Disgusting New Republican Laws

ALEC v. Clean Energy – ALEC’s Assault On The Future Of Energy

ALEC v. Clean Energy – ALEC’s Assault On The Future Of Energy

A new and especially informative report on ALEC’s influence and interference with America’s energy standards and pursuit of renewable energy sources was just released by ProgressNow.org.

This in-depth analysis and reporting is critical of ALEC and completely connects all dots between oil and energy conglomerates, ALEC and the legislation developed by both to keep the oil industry enriched at the expense of our environment and unnecessary expenditures of tax dollars in subsidies.

Because of ALEC’s support for the XL Keystone Pipeline (issuing a resolution in support and providing “academies” that provides legislators free trips to Canada) and their influence internationally through their International Relations Task Force (IRTF), their activities regarding energy have worldwide implications.

Anyone with concern for America’s future must read and study this report.  By doing so you will become clear on the companies, corporations, organizations and think tanks involved and provides us with how they accomplish deregulation and muddy the waters on renewable energy standards.

Here are the “Report Highlights” taken from the full 36 page study:

Report Highlights

ALEC’s Energy, Environment and Agriculture (EEA) Task Force puts foxes in charge of the henhouse. Buoyed by oil giants, coal conglomerates and electric utilities, the task force is a pantheon to pollution interests. Its agenda is written, funded and supported by fossil fuel interests, and boasts of achievements nationwide. The crony capitalist polices of the EEA Task Force include:

  • In 2013 Renewable Energy Portfolio Standards came under attack across the states. With encouragement from ALEC and various utilities, the attacks came close to rolling back these job-creating policies in various states. While ALEC’s 2013 attack failed, at its annual convention in Chicago, ALEC regrouped and set its sights again on the standards for 2014.
  • ALEC and its oil interest members promulgate a hollow disclosure bill. The bill was an Exxon Mobil model, giving oil corporations exactly what they asked for on hydraulic fracturing regulations. Based off Texas law, ALEC’s model bill has been dispersed and enacted as a law in at least five states, with additional states enacting the language by administrative rule.
  • Like Renewable Portfolio Standards in 2013, ALEC had originally failed to stop Greenhouse Gas Accords, and after regrouping in 2010, with the aid of Tea-Party legislators, ALEC’s agenda killed the accords in the Midwest and West.
  • ALEC’s EEA Task Force seems willing to work on niche issues, if the price is right. ALEC’s supposedly nation-wide report on Uranium mining appears to have been, specifically tailored for Virginia, to provide cover for ALEC legislators attempting to pass legislation to benefit an ALEC member.
  • Continuing its tradition of corporate authored legislation, ALEC’s resolution on the Keystone XL Pipeline is derived directly from the talking points issued by ALEC-Member TransCanada, the company seeking to build the Keystone XL. From Maine to Hawaii, legislators have proposed the resolution, parroting TransCanada’s arguments. TransCanada has used ALEC to promote its interests through unethical and legally suspect “scholarship” programs.

Please take the time to read the full ProgressNow report -> HERE <-

Indiana “Right-To-Work” (for less) Ruled Unconstitutional

Indiana “Right-To-Work” (for less) Ruled Unconstitutional

by Bob Sloan

600_right_to_work_statesLast year Indiana became the 23rd state to pass “Right to Work” legislation – a top initiative adopted and circulated by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).  For several years ALEC (with a corporate membership of more than 300 national and multinational companies) has pushed legislation – that can best be described as anti-union – in most states.  In each state where ALEC’s legislative members are part of a GOP majority, these laws have been systematically proposed and passed, nearly word for word as they were written by ALEC’s corporate lobbyists.

Sweeping changes in party control of many statehouses after the 2008 and 2010 election cycles resulted in several new “red” states falling under the control of conservative led GOP lawmakers and Governors.  With GOP majorities in control of states such as Wisconsin, Arizona and Ohio (each with sitting Governors who are ALEC alum), ALEC’s “model legislation” began being shoved through statehouses with little or no notice to – or regard for – voter’s position on such proposed bills.

In this atmosphere, Indiana’s ALEC led legislature/assembly began adopting ALEC written legislation culminating in a contentious fight last year over a proposed Right to Work bill. Organized labor, activists and non-union workers turned out for weeks to protest passage of this anti-union legislation.  In the face of a majority of strong opposition lawmakers managed to pass the bill and Governor Mitch Daniels quickly signed it into law.

In what can only be termed a set-back to Indiana’s GOP controlled Legislature – and ALEC, a Superior Court judge in Lake County, Indiana has ruled the new Right to Work law unconstitutional, as reported by WISH TV, in Indianapolis today:

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A Lake County judge has determined Indiana’s right-to-work law violates a provision in the state constitution barring the delivery of services “without just compensation.”

“Lake Superior Court Judge John Sedia found that the law wrongly requires unions to represent workers who do not pay dues. Indiana became the 23rd state in the nation to ban the collection of mandatory fees for representation from unions.

“Since then, union lawyers have gone to the courts to try and overturn the law. Sedia issued an order last Thursday declaring the ban on collections and associated criminal penalties unconstitutional.

“A spokesman for Attorney General Greg Zoeller says the state will appeal the ruling directly to Indiana’s Supreme Court.

“Union spokesman Ed Maher calls the ruling a victory for the middle class and dues-paying members.”

Though there was no mention of the involvement of ALEC or their 40 or so Indiana legislative members in pushing this legislation through in the public announcement, those tracking RTW legislation nationally know where the legislation originated and who is behind it.

Having researched and tracked ALEC’s activities over the years, it is expected that once the appeal is filed to the IN. Supreme Court an amicus curiae brief will be filed by ALEC and several satellite organizations such as Heritage Foundation, National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB) and the Chamber of Commerce.  This is the standard Modus operandi for the conservative cabal and reported on by VLTP in an independent Report in 2011. Those opposed to these RTW laws should even now be preparing to throw their collective hats into the ring here in Indiana by following ALEC’s lead and preparing amici filings for the upcoming Indiana Supreme Court battle that is forthcoming.

ALEC in the News – Update on ALEC Activities…

ALEC in the News – Update on ALEC Activities…

by Bob Sloan

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

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

Sallie Mae drawing all-around fire

Written by Wade Malcolm
The News Journal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Corporate Investors and Board Members Urged to Drop Exploitative Business

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

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

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

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

From PRWatch by Brendan Fischer

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

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

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

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

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

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

“As Sallie Mae Sits, Arne Duncan Gets Mailed

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

—Chris Hicks

Shareholder Activists: ‘We’re No Angels’ Edition

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

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

City Cable Channel Isn’t So Basic

State law could leave viewers in the dark

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

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

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

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

“Bohl scoffed at those promises.

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

“Time Warner could not be reached for comment.”

 

The Stranglehold on Our Politics

 

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

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

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

Gun Fanatics Score Big Victory in North Carolina

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

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

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

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

All these laws come from individual concerns

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

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

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

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

Plain Talk: Wisconsin’s school vouchers are a scam

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

“And well it should have.

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

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

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

 

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.”

 

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.

5/11 ALEC Articles and Review

5/11 ALEC Articles and Review

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

Click on a headline to read the full article…

Dennis Van Roekel on exposing ALEC’s agenda

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

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

Ohio Consumers And Businesses Come Together To Support Energy Efficiency

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

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

Company to expand e-cig operation

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

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

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

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

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

SD Lawmakers Who Travel The Most

SIOUX FALLS, SD –

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ALEC Gives FoIA the Finger

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

WELL  ….

ALEC is trying to shut the door on that.

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

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

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

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

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

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

AFC sang a different tune for funders.

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

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

 From ALEC…

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

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

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

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

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

5/09 ALEC Articles and News in Review

5/09 ALEC Articles and News in Review

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

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

ALEC in Nevada spotlight

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

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

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

ALEC is not OK

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

NC renewable energy repeal advanced by committee despite losing vote

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

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

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

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

Wendy Greuel and Eric Garcetti Stop Hesitating and Support Parent Trigger

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

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

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

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

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

 

Deal on taxes and spending in Kansas could be near

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Raging Grannies Arrested After Fighting for Poor Kids

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Bob Sloan

Below are today’s articles and materials related to ALEC and the Koch funded conservative cabal.  Included ALEC published material – if available.

Click on a link to view the complete article.

Scientific American: North Carolina legislators make end-run on science and renewable energy

From “The Raw Story”

North Carolina Republicans push through anti-renewable energy bill in ‘banana republic’ vote:

“Democrats in North Carolina say they could have defeated a bill to repeal renewable energy subsidies on Wednesday if Republicans had not pushed it through committee without counting the votes.

The state Senate Finance Committee debated the bill to end the state’s 6-year-old renewable energy program for over 40 minutes before Republican chairman Bill Rabon called for a motion. … “North Carolina is not a banana republic,” Sen. Josh Stein (D) complained following the hearing. “That was no way to run a proceeding.”

Environmental advocates have suggested that Republicans based the bill on model legislation from the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Republican state Rep. Mike Hager, who authored the bill, is an ALEC member.

Moffitt skips House session to attend conservative conference

ASHEVILLE — Rep. Tim Moffitt skipped a session of the state House, along with Republican Speaker Thom Tillis, to attend a conference of a controversial pro-business group in Oklahoma.

Moffitt, R-Asheville, was recently appointed to the board of the American Legislative Exchange Council, a group that supports limited government and free markets. Tillis is also a board member.

Ag-Gag Laws Could Make America Sick

Against these criticisms, farm industry advocates argue that activists often misportray what actually happens on farms, turning isolated incidents into inflammatory narratives of routine abuse that further anti-meat-eating goals. The industry also portrays undercover video-taking as a violation of farmer rights.

“At the end of the day it’s about personal property rights or the individual right to privacy,” said Bill Meierling, a spokesman for the American Legislative Exchange Council, a conservative business group that drafted the model for many of the ag-gag laws, to the Associated Press. “You wouldn’t want me coming into your home with a hidden camera.”

Exposed: How Murdoch, Bill Gates and Big Corporations are Data Mining our Schools

Besides New York and Louisiana, inBloom has contracts with seven other states. All are part of the Shared Learning Collaborative, a pilot program set up by the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) to help implement Common Core standards through the tracking of student data. The Council of Chiefs, also a non-profit, is composed of the heads of America’s state school systems who work together with corporations to collectively design education policy, in mold of the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC. 

North Carolina Republicans push through anti-renewable energy bill in ‘banana republic’ vote

“Democrats in North Carolina say they could have defeated a bill to repeal renewable energy subsidies on Wednesday if Republicans had not pushed it through committee without counting the votes.

“Environmental advocates have suggested that Republicans based the bill on model legislation from the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Republican state Rep. Mike Hager, who authored the bill, is an ALEC member.

The Future of the Climate Debate Is in the Laboratories of Democracy

“A key fight over efforts to curb climate change is happening in the relative anonymity of various state legislatures. This week, Colorado voted to increase its use of renewable energy, while the North Carolina State Senate voted to do the opposite. But only one side won.

“Opponents in North Carolina were bolstered by support from various conservative groups, a number of which have made the repeal of renewable standards a key priority. The News & Observer notes that “American Conservative Union, Americans for Tax Reform and The Heartland Institute are among the organizations pushing to make North Carolina a testing ground for rolling back policies that favor renewable energy.” Those groups aren’t alone. The conservative American Legislative Exchange Council has similarly targeted the policies, prompting a number of renewable companies to end their memberships. Several of the organizations, including ALEC and the Heartland Institute have ties to the fossil fuel industry — which supports rollbacks of renewable energy standards for fairly obvious reasons.” 

Fossil Fuel Empire Strikes Back…At Clean Energy

Front Groups do the Dirty Work for Oil and Gas Industry

“So far, 29 states have implemented Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) programs that require increased production of energy from renewable sources such as solar, wind, geothermal and biomass. They’ve been adopted in red states and blue – from California to Texas to Maine – through democratic processes and with popular support. RPS programs have helped jumpstart an industry that is spurring economic development, creating American jobs, boosting energy independence and cutting our carbon footprint.

“The groups may sound familiar: American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which is currently pushing legislation around the country that would mandate the teaching of climate change denial in public school systems, and The Heartland Institute, which ran a billboard campaign last year comparing global warming “admitters” to Osama bin Laden and Charles Manson. Both have long opposed sensible energy policies. And their funders will sound familiar, too: the oil, gas and coal industries and their owners like the Koch Brothers.” 

State House leaders off to ALEC

“As House lawmakers debated whether to halve the number of North Carolina children eligible for free pre-kindergarten, several key members were missing from the chamber.

“House Speaker Thom Tillis, Rep. Tim Moffitt, R-Buncombe, and Rep. Jason Saine, R-Lincoln, left early Thursday to attend the ALEC Spring Task Force meeting in Oklahoma City, scheduled for Thursday and Friday.

“According to Tillis spokesman Jordan Shaw, the only state funds spent were for registration fees – a practice also extended for legislators’ trips to other conferences, like the National Conference of State Legislators.

“ALEC, or the American Legislative Exchange Council, describes itself as a free-market, limited-government group.”

Nullification: How States Are Making It a Felony to Enforce Federal Gun Laws

“In mid-April, Kansas passed a law asserting that federal gun regulations do not apply to guns made and owned in Kansas. Under the law, Kansans could manufacture and sell semi-automatic weapons in-state without a federal license or any federal oversight.

“Kansas’ “Second Amendment Protection Act” backs up its states’ rights claims with a penalty aimed at federal agents: when dealing with “Made in Kansas” guns, any attempt to enforce federal law is now a felony. Bills similar to Kansas’ law have been introduced in at least 37 other states. An even broader bill is on the desk of Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell. That bill would exempt any gun owned by an Alaskan from federal regulation. In Missouri, a bill declaring federal gun laws “null and void” passed by an overwhelming majority in the state house, and is headed for debate in the senate.”

International:

More US companies looking to relocate to Britain to dodge corporate tax.

Firms rush to relocate in low-tax Britain

More than 40 multinational companies have inquired about relocating their headquarters to the UK because of the cuts in corporation tax.

Steve Varley, the UK chairman of Ernst & Young, revealed that the accountancy firm knew of the significant number of firms seeking to relocate from countries such as the USA, as well as from the Netherlands, Switzerland and Ireland.

The high figure will be a boost to George Osborne, the Chancellor, who has made Britain’s lower rates of corporation tax a centrepiece of Government policy. The advertising giant, WPP, recently announced that it would move back to the UK from its present headquarters in Dublin.

“I know of more than 40 multinational companies that have been looking to undertake global and regional headquarter relocations into Britain,” Mr Varley said.

Are renewables doomed to failure in Australia?

“Across the United States right now, a pitched battle is being fought over the future of renewable energy targets in the 29 states that have them. Already, 16 of these states are considering legislation – templated by a fossil fuel-sponsored lobby group, the American Legislative Exchange Council – to repeal or dilute the ambition of renewable standards.

“So far, the campaign – boosted by Tea Party radicals in the Republican movement – has not been successful. In the past week, North Carolina rejected the idea after leading utilities such as Duke Energy, and big data centre operators such as Apple and Google expressed their support for wind and solar projects.

“The new energy minister in WA, Mike Nahan, has upped the ante – possibly in anticipation of the Coalition winning the federal poll in September.

“Nahan is an interesting choice as energy minister. For supporters of renewable energy, he’s actually quite a frightening one.

“The American-born Nahan is a former executive director of the conservative, pro-market, anti-renewable think tank, the Institute of Public Affairs, which is so intertwined with conservative policy making that many Coalition politicians refer journalists to the IPA for comment on issues such as energy and climate.

“A collection of Nahan’s thoughts on climate and energy can be found on the IPA website as, like his contemporaries and successors, he was a prolific contributor to (mostly Murdoch-owned) newspapers. They give an interesting insight into his views on all things climate, energy and environment.”

WA Bill Would Allow Businesses to Openly Discriminate Against Gays

WA Bill Would Allow Businesses to Openly Discriminate Against Gays

LogoFrom Think Progress / By Zack Ford

“Republicans in Washington state have proposed a bill that would  allow businesses to openly discriminate against people based on their sexual orientation if they want to do so because of their religious beliefs.  SB 5927carves out a specific exception to the state’s nondiscrimination law that says only federal protections — which don’t include sexual orientation — apply when a person’s religious belief is “burdened”: 

“Nothing in this section may burden a person or religious organization’s freedom of religion including, but not limited to, the right of an individual or entity to deny services if providing those goods or services would be contrary to the individual’s or entity owner’s sincerely held religious beliefs…”

Read the full article -> here <- at AlterNet.

Michigan Public Education in Shambles

It’s no surprise that money troubles and transparency issues are the result stripping public education of the accountability found in democratically elected school boards. Detroit Public Schools and the Education Achievement Authority both operate under state appointed individuals that shift millions in loans back and forth without disclosure of the transactions.

Democratic Rep. Ellen Cogen Lipton paid $2642.05 to file a Freedom of Information Act request for documents that revealed the movement of funds between the two bodies.

The Detroit Free Press reports that cash-strapped DPS have twice loaned the EAA $6 million dollars this school year. EAA Chancellor, John Covington, has been openly begging for money above and beyond the per pupil foundation grants it’s taken from DPS when the EAA was formed out of the 15 lowest performing schools in the district.

Covington is desperate for the Senate to pass legislation to match that passed by the House last month to codify the EAA as an official school district. In his end-of-the-year newsletter he told staff the following:

“…I am fully aware that there is much concern relative to whether there is sufficient support for the Education Achievement Authority and the work we are doing. We were all disappointed that the EAA was not codified as a statewide system of schools during the lame-duck session of the Michigan State Legislature, and the we did not make the final list of awardees for the Race to the Top funding by the United States Department of Education.”

The EAA is troubled by more than funding problems. Lawmakers are concerned about an increase in violence in those schools since they left DPS and are calling for more training of security officers. Sen. Coleman Young II (D) told The Detroit News that “officers have told him they lack basic training in CPR, experience high turnover and get little support from Prudential Protective Service, the company hired to provide security officers at the 15 EAA schools.”

The district produced abominable scores on their MEAPS last Fall, and Sen. Bert Johnson(D) reports that the EAA teachers are ill-trained, student abuse is occuring, and special needs students are being handled improperly:

• Rather than putting experienced teachers in these “under-performing schools,” roughly two-thirds are Teach for America students — who get five weeks of “teacher training” the summer before they are assigned, with no other certification required.

• At Pershing High School, a dozen TFA students walked off the job, and I have received reports of several who have broken down in staff meetings, unable to handle the rigors of teaching. In some cases, athletic department staff are teaching students.

• Reports of student abuse, including a child whose mouth was taped shut for being too talkative.

• Abuse of special needs students, including unilateral changes to Individualized Education Plans without input from parents, therapists and counselors. This is illegal.”

DPS fares little better in meeting special needs requirements.  After all the budget-cutting, school closings, charter conversions, and EAA stripping of funds — the most vulnerable students are being left in dire straights. Special needs students in DPS are becoming a larger and larger portion of the school population. The statewide average is 12 percent, but DPS is struggling to serve 18 percent — that’s 9,000 students – all while under the cruel austerity measures of emergency management. Their class sizes have doubled, yet among the expanded charter schools, only 10 percent serve special needs kids.

Michigan’s kids deserve better than this. Much better.

Amy Kerr Hardin from Democracy Tree