corporate behavior

Labor and Business Win Prison Industry Battle

Labor and Business Win Prison Industry Battle

By Bob Sloan

Today prison industries are booming with hundreds of thousands of prisoners employed in factories manufacturing a myriad assortment of products and providing services such as call centers, customer service, marketing, reservations and manual labor for municipalities.  Thousands of American workers have been displaced by companies choosing low paid prisoners as a labor force.  Many of these companies realize additional profits from subsidized leases for state manufacturing facilities within prison compounds.  This has been the trend since 1999 but today, as a Burl Ives lyric proclaims, “times, they are a changin’…”

Nevada represents the latest resistance to prison programs taking jobs out of the private sector and allowing unfair competition between private businesses where one company has access to low paid prisoners for their private workforce.

On May 29th legislation reining in control of Nevada’s prison industry program, passed the state Senate and was sent to the desk of Governor Brian Sandoval.  On June 1 the Governor signed the new legislation and it becomes law in Nevada on July1, 2013.  The introduction, passage and signing into law of this necessary legislation is a huge victory for opponents of prison industry programs in the U.S. – and signals to other states the need for similar vigilance of prison industrial programs.

Sen Smith 4-29

Senator Debbie Smith

Known as Senate Bill (SB) 478, the Nevada legislation was introduced and sponsored by the Senate’s Interim Finance Committee as a means of tightening controls over Nevada’s prison industry partnerships. Author of the bill was Senator Debbie Smith, Chair of the Senate Finance and Interim Finance Committees.

Private companies (union and non-union) joined ranks with union leaders in support of changing state laws regarding prison industry operations in Nevada.  

Sen. Richard Bryan

Sen. Richard Bryan

Former Nevada Governor and U.S. Senator, Richard Bryan, met several times with the state Board of Prison Commissioners and appeared before both Senate and Assembly committee meetings where he argued that necessary changes must be made to the existing prison industry regulations.

Senator Bryan was not involved in the actual writing or introduction of this measure (Senate Bill 478), but in interviews he stated he supported the proposed original legislation as it would open the program to needed transparency that would limit unfair competition complained of by workers and businesses in Nevada.  The Senator has not spoken publicly since the legislation was amended and passed, so it is unknown if he continues to fully support the amended language of SB 478.

Danny Thompson

AFLCIO Exec. Sec. Treasurer, Danny Thompson

sb 478 hearing conway

Ironworkers Local 433 Bus. Agent, Robbie Conway

Support also came from the AFLCIO, the local Ironworkers union and several law enforcement unions.  The AFLCIO’s Executive Secretary Treasurer, Danny Thompson and Ironworkers Local 433 Business Agent, Robbie Conway were the most vocal and outspoken union representatives on the prison industry issue.  Both made appearances before the Board of Prison Commissioners, the Nevada Senate and Assembly at hearings and meetings to object to the use of inmate labor to openly compete for the jobs of unemployed Nevada workers.

While both Thompson and Conway objected to prisoners being used by private companies to compete against other private businesses and workers, they were very concerned about the safety of Nevadans from projects built using prisoners in a “training program”.  One such project was the bridge over Interstate 15 in North Las Vegas.  Another is the Wet ‘N Wild water park project being built in Summerlin.  A third is the SkyVue Wheel on the Las Vegas strip.

wet n wild

SkyVue pic

All of these projects were scheduled to be built with structural steel components manufactured by prisoners working in a prison industry training program located at High Desert State Prison.  That was the intent until the public became informed about the use of prisoners manufacturing key structural components for such projects and in response the Governor ordered the closure of the prison industry where the steel was made.

This state action in Nevada follows similar legislative amending in Texas in 2009-2010 after businesses complained of unfair competition from prison industry operations there.  The Texas circumstances are nearly identical with a situation that consequently evolved in Nevada just three years later.

Lufkin Industry’s trailer division was shut down due to an undisclosed operation by a prison company making the same products and selling them competitively in Lufkin’s market.  Following this discovery, the Texas legislature enacted laws to protect workers and competitors from prison operated industries using inmate labor.

This legislative session, Nevada was forced to take similar steps to protect workers and business owners from suffering the same fate as workers in Texas.

Silver State Industries (SSI), operated by the Nevada Department of Corrections (NDOC) enters into contracts with private companies to allow the use of inmates as a labor force for manufacturing goods.  Previously these partnerships were developed quietly with a total lack of transparency or notice to competing companies regarding any possible impact upon private business or Nevada’s unemployed workers competing for business or jobs.

Cox-listens-to-testimony-cropDirector Cox of the Nevada Department of Corrections candidly admitted earlier this year that he and his department had not been following requirements and protocols called for by state law and department regulations.  Besides the undisclosed competition using inmate labor, there is an issue of lost money from possible mismanagement of the NDOC.

One of more of these “industry” operations using prisoners as a labor force for select private companies resulted in substantial dollars lost to the state due to non-payment of leases, wages, utility costs and other expenses advanced to companies in an effort of keeping them operating and prisoners employed.  SSI’s current account receivables are in excess of $600,000 and previously in 2010 $800,000 was sent to collectors to try and recover.

As a result of poor business practices, SSI has lost hundreds of thousands of dollars and nearly exhausted a $1.5 million dollar contingency fund.  The industry closed by order of the Governor was a metal/steel fabrication plant at the High Desert State Prison.  This single operation is at the center of the controversy surrounding prison labor and unfair competition that formed the basis for the new legislation.

Silver State Industries had a long standing contract with Alpine Steel, LLC that allowed inmates to manufacture structural steel used in public and private projects secured through standard industry bid procedures.  Alpine used the cheap labor they paid to inmate workers as a means to secure numerous competitive contracts utilizing low labor projections/costs.  Other companies protested they were losing work and thus unable to hire more unemployed steel workers due to unfair competition from Alpine using state prisoners as the company’s “private workforce”.

When it was discovered Alpine was not paying the lower wages owed to the inmate workers or salaries of NDOC supervisory staffers, the story elicited strong reactions from taxpayers and lawmakers alike.  In addition to these payroll defaults, Alpine was behind on agreed lease and utility payments and had failed to reimburse the state for worker comp premiums on the inmate workers – for a period of approximately four years.  The state paid the wages of staffers, the work comp premiums and utility costs which mean the “taxpayers” were subsidizing a substantial amount of Alpine’s operation.

Under media and public pressure, the Governor became involved in December of last year.  Almost immediatelyAlpine’s prison industry operation was ordered closed.  Following the closure Alpine and the NDOC negotiated a repayment agreement with the Attorney General’s office that was very favorable to Alpine’s owner.  The agreement allows Randy Bulloch to make monthly payments to the state over a period of another four years until the debt is paid.  Surprisingly, this agreement does not provide for any interest, fine or penalty for the huge debt from the default(s).  Ultimately the state wound up on the hook for $438,000+ owed by Bulloch.

DD Connett

NDOC Deputy Director, Brian Connett

These default(s) were known to NDOC Director Cox and Deputy Director Brian Connett (Deputy Director of the Prison Industry) but neither took any positive steps to recover the money owed and bring Alpine current.

As originally proposed, SB 478, subsection 7 required notices and an opportunity to be consulted about proposed new prison industry projects be provided to private companies and labor organizations.  It further required the NDOC Director and Deputy Director of Prison Industries to provide the Senate Interim Finance Committee (IFC) on Industrial Programs with information on possible impacts upon labor or sales from proposed new prison industries.

Instead of requiring the NDOC to consult directly with businesses that may be affected by new or proposed industries, the amended legislation (subsections #7 in the amended text) calls for other state agencies or departments to conduct studies and submit reports of possible conflicts involving labor or market sales.

Though the legislation as passed does not contain all the provisions hoped for by supporters, necessary key provisions calls for more transparency and oversight over prison industries – and their competition against private companies having to compete against low prison wages.

Two key provisions of SB 478 are the provision that the NDOC must provide documentation to the IFC for approval of new programs and then if approved there, any proposed program must be considered by the Board of Prison Commissioners (composed of the Governor, AG and Secretary of State) for final approval.  Though this provision was already in place, these were circumvented previously.  The second change is the addition of a second union representative added to the IFC Industrial Program Committee.  This will help ensure Nevada workers are protected from unfair prison labor displacing them or taking jobs from a constantly dwindling job market.

Provisions that the NDOC seek approval for new industry projects from the Bureau of Prison Commissioners, provide notice to the private sector, consultation with businesses and labor on proposed new industries and that any industry have an “insignificant” impact upon displacement of workers; were requirements that were not followed.  These actions – or lack of action – were behind the need for this new legislation in the first place.  Ironically this failure to inform or consult directly with competing companies and unions necessitated SB 478…yet as passed, that critical component has been removed from the final language of the bill.

Cox originally took the position of “neutral” on the proposed legislation…then changed that to “opposed” to the bill.  Finally after negotiating out the requirement to provide direct notice to labor or competing companies, Cox and the NDOC came out in “support” of the measure.  This manipulation gives the appearance that the NDOC wants to avoid any direct notice or contact with the very businesses the prison industry program will be competing against.

The default by one company resulted in complaints against the NDOC for using inmate labor to compete unfairly against private companies.  Everyone involved realized the potential for lost jobs in the private sector along with lost sales to competing companies and led to hearings and meetings before the Board of Prison Commissioners and several Senate and Assembly Committee meetings in 2012 and early this year.

Ultimately information that came out in those hearings and through the media revealed that the NDOC’s prison industry program was “off the chain” (to use the vernacular) and being operated without any true oversight – by the NDOC or other government authorities.  In the end Alpine Steel did Nevadans a favor by their defaulting across the board.  The action of this one company is what angered the public and led to a quick response from lawmakers and the Executive branch.

Unexpectedly, the NDOC continued to use Randy Bulloch as a spokesman for continuing prison industry operations as they were.  Bulloch appeared at nearly every Committee hearing; before the Interim Finance Committee on Industrial Programs, the Board of Prison Commissioners, the Senate Judiciary Committee and before the General Assembly – side by side with SSI Deputy Director, Connett – speaking in support of continuing the prisoner “training program” and arguing that using such labor was really not unfair competition.  At one point he argued if he and other companies using inmate labor had to pay prisoners fair or comparable wages, it would result in closing prison industries altogether.  In advancing that argument he failed to realize that while the low wages and cheap lease of state owned industry facilities to his company provided increased profits, such came at the expense of workers displaced by the prisoners and businesses that lost contracts to Alpine due to the use of prison labor.

This was the “unfair competition” businesses, the public and organized labor protested against and the legislature agreed with them on.  That’s why it was unexpected to see Bulloch, Cox and Connett continue to confer and present arguments against reform of the prison industry in the face of widespread calls demanding reform by everyone else.

SB 478 surprised everyone – lawmakers and public alike – by how quickly it advanced through the Senate and then Assembly once introduced.  Historically proposed legislation takes a substantial amount of time being discussed, amended and again discussed before ever getting to the point of a vote.  This bill introduced on March 25th passed in just over 60 days and will become law approximately 90 days after submission.

The NDOC and the department’s head of SSI will remain in charge of the state’s prison industry program.  Even after demonstrating the agency and top administrators violated the state laws and administrative regulations, the NDOC has been able to successfully maintain overall control.

I weighed in on this issue in Nevada as soon as the issue became public.  As the Executive Director of the Voters Legislative Transparency Project (VLTP), I provided research, a “white paper” report with documentation to Governor Sandoval, AG Cortez-Masto, Secretary of State Miller, members of the state Assembly, the IFC on Industrial Programs, the Senate and personally to Director Cox.

VLTP Directors and staff traveled to Nevada to be in attendance at some of those meetings and spoke directly with Mr. Bulloch and others on the issues.  Many of the tough questions posed to Cox and Bulloch in subsequent hearings or meetings originated from the VLTP analysis and report.

VLTP has publicly supported the legislative efforts to bring the prison industry program in Nevada under control and force it to operate in a transparent manner.  I’m gladdened that all the effort put into solving this issue has been successful and will benefit workers and businesses moving forward.

The final version of SB 478 came as a result of compromise between lawmakers, businesses, union leaders, workers and the NDOC.  None of those involved got everything they wanted but that’s how “compromise” works.  It’s a needed step in the right direction and now new SSI industry programs or projects will come under intense scrutiny and vetting prior to implementation.  Such scrutiny was absent previously.

Expecting the same government bodies; the Legislature’s IFC and the Board of Examiners to protect the interests of workers and competing business owners is difficult.  Oversight and transparency will be the key ingredients to keeping the prison industry program from once again getting out of control.  This new legislation appears to provide both.

May 31-June 7: Weekly ALEC/Koch Review of Articles and Material

May 31-June 7: Weekly ALEC/Koch Review of Articles and Material

By Bob Sloan

Lots of material and topics involving Koch brothers and their ALEC funded organization this week; education, environment, telecommunications, worker rights (paid sick leave).

Grab a cold one, sit back and spend a few minutes catching up on relevant news related to the “Cabal”…

Click on headline to read the full articles or review linked documents.

My view: ALEC coverage a disservice to Utah

The future is bright for many Utahns. So bright, in fact, that it could be blinding us to the many inequities that still exist here. The Deseret News published an editorial (“How to lead a recovery” May 26) and a My View by state senate president Wayne Niederhauser (“Utah’s economic advantage continues” May 28) about the American Legislative Exchange Council’s (ALEC) annual report, both of which are unfortunate examples of this blindness. Both the editorial and My View could be mistaken as press releases straight from ALEC’s public relations department.

New Study Shows ‘Red’ States Have Highest Economic Potential

States with higher taxes and tighter restrictions on business development tend to usually end up at the bottom of the list. “Blue” states New York and Vermont are the last two states on the list this year, Fox News reported. That said, there are some who say Utah is not necessarily an ideal model for economic growth. “It’s hard to say that states should try to pattern themselves after Utah,” said Tracy Gordon of the Brookings Institution. “So for example, I know the authors are not fans of the income tax, but in good years the income tax performs very well in states like New York and California that rely on it heavily. So should California and New York try to look more like Utah? Probably not,” Gordon said.

Tillis-Brawley spat rooted in cable fight

An unusually public dispute between two Republican state legislators that erupted last week has its roots in, of all things, a national debate over city-owned broadband systems.

In the push for the 2011 legislation, telecommunications companies and trade associations steered $1.6 million to state lawmakers from 2006 to 2011, including Tillis, according to the National Institute on Money in State Politics. During 2010-11, the $37,000 Tillis received from eight political action committees and trade associations, including Time Warner’s political action committee, was more than eight times what he received from the PACs from 2006 to 2008.

The American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, a nonprofit that promotes free markets and limited government and receives funding from corporations such as Time Warner, has supported the effort to rein in city-owned systems that can offer cable TV, Internet and phone services. The group offers “model legislation” that can be used by lawmakers drafting their own bills. Tillis is a member of the ALEC board. ALEC members have become concerned in recent years because cities are building broadband systems in areas already served by the private sector, said John Stephenson, director of ALEC’s communications and technology task force. This can lead to high costs for taxpayers if the municipalities incur debt to build the system, he said.

WHERE THE REAL DAMAGE GETS DONE

It long has been the opinion of the blog that the elite political press is missing the real political action in this country because, for the most part, it concentrates either on what’s going on in Washington, or in the horse race aspects of whatever election is next. But the real action — and all the real damage — is being done out in the states, especially in those states in which the 2010 elections brought in majority Republican legislatures and majority Republican governors. This is part of what we play for laughs every Thursday when we survey what’s goin’ down in The Laboratories Of Democracy. But what’s goin’ down is highly organized, tightly disciplined, and very sharply directed. By now, the American Legislative Exchange Council, and what it’s about, is an open secret. Everybody covering politics knows about it. Everybody covering politics knows where the money for its activities comes from. Everybody in politics knows what its political aims are. And yet, when we have retrograde laws and policies pop up in state after state — most notably in recent days, in the newly insane state of North Carolina — it is always treated as a kind of localized outbreak.

Taking On Sallie Mae and the Cost of Education

Nearly 200 students, parents, community members and union leaders rallied at Sallie Mae’s annual shareholder meeting in Newark, Delaware, last Thursday. On the agenda: first, demand that the nation’s largest private student loan lender meet directly with students to discuss their crushing debt burden; and second, introduce a shareholder resolution calling for disclosure of the corporation’s lobbying practices and membership in groups such as the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). The resolution asked that the board disclose in an annual report the corporation’s policies, procedures and payments for direct and indirect lobbying; as well as its membership and payments to any tax-exempt organization “that writes and endorses model legislation.” (See: ALEC.) Although there has yet to be a tally of the vote, organizers hope that they received the support of approximately 30 percent of the shareholders. UPDATE: The resolution has received over 35 percent of shareholder votes. (Importantly, this figure understates support for the resolution, as there were a large number of abstentions counted as no votes.) Student organizers say that they are very pleased with this result.

Is the government spying on environmental groups?

Corporations are teaming up with government agencies to put law-abiding anti-fracking activists under surveillance

By 2007, 70 percent of the US intelligence budget – or about $38 billion annually – was spent on private contractors. Much of this largesse has been directed toward overseas operations. But it is likely that some of that money has been paid to private contractors – hired either by corporations or law enforcement agencies – that are also in the business of spying on American citizens. As early as 2004, in a report titled “The Surveillance Industrial Complex,” the American Civil Liberties Union warned that the “US security establishment is making a systematic effort to extend its surveillance capacity by pressing the private sector into service to report on the activities of Americans.” At the same time, corporations are boosting their own security operations. Today, overall annual spending on corporate security and intelligence is roughly $100 billion, double what it was a decade ago, according to Brian Ruttenbur, a defense analyst with CRT Capital… …Earlier this year, a bill was introduced into the Pennsylvania legislature that would make it a felony to videotape farming operations in Pennsylvania – so-called “ag-gag” legislation that has already passed in Utah and Iowa, and has been introduced in several other legislatures. Many of the ag-gag bills draw on language crafted by the American Legislative Exchange Council’s (ALEC) “Animal and Ecological Terrorism Act.” (In recent years ALEC has received considerable support from the natural gas industry). Section D of the ALEC bill defines an animal or ecological terrorist organization in broad terms “as any association, organization, entity, coalition, or combination of two or more persons” who seek to “obstruct, impede or deter any person from participating” not only in agricultural activity but also mining, foresting, harvesting, and gathering or processing of natural resources.

 A Brief Summary of Corporate Depravity Shows How They Earn Our Contempt

The United States has been described by some as creeping toward corporatocracy, a nation where the government colludes with multi-national corporations and the wealthy elite to rule the populace. The connotation is always that corporations are sinister and operate with almost diabolical motivations. What did they do to deserve this reputation? Why do so many people in capitalist nations mistrust entitieswhose sworn allegiance is to profit above all else? Their stories come out gradually over time, and like the proverbial frog in boiling water, people acclimate to their bad behavior. What happens when you consolidate just a few of their misdeeds into one place? Websites like RedState.com and Foreign Affairs boast that “Corporations Are Good.” The first reaction to this statement is, “Not unless they are forced to be.” Whether they are knowingly using underpaid laborers overseas, refusing to chip in any funds to see these workers’ factory work sites made safer following a catastrophe in Bangladesh, lyingabout oil spills, or they are installing a new government when they don’t like the way the current government is taxing them and making demands about treatment of laborers, corporations have earned their nasty reputations. They have used the resources of each country they occupy, whether it is raw materials, infrastructure, education systems, research, legal systems, or defense, yet they feel no obligation to contribute to any of the nations where they reside. It would seem the only answer is to resist corporatocracy, particularly by not allowing them to write laws through their legislative arm, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). If corporations are people, my friend, they have psychopathic tendencies. People with behavior disorders need supervision, and empowering government and our courts to regulate corporations is the only way they are going to improve their conduct. But there has been a growing tide of opposition, as the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has helped push bills that preempt cities’ ability to pass paid sick leave legislation. Such efforts have cropped up in Florida, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Mississippi.

Connecticut Lawmakers Consider Bill That Could Undermine Paid Sick Leave

Connecticut made history two years ago when it became the first state in the country to guarantee its workers paid sick days. The bill requires service workers to earn an hour of sick leave for every forty hours worked. But now the state’s lawmakers are considering a bill that could undermine the initial legislation. S.B. 1007, which has passed the state Senate and is being considered in the House, would open loopholes for employers while whittling away at the benefits the original law created, according to analysis by the National Partnership for Women & Families and Family Values at Work.

Not-So-Charitable Contributions

This week’s big CBO report on tax expenditures has spurred some interesting secondary analysis. One that should spur some tertiary discussion came from Wonkblog’s Dylan Matthews, who focused on one of those tax policies that primary benefits the wealthiest taxpayers: the charitable contributions deduction. The social theory behind this deduction, it is usually assumed, is that it operates as a form of redistribution, since the contributions channel dollars to the needy clients of charities—without all that messy government bureaucracy, doncha know. But drawing on a couple of studies, Matthews challenges that assumption dramatically: even using a pretty loose definition of “helping the poor,” he finds that only 30.6% of charitable giving actually goes in that direction. Beyond these often-worthy but not exactly redistributive purposes, there are, of course, a bunch of foundations and “public-society-benefit” institutions that have the much-prized tax status of 501(c)(3) organizations, entitling donors to a tax deduction. And here can be found fine organizations like the Heritage Foundation, the American Enterprise Institute, the National Right To Life Educational Trust Fund, and the American Legislative Exchange Council, none of whom are exactly know for a devotion to helping the poor. (It should be noted that some (c)(3)s, including the Heritage Foundation and the liberal Center for American Progress, also have affiliated “action funds” that are outside the charitable designation but have the freedom to more directly engage in political activities. These are among the famous 501(c)(4) organizations that have been in the news lately: contributions aren’t deductible to donors, but the organizations themselves are tax-exempt, which also represents a tax subsidy).

Noam Chomsky on Democracy and Education in the 21st Century and Beyond

Noam Chomsky is an American linguist, philosopher, political critic and activist. He is an institute professor and professor emeritus in the department of linguistics and philosophy at MIT, where he has worked for over 50 years. History educator Daniel Falcone spoke with Chomsky in his Cambridge office on May 14. Falcone: Do we as a nation have a reason to fear an assault on public education and the complete privatization of education? CHOMSKY: So now, take for example ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council. It’s corporate funded, the Koch brothers and those guys. It’s an organization which designs legislation for states, for state legislators. And they’ve got plenty of clout, so they can get a lot of it through. Now they have a new program, which sounds very pretty on the surface. It’s designed to increase “critical thinking.” And the way you increase critical thinking is by having “balanced education.” “Balanced education” means that if you teach kids something about the climate, you also have to teach them climate change denial. It’s like teaching evolution science, but also creation science, so that you have “critical thinking.” All of this is a way of turning the population into a bunch of imbeciles. That’s really serious. I mean, it’s life and death at this point, not just making society worse.

Bill Berry: Scott Walker’s agenda threatens public education By now it’s obvious that attempts by Gov. Scott Walker and some of his pals to privatize K-12 education isn’t sitting well with many in Walker’s own party. Walker’s plan to expand school vouchers has moderate Republicans and many from rural areas concerned. Earlier this month, 14 rural Republicans called for an increase to public school funding, in effect opposing Walker’s budget proposal that would keep revenues flat for another two years. Walker has no such respect for public schools. As Julie Underwood, dean of the School of Education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, has courageously pointed out, Wisconsin is among states threatened by the extremist American Legislative Exchange Council’s formula for privatizing education and eroding local control. Walker is ALEC’s Wisconsin operative.

Scaife-Funded Network Works Hard to Kill Immigration Reform

With immigration reform advancing through Congress, an anti-immigrant network funded by a small group of right-wing foundations is trying to kill reform by pressuring moderate Republicans and appealing to the party’s xenophobic wing. The groups could stymie efforts by some Republicans to appeal to the country’s growing Latino population by moving to the center on immigration. The anti-immigration Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) and others are using shoddy research methods to claim that immigration is at fault for a whole host of problems in America, from crime toincome inequality. ProEnglish, a lobbying organization that advocates for “official English,” has released avideo attacking Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) for his work on the immigration bill. The Center for Immigration Studies has testified in Congress against reform, claiming “virtually all illegal aliens are guilty of multiple felonies.” All of these organizations are connected to John Tanton, a nativist who has formed anetwork of radical anti-immigration groups, all of which receive a significant portion of their funding from foundations tied to the Scaife family. Regardless of their fringe viewpoints, in the past, Dr. Tanton’s groups have played a successful role incrusading against immigration. Four years ago, NumbersUSA was key in organizing protest calls to Congress and supplying talking points to legislators to help defeat President George W. Bush’s legalization plan. FAIRhelped draft the contentious Arizona law, SB 1070, that grants law enforcement the right to question and detain anyone they suspect of lacking proper documentation for lawful presence in the United States. (The law was also adopted as a model bill by the American Legislative Exchange Council). In addition, in 2010 CIS aimed to defeat the Dream Act, which offers a pathway to citizenship and higher education for minors who were brought to the United States illegally as young children.

Brad Ashwell: Would Koch Brothers be good for journalism?

As you read this newspaper you are probably not thinking much about who owns it. But the question of who may be purchasing it along with several other major newspapers has the attention of many. The Tribune Company, which is the second largest media company in the U.S., is considering the sale of eight newspapers, including the South Florida Sun-Sentinel and the Orlando Sentinel, to Charles and David Koch, two of the most politically active billionaires in the country. There is nothing particularly new or inherently wrong about a wealthy family buying or owning a media company. But, the Koch brothers are not a typical wealthy family. The Koch’s have worked for years to benefit their bottom line at the expense of everyday Americans. They have donated millions to organizations and politicians that deny climate change, attack campaign-spending limits, dismantle worker’s rights, promote discriminatory voter ID laws, restrict access to health care, and increase income inequality. They have aggressively pushed a radical and extremist partisan political agenda by bankrolling think tanks, advocacy organizations, shadowy groups like ALEC (The American Legislative Exchange Council), astroturf groups and educational institutions. What seems particularly troubling is that many of their efforts have involved shaping public opinion on issues in a way that lacks transparency in order to benefit their own economic interests. To be clear, the issue here is not whether we agree with the Koch brothers positions on various issues. The question is whether we can trust these partisan ideologues to be good public stewards when it comes to providing us with objective news?

Asbestos Bill Invades the Privacy of Victims and Veterans | Commentary

“My husband was the late Congressman Bruce F. Vento, who served for more than 24 years in the House of Representatives representing our home state of Minnesota. Bruce died from pleural mesothelioma, a cancer of the lining of the lung caused by exposure to asbestos, on Oct. 10, 2000, just eight months after being diagnosed and despite receiving excellent medical care at the Mayo Clinic. He would be very disappointed that his colleagues on the House Judiciary Committee voted to send HR 982, the Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency Act, to the floor.” Since at least the early 1900s, the lethal risks of asbestos exposure have been known — and intentionally hidden from — American workers and their families by companies of all sorts whose bottom lines were more important than the well-being and very lives of their workers. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, American Legislative Exchange Council and Georgia Pacific — a company owned by the Koch Brothers, who are pushing this bill — claim it is needed to prevent fraud by asbestos victims when filing claims to company trusts. The asbestos company trusts were structured to enable the companies responsible for poisoning their workers to use bankruptcy reorganization to continue operating. But notably the Government Accountability Office analyzed many company trusts and found no evidence of fraud. A recent newspaper investigation of claims found 0.35 percent of “anomalies” that included clerical errors by the claims administrators of the company trust. Yet somehow asbestos victims have ripped off the system.

60 NC Conservation Groups Identify Most Egregious Anti-Environmental Bills Moving Through General Assembly

June 3, 2013. From the Blue Ridge to the Outer Banks and everywhere in between, North Carolina’s clean air, clean water and unparalleled quality of life have made it a special place and the envy of so many other states in the Southeast and beyond. But over-reaching politicians and short-sighted politics in Raleigh are now putting the state’s renowned quality of life – and its future – at risk. Gov. Pat McCrory wants to open the state’s beaches up to the threat of offshore drilling. His appointee to the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources has rewritten the department’s mission statement to suggest that environmental science is subject to “a diversity of opinion” and that protection of the state’s environment be subject to cost-benefit analysis. And fossil fuel companies and groups beholden to them – from Halliburton to the American Legislative Exchange Council – are continuing to pressure lawmakers however they can to push their agendas.

ARTICLES IN SUPPORT OF ALEC:

Here’s a Smart Alec We Ought to Heed

Another pro-ALEC editorial opinion without a named author or editor…

California’s situation is so bad that ALEC devotes an entire chapter to it, outlining problems like its growing number of municipal bankruptcies, including San Bernardino, where the main driver is personnel expenses and pension costs. The latter are expected to rise from 13 to 15 percent of the city budget by 2016. “California’s government has imposed upon its citizenry the most onerous business environment in the United States,” the report says. As its authors see it, California is on a road to disaster. The needed first step to avoid it is a thorough overhaul of the state’s tax system. Given the current makeup of the state’s political leadership that change is unlikely to happen, because though term limits rotate the people who populate our government it does nothing to change the philosophies they hold.

National Center for Public Policy Research Completes Activity at 32nd Shareholder Meeting of 2013 Group Holds Corporate CEOs Who Support the Left Accountable – and Supports Those Who Defend the Free Market

Dallas, TX / Washington, D.C. – The National Center for Public Policy Research completed activity at its 32nd corporate shareholder meeting of 2013 this week, as President David Ridenour completed a presentation at the ExxonMobil shareholder meeting in Dallas a few days after appearing at the Home Depot meeting in Atlanta. At ExxonMobil in Dallas, Ridenour spoke against shareholder proposal #7, sponsored by the United Steelworkers, calling on ExxonMobil to annually release what Ridenour called “an extraordinary level of detail in company lobbying disclosures” and to disclose its “membership in and payments to any tax-exempt organization that writes and endorses model legislation.” At ExxonMobil, Ridenour called the United Steelworkers’ proposal “a barely-veiled attempt to make it difficult for the company to work with… the American Legislative Exchange Council, better known as ALEC, a 40-year-old non-partisan, non-profit organization that facilitates collaboration on issues important to all of us among thousands of state legislators in all 50 states.” Ridenour said special interests dependent on government have been pressuring corporations to boycott ALEC “because ALEC shares good ideas in… important policy areas from a perspective that seeks to keep government small and accountable to the people, and our personal and corporate taxes low.” He urged shareholders to vote against the anti-ALEC proposal, which ultimately failed, 25%-75%. An audio recording of Ridenour’s comments is available here.

Three Reasons Why State Polarization Is a Big Deal

Those of us who report on state-level politics usually brag about how much better it is than following Congress. On our beat, after all, bills actually get passed and become law—unlike in D.C., where the Senate can’t even vote for lack of cloture and the House just keeps reapproving the repeal of Obamacare in some endless Politico version of Groundhog Day. In state legislatures, deals get made, budgets get passed (even balanced, if that’s your thing), and not every single issue is defined by a Democratic-Republican split. A new study shows that polarization—the ideological gulf between the average Republican and average Democrat—is growing in state legislatures. Political scientists Boris Shor (University of Chicago) and Nolan McCarty (Princeton University) combined survey results from the Project Vote Smart office-holder questionnaire with roll-call votes, comparing the average Republican and Democratic lawmakers in each state. (The data are available for anyone to play with.) Their findings tell us that state legislatures aren’t quite as polarized as Congress, but they’re moving in the same direction. What’s even more interesting, though, is what polarization actually means—and who benefits from it… …One reason for the shift: increasingly, national groups call the shots for Republican state lawmakers. Grover Norquist’s no-new-taxes pledge, signed by 1,037 current state lawmakers, helped create a method for nationalizing state issues. Groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) have successfully pushed “model legislation” to Republican lawmakers around the country, accounting for the proliferation of voter ID laws and stand-your-ground laws, among others. Increasingly, big-money conservatives such as the Koch brothers support challenges to “moderate” Republican lawmakers on the state level to enforce ideological purity. The Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC) spent around $30 million to elect GOP lawmakers in 2010 and another $25 million in 2012.

 

Weekly ALEC/Koch Review of Articles and Material

Weekly ALEC/Koch Review of Articles and Material

By Bob Sloan

Lots of ALEC and Koch cabal related material to catch up on this week.  Click on headline to read the full article or documents.  Much more later in the week…

John Laird: Foxy Don wears ALEC badge in environment henhouse

Putting Don Benton in charge of Clark County’s environment is kind of like asking Boss Hogg to chair the Hazzard County Ethics Commission.

Just a tad counterintuitive.

It will only grow like a fungus on these three characters, especially as the public learns more about Boss Benton’s ALEC badge.

The American Legislative Exchange Council sounds innocent enough. But the truth is, ALEC is every county environment’s worst nightmare. In 2002, two national organizations (the Defenders of Wildlife, and the Natural Resources Defense Council) exhaustively researched ALEC and produced a 52-page page report, “Corporate America’s Trojan Horse in the States” (read it athttp://www.alecwatch.org). The report states: “Protecting corporate polluters from environmental regulation is a major ALEC goal. The corporations and trade associations that finance virtually all of ALEC activities have used it to mount a wide-ranging and effective assault against laws safeguarding public health and the environment.”

Boss Benton, aghast Clark County residents are learning, is a Washington state co-director of ALEC. It’ll be interesting to see how he serves his two masters, both national and county….

Scott Walker, GOP Slip ALEC Education Agenda Into Wisconsin Budget

Governor Scott Walker seeks to “radically” overhaul Wisconsin’s education system using several pieces of American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) model legislation, and to do it through the budget process, meaning this privatization agenda could be enacted with minimal public discussion or debate.

The proposed budget provisions have the potential to “radically change public education in the State of Wisconsin,” says Julie Mead, chair of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Christensen: 5 troubling ideas for NC democracy

All the “ideas” advancing in NC have ALEC’s fingerprints all over them.

With all the hullabaloo about the IRS clamping down on federal tax exemptions for Tea Party and kindred organizations, public attention has been diverted from a bigger threat: groups that are fronts for corporate giants who secretly warp state governments to suit their interests.Several weeks ago the Mississippi mouthpiece for the American Legislative Exchange Council, otherwise ALEC, blasted me for writing critically about ALEC. Such an innocent-sounding outfit must not be dangerous, huh? We’ll see.Steve Seale, identified as chairman of an ALEC advisory council, also happens to be the highest-paid lobbyist who prowls legislative halls at Mississippi’s state house. He wrote that I was “misguided,” in characterizing ALEC, plus some other less-flattering potshots, for not understanding ALEC is just a good old American “think tank” that is growing ideas to make the country better.

For the first time, a United States president has announced that tackling climate change is a national priority. Yet, Congress shows no signs of passing meaningful legislation — for now, it’s up to states and localities to turn this declaration into action.

But this isn’t new. When it comes to renewable energy, state policy has yielded by far the most progress.

In 29 states, this has come mainly through renewable portfolio/energy standards, known as RPSs. These laws require public utilities to purchase or generate a certain percentage of renewable energy as part of their overall portfolio.

In 2012 the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) adopted model legislation, ironically called the “Electricity Freedom Act,” to repeal these laws. ALEC-backed legislation was introduced this year in North Carolina and numerous other states. 

Importance of Disclosing Financial Gifts

Virginia prides itself on its part-time legislature: Officeholders aren’t full-time lawmakers, but “citizen representatives” whose livelihoods are in the real world, not at the public trough. The requirements placed on them, however, mirror those of their federal comrades up the road from Richmond in Washington.

Del. Kathy Byron, R-Bedford County, accepted a trip to Taiwan in 2012, combined with three trips to American Legislative Exchange Council meetings between 2010 and 2012 easily made her the busiest traveler among the Lynchburg area’s delegation to the legislature. Unfortunately, Byron neglected to report her travel to Taiwan. Byron indicated that she didn’t report her trip to Taiwan because Virginia taxpayers didn’t pay for it. However, this is not in keeping with the Virginia disclosure laws. Laws such as financial disclosure regulations are in place to give the general public confidence their legislators have the public’s interests at heart, not those of big donors and lobbyists.

N.C. civil disobedience: Nearly 100 arrested so far for protesting ALEC-ification of state

This week in North Carolina started with 49 arrests at the N.C. General Assembly — arrests of people peaceably assembled and singing songs of peace and unity to protest the ALEC-ification of our state. This brings the total number of civil-disobedience arrests so far to 96, including 17 arrests April 29, 30 arrests on May 6, and 49 arrests on May 13.

Campaign financing: ALEC undermines democracy

Those legislators around the U.S. who wish to limit the rights of labor unions, erode environmental protections, promote charter schools and for-profit prisons, diminish health care reforms, etc., may seek “model legislation” from an organization called ALEC, or the American Legislative Exchange Council.

ALEC’s staff of lawyers who write model bills for legislators are funded by Exxon Mobil, Charles Koch, Johnson & Johnson, State Farm, AT&T, GlaxoSmithKline and some 300 other corporate partners. According to Wikipedia’s account of ALEC, the group helps more conservative legislators to promote specific bills by providing “issue alerts,” “talking points” and “press release templates” for their arguments.

In my opinion, ALEC is also helping U.S. corporate giants to undermine democracy and the basic principles on which our country was founded.

The importance of privacy protections

IRS apologists are furiously trying to change the subject from the outrageous targeting of political opponents by the IRS to a policy debate over forced disclosure of contributions to groups that engage in political speech. The story is that a deluge of applications forced the IRS to cut corners and the targeting scandal was an accidental result of mismanaging that flood. From there the apologists pivot to demanding a new crackdown on political speech, forced disclosure of donors, or both. But the story is a fairy tale and the “solutions” are unconstitutional.

From ALEC’s “Rich States, Poor States” annual propaganda report…Not surprisingly once again ALEC ranks Republican controlled states with lower income and corporate taxation, private schools, etc. at the top of the list.

American Legislative Exchange Council Releases New Rich States, Poor States Report

Rich States, Poor States examines the latest trends in state economic growth. The data ranks the 2013 economic outlook of states using 15 equally weighted policy variables, including various tax rates, regulatory burdens and labor policies. The sixth edition focuses on the growing momentum in state capitals for fundamental pro-growth tax and pension reform. Rich States, Poor States also features a case study on California’s fiscal health and outlines how California lawmakers can restore economic prosperity.

Rich States, Poor States clearly demonstrates limited regulation, low taxes, low debt and balanced budgets create the best environment for business, investment, and jobs,” said Utah State Senate President Wayne Niederhauser (SD-9).

Nationally, states with low tax rates, limited government regulations and right-to-work laws were most likely to have a better economic outlook than states with high income taxes and burdensome regulations. The report shows that over a ten-year period, the nine states without personal income taxes have outperformed the nine states with the highest income tax rates in population, job and revenue growth.

Red states hold the edge in growth

The odds of finding a good job are significantly better in the nation’s red states than in blue states, according to a new study of business and tax policies across the country released Thursday.

“Rich States, Poor States,” the annual report by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), examines the latest state trends in economic growth, ranking the 50 states based on their economic prospects for 2013 as well as how they fared from 2001 to 2010.

The study’s authors — economists Arthur Laffer, Stephen Moore and Jonathan Williams — conclude that the divide is expanding between pro-growth states, which tend to elect Republicans, and those with anti-growth policies, where Democrats often dominate.

Time to open Connecticut for business

A recent report from the Washington, D.C.,-based American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) had some ominous news for Connecticut.

ALEC examined the 2001-2011 economic performance of each state. Some of the variables considered were the states’ gross domestic products, population changes, and gains and losses of non-farm payroll jobs. In its report on the subject, ALEC concluded that the states that did the best from ’01 to ’11 were Texas, Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, North Dakota, Idaho, Arizona, Alaska, Montana and Washington. Interestingly, the states that most struggled were Mississippi, Wisconsin, Missouri, California, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Illinois, New Jersey, Ohio and Michigan.

Hawaii ranks among the bottom ten states in economic competitiveness for the sixth year in a row in a study that measures the impact of state policies in 15 areas from personal income and corporate tax rates to the costs of workers’ compensation.

Hawaii improved to 40th place in 2013 from 46th place in 2012 in the ALEC-Laffer State Economic Competitiveness Index.

Report ranks N.Y. 49th out of 50 for economic growth

New York’s income and property taxes and workers’ compensation costs have contributed to the state’s poor economic outlook and ranking as the second to worst state for economic growth, a new report by the American Legislative Exchange Council shows.

Rich States, Poor States looks at the latest trends in state economic growth and ranks each state based on 15 policy variables, including tax rates, regulatory burdens and labor policies. Utah ranked first in terms of overall economic outlook for 2013, while Vermont ranked 50th.

Forum editorial: Call it a sign of the times

Whatever spin one puts on the “North Dakota Open for Business” billboard in Moorhead, the reaction from some (certainly not all) residents of the city is immature and parochial.

For the record, the assessment of North Dakota’s business-friendly economy is being made again and again by independent out-of-state analysts. The latest is from the American Legislative Exchange Council, which ranks North Dakota second best in the nation according to economic growth. Minnesota ranks 46, just four from the bottom.

The council’s report was authored by economist Arthur Laffer, Wall Street Journal senior economic writer Stephen Moore and Jonathan Williams, the center’s director for state fiscal reform. Its conclusions are not from North Dakotans patting themselves on the back. But this latest report confirms and expands similar findings of other independent analysts.

Texas ranks 12th in competitiveness, conservative group’s report says

States with low taxes, limited regulations and right-to-work laws — like Texas — saw more economic success over 10 years than those with high income taxes and more regulations, according to a report to be released Thursday.

Utah ranks No. 1 for economic outlook for sixth year in a row

SALT LAKE CITY — For the sixth year in a row, Utah’s economic outlook ranks No. 1 in the nation.

The American Legislative Exchange Council’s annual “Rich States, Poor States” report, presented Thursday during the Utah Taxpayers Association’s 2013 Utah Taxes Now Conference, puts the Beehive State at the top of the list of states based on a range of measures.

Gov. Gary Herbert described Utah’s latest No. 1 ranking as the “cream rising to the top.”

“The fact that we’re getting accolades from people outside of our borders is indicative to the fact that we’re accomplishing something,” the governor said. “People are looking to us as the leader.”

Do you believe Vermont’s economic prospects are the worse in the nation?

Here’s something to chew on. The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) issued its latest edition of “Rich States, Poor States” and it ranked Vermont dead last based on its current economic policies and prospects for growth.

The news release accompanying the link to the report says:
“A key takeaway is that states with lower taxes and fiscally responsible policies experience far more economic growth, job creation and in-migration than their high tax, big government counterparts.”

The report’s authors are Dr. Arthur B. Laffer, an economist; Wall Street Journal senior economics writer Stephen Moore and Jonathan Williams, director of ALEC’s Center for State Fiscal Reform.

One reason for this “poor ranking”?  ALEC’s big tobacco members are upset about increasing taxation on their products – as are other corporate members selling food and drink products:

“These taxes include increasing the $2.62 tax on a pack of cigarettes to $3.12 and also increasing the $1.87 per ounce tax on smokeless tobacco and snuff to $2.60.30 The tax hike package raised the personal income tax for high income earners and capped itemized deductions. Some of the additional tax hikes include extending a 6 percent sales tax to each item of clothing priced at $110 or more, increasing the 9 percent meals tax to 9.5 and expanding it to vending machines, while also excluding bottled water, candy, and dietary supplements from the food sales tax exemption.”

 

ALEC & Corporate Tort Reform Efforts Surface in Federal Court Decision

ALEC & Corporate Tort Reform Efforts Surface in Federal Court Decision

Featured photo credit: Tim Meko/For the Center for Public Integrity

By Bob Sloan

Recently a federal case involving gross physical abuse, discrimination and underpayment of wages to 32 mentally disabled workers who suffered such abuse and discrimination at the hands of their employer, was decided by a jury in favor of the workers.  The jury awarded $240 million in actual and punitive damages.  Following that judgment another federal judge has reduced that award to a total of $1.6 million.

In an article about this case, written by Chris Young for the Center for Public Integrity, Young identifies two key factors that resulted in the huge reduction in the amount of the award.  First the American’s with Disabilities Act has caps that limit the amount of damages.

“Under the act, compensatory and punitive damages are capped at $50,000 for companies like Henry’s that employ between 14 and 101 employees.”

Secondly, the judge who reduced the award, U.S. District Judge Charles R. Wolle of the Southern District of Iowa is a frequent attendee of pro-corporate seminars and is considered to be “corporate friendly.”

“An Iowa federal judge who frequently attends business-friendly judicial education conferences slashed a landmark $240 million verdict to $1.6 million for 32 mentally disabled workers who suffered abuse and discrimination at the hands of their employer.”

In fact in a related story by Young, Judge Wolfe is one of the top attendees of conservative “junkets” paid for by the likes of the Koch Family Foundations and organized by the Koch funded George Mason University:

“The most-traveled judges, according to reports filed online by the judges, were U.S. District Judge Charles R. Wolle of the Southern District of Iowa and Chief Judge Thomas B. Bennett of the Northern District of Alabama Bankruptcy Court. Each reported attending nine seminars.

“Wolle is a “senior status” judge, meaning he is semi-retired. He did not respond to requests for comment.”

The reduction of the initial jury award by Judge Wolfe appears on the surface to be legally required under existing ADA rules and legislative restrictions.  The judge’s hands were “tied” by the law setting a limit on what those disabled workers could receive.  A larger and more important question is – who is responsible for tying the hands of our judiciary?

When we look beyond the law and investigate why such “caps” are in place, we find that in most cases pro-corporate and anti-consumer laws known as tort laws, originate within and are spread by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).  ALEC claims to have 2,000 elected state lawmakers as members and close to 100 sitting U.S. Congressmen and women are ALEC alumni.  This legislative membership is sponsored, funded and works in concert with more than 350 corporations.

One of ALEC’s key initiatives over the past two decades has been the pursuit of “tort reform” legislation that limits the ability of consumers to recover damages inflicted by defective products, negligence, medical malpractice or corporate malfeasance.  In fact, ALEC and their corporate partners have developed and distributed dozens and dozens of model legislative tort reform “bills” and many of these have been successfully passed and now serve as the “law of the land” regarding consumer and worker rights.

Last year VLTP published several articles related to the ALEC/Koch Cabal’s involvement in unduly influencing our state and federal judiciaries.  This influence included the filing of Amicus briefs (friend of the court) in important cases involving key topics important to corporate interests; tort reform, second amendment gun rights, taxation, EPA and environmental issues and telecommunication laws.

Additional influence involves “training” seminars sponsored and paid for by conservative funded think tanks, corporations and foundations such as the Koch Family Foundation(s) and the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation.  Federal judges are treated to all expense paid junkets to plush resorts where they attend seminars focusing upon the ALEC/Koch agenda of limited government, free-markets and federalism.

Other sponsors of these events include federal judges themselves who help fund these conservative training sessions for new judicial appointees to enhance their knowledge and skills in complex areas of the law – from a conservative POV. The main or core corporate funding comes from:

  • The Searle Freedom Trust
  • ExxonMobil Corp.
  • Shell Oil Co.
  • Pfizer Inc.
  • State Farm Insurance
  • Dow Chemical Co.
  • AT&T Inc.
  • U.S. Chamber of Commerce 

All of these companies and organization have one thing in commonality: they are all either ALEC members, former members or supporters of ALEC and representatives of most even now sit upon ALEC’s Private Enterprise Advisory Council.

The Center for Public Integrity identifies the same companies, foundations and family names involved that VLTP identified over a year ago…and ABC reported on over a decade ago.  Since 2000 states have implemented law after law written by corporate interests, adopted by ALEC and supported by legislators working on behalf of ALEC instead of the rights of their constituents.

In 2001 ABC’s 20/20 presented an expose titled “Junkets for Judges” which can be found on YouTube in a two part presentation.  Here is a link to part one.  Though the 20/20 expose concentrated upon George Mason University’s involvement in providing these trips for our judges,we found several additional universities and private, non-profit organizations participating in these efforts at both the state and federal level.  All but one are provided by conservative organizations, foundations or schools:

•    George Mason University(Law and Economics Center – LEC)   (Recipient of Koch funding totaling $20,297,143 from 1986-2006 ), Earhart Foundation, JM Olin Foundation.
•    Foundation for Research on Economics and Environment (FREE).  Funded by ExxonMobil, GE Foundation, Koch Family Foundation  ($1,305,500 through 2006), JM Olin Foundation, Earhart Foundation and Castle Rock Foundation (Coors). ($65,000 in 2009) and the Claude Lambe Foundation ($1,540,000).
•    Northwestern Law Judicial Education Program (funded by many key ALEC members, including Koch)
•    Liberty Fund providing judicial conferences and seminars to/for Judges.
•    Federalist Society  (Koch funded   $1,437,200 through 2006)
•    Aspen Institute (Koch funded  $1,115,000 through 2006 with David Koch on the BOD).
•    University of Kansas, Law and Organizational Economics Center (LOEC) begun in 1995 by Henry Butler  with a $1,000,000 grant from the Fred and Mary Koch Foundation (see section on Henry Butler below).
•    International Judicial Academy which provides seminars for judges on the International level.

These seminars are a way for ALEC’s corporate members and contributors to assist the cabal’s pursuit of influencing judges to render pro-corporate decisions on important issues and cases.  Another concern is the fact that one or more of our sitting Supreme Court Justices have attended seminars organized or held by these groups and openly favor corporate interests – as witnessed by the decision in Citizens United.

This latest case involving the ADA and 32 mentally disabled workers being cruelly treated by their employer, the outcome of the ALEC/Koch cabal’s pursuit of writing our laws is high-lighted.  Telling our judges how to rule in individual cases through the use of amicus briefs after wining and dining them at plush resorts and indoctrinating them in conservative based ideology – has been successful for the cabal.

Today this cabal is busy privatizing the USPS, public schools, buying up newspapers and media outlets.  No doubt as more and more legal challenges erupt from these activities pursuing control of the media, labor, wages and upcoming model legislation, our courts will be tasked with determining the legality of those pursuits.  Already courts are now busy deciding key cases involving voter ID laws, immigration laws, second amendment challenges and the legality of new laws privatizing our schools.

With friendly judges, cooperating lawmakers and greedy corporations working hand in hand, American consumers, voters and workers are completely compromised.  Unless and until Americans say enough is enough this will continue with corporate owners, investors and politicians reaping the rewards at our expense.  Please join us in abolishing this cabal and returning our country to a country of the people – instead of a growing corporatocracy…

5/20 ALEC/Koch News – Weekly Recap…

5/20 ALEC/Koch News – Weekly Recap…

By Bob Sloan

This has been a busy week for us here at VLTP.  To catch our readership and visitors up with news involving ALEC and their cabal, we’re publishing a larger segment today.

Click on the headline link(s) to read the full article or document from the original source.

First a development involving the Occupy Movement and how government resources have been used to suppress the Occupy Wall Street and other Occupy groups.

Obama Admin. Approves ALEC Model Bill for Fracking Chemical Fluid Disclosure on Public Lands

“On May 16, the Obama Interior Department announced its long-awaited rules governing hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) on federal lands.

“As part of its 171-page document of rules, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM), part of the U.S. Dept. of Interior (DOI), revealed it will adopt theAmerican Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) model bill written by ExxonMobil for fracking chemical fluid disclosure on U.S. public lands.

“ALEC is a 98-percent corporate-funded bill mill and “dating service” that brings predominantly Republican state legislators and corporate lobbyists together at meetings to craft and vote on “model bills” behind closed doors. Many of these bills end up snaking their way into statehouses and become law in what Bill Moyers referred to as “The United States of ALEC.”

Government Surveillance of Occupy Movement

– by Beau Hodai, CMD/DBA

“On May 20, 2013, DBA Press and the Center for Media and Democracy ?released the results of a year-long investigation: “Dissent or Terror:? How the Nation’s Counter Terrorism Apparatus, In Partnership With ?Corporate America, Turned on Occupy Wall Street.”?? The report, a distillation of thousands of pages of records obtained? from counter terrorism/law enforcement agencies, details how? state/regional “fusion center” personnel monitored the Occupy Wall? Street movement over the course of 2011 and 2012.

“The report also examines how fusion centers and other counter terrorism entities that ?have emerged since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 have? worked to benefit numerous corporations engaged in public-private? intelligence sharing partnerships. ??While the report examines many instances of fusion center monitoring? of Occupy activists nationwide, the bulk of the report ?details how counter terrorism personnel engaged in the Arizona Counter? Terrorism Information Center (ACTIC, commonly known as the “Arizona fusion center”) monitored and otherwise surveilled citizens active in? Occupy Phoenix, and how this surveillance benefited a number of ?corporations and banks that were subjects of Occupy Phoenix protest ?activity.

“?While small glimpses into the governmental monitoring of the Occupy Wall Street movement have emerged in the past, there has not been any reporting — until now — that details the breadth and depth with which the nation’s post-September 11, 2001 counter terrorism apparatus has been applied to politically engaged citizens exercising their Constitutionally-protected First Amendment rights.”

ALEC & Your Communications: Part 1: How AT&T, ALEC and the Other Communications Companies Created Model State Legislation to Harm You

“Let’s connect the dots.

“Starting in 2007, AT&T, Verizon, Centurylink and the cable companies, working with a group called the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), created state-based model legislation and principles designed by the companies to accomplish one thing — the removal of all regulations, obligations and oversight on the companies’ businesses. As the NRRI report outlines, 25 states have removed some, if not all regulations and oversight, and there are more to come in 2013…”

BOYCOTT KOCH BROTHERS, MONSANTO AND OTHER INDUSTRIES’ PRODUCTS LINING SUPERMARKET SHELVES

“The guessing game is over. No longer will consumers wonder what companies are behind the millions of products that fill supermarket shelves because there’s an app for that.

Buycott, now available on Apple and Android platforms, is a tool that allows consumers to organize their spending depending on personal values.

“The app helps consumers determine whether their spending is funding causes or campaigns that they either support or oppose. Buycott offers consumers the opportunity to align their principals and spending by avoiding products made by controversial big businesses such as Koch Industries, Monsanto and George Soros and, instead, buying products to help support the companies behind initiatives like local and sustainable food.” 

The States That Use the Most Green Energy

“California and Texas might be leading the nation’s rollout of solar and wind power, respectively, but Washington, where hydroelectric dams provide over 60 percent of the state’s energy, was the country’s biggest user of renewable power in 2011, according to new statistics released last week by the federal Energy Information Administration.

More than half of the 29 states that require utilities to purchase renewable power are currently considering legislation to pare back those mandates, in many cases pushed by (surprise, suprise) the American Legislative Exchange Council. “We’re opposed to these mandates, and 2013 will be the most active year ever in terms of efforts to repeal them,” ALEC energy task force director Todd Wynn recently told Bloomberg.”

On Paid Sick Days, Will Gov. Rick Scott Side with Moms or Mickey Mouse?

“Florida Governor Rick Scott is under pressure from Florida moms to veto a bill that would deliver a “kill-shot” to local efforts to guarantee paid sick days for workers. The legislation, which can be traced back the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), is backed by major corporate players with questionable labor records, including Disney.

“In April, the Florida legislature passed a corporate-backed bill to preempt local paid sick day laws, largely in response to a small-d democratic effort in Orange County to have residents vote on the issue. More than 50,000 Orange County voters signed petitions to place a paid sick day measure on the ballot, which would be effectively blocked if Governor Scott signs the law.

“As the Center for Media and Democracy has reported, paid sick day preemption bills have spread across the country after legislation that passed in Wisconsin was shared at an August 2011 ALEC meeting. The legislation in Florida was sponsored in the House and Senate by two ALEC members, House Majority Leader Steve Precourt and Sen. David Simmons.” 

Turning people who report corporate crime into criminals

by Jim Hightower

“In most state legislatures today, bizarre is not unusual, and off-the-wall has become the political center.

“Still, it seems strange that legislators in so many states — from California to Vermont — have simultaneously been pushing “ag-gag” bills that are not merely outrageous, but downright un- American. Each is intended to prevent journalists, whistleblowers, workers and other citizens from exposing illegal, abusive or unethical corporate treatment of animals confined in factoryfeeding operations.

“Oddly, each of these state proposals is practically identical, even including much of the same wording. That’s because, unbeknownst to the public and other legislators, the bills don’t originate from the state lawmakers who introduce them, instead coming from a corporate front group named ALEC — the American Legislative Exchange Council. Lobbyists for corporate funders of ALEC convene periodically to write model bills that serve their corporations’ special interests, then the bills are farmed out to the group’s trusted lawmakers across the country. The secretive ALEC network produced the ag-gag model in 2002, titling it the “Animal and Ecological Terrorism Act. 

The terrible price of ag-gag laws

Rather than shutting observers out of slaughterhouses, we should open the doors even wider

“When the “pink slime” scandal exploded online last March, Iowa Gov. Terry Brandstad called a press conference. But Brandstad and beef industry leaders weren’t there to apologize for processing scraps through centrifuges, then spraying American meat with ammonia gas. The event featured officials showing off t-shirts with the slogan “Dude, it’s beef!”

“After dismissing the public’s concerns about “pink slime,” agribusiness is now trying to stop the public from learning about practices like this in the first place.

“These laws are modeled on an “Animal and Ecological Terrorism Act” produced by the American Legislative Exchange Council, the group behind voter ID laws and “stand your ground” gun laws.”

Open the Slaughterhouse Doors: It’s Time to See How the Sausage Gets Made

“In February in Salt Lake City, Amy Meyer stood on the street and used her cell phone to record what was happening outside a slaughterhouse. She then became the first person charged under one of the new so-called “ag-gag” laws.

“Six states currently have such “farm protection laws,” deliberately designed to stop video recording at slaughterhouses. The bills are largely industry-funded and based on a template drawn up by the right-wing American Legislative Exchange Council. Another eight states have similar legislation in the works. Although the effort to clamp down on slaughterhouse recording has never been more organized, two such bills, in Indiana and here in California, recently failed, and the historic prosecution of Meyer also failed when her case was dropped last month.

 

MP on Google tax avoidance scheme: ‘I think that you do evil’

Google and Amazon face fresh attack over claims that their multibillion-pound UK-facing businesses should not be taxed

“Google and Amazon came under fierce attack from MPs and tax campaigners after fresh whistleblower allegations put further strain on claims by the internet giants that their multibillion-pound UK-facing businesses should not be taxed by Revenue & Customs.

“Margaret Hodge, chair of the public accounts committee, told Google’s northern Europe boss, Matt Brittin, that his company’s behaviour on tax was “devious, calculated and, in my view, unethical”.

“He had been recalled by MPs after being accused of misleading parliament over the firm’s tax affairs six months ago. Hodge said: “You are a company that says you ‘do no evil’. And I think that you do do evil.” Hodge was referring to Google’s long-standing corporate motto, “Don’t be evil,” which appeared in its $23bn US stock market flotation prospectus in 2004.”

This news about Google and Amazon follows the discovery that Starbucks has also been avoiding paying their full tax in the UK.  (Starbucks, Google and Amazon are all affiliated with ALEC or are/have been corporate members).

The shadowy conservative group ALEC has members in Nevada’s Legislature

“For years, liberal interest groups have slagged the American Legislative Exchange Council as a front for right-wing legislators and their supporters among the corporate elite. And with good reason. Corporations and corporate and industrial trade groups formed ALEC and still appear to control the group’s policy-making, legislation-writing apparatus.

“ALEC’s other side is its legislative membership. The group proudly proclaims on its website that it has 2,000 state-level legislators as members, presumably ready to advance its right-leaning agenda. And advance that agenda they do.

“Privatizing education, ditching workers safety and environmental protections, thwarting efforts to develop alternative energy, blocking gun control — the history of ALEC is a history of the modern right and its successes and failures.

‘Big Gulp’ bill passes House

“RALEIGH, N.C. — Cities would not be allowed to ban large servings of sugary drinks under a bill that passed the state House Wednesday night.

“House Bill 683, the “Commonsense Consumption” bill, would also prohibit people from filing “frivolous lawsuits” against food manufacturers or packagers for obesity, weight gain or health issues related to consumption of their products.

“The bill is model legislation promoted by pro-business advocacy group American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC.

“Sponsor Rep. Brian Brown, R-Pitt, said the measure “requests that individuals make smart decisions.”

GOP backs down on “right to work” in two states

“COLUMBUS, Ohio – Fearing public reaction which could hurt their party at the polls next year – symbolized by a mass May Day protest on the state Capitol lawn in Columbus, Ohio – Republican state legislative leaders in Ohio and Missouri effectively stopped drives for so-called “right to work” lawsin those legislatures.

“But the fight isn’t over yet, at least in Ohio. The Buckeye State’s statewide tea party affiliate says it will gather signatures, facing a July deadline, to put “right to work” on the ballot this November.

“Right to work (for less) is a longtime cause of business and its legislative handmaidens. Since the 2010 GOP mid-term election sweep, the radical right – led by the secretive, extremist American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and so-called tea party groups – have joined that cause.

ALEC’s Most Wanted: Exposing a Front Group for Fossil Fuel Interests (and Other Corporations)

“The Center for Media and Democracy’s (CMD) Brendan Fischer and Nick Surgey uncovered an internal document from the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) at the controversial organization’s meeting last week in Oklahoma City. The document entitled “OKC anti-ALEC photos” featured the headshots of eight reporters and public interest advocates that have written about ALEC or been critical of ALEC’s activities (as a front group working on behalf of its corporate membership).” 

Congressmen Pocan and Ellison Introduce “Right to Vote” Constitutional Amendment

“The right of voting for representatives is the primary right by which other rights are protected,” wrote Thomas Paine in 1795.

Yet contrary to popular belief, there is no affirmative right to vote in the U.S. Constitution. This gap in our founding document has provided an opening for the wave of voter suppression measures that swept the country in recent years, and before that, the poll taxes and Jim Crow restrictions that disenfranchised millions. This week, two Congressmen — both from states at the epicenter of today’s voting rights struggles — are seeking to fix that.

“The right to vote is too important to be left unprotected,” said Rep. Mark Pocan of Wisconsin, who is co-sponsoring an amendment to the U.S. Constitution guaranteeing the right to vote.

“Pocan’s state, Wisconsin, passed one of the strictest voter ID laws in the country in 2011 after Governor Scott Walker and a GOP-dominated legislature took power. The law threatened to disenfranchise more than 300,000 voters who did not have the required forms of ID, primarily people of color, students, and the elderly. (Like many of the restrictive voter ID laws proposed since 2011, the bill tracked a “model” Voter ID Act from the American Legislative Exchange Council). But just months after Wisconsin’s law was enacted, a state court struck down the law based on the Wisconsin Constitution’s protections for voting rights.” 

Grading schools based on conservative ideals

“With the release of letter grades for Maine’s schools, Gov. Paul LePage unveiled yet another aspect of his misguided plan to reform education in the state. Looking to Florida as a model, he and his education commissioner assigned each school a grade on a scale of A to F and then published the results without ever explaining to the schools on what basis they were being graded. Imagine if your child were to bring home a letter grade on a test that he or she knew nothing about. You’d be outraged.

“Maine, by the way, also outranked Florida at No. 14 in fourth grade reading and No. 7 in eighth grade scores. So why choose Florida as a model? Why fly a delegation of politicians more than 1,000 miles to tell us how to change our schools when Massachusetts is a car ride away?

“We need look no further than The American Legislative Exchange Council for an answer. ALEC is a conservative think tank and lobbying group that writes model legislation on a variety of topics, including education. ALEC’s favorite education state is Florida, and LePage is one of ALEC’s biggest fans. In fact, his “Putting Students First” plan for Maine takes its language directly from ALEC.

“Among the strategies that ALEC promotes is assigning grades to schools. It assigned Florida the highest grade and awarded Massachusetts a C. ALEC’s grading system is based on how well states implement its conservative platform that includes privatizing education through school vouchers, lifting caps on charter schools, watering down teacher licensing requirements, supporting private schools at public expense, eroding local control through school choice programs, lifting homeschool regulations and encouraging virtual schooling.

Traffic Ticket Camera Company Channels Kafka, Threatening Court Appearances, Even Though “No Such Court Exists”

In fact, the plaintiffs say, a state judge has told the city that its system is illegal.

“May 15, 2013  |  A class action suit claims the City of Center Point and Redflex Traffic Systems illegally ticket drivers by threatening them with a court appearance if they refuse to pay fines, though “no such court exists.”

“Redflex owns and operates the traffic cameras for Center Point, which photographs cars believed to run red lights or stop signs or speed. 

“Similarly, the Notice of Violation sent to Stubbs and other members of the Class did not explain that the $100 ‘fine’ could not be collected unless the City filed a later, separate civil suit. Neither Ms. Stubbs nor any other Class member was informed that the Notice of Violation was not judicial in nature but was actually a non-binding collection notice.”

These laws allowing ticketing of vehicle owners based upon camera’s operated by a private company, are ALEC adopted model bills.  Originally submitted by American Traffic Solutions (an ALEC member) this legislation is being used in several states.  Those ticketed receive notices from the private company to pay traffic fines directly to the company.  Once received the private surveillance camera company takes their cut and forwards the balance to the clerk of the court.  In this way as described in this article about Mississippi, this removes any pretense of judicial review or appeal.  The cities using this form of surveillance often increase fines to cover the cost of additional paperwork or court appearances sought for defending such “camera tickets.”

NASDAQ Data Reveals Who’s Getting Rich Off the Prison-Industrial Complex

“Using NASDAQ data, I looked through the long list of investors in Corrections Corporation of America and GEO Group, the two biggest corporations that operate detention centers in the US, to find out who was cashing in the most on prisons. When we say “prison-industrial complex,” this is who we’re talking about. 

Retired People and Probably You
“The Vanguard Group and Fidelity Investments are America’s top two 401(k) providers. They are also two of the private prison industry’s biggest investors.

“Together, they own about 20 percent of both CCA and GEO. That means if you have a 401(k) plan, there’s a good chance you benefit financially from private prisons. And even if you don’t, there are many more mutual funds, brokerage firms, and banks that invest in private prisons—it being a growth industry and all—so if you have money somewhere other than your wallet or your mattress, it’s a good bet you’re involved in some way with companies that are locking up and probably abusing inmates.

“This is especially true for government employees like public school teachers because their retirement funds are some of the biggest investors in private prisons. According to NASDAQ data, the retirement funds for public employees and teachers in New York and California together have about $60 million ($30 million each) invested in CCA and GEO. Teacher retirement funds in Texas and Kentucky have $8.3 million and $4 million invested in prisons respectively, and public employees in Florida ($10.3 million), Ohio ($8.6 million), Texas ($5.6 million), Arizona ($5.3 million), and Colorado ($2.25 million) are also connected to the industry. Except for New York, which has only one privately run detention facility, each of these states has several prisons run by CCA and GEO Group facilities. And it’s not just Americans who have ties to prisons. Foreign investors have money in them as well, including the pension fund for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, which recently sold off its $5.1 million worth of GEO Group stock.”

 

Government Surveillance of Occupy Movement

Government Surveillance of Occupy Movement

 FROM CMD by Beau Hodai – Dissent_or_Terror-cover200px

Special Report by Center for Media and Democracy and DBA Press

This just released report is a must read for all Americans to understand just how much our Nation’s governmental landscape has been changed since 9/11/2001.  Once again, government agencies created to “protect” Americans have been altered to instead place citizens at risk – physically by arrests and through a loss of guaranteed freedoms under the guise of protecting us.

Not surprisingly, we once again find the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and their corporate “benefactors” and members involved in partnerships to advance these Anti-American activities.

Excerpts from the report below followed by a link to the actual report;

“On May 20, 2013, DBA Press and the Center for Media and Democracy released the results of a year-long investigation; “Dissent or Terror: How the Nation’s Counter Terrorism Apparatus, in partnership with corporate America, turned on Occupy Wall Street.”  The report, a distillation of thousands of pages of records obtained from counter terrorism/law enforcement agencies, details how state/regional “fusion center” personnel monitored the Occupy Wall Street movement over the course of 2011 and 2012.

“The report also examines how fusion centers and other counter terrorism entities that have emerged since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 have worked to benefit numerous corporations engaged in public-private intelligence sharing partnerships.  While the report examines many instances of fusion center monitoring of Occupy activists nationwide, the bulk of the report details how counter terrorism personnel engaged in the Arizona Counter Terrorism Information Center (ACTIC, commonly known as the ‘Arizona fusion center’) monitored and otherwise surveilled citizens active in Occupy Phoenix, and how this surveillance benefited a number of corporations and banks there were subjects of Occupy Phoenix protest activity.

“While small glimpses into the governmental monitoring of the Occupy Wall Street movement have emerged in the past, there has not been any reporting — until now — that details the breadth and depth with which the nation’s post-September 11, 2001 counter terrorism apparatus has been applied to politically engaged citizens exercising their Constitutionally-protected First Amendment rights.”

Key Findings

Key findings of this report include:

  • How law enforcement agencies active in the Arizona fusion center dispatched an undercover officer to infiltrate activist groups organizing both protests of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the launch of Occupy Phoenix and how the work of this undercover officer benefited ALEC and the private corporations that were the subjects of these demonstrations.
  • How fusion centers, funded in large part by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, expended countless hours and tax dollars in the monitoring of Occupy Wall Street and other activist groups.
  • How the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has financed social media ‘data mining’ programs at local law enforcement agencies engaged in fusion centers.
  • How counter terrorism government employees applied facial recognition technology, drawing from a state database of driver’s license photos, to photographs found on Facebook in the effort to profile citizens believed to be associated with activist groups.
  • How corporations have become part of the homeland security “information sharing environment” with law enforcement/intelligence agencies through various public-private intelligence sharing partnerships.  The report examines multiple instances in which the counter terrorism/homeland security apparatus was used to gather intelligence relating to activists for the benefit of corporate interests that were the subject of protests.
  • How private groups and individuals, such as Charles Koch, Chase Koch (Charles’ son and a Koch Industries executive), Koch Industries, and the Koch-funded American Legislative Exchange Council have hired off-duty police officers — sometimes still armed and in police uniforms — to perform the private security functions of keeping undesirables (reporters and activists) at bay. 
  • How counter terrorism personnel monitored the protest activities of citizens opposed to the indefinite detention language contained in National Defense Authorization Act of 2012.
  • How the FBI applied “Operation Tripwire,” an initiative originally intended to apprehend domestic terrorists through the use of private sector informants, in their monitoring of Occupy Wall Street groups. [Note: this issue was reported on exclusively by DBA/CMD in December, 2012.]

Read the complete PRWatch/DBA Press report -> HERE <-

School Boards Beware – ALEC Calls for Elimination of School Boards

School Boards Beware – ALEC Calls for Elimination of School Boards

In a recent commentary  discussing attacks upon Wisconsin’s school board structure(s), professor Julie Underwood writes about the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), an influential national network that’s pushing an agenda to shrink government, privatize schools, and promote business interests.  The article outlines ALEC’s legislative impact in Wisconsin and why pubic school supporters should be concerned.

In this report by Professor Underwood, ALEC’s involvement in advancing pursuits of their corporate members is laid out in a manner to allow parents and citizens to fully comprehend how they are at the core of the ongoing attacks upon public education.  Underwood, J.D., Ph.D., is a professor and the dean of the School of Education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison

VLTP has provided research articles on issues of privatizing public schools and named those organizations, companies and corporations involved in such privatization – for profit.  Dr. Underwood identifies the same players by name and organization in her research:

According to the Report Card on American Education, the education agenda of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) calls for:

  • Reducing the influence of, or elimination of, local school districts and school boards.
  • Privatizing education through vouchers, charters and tax incentives.
  • Increasing student testing and reporting.
  • Introducing market factors into schools, particular the teaching profession.

In short, ALEC seeks to undo much of the work and power of school boards.

Corporate members pay to serve on their task-forces, and provide the funds for the state legislators to attend ALEC meetings.

Model legislation is developed through the ALEC taskforces (e.g., health, safety, education), each co-chaired by a corporate and legislative member. In order to pass a model bill out of the ALEC taskforce, both the public and elected sides of the committee must agree.  The elected officials then submit these proposals to their own state legislatures.

Members of the taskforces have an interest in the topical area of the taskforce. For example, education taskforce members include representatives from the Friedman Foundation, the Charter School Association, the private school associations, and corporations providing education services. 

The proposals cannot move out of the taskforce without the approval of the corporate interests. The corporations involved have an interest in the areas and thus typically stand to profit financially from the proposals.

For example, two large for-profit corporate providers of virtual education, Connections Academy and K-12 Inc., had heavy involvement in the development of the ALEC model Virtual Public Schools Act. At the time it was drafted by ALEC, the chair of the education committee was Mickey Revenaugh, a principal employee of Connections Academy. Connections Academy and K-12 have reaped huge financial benefits in the states where the Virtual Schools Act has been passed.

The ALEC agenda in education is ambitious. Model bills seek to influence teacher certification, teacher evaluation, collective bargaining, curriculum, funding, special education, and student assessment.

Common throughout the bills are proposals to decrease local control of schools by local school boards while increasing control, influence, and profits of the companies in the education sector. Privatization is consistent with the interests of the corporate ALEC members.

The ALEC goal to eliminate school districts and school boards is a bit shocking — but the idea is to make every school, public and private, independent through vouchers for all students. By providing all funding to parents rather than school districts, there is no need for local coordination, control or oversight.

Professor Underwood’s research, analysis and assessment are correct – ALEC and corporate members wishing to realize huge profits off of privatizing state school systems, are pushing this conservative agenda.  Key to these efforts is to wrench all control away from local school boards and school authorities.  They then seek to assume that control and authority to implement their pro-corporate programs without interference.

Though much of what Professor Underwood wrote is in reference to Wisconsin, the same facts, circumstances and outcomes are ongoing in nearly every state today.  In each case, it is ALEC legislation being used to advance the pursuits of the private “educators” seeking to trade your children’s quality of education for corporate profits.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read the full News Advance article -> HERE <-

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

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

By Bob Sloan

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NC Moral Monday demonstrations bring more arrests

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Between the Lines — We shouldn’t foot ALEC bill

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

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

“So, hooray for us taxpayers. Right?

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

Don’t squander travel money

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

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

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

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

From ALEC affiliated sources:

Competition improves education

 

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

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

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

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

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

Related article or content:

Surprise, Surprise: Pension Cuts Are Legal

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

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

 

 

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

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

 

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

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

Are Vouchers Dead?

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

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

 

Scientists support renewable electricity standards

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

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

Campaign contribution disclosure, the perfect storm at the SEC

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

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

Green Desert: Don’t leave climate change off curriculum

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

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

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

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

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

Column: Chris Fitzsimon on dark days in Raleigh

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“8) Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R-Butler)

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

Animal cruelty laws stir free speech debate

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

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

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

State ‘business climates’ — more myth than reality?

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

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

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