra Energy, Range Resources and Ultra Petroleum—face shareowner resolutions this proxy season requesting that they quantifiably measure and reduce the environmental and social impacts of hydraulic fracturing, according to Ceres.

The proposals on fracking were filed by a number of organizations, including As You Sow, Calvert Investments, Green Century Capital Management, New York City Office of the Comptroller, The Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia, and Trillium Asset Management. The resolution filed with Cabot by the New York State Common Retirement Fund has been withdrawn due to commitments on disclosure made by the company.

Since 2009, when shareowners filed the first of 21 resolutions that by 2010 had gained an unprecedented 40% support, concerns over the impacts of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, have gone mainstream. Risks associated with contamination by toxic chemicals of community drinking water supplies, the disposal of massive volumes of wastewater, and increased air emissions have been widely covered in the media, threatening the social license to operate of companies engaged in the controversial practice.

Green Century, which filed this year’s resolutions with EOG Resources and Ultra Petroleum, coordinates a shareowner campaign on fracking with the Investor Environmental Health Network (IEHN). “Transparency is the first step, but oil and gas companies must now implement quantifiable plans to reduce the impact of their operations on the environment,” Leslie Samuelrich of Green Century said.

“State regulations do not provide adequate protection from the adverse effects of shale gas operations,” the resolution filed with EOG Resources states. “Shareholders request that the Board of Directors publish a set of systematic policies for tracking and responding to community concerns, reducing the use of toxic chemicals, disclosing violations, and reporting to shareholders, on an annual basis via quantitative indicators, the results of these policies.”

“Oil and gas firms face clear environmental and business risks, and general assurances of safety and anecdotes about site-specific actions are not sufficient for investors,” said Richard Liroff, Executive Director of IEHN. “Shareholders want to know how companies are systematically tackling environmental risk and community impact concerns and the measurable results of these efforts.”

Resolutions addressing fugitive methane emissions from the fracking process were filed with Range Resources, ONEOK, and Spectra Energy by Trillium Asset Management. “Given the high short-term climate impact of methane emissions, it is now an open question whether natural gas can serve as a bridge fuel to a more sustainable energy future,” said Natasha Lamb of Trillium. “Companies can and should reduce their emissions using new technologies with positive return on investment.”

Last year, an international coalition of institutional investors with $1 trillion in assets under management, led by IEHN, Boston Common Asset Management, and the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) called for the adoption of best practices by corporations engaged in hydraulic fracturing. Also last year, an international coalition of institutional investment organizations with assets under management in excess of $20 trillion called on companies and governments to minimize methane emitted in the fracking process.

“The oil and gas industry must account for its impact on natural resources, the climate and communities,” said Mindy Lubber, director of the Investor Network on Climate Risk (INCR) and president of Ceres. “The environmental risks of fracking have bottom-line impacts, and investors are right to be demanding better performance from oil and gas firms.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
This article was written by Robert Kropp and is published at http://www.socialfunds.com/news/article.cgi/3741.html

Social Funds

A Trillion Dollar Call for Best Practices in Fracking Operations

alecfossilfuelfunders-editedFifty-five institutional investment organizations representing $1 trillion in assets under management call for adoption of best practices by oil and gas companies engaged in hydraulic fracturing.

SocialFunds.com — Many oil and gas companies are focusing their operations on the controversial practice of hydraulic fracturing, claiming that the reserves of natural gas available by means of the process contribute a pathway toward national energy independence.

However, concerns have been mounting rapidly over the impacts of fracking. Those concerns include the contamination of groundwater sources by the often toxic chemicals used in the process; ; and the impacts on formerly rural communities of what Mark Regier of Everence Financial described to SocialFunds.com last month as a “gold rush.”

Sustainable investors and other concerned shareowners were quick to begin addressing the environmental and social risks of fracking, and by the time of last year’s proxy season shareowner resolutions addressing the practice were already gaining an average 40% support.

At a press conference held last week, an international coalition of institutional investors with $1 trillion in assets under management called for the adoption of best practices by corporations engaged in hydraulic fracturing. The coalition of 55 investment organizations is led by Boston Common Asset Management, the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) and the Investor Environmental Health Network (IEHN).

Citing an Investor Guide published late last year by ICCR and IEHN, the investors identified the risks to companies engaged in the practice. The risks include moratoria and outright bans on fracking; the absence of systematic reporting on risk management; and growing investor unrest over the inability to fully evaluate the practices of companies.

Richard Liroff of IEHN told SocialFunds.com at the time of the Investor Guide’s publication, “There’s a moratorium in the Delaware River Basin, there’s been a moratorium in New York State, there’s a moratorium in the Province of Quebec. There is a ban in France, there is a moratorium in South Africa, and there is a moratorium in the New South Wales state in Australia.”

The investor coalition also pointed out that Chevron’s exploration license in Bulgaria was cancelled as well. In January, legislators there overwhelmingly approved a ban on fracking.

“Investors need to have greater certainty in the marketplace as to industry practices and government regulation,” said Steven Heim of Boston Common. “The best course here for investors, the environment and human health will be if all shale gas extractors wake up, get the message, and use these tools to do it right.”

According to the Investor Guide, best practice in fracking includes 12 core goals:
• Manage risks transparently and at board level;
• Reduce surface footprint;
• Assure well integrity;
• Reduce and disclose all toxic chemicals;
• Protect water quality by rigorous monitoring;
• Minimize fresh water use;
• Prevent contamination from waste water;
• Minimize and disclose air emissions;
• Prevent contamination from solid waste and sludge residuals;
• Assure best in class contractor performance;
• Secure community consent; and
• Disclose fines, penalties and litigation.

At the press conference, Liroff said, “We’re encouraging a corporate race to the top in adopting best practices. The best-practices guide backed by major investors offers both currently achievable goals, such as minimizing fresh water use, and more aspirational goals, such as virtually eliminating toxic chemicals from fracturing operations.”

“The guide cites practices that are already used by 17 companies,” Liroff continued. “Many companies will save money and lower risks, providing business, environmental, and community benefits.”

A second report on fracking, published earlier this year by the IRRC Institute and the Sustainable Investments Institute (Si2), stated, “How companies respond to further calls for transparency and adherence to best practices will influence whether the operating environment will improve or whether future rounds of even more stringent regulation or outright bans on drilling will ensue. Given the public scrutiny, a few bad actors may put the entire industry’s license to operate at risk.”

That a significant number of companies are now listening to investor concerns over fracking can be discerned by the fact that of the ten resolutions filed this year addressing the practice, six have been withdrawn in favor of engagement.

At last week’s press conference, Sister Nora Nash of the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia, said, “Shale gas companies must earn their ‘social license’ by operating in a more responsible manner. Companies must address the community and environmental concerns prompting bans and moratoria. They must listen closely, respond sensitively, and account to both investors and communities for their actions. Otherwise, this is an uncharted process of unwanted development that deprives communities of their rights and leads to litigation and loss of investor confidence.”

Two of the fracking resolutions remaining are filed with Chevron and ExxonMobil, and shareowners will vote on them at the companies’ annual general meetings, both scheduled for May 30th.

“Chevron and ExxonMobil are emerging as laggards by failing to address investor concerns in a meaningful way,” said Larisa Ruoff, Director of Shareholder Advocacy for Green Century Capital Management, a lead filer of the Chevron proposal. “As two of the largest oil and gas companies in the US, these companies should step up and respond to a significant portion of their shareholders by providing increased disclosure on how each company is managing the risks associated with fracking operations.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

This article was posted by SocialFunds.com at http://www.socialfunds.com/news/article.cgi/article3534.html

Social Funds

Corporations Agree to Disclose Political Spending

The Center for Political Accountability announces that engagement has led to six corporations agreeing to adopt political disclosure and accountability, while a shareowner resolution at Visa gains significant support.

SocialFunds.com — Last year, the Center for Political Accountability (CPA) announced that the number of public corporations agreeing to disclose their political expenditures had reached 100. More than half of the companies are listed on the S&P 100.

As reported here in late November, it now appears that the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is considering a rule requiring that “public companies provide disclosure to shareholders regarding the uses of corporate resources for political activities,” according to Paula Dubberly, a Deputy Director of the Division of Corporation Finance at the SEC. However, sustainable investors and other advocates are not simply waiting for a rule to materialize; CPA reports that more than 50 resolutions were filed with corporations this proxy season, requesting that they adopt political disclosure and board oversight.

It’s also apparent companies themselves are acknowledging reality, as not only the number of resolutions but the vote totals as well continue to rise. At Visa’s annual general meeting this week, for instance, 37% of shareowners votes in support of a resolution requesting that the financial services company disclose all payments used for lobbying purposes, including payments to trade associations.

The resolution, co-filed by Boston Common Asset Management and the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA), stated, “Public opinion is skeptical of corporate influence on Congress and public policy and questionable lobbying activity may pose risks to our company’s reputation when controversial positions are embraced.”

At Visa’s annual meeting, Meredith Benton of Boston Common said, “We commend Visa for initiating enhanced disclosure.”

“We persist, though, in bringing this proposal to ballot as the company has not yet contemplated any disclosure to shareholders on lobbying spending connected with trade associations or other tax exempt organizations,” Benton continued.

Also this week, CPA announced that six corporations avoided having resolutions on political spending come to a vote by agreeing to adopt disclosure and accountability. Boeing and Mylan, a pharmaceutical company, came to agreement after resolutions during last year’s proxy season gained significant support. KeyCorp, Harley-Davidson, Deere & Co., and AmerisourceBergen also agreed to disclosure of political expenditures.

“The companies have agreed to disclose their direct corporate political contributions, indirect political spending through trade associations and other groups such as ‘social welfare’ 501(c)(4)s and to implement board oversight,” CPA stated.

The withdrawn resolutions, which were based on the CPA model, were filed by Investor Voice, the New York State Common Retirement Fund, the Nathan Cummings Foundation, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters General Fund, and William Zessar.

“Hidden political spending soared off the charts in the 2012 elections, but a steadily increasing number of American companies are choosing an alternative, the Center’s model for disclosure and board oversight of corporate political spending,” said CPA President Bruce Freed.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Social FundsThis article was written by Robert Kropp, and is published at http://www.socialfunds.com/news/article.cgi/3739.html