Republican Party

Slavery in Nevada?  Yes, According to Assemblyman Jim Wheeler – and NDOC

Slavery in Nevada? Yes, According to Assemblyman Jim Wheeler – and NDOC

by Bob Sloan

Over the past year I made several trips to Nevada, wrote numerous articles and interviewed dozens on the topic of Nevada’s prison industry working inmates without pay.

Under a contract between Alpine Steel, LLC and the Nevada Department of Corrections’ (NDOC) Silver State Industries (prison industry program) inmates were made to work for as much as four years without receiving any wages from Alpine.  During that time frame, many of Nevada’s unemployed steel workers were denied jobs due to the use of inmates to perform Alpine’s steel fabrication production.  Other businesses were harmed by this contract as they could not compete against a competitor with little or no labor costs when bidding on projects.

Late last year the Board of Prison Commissioners ordered the closure of the prison industry operation run by the NDOC and Alpine Steel.  At the time of the closure, Alpine’s owner, Randall Bulloch, acknowledged he had failed to pay the prisoner’s wages and agreed to pay $78,000 in back wages owed to prisoners by November 2012 .  Alpine still owes the state nearly a half million dollars in unpaid leases, utilities and wages for NDOC Supervisory personnel after agreeing to repay the state and defaulting on that agreement as well last June.  Alpine eventually agreed to voluntarily surrender its contractor’s license to the state and steps are being taken to attempt to recover the huge debt still owed to Nevada taxpayers.

Throughout I believe I accurately described the act of forcing state prisoners to work for a for-profit company without pay as “Slave Labor.”  Though this story has blossomed into one reported nationally and internationally, most have concentrated upon the issue of a lack of proper state oversight, the NDOC using tax dollars to subsidize a private business and misuse of state tax dollars by the prison industry division.

Most of the media totally ignored the fact that the employees actually performing hours of work under the contract between the state and Alpine, were not compensated for their labor by the company.  Though this and other important clauses were in the actual contract, Alpine was allowed to default without enforcement by the NDOC Director or Deputy Director.  Without the complaints and objections voiced by organized labor and business owners, this arrangement would be continuing with state prisoners being deliberately exploited for their labor.

Though NDOC officials have a duty to provide “Care, Custody and Control” of those incarcerated within Nevada’s prison system, administrators failed to protect Alpine’s inmate workers from exploitation of their labor.  Agency officials in fact condoned such acts by their refusal to enforce the contract provisions requiring  inmates to be paid “prevailing wages” by Alpine.  In effect the NDOC was acting as a labor contractor for private companies, providing a captive labor force for a handful of select businesses.  A captive workforce without an ability to voice complaints, quit or refuse to work when not paid.  Prisoners also have no say in the wage scale, work conditions or safety requirements in their workplace.

Many thought this to be simply a case involving a lack of oversight or enforcement by a state agency and its administration.  However when this story broke and the dust settled, the legislature passed new laws strengthening the state’s statutes involving prison industries and the use of inmate labor. Governor Sandoval signed the legislation into law, effective July 1, 2012.

While this new law protects other businesses and organized labor in Nevada, it does nothing to ensure prisoners are compensated for their labor when employed by private companies.  With the Alpine contract that company was required to pay prevailing wages to the inmate workers.  Instead they were paid minimum wage or less – and for years received no wages at all – and used in place of Nevada’s unemployed private sector workers.

wheelerWhen the actual vote was taken on this new law by the Nevada Assembly, there were only three dissenting votes against it.  One of those voting in opposition to SB 478 was Nevada Assemblyman, Jim Wheeler (R-Gardnerville).  It appeared Wheeler was content with the status quo of allowing the NDOC to work prisoners under contract to private companies without paying them required wages.  In essence he would sanction continuing such slave labor…

More recently Assemblyman Wheeler has come under fire for voicing similar sentiments on common slavery in Nevada, saying, “I’d Bring Back Slavery If Constituents Wanted…”  Since a YouTube video of Wheeler speaking at a Republican gathering and making that statement surfaced, Nevada Democrats, Governor Sandoval and others have denounced Wheeler, with some properly calling for his resignation.

Wheeler’s “constituents” however are backing him.  The Douglas County, Nevada Republican Central Committee issued a “Resolution Supporting Nevada Assemblyman Jim Wheeler“, in which they proclaim:

WHEREAS, Assemblyman Jim Wheeler has come under attack by forces employing unethical pressure in an attempt to manipulate Nevada’s Legislature, diluting the voice of The People; and

WHEREAS, Assemblyman Jim Wheeler has honored the trust placed in him by his constituents by keeping faith with The Nevada Republican Party Platform and honoring his oath of office; and

WHEREAS, The People of Douglas County, under the Nevada Constitution, firmly assert our exclusive rights to select our representatives to be our voice and advocate for our rights and interests; and

WHEREAS, The continued intentional misrepresentation of statements and positions of our elected representatives, as well as exertion of unwarranted pressure to resign, violate the constitutional rights of The People of Douglas County to choose our representatives, and must end now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED, That the Douglas County Republican Central Committee offers its strongest, unqualified support to Assemblyman Jim Wheeler for the leadership example he displays in representing The People of the Great State of Nevada; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, That the Douglas County Republican Central Committee gives notice to all that The People of Douglas County choose their representatives, and that no longer will we ignore the corporate, media, and other interests that seek to undermine the will of The People by unethically twisting the message of our elected officials; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, That the Chairman of the Douglas County Republican Central Committee will ensure that this resolution is transmitted to Nevada Assembly Republican Caucus.

Adopted this 1st day of November, 2013 by the Douglas County Republican Central Committee Executive Board.

Obviously this Republican “Committee” supports Wheeler – and apparently takes no umbrage that he would agree to introduce legislation allowing out-and-out slavery if that is what Republican’s of Douglas County determined was appropriate.

As with other politicians over the years who have uttered reprehensible statements, Wheeler has tried hard to put a spin on the facts of his utterance and his District 39 Committee is attempting to assist in that by accusing the “corporate media” of undermining the “will of The People” and twisting Wheeler’s words.

What Wheeler and the Douglas County Republican’s don’t get is that the Assemblyman’s excuse that he was just trying to exhibit that he would do whatever his constituents wanted, demonstrates he would be amenable to mob rule.  That is precisely what would happen if a lawmaker’s constituents insisted he/she introduce legislation wanted by them over objections or concerns of others.  An elected lawmakers must weigh all the facts, look at issues logically and make legislative decisions based upon all factors – not simply the will or whim of his constituents.  Voters in one small area may support one issue completely, while the remainder of the state opposes it.  Attempting to apply the will of a small minority upon the majority would be attempting to legislate by mob rule.

So Nevada – one of the last states to join the Union and a state that never involved itself in slavery – finds itself in the headlight of the “racist” topic that has been on our national radar since 2008.  While political factions and groups in other states have argued over whether voter ID laws sought by predominantly GOP controlled states is racist, denying votes to minorities, Nevada remained absent in that conversation.  Maybe Nevada Republicans now seek to join their voice to those of others on an issue such as slavery, weighing in on that topic – right or wrong.

In 21st century America, the concept of and very term “slavery” should be extinct, not being raised for the first time in Nevada.  Hopefully the NDOC will stop using prisoners as a private slave labor workforce for select businesses and companies – and legislators such as Jim Wheeler will stop making such inflammatory statements in the future.

In today’s political arena a lawmaker sitting with fellow legislators of all races who utters a statement such as Wheeler did, must make fellow Assemblymen/women uncomfortable – especially African-Americans and Hispanics.  Perhaps he should resign his post and let Douglas County select someone else to represent them in the Assembly…someone less inclined to inflame other members of the Assembly and voters from outside Douglas County.

More Lack of Transparency by ALEC Revealed and Reported

More Lack of Transparency by ALEC Revealed and Reported

From an article at PRWatch by Brendan Fischer

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

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

ALEC disclaimer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From PRWatch by Brendan Fischer and Nick Surgey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

05/01 Daily Report on Activities, Legislation and Initiatives of the ALEC/Koch Cabal

05/01 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.

First “Ag-Gag” Prosecution: This Utah Woman Filmed a Slaughterhouse from the Public Street

“This is the first prosecution in the country under one of these laws, which are designed to silence undercover investigators who expose animal welfare abuses on factory farms. The legislation is a direct response to a series of shocking investigations by groups like the Humane Society, Mercy for Animals, and Compassion Over Killing that have led to plant closures, public outrage, and criminal charges against workers.

“Even the most sweeping ag-gag bills, such as the American Legislative Exchange Council model legislation, don’t explicitly target filming from a roadside. But Nebraska, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Vermont are all considering bills similar to the Utah law right now.”

Renewable energy becomes a utility lifeline

“When North Carolina Republicans brought forth a bill pushed by the conservative lobbying group ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, to gut the state’s renewable energy standards, they figured they had a model piece of pro-business legislation that would sail through the legislature this year.

“But, as North American Windpower gleefully reported, it died in committee. Key to the story is the committee where it died — public utilities and energy.”

The Oil And Gas Industry’s Assault On Renewable Energy

A Bloomberg article released last week details how the oil and gas industry, through some self-described free market organizations that they fund, are trying to engineer a legislative massacre of these policies in more than a dozen states.

“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.”

A Movement Is Needed to Get Corporations to Disclose All Their Political Spending. Let’s Start It

“Among those pressuring companies to be more forthcoming is Rob McGarrah of the AFL-CIO’s Office of Investment. The union owns shares of stock in many companies, including Cigna, and is asking them to provide shareholders and the public with a more complete accounting of spending to influence public policy.

“McGarrah was unsuccessful in persuading Cigna to disclose “special assessments” on behalf of AHIP and other groups, so the AFL-CIO submitted a shareholder resolution that would compel the company to report indirect funding of lobbying through trade associations and tax-exempt organizations, such as the American Legislative Exchange Council, which drafts “model legislation” to protect business interests.”

ALEC-Orchestrated Bill To Preempt Paid Sick Leave Passes Florida Senate

“But “preemption bills,” laws orchestrated by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) that override any efforts to implement paid sick days, are also gaining speed, with the latest passed by Florida’s state Senate on Friday. The bill, which had huge support from Disney World, Darden Restaurants (owner of Olive Garden and Red Lobster), and the Florida Chamber of Commerce, would delay local government efforts to adopt paid sick leave policies.”

How to get to work on time in Russia (and more from In Other News)

“Prodded by the meat and poultry industries, state legislators nationwide are introducing laws making it harder for animal-welfare advocates to investigate cruelty and food-safety cases. Measures in Indiana, Arkansas and Pennsylvania, for example, would outlaw videotaping agricultural operations. Iowa already made it illegal to deny belonging to an animal-welfare organization when applying for a farm job. Other bills are pending in California, Nebraska and Tennessee. The force behind this legislative agenda, whose purpose, Paul Shapiro, vice president of farm animal protection for the Humane Society of the United States, insisted, “is to prevent any pattern of abuse from being documented,” is the American Legislative Exchange Council. It labels those who interfere with animal operations “terrorists” and titled the California bill the “Animal and Ecological Terrorist Act,” although an ALEC official admitted “Freedom to Farm Act” would’ve sounded better. (Associated Press)”

Governor Mary Fallin to Address Legislators from Across the United States

“OKLAHOMA CITY  —  Governor Mary Fallin will speak to hundreds of state legislators from across the country on Thursday at the American Legislative Exchange Council’s Spring Task Force Summit. The two day summit will be held this year at the Cox Convention Center in Oklahoma City.

“Fallin, who was named a “Legislator of the Year” by ALEC while serving as a state representative, will discuss this year’s legislative session and highlight the success of pro-growth policies in Oklahoma.”

LETTER: ALEC too far right for these groups

“The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is a group promoting far-right legislation. Its tax exempt status is currently challenged, as its sole purpose is to formulate legislation promoting extremely conservative points of view and helping the rich and powerful maintain their status.

“The South Dakota Legislative Board has voted to spend our tax dollars to pay for membership dues for all our state legislature’s members and all their expenses to attend ALEC meetings.”

ALEC related material published or distributed by ALEC…

National Center for Public Policy Research to Participate in Five Shareholder Meetings this Week, Bringing Total to 18 So Far for this Shareholder Meeting Season

“Washington, D.C. – The National Center for Public Policy Research will directly address five major U.S. corporations this week as part of the National Center’s Free Enterprise Project, which calls major corporations to account for activities that undermine the free market and/or a free and prosperous United States.

“Activities of particular interest include 1) corporations engaging in cronyist practices that suck money from taxpayers; 2) corporations lobbying to expand the size of government; 3) corporations imposing expensive private regulatory regimes on suppliers, often for greenwashing purposes, in the name of “sustainability;” and 4) corporations caving in to ridiculous left-wing demands, for example, demands to shun the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

“The National Center also attends meetings to compliment CEOs who stand up for freedom and the free market.”

Koch Brothers’ Plans for Their Upcoming GOP Donor Retreat Revealed

Koch Brothers’ Plans for Their Upcoming GOP Donor Retreat Revealed

From Mother Jones article “EXCLUSIVE: Read the Koch Brothers’ Plans for Their Upcoming GOP Donor Retreat” By l…

For more than a decade reports of attempts by the Brothers Koch – Charles and David – to assert their ideological branding upon American politics have been in the news. Founders or funders of nearly every ultra-conservative PAD or organization from the Tea Party to Americans for Prosperity, Americans for Tax Reform and dozens of other extreme organizations existing to advance conservatism, these two billionaires have spent hundreds of million in pursuit of that ideology.
 
Koch BrothersEvery year the Koch’s hold “donor retreats” where America’s wealthy conservative family representatives, Congressional members and corporatists are invited to attend.  At these meetings Charles and David issue marching orders for the coming year and in some cases set the agenda all the way to the next general election.  Attendees generously and individually throw millions of dollars into the pot to fund the activities and goals set by the Kochs.
Between 2010 and 2012 the billionaire brothers spent hundreds of millions of dollars in an attempt to defeat the re-election of President Obama and increase the GOP majority in the House of Representatives as well as secure a majority in the Senate.  They failed miserably in all three as the  President was re-elected and in the House Republicans actually lost seats to Democrats who continue to control the Senate.
Koch Industries has been a long time member of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and in the late 90’s when ALEC was financially strapped and on the verge of disappearing, the Koch’s loaned ALEC a half million dollars to keep the organization alive and pursuing the conservative dogma ALEC is so well known for.  Since then the Kochs have supported ALEC’s initiatives such as voter suppression and voter ID legislation, deregulating the EPA and climate denial – to name just a handful of topics pursued jointly by the Kochs and ALEC.
Mother Jones reports:

“According to a previously unpublished preview of the April 28-29 gathering, the Kochs will unveil a new plan to recruit and train political candidates who will advance their free-market worldview. Another priority is improving the conservative movement’s outreach to “growing demographics” such as Latinos, young people, and women. The preview, obtained by Mother Jones, was emailed to attendees in March by Kevin Gentry, a top Koch aide. (A Koch spokeswoman did not respond to requests for comment about Gentry’s email.)”

“The Kochs and their acolytes believe it is their duty to stop what Charles Koch calls “the greatest assault on American freedom and prosperity in our lifetimes.” Hebegan a September 2010 letter (PDF) outlining plans for an upcoming donor retreat by asking, “If not us, who? If not now, when?” At the Vail retreat, Koch said the 2012 elections will be “the mother of all wars.”

In this informative article from MJ the entire memo sent out to those invited to attend the upcoming “Retreat” is provided to readers.  Read the full article and memo at Mother Jones -> HERE<-

 

 

Continuing Education and Privatization Disclosures in MI. Reveal “Skunks” at Work – Including ALEC

Continuing Education and Privatization Disclosures in MI. Reveal “Skunks” at Work – Including ALEC

An analysis of two recent articles from Michigan and why they are ALEC-related.

Analysis by Bob Sloan

Logo     ALEC’s attention to America’s education “reform” is focused and advancing state by state as they promote privatization of public school systems.  Vouchers, “parent trigger”, long distance learning, “vitrual schools” and a “Public-Private Fair Competition Act” are all ALEC model legislative bills.

    What all these “bills” have in common of late is that all of them are submitted, sponsored and supported by conservative Republican lawmakers from coast to coast…another commonality of late is that most of them can be found swirling ominously through the Michigan statehouse.

    Now Michiganders have discovered a secret group of individuals working to advance these ALEC-styled legislative franken-bills behind closed doors with members of Governor Snyder’s staff.  Members of this secretive cabal have dubbed their group the “Skunk Works”, referring to defense contractor Lockheed Martin’s secret program under the same name that developed fighter planes during and after World War II.  An article published Friday by the Detroit News reported on this strange development.

Lansing — A secret work group that includes top aides to Gov. Rick Snyder has been meeting since December to develop a lower-cost model for K-12 public education with a funding mechanism that resembles school vouchers.

“The education reform advisory team has dubbed itself a “skunk works” project working outside of the government bureaucracy and education establishment with a goal of creating a “value school” that costs $5,000 per child annually to operate, according to meeting minutes and reports obtained by The Detroit News.

What are some of pursuits of these group?

…explore using fewer teachers and more instruction through long-distance video conferencing. Each “value school” student would receive a “Michigan Education Card” to pay for their “tuition” — similar to the electronic benefits transfer used to distribute food stamps and cash assistance for the poor.

Students could use leftover money on the “EduCard” for high school Advanced Placement courses, music lessons, sport team fees, remedial education or cyber courses, according to an outline of the advisory team’s agenda…

“…ideology and political agenda of the creation of a for-profit and parallel enterprise market for schools. Part of its goal is to take down the education establishment: superintendents, school boards and teachers unions.

It appears this panel of Skunks were formed in December in response to failed GOP legislation related to charter schools:

“The panel’s quiet proceedings began in mid-December after GOP lawmakers abandoned controversial legislation in the lame-duck session that would have allowed corporations, municipalities and cultural institutions to run charter schools.

Who are some of the members of this education cabal? Besides Governor Snyder’s chief information officer, David Behen, who leads the group most are from the information technology field:

“The group consists of nearly 20 individuals, mostly from the information technology field, including Behen and the state’s chief technology officer, Rod Davenport. The group includes employees from the software and tech companies Vectorform in Royal Oak, InfoReady in Ann Arbor and Billhighway in Troy. Also involved is Tim Cook of the Huizenga Group, a Grand Rapids firm that owns and operates West Michigan manufacturing companies.”

Another member is well known Lansing attorney, Richard McLellan who has so far unsuccessfully pursued installing a school voucher system in Michigan to allow parents to use choose between private and public schools — with state tax dollars – something prohibited by the Michigan Constitution.  McLellan helped draft such legislation and proposed sweeping changes in November to the way Michigan schools are funded. McLellan is a director at the Oxford Foundation, which developed that plan at Snyder’s request.  He is also a co-founding member of the Koch funded Mackinac Center, another conservative think tank that has been pursuing similar efforts of privatizing Michigan’s public education.

Interesting note to the “plan” memo linked to immediately above…McLellan insisted that the Project “be conducted with maximum transparency.”  He apparently decided that such transparency would not be so “maximum” or sought at all with regard to the project involving the skunk works.  This group is so secretive, they were instructed to use alternative email accounts when corresponding.  “In January, participants were instructed in a memo to use “alternative” email accounts. Records show Behen, Davenport and two other Department of Technology, Management and Budget employees have since used private email addresses to correspond.”

‘McLellan said the other participants are justified in using private emails. “Well, they should,” he said. “It’s not a government project.  Isn’t a skunk works by definition unorganized, backroom?” he asked rhetorically.’

“Why are we using private email addresses? Because it’s just easier,” Behen said. “There’s nothing secret or anything about this.”

 

This panel originally included one educator, Paul Galbenski, Michigan’s 2011 Educator of the Year.  Galbenski left the group when he discovered the cabal “discussing a special kind of school being created outside of the Michigan public school system,” and began questioning his own involvement with such a group.

Galbenski was the only educator even briefly chosen to be on the panel.  A memo of the group stated that they wanted to avoid working with education consultants who are “wedded to the education establishment.

Behen said he “purposely didn’t put a bunch of teachers on (the panel)” to generate a different approach to delivering K-12 education through rapidly changing technology.

Michigan officials and authorities representing Governor Snyder and a private “foundation” and think tank such as Mackinac, have been found working secretly to completely alter the state’s education system – without any input from educators or educational consultants.  What could possibly go wrong?

So, here’s how this trick is supposed to work, for those of you in other states who would like to attempt something similar… You defund education to the point of collapse, and, then, pointing to the inevitable failure, you make the case that the only option left available is to essentially hand the whole thing over to corporate America. And you bring in an anti-public education operative with ties to ALEC and the Koch Brothers, hiding behind the facade of a pro-education foundation with “Oxford” in its name, so that it sounds super smart, to support and adopt the whole enchilada.

In a related article from Progress Michigan, ALEC member MI. Rep. Greg MacMaster introduced a bill copied and pasted from the “Public-Private Fair Competition Act,” adopted by ALEC’s Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force and approved by ALEC’s Board of Directors in January 1995.

“The bill would prohibit public entities from competing against the private sector, and its definitions are so restrictive that it would allow corporations to take the state to court and force it to stop providing valuable public services. ALEC’s Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force includes the Tax Foundation (funded by the Koch Brothers and ExxonMobil), The Mackinac Center’s Richard Vedder, and other State Policy Network-funded groups including the Freedom Foundation, Goldwater Institute, and the Illinois Policy Institute.

If this legislation were to pass – along with the education initiatives proposed by ALEC, Mackinac Center, Oxford Foundation, etc. – Michigan’s education system would be privatized and fall under this provision.  The private “educators” would be able to sue any remaining state operated schools to force them into privatization.  Not only take the school system out of the hands of the state but force taxpayers to foot the bill for any litigation costs associated with “providing public services”…such as education.

ALEC is the legislative arm of this huge conservative, Koch-funded cabal.  Perhaps Michigan today presents us with the best and clearest example of both the agenda and mechanisms utilized by this network to wrench control, oversight and operations involving public services out of the hands of state government. The goal is to get their greedy hands on tax dollars being spent for education and other necessary services and divert much of that money to profits realized by ALEC’s corporate partners.

Just as Nevada is now ground zero for the war against prison labor displacing workers under ALEC’s Prison Industries Act, Michigan is now at the center regarding attempts to privatize education, utilizing another of ALEC’s models.

Bill to repeal North Carolina’s RPS passes House committee

Bill to repeal North Carolina’s RPS passes House committee

NC-Rep-Mike-Hager-214x300

North Carolina Representative Mike Hager, the bill’s chief sponsor, is a member of ALEC, which is attempting to overturn or weaken RPS policies in 19 states

A bill to repeal the US state of North Carolina’s renewable portfolio standard (RPS) has passed a committee of the state’s House of Representatives 11-10. The bill must now pass more committees, the full House and the North Carolina Senate before it can go to the governor to be signed.

House Bill 298, the “Affordable and Reliable Energy Act” was Electricity Freedom Actintroduced by House Majority Whip Mike Hager (R), and three other members of the state’s Republican Party. The bill is one of many state-level efforts to repeal RPS policies that have been advanced by Republicans through a national effort by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

“This is simply the wrong move at the wrong time,” said Ivan Urlaub, Executive Director of the NC Sustainable Energy Association (NCSEA). “No good ever comes when you pass laws based on a mistaken premise and the assumption underlying this bill that the REPS law raises electricity rates and costs jobs could not be further from the truth.”

The next step for H298 is the North Carolina House Commerce and Job Development Committee.

State gains 21,200 “job-years” through clean energy policies

NCSEA cites a report by RTI International and La Capra Associates Inc. which shows that North Carolina consumers stand to gain more than USD 173 million in cost savings between 2007 and 2026 due to the state’s clean energy policies, including the RPS.

The same study also showed that North Carolina also gained 21,200 job-years from 2007 to 2012 through these policies.

RPS includes solar thermal, solar carve-out

North Carolina is one of the few utilities to pass an RPS in the US South, a region which is dominated by large utility monopolies, who generally hold regressive stances towards renewable energy.

The state’s Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard mandates that private utilities in the state move to 12.5% renewable energy by 2021. The policy lists solar photovoltaic (PV) and solar thermal technologies including solar water heating as eligible technologies, and mandates a minimum of 0.2% solar by 2018.

Effort to dismantle RPS policies in 19 US states

Chief sponsor Hager and at least six other sponsors of the bill are members of ALEC, a right-wing non-profit that is funded by fossil fuel interests including coal giant Peabody Energy (St. Louis, Missouri, US) and Koch Industries (Wichita, Kansas, US).

ALEC members in states legislatures have brought forward legislation in at least 19 US states to repeal, freeze or weaken RPS policies, based on the “Electricity Freedom Act”, model legislation drafted by ALEC’s Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force.

Several of these efforts, such as the one in Kansas, have been defeated. However, bills in Ohio, New Hampshire and Virginia have become law.

Bills inspire SEIA, AWEA to leave ALEC

As RPS policies represent the largest single policy effort to mandate the switch to renewable energy for electricity production in the United States, this effort is firmly aimed at stopping the nation’s limited renewable energy progress.

Following the introduction of this legislation, both the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA, Washington DC, US) and the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA, Washington, DC, US) left ALEC. SEIA also cited a lack of support for other legislative efforts.

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This article is posted at http://www.solarserver.com/solar-magazine/solar-news/current/2013/kw15/bill-to-repeal-north-carolinas-rps-passes-house-committee-11-10.html

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Michigan GOP Human Services Budget — Welcome to the Gulag

Michigan GOP Human Services Budget — Welcome to the Gulag

The contrast couldn’t be more stark. Michigan Republicans and Democrats are not even in the same book, let alone on the same page, when it comes to what politicians like to refer to as “our most precious resource” — our children.

Michigan House Republicans approved a budget which will slash funding for the Department of Human Services, the agency that serves the most vulnerable among us. The budget proposes to cut 1,000 jobs in that department — 9 percent of its workforce. Under the GOP plan the agency will be severely handicapped in its capacity to handle the core functions of welfare, food assistance and child abuse cases. Worker’s caseloads would increase by 7 percent, adversely impacting foster care and child protective services. Although the state is under a court-ordered mandate to improve conditions in these services, Republicans refuse to adequately fund the programs.

A decline in services for children in need will predictably lead to increased delinquency and incarceration of the state’s poorest children. The GOP is additionally planning on privatizing three juvenile detention centers (Escanaba, Grayling and Whitmore Lake) to save money. As Democracy Tree investigated last year, privatization of prisons is not only a very bad idea, (that doesn’t save money), but it creates a de facto slave labor force.

What we have in the GOP House Human Services budget is effectively an initiative to make “our most precious resource” a lifelong slave labor market for private prisons.

Michigan Democrats also revealed their budget plans. The Associated Press reports that their focus is on K-12 and higher education funding and middle-class tax relief. Democratic House Leader Griemel said:

“Our priorities are tax relief for middle-class families, restoring funding to education and increasing economic security for Michigan families. The governor’s agenda puts corporations before middle-class families”.

It is safe to say that these priorities will not be reflected in the final budget.

The Senate Human Services subcommittee is set to vote this afternoon on their budget. Congress must then hammer-out their differences by the June 1st deadline.

Our most precious resource will surely be the biggest loser.

Amy Kerr Hardin from Democracy Tree

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Deja Vu – Repeat of Teapot Dome

Deja Vu – Repeat of Teapot Dome

We need to learn a lesson from history when it comes to natural resources.  Money, labor, privatization, and politicians operate the same.

Some things never change.

At the time of Presidents Harding and Coolidge, the oil companies, particularly Sinclair Oil was given our nation’s oil resources for a sweetheart deal – no bidding necessary. The oil was in reserve for the Navy in case of war – the Republicans in charge arranged for it to go to oil corporations for profit.

Some things never change.

In our day, international mining corporations are allowed to enter Nevada and stake claims for very small fees . The current Governor of Nevada most recently worked at Jones Vargas – the firm hired to mining lobby. Elected officials on all levels take campaign donations from mining. Mining pays barely anything for billions of dollars in gold and other minerals.

It is estimated that one trillion dollars worth of gold is in the center of the state.
________________.:.__________________

Taken from Coolidge, by Amity Shales, page 239-240

Out west, one of the navy properties was a great oil field that lay under a butte, officially Naval Petroleum Reserve No 3 but known as Teapot Dome for the butte’s funny shape. Some engineers were arguing that the surrounding private companies were tapping the oil out from under the Dome. The best thing to do might be to grant a concession to drill there; that would both allow commerce to take over the business there and reduce the United States’ dependence on oil drilling in Mexico …. Granting oil concessions to private companies was like granting a great company the right to operate Muscle Shoals, the dam that had been constructed to produce nitrates during the war. It was important to do this now, Harding and Coolidge believed. If they did not then these sectors might forever stay in public hands.

Some things never change.

Resource Land: international mining corporations are staking claims all over Nevada in a mighty land grab. They are allowed by fee simple to patent the land converting public land into private property. At least at teapot dome, there was a lease and they had to pay something. They are not paying anything to tie up the land.

Resource Water: The ancient water is dumped by mining into the the desert while Vegas fights with the North and other states over water rights.

Resource Clean Environment. British Petroleum owns the superfund site in Yerington. The radioactive site will cost billions to clean up. Water has to be brought in from outside for the people living close by to drink. Mercury is polluting the water, fish are not edible, and the EPA is fining the mining industry. Thousands of holes are dug all over the state and abandoned.

Corporations are costing the government and the tax payers billions in Nevada; corporations are reaping only benefits and profits.
_______________________.:.________________

Taken from Coolidge, by Amity Shales, page 240

Albert Fall, intended to lease the valuable Naval Petroleum Reserve No 3 without putting the project out for bids. The transfer to Interior from Navy had already taken place with the seeming endorsement of all, including the navy secretary and the navy assistant secretary, Theodore Roosevelt, the president’s son and Alice’s half brother …. The Wyoming reserves, some 200 million barrels of high-grade oil, would be leased to Mammouth Oil Co., a company created by Sinclair Oil, the company of a Harding campaign donor, Harry Sinclair

Some things never change.

Nevada is a leading producer of high quality gold. A cash cow for the billion dollar mining industry. Barely a soul spoke against their monopolies hidden out in the desert for decades. Campaign donations were hefty for many Nevada politicians.

Mining does employ a few mostly transient workers and adds some benefit to the immediate communities. It is by no means comparable to the benefit the corporations receive.

Nevada has become a place for out-of-state profiteers.

While leadership is asleep at the switch.

Nevada also has its own “Keystone Pipeline”. This huge natural gas line crosses Nevada leaving a huge scar on the old ground. Yes, we had temporary jobs and a short term boost in the economy. That boost is history. The federal government smoothly permitted the 48″ gas line. Nevada politicians can be proud that Nevada got the burden of the pipeline but not the benefit of buying one gallon of natural gas. North Dakota is not the only state that is covered with pipeline. If you really want to generate and sell electricity, cheap natural gas is the way to do it. Ask California – they got the gas.
_______________.:.______________

Taken from Coolidge, by Amity Shales, page 240

Senator Robert La Follette of Wisconsin was moving with alacrity to spotlight the transaction and demanded an investigation of the teapot Dome concession …. Coolidge watched from the Senate president’s seat.

Tax issues — the rich did not want to pay.

Some things never change.

The people of Nevada have to take the matter into their own hands because the politicians would not. SJR15 is before the Nevada Legislature. This would remove a cap placed in the Nevada Constitution by miners in ancient times. We hope this will be placed on the ballot and the people will vote — doing the job that our elected officials should have done.

Why has it taken Nevada so long? Mining law from 1872? These laws need to change.
_________________.:.____________

Taken from Coolidge, by Amity Shales, page 241

In June, the administration won a key case against violent strikers: United Mine Workers v Coronado Coal affirmed that strikers were liable for the damage they inflicted on companies property. On July 1, 300,000 rail workers walked out, shutting down commerce. The strikes halted the upward trend of business; the strike was taking the recovery hostage. The administration had begun to appoint conservative judges who would be a help in the endless battles between companies and unions.

Some things never change.

Under conditions of austerity, labor is taking to the streets, protesting, and becoming unsettled. Activists are activating. Organizers are organizing. Regular people are asking: Why are we giving resources away while we are experiencing severe financial crisis? Vegas experiencing the recession in many ways worse than the rest of the nation. Highest foreclosure. Highest unemployment.

Union busting was and is the primary goal. Profit margins widen as the rich take advantage of the work of people’s hands. In a right to work state, unions stand between working people and oblivion.

Resources are allowed to be siphoned away.
________________________.:._____________________

Taken from Coolidge, by Amity Shales, page 281

It was becoming clear now that the interior secretary had accepted cash via an intermediary. “Not in my time has the country been so startled by the act of a public servant as it has been by the disclosure that Secretary Fall actually took money in a satchel, ” wrote Morrow….

Some things never change.

Closed door legislative meetings. Decisions made at the last minute. Horse trading. Mining lobbyists boldly meeting in the middle of the legislative building as if they owned the place. Some people getting richer and the disadvantaged not part of the discussion.
____________________.:._____________

Taken from Coolidge, by Amity Shales, page 281

Longworth’s compromise was worse than the White House feared. Republicans teamed up with Democrats, 408-8, to pass a bill that diverged sharply from the Mellon Plan.

Some things never change.

In a move that surprised everyone this Nevada Legislative session a few Republicans are leading the charge to do something about remedying the taxation of Nevada Mining. They are questioning and standing up to the lobbyists.

Where are the democrats?
___________________.:._______________

Taken from Coolidge, by Amity Shales, page 281

But there again, despite the special prosecutors and the recent resignation of Navy Secretary Denby, the shadow of Teapot Dome was still long. If leasing Teapot Dome to Harry Sinclair had been a corrupt mockery of privatization, then was not the sale of Muscle Shoals to Ford the same? Governor Gifford Pinchot, who had negotiated the coal situation the prior autumn, opposed the sale. Progressives in the Senate found endless reasons to block it.

Some things never change.

In Nevada the progressives are activating around the mining issues. Sheila Leslie and Representative Steven Horsford worked on SJR15. US Representative Steven Horsford participates in the Mining Accountability and Oversight Committee, MOAC.

But the situation is progressing slowly, with the Nevada Governor appointing MOAC auditors and inspectors of the billion dollar mining industries – who do not attend the meetings. It’s lip service to oversight but it is not meaningful.

This reminds me of the Anderson Firm auditing Enron.
__________________.:._______________

Taken from Coolidge, by Amity Shales, page 295

The Teapot Dome investigations continued: the federal grand jury indicted Albert Fall, Sinclair, and Doheny.

________________.:._________________

Taken from Coolidge, by Amity Shales, page 296

“We are often told that we are a rich country, and we are,” Coolidge told the crowd. But as in the Gospel of Luke, “where more is given, more is required.” The President laid down the law for those departments that would not cut. “I regret that there are still some officials who apparently feel that the estimates transmitted to the Bureau of the Budget are the estimates which they are authorized to advocate before the Committees.” The only lawful estimates were the president’s Finally Coolidge again stressed his theme: “I am for economy. After that I am for more economy. At this time, and under present circumstances, that is my conception of serving the people.”

Some things never change.

Governor Sandoval is a leader in a state full of gold. The billionaires are allowed to hide, hoard, and stash the wealth. While the Governor cut 5,000 jobs his first months in office. Schools, hospitals, social services, mental health, are all cut cut cut. This definitely serves a few people – it is not serving THE people.
___________________.:. ______________

Taken from Coolidge, by Amity Shales, page 305

La Follete and Davis might be able to use Teapot Dome to bring Republicans down.

Some things never change.

Scandal will bring politicians down. Careful politicos – ethical consideration and disciplinary rules may bite you.
___________________.:.________________

Taken from Coolidge, by Amity Shales, page 321

The big question in the Veterans Bureau and Teapot Dome scandals was how much information Coolidge himself had picked up in the cabinet meetings. When Dawes made a show of avoiding the meetings, he raised the question of whether Coolidge had been compromised by attending. The alternative was that Coolidge had been ignorant of what had gone on among men he saw at the White House …. That surmise kept Coolidge’s name clear but also suggested that he was a simpleton.

Some things never change.

The people involved in Nevada Mining issues and allowing the corporations to take American resources like this are either not paying attention or not understanding?
___________________.:.________________

Taken from Coolidge, by Amity Shales, page 391

Charles Forbes, Harding’s original Veterans Bureau chief, was still in Leavenworth Prison for the fraud he had committed with federal moneys. All over Washington could be found the detritus of war-related scandal, such as the Teapot Dome decision relating to naval reserves.

Some things never change.

Enough is enough. We need to use our Nevada resources wisely and be responsible stewards.

This post was written by Angie Sullivan

Legislative Leaders Push to Restore Funding for ALEC Trips

Legislative Leaders Push to Restore Funding for ALEC Trips

This article cam across my desk today, from the liberal newspaper of South Dakota.  Interesting–but–I found the response from Dee Voss to be particularly informative.

Remember the half-million dollars that the Legislature added to its own budget, giving themselves twelve times more money to play with than they could find for each K-12 teacher in South Dakota. The Legislative Research Council never said they needed that money, so what on earth could fiscal conservative Republicans Speaker Brian Gosch and Senate Majority Leader Russell Olson have wanted that money for?

Why, to attend ALEC meetings, of course. Here’s Rep. Kathy Tyler’s account of the LRC’s Executive Board’s first meeting on how to spend that new mad money:

Our inaugural meeting saw the election of chair and vice-chair and a discussion of legislative travel. There are three organizations to which South Dakota belongs: National Conference of State Legislators, the Council of State Governments, and the Midwestern Legislative Conference.  One trip per year per legislator is the current policy.  There are also four national projects or forums that appointed legislators can attend.

The travel policy used to be much broader—go to wherever and you’ll be reimbursed.  Of course, without any restrictions, things got a bit ugly, and travel was restricted. After much discussion of increasing the number of trips to three and adding ALECAmerican Legislative Exchange Council, as a destination, time forced the final decisions to be made at the April meeting. The inclusion of ALEC will be an interesting discussion.  While the organizations currently approved are run basically by dues and have legislators’ issues in mind, ALEC is funded about 98% by corporations and tends to have its own agenda—HB1234 for example [ ref: Rep. Kathy Tyler (D-4/Big Stone City), “Summer Break?Kathy’s Corner, 2013.04.01].

Rep. Gosch and Sen. Olson wouldn’t want South Dakota to fall behind the faux-conservative pro-corporate agenda. So they want to use your money to send their minions for marching orders from ALEC. I’m sure you won’t mind if your legislators pay less attention to you and more attention to the Koch brothers.

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Response to “Legislative Leaders Push to Restore Funding for ALEC Trips”

  • Dee Voss

2013.04.01 at 09:18

They should not need state money for these trips. And the state probably shouldn’t have paid in the past. If the state paid for the trips in the past – I would ask the legislators if they received an ALEC corporate funded scholarship to attend the meeting and if they did receive a corporate scholarship – I would ask the legislators to reimburse the state for past conferences that the state funded.

Why? because most of your ALEC legislators are task force members
http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php/South_Dakota_ALEC_Politicians

And because of they are task force members – the corporations that fund ALEC also pay for your task force legislators to go to meetings – for free – through corporate scholarships – travel, room, registration, parking – paid for by the corporations.
http://www.commoncause.org/atf/cf/%7Bfb3c17e2-cdd1-4df6-92be-bd4429893665%7D/CIED%20SNPS%202012.PDF

SCHOLARSHIP POLICY BY MEETING
ALEC Spring Task Force Summit: 1. Spring Task Force Summit Reimbursement Form: ALEC Task Force Members are reimbursed by ALEC up to a predetermined set limit for travel expenses. Receipts must be forwarded to the ALEC Policy Coordinator and approved by the Director of Policy. 2. ALEC Task Force Members’ room & tax fees for a two-night stay are covered by ALEC. 3. Official Alternate Task Force Members (chosen by the State Chair and whose names are given to ALEC more than 35 days prior to the meeting to serve in place of a Task Force Member who cannot attend) are reimbursed in the same manner as Task Force Members. 4. State Scholarship Reimbursement Form : Any fees above the set limit, or expenses other than travel and room expenses can be submitted by Task Force Members for payment from their state scholarship account upon the approval of the State Chair. Receipts must be submitted to the State Chair, who will submit the signed form to the Director of Membership. 5. Non-Task Force Members can be reimbursed out of the state scholarship fund upon State Chair approval. Receipts must be submitted to the St ate Chair, who will submit the appropriate signed form to the Director of Membership.

ALEC Annual Meeting : State Scholarship Reimbursement Form : State scholarship funds are available for reimbursement by approval of your ALEC State Chair. Expenses are reimbursed after the conference, and may cover the cost of travel, room & tax, and registration. Receipts are to be submitted to the State Chair, who will then submit the signed form to the Director of Membership.

PLEASE NOTE: From 2006 – 2008 ALEC Corporations put a total of $45,000+ into the SD ALEC meeting scholarship fund, for SD legislators to go to ALEC meetings.
http://www.alecexposed.org/w/images/f/fa/BUYING_INFLUENCE_Main_Report.pdf

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This article is published at http://madvilletimes.com/2013/04/legislative-leaders-push-to-restore-funding-for-alec-trips/

Madville Times