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More Controversies at Nevada DOC – Director Cox Resigns

More Controversies at Nevada DOC – Director Cox Resigns

In mid-September Nevada Governor, Brian Sandoval asked for the resignation of Gregg Cox, Director of the state Department of Corrections. The action was taken by the Governor because a report about prisoner shootings and abuses by staff in the state’s prisons was late.

The report completed by the Association of State Correctional Administrators was to be presented by Cox at a Tuesday meeting of the Board of Prison Commissioners, which the Governor is a part of.

The governor felt that it was time to move the department in a new direction,” according to a statement from Gov. Brian Sandoval’s office on the departure of Greg Cox. The corrections department is facing several lawsuits due to prison shootings in the past few years.

One incident at High Desert State Prison left inmate Carlos Manuel Perez Jr. dead. Sources say Perez was handcuffed when he was shot and killed, and accuse prison guards of creating a “gladiator-like scenario” by allowing inmate fights to go on before firing into the fray. It wasn’t revealed until four months afterward that Perez died from gunfire.

Earlier in 2013 Cox’s department came under fire for allowing the DOC’s prison industry program to be used by a private company, Alpine Steel and company owner, Randy Bulloch to use inmate labor – without paying them wages.

Alpine Steel owner, Randy Bulloch

Alpine had been able to avoid paying rent, utilities, inmate or staff labor wages for more than a year, running up a tab of nearly $500,000 – while Deputy Director Brian Connett of the NDOC Prison Industry, (Silver State Industries) – turned a blind eye upon the climbing debt, allowing Bulloch’s steel fabrication operation to continue virtually free of overhead, at taxpayer expense. Connett went so far as to approve Alpines new contract with the NDOC, failing to report the back debt owed while reporting Alpine had fulfilled all requirements under the expiring contract.

The facts surrounding the Alpine case began to emerge in late 2012 when steel companies started protesting to NDOC and legislative authorities arguing they were being unfairly forced to compete against a local company using inmate labor. Business owners asserted they had lost bids on projects and thus were unable to expand their businesses or hire more workers due to interference from Nevada’s prison industry operations.

Governor Sandoval eventually stepped in and ordered the closure of the Alpine operation following those complaints. The challenges centered upon unfair competition by a private company using inmate labor to reduce labor costs and thus underbid complainants for lucrative state and private contracts involving fabricated steel materials.

Alpine quickly paid over $78,000 in back wages owed to inmate workers. The NDOC entered into an agreement with Alpine to repay the state the remaining money owed for staff wages, utilities and lease of prison facilities. Surprisingly the agreement had no provision for Mr. Bulloch to be personally responsible for any of the accrued debt owed.

Within months Bulloch defaulted on the terms of the agreement and the state secured a judgment against Alpine for more than $400,000. Alpine also incurred state and federal tax liens for non-payment of income taxes. These totaled more than an additional $680,000.

The taxpayers have been left holding the bag…. As a result of this I think there is going to be a lot more oversight,” Nevada Assemblyman James Ohrenschall said in an interview on Vegas Inc. September 21, 2013. Mr. Ohrenschall is the former chairman of the Legislature’s Interim Finance Committee on Industrial Programs. At the time of that interview, the IFC Committee was meeting to investigate facts related to Alpine Steel that prompted his concerns.

Unfortunately Mr. Ohrenschall was too optimistic in his assessment of oversight, but his claim of “taxpayers have been left holding the bag” is still accurate. To date the state has been unable or unwilling to pursue collection of the nearly half million dollar debt owed to taxpayers by Bulloch and his company.

Though Bulloch voluntarily surrendered his contracting license to the Nevada Contractors Board in October 2013, saying he was closing down his business…Alpine Steel’a website remains open for business while the company owner continues to avoid paying the state any of the money owed taxpayers under the court ordered judgment. Additionally, along with the Alpine website still showing it is an active business, Mr. Bulloch is now selling structural steel and fabricated components as Hunt Steel, also in Las Vegas. Links to fabrication, etc. on the Alpine site, takes visitors to Bulloch’s Hunt Steel site.

Director Cox managed to retain his position after the Legislature enacted new revisions to existing Nevada law to prevent potential or new industry operators from starting up without posting a surety bond to guarantee payment of leases and utilities owed to the state. Known as Senate bill 478, this law also provides that the public be notified of any potential new prison industry proposals, to date there has been no such notice given to the public or possible competitors though there have been new industries proposed to the Interim Finance Committee on Industrial Programs.

Just prior to Cox taking over as Director in 2011 he was a Deputy Director when the prison industries “wrote off” more than $800,000 in outstanding noncollectable debt owed to the Prison Industry Program. With Alpine’s additional $428,000, Nevada taxpayers have lost more than $1.2 million dollars. The now pending lawsuits against the NDOC, it’s staff and officers, could result in another $1 million or more needed to settle inmate abuse and shooting claims and/or court judgments.

It appears Director Cox avoided one serious controversy involving a lack of transparency only to succumb to another controversy involving transparency before the same Board of Prison Commissioners that again, included Governor Sandoval.

Nevada Prison Industry Administrative Rules Now in Place

Nevada Prison Industry Administrative Rules Now in Place

by Bob Sloan

silver state industries

Following a full year of investigating complaints and revising Nevada’s prison industry program statute(s), a new Administrative Rule (AR 854) regulating the operation of that state’s prison industry operation has been submitted to the Board of Prison Commissioners (BPC) by NDOC Director, Greg Cox.  In December this regulation was adopted and became effective.

Sen. Richard Bryan

Sen. Richard Bryan

In October the NDOC submitted a long list of new or amended AR’s to the BPC for approval and implementation.  At that time Cox withheld the proposed AR 854 addressing the operation of the agency’s prison industry operations.  Cox held back on this single AR by advising the Board he wanted to work with former Senator Richard Bryan on the language of that particular regulation.

On December 17th Director Cox submitted the final negotiated regulation to BPC members, Governor Sandoval, AG Masto and Secretary of State, Ross Miller for consideration.  Following approval by the Board, the new prison industry regulations are now in effect.

Cox-listens-to-testimony-crop

NDOC Dir. Cox

Critics and opponents of the prison industry program have now adopted a position of “monitoring” the state’s prison industry program. They’re doing so in an effort of ensuring there are no further infringements upon Nevada’s workers and businesses that compete against prison industries.  Last year it was discovered that the NDOC regulations were not being fully enforced and state statutes controlling prison industry operations were insufficient to protect both Nevada’s private sector workers and competing non-prison partnered businesses.

Alpine SteelAll of this came about after lawmakers, the media and general public learned that the prison industry program was more or less operating without any real oversight.  This allowed the NDOC to “partner” with a local Las Vegas business – Alpine Steel, LLC –  in a manner that provided that business with an unfair advantage over competitors and reduced the number of available private sector jobs.  Not only did this single business enjoy prison labor far below standard wage rates, but it also received low cost taxpayer subsidized utility costs and lease terms for state owned property that was far below the state averages. Additionally the NDOC failed to enforce most of the terms of the contract it had with Alpine, allowing the company to default on paying the salaries of NDOC staffers, prison workers and monthly lease payments or utility costs and making no effort to cure the defaults.

When this partnership was finally terminated by Governor Sandoval and the smoke cleared, the state was left with an owed debt of nearly half a million dollars.  Alpine’s owner entered into a negotiated agreement to repay the state but almost immediately defaulted, leaving taxpayers on the hook for hundreds of thousands of dollars in unpaid leases, staff salaries, utility costs and owed taxes.  This failed partnership resulted in the revamping of the state’s statutes controlling Nevada’s existing prison industries and all proposed new industries.

During the lengthy legislative activities related to the failed Alpine partnership, other issues were discovered that prison labor activists are continuing to pursue at both state and federal levels.  These include the hourly wages paid to inmate workers in the program, deductions taken from prisoner paychecks and working conditions.

Nevada is a participant in a federally run program (Prison Industries Enhancement Certification Program or PIECP) that encourages prison industry/private business partnerships such as the one involving Alpine.   However in order to establish and operate under such partnerships both the state and the private business must agree to abide by stringent mandatory conditions required by the federal government.  Two of the imposed mandatory requirements are that inmates be paid prevailing wages and that the state can only take approved deductions from those wages.  In the case of Alpine, the contract with the state required that inmate workers receive “prevailing wages” (section 8.6) or the same wage paid to private sector workers performing the same duties on the outside.  Instead, the NDOC and Alpine set the inmate wage rate at or below the state minimum wage scale, exploiting the labor of inmate workers and further enriching Alpine.

Subsequently it now appears Nevada is underpaying inmates working in the federal program and taking an unapproved deduction of 5% to fund new prison industry operations.  In effect Nevada’s inmate workforce are being made to fund operating expenses of the prison industry out of their already meager wages.

DD ConnettPrison labor advocates are attempting to work with the NDOC, Nevada authorities and the responsible federal agency to cure any purported violations regarding the PIECP program to ensure Nevada is in full compliance with current state and federal provisions regarding the use of inmate labor.

Currently the Deputy Director of the NDOC’s Prison Industry, Brian Connett has indicated there are no proposed new industries being considered by the agency. However prior to the furor caused by the Alpine situation, Connett was advocating for a new industry in Nevada operated by a California company. The operation would have used inmate labor at minimum wages to sort through collected trash and remove recyclables. The collection of trash and refuse across the state would have been accomplished by the same California company.  This project was moving forward over objections voiced by the labor representative of the Senate’s Interim Finance Committee on Industrial Programs, Mr. Mike Magnani.  This recycling “industry” was tabled once the Legislature began looking into the prison industry operations.

CONWAY ROBERT PDBusinesses and a second labor representative, Rob Conway now sitting upon the legislative Interim Finance Committee will continue to monitor activities of the prison industry to eliminate the possibility of another situation arising that could jeopardize business owners or private workers.  Additionally the amended statute requires the Board of Prison Commissioners to review and approve any new industries or expansion of existing ones.  Hopefully vigilance by the labor representatives will keep the prison industries and expanded partnerships in check and allow more of Nevada’s unemployed to find employment due to the reduction in new prison labor programs that eliminated positions in the past.

Only time will tell if the new regulations prevent another Alpine-styled incident from reoccurring.

ALEC News and Articles for Feb 18th…

ALEC News and Articles for Feb 18th…

by Bob Sloan

Click on headline to read full or actual article or visit website where published.

No-money-for-ALEC measure tacked into Senate ethics bill

“The Virginia Senate added an extra sentence to its ethics bill during today’s floor debate that would prohibit legislators from getting reimbursed for the cost of attending, for lack of a less provocative phrase, secret meetings. “That fits a handful of things, but most notably ALEC – the American Legislative Exchange Council. This group suggests model legislation across the country.

It’s on the right of the political spectrum, and it caught a lot of heat a while back because one of its model bills was based on Florida’s stand-your-ground law, which of course was at issue in Trayvon Martin’s death.

“State Sen. Donald McEachin has been pushing a bill for a couple of years to keep legislators from using taxpayer money to attend ALEC conferences, or other meetings where the order of business is a secret. “He seems to have tacked a more blanket prohibition onto the Senate ethics bill. It reads:”

Wisconsin Moving to Advance ALEC Constitutional Convention Scheme

“Wisconsin is the latest state to line up behind a national effort to amend the Constitution and cripple the federal government’s ability to spend — likely forcing steep cuts in popular earned benefit programs such as Social Security and blocking Congress from responding to economic downturns or natural disasters — apparently with the ultimate goal of completely overhauling America’s system of governance.

Assembly Joint Resolution 81, which passed out of committee on Wednesday, would call for an Article V Constitutional Convention to force a federal balanced budget amendment. Article V of the U.S. Constitution provides that thirty-four states (two-thirds) can trigger a convention to propose an amendment, which must then be ratified by 38 states (three-fourths). The legislation closely tracks the “Balanced Budget Amendment Resolution” from the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and allied advocacy groups promoting an Article V convention.”

WI union group shows hypocrisy with SEIU-influenced living wage bill

By Adam Tobias | Wisconsin Reporter “MILWAUKEE, Wis. — A political nonprofit funded by a union that helped write a Big Labor-boosting living wage proposal is accusing a Wisconsin lawmaker of using theAmerican Legislative Exchange Council’s playbook in drafting an anti-living wage bill.

“State Rep.Chris Kapenga, R-Delafield, author of AB 750, which would negate certain local living wage ordinances, says Wisconsin Jobs Now’s allegations that ALEC influenced him in any way are complete nonsense.

“This has nothing to do with ALEC,” Kapenga told Wisconsin Reporter. “This has to do with making the right choices for the people of Wisconsin…”

(Of course even though it was left out of the article, it should be noted and come as no surprise that Rep. Kapenga is a member of ALEC nad serves as an alternate member of ALEC’s Civil Justice Task Force. As such his denials that his bill “has nothing to do with ALEC, should be highly suspect.  ALEC has worked for years to reduce worker wages, increase corporate profits and reduce pension benefits to public sector workers).

A Portrait of Time Warner’s Active Role in ALEC

“As a merger between Time Warner and Comcast moves forward, the Center for Media and Democracy is republishing an excerpt from an investigative report on PRWatch.org by DBA Press founder Beau Hodai detailing how Time Warner helped bankroll major American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) events, and funded the schmoozing and boozing of lawmakers at ALEC meetings.

Both Time Warner and Comcast have been longtime members and funders of ALEC. “Records obtained in 2011 from the office of Ohio Rep. John Adams, the ALEC public sector chair for the state, show how he worked closely with ALEC’s Ohio private sector chair, Time Warner Cable lobbyist Ed Kozelek, to raise funds for the national ALEC meeting held in Cincinnati in April 2011…”

From Quid pro Status Quo: ALEC & State-Sanctioned Corruption in Ohio

— by Beau Hodai …Records obtained from the office of Rep. John Adams show that . . . Adams and ALEC’s Ohio private sector chair, Time Warner Cable, through the Time Warner Cable Midwest Region Vice President of Government Relations Ed Kozelek, were . . . deeply immersed in fundraising for the 2011 ALEC State Task Force Summit (SFTS), held in Cincinnati on April 28 through 29. According to these records, Adams and Kozelek received pledges from more than 50 corporations and lobby firms, totaling $107,500 to ALEC operations in Ohio, by the end of February 2011….

Jindal, a Smart ALEC over Louisiana Broadband

Tom Aswell, publisher of theLouisiana Voice “Federal Communications Commission allotted $8 million to expand broadband Internet access in rural Louisiana areas. U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu was quick to praise, perhaps a bit prematurely, the “investment,” while Gov. Bobby Jindal remained uncharacteristically silent.
“Despite Landrieu’s laudatory claim that the funds would “upgrade the digital infrastructure in rural communities,” the $8 million represented only 10 percent of an $80 million grant for Louisiana that was rescinded in October of 2011 because of Jindal’s aversion to what then Commissioner of Administration Paul Rainwater deemed a “top-down, government-heavy approach that would compete with and undermine, rather than partner with the private sector…”
“What Rainwater—and through him, his boss, Jindal—did not acknowledge is that the Jindal administration’s obsession with protecting the private sector at the expense of broadband Internet service to customers in the rural areas of the central and northeastern parts of the state was part of the 12-year-old official position staked out by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) in August of 2002. http://alecexposed.org/w/images/6/6f/9A15-Municipal_Telecommunications_Private_Industry_Safeguards_Act_Exposed.pdf…”

Capitol Report: ALEC, broadband, guns, religion

TOPEKA — ALEC official in the House

“A leading proponent of the theory that lower income taxes produces economic growth will be speaking Wednesday to the House Taxation Committee on “Growing the Kansas Economy.”

“Jonathan Williams is director of the Center for State and Fiscal Reform with the American Legislative Exchange Council (and co-author of ALEC’s “Rich States Poor States” annual report).

“He will be speaking to a receptive audience. Tax Chairman State Rep. Richard Carlson, R-St. Marys, has helped pushed through Gov. Sam Brownback’s policy of cutting income tax rates while keeping the sales tax rate high and eliminating or reducing deductions aimed at helping low-income Kansans.

“The Kansas Legislature is dominated by members of ALEC, which argues for lower taxes and smaller government, but which critics say produces model legislation to benefit corporations and the wealthy. Legislation would ban community broadband service

“A hearing is set for Tuesday on a bill that would prohibit communities from offering broadband Internet service. “Senate Bill 304 was introduced by a lobbyist for the cable television industry and will be heard by the Senate Commerce Committee.

“Supporters of the bill say government shouldn’t be competing with private businesses for broadband customers, while critics say cities should be allowed to make decisions that benefit their citizens.

“The bill is moving like a high-speed Internet connection. Final action by the committee is scheduled for Thursday, 10 days after the bill was first introduced…”

ALEC SEEKS TO RECRUIT UTAH STATE REPRESENTATIVE

“Greetings, Rep. Lifferth,

“As policy development stalls in the federal government, legislators like you and me are leading the way and getting the job done that Congress and the Executive branch cannot.

“Please join me and the more than 1,800 state lawmakers who work together to advance the Jeffersonian principles of limited government, free markets and federalism in statehouses across America.

“Now is the perfect time to join the American Legislative Exchange Council.

“As lawmakers, it is our responsibility to work with our constituents, policy and industry experts, as well as our legislative colleagues to provide value to and respect the hard-working taxpayers of our states. As lawmakers, giving voice and representation to our hard-working constituents remains our daily focus.

Now imagine having informational committee meetings with not only the top experts in your state, but the leading experts and other legislators from around the country. That’s a valuable educational resource, and that’s what you get with the American Legislative Exchange Council. States are the laboratories where ideas are tested. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel. ALEC publishes more limited government, free market and federalism studies, issue analysis and research than any other state-based policy organization. My colleagues and I would like to work with you. Together, we share expertise and input and we want to partner with policymakers for limited government, free markets and federalism.

Won’t you join the Exchange Council? You can join ALEC today by clicking here or contacting Jeff Lambert at 571-482-5013 orjlambert@alec.org.

I hope you consider membership in ALEC. At a time when Washington seems broken, state lawmakers lead innovation. Your membership and support for limited government, free markets and federalism is important now more now than ever before. We look forward to working with you in 2014.

Sincerely,

National Chair, Linda Upmeyer Majority Leader, Iowa (HD-54)

American Legislative Exchange Council

VIDEO: ALEC’s Valentine Service for Duke Energy

From Daily Kos by Connor Gibson

Over the last four years, Greenpeace has made a Valentine’s Day tradition of spoofing the influence peddling of corporate lobbyists and captured politicians. This year’s installment embodies the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, which reporters have characterized as a “dating service” for its role in pushing copycat, corporate-crafted laws through state legislatures.

“This year, our PolluterHarmony story wrote itself. Online dating ads running on TV have featured a creepy middleman who plays third wheel on various peoples’ dates. In real life, ALEC is that creepy middleman, creating a tax-deductible process for companies to vote as equals with state politicians on bad laws that appear in legislatures around the country. This all happens with little to no disclosure, away from the constituents who elected ALEC’s member legislators.

“This secretive attack on the public comes in many forms: privatizing education, weakening unions and public employee benefits, increasing gun violence, keeping legitimate voters away from the polls, denying climate change science, limiting the liability of corporations that harm people, and many other items on the Big Business wishlist.  “Want examples? Check our humorous dating profiles (citing real-life events) on an ALEC senator in Ohio attacking clean energy incentives and an ALEC senator in Nebraska who was courted on a trip to the tar sands courtesy of ALEC, oil companies and the Canadian government. “ALEC has said that one of its top priorities in 2014 will be to make it harder for homeowners and businesses to put solar panels on their rooftops by introducing solar taxes on behalf of big utilities that are afraid of losing customers…”

Valentine Video For Lonely Lobbyists – PolluterHarmony

“Meet ALEC: pHarmony Expands with State-level Matchmaking

“Thanks to our new partnership with a service called, “ALEC,” pHarmony now offers corporate executives and lobbyists direct access to state-level legislators. See our new success stories to hear from state lawmakers who are freshly freed of the duty to write their own laws, thanks to ALEC.

I’ve always put ALEC first,” one state lawmaker explains, “because of its proven ability to hook me up with powerful people at the hottest energy companies in the country.

No more waiting for ideas for bills, no more endless phone calls trying to please people who elected me. ALEC works for me, so I work for ALEC.”

“ALEC increases pHarmony’s ability to get dirty ideas into legislators’ heads, with a proven record of pleasing polluters and politicians alike. “Got a crush on coal? ALEC can help you hand over public land to coal companies, and even cut incentives to clean energy competitors.

Do you gush for Big Oil? ALEC knows that when you frack, you don’t want to worry about the public noticing.

“In addition to broadening our reach, ALEC brings new expertise to pHarmony’s legislator-lobbyist matchmaking, including the Prodigal Ex program, allowing you to rekindle lost connections and contracts for those whose ember still burns to exert influence in our Statehouses…”

ALEC’s Christmas Gift to All…

ALEC’s Christmas Gift to All…

by Bob Sloan

Below are links to many articles related to ALEC’s pursuit of oppressing votes, grabbing up all the public education dollars they can and in general advancing the conservative agenda through continuing meme…also included are letters and article opposing this agenda.  Many are letters to editors, opinion pieces by citizens now alerted to the presence and pursuits of ALEC and the SPN cabal…

Just let the sun shine on in

Now the Koch brothers are coming after my solar panels.

I had solar panels installed on the roof of our Washington, D.C. home this year. My household took advantage of a generous tax incentive from the District government and a creative leasing deal offered by the solar panel seller.

Our electric bills fell by at least a third. When people make this choice, the regional electric company grows less pressured to spend money to expand generating capacity and the installation business creates good local jobs. Customers who use solar energy also reduce carbon emissions.

What’s not to love?

According to the American Legislative Exchange Council, a conservative network better known as ALEC, our solar panels make us “free riders.” What?

ALEC Members won’t support democracy

It is fair to assume that America is host to an incredibly ignorant population who know very little about their government and how it affects their daily lives. That sad fact was exposed in a brilliant 2008 book revealing that only 20% of the population can name the three branches of government and 49% think a president has the authority to suspend the Constitution. However, the population’s ignorance of their government aside, it is highly probable that every American supports democracy; unless they are members of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). To Americans aware of ALEC and its intent to create a corporate oligarchy and privatized government, it is not surprising that if ALEC members were asked to sign a pledge to support democracy, they would refuse, and that is precisely what happened in a little-reported story last week.

Last Thursday while ALEC was holding its annual meeting in Washington D.C., a group of working family activists, AFSCME, the Postal Workers union (APWU), AFT, and Jobs with Justice appeared at the meeting and asked ALEC members to sign a pledge “upholding the will of the people and support democracy, or leave their states.” The people at ALEC’s meeting did not sign the pledge and corporate-controlled media did not report the event because a revelation that an organization dedicated to serving corporate interests represented by the Republican Party refusing to support democracy would not play well with the public. In fact, for about 30 years ALEC has quietly been dismantling America’s democracy while hiding in the shadows, and it is just recently that a very tiny minority of the population even know ALEC exists.

(In the following article ALEC acolyte, Sterling Beard accuses Michigan’s AFL-CIO President, Karla Swift of plagiarizing material in an anti-ALEC op-ed.  As most know “Tool kits” are a standard ALEC tool used to put out information to their supporters and encouraging those individuals and organizations to use the material to advance the agenda on specific issues.  Now that the same tactic is being used by their adversaries, ALEC and the RW crowd want to cry foul and accuse folks of plagiarism.  

Here is one current example of ALEC’s use of a “Tool Kit”… “State Budget Reform Toolkit“which has been used and promoted by the Reason Foundation, Heartland Institute, promoted by various SPN or conservative sites such as “State Budget Solutions” and circulated in conservative media outlets such as Louisiana’s “Pelican Post“.  The PP article was written by Fergus Hodgson who is the capitol bureau reporter with the Pelican Institute for Public Policy. which is a state think tank member of SPN, which is a private sector member of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). The Pelican Institute also has ties to ALEC through its annual Policy Orientation for the Louisiana Legislature of which ALEC is a sponsor.[2] ALEC members have also sat on policy panels at the event.[3]

Though this “State Budget Reform Toolkit” was written by and for ALEC, I’ve yet to see any claims that the Pelican Institute, Heartland or Reason have been accused of plagiarizing ALEC’s materials.  This allegation is simply the “Pot calling the Kettle”…)

Michigan AFL-CIO President Plagiarizes Anti-ALEC Op-Ed from Left-Wing Group’s Materials

Michigan AFL-CIO president Karla Swift heavily plagiarized her recent op-ed against the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), lifting entire paragraphs from a “toolkit” created and distributed by the Center for Media and Democracy, a liberal nonprofit group that runs a website entirely devoted to trashing the group…

…Swift’s editorial lifts content from multiple sections of the anti-ALEC toolkit, copying several paragraphs verbatim. We have posted a copy of the toolkit here, with the plagiarized sections highlighted. In all, seven of the editorial’s twelve paragraphs are found in the toolkit. The editorial is part of the Detroit News’s “Labor Voices” feature, which has published pieces by Swift and three other labor leaders, including Teamsters president James Hoffa. The toolkit, dated December 2013, runs for 16 pages and encourages readers to “expose” the groups. 

Campaign finance: Support disclosure so we can follow the money

Yes, Montana Supreme Court Justice Mike McGrath, we need public disclosure of personal financial interest and those of their families.

Montana Supreme Court Justice James A. Rice, while a member of the Montana House of Representatives, was a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council. ALEC is a corporate bill mill; it is not just a lobby or a front group. It is much more powerful than that. Through ALEC, corporations hand state legislators their wish list to benefit their bottom line.

A new study by the Center for Public Integrity shows that outside spending groups, including nonprofits that do not disclose their donors and state-level super PACs, are funneling more and more money into state Supreme Court races. Out-of-state influence likely helped decide recent races in North Carolina, Iowa and Mississippi.

Our View: Things go worse with Koch

Isaiah J. Poole, the author of an op-ed in Thursday’s Standard-Times, brought attention to a well-financed movement that aims to remove economic incentives to put solar panels on a homeowner’s roof. (“National View: Let the solar shine in.”)

It makes reference to a report from a British newspaper, The Guardian, which was covering a Washington, D.C., policy summit of the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, in early December.

ALEC — which cleverly gets around lobbying rules by including right-wing members of Congress in its membership — “specializes in getting the right-wing agenda written into state laws,” according to Poole.

And according to The Guardian: “The group sponsored at least 77 energy bills in 34 states last year. The measures were aimed at opposing renewable energy standards, pushing through the Keystone XL pipeline project and barring oversight on fracking.”

Is Carbon Pricing a Diversion From the Real Story?

“One of the more solid tenets of Big Oil dogma has always been that carbon pricing, whether a straightforward tax or a market-based cap-and-trade system, is terrible and conservatives must stand in unison against it. Daily Caller reporter Michael Bastach, a former Koch Institute Intern, confirmed this recently: ‘This vote against a carbon tax in the (American Legislative Exchange Council) ALEC meeting in Chicago… comes after Republicans in both the House and the Senate voted unanimously against a carbon tax earlier this year’.”

Why Are the Franklin Center’s “Wisconsin Reporter” and “Watchdog.org” Attacking the John Doe?

The Franklin Center for Government & Public Integrity (through its Wisconsin Reporter and Watchdog.org websites) has aggressively attacked the “John Doe” probe into possible campaign finance violations during Wisconsin’s 2011 and 2012 recall elections. Its outlets have also published new information about the apparent targets of the investigation, but they have omitted an important detail: Franklin Center has close ties to individuals and groups that may be caught up in the John Doe.

Franklin Center in Your StateThe only name associated with the investigation, Eric O’Keefe, helped launch the Franklin Center’s operations in 2009, and his Sam Adams Alliance group provided the majority of its startup budget; O’Keefe has spoken publicly about being subpoenaed in his capacity as director of Wisconsin Club for Growth. Franklin Center’sDirector of Special Projects John Connors, and the Executive Assistant to the President Claire Milbrandt, also have close ties to a group reportedly involved in the John Doe probe. Its former Director of Operations and General Counsel, James Skyles, worked with another group active in the Wisconsin recalls…

…Wisconsin Reporter launched its “Wisconsin’s Secret War” series in October, citing unnamed sources to reveal that Wisconsin Club for Growth, Americans for Prosperity, and Republican Governors Association had received subpoenas, and describing details about “after-hours visits to homes and offices” and prosecutors’ “demands for phone, email and other records.” Thanks to those unnamed sources, Wisconsin Reporter had a new platform, and used it to recast the John Doe investigation as “an abuse of prosecutorial powers” with “the apparent goal of bringing down Gov. Scott Walker.” The Walker campaign and 28 other groups also reportedly received subpoenas. 

Paid via Card, Workers Feel Sting of Fees

A growing number of American workers are confronting a frustrating predicament on payday: to get their wages, they must first pay a fee.

For these largely hourly workers, paper paychecks and even direct deposit have been replaced by prepaid cards issued by their employers. Employees can use these cards, which work like debit cards, at an A.T.M. to withdraw their pay…

…But in the overwhelming majority of cases, using the card involves a fee. And those fees can quickly add up: one provider, for example, charges $1.75 to make a withdrawal from most A.T.M.’s, $2.95 for a paper statement and $6 to replace a card. Some users even have to pay $7 inactivity fees for not using their cards.

These fees can take such a big bite out of paychecks that some employees end up making less than the minimum wage once the charges are taken into account, according to interviews with consumer lawyers, employees, and state and federal regulators.

This comes full circle to ALEC and it’s member, VISA.  As documents acquired and published by Common Cause show, ALEC “untabled” their model legislation titled “Electronic Pay Choice Act” in 2010 at the request of VISA representative, Paul Russinoff.  This legislation allows banks and credit card companies to realize huge profits off of fees generated by workers using these payroll debit cards….thus the reason VISA rushed to untable this potential model legislation at ALEC’s December 2010 meeting.  As the Times’ article demonstrates, the legislation is making its way across the country through the efforts of ALEC and their SPN partners in crime.

Once adopted by ALEC the bill passed the private sector unanimously, and passed the public sector with two dissenting votes. Visa also paid to sponsor a workshop at that meeting.  Similar legislation has become law in around a dozen states, according to some estimates.

ALEC’s payroll card legislation, Big banks attack low income workers

A growing number of American workers are no longer given paper paychecks, instead are receiving prepaid cards issued by their employers. Employees can use these cards at an A.T.M. or merchant to withdraw pay.  This may sound convenient but the workers must pay fees to access their pay, and those fees can add up and be very hard on people who earn minimum wage or just above.  Here is an example of such a payroll card in this case a “Citi Payroll card” offered byHome Depot, (https://corporate.homedepot.com/Associates/Pay/Documents/CitiPayrollCard.pdf)…

Burton (IN-ALEC) – Conflict of interest, Nah!

STATEHOUSE (Indianapolis) — The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has appointed State Representative Woody Burton (R-Whiteland) as co-chairman of the Financial Services Subcommittee. This subcommittee is an advisory body to the larger Commerce, Insurance and Economic Development Task Force.
ALEC works at the state level to advance the fundamental principles of free-market enterprise, limited government and federalism. This is done through a nonpartisan public-private partnership of America’s state legislators, members of the private sector and the general public.
“I feel honored to have been appointed to this position and I look forward to working with Paul Russinoff of Visa, who serves as the private sector co-chair,” said Rep. Burton. “This subcommittee is open to all members of the larger task force but typically, the members who are most interested and knowledgeable will attend.”
The Financial Services Subcommittee deals with matters related to the financial industry and insurance with the intent to design national legislation.Some of the issues they have covered in the past include the Dodd-Frank Act, homeowners’ insurance and mortgage licensing reciprocity. 
Rep. Burton is Chairman of the Financial Institutions Committee in the Indiana House of Representatives. He also serves on the Insurance Committee.  He introduces and sponsors the model legislation and another ALEC member moves to propose a resolution in support of “Payroll Cards:”
“Resolution in Support of Payroll Cards” – by Ms. Kate Viar, VISA
Motion to adopt the model resolution as amended; passed the public sector unanimously; passed the private sector unanimously; Resolution Passed.
and the model bill is adopted by the full ALEC membership and sent out to state after state…
Shortly after ALEC’s adoption of the Electronic Pay Choice Act we had it in Indiana.  One of the more insidious uses of this legislation in Indiana is that it has been applied to citizens receiving unemployment and similar state benefits.  Already receiving less than 70% of their former salaries, those on unemployment receive their benefits via VISA cards, with accounts set up through PNC bank.  Those without checking accounts must take their benefits via these cards – and pay the additional ATM and withdrawal fees to the bank and in many cases to the state for “transaction fees”.

After a political setback in NC, ALEC retools assault on renewable energy

After turning back a political assault on its groundbreaking renewable energy law, North Carolina could soon be a proving ground for a new strategy in the corporate-led war on clean energy — this one targeting the fast-growing number of homeowners installing solar panels.

Like the last attack on the state’s renewables program, this one is led by the American Legislative Exchange Council, an influential group that brings together corporations and mostly Republican state lawmakers to advocate for business-friendly legislation — activity that has drawn charges of illegal lobbyingby the nonprofit. ALEC, whose corporate members include major coal and electric companies, has long fought environmental regulations and initiatives that encourage a shift to cleaner energy sources.

Nowhere has its efforts been more concerted in recent years than in North Carolina, which in 2007 became the first state in the coal-dependent Southeast to require investor-owned electric utilities to purchase or generate an increasing amount of energy from renewable sources…

PSC Again Hikes Georgia Power Rates, Declines on Solar Tax

ATLANTA — The Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC) voted unanimously Tuesday, December 17, 2013, to approve a compromise agreement between Georgia Power and the PSC staff.

As previously reported by Atlanta Progressive News, Georgia Power’s original request was for a rate increase of 1.46 billion dollars.  The original request also included a newly proposed “solar tax,” a special tax on customers who have solar panels; as well as an increase in the guaranteed profit to Georgia Power.

The PSC agreement cut the amount of the increase by 573 million dollars.  Now, Georgia’s 2.4 million residential and business ratepayers will pay an increase of 873 million dollars over the next three years.

Enchanted Ad Outpaces FedEx’s Adoption of Eco-Friendly Vehicles (NOTE: Fed Ex, UPS and Verizon are longtime members of ALEC…)

The shipping giant’s “Enchanted Forest” ad came out at the end of 2011, a playful episode about its aspirational seamlessness with nature. How close are those cartoon images to the real world? Judging by the actual adoption of alternative fuel transportation, less than idyllic.

FedEx drew widespread praise a decade ago when it unveiled a hybrid electric delivery truck and said it could replace its 30,000 diesel-burning vehicles in 10 years. In its most recent annual report, the delivery giant said its fleet includes 360 hybrid-electric and 165 full-electric trucks, or less than 1 percent of the now-54,100 ground vehicles in its FedEx Express division.

Other major fleet operators, from UPS to Verizon, have slowed their hybrid-vehicle deployments as well. Total sales of medium- and heavy-duty trucks in North America powered by hybrid, plug-in hybrid and battery electric technologies are projected to grow modestly from 1,800 vehicles in 2013 to nearly 13,000 in 2020, according to a report due out next month from Navigant Research…

League of Women voters to present program on ALEC, policy-making

The League of Women Voters of Central Yavapai County will present an educational opportunity on the American Legislative Exchange Council and Common Cause and their approaches to public policy making from 9 to 11:30 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 4, at Las Fuentes Resort Village, 1035 Scott Drive in Prescott…

Southern Republicans Drag the Rest of the Nation Down by Doing the Kochs’ Bidding

Even though conservatives and right-wing extremists tout America as an exceptional nation, it is fairly common knowledge there is nothing about this country that is exceptional except it has more guns and gun deaths, highest incarceration rate, food insecurity on par with Indonesia, highest first day infant mortality rate, infrastructure behind every developed country in the world, 33rd in life expectancy, highest percentage of adult-onset diabetes, 2nd highest child poverty rate, and the highest proportion of low-wage workers in the developed world. It is true America is the richest nation on Earth, but by every other measure America is a third-world nation…

…This is the nation Republicans built with money from the Koch brothers’ and Americans for Prosperity, American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), Heritage Foundation, Cato Institute, Club for Growth, and Wall Street that have spent the better part of two decades achieving the Koch brothers’ “vision of a transformed America.” The result of their transformation is increasing millions of Americans either wallowing in poverty or stuck in a downward spiral with no expectation of ever achieving anything more than “working poor” status with no more hope than not dying homeless. Sadly, a segment of the population, those most likely drowning in poverty and living in the Southern United States expedited the conservative’s plan by voting for Republicans because they promise to fight for religious freedom, guns, and preserving their European ancestors’ dream of a Christian wonderland…

Quest to restrict union fees targets three additional states

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Buoyed by recent successes in the Midwest, conservatives and business groups are targeting at least three additional states for new efforts that could weaken labor unions by ending their ability to collect mandatory bargaining fees.

The latest efforts are focused on Missouri, Ohio and Oregon and — in a new twist — could put the issue before voters in 2014 instead of relying on potentially reluctant governors to enact laws passed by state legislators…

…Supporters of such laws contend employees shouldn’t be forced to pay fees to a union to get or keep a job. But unions contend the fees are fair because federal law requires them to represent all employees in a bargaining unit regardless of whether they join the union.

Most state right-to-work laws were enacted in the 1940s and 1950s. But businesses and conservative lawmakers, working through groups such as the American Legislative Exchange Council, have mounted a new push as union membership has dwindled and the competition for jobs has intensified among states.

Indiana in 2012 became the first state in more than a decade to enact a right-to-work law. The movement’s biggest victory came later that year, when Republicans in the traditional union stronghold of Michigan followed suit even though thousands of union protesters thronged the Capitol…

The State Policy Network’s Cozy Relationship With Big Tobacco

The State Policy Network (SPN), a web of right-wing “think tanks” in every state across the country, has close ties with the tobacco industry. When tobacco companies like Reynolds American or Altria/Philip Morris want to avoid tobacco taxes and health regulations, reports by SPN groups in many states can help inspire local resistance.

SPN, its member affiliates, and SPN-related entities such as the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the Heritage Foundation, and the Cato Institute,  continued to receive funding from the tobacco industry that has continued through at least 2012, according to Altria/Phillip Morris documentsThe Nation journalist Lee Fang previously reported that SPN relied on funding from the tobacco industry throughout the 1990s, and in return assisted the tobacco industry “in packaging its resistance to tobacco taxes and health regulations as part of a ‘freedom agenda’ for conservatives.”

During SPN President Tracie Sharp’s tenure at the Cascade Policy Institute (CPI, anSPN affiliate) from 1991 to 1999, Philip Morris state lobbyists worked hand-in-handwith CPI to oppose tobacco taxes…

Doc’s Leaked by The Guardian and Visa Quits ALEC As Members Meet in DC

Doc’s Leaked by The Guardian and Visa Quits ALEC As Members Meet in DC

by Bob Sloan

Lots of reassuring news for those pursuing transparency in legislation AND the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) this week.  As ALEC met in DC this past week for their annual States and Nation Policy Summit, the Guardian released a scathing expose on that organization, using more leaked ALEC documents.  In addition VISA announced they were quitting ALEC…after Visa’s Vice President of State Relations, Paul Russinoff, received ALEC’s “Private Sector Member of the Year” award in 2012.

Documents acquired and made public by the Guardian in the ALEC article; “ALEC facing funding crisis from donor exodus in wake of Trayvon Martin row” revealed just how badly publicity and activism has hurt ALEC over the past three years since the Center for Media and Democracy first released all of ALEC’s model legislation and other documents on July 13, 2011.  At every ALEC meeting, “Summit” and conference since then, protesters have demonstrated and others have provided public teach-ins or community action seminars to inform the public about ALEC and their activities.

DC 12-13 protest

Last week the ALEC Summit in DC was also protested by activists and informed citizens working to abolish ALEC and stop their interference with writing and proposing state laws designed to enrich corporations and their elite owners. Union workers, food service workers, teachers and postal workers showed up Thursday and marched from Franklin Park to the Hyatt in Northwest DC where ALEC’s meeting was taking place.

While working Americans marched in the streets of DC, Keynote GOP speakers such as Ted Cruz and Indiana Governor Mike Pence took to the stage at the ALEC convention, applauding ALEC and their efforts of lowering taxes for the rich, privatizing education and making private scholastic corporations unbelievably rich…for holding down wages for working Americans to further enrich the 1%.  Cruz actually advised ALEC to “Stand Your Ground” (@4:12) in the face of the increasing pressure to abolish them.

As usual, ALEC refused entry to legitimate media; reporters, journalists and refused to allow any cameras or video equipment or crews into the hotel during their “Summit”.

Labor representatives were ejected when they attempted to get legislators attending the conference to sign a pledge to put the needs of their constituents first.  John Williams, Head of the Washington DC Central Labor Council, was thrown out of the Hyatt lobby when he tried to get legislators to sign what he called a “Rights Priority Pledge.” “Nobody wanted to sign the pledge because they said it did not apply to them,” he said.

Washington Post reporter, Dana Milbank was excited to be attending an ALEC meeting last week, anticipating learning about the initiatives presented by ALEC that would be discussed in task force meetings and working groups…

I descended the escalators at the Grand Hyatt downtown, two floors below street level, excited by the possibilities listed on the ALEC agenda: “The environment and energy task force, led by private-sector American Electric Power. The tax and fiscal policy task force, headed by Altria. The international relations task force, run by Philip Morris. The commerce and insurance task force, by State Farm. And the health and human services task force, by Guarantee Trust Life Insurance.

DC 12-13 protest 2However, like journalists and reporters from as far away as Toronto previously discovered, entrance to an ALEC function was not possible unless reporting for a “friendly” Right Wing outlet – as reported by CMD:

Select media have been allowed to hear keynote addresses from politicians and to attend “workshops,” but ALEC has denied press credentials to news outlets including Al Jazeera, The Nation, and Think Progress. Hotel security has even accosted and questioned credentialed press speaking to other reporters without credentials or interviewing protestors, such as the Toronto Star and the Arizona Republic.

Like dozens of other credentialed journalists over the past three years, Mr. Milbank was refused entry to any of the functions – except a luncheon…which ALEC’s security advised he could attend only if he did not record it:

Alas, I was quickly regurgitated from the belly of the beast. Outside the meeting rooms, a D.C. police officer, stationed to keep out the riffraff, turned me away. “Our business meetings are not open, and so the subcommittee meetings and task force meetings are not open,” explained Bill Meierling, an ALEC spokesman. I could wait a few hours and then attend a luncheon and some workshops, as long as I promised not to record them.”

ALEC has promised critics that they will provide “transparency” about their activities, lobbying, model bills and about legislative actions taken at their 3 annual events.  But to date, the organization has worked overtime to bury any semblance of transparency behind a facade built upon new layers of secrecy.  They have gone so far as to now claim that any communications between ALEC and state lawmakers is privileged and thus exempt from disclosure through responses to FOIA requests.

An even darker development is a draft agreement prepared for the Summit proposing that Alec’s chairs in each of the 50 states, who are drawn from senior legislators, should be required to put the interests of ALEC first before the interests of their constituents, thus setting up a possible conflict of interest with the voters who elected them.

Under multiple IRS complaints by whisteleblowers claiming ALEC has been abusing, misusing or hiding their lobbying activities and expenditures as a 501 (c)(3) tax exempt “charity”, ALEC has offered up a new program designed to circumvent such IRS tax prohibitions and restrictions: “The Jeffersonian Project” (@pg. 15) which will be a 501 (c)(4) with much more lenience in performing lobbying activities.  A Memorandum (provided below) from ALEC’s counsel, Alan P. Dye admits that activities performed heretofore by ALEC could indeed be considered “lobbying” by IRS definitions – as could activities of this “Jeffersonian Project”.  It also advises that “it is possible that at some point the IRS will audit ALEC”…

Jeffersonian project

 

Jeffersonian project 2

document obtained from Guardian document trove

In concert with ALEC’s 40th States and Nation meeting last week, dozens of news articles, blog posts and reports have hit the media.  Each reporting on one or more of ALEC’s initiatives relating to; voter ID, voter suppression, environmental deregulation, criminal justice, immigration, healthcare, worker’s rights, wages, anti-union and similar “model legislation” efforts.  Each of these are/were critical of ALEC efforts and written to inform and warn voters about upcoming legislation proposed and now being pushed by ALEC nationwide.  Below examples of some of the articles about ALEC this week and a video of the DC protest march against ALEC and corporate greed:

Daily Kos: ALEC’s trouble continues as Visa leaves

http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2013/12/07/4523002/alec-documents-show-strong-ties.html#.UqN94vRO58E

http://www.counterpunch.org/2013/12/06/stink-tanks/

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/dec/03/alec-funding-crisis-big-donors-trayvon-martin?CMP=twt_fd&CMP=SOCxx2I2

http://www.dcmediagroup.us/2013/12/05/corporate-interests-come-first-alec-convention/

U.S. Republicans shift health care fight to state level – The Globe and Mail

Conservative Group ALEC in 1985: S&M Accidents Cause 10 Percent of San Francisco’s Homicides | Mother Jones

Your daily jolt: 38 percent of state lawmakers are ALEC members | Political Insider | www.ajc.com

Senator, farmer, rabbi speak on climate change | CJOnline.com

ALEC Opposed Divestment From South Africa’s Apartheid Regime | The Nation

Don’t Fund Evil: 230,000+ Americans Tell Google To Quit ALEC

ALEC calls for penalties on ‘freerider’ homeowners in assault on clean energy | World news | theguardian.com

State conservative groups plan US-wide assault on education, health and tax | World news | theguardian.com

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6sHiDahO16I&feature=c4-overview&list=UU_tkppmH9q7WYNKtnMQOJLQ

This mass reporting about ALEC is a welcome development.  As recent as 2010 few were aware of ALEC and any media reference to their activities were usually found only in articles written and published by Conservative leaning outlets – and were published to applaud ALEC’s work to that faction.

Late last month it was an expose by CMD linking the State Policy Network (SPN) and their dozens of affiliates to ALEC and their cabal funded by the likes of the Koch brothers that helped many understand precisely how dangerous this huge cabal has become to our democracy.  Through these organizations with members and acolytes throughout our U.S. Congress, state legislatures and former ALEC members holding key positions within many state and federal agencies this minority made up of Conservatives and ultra-Conservatives have been able to obstruct our entire government and defeat the will of the majority of Americans.  They have become so powerful and influential over the past 4 decades that today ALEC has dozens of foreign elected officials on their membership roles…foreign conservatives who come here on travel paid for by ALEC to help them and the SPN/Koch cabal set policies for Americans to live and abide by.

VLTP applauds the work of CMD, PFAW, ProgressNow, Color of Change, Common Cause, the AFL-CIO, American Postal Worker’s Union, Daily Kos Bloggers and the other organizations that have joined forces to keep exposing ALEC, the SPN and all of Koch’s cabal for their lack of transparency and pursuit of anti-democratic activities.  Through the work of these dedicated groups, organizations and individuals our democratic heritage and rights are beginning to win out.  Hopefully through these efforts ALEC will soon become a thing of the past – as will corporate corruption and control of our elected officials.

 

Nevada Continues to Struggle With Prison Industry Law

Nevada Continues to Struggle With Prison Industry Law

By Bob Sloan

The Nevada Board of Prison Commissioners (BPC) made up of Governor Brian Sandoval, Attorney General Catherine Masto and Secretary of State Ross Miller, met early on the morning of October 15th to discuss key issues involving the state’s Department of Corrections.  On the agenda was a “hot topic” involving the prison industrial program’s perceived unfair competition with private businesses.  Since last year controversy has surrounded the use of prisoners to compete with Nevada’s unemployed and against companies producing the same products in the private sector.

The NDOC Director presented proposed new administrative regulations for approval.  These “AR’s” covered a gamut of issues from installing trailer/RV spots at remote facilities to use of restraints on pregnant prisoners during labor, housing new hires who cannot find housing locally, and compliance with federal standards on prison rape elimination.  Not much new was learned from attending this Board meeting with one exception – withholding proposed AR 854, “Prison Industrial Program.”  Director Cox advised the Board that he was not presenting this one AR until he could confer with former Senator, Richard Bryan on language contained in the proposed regulation.

This proposed AR was in response to an ongoing controversy involving a partnership contract between Alpine Steel, LLC and the NDOC’s prison industries division.  Nearly a year ago steel companies discovered a competing business, Alpine Steel, LLC had partnered with the NDOC prison industries since 2006 to use inmate labor to manufacture or fabricate structural steel components.  This partnership included low cost facility leases, low paid inmate workers and utilities provided at reduced state rates.  In effect the NDOC was knowingly subsidizing the operations of one private company with tax dollars which provided a distinct advantage for Alpine over competing businesses.

During the investigations that followed, it was learned Alpine had been in serious default for years.  It had not been paying wages to inmates or NDOC staffers, lease and utility payments were in arrears and the state was owed nearly $500,000.  Alpine eventually agreed to a forbearance agreement to repay the money owed to the state and purportedly paid the back wages due to inmate workers.

In June of this year Alpine defaulted on that agreement and the state was awarded a summary judgment of $428,208 plus 1 ½% interest on the debt.  Alpine also surrendered its contractor’s license and is no longer bidding on projects (though their website is still advertising and offering services).  These developments came after new legislation (SB 478) was proposed to strengthen current laws on prison industry operations, providing more oversight and transparency involving prison industry operations.  Additionally wording was inserted to protect competing businesses from being disadvantaged from the use of prisoners as a cheap labor force.

Senator Bryan became involved early on, suggesting changes to the state’s law(s) pertaining to oversight, control and operation of the prison industry program that would eliminate any unfair competition with private manufacturers from the use of prison labor and protect private sector workers.  At last month’s BPC meeting Director Cox stated Senator Bryan had reservations or concerns about one section of the AR, feeling it would not provide the proper protection(s) to private sector companies if/when new prison industry projects were implemented.  Director Cox advised the Board he planned on conferring with Senator Bryan to rewrite AR 854 and present a modified version of it to the Board at the next BPC meeting on December 10th.

Cox advised the objection voiced by Senator Bryan and others was the ability of the Deputy Director to both enact and vet new programs by determining the impact – if any – upon businesses and labor.  Cox indicated Senator Bryan wanted that provision modified.

Senator Bryan is correct in objecting to or having reservations about that proviso.  These precise duties were the Deputy Director’s responsibility previously and as demonstrated by the Alpine situation, he handled them poorly.

 

TRANSPARENCY

Prior to the scheduled meeting a copy of the actual NDOC/Alpine Steel contract was received and researched.  In reviewing the contract and form submitted to the Nevada Board of Examiners several critical issues were immediately noticed.

Deputy Director Connett renewed Alpine Steel’s prison industry contract in 2011.  On the prepared form provided to the Board of Examiners, Connett informed Alpine was chosen because it had been contracting with the NDOC since 2006 with “satisfactory performance.”

There was no mention the company was in default on the old contract as the new one was submitted for official approval.  The form and contract itself were prepared and submitted by Connett – who obviously knew Alpine was in default and went forward without disclosing that fact to the Board of Examiners, the Legislature or the BPC:

 

satisfactory performance

Board of Examiners Contract Form on Alpine Contract 5/11

 

Additionally, Connett certified that the “contracting agency” (the NDOC) would not be providing worker space to Alpine, no Nevada State employees would be assisting Alpine under the contract and the state would not incur an “employment liability” if Alpine’s contract was terminated for failure to “perform.  Each provision initialed by Bulloch:”

Alpine NDOC Contract excerpt

from 2011 Alpine/NDOC Contract

In December 2012 the BPC requested the NDOC to stop all Alpine Steel operations at the High Desert State Prison and take steps to recover the outstanding money owed to the state.  On December 22nd, 2012 Director Cox officially closed the Alpine Steel fabrication operation.

Following the closure and during negotiations to recover the debt owed by Alpine it was learned that more than $438,000 was owed.  This sum included; $143,224 for past due wages to NDOC officers and another $115,270 in “rent” on agency space for workers:

forbearance excerpt 1

From Alpine Forbearance Agreement

Another important provision contained in the contract was the wage scale to be paid to the inmate workers.  The contract provided inmates were to be paid “the prevailing wage rate for the type of work performed”:

Alpine - prevailing wage requirement

2011 Alpine Contract Section 8.6

As I reported in February, Nevada’s Occupational Employment Statistics set the prevailing (median) wage for structural steel fabricators at $16.91 per hour worked:

NV OES struct steel fab

2012 NV OES Website

Yet the NDOC allowed Alpine to pay prisoners the minimum hourly wage for their labor.  From 2006 through 2012 when the operation was closed down, inmates were paid as little as $5.25 per hour to a high of $8.25 per hour regardless of knowledge, time on the job or experience.  Paying inmates less than ½ the scale paid to workers in the private sector allowed Alpine to underbid competing private sector companies for labor projections on projects.  Obviously this important contract provision was ignored by Alpine and the NDOC.

Just as obviously state employees were “assisting” Alpine in the performance of its duties by supervising the inmate workers in a facility space rented to Alpine by the NDOC – and Alpine was delinquent in paying wages to those officers.

Whether considered an “employment liability” or not, the fact that Alpine defaulted on paying officers more than $100,000 in wages meant the state had to pay those wages with tax dollars – and that is a liability.

Realizing how deeply indebted Alpine was, Legislators, Assemblymen, Interim Finance Committee on Industrial Programs members and a BPC member all voiced concerns at the amount owed by Alpine and worried about collecting the huge debt.  Official requests were made to Connett and Director Cox to secure a personal guarantee on the debt from Alpine’s owner, Randall Bulloch.

In September and October 2012 IFC members: AllenPuliz (manufacturing representative), Assemblyman John Ellison, Mike Magnani (labor representative) and Mr. Aguilera (business representative) all requested Alpine Steel’s owner provide a personal guarantee on payment of the debt owed by his company.  This request was made directly to Mr. Bulloch at the October 2012 meeting:

“Mr. Puliz asked if the pay back proposal had a personal guarantee or a guarantee from Alpine Steel. Mr. Bulloch said it was strictly a guarantee from Alpine Steel. Mr. Puliz stated he was a businessman and constantly provided personal guarantees. He asked if Mr. Bulloch was willing to do a personal guarantee on the debt owed to the state.”

Bulloch’s response was:

“…(He) was not prepared to provide a personal guarantee, but he would have further conversations with Mr. Connett to discuss other options.”

At the October meeting, Mr. Nicolas C. Anthony, Senior Principal Deputy Legislative Counsel, Legal Division, summarized the statutory authority and duties of the Committee on Industrial Programs.  In his summary the Deputy Legislative Counsel informed the Committee that their duties were “advisory” only:

”The Committee contains both members of the Legislative Branch and the Executive Branch due to separation of powers. Since the Committee only functions as advisory in nature, any recommendations made by the Committee have no official capacity…

“…Final programs and contracts, including leases of space, were established and entered into by the director of the Nevada Department of Corrections (NDOC) pursuant to statute, which was a function of the Executive Branch and not a function of this Committee…

“…Mr. Anthony indicated the recommendations of the Committee were purely advisory in nature. Mr. Anthony said its advisory recommendations can be submitted to the IFC, full legislature, or director of NDOC. If a recommendation was provided to the director of NDOC, it must pertain to new programs or the review of existing programs’ profitability within the first three years.”

In other words, the IFC Committee can only make “recommendations” to the Director or Deputy Director on new programs or review existing ones – and their recommendations carry absolutely no weight.  Neither Cox nor Connett would be bound to implement the recommendations of the Committee tasked with direct oversight of prison industry operations.

Legislative and private sector members charged with review of prison industry programs were prohibited from forcing the NDOC to seek a personal guarantee on the debt owed the state or formally request Bulloch post a personal guarantee.  The hands of the Committee were effectively tied.

With the NDOC circumventing the requirement that all industry projects be submitted to and approved by the BPC and ignoring the recommendations of the IFC, the agency was operating independently without any genuine oversight.  It appears the 2011 contract with Alpine, though provided to the Board of Examiners for approval, was never submitted to the BPC as required and the Board had no knowledge of the contract or actual operations of Alpine.

In January Connett ignored all calls for a personal guarantee from Bulloch.  Instead, he negotiated a forbearance agreement that allowed Bulloch to shirk personal responsibility for Alpine’s debt to the state.  The agreement also did not include; interest on that debt, a fine or penalty for defaulting on the contract and allowed Alpine to repay the past due money in small monthly payments over several years – and let Alpine’s owner off the hook for any debt owed.

On January 11th, 2013 Attorney General Masto’s office agreed to this proposed deal and Bulloch’s personal property and wealth were thus “officially” protected in case of any default in the future.

At the BPC meeting nine months later, the Governor and other members learned Alpine Steel had very quietly run up a tab of more than $450,000 with the NDOC’s apparent acquiescence and then defaulted on the negotiated and personally lenient repayment plan.  The Board questioned NDOC Director Greg Cox and Connett about the Alpine debt and both were forced to admit Alpine was indeed in full default.  When the Governor asked point blank the total amount owed, Connett stammered and said that though he did not have the “exact figure” he thought the amount was in the “neighborhood of $468,000.”

To anyone following this story it was readily apparent that default was more than likely in the case of Alpine Steel.  Already facing substantial IRS tax liens, litigation from creditors and outstanding state tax liens, Alpine was in dire financial straits when Connett negotiated the forbearance agreement and the Attorney General approved it.

When I forwarded questions to the NDOC and the AG’s office as to who/which agency negotiated the forbearance agreement without pursuing a personal guarantee from Bulloch, both responded the information was “attorney client privileged” refusing to answer.

On the important question as to actual ownership of the Alpine equipment seized and being held by the NDOC as collateral, both NDOC and the AG’s office again cited attorney client privilege and refused to provide any information on value or legal ownership (a third party now claims ownership of some of that property).  On the question of sale or disposal of that equipment to pay down the judgment amount, both again cited attorney client privileged information, refusing to answer.

In June of 2012 the prison industry financial records showed Alpine was $347,778.11 in arrears on payments to the NDOC.  Yet with at least this amount owing, Connett still did not call the contract in default or cease operations.  Instead he kept the operation open – over the recommendations of the IFC – and over the next six months Alpine ran up another $67,131.78 in bad debt.

In the end the taxpayers are out hundreds of thousands of dollars and any effort by lawmakers exercising oversight to attempt to fully inform and protect the taxpayers by guaranteeing the debt would be paid, were ignored by state actors at the highest levels of the NDOC – and ultimately, the Attorney General’s office.

Even when all the owed money and failures to enforce contract terms were made public, both of those agencies cite attorney client privilege in an effort to deny taxpayers any information on which agency or individual bears responsibility for negotiating away their rights or interest in recovering the money lost by the prison/Alpine operation.

Connett bears responsibility for forcing Alpine’s inmate workers to perform duties for Alpine without receiving wages – slave labor?  Bulloch and Connett admitted to the IFC that Alpine owed prisoners $78,000 in unpaid wages and only after the story became public did Bulloch finally pay those wages in September and October 2012.

If the NDOC paid the owed inmate wages out of department funds, they did so without legal authorization and in direct violation of the terms of the Alpine contract.  In either case though the inmates finally got paid, the balance of nearly half a million dollars is now the responsibility of taxpayers to reimburse.

This is why the legislature proposed, passed – and Governor Sandoval signed – SB 478 to strengthen oversight, require posting of security, bond or personal guarantees on proposed new prison industry projects; to protect inmate workers, local businesses, workers and taxpayers equally.  It is also why Senator Bryan had reservations concerning the wording of proposed AR 854.

CONFLICT OF INTEREST?

After the last BPC meeting concluded, several questions remained unanswered.  One is why Deputy Director Connett continued to allow Alpine steel to default from 2009 through 2012 without taking any steps to cure the default or stop the operation as allowed under the agreenent?  The contract has specific actions to be taken within 30 days of any default yet Connett failed to initiate any of the provisions called for in the contract when a default was triggered.  This lack of action led to more and more debt piling up that ultimately has cost the state.

Some have conjectured that possibly there was some form of corruption involved in the relationship between Bulloch and Connett, suggesting a possible “quid pro quo” situation.  There is no evidence to support this theory, no document or verifiable statements made by third parties have surfaced to sustain such a speculation so it remains just that – an unfounded speculation.

However, what isn’t speculation is the fact that Nevada’s prison industry program has been operating like an uncontrolled private venture with company executives avoiding any accountability or responsibility to shareholders for their actions.  Only in this case the “venture” had access to unlimited funding with tax dollars and the “shareholders” are Nevada taxpayers.

One of the worst elements of this default was the forcing of prisoners to work for a private company without wages – especially at a scale below that required under the contract.  Cox and Connett not only have a duty to the taxpayers to not waste the department’s appropriations, it also has a duty to not exploit prisoners in their care, custody and control.  Inmates have no choice in their work assignments and cannot simply walk off the job when not paid.  These NDOC officials made a conscious decision to force prisoners to work for this private manufacturer without pay which financially benefited Alpine substantially

None of the concerns voiced by the legislature, administration and media address the fact that prisoners in state custody were made to work for a private company without pay.  This wasn’t working in the laundry; kitchen or cleaning up the prison…this work was for a private company that profited from that forced labor.

Since Connett’s appointment as Deputy Director, several key and important changes began to take effect.  One was an immediate increase in debt owed to the NDOC.  Contractors such as Alpine began falling behind on lease and other payments indicating a failure by the NDOC to enforce contract provisions and cure such defaults.  The industry’s accounts receivable (outstanding or uncollected accounts due) rose sharply to nearly $1 million dollars in uncollected income and in 2010 Connett turned over $800,000 of that outstanding debt to a collection agency to attempt to recover.

When Connett assumed control of the prison industry it had a “contingency fund” of $1.5 million dollars to work with.  Since 2008 this fund has been used to the extent it now contains only $500,000.

With the Nevada prison industry oversight authority limited to nothing more than an “advisory” body, the NDOC continuously ignored the Committee’s recommendations and operated as it wished.  The agency began to successfully bypass the legislative requirement that the BPC review all new or proposed industries, further hiding industry operations.  This led to the NDOC operating the prison industry program without oversight, legislative controls or interference.

Contributing to this portrayal of the state’s faltering prison industry program is the real possibility that Deputy Director Connett’s duties to the people of Nevada and the NDOC have been compromised due to a concurrent position he holds with the National Correctional Industries Association (NCIA).

The NCIA is a trade association that actively lobbies at the federal, state, and local levels for continued funding for the expansion and effective administration of prison industry programs and conversely, opposes legislation that would adversely impact correctional industries programs.[i]

Collectively this group represents the largest and most active advocacy in support of continued use (and expansion) of prisoner labor and maintaining inmate wages below the fair minimum wage – as shown in the below “Resolution” adopted by the NCIA in 2010:

NCIA Minimum Wage Resolution

From NCIA Library – Last Accessed 3/10

Compliance with this resolution is demonstrated by Connett’s establishing actual wages paid to Alpine’s inmate workers at or below the minimum wage, in direct violation to the terms of the NDOC contract’s prevailing wage provision.

Individual citizens, companies and others in opposition to prison labor used by private companies find themselves face to face with this large and influential group operating as a trade/lobby organization with more than forty state prison industry administrators sitting upon the NCIA Board.

Connett NCIA position

From NCIA website: http://www.nationalcia.org/

Connett is the current Chairman of the NCIA Board while also serving as Deputy Director of Silver State Industries and as such he has one foot in each camp.  As Chairman of the NCIA Connett has a duty to expand prison industry operations, keep companies partnered with each state prison industry operation and limit the wages paid to inmate workers.  It would be detrimental to the NCIA to have to disclose that in his own state Connett had to pay inmates a prevailing wage or had to close a prison industry.  This could be one reason Connett failed to act responsibly, refusing to take any curative actions when Alpine first began to default.

There may be other theories as to why Connett failed to enforce the terms of the Alpine contract and spent time and energy attending Committee meetings and legislative hearings in an attempt to keep the Alpine operation open – in spite of numerous calls to close it down and the growing debt to the state.  Unfortunately to date, no one has been able to secure any response on the “why” from Connett or Director Cox, who continue to cite attorney client privilege on all questions posed on this topic.  Though the media has posed those questions, the BPC, IFC and legislature has not.

Several requests for documents and information have been made to the NDOC and Director Cox in an attempt to gather information necessary to establish precisely the reason for Connett’s actions.  As this article goes to publication, there has been no response from the NDOC – other than citing attorney client privilege – from Director Cox or Deputy Director Connett (who is also the NDOC Public Information Officer).

NDOC public relations officer

As the Deputy Director, Public Information Officer and the Chairman of the NCIA, Connett has a vast amount of power and influence.  He is able to choose new industry programs, decide the material released to the public about proposed or existing programs…and he holds a key position in the private agency overseeing, determining and enforcing policies and standards involving all prison labor and industries in the U.S.

As the DD, Connett failed to enforce compliance to protect the agency and taxpayers when Alpine began to default and in the end he attempted to withhold public information about Alpine’s failures while publicly applauding  the use of prison labor to manufacture steel components for the SkyVue Observation Wheel.

Responses to questions sent to Director Cox come from Connett as the PIO.  Each official response to queries for this article has come via email without Connett’s name or signature affixed.

The BPC, IFC Committee, Board of Examiners and lawmakers rely upon data, compliance certifications and other information provided to them by the NDOC Deputy Director.  The DD has a duty to advise these Committees, Boards and lawmakers with full, factual information for those bodies to use when making critical decisions regarding prison industries; new projects, status of existing operations and contract compliance.  Connett has demonstrated he is willing to withhold critical information and facts from these official bodies when it benefits his operations.  Under his authority there has been little transparency in prison industry operations.

As shown, Connett simply has “too many dogs” in the hunt to remain the sole authority selecting new programs, or determining the impact upon private sector workers and businesses from his industry operations.  Those important determinations should be made by others with no personal involvement riding on the outcome.

Failing to provide full facts to Boards and Committees, or withholding important information that is significant when considering prison industry expansions is negligent and as demonstrated can result in a huge loss to the state and taxpayers.  It also can result in underpaid inmate workers being used to lower operating expenses by one company to the detriment of his/her competitors – even working them without pay for extended periods.

NCIA Bylaws require any company partnered with a prison industry using inmate labor to become a member of their organization.  This may explain DD Connett’s continued support of an NCIA member company by his attending numerous meetings and hearings where he urged administrators and lawmakers to continue to allow Alpine to operate once the company’s defaults became public.

Hopefully the language of AR 854 will contain sections allowing for a committee or board to make determinations as to the impact upon competing businesses and labor when new industries are proposed or considered.  Having those important tasks in the hands of the one individual – or agency – seeking to implement any new contract or anticipated new industry truly is a case of the “fox guarding the hen-house…”

To avoid any appearance of impropriety the NDOC should operate under joint authority of the BPC, IFC and legislature.  The prison industry has to operate within the parameters set by those state bodies without deviation and under tight oversight provisions.  Continuing to allow the NDOC and prison industries to operate without requiring adherence to recommendations made by responsible legislative and control authorities, makes another Alpine-styled situation a real possibility.

It is now generally known and accepted that the SkyVue wheel is a stalled project that may never be completed.  Bulloch’s claim that he had this contract sewn up and would pay back his outstanding debt to the state once the project started in earnest was a promise he would not have been able to fulfill.  It is likely that if the BPC allowed Alpine’s prison industry operation to remain open as Connett suggested, the state could now be on the hook for millions more in unpaid debt from Alpine as prisoners manufactured components for the SkyVue project.

In this case it was half a million lost through the NDOC Deputy Director’s failure to apply available cures to a single contract’s defaults.  It could easily have been millions more if local business had not raised the alarm last year and organized labor had not joined forces with them.

As the Alpine story has shown us all, a lack of adequate oversight will result in Nevada’s workers, businesses and prisoners to suffer.  Taxpayers bear the burden of making up losses that accrue in the absence of true oversight and firm controls.  Without proper oversight the NDOC and its programs can operate in a fiscally irresponsible manner without fear of consequences.

Next month Director Cox will present the BPC with new finalized Administrative Regulations pertaining to operating the state’s prison industry program(s).  It is hoped that those regulations will provide genuine safeguards to protect everyone (staff, inmate workers, private businesses, unemployed workers and taxpayers) from exploitation such as that which occurred with Alpine Steel.


ALEC and SPN – “Charities” That Just Keeps on “Taking” Citizens Rights

ALEC and SPN – “Charities” That Just Keeps on “Taking” Citizens Rights

by Bob Sloan

A compilation of news, views and articles related to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) for the week of 11/18/2013.

Click on the headline to read the entire article, letter or document referenced below…  At the top of this week’s important news, is the launch of www.stinktanks.org by the Center for Media and Democracy and ProgressNow which worked tirelessly to expose the connections to and from the conservative State Policy Network (SPN) operating like ALEC, as a “Charity”.  Stinktanks.org allows readers to clink on links to each state and discover the various SPN affiliates working to promote a conservative agenda in their particular state.  Informative and well researched data found at this site and I urge everyone to visit and learn about previously unknown efforts involving lobbying, legislation and ongoing in your area.

“Something STINKS In Our Statehouses”

“THE STATE POLICY NETWORK “What Is The State Policy Network? “The State Policy Network (SPN) is a web of so-called “think tanks” that push a right-wing agenda in every state across the country. Although many of SPN’s member organizations claim to be nonpartisan and independent, an in-depth investigation by non-profit, non-partisan investigative reporting groups the Center for Media and Democracy and Progress Now reveals that SPN and its affiliates are major drivers of the right-wing, ALEC-backed agenda in state houses nationwide, with deep ties to theKoch brothers and the national right-wing network of funders, all while reporting little or no lobbying activities.”

Of course, as soon as the press release on the SPN “stink tank” site hit, News Busters quickly responded, attempting to justify the SPN agenda and accuse supporters like George Soros and Bill Moyers of being behind the “attacks” (revelations):

Soros-funded Media Group Attacks Conservative ‘Stink Tanks’

“Two left-wing groups, the Center for Media and Democracy and ProgressNow, launched a coordinated attack against the pro-free market State Policy Network. This attack came six months after the liberal Media Consortium was launching its own series of articles bashing SPN. The accusations that this Center for Media and Democracy report made were completely hypocritical, and misleading. “According to this report, the Center for Media and Democracy has a problem when conservative think tanks are funded by conservative donors and push a conservative agenda. They seem ignorant to the hypocrisy in this, since CMD is a liberal think tank, funded by liberal donors like George Soros, Bill Moyers and the Tides Foundation and pushing a decidedly liberal agenda. “This isn’t the first time CMD has attacked conservatives. In 2012, CMD joined with five other left-wing groups to launch a coordinated attack on the American Legislative Exchange Council. The CMD run “Source Watch” proudly claims that this attack led to 56 former ALEC members cutting ties with the group. CMD’s Lisa Graves, who headed up the attack on ALEC, was also involved with the attack on SPN. In both of these attacks, CMD and its allies try to demonize groups that support free market principles. “The hit job, labeled “Stink Tanks,” says that “SPN and its affiliates push an extreme right-wing agenda that aims to privatize education, block healthcare reform, restrict workers’ rights, roll back environmental protections, and create a tax system that benefits most those at the very top level of income.” The “about” page of the SPN website, describes SPN as “dedicated solely to improving the practical effectiveness of independent, non-profit, market-oriented, state-focused think tanks.”

Of course, the information provided to readers by Mike Ciandella and a similar argument of “not so” advanced by SPN President, Tracie Sharp were both found to be seriously lacking in facts as pointed out by Jane Mayer with the New Yorker in her article:

IS IKEA THE NEW MODEL FOR THE CONSERVATIVE MOVEMENT?

“In every state in the country, there is at least one ostensibly independent “free-market” think tank that is part of something called the State Policy Network— there are sixty-four in all, ranging from the Pelican Institute, in Louisiana, to the Freedom Foundation, in Washington State. According to a new investigative report by the Center for Media and Democracy, a liberal watchdog group, however, the think tanks are less free actors than a coordinated collection of corporate front groups—branch stores, so to speak—funded and steered by cash from undisclosed conservative and corporate players. Although the think tanks have largely operated under the radar, the cumulative enterprise is impressively large, according to the report. In 2011, the network funneled seventy-nine million dollars into promoting conservative policies at the state level.

“Tracie Sharp, the president of the S.P.N., promptly dismissed the report as “baseless allegations.” She told Politico, “There is no governing organization dictating what free market think tanks research or how they educate the public about good public policy.”

“But notes provided to The New Yorker on what was said during the S.P.N.’s recent twenty-first-annual meeting raise doubts about Sharp’s insistence that each of the think tanks is, as she told me, “fiercely independent.” The notes show that, behind closed doors, meeting with some eight hundred people from the affiliated state think tanks, Sharp compared the organization’s model to that of the giant global chain IKEA.

“At the annual meeting, which took place in Oklahoma City this past September 24th through 27th, Sharp explained what she called The IKEA Model. She said that it starts with what she described as a “catalogue” showing “what success would look like.” Instead of pictures of furniture arranged in rooms, she said, S.P.N.’s catalogue displays visions of state policy projects that align with the group’s agenda. That agenda includes opposing President Obama’s health-care program and climate-change regulations, reducing union protections and minimum wages, cutting taxes and business regulations, tightening voting restrictions, and privatizing education. “The success we show is you guys,” she told the assembled state members. “Here’s how we win in your state.”…

Also included in this week’s list is ALEC’s pursuit of doing away with voters electing their state Senators.  In their eyes state lawmakers (especially in “Red” states are better suited for choosing “our” Senate representatives…and no doubt, we know those chosen by predominantly GOP controlled states would be GOP controlled candidates for those offices.

ALEC Mulls Assault On Constitution’s 17th Amendment — The Direct Election Of Senators

“In an agenda for a December meeting posted on ALEC’s website, one of the items up for review is language for a bill, called the Equal State’s Enfranchisement Act, that would allow state legislatures to add a candidate’s name to the ballot for a U.S. senate seat, along with the names of those nominated by voters. “A nomination petition stating that the United States Senate is the office to be filled, the name and residence of the candidate and other information required by this section shall be filed with each Presiding Officer of the legislature of the state of __________,” the model legislation states. “The petition shall be filed at the same time as primary nomination papers and petitions are required to be filed.” The language also adds that at least 20 percent of the “then-sitting members of the legislature” must sign onto the nomination. “If ALEC’s members decide to further pursue this act and manage to get it passed in any state, it would be an assault to the 17th Amendment of the Constitution. “For over a century, Senators were elected by state legislatures. This often led to stalemates, leaving Senate seats open for months at a time. But in 1913, the country ratified the 17th Amendment, which stipulates that Americans are to directly elect their senators:

“The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each state, elected by the people thereof, for six years; and each Senator shall have one vote. The electors in each state shall have the qualifications requisite for electors of the most numerous branch of the state legislatures…”

ALEC Floats Legislation Chipping Away At The 17th Amendment

“WASHINGTON — The conservative American Legislative Exchange Council is wading back into election issues, as it considers supporting a bill that would increase the role of state legislatures in the election of U.S. senators, chipping away at the powers vested directly in the people under the 17th Amendment. “ALEC circulates model legislation to state legislators, and its bills have resulted in states passing laws related to voter ID, so-called Stand Your Ground issues and the elimination or reduction of state income taxes. “In early December, a group of ALEC members are scheduled to consider supporting a range of potential new model legislation, including the “Equal State’s Enfranchisement Act,” according to a memo posted on the group’s website. The bill would significantly increase the role of the state legislature in the election of U.S. senators, inching back toward the process used prior to the passage of the 17th Amendment in 1913. The 17th Amendment established the direct election of U.S. senators. Before this amendment, senators were chosen by state legislators…”

ALEC’s voting bill threatens democracy

“In several of my previous columns, I have made reference to the American Legislative Exchange Council. ALEC is an organization composed of corporations, interest groups and legislators at the state and federal levels. Corporate members of ALEC include AOL, Comcast, Exxon Mobil and dozens of other large corporations. A number of prominent politicians from across the country are former members of ALEC.

‘In addition, more than two dozen members of the Florida Legislature have either claimed ALEC membership or attended an ALEC annual meeting since 2011.

According to its website, the organization seeks to “advance the fundamental principles of free-market enterprise, limited government, and federalism at the state level.” In practice, this means ALEC promotes state legislation like massive tax cuts for the wealthy and reduced government regulations that benefit the rich and powerful at the expense of the middle class and the poor. ALEC has also supported voter ID laws, which require citizens to present certain types of ID in order to register to vote. In addition, its members have supported reducing early voting hours in states around the country. These laws have the purpose of reducing voter turnout, particularly among groups that are least likely to support ALEC’s agenda. These demographic groups include African-Americans, Hispanics and college students….

The Campaign Against Net Metering: ALEC and Utility Interests’ Next Attack on Clean Energy Surfaces in Arizona

“On Thursday, the Arizona Corporate Commission (ACC), the state entity responsible for regulating utilities, voted to charge ratepayers a monthly fee of 70 cents per kilowatt of solar energy installed on their roof. Arizona Public Service (APS) had proposed charging customers who install rooftop solar panels an additional $50-100 on their monthly bills.

APS is an investor-owned utility that serves over 1 million customers and generates the majority of its electricity from coal, nuclear, gas and oil. Ultimately, the ACC’s accepted a compromise struck between the solar industry and the Residential Utility Consumers Office (RUCO) to charge solar system owners a much smaller fee per month. According to solar companies operating in the state, APS was attempting to “tax the sun,” and APS’s proposed changes would have “erase[d] the financial incentive for using solar.” The ACC decision was a blow to APS, and while the fee will slightly impact the Arizona solar industry, it will not be the deathblow APS had proposed. The newly adopted fee would translate into approximately $5 for the average homeowner with a solar power installation.

“APS appears to be leading the first assault of a national campaign by the utility industry trade association, Edison Electric Institute (EEI), and fossil fuel interests like APS, to weaken net metering policies. This year, ALEC failed to eliminate Renewable Portfolio Standards in 16 states across the country, and now, this new attack on clean energy policies could benefit members of ALEC who have an interest in coal and other fossil fuels. In the latest attempt to rollback pro-clean energy policies, fossil fuel and utility interests operating through the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) are proposing new model legislation to slow the rise of the clean energy industry by weakening net metering policies. ALEC released the new model language on their website prior to the group’s “States and Nation Policy Summit” scheduled for early December. If passed, the “Updating Net Metering Policies Resolution” would be sent to nearly 2,000 state legislator members of ALEC around the country.”

‘Stealth Business Lobbyist’ Plans 2014 Offensive Against Solar Net Metering

“The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a “stealth business lobbyist” that writes legislation favoring the interests of its corporate members, is moving into the intense debate on net metering for solar.

“In early December, ALEC will be holding a task force meeting on energy and environmental issues in Washington, D.C. It has now included net metering on its list of priorities for “model legislation” in 2014.

“ALEC recently put together a draft resolution on net metering that will set up discussions at next month’s task force meeting on writing laws changing net metering policies…”

Look for similar bold moves like this in your state…

EDF Steps Up to Protect Ohio’s Clean Energy Standards 

“Ohio’s clean energy standards have helped jumpstart an industry that is spurring economic development, creating jobs, boosting energy independence and cutting the state’s carbon footprint.  Recently, these standards have come under attack and EDF’s own Cheryl Roberto, Associate Vice President of Smart Power, stepped up to defend them by testifying before the Ohio Senate Public Utilities Commission on Senate Bill 58 (S.B. 58).  As a former Ohio Public Utility Commissioner herself, Roberto made it clear that S.B. 58 would destroy Ohio’s clean energy standards and unjustly enrich the state’s electric utilities.

“The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a group of conservative state legislators, is leading a nationwide effort to repeal state clean energy standards, including S.B. 58 in Ohio.  ALEC has previously supported controversial “stand your ground” laws as well as laws classifying environmental civil disobedience as terrorism.  To date, ALEC has failed to repeal clean energy standards in any state.

Explaining To Grist Why Facebook And Google Belong To ALEC 

“You might think this a little odd, that purportedly green and progressive companies like GoogleGOOG -0.2% and Facebook will belong to a lobbying organisation with a reputation as backwoods conservative as something like ALEC. That’s certainly what has they guys over at Grist scratching their heads. The answer is really quite simple: government, governance, at all levels is now so entwined with the business world that it’s simply necessary to, as a large company, join all of these organisations…

“So, why be a part of something like ALEC? For the same reason that they’re both part of any lobbying organisation at all. Sadly, the way that the modern economy works is that government, at all levels, has a great deal of influence over how business works. This is as true of my native UK as it is of the US. So, it is necessary for a large business to flash the cash around to both sides, to join lobby groups from all sides of the political compass. Simply because they have to be there to influence the politicians: no, not so much to get them to do what the corporation desires but to stop them doing something stupid which will screw over the corporation…”

Corporate America: ‘Have You No Sense of Decency?’

“Today the Teamsters and American workers face a moment of reckoning. The time has come where people must stand up and say enough is enough to companies that seek to take advantage of employees and taxpayers.

“Anyone who has followed the U.S. economy in recent years can tell you while corporate America and their wealthy executives have recovered from the last recession, middle-class families have not. About 95 percent of income gains between 2009 and 2012 went to the top one percent. Big business has used the opportunity to increase its bottom line even more. Yet it still asks for more…

“…It is nothing short of a disgrace that those struggling to make ends meet are shelling out their hard-earned dollars to help raise Wall Street stock prices for these companies.

“Sometimes that still isn’t enough. In Washington State, for example, the state government offered airplane manufacturer Boeing $8.7 billion in tax breaks from now through 2040 so it would agree to build its new 777x jetliner in state instead of moving production to its non-union South Carolina plant and overseas. But the company, which recently recorded record profits, said that wasn’t enough and sought union concessions. The future of the deal is now in doubt.

“The Teamsters, too, have taken a stand against businesses seeking to increase profits on the back of workers. Whether its Chicago funeral directors who went on strike more than four months ago and have been locked out of their jobs by funeral home giant Service Corporate International or port truck drivers who just this week stood up to employers that want them to work as contract workers instead of employees even though they work full-time hours, hard-working Americans are pushing back on the anti-worker agenda being pressed by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and others.

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 <-

 

Case Study on Alpine Steel: Prison Industry Subsidized by Taxpayers to Compete with Local Businesses Fails Spectacularly

Case Study on Alpine Steel: Prison Industry Subsidized by Taxpayers to Compete with Local Businesses Fails Spectacularly

by Bob Sloan – Cross-Posted from PRWatch

“The taxpayers have been left holding the bag…. As a result of this I think there is going to be a lot more oversight.”

Private prison profitsThose were statements made by Nevada Assemblyman James Ohrenschall in an interview on Vegas Inc. September 21. Mr. Ohrenschall is the former chairman of the Legislature’s Interim Finance Committee on Industrial Programs. At the time of that interview, the IFC Committee was meeting to investigate facts that prompted his concerns.

Ohrenschall was speaking of prison labor and Nevada prison industry’s partnership with Alpine Steel, LLC, that has resulted in nearly half a million dollars of debt owed to the state and a legislative reform of the state’s prison industry program.

When Vegas Inc. anchor Dana Gentry asked the Assemblyman if Nevada’s Department of Corrections (NDOC) or prison industry officials were being held accountable in any way, he responded, “I believe that they will be held accountable…” The oversight authority for prison industries is the Legislature’s Interim Finance Committee on Industrial Programs (IFC-IP). Critics had accused the committee of not providing sufficient oversight or vetting of NDOC contracts with private companies and not enforcing compliance with key statutory duties of the committee. The Committee served, more or less, to “rubber stamp” proposals brought before it by the NDOC without fully determining the impact a new proposed industry would have on Nevada workers and competing businesses.

The Nevada labor force is now represented by two members on the IFC: Robbie Conway of Ironworkers Local 433 and Mike Magnani of Teamsters Local 986. With their dedication to protecting the rights and jobs of Nevada’s workers, it is likely that situations similar to the one involving Alpine will not reoccur.

After the investigation of Alpine Steel, members of the IFC appear to realize that prison labor competing for jobs needed by Nevada’s unemployed is a serious issue that needs constant vigilance. Doubling the number of labor representatives on the committee overseeing prison industries is expected to improve oversight.

With the addition of Conway to the Committee and a new Chairman, the current IFC appears to be a genuine “oversight” body now. They asked key questions, probed for responsive answers and asked IFC member Cox and Deputy Director Connett to provide materials to them supporting answers they provided to the Committee at the initial meeting on the 20th.

Despite Huge Subsidies (and Prison Labor) Alpine Steel Incurs Big Debt

The sad saga of prisoners being used for their labor by private contractors in Nevada continues to amaze the citizens of this state.

Randy Bulloch, CEO of Alpine Steel

Alpine Steel, LLC owner, Randy Bulloch

The story began late last year when steel companies began protesting to NDOC and legislative authorities saying they were being unfairly forced to compete against a local company using inmate labor. Business owners asserted they had lost bids on projects and thus were unable to expand their businesses or hire more workers due to interference from Nevada’s prison industry operations.

Claims were made that dozens of Las Vegas steel workers were being denied jobs and others possibly displaced due to the use of prisoners as a slave-labor force by Alpine Steel, LLC. The NDOC had given Alpine’s owner, Randy Bulloch, a “sweetheart deal” consisting of inmate wage scale set at or below minimum wage (less than 1/2 of the current prevailing wage for Nevada’s steel workers), manufacturing facility leases (set at 66% below the going rate for such space outside prison), and utility costs at NDOC’s reduced rates.

Such state subsidies provided Alpine with a definite advantage over competitors when bids were sought for new projects in and around Las Vegas. Bids won by Alpine due to reduced overhead costs provided by the NDOC included: the “SkyVue Observation Wheel“, the Wet ‘n’ Wild water theme park, bridge work on an overpass over I-15, and the expansion of a mental hospital, among dozens more since 2006.

5th St. bridge over I-15, Las Vegas

5th St. bridge over I-15, Las Vegas

As this story unfolded earlier this year, it was discovered that in spite of receiving the huge financial benefits mentioned above, Alpine was in arrears on payments for inmate wages, staff salaries, utility costs, leases, and workers compensation premiums. In essence, the evidence suggested that the bulk of Alpine’s Las Vegas operation was being quietly financed by the NDOC with state tax dollars.

In addition, prison industry critics learned the IRS had recorded a lien of more than $600,000 dollars against the company; a tax lien had also been filed by the state DOR and several steel suppliers had placed liens against Alpine for failing to pay for materials. (These liens continue to pile up: last month, the IRS recorded a second tax lien upon the company for more than $30,000.)

The story became public through the media and in December 2012 — under pressure from the Board of Prison Commissioners (BPC) and an order from Governor Sandoval — NDOC Director Greg Cox closed down Alpine’s steel fabrication operation at the High Desert State Prison complex. Members of the BPC and the IFC-IP called for some form of personal guarantee from Bulloch to ensure the taxpayers were not left on the hook for nearly half a million dollars owed by Alpine.

Estate of Alpine Steel CEO Randy Bulloch

Randall Bulloch’s estate in Summerlin

In January, Connett and Bulloch reached an agreement on repaying the money Alpine owed to the state. Connett negotiated through Deputy Attorney General Carrie Parker on AG Catherine Cortez Masto’s staff and got her to approve a proposed forbearance agreement setting the Alpine debt at $438,000+ with no interest, penalties or additional fines.

Incredibly, the terms of the agreement failed to include any personal guarantee from Alpine’s owner Bulloch — who resides in a multi-million dollar, 9,400 square foot, guarded and gated estate — while owing millions in state, federal and personal liens — much of that owed to taxpayers.

Though many including the Interim Finance Committee and Secretary of State had demanded such a provision, the final document left any personal guarantee out of the agreement. If a default occurred, Randy Bulloch’s personal property and other assets would be untouchable — and the debt likely uncollectable. The substantial IRS lien precedes and takes precedence over the newly filed NDOC summary judgment, making it less likely the state will be able to recover any of the outstanding debt until the IRS lien is satisfied.

It is incomprehensible to most that in the face of more than a million dollars owed to the IRS, creditors and the state of Nevada, the NDOC would negotiate an agreement on additional debt owed by Alpine without seeking any form of personal guarantee from the company’s owner. Similarly it defied belief that a member of the AG’s staff failed to demand such a personal guarantee for the debt, knowing the repayment plan was being sought for a company that was already in deep financial trouble.

The Alpine contract is at the core of this problematic situation involving the use of state owned facilities and prisoner labor. The NDOC failed to take appropriate action to cure Alpine’s continued default for more than three years. Incredibly, Connett issued a new contract to Alpine in 2011 while the company was in serious default — without requiring the company to come current on its debt — and the IFC-IP approved the contract without knowing of the default(s).

Allowing a contractor to operate for more than four years without making required payments and taking no steps to stop the bleeding of tax dollars before renewing a contract, demonstrates a total lack of responsibility to the state administration and the taxpayers.

Only after the story broke in the media was the Governor, the IFC members and the BPC made aware of the full amount owed due to nonpayment(s). With Attorney General Cortez-Masto sitting on the BPC, the absence of any personal guarantee from Bulloch in the forbearance agreement signed off on by her agency is puzzling.

The NDOC Defends Alpine and Dodges Questions about the Money Due

NDOC Director James "Greg" Cox

NDOC Director James “Greg” Cox

The NDOC’s Director Cox was contacted about details of this debt and any related negotiations. His office forwarded the query to NDOC Deputy Director Brian Connett, who is also the NDOC Public Information Officer. Connett is also the current chairman of the board of the “National Correctional Industries Association” (NCIA), which oversees the Prison Industry Enhancement Certification Program (PIECP).

As of press time, both the Director and Deputy Director have declined to respond. In the discussion at the IFC meeting on the 20th, Connett and Cox specifically directed the members and public to address questions to the AG’s office for a response.

Due to the costly default by Alpine, the state Senate proposed legislation — SB 478 — to amend the rules governing the IFC (NRS 209.461). In addition to adding a second labor representative to the IFC, the bill created a new provision requiring any company wishing to contract with the prison industry program to post a personal guarantee, surety or bond of not less than 100% of the pro-rated annual amount of the contract.

The measure passed and became effective July1, 2013. The NDOC was told to propose new administrative regulations to comply with the changes at the upcoming October 15 meeting of the Board of Prison Commissioners (BPC).

The NDOC’s prison industries (PI) accounts receivable increased rapidly in 2009 to nearly $900,000.

In 2010, the prison industry turned over more than $800,000 in accounts receivable to a collection agency and, for fiscal year 2012, it claimed an additional outstanding accounts receivable balance of $614,200 for a combined potential loss of $1.4 million in revenue in just two years of operations.

On September 20th, the new IFC-IP held its first meeting following the end of the biennial session. One of the main items on that agenda was the discussion of Alpine Steel and the debt owed to the state and state taxpayers.

NDOC Deputy Director Brian Connett

NDOC Deputy Director of Prison Industries, Brian Connett

NDOC Deputy Director Brian Connett read a prepared statement regarding Alpine Steel to the Committee:

“I will read the statement that we have in regards to addressing Alpine Steel…”

“The prison industry has been working very closely with our deputy attorney general and the attorney general’s office on the Alpine Steel situation through our counsel. PI entered into a forbearance agreement with Alpine Steel in January. Basically the terms were that Alpine would make $5,000 monthly payments with balloon payments of a minimum of $20,000 due at the end of June and at the end of December. Alpine made their monthly payments for February through June. Those payments totaled $25,000. Alpine could not make their balloon payment due at the end of June.”

“Again, working with our DAG [Deputy Attorney General], an amendment to the forbearance agreement was created. It amended the balloon payment due to a minimum payment of $10,000 that was due no later than August 30th and an additional minimum payment of $10,000 that was due no later than October 15th.”

“Alpine defaulted on their $5,000 payment due July 15th [and] our DAG and the prison industries quickly filed a summary judgment against Alpine Steel as a result of the breach. The state has been awarded a summary judgment against the Alpine Steel for $428,208 plus post judgment interest growing at the rate of 1/2 percent per month. So being a state agency, this judgment creates a lean on the Alpine’s real and personal property. The collection of these has been turned over to the state controller’s office for the collection process. Thank you.”

Under questioning from Committee members, NDOC’s Deputy Director Connett and NDOC’s Director Cox at times gave somewhat evasive answers.

For example, when asked point blank if any of Nevada’s prisoner-made products were “exported” out of state, Connett responded that state services were the prison industry’s largest customer.

On another matter, they admitted that Alpine’s equipment was still in place at the “High Desert State Prison” (HDSP), saying Alpine had been “locked out” of the facility since December and the NDOC was actively attempting to rent the space to another contractor. Apparently these officials are comfortable with losing a potential $5,000 per month in lease income by keeping the space filled with Alpine’s equipment.

Connett’s new demeanor concerning Alpine has done an about-face of late. Previously, Deputy Director Connett had appeared at several hearings and meetings in support of Alpine, advocating that the company and its prison labor program be kept open, even in the face of the increasing debt. Connett was the sole defender of Alpine in the media and before the BPC and IFC hearings. He now no longer speaks favorably of Alpine in public.

The newest IFC member, Robbie Conway, asked how long it had been since Alpine had been at the prison shop. Director Cox indicated he’d shut the operation down on December 23, 2012, but he did not confirm that Alpine had not been there after that date. Conway went on to ask, “Are we certain that Alpine’s equipment is wholly owned by them or is there is a chance that it is in debt also?”

Connett answered: “There may be some questions on the ownership of some of that property out there.”

Director Cox quickly added: “It is clear and it’s my understanding there is property out there that does not belong to Alpine. So before anything is released, it will go though the attorney general’s office and go through the process.”

Connett added he had inventoried Alpine’s equipment but had failed to secure an appraisal of it.

In a situation such as this where a substantial debt has been incurred, with an ongoing default on a contract and equipment has been seized and being held as collateral against that debt, an evaluation of the “collateral” should be secured quickly to determine the actual financial risk at stake if a judgment results.

Alpine had been in arrears for several years when the NDOC closed down the prison project last December due to the outstanding debt. It is more than odd under those circumstances that since December the NDOC failed to determine the value of the collateral they hold against a $428,000 debt. Now finding that some of the equipment seized and held is not even owned by Bulloch or Alpine puts the state in an even more untenable position to recover the debt.

Key Questions about the Debt Owed Taxpayers Remain Unanswered

Unfinished Alpine Steel SkyVue Observation Wheel

View of stalled SkyVue Observation Wheel project

In response, the Deputy Attorney General — with whom the NDOC has been working on the Alpine case, as noted by Connett’s statement — was asked the following questions that NDOC had failed to answer:

  1. Did the Deputy Director of the NDOC, Mr. Connett and Alpine owner, Mr. Bulloch, negotiate the terms and conditions of the forbearance agreement and then seek approval from the AG’s office?
  2. If the answer is no, that the AG’s office negotiated the terms, did your office seek a personal guarantee from Mr. Bulloch on the debt owed?
  3. In the face of multiple ongoing liens, defaults and creditor/vendor litigation(s) against Alpine Steel, did you suggest a condition that a personal guarantee from Mr. Bulloch be included to ensure repayment should a default occur?
  4. Has anyone come forth and filed a claim of ownership on any of the equipment held by the NDOC at HDSP? [S]ome of the equipment seized by the NDOC as collateral on the debt owed by Alpine has been determined to be the property of a third party. If this is factual, will your office release any Alpine equipment that is claimed by another individual or company?
  5. With IRS and other liens pre-dating the summary judgment awarded to the state last month, will any assets owned by Alpine and held as collateral by the NDOC first go to satisfy those preexisting liens? If so how does the state intend to recover the loss of the $428,000+ debt of Alpine?

The official response from the AG’s office came from its Public Information Officer, Jennifer Lopez:

“My colleague Carrie L. Parker, Deputy Attorney General, Bureau of Government Affairs, mentioned you had questions about Alpine Steel, LLC, Randall Bulloch and the Nevada Dept. of Corrections. We have discussed your question and think because you are seeking attorney-client privileged information, it is best for you to direct this inquiry to Silver State Industries,” which is part of NDOC.

So the “official” response redirects inquiries back to the NDOC which has already directed questions to the AG’s office. Between the two agencies, it appears that in the Alpine matter transparency is non-existent and deliberately so.

During the meeting Connett stated that the PI’s accounts receivable is now $119,567.66 — which would represent a serious decrease from 2012. However, the debt owed by Alpine has been not been collected.

Although the past due account shows a marked recovery, that may be an illusion. Alpine’s $428,208 has merely been transferred from one state department to another state department creating the appearance that PI is recovering financially. The loss of nearly half a million tax dollars still exists but is no longer on PI’s books. Adding Alpine’s default amount to the AR figure provided by Connett shows that without transferring Alpine’s debt, PI’s accounts receivable would be $547,775.66, not significantly different from 2012’s levels.

Earlier this year, Alpine’s license with the Nevada State Contractors Board (NSCB) was reduced to $500,000, but the NSCB allowed Alpine to remain in business.

Despite multiple defaults to the IRS, Nevada’s Department of Taxation, the NDOC contract, vendor invoices and payments on worker’s compensation payments, Alpine has continued to operate, putting out bids on new projects even as Bulloch lays off Alpine employees. Some of those let go have stated that they worked for the company at reduced wages and without receiving overtime due them.

Will Alpine Steel’s License Be Revoked on October 9?

NSCB was asked if that agency is considering revocation of Alpine’s license. NSCB’s Public Information Officer, Jennifer Turner  responded:

“Alpine Steel is scheduled to come before the Board October 9, at which time it is requested they voluntarily surrender their license.”

The NCSB appears to be the sole state agency/department that has decided enough is enough and has taken less than eight months to “cure” Alpine’s non-compliance with state law and hold the company and its owner personally responsible for their actions in some way.

Had the NDOC and the Attorney General’s office adopted the same position months ago, perhaps the amount of the debt owed by Alpine would be guaranteed by Bulloch, providing some hope to taxpayers that the more than half a million dollars owed would be recovered.

It remains to be seen if members of the BPC will ask tough questions — similar to those previously posed to the NDOC and AG’s office — at the upcoming meeting on the 15th. Perhaps they will get complete answers to important questions regarding how and when the state can recover the Alpine debt.

After the Board of Prison Commissioners meeting on the 15th of October, a follow-on article will be published. With the introduction of the new regulations and the removal of Alpine from the prison industry program, perhaps the Alpine saga will finally be put to rest.

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.