Heritage Foundation

CABAL (ALEC, Koch, AEI, AFP) News for February…

CABAL (ALEC, Koch, AEI, AFP) News for February…

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John M. Crisp: Ideology must not trump educationn

‘…Thus, if you want to help the 14.7 million American children who are growing up poor, it serves your cause to point out that, according to the Children’s Defense Fund, the $77 billion that it would cost to reduce child poverty is much less than the $500 billion that poor children cost our nation every year.

And, thus, if you want to promote “school choice” over public education, your first and most prominent means of attack depends on promoting the economic benefits of getting more students out of public schools and into private schools.

That’s what’s happening in Texas right now. A bill has been filed in the Texas Senate that would establish a Taxpayer Savings Grant Program, which would divert public funds to vouchers that could be used to pay for private schools.

But the issue is national. The Texas bill is cobbled together from boilerplate supplied by the American Legislative Exchange Council (“Limited Government Free Markets Federalism”), a nonprofit organization headquartered in Arlington, Va. ALEC is dedicated to the promotion of conservative values and legislation. It provides an extensive menu of model bills suitable for sponsorship in every state, on issues ranging from climate change to “stand your ground” laws.

In the Texas version of ALEC’s vision for American education, vouchers for 60 percent of Texas’ per-student expenditure would be issued to parents who wish to transfer their children out of public schools.

War on Renewables Claims Victory in West Virginia

West Virginia lowered the bar on renewable energy this week when Governor Earl Ray Tomblin signed into law Tuesday the repeal of its Alternative and Renewable Energy Portfolio, enacted in 2009.

In doing so, West Virginia became the first state of the 29 that currently have renewable energy targets to completely eliminate previously passed standards. The previous low bar was set in Ohio last July, when its legislature passed and Governor John Kasich signed into law a two-year freeze of its standards. It too is looking at revoking them permanently; the legislature has convened a panel, loaded with fossil-fuel advocates, to ponder whether to move ahead on this…
….“This whole thing is a charade,” West Virginia citizen-activist Bill Howley told Inside Climate News.”The Republicans had made it a big issue in the elections and they want to be able to say, ‘See, we told you we were going to do something about it and look, here it is.’”

A nationwide push is underway to repeal standards in the states that have them, according to an AP story, which identified the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the far-right fossil-fuel dominated Heartland Institute, as primarily drivers in rejecting renewable energy standards. ALEC has been coordinating the effort to repeal these standards for several years with its “model bill” dubbed the “Electricity Freedom Act.”

Conservative Lobbying Group ALEC Said The Supreme Court Case Trying To Gut Obamacare Is Wrong

The central premise of King v. Burwell, a lawsuit asking the justices to gut much of the Affordable Care Act and take health insurance away from at least 8 million people, is that a seemingly innocuous choice made by many states actually has devastating consequences for the people in those states. In 2011, however, a leading conservative lobbying group rejected this central premise in a proposed legislative resolution offered to state lawmakers.

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is among the most influential conservative advocacy groups in the country. ALEC crafts model legislation that can be introduced by conservative state lawmakers, much of which has gone on to become the law in several states. The “Stand Your Ground” legislation which permits people in many states to shoot others and get away with it, for example, was pushed by ALEC. So are state laws making it harder to vote, keeping workers’ wages low, and blocking paid sick leave for workers.

In October of 2011, ALEC’s board of directors approved a model resolution that state lawmakers could pass, which asserted that “it is not in the best interest of the state for any state official to participate in planning or establishing health insurance exchanges as provided for in the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.” Significantly, however, the resolution also disagreed with the central premise of King v. Burwell, the lawsuit attacking the Affordable Care Act.

Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner Proposes Local Right-to-Work Zones, Ban On Political Spending By Public Sector Unions

Illinois’ new Republican governor, Bruce Rauner, and organized labor have never gotten along. Now the relationship is souring even more. In his first State of the State address since taking office in January, Rauner voiced support for two proposals that are anathema to U.S. organized labor: so-called right-to-work zones and a ban on political spending by public sector unions.

Under Illinois law, unions are permitted to collect dues from all the workers they are legally certified to represent in a given workplace. The idea is to prevent nonmembers from “free-riding,” that is, receiving the benefits of a union contract without paying for the costs of negotiation and administration. “Right-to-work” laws prevent unions from making membership automatic and collecting fees from nonmembers.

In his speech to the legislature Wednesday afternoon, Rauner argued in favor of local-level right-to-work laws — which he termed “employee empowerment zones” — as a form of economic stimulus…

“…Gov. Rauner’s right-to-work-for-less scheme would cause wages to significantly drop for all working families while decimating the middle class,” Tom Balanoff, Illinois State Council president of the Service Employees International Union, said in a statement. “Right to work for less is not economic development. It is not empowerment. It is economic regression.”

Rauner’s support for local right-to-work comes on the heels of a push from conservative groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council and the Heritage Foundation to pass such measures in cities, towns and counties across the country. These groups say such laws promote economic growth by attracting employers who would otherwise be put off by a strong union presence. Since last December, five counties in Kentucky have approved right-to-work ordinances.

ALEC’s Legislative Bawdy House

Do you know Alec? You probably do, even though you never heard of it.

Yes, “it.” Not a person, ALEC is the acronym for a secretive, corporate-funded, state policy front group: American Legislative Exchange Council. ALEC’s “exchange” is very straightforward – it takes about $6 million a year from corporate powers in exchange for linking them directly to hundreds of right-wing state legislators. Like a speed-dating service, ALEC convenes two-to-three dozen private confabs each year, putting corporate executives face to face with lawmakers. In these closed-door sessions, the special needs of corporations are matched with eager-to-please legislators who go back home to push the corporate agenda into state law.

If your legislature is suddenly trying to take away workers’ bargaining rights, outlaw citizen lawsuits against abusive corporations, privatize public schools, reduce corporate income taxes while raising taxes on retirees, and otherwise advance extremist, special-interest notions that go against the public will and the common good – chances are you have lawmakers who’re carrying bills handed to them in one of ALEC’s backroom tête-à-têtes…

Associated Press Hides Dirty Energy Interests Behind Anti-Renewables Campaign

“The Associated Press reported that national groups including the Heartland Institute and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) are heralding the repeal of West Virginia’s alternative energy mandate as a lynchpin to repeal stronger renewable energy standards in other states. But the AP identified the Heartland Institute and ALEC only as “national small government groups,” ignoring their significant ties to the fossil fuel industry…
“…As The Washington Post has noted, “In many cases, the groups involved [in efforts to undermine renewable energy standards and other environmental initiatives] accept money from oil, gas and coal companies that compete against renewable energy suppliers.” The anti-renewables campaign by Heartland and ALEC is a case in point.

“The Heartland Institute, infamous for its annual climate denial conferences, received over $700,000 from Exxon Mobil between 1998 and 2006. Heartland has also received significant funding from organizations with ties to the oil billionaire Koch Brothers, including the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation and DonorsTrust, which has been partially funded by the David Koch-chaired Americans for Prosperity Foundation…”

ALEC Helps Philip Morris Block Plain Packaging Tobacco Rules

“Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” featured a segment Sunday on how Philip Morris and other tobacco companies are suing countries around the world to limit ways the government can alert the public about the life-threatening risks of smoking. Oliver–who awarded the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) the honorary title of “Associate Producer of Creating Horrifying Things for Us to Talk About” of his show last season–detailed how Big Tobacco has been lobbying to limit graphic warnings on cigarettes. He did not mention how ALEC has helped the tobacco companies, with whom it has a long shared history and from whom it receives significant funding, push their anti-regulatory agenda globally.

Jeb Bush in ‘95: We need more for-profit prisons

Jeb Bush began his political career as a firebrand soldier of the Republican Revolution.

Although he’s now widely known as the moderate Republican choice for 2016, Bush ran multiple campaigns for Florida governor while promoting the “deinvention of government” through broad privatization and the rapid shrinking of the public sector—including the transformation of the state’s prison system into a for-profit industry.

Now a national candidate facing a public much more skeptical of private prisons and harsh sentencing, Bush currently supports relatively liberal criminal justice reforms and lighter sentencing laws. In the 1990s, however, he played the conservative tough-on-crime issue at top volume.

“People now cannot walk on their streets without fear of crime!” Bush said during his 1993 gubernatorial campaign. “The simple fact is we are not safe. Not in our homes, not anywhere.”

While Florida crime had just begun a 20-year decline that continues to this day, Bush spent much of the 1990s pushing to build more for-profit prisons in the Sunshine State and around the country, with the stated dual-goals of putting as many criminals in jail as possible and saving taxpayer money at the same time.

“Our criminal justice system is also an obvious target for privatization,” Bush wrote in a 1995 essay in Imprimis, an influential conservative publication. “Our prison population has doubled in recent years, and we are spending billions of dollars on prison construction and operation each year. But, according to a number of independent estimates, partial privatization could save an incredible sum—as much as 10-20 percent.”

In fact, Florida’s private prisons have notoriously had trouble reaching even the state-mandated 7 percent savings at several institutions…

Letter: EPA regulations needed to fight warming

EDITOR: In a recent column, MacIver Institute director Brett Healy predicted economic disaster for Wisconsin due to coming Environmental Protection Agency regulations designed to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants. A check on sourcewatch.org reveals Healy’s organization is allied with the right-wing American Legislative Exchange Council. We can thank ALEC and friends for the recent fixed-rate increase just to bring electricity to our meters.

Healy totally ignored the fact that our planet is heating up, due largely to record levels of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere. Healy clearly has an agenda. You and I may or may not agree with it.

I do understand his distaste for governmental regulations that often hamper the flow of the competitive marketplace. Still, regulations like the EPA’s exist to solve serious problems in the absence of effective legislative solutions. Our planet is undeniably heating up, and our oceans are undeniably rising. If we don’t reduce our carbon dioxide and methane emissions, our future is certainly imperiled.

The Citizens Climate Lobby proposes a legislative solution that Republican legislators like U.S. Rep. Sean Duffy and U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, and Democrats like U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin all should support. This proposal puts a long overdue, annually increasing fee on carbon dioxide and methane emissions, and returns all the money collected to you and me. As the price of coal, oil and gas rises, as renewable technologies improve and prices drop, we will make marketplace choices that ultimately save our planet. Your legislators need to hear from you.

Dan Barth,

Mosinee

ALEC’s Latest Scam Is Sending Public School Dollars to Corporate Owned Private Schools

It never ceases to amaze that as Republicans trumpet America’s greatness and exceptionalism, they paint a deplorable picture of the nation and in typical conservative fashion lay all the blame on government and particularly the waste of money on its social programs. The truth is their main complaint is using government funds to support any program that does not funnel taxpayer dollars to corporations and the wealthy, and they have particularly focused on what they call an obscene waste of money on public education that in their corporatist libertarian philosophy is better spent on for-profit private and religious schools. To bolster their contention that public education is failing miserably, they cite the deplorable performance of students enrolled in the public school systems, and they have had valuable assistance from corporate-owned media and the Koch brothers American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) who want to send taxpayer dollars earmarked for public schools to corporate-owned private schools and religious programs…

Ed Hughes: Scott

Walker’s plan for charter schools outdoes ALEC in privatizing education
Gov. Scott Walker’s plan to privatize authority over charter schools is a trifecta of bad public policy, “untested, excessive, and irresponsible,” Madison School Board member Ed Hughes on his blog.

Walker’s plan, as laid out in his 2016-2017 budget proposal, would privatize and politicize charter schools beyond what is being done anywhere else in the country, Hughes wrote.

The bill calls for the creation of a new state panel of political appointees that, instead of considering charter school applications itself, would review applications by nonprofit organizations to become charter school authorizers that could, in turn, enter into contracts with charter school operators for an unlimited number of charter schools…

…As specified in model legislation by the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council, state authorities would be charged to assure that members of Walker’s proposed state board on charter authorization are “geographically diverse and have experience and expertise in governing public and nonprofit organizations; in management and finance; in public school leadership, assessment, and curriculum and instruction; and in education law; and understand and are committed to the use of charter schools to strengthen public education.”

Wisconsin Lawmakers’ Economic Development Proposal Seems To Be From ALEC’s Playbook

In late January, two Republican Wisconsin lawmakers representing Milwaukee’s suburbs released an economic development plan for the city’s poorest neighborhoods that seems to draw straight from the American Legislative Exchange Council’s (ALEC) playbook.

The “New Opportunities for Milwaukee” plan, proposed by Rep. Dale Kooyenga (R-Brookfield) and Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills), details what the lawmakers say will be solutions for the city’s chronically impoverished economy…

…The proposals outlined include “right-to-work” legislation, zero percent corporate tax laws, the repeal of minimum wage laws, and the creation of for-profit charter schools instead of public schools.

Canadian Supreme Court: Public workers have the right to strike

(“Radical” ALEC modeled legislation on RTW spills over into Canada and is defeated…)

OTTAWA, Ont. – In a ruling that points up the differences – in workers’ favor – between Canada and the U.S., the Canadian Supreme Court has ruled that public workers there have a constitutional right to strike.

The 5-2 decision on Feb. 4 in a case from Saskatchewan, is grounded in Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms-its constitution-the justices said. But it also reflects the fact that Canadian labor law, province by province, is more pro-worker than U.S. labor law. Many U.S. public workers, including all federal workers, lack the right to strike.

The Right-Wing Canadian federal government, which has a slim parliamentary majority, has been making noises about trying to override provincial labor laws and curb worker rights. It’s considering schemes crafted by the secretive Radical Right corporate American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) in the U.S., which several GOP-run states have approved.

Senate Doozies: Big Votes on Common Core, Special Needs, Car Stickers

…With a 29-18 vote, the Senate passed SB 2389, which is more or less a symbol that enacts a compact for a balanced budget. Sen. Joey Fillingane, R-Sumrall, introduced the bill, saying that it essentially just sends a message to the federal government, urging them to limit their spending.

#Democrats pressed Fillingane, worried that the bill would prevent Mississippi from getting needed federal dollars.

#Sen. David Blount, D-Jackson, noted that SB 2389 is an American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) bill, considering that it is nearly identical to a bill ALEC drafted.

#When Blount asked why Mississippi would need to take measures to balance the federal budget instead of letting the U.S. Speaker of the House handle it, Fillingane said, “We all need encouragement.”

ALEC’s Corporate Membership Exodus Continues

ALEC’s Corporate Membership Exodus Continues

by bob sloan

The past month has been one of great disappointment to the American Legislative Exchange Council – commonly referred to as “ALEC”. Since late August corporate giants, Microsoft, Google, Facebook and YELP have each announced they have already left or are soon dropping their membership in ALEC.

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These latest desertions of the conservative bill mill are due to the “Council’s” position on renewable energies, model legislation to reduce government oversight of renewable energy standards and denial of climate change. Each of these huge multi-national companies now support renewable energy sources and have dedicated huge sums to that goal. ALEC’s position regarding energy is exactly opposite that of these corporations, presenting corporate administrators with the dilemma of belonging to and helping fund an organization which openly conflicts with their publicly stated goals.

The issue of renewable energy has resulted in these newest withdrawals from ALEC in a similar manner to what happened regarding the pursuit of “Stand Your Ground” laws by ALEC. With the death of Trayvon Martin and the exposure of ALEC pursuing proposals of similar laws nationwide, corporations and legislators alike began to leave ALEC in ever larger groups back in 2012.

This brings the total number of corporate members ALEC has lost over the past 36 months to 80 -/+. It isn’t just the loss of a member that impacts upon ALEC, it is the loss of revenue from such desertions. In addition to the $7,000 to $25,000 annual membership fees these individual companies fork out, there is an additional price paid to “sit” upon one of ALEC’s nine Task Forces. Each seat is expensive and companies can purchase more than one seat, enabling them to have a larger “voice” and more votes upon proposed legislation. A seat upon the International Relations task force runs as much as $10,000 each and again, companies with an eye upon international influence can purchase as many seats as it can afford.

In addition to the foregoing costs to corporations, there are additional expenses incurred…such as hosting events at one or more of ALEC’s annual meetings, seminars or “summits”. Sponsorship for such events sometimes can cost each “sponsor” up to $50,000 – $75,000. There is also a legislative “slush fund” companies are expected to “donate” or “contribute” to annually. This account is known as ALEC’s “Scholarship Fund” with that money going toward paying travel, meals, housing and similar expenses incurred by state lawmakers attending the various ALEC events. At those events the same “sponsors” wine and dine the legislators with additional funds. This “Scholarship” scheme allows corporations to directly contribute without knowing specifically which lawmaker their “contribution” benefited.

VLTP has continuously called on activists and ALEC critics to concentrate their efforts upon ALEC FIRST…eliminate the enabler of Koch and their ilk and prevent any more “model bills” coming forth from ALEC before going after the brothers Koch. This energy issue demonstrates once again that all of this horrible, single ideological designed legislation emanates from ALEC and will continue to be introduced in our state legislatures until they are stopped. First stand your ground, now energy…and many seem to have forgotten that voter suppression, voter ID, SB 1070 and dozens of other single issue “bills”…originated within ALEC and will continue to do so until they are shut down entirely. Once that is done, the Koch cabal can “wish in one hand and”…well you know the rest of that saying.

Now is the time to put the pressure upon your state lawmakers, favorite companies and others to withdraw from ALEC if members, and help encourage others to quit if they aren’t. Write to your congressmen and women and ask them to investigate ALEC for their lobbying and involvement in crafting state laws. Encourage the IRS to continue to investigate ALEC’s non-profit filing status to help us shut them down.

With the continuing loss of corporate memberships (which currently provide ALEC with more than 90% of their annual income), ALEC has had to begin cutting corners. Their usual three day events have begun lasting only two days…four day events three or less, etc. Less money available to pay for lawmaker attendance results in fewer Legislators attending each of ALEC’s functions. At every event protesters and activists now attend and demonstrate against ALEC and their lobbying our lawmakers and ask companies to leave them.

We can only hope the exodus continues and other companies, corporations, foundations and non-profits we have been asking to leave ALEC will finally do just that. Outfits such as: State Farm Insurance, PhRMA, AT&T, Eli Lilly, Chamber of Commerce…and hundreds of others.

Once ALEC ceases to exist as a bill mill proposing legislation for radical conservative ideologies. we can then truly concentrate on going after the giant financials funding those efforts…and the hired gun non-profits doing their work…like the Koch family foundations and their controlled organizations: Americans For Prosperity, the Institute for Humane Studies, Heritage Foundation, Cato Institute, Citizens for a Sound Economy, Institute for Justice, George Mason University (provides free seminars for teaching judges), Foundation for Research on Economics and the Environment (FREE – also provides all expense paid seminars for judges and state officials), Federalist Society, Reason Foundation and dozens of others.

Of all the organizations, foundations, institutes and non-profits owned, directed and/or funded by the Kochs, ALEC provides some of the best returns for brothers Charles and David by giving them a way to make their brand of free-market fundamentalism legally binding. Help us close this important avenue to the Koch’s and their huge cabal.

ALEC’s days of hiding in the shadows are long gone. We all now know who they are, what they are and why they are such a danger to our way of democracy…and that they are owned lock, stock and law by the Koch brothers.

New Reports Expose a Hidden Conservative “Cabal” Masquerading as Think Tanks

New Reports Expose a Hidden Conservative “Cabal” Masquerading as Think Tanks

An Analysis by Bob Sloan

ALECExtremeRightWingCPS2001The above graphic charts the relationship(s) between dozens of extreme right-wing organizations, foundations, institutes, conservative owned companies and wealthy individuals working together to advance a pro-conservative agenda against a majority of Americans.  I used this graphic in May of 2011 in an effort of exposing the formation of a secretive “Cabal” dedicated to changing the way our democracy works.  Now other sources have revealed – and corroborate – the existence of such a cabal is in fact true…

Yesterday twelve new reports were jointly announced by CMD and ProgressNow research groups in a press release.  The findings of these comprehensive reports expose the involvement of a nefarious network operating under the umbrella of the State Policy Network (SPN), an $83 million web of right-wing “think tanks” embedded in every state across the country.  This network, operating under guidance from the Koch brothers, Charles and David, is responsible for many “spin-off” organizations and groups such as American’s for Prosperity, American’s for Tax Reform and the Tea Party.  Through their joint efforts our public school systems, healthcare, rights to vote, tort “reforms” and other key initiatives are funded and the conservative position on each advanced.  In effect this is a highly organized and influential network used to advance a political agenda expressing only one point of view.  Additionally nearly every member of this Cabal operates as a non-profit entity with tax exempt status, allowing the millions spent to be recouped as tax deductible “contributions” and/or operations. The goal sought is to allow a minority to gain and exert control and power over the majority.

For three plus years now VLTP, CMD and several other research groups have reported that through the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the Koch brothers along with well known affluent and influential “families” such as the Waltons, (WalMart), Coors, Scaifes, DeVos’  and Bradleys have funded numerous organizations, institutes, think tanks and foundations to coordinate and advance a RW agenda against American workers, consumers and voters.  I have continuously referred to this network as “the Cabal”.  Websters defines a cabal thus: 

“1 :  the artifices and intrigues of a group of persons secretly united in a plot (as to overturn a government); also :  a group engaged in such artifices and intrigues”

Wikipedia provides perhaps the best description of a cabal – and it precisely describes this heretofore secret network…

“A cabal is a group of people united in some close design together, usually to promote their private views or interests in a churchstate, or other community, often by intrigue. Cabals are sometimes secret societies composed of a few designing persons, and at other times are manifestations of emergent behavior in society or governance on the part of a community of persons who have well established public affiliation or kinship. The term can also be used to refer to the designs of such persons or to the practical consequences of their emergent behavior, and also holds a general meaning of intrigue and conspiracy. The use of this term usually carries strong connotations of shadowy corners, back rooms and insidious influence. The term is frequently used in conspiracy theories…”

The founder of ALEC, Heritage Foundation, the Free Congress Foundation and co-founder of Christian Voice and the Moral Majority was Paul Weyrich who used initial funding provided by the Coors family to launch those RW organizations.  Previously we reported on Weyrich’s “manifesto” (written by Eric Heubeck) that was published by Weyrich’s Free Congress Foundation in 2001, titled; The Integration of Theory and Practice: A Program for the New Traditionalist Movement.  This document provides a literal written road map used by ultra-Conservatives to subvert democracy and wrest it from the hands of Americans.

A read of this disgusting but important document reveals that this is indeed the path used over the past 13 years that has totally changed the political atmosphere of the U.S. Prophetically, Heubeck and Weyrich describe their methodology as “dominionism”:

“According to TheocracyWatch, and the Anti-Defamation League, both Weyrich and his Free Congress Foundation were closely associated with Dominionism.[22][23]TheocracyWatch listed both as leading examples of “dominionism in action,” citing “a manifesto from Paul Weyrich’s Free Congress Foundation”, The Integration of Theory and Practice: A Program for the New Traditionalist Movement[24] “illuminates the tactics of the dominionist movement”.[22] TheocracyWatch, which calls it ‘Paul Weyrich’s Training Manual’ and others consider this manifesto a virtual playbook for how the “theocratic right” in American politics can get and keep power.[25] The Anti-Defamation League identified Weyrich and the Free Congress Foundation as part of an alliance of more than 50 of the most prominent conservative Christian leaders and organizations that threaten the separation of church and state.[23] Weyrich continued to reject allegations that he advocated theocracy, saying, “[T]his statement is breathtaking in its bigotry”,[26] and dismissed the claim that the Christian right wished to transform America into a theocracy.[27]Katherine Yurica wrote that Weyrich guided Eric Heubeck in writing The Integration of Theory and Practice, the Free Congress Foundation‘s strategic plan published in 2001 by the FCF,[28] which she says calls for the use of deception, misinformation and divisiveness to allow conservative evangelical Christian Republicans to gain and keep control of seats of power in the government of the United States.”

The above treatise has been more successful than even Weyrich could have predicted.  Today two key ALEC alumni sit atop the pinnacle of our House of Representatives – Speaker John Boehner and House Majority Leader, Eric Cantor.  From positions of nearly unlimited legislative power, these two men ensure that the wishes of the Cabal are carried out at the federal level.  Another 80 members of the House of Representatives are also ALEC alumni – as are 11 U,S, Senators.  We see the guidance of the Cabal in the behavior of ALEC affiliated lawmakers today on key initiatives: Senators – James Inhofe, Michael Enzi (R-WY), Deb Fischer (R-NE), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), James Inhofe (R-OK), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Jerry Moran (R-KS),Jim Risch (R-ID), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Richard Shelby (R-AL) and Roger Wicker (R-MS).  Many of these Senators appear in the media daily, sent out to speak on behalf of the Cabal for or against issues important to Americans; healthcare, voter suppression, right to work, privatization of public schools and dozens more.  They represent the true face of disinformation. Nationally ALEC’s membership of elected state lawmakers number nearly 2,000 today and are used to disseminate legislation written and then pursued by the Cabal state by state.  Over the past decade or so ALEC’s influence has spread from states through the federal level and internationally to foreign governments.  Currently ALEC has more than 18 foreign elected officials holding full membership and sitting down alongside corporate representatives and state lawmakers to help craft legislation that later becomes the law in many U.S. states. Other devoted alumni now hold positions as Governors of many states: Ohio (Kasich), Wisconsin (Walker), Arizona (Brewer) and many former Governors were also alumni or acolytes of ALEC and the cabal, as reported in ALEC Alumni data compiled in 2002 :

Michigan Governor John Engler 1993 Thomas Jefferson Freedom Award Recipient Louisiana Governor Mike Foster Wyoming Governor Jim Geringer Arizona Governor Jane Dee Hull Oklahoma Governor Frank Keating 2000 Thomas Jefferson Freedom Award Recipient Colorado Governor Bill Owens New York Governor George Pataki Connecticut Governor John Rowland Past Governors Idaho Governor Phil Batt South Carolina Governor David Beasley Iowa Governor Terry Branstad ALEC Founding Member/1996 ALEC Pioneer Award Minnesota Governor Arne Carlson Illinois Governor Jim Edgar

This alumni list reveals that the first Homeland Security director, Tom Ridge was in fact an ALEC alum – as was Andrew Card who served as the White House chief of staff for the first five years of George W. Bush’s presidency. Additionally, as in Ohio, an active ALEC member, Representative Todd Snitchler was chosen by ALEC alum Governor Kasich as Chairman of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO).  In that capacity Snitchler immediately raised rates for electric power for two of ALEC’s corporate members, American Electric Power (AEP) and Duke Energy – only to have to revoke the rate increases two months later.  Just this week news from Ohio involving PUCO and AEP revealed the Commission refused to negotiate on behalf of an aluminum company with AEP to ease rates and keep the company in business.  Snitchler’s action caused the shuttering of Ormet Corp., an aluminum smelting giant along the Ohio River and the onetime largest customer of American Electric Power. About 1,000 workers — mostly unionized steelworkers — are out of work.  This development comes as no surprise to most after Governor Kasich’s pursuit of anti-union legislation a couple of years ago. Two weeks ago in Nevada, ALEC’s state Chair, Senator Barbara Cegasvke announced she will run for the office of Nevada’s Secretary of State in next year’s election.  With appointments and election wins through the backing of the Cabal, it now has a sprinkling of hundreds of alumni or members serving as lawmakers, holding key cabinet positions, chairmanships of state departments and agencies.  Each of these individuals pursue the mandates of the Cabal with regard to education, energy, state and federal regulations and contribute to the continued successes of this network.

Kudos to the hard work, research and connecting of the dots by CMD and ProgressNow’s team of researchers.  I know this report took a substantial amount of effort to ferret out the connections, track the exchange of money through tax exempt contributions and donations.  What their work reveals – quite clearly now – is that in America a truly “shadow government” operated by a minority faction is secretly operating at all levels.  Due to it’s secrecy this Cabal has enjoyed success after success  for two or more decades without the public ever knowing of it’s existence. Now that this existence has been made public, I hope American’s will realize how they have been duped by Cabal owned media outlets into accepting this network’s deception and misinformation as fact – and will take the steps necessary in their communities and at the polls to free us all from their talon-like grip.  The CMD/ProgressNow report findings clearly show the efforts of this network to permanently change important programs to all of us; education, healthcare, social security, medicare and operations such as the USPS – in search of control and through that control, enrichment of the families at the top of the SPN “food chain”.

New EPI Report Documents A Legislative Attack on American Wages and Labor Standards, 2011–2012

New EPI Report Documents A Legislative Attack on American Wages and Labor Standards, 2011–2012

A new report from The Economic Policy Institute (EPI), By Gordon Lafer | was published October 31, 2013.  It fully connects all the dots between the players involved in attacking the wages and labor standards of America’s workers – union and non-union.  It identifies the laws written, the authors of those laws and those who profit from such initiatives.

Couched as a response to difficult fiscal conditions, Republican governors and Republican-led state legislatures – many of them in battleground states — have been working hard at eviscerating the rights of public employees. Public workers, however, aren’t the only target of wealthy right-wing funders, major corporate lobbies, and corporate-funded lobbying organizations; non-union and private sector workers are also seen as fair game.

As expected, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is playing a prominent role in an anti-labor coalition whose agenda is moving along at breakneck speed.

The assault on workers’ rights have multiplied in the past few years. In addition to Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s anti-union assault, “collective bargaining rights were eliminated for Tennessee schoolteachers, Oklahoma municipal employees, graduate student research assistants in Michigan, and farm workers and child care providers in Maine,” according to this Economic Policy Institute report written by Gordon Lafer.

The intro to this report begins:

“Over the past two years, state legislators across the country have launched an unprecedented series of initiatives aimed at lowering labor standards, weakening unions, and eroding workplace protections for both union and non-union workers. This policy agenda undercuts the ability of low- and middle-wage workers, both union and non-union, to earn a decent wage.

“This report provides a broad overview of the attack on wages, labor standards, and workplace protections as it has been advanced in state legislatures across the country. Specifically, the report seeks to illuminate the agenda to undermine wages and labor standards being advanced for non-union Americans in order to understand how this fits with the far better-publicized assaults on the rights of unionized employees. By documenting the similarities in how analogous bills have been advanced in multiple states, the report establishes the extent to which legislation emanates not from state officials responding to local economic conditions, but from an economic and policy agenda fueled by national corporate lobbies that aim to lower wages and labor standards across the country…”

When reading this in-depth and well documented expose, it doesn’t take long  before the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is brought into the discussion:

“This push to erode labor standards, undercut wages, and undermine unions has been advanced by policymakers pursuing a misguided economic agenda working in tandem with the major corporate lobbies. The report highlights legislation authored or supported by major corporate lobbies such as the Chamber of Commerce, National Federation of Independent Business, and National Association of Manufacturers—and by corporate-funded lobbying organizations such as the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), Americans for Tax Reform, and Americans for Prosperity—in order to draw the clearest possible picture of the legislative and economic policy agenda of the country’s most powerful economic actors. To make the most clear-eyed decisions in charting future policy directions, it is critical to understand how the various parts of these organizations’ agenda fit together, and where they ultimately lead.

“This report begins by examining the recent offensive aimed at public-sector unions in order to point out the tactics commonly employed by corporate lobbies such as ALEC and the Chamber of Commerce; it establishes that their agenda is driven by political strategies rather than fiscal necessities. The paper then examines the details of this agenda with respect to unionized public employees, non-unionized public employees, and unionized private-sector workers. Finally, the bulk of the report details the corporate-backed agenda for non-union, private-sector workers as concerns the minimum wage, wage theft, child labor, overtime, misclassification of employees as independent contractors, sick leave, workplace safety standards, meal breaks, employment discrimination, and unemployment insurance.”

How successful has this cabal been?:

“Michigan and Pennsylvania both created ’emergency financial managers’ authorized to void union contracts. New Jersey and Minnesota’s legislatures both voted to limit public employees’ ability to bargain over health care. Ohio legislators adopted a law — later overturned by citizen referendum — largely imitating Wisconsin’s, prohibiting employees from bargaining over anything but wages, outlawing strikes, and doing away with the practice of binding arbitration. … Indiana, which had already eliminated most collective bargaining rights for state employees in 2006, adopted new legislation that prohibits even voluntary agreements with state employee unions.”

All of the Koch network members including; Chamber of Commerce, Federation of Independent Businesses, the Koch brothers–backed American’s For Prosperity, Americans for Tax Reform, the National Association of Manufacturers and of course ALEC are identified as “major corporate lobbies” (players) supporting these attacks upon workers and wages.  

When researchers look to similar attacks upon public education, advocating charter schools, vouchers and private academies…to the efforts of suppressing voters through voter ID and similar legislation…efforts of establishing state sovereignty to seek taking back federally owned land by states…and election gerrymandering – at the core of each  sits the same actors, funded by the likes of the Koch brothers and using ALEC to write model bills advancing each of these agendas.  

All of this is fueled by the same corporations, lobbyists and foundations.  The “foundations” (Mackinac Center, Heritage Foundation, Heartland Institute, Pacific Research Institute and dozens more) receive Koch funding and are controlled by the cabal.  They dutifully issue position papers in support of these pursuits advanced by a conservative minority.  Corporate owned and controlled media outlets are then used to trumpet these ALEC initiatives to the public and – more importantly – voters as necessary and supported by a majority of “Americans.”

Legislation is how all of these efforts are advanced state-by-state and it is only through ALEC that a coordinated and swiftly moving legislative agenda can be disseminated and accomplished.  Without ALEC the corporations, businesses, owners and their “associations,” “federations” and “foundations” could not succeed.

What one learns from the EPI report is that though much of ALEC’s concentration appears to be “aimed directly at the heart of organized labor (unions), ALL American workers are under steady attack.  The report establishes similarities in how analogous bills have been advanced in multiple states and the extent to which legislation emanates not from state officials responding to local economic conditions, but from an economic and policy agenda fueled by national corporate lobbies that aim to lower wages and labor standards across the country and targets all labor.”

The report also establishes that “Virtually all of the initiatives described in this report — including forced privatization, ‘right to work,’ and abolishing minimum-wage and prevailing-wage laws — reflect model statutes developed by ALEC and promoted through its network. This dimension of ALEC’s work is not aimed at immediately enhancing specific donors’ revenues, but at reshaping the fundamental balance of power between workers and employers.”

Please take the time read the full, enlightening and ultra-important EPI report completely -> 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…

 

ALEC Cabal News, Articles and Material for the week of July 22 – 29th

ALEC Cabal News, Articles and Material for the week of July 22 – 29th

by Bob Sloan

Much ALEC news this week as activists and organizations gear up to take on ALEC in Chicago – the city of ALEC’s “Birth” in 1973…Click on a headline to read the full article.

Dick Durbin to Hold Senate Hearings on ALEC, the NRA, and “Stand Your Ground”

Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) announced Friday that he will hold hearings this fall on the role of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the NRA in spreading “Stand Your Ground” laws across the country, which the Center for Media and Democracy uncovered last year, after launching ALECexposed.org.

Sen. Durbin’s Senate Judiciary subcommittee will hear testimony on the NRA-backed legislation, which has become law in over two dozen states since being adopted as a “model” by ALEC in 2005.

The announcement comes six days after George Zimmerman was acquitted in the killing of Trayvon Martin. Florida’s Stand Your Ground law was initially cited to protect Zimmerman from arrest, and the jury was instructed to consider Stand Your Ground when deciding his fate, even though the defense did not request a ruling under the law’s criminal immunity provisions. The one juror who has spoken publicly said that the state’s Stand Your Ground law influenced their decision to acquit. As CMD’s Executive Director Lisa Graveshas documented, the NRA played a key role in approving those jury instructions, in addition to helping initially draft the Stand Your Ground law and taking it to ALEC to become a “model” for the nation.

Koch-Funded Climate Contrarians Make Mischief on Capitol Hill

With Congress about to head out of town for its summer recess, a Washington-based think tank is ramping up a campaign to foil any attempts to institute a tax on carbon emissions,The Hill, a Washington political trade publication, reported this week.

“We’re hoping to put the final nail in the coffin of the carbon tax,” said Benjamin Cole, the communications director for the Institute for Energy Research (IER) and its advocacy arm, the American Energy Alliance (AEA). “The proposal should be dead on arrival by the time lawmakers come back from August recess.”

Over the last decade or so, IER and AEA have received hundreds of thousands of dollars from ExxonMobil; the American Petroleum Institute (API), the oil and gas industry’s trade association; the Center to Protect Patient Rights, a secretive nonprofit group linked to Charles Koch and his brother David, the billionaire owners of the coal, oil and gas behemoth Koch Industries; and the Charles Koch-controlled Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation, one of a handful of Koch family funds.

Top IER-AEA officials also are well-entrenched members of the Koch brothers’ climate change contrarian network. IER and AEA President Thomas Pyle, for example, is a former lobbyist for Koch Industries and the National Petrochemical and Refiners Association. IER and AEA Director of Regulatory and State Affairs Daniel Simmons, meanwhile, worked for the API-, ExxonMobil- and Koch-funded American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a stealthy lobby group that has been trying to repeal state standards requiring electric utilities to use more renewable energy. Before his stint as director of ALEC’s Natural Resources Task Force, Simmons was a research fellow at the Koch-founded and funded Mercatus Center at George Mason University.

Not to be outdone, IER founder and CEO Robert L. Bradley, Jr. — a former public policy analysis director at the now-defunct Enron Corp. — is an adjunct scholar at the Koch-founded and funded Cato Institute and the API- and Koch-funded Competitive Enterprise Institute. He also has been a featured speaker at the API- and Koch-funded Heartland Institute’s annual climate science-bashing conference, and is a member of the academic review committee at the Koch-funded Institute for Humane Studies at George Mason. The Institute for Humane Studies’ chairman, I should add, is Charles Koch.

New Normal Growth, Or A New Social Contract

…For starters, this includes opposing the attacks on collective bargaining rights, particularly in the 27 right-to-work-states mainly in the Midwest and South that also oppose unions that support collective bargaining. Austerians should also oppose wealth-limiting legislation put out by ALEC, or the American Legislative Exchange Council, such as privatizing public education, limiting voter rights, as well as legislation that severely reduces corporate regulation and taxation, which has given Big Business even more leverage over their employees welfare and standard of living.

So there is a lesson to be learned here. Any social contract requires a quid pro quo to survive. If corporations and Big Business wish to limit government reach and spending, they will have to tolerate higher wages and living standards for their workers. Otherwise, we know from past history–even current history–what happens when a social contract is broken.

The Gunshine State

When it comes to lax gun laws and frequent gun violence, Florida is an epidemic in itself. Editorialists, op?ed writers and journalists in the state’s own newspapers regularly mock it as the “Gunshine State.” The sarcastic phrase is a verbal play on Florida’s official nickname, “The Sunshine State,” adopted by the state legislature in 1970. The mockery is well earned. The state’s compliant legislature has been used for several decades as a Petri dish by the gun-mad scientists of the NRA’s lobbying arm, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA).

Some have shrugged and concluded that Florida’s inert citizenry gets the kind of weak gun laws it deserves. But these virulent ideas — from Florida’s pioneering “shall issue” concealed-carry- permit law to the misshapen monster twins of its “castle doctrine” and “stand your ground” laws — have been injected into the veins of scores of other state legislatures all over the country. The NRA, packaging its poison in the back rooms of a slick and well-funded network of right-wing legislators known as ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, has already pushed two great waves of ill-advised and poorly considered legislation into American life. The first was a nationwide weakening of state concealed-carry laws; the second, a combination of the “shoot first” castle doctrine and the “shoot anywhere” stand-your-ground laws. 

Dark clouds of yesteryear return to threaten right to vote

Only the civil rights revolution of the 1960s, capped off by the broad federally enforced protections of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, finally brought justice. “The arc of the moral universe,” Martin Luther King Jr. could assert, “is long, but it bends toward justice.”

Yet today that justice — the right of free and full access to the ballot box for Americans, regardless of race, class, wealth or status — is again in doubt.

Almost immediately after the Supreme Court’s recent decision gutting major portions of the Voting Rights Act, six states of the old Confederacy — Texas, Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, South Carolina and Virginia — moved quickly to impose voter photo ID and other restrictive voting requirements to which the Justice Department had taken exception.

The argument for voter IDs is that states must guard against impersonation and other flagrant voter fraud. But repeated studies show those offenses are so minuscule that they border on the nonexistent. The real reason for the new voter ID laws is no mystery. It’s a deliberate effort to reduce voting by minorities, students and low-income citizens — constituencies deemed likely to vote for liberal candidates.

Today’s voter suppression effort originated with ALEC (the American Legislative Exchange Council), an organization backed by the billionaire Koch brothers and major corporate interests. And now it’s being pushed by a Republican Party that seems turned 180 degrees from its 19th-century birth as the agent of liberty and the franchise for African-Americans.

Alarmingly, I see the historic march to a liberated, rights-for-all voting order in America that inspired so many of us in the civil rights era being deliberately sabotaged for partisan, economic and ideological motives.

Exposing Arizona’s Political Corruption

The Arizona Advocacy Network Foundation has added several more dates and locations for this presentation. http://www.azadvocacy.org/forums-a-events/upcoming-event-details

ALEC

WHAT: Join Arizona Advocacy Network Foundation to expose how lobbyists and Big Money buy favor with officials at the our expense. We begin with a special showing of Bill Moyers’ United States of ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council), exposing how Big Money uses campaign cash and freebies to buy access to OUR tax dollars for greater profit at the expense of jobs and voter priorities. We then highlight important bills being voted on by the legislature and Congress on Clean Elections, other political anti-corruption/conflict of interests bills, voting rights and election administration. Learn more about our March 18, 2013 U.S. Supreme Court hearing to defend every eligible citizen’s right to register to vote without the barriers Arizona politicians keep in place.

ALEC Determined to Spread For-Profit Education Nationwide

Schools nation-wide are considering bills promoting for-profit education, designed by corporate bill mill, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). According to The Center for Media and Democracy (CMD), at least 139 ALEC-designed bills have been introduced across 43 states just within the last 6 months. Of those, 31 have become law.

The CMD report, “Cashing in on Kids,” states that programs designed to divert taxpayer money from public schools to private and religious schools have been spreading across the country for over two decades. Milwaukee became the first U.S. city to implement a school voucher program in 1990, under then-governor Tommy Thompson, who was closely involved with ALEC.

“For-profit schools in Wisconsin now receive up to $6,442 per voucher student, and by the end of the next school year taxpayers in the state will have transferred an estimated $1.8 billion to for-profit, religious, and online schools,” the report states.

This Land is your Land, this Land is Gas Land

The Obama Administration has proposed new regulations for hydraulic fracturing on 756 million acres of public and tribal lands. The rules were written by the drilling industry and will be streamlined into effect by a new intergovernmental taskforce established by the president, to promote fracking — a practice that has been linked to water poisoning, air pollution, methane emissions and, most recently, earthquakes.

White House visitor logs show the president’s top adviser on energy and climate, Heather Zichal, met with the American Petroleum Institute, the Independent Petroleum Association of America and other industry groups 20 times last year in the run up to the rules proposal. They were further honed to industry specifications in a series of meetings between the oil and gas lobby and the White House Office of Budget Management, and are based on a piece of model legislation authored by Exxon for the American Legislative Exchange Council.

Under the rules, drillers will report chemicals used in fracking to an industry run site, FracFocus.org, already used in Pennsylvania and other states. The disclosures won’t need to be made until after a well is fracked. Nor will they be vetted for accuracy. Certain chemicals won’t even be disclosed at all, since they constitute alleged trade secrets. Furthermore, the rules would sanction drilling in close proximity to homes and schools, as well as allow wastewater — the toxic byproduct the of fracking — to be stored in open, outdoor pits. 

The impacts of privatizing the turnpike

“We are privatizing ourselves into one disaster after another,” veteran journalist Ted Koppel said recently on NPR. “We’ve privatized a lot of what our military is doing. We’ve privatized a lot of what our intelligence agencies are doing. We’ve privatized our very prison system in many parts of the country. We’re privatizing the health system within those prisons. And it’s not working well.”

The privateers have an army of contractors, consultants, think tanks (with the Reason Foundation in the lead) and lobbyists. In particular, they see the country’s huge aging transportation infrastructure as a great money-making opportunity. Our roads and bridges are crumbling, and traffic congestion is widespread. The federal highway trust fund is running out of money.

This is a “public-private partnership,” or P3, which is a concept pushed by an infrastructure-industrial complex composed of global construction corporations, investment banks, private-equity firms and elite law firms organized as vertically integrated consortiums. The influential American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has pushed “model legislation” for P3s in statehouses across the nation. 

Voter ID: How did we get here? Part I

…We’re just going to assume Pennsylvania state Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (D-Butler) was thinking of the founders when he introduced his Voter ID legislation in 2011, using that specific aerial section of the Constitution as justification.

“Currently in Pennsylvania, it’s impossible to board a commercial airplane, cash a paycheck, operate a motor vehicle or even purchase season passes to a neighborhood swimming pool…without displaying a valid photo ID,” he wrote on his website upon introducing House Bill 934, the Pennsylvania Voter Identification and Protection Act, in 2011.

His bill would require all commonwealth citizens to show a state-issued ID at their respective polling places come election day.

The Pennsylvania legislation, modeled on an Indiana law passed in 2005 and pushed forward by the American Legislative Exchange Council, had a high price tag. And not just because it was a waste of everyone’s time as Pennsylvania’s full-time Legislature earned their hefty full-time paychecks.

 Gerald Meier: It’s government by and for the few in Wisconsin

Dear Editor: Our forefathers established a democracy so we would have a government of the people, by the people and for the people. What we have now is a government of the few, by the few and for the few, and this is not only true in Washington, but unfortunately, especially true here in Wisconsin. We do not have a state Legislature but a Midwestern branch of the Koch brothers-influenced American Legislative Exchange Council. If you read their wish list, it sounds much like Wisconsin’s budget. It must be great for them that what they spent in Wisconsin is working out so well.

We should respect the Kochs, as they made their billions the good old-fashioned way; they inherited it from their oil baron father. Who can blame them for wanting to keep as much of it as possible? Fortunately for us, they have chosen to dole out some of their vast fortune to our governor and his chosen legislators. These are great times for the “few brothers.”

George Zimmerman, off the hook

http://vimeo.com/fiorecartoons/george-zimmerman-off-the-hook to watch a video on stand your ground and ALEC…

The George Zimmerman trial was about much more than race.  In fact, while everyone was talking about racial issues surrounding the death of Trayvon Martin, the jury was guided by metastasizing Stand-Your-Ground laws.  You need look no further than the jury instructions to find the power of the NRA and ALEC.

The defense in the Zimmerman trial was able to put the burden of proof on the victim, Trayvon Martin.  The question became, what had this unarmed teenager done to scare an armed man who was following him, not, why did the armed man follow and kill the unarmed teen?  The guy with the gun had more legal protections than the unarmed kid.  What would happen if we expanded these gun rights even further?  That’s where Shoot-em-up Charlie comes in.

If you dig a little deeper, you’ll find there are cases that are even more awful than the Zimmerman case.  While Shoot-em-up Charlie takes the lead on this cartoon, stick around at the end to listen to a truly disturbing 911 call from a man about to put these new laws into action.

Be sure to comment, like, share and do all that good social media stuff so more people can see this cartoon and we’ll continue to have a discussion about these ridiculous laws.

‘Stand Your Ground’ group pushes privatization of public education

The group behind “Stand Your Ground” laws in a number of states has been mighty busy working to get laws passed in the area of school reform — and the aim has been the privatization of public education.

That group is the American Legislative Exchange Council, better known as ALEC, which likes to call itself a “nonpartisan public-private partnership” but is actually a corporate-backed enterprise that writes “model legislation” that its membership of nearly 2,000 conservative legislators use in states to pass laws that promote privatization in every part of American life: education, health care, the environment, the economy, etc.

Bill Moyers, in a program called “United States of ALEC,”  “the most influential corporate-funded political force most of America has never heard of,” one with a “vast network of corporate lobbying and political action aimed to increase corporate profits at public expense without public knowledge.”

SCOTUS v. the Right to Vote: Three Strikes, but We’re Not Out

“Supreme Court Shreds Key Provision of the Voting Rights Act” was a typical news headline June 26, this one from the National Journal. According to Vermont’s Patrick Leahy, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, the court’s decision in the case known as Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder, Attorney General, et al. “effectively struck down the core” of the law. [1] “Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act has protected minorities of all races from discriminatory practices in voting for nearly 50 years,” Leahy explained, “yet the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the coverage formula effectively guts the ability of Section 5 to protect voters from discriminatory practices.” Rep. John Lewis said the court’s decision “put a dagger in the heart” of the Voting Rights Act (VRA). The 5-4 decision has been widely condemned, but undoing the damage anytime soon will be difficult.

Even so, an earlier and less well-known Supreme Court decision competes with these two for the damage it has done to electoral democracy. The Court’s 2008 ruling in Crawford v. Marion County Election Board upheld a restrictive Indiana voter ID law. This cleared the way for a flood of state laws making it harder for many low-income and minority citizens to vote. Widely promoted by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a right-wing think tank that produces “model” legislation for state legislatures, ID requirements and other restrictive voting laws plagued the 2012 elections in more than 30 states.

Point Austin: United Defense of the Fetus

Early in last Friday’s Senate debate over the anti-abortion bill (HB 2), the bill’s sponsor, Katy Republican Glenn Hegar (author of the Senate companion), was asked if anyone or “any organization” had asked him to file his bill. Hegar said no, that he had authored the bill on his own, and that he doesn’t look to anyone “outside the Senate” when drafting legislation. It was a predictable question and an equally predictable answer. The question raises the specter of undue outside influence, and unless it’s their direct constituents, legislators do not want to be seen as taking direction from lobbyists or special interest organizations.

Yet it doesn’t take great insight to connect the dots from Hegar’s bill and its House counterpart, carried by Rep. Jodie Laubenberg, R-Parker, to the national organizations that have been promoting – indeed, drafting – this kind of legislation for legislatures across the country. Similar bills have been filed or passed in Indiana, North Dakota, North Carolina, Wisconsin, etc. According to Bloomberg Businessweek (July 11), “In the first six months of 2013, 17 states passed a total of 45 new restrictions on abortion.”

The most notorious national “bill mill” is the corporate-driven American Legislative Exchange Council, which specializes in conservative economic legislation – Lauben­berg, in no coincidence, is the Texas ALEC chair. In the past, ALEC occasionally promoted anti-abortion legislation, but now largely leaves that task to AUL. AUL annually issues a massive manual, Defending Life, filled with tendentious “scholarship” purporting to document such dubious notions as “fetal pain” before viability (the presumed justification for the 20-week abortion limit) and the repeatedly discredited connection between abortions and breast cancer that remains part of the Texas “Woman’s Right to Know” pamphlet that must be provided by clinics to women seeking abortion. AUL also ranks states according to their success in restricting abortion; before last week’s ramrodding of HB 2, Texas was 14th, so we can presume Gov. Perry can wave a higher ranking in his next failed presidential primary campaign.

 

 

Activists, Union Workers and Chicagoan’s Prepare for ALEC’s August Conference

Activists, Union Workers and Chicagoan’s Prepare for ALEC’s August Conference

by Bob Sloan

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) plans to celebrate their 40th birthday from August 7th to the 9th this year.  A big event for this predominantly conservative organization, to be sure.  The birthday bash coincides with ALEC’s Annual Meeting – one of several key events held annually where corporate prepared legislation is introduced to more than 2,000 state lawmakers to be carried back to their home turf and introduced as proposed new laws.

This year the ALEC Annual Meeting will differ from 37 of the previous 39 such meetings as activists, American workers, protesters and Anarchists are preparing a rousing “welcome” for ALEC’s members – corporate and legislative – when they arrive in Chicago.  Similar protests and rallies against ALEC have marked each of their yearly events since April 2011 when a small group of students and liberal activists held the very first Anti-ALEC protest in Cincinnati.  Following that protest a whistleblower came forward and released hundreds of secret ALEC documents and proposed “model legislation” to the Center for Media and Democracy.  CMD launched “ALEC Exposed” at PRWatch and published the documents for American’s to read, evaluate and discuss.  As more and more citizens became aware of ALEC, the groundswell of anger over such manipulation of our daily lives by a corporate “charity” grew…as did the number of protests.

Following Cincy, protesters and activists followed ALEC to New Orleans for the next meeting…then to Phoenix, Charlotte, Salt Lake City, Oklahoma City and now they’re preparing for Chicago and perhaps the largest turnout of protesters yet.  The growth of ALEC protesters has grown in part due to the involvement of America’s workers – union and non-union – who continue to suffer job losses and lack of available jobs due to ALEC’s pursuits of Right To Work (for less) and other initiatives to abolish organized labor or diminish their voices.  In Oklahoma this spring, the AFLCIO and Teamsters organized the ALEC protest and are again at the front in Chicago.  Their involvement and reporting on ALEC’s non union activities has attracted other strong unions such as AFSCME to participate in the Windy City protest.

At each subsequent ALEC event, the numbers of protesters have grown as more and more has become known about ALEC and their activities.  The public has become knowledgeable about some of the more oppressive laws beneficial to corporate interests disseminated by ALEC and passed through lobbying and campaign contributions from ALEC’s corporate membership.  These include such laws and initiatives as; Right To Work, voter ID legislation and suppression, stand your ground (Trayvon Martin), privatization of public schools, vouchers and “virtual” education (all of which benefit one or more of ALEC’s corporate members) and tort reforms that limit the ability of consumers to recover damages from malpractice or product related injury (such as cancer and illness from asbestos contamination).

Occupy Wall Street and other Occupy groups have also joined the ranks of those opposing ALEC, calling for Americans to turn-out and protest in Chicago.  Through it all, ALEC has maintained a staunch “fuck you” stance against all who oppose them and their agenda by continuing to advocate for corporate interests over the rights of Americans.  They enlisted the help of other right-wing think tanks in an attempt to deflect some of the bad publicity about them and more recently have attempted to avoid referring to themselves and their members as “ALEC” by requesting that the organization now be called the “Exchange Council” to avoid the stigma that has attached to “ALEC” since 2011.

ALEC decided to hold this bash in Chicago where the IRS Exempt 501 (c)(3) “charity” was born in 1973, formed by several disgruntled conservative Republicans looking for a way to change the course of the Republican party and eventually the path of the United States to one of conservative principles; limited government, free markets, individual liberty and federalism at the state level.  As with most terminology used by ALEC’s wordsmiths, the definition of these terms to ALEC supporters is far different than what one would find in Websters.  By founding ALEC as a “Charity” it has allowed ALEC to amass tens of millions of dollars to use in legislative efforts – without declaring or paying any taxes on those millions.  Further it allows individuals and corporate interests to also deduct their ALEC contributions, given in pursuit of seeking corporate-friendly legislation that fattens their bottom line(s).

Since 2011 there have been three complaints filed with the IRS, asking that agency to investigate ALEC’s use of “charitable” funds to advance legislation and promote lobbying, in violation of the 501 (c)(3) provisions and requesting that the charitable classification be rescinded and the government recover any taxes that should have been paid on money used to lobby and influence legislation.  All of these complaints are now pending and under consideration by the IRS.  VLTP is a complainant in one of those whistleblower complaints and awaits a determination by the IRS on the documents provided in that complaint.

To ALEC, limited government is defined as limiting the government’s ability to regulate actions of corporations, manufacturers or businesses that may cause harm to Americans. Individual liberty is seen as corporate liberty…the ability to operate without government interference at the sacrifice of true individual liberties of Americans.

Free-Markets are those markets controlled by ALEC’s more than 350 large, multinational companies that control specific markets by limiting the abilities of true small businesses to break into existing markets.

Federalism is perceived by ALEC as: “a government closest to the people is fundamentally more effective, more just, and a better guarantor of freedom than the distant, bloated federal government in Washington, D.C.”  In other words, since ALEC has a vast influence over state legislatures through membership and control of governor’s mansions in many states, turn over federal control to the states (and through them, ALEC) to run our country.

ALEC has been hugely successful in many of their hidden initiatives designed to meet their twisted definitions of such terms as federalism and free markets.  As an example we have only to look to the ongoing battles in Wisconsin (Governor Walker, an ALEC alum), Arizona (Governor Brewer and ALEC Alum), Ohio (Governor Kasich an ALEC alum) and South Carolina (Governor Haley another ALEC alum).  In each of these – and several other – states, the ALEC agenda has been pushed down the throat of voters by legislatures controlled by ALEC members and Governors who are members of ALEC’s large alumni pool; repeal of clean energy regulations, eliminating worker rights, lowering wages and attempting to abolish minimum wage, ending collective bargaining, privatizing our schools, prisons and government institutions, making it more difficult for minorities to vote and restricting women’s rights.

For all these reasons, ALEC must be pursued and abolished before our country can begin to heal and return to a form of democratic government on behalf of the people rather than the corporate interests and elite business owners.  Chicago next month is only the “next step” in the process of returning state governments to the will of the people and wrenching power from those who get such power by doing the bidding of their corporate masters through ALEC.

We hope that many readers will turn out for the various rallies and protests in Chicago (Unions planning a large event on August 8th at ALEC’s Palmer House Hotel).  If you are unable to attend, please consider contributing to the efforts of those organizations participating; VLTP, CMD, Common Cause, AFLCIO, AFSCME, PFAW, etc.  Your dollar may be the one that finally breaks ALEC’s stranglehold on our nation…

ALEC: Pursuing Universal Stewardship – Part III: Connecting More Dots Between ALEC and International Politicians

ALEC: Pursuing Universal Stewardship – Part III: Connecting More Dots Between ALEC and International Politicians

Part III –

In the previous article, we traced the relationship between two spiritual founders of the modern conservative movement(s) – former President Ronald Reagan and former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher – and explored the close linkages between the American fundraising mechanisms for the Margaret Thatcher Memorial Library and the indoctrination programs for the Young Britons Foundation.

ALEC has more – and more convoluted – pathways to cover its tracks in the international arena. The United Kingdom isn’t the only country involved with ALEC’s machinations for the same reason that ALEC members are multi-national corporations. Untangling the various threads through and between each and every contact, country and corporation is, putting it mildly, daunting.

One encounters the same names, again and again, on lists of Members of Parliament (British, European and other countries’), speakers at ALEC gatherings, graduates of ALEC-sponsored educational programs and boards of directors for NGO and/or lobbying efforts for various fundraising or legislative efforts for or against measures at the direction of ALEC’s corporate membership. One can disappear down this rabbit-hole and never emerge, because ALEC’s by-laws specify that – American individual members, at least – must officially resign if they are elected to office but the Congressional/lobbyist revolving door ensures that once-a-member-always-a-member because the money is simply too enticing to ignore. ALEC members stay bought and serve ALEC interests whether or not they carry official calling cards.

International ALEC membership is even more problematic for 2 reasons: multinational corporations refuse to acknowledge “citizenship” anywhere because they prefer not to pay taxes to any country. Thus they meddle everywhere, covering their tracks. The second reason is the dual nature of both the United Kingdom and Commonwealth governmental structure – wherein Parliaments separately govern but acknowledge one head of state – as well as the European Union, which does essentially the same on the European continent. The double legal structure provides a maze of byways and loopholes for hiding chicanery such as whether or not ALEC members are registered as foreign agents doing business with government agencies – as lobbyists are required to do.

Here is an abbreviated timeline and description of ALEC international interference:

2002: ALEC establishes the International Freedom Exchange with British members of the European Parliament, the Kyrgyz Republic, representatives from Kosovo, a German think-tank, and other interested parties. The purpose of these talks is to “promote closer working relations between America’s state political leaders and their foreign counterparts.”

chris_heatonharris

Chris Heaton-Harris

2004: Chris Heaton-Harris, British member of the European Parliament, gives a speech in Washington, DC, at the ALEC States and Nation Policy Summit, the gist of which is that Britain doesn’t have an organization like ALEC and desperately needs one. RogerHelmer, also a British MEP, makes a speech at an ALEC function.

2005: Sally McNamara, one of the American organizers for ALEC functions, is named International Relations Project Director, and became a regular columnist for The Bruges Group, a London-based think-tank. She also attended the Heritage Foundation’s conference; “Is the European Union in the Interests of the United States?” Speakers included ChristopherBooker (journalist and editor, UK Daily Telegraph), Judge RobertH.Bork (Distinguished Fellow, Hudson Institute) and The Rt. Hon David Heathcoat-Amory MP (British parliamentarian).

ALEC hosted five conservative legislators from the European Parliament at a roundtable discussion on June 27th. MartinCallanan, ChrisHeaton-Harris, RogerHelmer, DanHannan and Michal Tomasz Kaminski MEPs briefed ALEC members on a range of topics, including REACH, the draft European Constitution and the precautionary principle.

ALEC welcomed Czech Republic MEP, Dr.IvoStrejcek to its 32nd Annual Meeting in Grapevine, Texas. Dr.Strejcek spoke about the importance of the Transatlantic Relationship and the role of legislators in preserving the alliance.

As part of its International Relations Project, ALEC took a group of legislators and private sector members to Strasbourg and Prague to meet with leading members of the European public policy community.

The InstitutoLiberdade, an independent, free market Brazilian think-tank, promoted ALEC’s paper on intellectual property rights and the global agenda.

McNamara at Heritage

McNamara speaking at a Heritage function

(McNamara is a Senior Policy Analyst with the Heritage Foundation and speaks at many events covering international topics: http://fora.tv/2006/12/12/Poland_on_the_Eve_of_Martial_Law.

2006: ALEC launched its international legislators’ membership program in Strasbourg, in October, to register local, regional, national and international legislative members.

july-2006-syed-chris-heaton-harris-mep-and-ivo-strejcek-mep-and-roger-helmer-mep


2006 – Helmer along with other Int. members, holding ALEC Award

ALEC attended its second States and Nation Policy Summit in Washington D.C. in December, with speeches and breakout discussions by Roger Helmer (Member of the European Parliament, UK), Dr. John K. Glenn (Director of Foreign Policy, German Marshall Fund of the United States) and Dr. Boguslaw Winid (Deputy Chief of Mission, Polish Embassy).

ALEC was invited to the opening of the Heritage Foundation’s Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom (February 16). In his speech at the new Center, Dr. Liam Fox MP (UK), lectured on the special relationship between London and Washington.

ALEC held an international relations seminar with BillCash, Member of Parliament (UK), in April. Bill Cash is President of the European Foundation, a London-based think-tank dedicated to Euro-realist policy analysis of European Union issues.

2008 – 2011: ALEC claimed the “right” to be consulted by the United Nations, and to register as an NGO.

ALEC International Relations Task Force inaugurated to attract membership among multinational corporations and trade organizations and to promote their international issues in regard to trade and taxation, the first of which to be addressed were: to urge the Obama Administration to open Free Trade negotiations with Taiwan; to urge the EU to repeal its ban on smokeless tobacco; to “reaffirm” open and reciprocal trade with Canada (by hampering the Buy American and Reinvestment and Recovery Acts); and to establish the ALEC Democracy and Governance Program to “encourage democracy” abroad.

Roger Helmer, MEP, fingered climate change as “bad policy” in an interview with Inside ALEC for the November/December 2010 issue.

ALEC held its International Relations Task Force and Federal Relations Working Group convention in Scottsdale AZ, in December, 2011.

The so-called Atlantic Bridge began to fall apart in 2011, when British MEPs and a few others were investigated for expense irregularities stemming from all the travel back and forth on ALEC’s nickel. This, of course, made a much larger splash in Europe than it did in America. It is also important to note that ALEC’s international infrastructure, including the web of contacts, is intact.

I am deeply and sincerely indebted to Liam Sean McKnight for his tireless research of the European side of ALEC’s interference.  Many of the facts used in this article were found at Liam’s site: http://na-saighneain.com/index.html. Readers researching ALEC’s foreign membership and international agenda should visit this important and document laden site.

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.