North Carolina

ALEC News, Views and Material for Week of April 8th

ALEC News, Views and Material for Week of April 8th

News and articles relating to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) for the first week of April 2014.  Click on the headline to visit and read the full article or page where the information originates.

New developments in North Carolina and Wisconsin are forcing legislators to be more transparent regarding “model legislation” and identifying where bills originate…

Court: NC Legislators Must Reveal Documents, Purpose Behind Challenged Voting ‘Reform’

A U.S. District judge has ruled that Republican legislators in North Carolina must provide documents revealing their work in passing and implementing a radical election reform bill which, when it was passed last year, was described by opponentsas the “worse-than-anyone-would-have-ever-imagined voter suppression bill.”

Late last week, U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge Joi Elizabeth Peake issued anOrder [PDF] in which she rejected a blanket refusal by NC Republican state legislators to provide any documents that relate to the question of whether the sweeping legislation known as the Voter Information Reform Act (“VIVA” aka HB 589) amounted to nothing less than a racially-motivated attempt to deprive African-Americans of their constitutional right to vote…

…The effort is national in character because it has been concocted by Republicans along with the Koch brothers-funded, Paul Weyrich co-foundedAmerican Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), an organization of rightwing legislators and corporations seeking to pass “model legislation” on issues from election reform to so-called “stand your ground” gun laws to other so-called “free-market” initiatives.

The speed with which the NC GOP was able to ram through what the NAACP described as an “armada of amendments” to VIVA would surprise only those who are unfamiliar with the ALEC scheme to privatize the legislative process; secretly drafting, delivering and, in those states where the GOP maintains a legislative majority, passing ALEC-model bills, such as polling place Photo ID restrictions, all without any meaningful public debate.

Similar bills have been introduced in various state legislatures by one or more of some 2,000 ALEC legislative members. It seemed little coincidence that NC’s state Sen. Tom Apodaca (R), who, within hours of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Shelby County announced, “Now we can go with the full bill,” just happens to be a legislative member of ALEC.

“Before the bills are publicly introduced in state legislatures by ALEC politicians or alumni in the governor’s offices,” according to Lisa Graves, whose Center for Media and Democracy obtained copies of more than 800 ALEC model bills, “they will be cleansed of any reference to the secret corporate voting or who really wrote them.” 

More lawmakers pushing identical bills written by national groups

Arizona lawmakers introduced six bills this session seeking a U.S. constitutional amendment to impose new fiscal restraints on the federal government.

The bills mirror measures introduced in legislatures across the country and are nearly identical to model legislation written by the conservative, corporate-backed American Legislative Exchange Council.

The five Republican lawmakers who introduced the bills in Arizona all attended the group’s conferences over the past year.

Across the nation, state legislatures this year have been considering bills to expand education choices, restrict union influence and guarantee employees sick time off. In state after state, including Arizona, the wording of those bills is nearly identical. And it’s no coincidence.

Rather, it’s an orchestrated use of “model legislation” by national political organizations on both sides of the aisle that have discovered it’s easier to change national policy one state at a time than to get anything through Congress.

ALEC has been the most successful of these groups. Member lawmakers nationwide, including several in Arizona, introduce more than a hundred pieces of model legislation each year…

The Republican ‘Great White Hope:’ Manipulating Election Laws

Across the land, Republican state legislators have shouted “voter fraud, voter fraud” to justify various schemes to restrict voting. Legislative actions, written by the corporate-funded American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), are intended to hamper African-American and Latino voting. Legislators have all but said that they can smell the Rio Grande on new voters. But they “cry wolf” and have created a public understanding that in no way reflects reality. In short, voting restrictions are the very fraud.

The disputed Bush-Gore election of 2000 galvanized Republicans, keenly aware how America’s unfolding demographics threatened to make them a permanent minority national party, overwhelmed by emergent, enlarging blocs of ethnic and racial groups. Since then, we have been victimized by carefully-calibrated public relations campaigns alleging that loyal, upstanding, law-abiding Americans are being negated by voter corruption. It is not true.

Make no mistake: This is a Republican, corporate-funded effort to exclude American citizens from the voting process…

ALEC, heavily funded by the Koch brothers and like-minded allies, has designed the legislation to restrict voting, and circulated their draft bills around the nation, which their members, essentially well-financed Republican state legislators, eagerly adopt as their own. Republicans are blatantly trying to limit the electorate and rig elections. They have actively, enthusiastically launched the fray with an unrestrained prattle of fraud.

Paul Weyrich, a leader of numerous conservative causes and a founder of ALEC,minced no words more than 30 years ago: “I don’t want everybody to vote. Elections are not won by a majority of people. They never have been from the beginning of our country, and they are not now. As a matter of fact our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.

Weyrich and his clients would not rely on voter apathy, indifference or ignorance to ensure low voter turnout. Enter the handle of “voter fraud” to justify legislation to prevent the “unwashed” from voting. Ideologically-driven mandates have little affinity for the truth. Voter ID laws are reminiscent of legislation enacted in the late 19th century by elites increasingly concerned by the emergence of new voters. Read working class immigrants from Eastern or Southern Europe, different in language, religion and class than most Americans. At the same time, southern states enacted Jim Crow laws which denied suffrage to former slaves, who, under the terms of the 14th Amendment nevertheless were citizens of the United States. The nation remained largely white, rural and Protestant for another half century…

Will There Be a Happy Ending to Ohio’s Close Brush with a Rightwing Fantasy? 

Three years ago, on March 31, 2011, the Republican-dominated Ohio legislature passed Senate Bill 5 in the face of overwhelming public protests. That evening Gov. John Kasich had a celebratory signing ceremony covered by statewide television. Senate Bill 5, derived mainly from the right-wing American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), was designed to crush public unions across the state.

Championed by Gov. Kasich, SB 5 was the centerpiece of his legislative agenda, and was defended as necessary to close a $6 billion budget gap. Proponents inaccurately blamed public workers for the deficit when, in fact, it was produced by years of irresponsible income tax cuts imposed on the state combined with the recessions. Since 2005, the income tax had been slashed by 31 percent. The crisis atmosphere was exploited by the Republican Party to try to impose extreme ideological positions on Ohio that in ordinary times Ohioans would not accept…

ALEC Loses Wisconsin Open Records Law Fight

MADISON, Wis. – Republican State Sen. Leah Vukmir of Wauwatosa has settled a lawsuit brought by the Madison-based Center for Media and Democracy regarding emails involving her work with ALEC, the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council.

The messages contained a disclaimer that the content was not subject to Wisconsin’s Open Records law.

Vukmir, who paid a $15,000 settlement in the case, also acknowledged that the ALEC email disclaimer had no force of law.

Brendan Fischer, general counsel for the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD), says ALEC’s efforts to avoid Wisconsin’s Open Records law have not been successful.

“We’ve had strong commitment to open and transparent government, and one of the best ways you can maintain a transparent and accountable government is through the Open Records law,” he stresses. “So, we would hope that all legislators, all elected officials from both parties would give the Open Records law the proper amount of respect.”

Vukmir also has agreed to release other emails about ALEC business from her private email account…

Our View: Lawmakers Dance While ALEC Pulls the Strings

An ag-gag in Kentucky, guns on campus in Georgia, protection for businesses that want to deny service to gays in Kansas; sound familiar? You can thank the American Legislative Exchange Council’s one-size-fits-all bills that are gutting local control.

ALEC is the clearinghouse for conservative ideas, a highly secretive non-profit that puts big business and state lawmakers together to draft model legislation in an effort to undermine regulation, cut taxes and advance other often far-right agendas, all while avoiding the very disclosure of its members. It’s the spoke in the wheel of dozens of conservative organizations that’s weakening the very purpose of the states, especially in Republican-dominated regions. Grassroots state governance and local control has been replaced with confidential meetings with big-money backers. America’s red states are becoming little more than chimeric twins, absorbed by their more powerful plutocratic siblings.

State. Sen. Jim Patrick told us this week that ALEC had nothing to do with the controversial ag-gag legislation he pushed through this year. But Patrick is the ALEC’s state chairman, says internal documents acquired by Sourcewatch.org. The Kentucky state Senate’s Agriculture Committee quietly slid an ag-gag of its own into legislation passed by the lower House designed to protect animals from abuse. Four members of that committee are also ALEC members, according to documents leaked to various news outlets. Coincidence? We don’t think so…

New Law Saddles Kentuckians with Big Electricity Bills; Aims to Block Benefits of Fighting Climate Change

NRDC: Carbon Copy Efforts by Shadow Group ALEC Rebuffed in Other Statehouses

WASHINGTON–(ENEWSPF)–April 3 – A new Kentucky law approved late yesterday will raise Kentuckians’ electricity bills. This bill mirrors efforts that big polluters and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) have unsuccessfully pushed in other states to undermine upcoming federal standards reducing carbon pollution from dirty power plants—the key driver of climate change.

David Doniger, director of the Climate and Clean Air Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council, issued this statement:

“This misguided measure will saddle Kentuckians with higher electricity bills while padding the profits of the state’s biggest polluters. It will also make it harder for the state to increase energy efficiency and switch to cleaner, lower cost energy.

“Coal companies and their political backers want to lock Kentucky into the most expensive way of curbing power plants’ dangerous carbon pollution. Their ultimate agenda is to block every effort to cut the pollution driving the worst impacts of climate change.

“Luckily for consumers elsewhere, ALEC and big polluters haven’t been successful: Lawmakers in Virginia and Florida blocked the polluters’ bills. And cooler heads prevailed in Kansas and even in coal-dominated West Virginia, where legislatures instead passed bills that allow state officials to write carbon reduction plans that will meet the nation’s clean air laws…”

Vermont expands solar net metering, gives finger to ALEC

Bad news for the polluter-fundedAmerican Legislative Exchange Council, but wonderful news for the planet.

In 2012 and 2013, ALEC tried to roll back states’ renewable energy standards, and failed. Now it’s trying to roll back solar net-metering programs, which let homeowners sell electricity from their rooftop panels into the grid, and that campaign isn’t going so well either.

Case in point: In Vermont, Gov. Peter Shumlin (D) just signed a bill that will expand the state’s net-metering program, allowing solar panel owners to sell more of their clean electricity into the grid.

The bill will nearly quadruple the size of a cap on the amount of solar power that utilities must be willing to buy from their customers. It also creates pilot projects that could allow for solar projects as large as 5 megawatts to be built under the scheme…

Voice of the People, Apr. 03

Analyzing the state of our state

The March 30 editorial “How Illinois ranks in the U.S. on key indicators; A state of distress” paints a very disheartening picture of our state.

And in many respects, the problems it points out are real.

However, when one looks at where some of the rankings that are assigned come from, one would be well-advised to take them with more than a grain of salt.

Four of the rankings come from the American Legislative Exchange Council, a supposed non-profit that has been exposed by Bill Moyers and by the Center for Media and Democracy as one of the most influential conservative corporate-funded lobbying tools, working to increase corporate profits at public expense.

ALEC was the driving force behind the Stand Your Ground laws and the voter ID restriction laws.

ALEC not only lobbies but actually allows corporations to draft bills that they then hand to legislators to be introduced in state legislatures.

After their backroom dealings were exposed, more than 70 corporations withdrew from ALEC in 2012 and 2013.

I do not think Illinois should care what ALEC thinks of our state.

Coal-reliant states readying for EPA power plant rules

WASHINGTON – Long before the Obama administration promised sweeping rules to limit pollution from power plants, states in the crosshairs of what critics call a “war on coal” have been finding ways to meet the expected new standards.

President Barack Obama last June directed the Environmental Protection Agency to propose national standards to lower carbon emissions from the more than 1,000 U.S. power plants, a centerpiece of his national climate strategy.

On Tuesday those plans moved a step closer to reality when EPA’s proposed rule arrived at the White House for review by the Office of Management and Budget, which is expected to evaluate the proposal by June 1…

…Local lawmakers in Kentucky and several other states, some with close ties to the coal industry, are considering bills or resolutions that would make it harder for states to comply with new EPA rules or would block compliance altogether.

Some of the bills follow legislative templates introduced by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a lobbying group that focuses on limited government. Arizona, Florida, Ohio, Illinois and West Virginia are considering such actions. 

“Although ALEC resolutions will not change state law, ALEC and its industry supporters are hoping these resolutions will discourage governors and impede EPA action,” said Aliya Haq, who tracks such bills as special projects director with the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental group…

RNC Calls Upon ALEC to Dismantle Campaign Finance Reform

 

The powerful right-wing organization, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has long claimed that it “respects diversity of thought” and that it is a “non-partisan policy resource for its members,” Democrats and Republicans alike.  Indeed, in a television interview with FOX news, an ALEC spokesperson once stated, “we have legislators of all political stripes coming together to talk about the most critical issues facing the states,” and adamantly defended the non-partisan nature of the organization.

It does not take much examination of ALEC policies, funders, or public-sector membership rolls to put these claims into true perspective. ALEC’ s right wing policies are so extreme that over 43 corporations – from Wal-Mart to General Electric – havecut ties with the organization.  As documented by the Center For Media and Democracy, more than 99% of ALEC’s public sector leaders are Republican lawmakers.  And a quick perusal of ALEC funding reveals that the same funders who back the network are also major sponsors of many Republican initiatives.

Yet what may be the most telling evidence of ALEC’s ties to the GOP emerged just this morning. Today, the Republican National Committee (RNC) released its wide-ranging “autopsy” report in response to the party’s disastrous 2012 elections. The report, entitled “Growth and Opportunity Project,” outlines a variety of policy recommendations including, among other base ideas, abolishing campaign spending regulations and contribution limits. In the report, the RNC specifically calls on ALEC to help develop and implement model legislation to “improve” these campaign finance laws.

The RNC places ALEC alongside the Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC)  and the RNC as an organization that is well-suited to “improve” campaign finance laws and propagate them nationwide:

The RNC has called upon ALEC to do its bidding because it knows that ALEC is 100% in support of its anti-democratic agenda.  Beyond pushing for Voter ID laws and adopting restrictive registration requirements – like the registration requirements that ALEC adopted years ago as model policy and that today are being argued over in the Supreme Court – ALEC has a history of opposing campaign finance reform.  The organization has consistently opposed public financing of elections and even issued a resolution in favor of the Supreme Court’s disastrous 2010 Citizens United decision…

Tennessee is a political test tube for Koch brothers

By the time this session of the Tennessee General Assembly comes to an end, Tennesseans understandably should feel a little like the animals used in laboratory experiments — at least the ones that survive.

Our state, thanks to the dominance of a single political party, has been selected for a series of not-so-scientific experiments. The objective? Whatever Charles and David Koch want it to be.

The billionaire Kochs do not live in Tennessee and never have. That is not important, as they, through their group Americans For Prosperity (AFP), and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), also not Tennessee-based, are increasingly deciding what laws the General Assembly should impose on the people of our state…

…The force of the Kochs came down last week when the Tennessee Senate voted to stop Nashville’s Amp project. Stop­Amp.org Inc. publicly thanked AFP for its help. Regardless of what you think of the pricey and controversial bus rapid-transit project, such out-of-state interference is troubling, because it supersedes local knowledge and authority on either side of the issue.

Apparently, there is more to come. AFP’s state director, Andrew Ogles, says that “Tennessee is a great state to pass model legislation that can be leveraged in other states.” Such words give no assurance these organizations care whether the laws that are passed help or hurt Tennesseans. They just need an easy “win” so that they can boost their influence against elected officials elsewhere…

Cheap Prison Labor, Unemployment #’s and Related ALEC News

Cheap Prison Labor, Unemployment #’s and Related ALEC News

standuptoalec

Keystone Pipeline…Voter ID and Suppression laws…Right to Work (for less)…Stand Your Ground…Tort “Reform”…Limiting liability in Asbestos lawsuits…Reducing Energy and EPA Regulations…Trans Pacific Partnership…Repealing Healthcare…Reducing Wages…Abolishing Minimum Wage laws…Eliminating Organized Labor…Defunding Education and Replacing Public Schools with Charters…and Replacing American Workers with American Prison Labor…

All of the foregoing issues can be found in today’s headlines across America. Behind each and every one of these critical issues and hundreds more is the agenda of the conservative controlled and Koch funded American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).  In fact most of the onerous legislation rambling through the statehouses of each state – and in many cases our Congress – are “Bills” that began life as model legislation developed by ALEC.

With thousands of state lawmakers alongside more than 350 multi-national corporations holding active membership in ALEC it is no coincidence that each law that benefits business originates and is promoted by ALEC.  Big oil (Exxon, Mobil, Shell, BP America, Chevron. ConocoPhillips), energy conglomerates (American Electric Power, Duke Energy, Energy Future Holdings, Peabody Energy), pharmaceutical companies (Bayer, Pfizer, Johnson and Johnson, Merck, PhRMA), banking, investments, insurance are all represented upon ALEC’s board and general membership.  Each has the opportunity to write, propose and lobby for legislation friendly to their particular field…and if any proposal is successful, they have an equal vote on adoption by the entire ALEC membership and dissemination to every state via ALEC’s elected lawmaker members.

Below are some of today’s headlines related to the foregoing issues and ALEC’s pursuits on behalf of their corporate controllers…

Hundreds Of American Companies Pay Employees As Little As 23 Cents An Hour

At the heart of this issue of prison labor used by private businesses to undercut competitors and eliminate jobs and living wages, we again find the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)…

When you think of prison labor, what comes to mind? You might envision inmates making license plates and highway signs or cleaning up road debris. For decades, this perception would have been roughly accurate. Using prison labor in the private sector was illegal, so inmates worked on public projects.

But this dynamic changed dramatically in 1979 with the passing of the Prison Industry Enhancement Certification Program (PIE). PIE made it legal for private sector companies to contract prison labor to produce goods…

…The dynamic is a corporation’s dream – inmates make as little as 23 cents an hour, never show up late for work, and don’t demand benefits or time off. These inmates don’t account for some small percent of manufacturing production, either.

According to a report done by the Centre for Research on Globalization, prison labor produces 100% of American military helmets, ammunition belts, bullet proof vests, ID tags, and uniforms. These products are made for UNICOR, a for-profit company owned by the United States government…

…But here is the real problem with privatized prison labor: it puts a financial incentive on incarceration. When companies can push their profit margins through the roof with prison labor, they suddenly have a huge self-interest in maintaining high incarceration rates. This isn’t speculation, either. Since private sector prison labor was made legal, America’s biggest economic powers have actively lobbied for legislation designed to both imprison more people and lengthen their sentences.

Perhaps no organization shows this to be true more clearly than the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). ALEC is an enormous lobbyist organization involved in many issues. They write model legislation used to construct policies in economics, international relations, education, agriculture, and a number of other areas…

Keystone PipeLIES Exposed: The Facts on Petroleum Politicians, Crude Money and Media Spin

“TransCanada set out to build this pipeline five years ago, and they still haven’t. That’s saying something about the efforts of activists throughout the country, in spite of all of the money invested in seeing it happen,” Natural Resources Defense Council analyst Anthony Swift says.

“In the southern portion of the pipeline, we saw ranchers, we saw longtime Texas farmers joining with the climate justice activists from Tar Sands Blockade, working to block the tar sands,” says Kevin Zeese, co-director of It’s Our Economy. “And they did a good job. They slowed it down and made it more difficult and more expensive. And they’re effective; a big French investor pulled out because it was getting too expensive.”

The effort that goes into street-level organizing is as much a matter of necessity as it is anything else. Facing one of the most profitable industries in the world, KXL opponents know they can’t compete in the Washington arena using the traditional weapons of choice: campaign contributions and lobbying budgets.

“Our opposition is quite formidable,” says Jason Kowalski of 350.org “The fossil fuel industry has made more money in the history of money in recent years. If we win, it’s because of our bodies and our spirits and our courage and our numbers. We know we have the moral high ground, and that’s how we are going win this thing.”

Of Course ALEC Is Involved in the Keystone Cash

Not willing to leave anything to chance, the oil industry is taking action to make sure state legislators see things their way. As the Center for Media and Democracy (which publishes PRWatch) reported, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) sent nine state legislators on an industry-paid field trip to the Alberta tar sands in 2012.

ALEC, which receives funding from TransCanada, the Koch brothers (whose Canadian subsidiary has tar sands investments), and other fossil fuel corporations, set up the event to put legislators in the same room as the industry lobbyists who paid for the lavish private-jet travel and fine dining. ALEC also prompted each of the nine legislators to send their corporate sponsors a thank you note, with a reminder of what the lobbyists had paid for the tour.

CMD also uncovered emails between TransCanada’s lobbyist and Ohio state Rep. John Adams in which the lobbyist provided Adams with a model bill in support of KXL, with Adams swiftly introduced in the legislature. The bill was co-sponsored by another participant in ALEC’s Alberta field trip.

Ash Spill Shows How Watchdog Was Defanged

RALEIGH, N.C. — Last June, state employees in charge of stopping water pollution were given updated marching orders on behalf of North Carolina’s new Republican governor and conservative lawmakers.

“The General Assembly doesn’t like you,” an official in the Department of Environment and Natural Resources told supervisors called to a drab meeting room here. “They cut your budget, but you didn’t get the message. And they cut your budget again, and you still didn’t get the message.”

From now on, regulators were told, they must focus on customer service, meaning issuing environmental permits for businesses as quickly as possible. Big changes are coming, the official said, according to three people in the meeting, two of whom took notes. “If you don’t like change, you’ll be gone.”

But when the nation’s largest utility, Duke Energy, spilled 39,000 tons of coal ash into the Dan River in early February, those big changes were suddenly playing out in a different light. Federal prosecutors have begun a criminal investigation into the spill and the relations between Duke and regulators at the environmental agency.

How ALEC helped Duke Energy block stricter coal ash rules

Duke Energy is not only the nation’s largest electric utility but one of its political powerhouses. Besides the millions of dollars the North Carolina-based company spends on federal and statecampaign contributions and lobbying, another tool it has used to get its way in the public policy arena is the American Legislative Exchange Council…

…Contacted about its ALEC membership status this week, Duke Energy spokesperson Chad Eaton said “we do not release each and every group Duke Energy is a member of or involved with since those memberships and sponsorships are evaluated on an annual basis and often frequently change.” He also noted that the company is “active in many groups that have a variety of viewpoints but that does not mean that we support all of the various positions those organizations take.”

Nevertheless, it’s an established fact that Duke Energy was a member of ALEC during the height of the group’s efforts to block strict federal regulation of coal ash and held a seat on ALEC’s Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force. In addition, Duke Energy’s position on coal ash is in line with ALEC’s, as the company itself has lobbied to block strict coal ash rules and submitted numerous comments to federal regulators opposing strict oversight…

…ALEC was one of the drivers of the political backlash that slowed EPA from taking action in the wake of the Kingston disaster. Among the actions ALEC took as part of its efforts to block strict federal oversight of coal ash:

* Passed a “Resolution to Retain State Authority Over Coal Ash as Non-Hazardous Waste.” ALEC’s board of directors approved this resolution, which “concludes that states are best positioned to serve as the principal regulatory authority for [coal ash] as non-hazardous waste.” (2010)

* Published “EPA’s Regulatory Train Wreck: Strategies for State Legislators.” This reporttook broad aim at the EPA for various efforts to curb energy-related pollution, including the proposal to treat coal ash as hazardous waste. It urges state lawmakers to “get the state on record as calling on Congress to stop this regulatory train wreck.” On coal ash specifically, it promoted the “Resolution to Retain State Authority Over Coal Ash as Non-Hazardous Waste” passed by its board the previous year. (February 2011)…

American City County Exchange (ACCE) – A new ALEC Program

The American City County Exchange works with local elected offcials to promote effciency and minimize waste by implementing limited government, free market solutions. The American City County Exchange is an affliate of the American Legislative Exchange Council.

WI ALEC Leader in Hot Water over Allegations of Sexual Harassment

Assembly Majority Leader Bill Kramer, a stalwart of the American Legislative Exchange Council, has been accused of sexually harassing two women while in Washington, D.C. last week for a Wisconsin GOP fundraiser. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that the 49-year-old Republican lawmaker physically and verbally harassed a 33-year-old female lobbyist at the fundraising event and another woman on the plane back to Wisconsin.

Statements from the GOP leadership signal that the incidents were serious: “The alleged behavior is reprehensible and won’t be tolerated,” said Assembly Speaker Robin Vos. Conservative pundit, Charlie Sykes reported: “According to news reports and my own sources, Kramer’s conduct last week went beyond tasteless jokes, and included physical contact that could be construed as sexual assault.” One source told Sykes it was “the least surprising headline ever.”

Kramer’s office staff released a statement indicating that the boss was checking into rehab, but a little counseling may not be enough. This is not the first time that this type of allegation has been made about Kramer. Republican State Representative Chris Kapenga warned his caucus that Kramer was a loose cannon after he engaged in similar conduct at an ALEC meeting in Chicago last August…

America’s corporate revolt against clean energy

The US’s fossil fuel industry is scared at the growth of solar power, and its ever-declining market cost. So it’s fighting back, reports Trip Van Noppen, doing its best to quash solar growth by imposing new costs and restrictions.

From California to Colorado to North Carolina and other states, many generators of centralized fossil fuel energy are trying to prevent individual Americans from producing clean, renewable solar energy on their own roof tops.

They would deny us the opportunity to participate in the greater goal of shifting away from polluting, climate-altering fossil fuels.

There is a simple reason for the utilities’ action: They fear losing their monopoly hold on revenue from power production.

Rooftop solar is a game changer that lets consumers generate their own power, reducing the need for a centralized power system and cutting to the heart of the utilities’ comfortable position of a guaranteed return.

For more than 100 years, power companies have profited from a centralized energy model that distributes power from a fossil-fuel burning power plant out to users through a grid of power lines…

…Legislation is proposed in 25 states to limit, tax or fine rooftop solar and net metering, the billing arrangement that allows rooftop solar customers to get credit for providing energy to the grid.

Further, in their portfolio planning, utilities are deliberately undervaluing the benefits and overvaluing the costs of rooftop solar.

Much of this is an orchestrated campaign by corporate lobby group American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) to promote legislation that encourages continued fossil fuel use and discourages competition from renewable energy sources. The Guardian reported that ALEC sponsored at least 77 anti-clean energy bills in 34 states in 2012.

Symbolic Book-Burning Is Alive And Well In South Carolina

If South Carolina is not the most backward state in the nation, it’s tied for first with some of its red state brethren, like say, Arkansas. The latest insult to the intelligence of any civil human being is the punitive symbolic book burning of a publication titled “Out Loud: The Best of Rainbow Radio.” The local newspaper describes it as a publication comprised of a collection of essays and poems from Southern gay residents.

The book was chosen by a panel of educators on the Upstate campus of the University of South Carolina. It is required reading for all incoming university freshmen. Wait for it! Wait for it! KERBOOM!!! The homophobic right-wing went predictably nuts. And in their corner, eager to please even the most radical of his constituents, stood state Representative Garry (yes, 2 r’s) Smith. Riding to the rescue of Neanderthal parents, whose kids were trapped in a literary web of Queerville.

Smith, just turning 57, is an active and enthusiastic member of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and serves on its Communications and Technology Task Force. In his homophobic wisdom he decided to emulate symbolically, the actual historical book-burnings that have been all the rage since antiquity right up to the present day.

 Via a line item in the upcoming budget, Smith is proposing to cut $17,142 in funding to the University, the exact cost of the books…

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.

 

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 <-

 

Latest ALEC Material, Articles and Activities…

Latest ALEC Material, Articles and Activities…

Click on headline to read the entire article(s)…

Texas Attorney General Rebuffs ALEC’s Effort to Declare Itself Immune From Open Records Law

From PRWatch by Brendan Fischer

“MADISON — Texas Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott has issued an Open Records Letter Ruling rejecting an effort by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) to declare itself immune from the state’s public records law, after the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) and the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas filed briefs in the matter. Texas is the first known state where ALEC has formally asked an Attorney General for an exemption from sunshine-in-government laws. ALEC’s extreme efforts to evade public records laws have relevance in every state in the country, including Wisconsin, where CMD is separately litigating a case against Sen. Leah Vukmir, ALEC’s Treasurer, for her failure to disclose documents sent from ALEC to legislators.

“We applaud Texas’ commitment to open government and for rejecting ALEC’s astounding scheme to keep its communications with legislators secret,” said Brendan Fischer, CMD’s General Counsel. “We hope that Attorneys General in states across the country will similarly put the interests of the public and its right to know ahead of the interests of special interest lobbying organizations.”

“The Open Records Letter Ruling from the Attorney General’s office rejected the claim from ALEC’s Washington, D.C.-based attorneys that disclosure of the organization’s communications with legislators would burden its “freedom of association” rights. The Ruling was issued September 25 and released today…”

Is the WI Legislature Above the Open Records Law?

“MADISON, Wis. – The Center for Media and Democracy has sued Republican State Sen. Leah Vukmir under the state’s Open Records Law to obtain correspondence she had with The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). ALEC is a shadowy organization that works with corporations and conservatives to write model legislation.

“Vukmir and Republican State Attorney General J.B. VanHollen said she does not have to comply when the legislature is in session, which now is almost constantly.

“President of the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council Bill Lueders has a different view.

“We respectfully disagree with the position taken by the Attorney General. It’s highly unlikely that the legislative intent was to immunize lawmakers from civil action,” Lueders said…”

Rep. Chris Taylor: In ALEC’s underworld, democracy is a burden

“Entrance to the 40th anniversary conference of the American Legislative Exchange Council was tightly controlled. But I had become a member, paid the $575 registration fee, and produced the required identification. For two days in August, I submerged myself in the ALEC underworld. Though I had witnessed the ALEC agenda in our own state, from the attack on workers’ rights and gutting of fair employment laws to the promulgation of right-to-kill bills, I was simultaneously horrified and fascinated by the extent of ALEC’s infestation of American policy decisions.

ALEC is a menage a trois of wealthy corporations, conservative think tanks and right-wing state legislators that, over the past four decades, has birthed a political machine plowing through state legislatures. All across America, statehouses are passing ALEC model bills to maximize corporate profits and domination at the expense of most people. As Wall Street Journal columnist and Club for Growth founder Stephen Moore” (also an ALEC ‘Scholar’)  summed up: “What we really need is more rich people.”

“ALEC’s primary purpose is to develop model bills on “free market” topics that legislative members advance in their states. State legislators, big corporations and conservative think tanks members form task forces in eight different issue areas to develop and adopt model bills that benefit corporate America. Many corporations, including ExxonMobil and Reynolds American, cough up money in exchange for task force membership. That corporate cash greases ALEC’s wheels  and provides “scholarships” for state legislators, who are wined and dined at ALEC corporate-sponsored receptions. Conservative think tanks provide the data and research, while state legislators are the foot soldiers, marching to a corporate drum to advance policies that maximize corporate profits…”

Why Is Google Working With A Group That Undermines Climate Change Laws

“Google has long been a champion for clean technology and good climate change policy. So why is it working with ALEC, an organization that tries to destroy pro-environment regulation?

“No one could accuse Google of ignoring climate change. For a time, the company pursued homegrown cleantech inventions, and lately has shifted to pouring investments into large renewable projects. Google’s top executives have even lobbied directly for climate and clean energy policies in the halls of Washington.

“This track record is exactly what climate advocates are holding against Google now that the search giant is reportedly working with ALEC (the American Legislative Exchange Council), a powerful free-market lobbying group that has devoted itself recently to undermining state renewable energy and climate laws…”

Why Microsoft, eBay (And 650 Other Businesses) Are Calling for U.S. Climate Action

“NEW YORK CITY – Today’s new IPCC climate science report and the fast approaching first anniversary of Hurricane Sandy have policy leaders busy promising ways to curb global warming pollution and avoid future devastating storms.

“American corporations are no less busy when it comes to combating climate change. But in addition to internal strategies to curb energy use and climate-warming pollution, many are realizing they need to put pressure on state legislatures and members of Congress…”

“…Microsoft is another good example. Not only is the software giant an EPA-recognized leader in renewable energy purchasing, but also, its engineers are developing algorithms to shift data center computations to times when the share of renewable energy on the grid is highest, such as when wind velocities pick up. Microsoft has also adopted an internal fee on carbon, which should serve as a sign to legislators about business’ willingness to account for external costs.

Forward-thinking climate policies can only further improve the business case for companies like Microsoft. The software giant’s recognition that involving itself with groups that actively fight renewable energy policies is counterproductive to reaching its renewable energy goals. The company is changing its relationship with groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which has tried unsuccessfully to roll back state renewable energy standards this year…”

Yelp! Joins ALEC Amidst Ongoing Criticism

‘The online review site Yelp! recently joined the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) as a private sector member as at least 50 corporations and nonprofits have cut ties with organization. The controversial right wing organization is best known for promoting “Stand Your Ground” and voter ID laws, but are also connected to Arizona’s SB1070 and anti-union laws.

‘It has just been discovered that Yelp! paid ALEC at least $10,000 to join the organization on the same week as the Trayvon Martin case began, making the timing of their decision even more peculiar.

“As Colorlines previously reported, ALEC has consistently disregarded the racial implications of the legislation they promote, most notably the “Stand Your Ground” law that was pivotal in the Trayvon Martin case. ALEC and Yelp! have joined forces to promote anti-SLAAP laws (strategic lawsuits against public participation), which are often used to intimidate people making statements on public forums.

“There is a new website for people who want to encourage Yelp! to stop working with ALEC.”

Shareholder Activists More Goliath than David (Pro ALEC & Pro Corporate Article)

“When graying cohorts of nuns, priests, clergy and other religious proxy shareholders hitched their wagon to the Center for Political Accountability’s crusade against Citizens United and corporate political spending, it was reported by most news sources as cute and endearing. After all, it’s a bit of the David v. Goliath scenario playing out as the faith-based underdogs take on companies with sinister motives and deep pockets full of “dark money” which they spread around to the American Legislative Exchange Council, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Republican candidates and other bêtes noires of the left.

If one reads the media reports following the release this week of the 2013 “CPA-Zicklin Index of Corporate Policy Accountability and Disclosure” you’d think little David scored big-time with a single stone fired from CPA’s sling at the corporate American Goliath. Well . . . yes. And no. Yes, in that some companies capitulated to CPA and proxy shareholders for more transparency. No, in that many other companies held fast to privacies guaranteed by Citizens United despite the onslaught of proxy resolutions submitted by a matrix of leftist organizations, which includes the nominally religious-based investment groups As You Sow and the Interfaith Council on Corporate Responsibility. Little David is indeed far more of a Goliath than the general public has been led to believe…”

Today’s top opinion: Rock the boat

“I’m offended by what’s happening in Richmond today,” said Del. Kenneth Plumat a Reston town hall recently. The veteran legislator is, like just about everyone else, in high dudgeon over the seamy underbelly of the gift culture that has been exposed byGov. Bob McDonnell’s travails. (The Times-Dispatch will host a Public Square about cleaning up state government Oct. 8.)

“But, like just about everyone else in state political circles, Plum laments a problem partly of his own making – and taking. Over the years, he has accepted plenty of swag: a trip to Turkey, tickets to Kings Dominion, dinners, shows, and more. Yet Plum has hauled in much less than other lawmakers. House Speaker Bill Howell, for instance, routinely benefits from the generosity of groups such as the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), law-enforcement associations, and the banking industry.

“The gift economy in state politics is bipartisan and pervasive. In January, for instance, theVirginia Hospitality and Travel Association gave gift baskets worth $202 to nearly 100 state lawmakers. A month later, Wawa gave every member of the General Assembly a cooler with books, a T-shirt, coffee cup, coffee and coupons. This might help explain why so many lawmakers have said so little about the governor’s involvement with, and failure to report gifts from, Star Scientific CEO Jonnie Williams Sr. Nearly everyone lives in a glass house. As state Sen. Chap Petersen wrote in early August, “the political culture in Richmond . . . can be summed up in four simple words:  Don’t Rock the Boat…”

“It is encouraging to learn that Sen Scott Fitzgerald is once again a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). (JSOnline 9/23/13)

ALEC is a group that links politicians and mostly large corporations to write model legislation that can be introduced in legislatures throughout the country.

“According to the Center for Media and Democracy, in 2013 139 ALEC model bills to fund private and religious schools with taxpayer money were introduced throughout the nation.

“Other model bills aim to gut workers’ wage protection and benefits not to mention limit collective bargaining rights for folks who still have them.

“With Sen Fitzgerald getting his directions from out-of-state corporate interests that have the resources to buy his time and attention we can rest assured that he’s on the job and working for us.” 

(As most are aware, ALEC has worked behind the scene for years writing, developing, lobbying for and passing tough on crime legislation to incarcerate millions.  At the same time they wrote legislation to allow private corporations to capitalize off of incarceration via; private prisons, prison healthcare, commissary contracts, phone contracts, GPS monitoring and more…but now when non-ALEC legislation is proposed to crack down on sex advertising, they come out in opposition, fearing the financial impact upon internet companies who garner millions from such advertising):

“JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Top law enforcement officers across the country are pushing Congress for greater authority to go after a booming online industry that hosts ads for child sex traffickers. But they are encountering opposition from an unexpected source — conservative state lawmakers who fear a government clamp down on Internet businesses.

“The conflict highlights the difficulty of policing an online marketplace that has rapidly evolved under a generally hands-off approach by government.

“A coalition of conservative lawmakers and businesses has drafted a model resolution that could be considered next year in state capitols from coast to coast. The document, obtained by The Associated Press, urges Congress to deny state prosecutors the enforcement power they seek over the ads— warning that it could discourage investment in new Internet services…”

“…Advocates for online businesses said the legal change could force startup companies to keep track of thousands of specific state laws and could lead to government intrusion into other Internet areas.

Carl Szabo, the policy counsel at NetChoice, a trade association, outlined his concerns last month during a closed-door task force meeting of the American Legislative Exchange Council, an association of conservative lawmakers and businesses that crafts model legislation for states. The organization carries particular sway with Republicans, who now control more than half the state legislatures.”

Fargo lawmaker at forefront of opposition to proposed beefed-up child sex ad law

‘FARGO — The role state Rep. Blair Thoreson, a Fargo Republican, serves with a national conservative group has him leading an effort to block a change in federal law to allow state prosecutors to go after websites that host ads for child sex trafficking.

‘Thoreson said Friday he’s concerned the proposal backed by numerous state attorneys general, including North Dakota’s, could have a “chilling effect” on Internet commerce.

The Fargo lawmaker is chairman of the Communications and Technology Task Force of the American Legislative Exchange Council, a nonprofit alliance of conservative state legislators, businesses and foundations.

The task force recently approved a draft resolution asking Congress not to grant the request of attorneys general from across the country who want to be able to prosecute websites for hosting child sex ads under the Communications Decency Act of 1996…”

“…Thoreson said the draft resolution still needs approval from ALEC’s board of directors before it can be released as a model resolution for conservative lawmakers to introduce in state capitols across the country…”

US criminal justice system: Turning a profit on prison reform?

“Lobbying groups for commercial enterprises are hoping new sentencing laws would translate into higher profits.

“A little more than two million people in the United States – that’s one out of every 140 – are locked up, making the US the biggest jailer in the world.

“Some hope that this obscene rate of human incarceration might begin to decline as reform of mandatory sentencing laws is close at hand. Last month, Attorney General Eric Holder denounced mandatory minimums and then backed up his words on September 19, with a directive to prosecutors to not apply mandatory sentences to low-level drug offenders. The day before, the Senate Judiciary Committee heard testimonies from advocates for sentencing reform urging the Committee to approve the Justice Safety Valve – a law that would restore sentencing discretion to judges.

“That legislation not only enjoys bipartisan support, but an endorsement from none other than ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council. ALEC has even authored its own version of the Justice Safety Valve.”

“As others have pointed out, ALEC might seem like an unlikely ally to a bill that seeks to take the mandatory out of mandatory minimum sentencing laws. As the stewards of America’s two largest for-profit private prison corporations, ALEC – a so-called bill mill for “free-market” legislation – was a champion of many of the harshest sentencing laws passed throughout the 1990’s, including “truth-in-sentencing” and “three-strikes” laws. These laws locked judges into a rigid matrix of sentencing guidelines that have been one of the primary causes for the swollen numbers in federal and state prisons over the past two decades…”

Gaming the system

“But while ALEC’s endorsement of mandatory sentencing reform is appreciated, how and what “alternatives” it is inclined to promote requires scrutiny. Indeed, as early as 2011, the Justice Policy Institute portended the organisation’s likely shift away from increasingly unpopular mass incarceration policies, noting the organisation was in the process of establishing a backdoor infrastructure that would enable its members to reap financial gain whenever the policymaking winds changed – anticipating an eventual public revulsion at the spectacle of a mass prisoner population that seems, in some part, to have happened.

“In competition with private prisons are other industries which are coming up with solutions to reduce incarceration costs that will benefit them. For instance, a 2007 brief by ALEC recommended releasing people early from prison with conditional release bonds, similar to bail bonds, effectively setting up bonding companies as private parole agencies.”

“The report suggests, in other words, that there are plenty of other people happy to step in and make money off of an inevitable “reform”.

“For example, before the Public Safety and Elections Task Force was shut down in 2012, the American Bail Coalition (ABC) served as one of its executive members. Since 1993, ABC had cultivated such a reliable relationship with ALEC that in 2010 it called ALEC its “life preserver“. During its alliance with ALEC, ABC wrote at least 12 model bills. In 2007, ALEC and ABC proposed legislation that dressed itself up as a “solution” to prison overcrowding. The law would have allowed the early release of certain non-violent and juvenile offenders with the posting of a bond, thus providing its supporters – private bail agents – a new source of profit…”

 

ALEC in the News – Update on ALEC Activities…

ALEC in the News – Update on ALEC Activities…

by Bob Sloan

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

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

Sallie Mae drawing all-around fire

Written by Wade Malcolm
The News Journal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Corporate Investors and Board Members Urged to Drop Exploitative Business

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

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

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

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

From PRWatch by Brendan Fischer

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

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

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

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

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

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

“As Sallie Mae Sits, Arne Duncan Gets Mailed

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

—Chris Hicks

Shareholder Activists: ‘We’re No Angels’ Edition

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

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

City Cable Channel Isn’t So Basic

State law could leave viewers in the dark

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

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

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

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

“Bohl scoffed at those promises.

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

“Time Warner could not be reached for comment.”

 

The Stranglehold on Our Politics

 

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

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

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

Gun Fanatics Score Big Victory in North Carolina

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

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

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

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

All these laws come from individual concerns

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

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

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

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

Plain Talk: Wisconsin’s school vouchers are a scam

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

“And well it should have.

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

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

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

 

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

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

by Bob Sloan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Latest ALEC Articles, Posts and Materials – For July 1-7

Latest ALEC Articles, Posts and Materials – For July 1-7

By Bob Sloan

ALEC and their supporters have been busy of late.  Click on the article headline to visit and read the entire article…

I apologize for the lapse of reporting on ALEC, but my health has been interfering with my work of late.  Will try and keep all our readers better informed going forward.

ALEC seeking new “Directors” for key positions as Director of Nonprofit and Corporate Relations and Director of Nonprofit and Corporate Alliances.

CMD Calls for Nebraska Ethics Investigation over ALEC Keystone “Academy” Junket

— by Nick Surgey and Brendan Fischer

The Center for Media and Democracy filed a complaint yesterday with the Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Commission alleging that Nebraska Senator Jim Smith, a major proponent of the Keystone XL pipeline, failed to disclose significant travel expenses paid for by the Government of Alberta, Canada during Smith’s participation in an “Oil Sands Academy” organized by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). The trip was sponsored by the operator of the Keystone XL pipeline, TransCanada, which may raise additional concerns under the ethics and lobbying code.

Smith and nine other ALEC legislators participated in the “academy” sponsored by TransCanada in Alberta, Canada last October, where they were shepherded around oil extraction facilities and rubbed shoulders with oil industry lobbyists. The Government of Alberta even chartered a flight during the tour to fly the participants to tar sand operations, which reportedly cost around $1,500 per legislator.

Fire Island Erupts Over Verizon’s Wireless Voice Link: New York AG Claims Verizon Violated Agreement

The future of telecommunications in the U.S. is being played out on the sandy beaches of Fire Island, NY. Forget about not being upgraded to fiber optic services. Customers are “extremely disappointed,” “horrified,” “very frustrated,” with “grave distress and dissatisfaction” about Verizon’s plan to stop fixing their phone lines and giving them an inferior wireless replacement, Voice Link, which can’t handle basic plain old telephone service, “POTs” services like fax, DSL or even reliable e911 service…

…In our previous article we highlighted how Verizon Voice Link’s deployment ties to Verizon and ATT’s plan to abandon whole areas of the U.S. and decline to repair the copper wiring, even after a storm. The phone companies and a group called the American Legislative Exchange Council, ALEC, created ‘model’ legislation that has been burning through the states, removing basic obligations, from quality of service requirements, state commission oversight to even removing “carrier of last resort,” where the company no longer has to provide basic services. 

On Independence Day, Fight for the Voting Rights That Secure Our Freedoms

This is our first Fourth of July in a generation where we are officially without the heart of the Voting Rights Act. When the U.S. Supreme Court gutted section 4 of the law, throwing out protections ranging from voter suppression tactics like gerrymandering maps to unduly burdensome ID laws to restrictions on early and absentee voting, the Court immediately disenfranchised Americans from sea to shining sea….

…North Carolina is not merely, as Rachel Maddow said, “conservatives gone wild” — it is no coincidence that the Supreme Court gutted the voting rights act and the North Carolina legislature moved to restrict human rights just days later:

It is no coincidence that those blocking voting rights are also blocking reproductive freedoms.
It is no coincidence that those blocking voting rights are also blocking same sex marriages.
It is no coincidence that those blocking voting rights are also blocking immigrants’ rights.
It is no coincidence that those blocking voting rights are also blocking workers’ rights.
It is no coincidence that those blocking voting rights are also blocking living wages.
It is no coincidence that those blocking voting rights are also blocking guns safety laws.
It is no coincidence that those blocking voting rights are also blocking polluter pay laws.
It is no coincidence that those blocking voting rights are also blocking consumer protections.

And it is definitely no coincidence that those blocking voting rights are also blocking Citizens United repeal. There is a clear line — drawn by conservatives at the Koch-funded American Legislative Exchange Council with a literal “wish list” and dozens of allies determined to limit voting rights in order to advance narrow interests.

LETTER: No way is Wisdom High a ‘D’

Most of us in Maine know that ideological beliefs drive Gov. LePage and his administration; one is the idea that public schools are failing our children and therefore must be eliminated. Public schools are failing our children and we now have the “proof” via these grades that that is the case.

Gov. LePage and Mr. Bowen take their guidance from a right wing conservative think tank called American Legislative Exchange Council. ALEC has one agenda on education: Get rid of public schools so they can introduce their favorite agendas; privatize schools through school vouchers; create more charter schools; water down teacher licensing; support private schools using taxpayer funds; erode local control; create more home school regulations; encourage virtual schooling

Under the influence of ALEC

It seems that daily, we are provided with glimpses of how inane politics and policymaking can be. We need to look no further than our own legislators for amazing examples. While North Carolina faces real problems, state lawmakers have spent the time necessary to craft a bill that will protect food suppliers from lawsuits. Furthermore, these lawmakers have included a provision in the same bill that restricts municipalities from limiting the size of soft drinks.

In fact, the News and Observer of Raleigh reported on Friday that a Senate Judiciary Committee has approved a bill that would prevent people from suing food suppliers for making them fat. The same bill ensures that municipalities cannot limit the size of soda pop for sale. Known as the “Big Gulp” bill, this type of “oversight” clearly belies the ruling party’s claims of being opposed to big government intrusion.

Even worse, this bill makes our state legislature look like a pawn being directed to and fro by the American Legislative Exchange Council. ALEC claims that it provides model legislation for lawmakers nationwide as way to promote free market and conservative ideals. By several accounts, though, ALEC exists merely to serve the Republican Party and large corporations and their interests, often at the expense of the consumer. As details on the organization have come to light in recent months, it has lost some key financial backers, Coke and Pepsi among them – ironically.

ALEC, for those who may not be aware, is the group that has provided and promoted voter registration legislation that aims to restrict voter turnout. It also helped write Florida’s Stand Your Ground law.

According to Sen. Bob Rucho, a Mecklenburg County Republican, this “Big Gulp” legislation (put together by ALEC) would prevent “legal extortion.” Sadly, this piece of legislation appears to do nothing more than distract the state’s elected officials from governance, and distraction is something at which they have proved to be quite adept.

For the party that decries big government, this action is truly laughable. This is big government at its worst: It thwarts the public to the benefit of fat cat donors.

State legislators not asking for ALEC membership reimbursement

Remember that controversy from a few months ago, when the Legislature’s Executive Board decided to pay for membership dues of lawmakers belonging to the strongly business-oriented American Legislative Exchange Council?

At the time, Democratic legislators made clear they didn’t want memberships purchased for them. Democrats also paid for newspaper ads denouncing the use of public funds for ALEC dues because of the organization’s political stances and financial supporters.

Now another policy is in place. Maher directed the Legislative Research Council to pay for ALEC memberships only if legislators submit vouchers requesting reimbursement. The membership cost is $100 for a two-year term.

Here’s the kicker. So far, no legislator has requested ALEC membership reimbursement. That’s according to Jim Fry, executive director for the LRC, which is the Legislature’s professional, non-partisan staff.

When a Democratic legislator, Rep. Kathy Tyler of Big Stone City, said travel payments should be restricted to the organizations in which the Legislature is a member, a Republican legislator, Rep. Betty Olson of Prairie City, called for ALEC memberships to be provided for all legislators.

The board’s Republican majority adopted the policy to pay ALEC dues. That was the board’s April 23 meeting. The ALEC matter didn’t come up again at the two subsequent meetings May 13 and June 10. The board’s next meeting is set for Aug. 19.

The Court’s Ambivalence

As others observe elsewhere in this issue, our nation’s policy is advancing by degrees not just into a different future, but, it would seem, into two different futures, mutually exclusive in their intent.

The most obvious case in point resides with the Supreme Court, which in consecutive days in the last fortnight has laid waste to pretty much everybody’s conventional stereotypes. Was the court “conservative” or even reactionary when it cast into the litter bin of history Sections 4 and 5 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act? Was it “liberal” when, the very next day, it found in favor of plaintiffs in cases challenging Proposition 8 in California and the Defense of Marriage Act nationally?

The fact is that both judgments were 5-4 decisions which, taken together, say something about the essential ambivalence of the time. But let us do some hair-splitting of our own, by way of making sense of it all. The point of the voting rights decision, on the face of what the decision both said and implied, was that in those deep South states where the franchise was at issue for African Americans, there is no longer any problem worth taking advance precautions over.

Really? Then the court is agreeing with the American Legislative Exchange Council, the right-wing pressure group which has churned out a one-size-fits-all law requiring photo IDs for voting and sold it to the conservative legislatures in a growing number of states. So it’s “fraud” that’s being targeted and not poor folks, black folks, and older folks, the groups most likely to be without photo IDs. Sure.

Take it back from corporations

 Anyone who has been paying any attention at all knows that nation-less corporations and mega-wealthy individuals are destroying our democracy and killing our country. They choose our elected official of both parties by anointing candidates with money to buy expensive deceptive TV ads. They inundate our legislatures with slick lobbyists. They own and control our news resources. They write our laws through the corporate funded American Legislative Exchange Council. They exempt themselves from reasonable taxation and regulation. Rather than creating jobs they create their right to export our jobs. They intentionally screw government up and then call for everything to be privatized so they can make more money. It’s time for us to declare our independence from nation-less corporations and the mega-wealthy.
A constitutional amendment is required to keep wealth from dominating our democracy. Sixteen states have called for such an amendment. An initiative, a real people’s initiative, will be held in Washington state next year. Visit WAMEND.org and washclean.org for information about how you can help. We’ll need signature gatherers.

The ultra-wealthy and their nation-less, mindlessly profit-driven corporations are eating our democracy and our future. They are anything but patriotic. On Independence Day let’s, “Let ’em eat cake.”

ALEC related support and/or propaganda from Right Wing outlets:

Nixon failing to bolster Missouri’s economy

According to a recently released report by the American Legislative Exchange Council, the Show-Me state ranked 42nd in economic performance — over the past 10 years! We are ranked 47th in state gross domestic product, meaning we aren’t producing many goods.

As a result, we aren’t creating many jobs — that’s why our unemployment rate remains stagnant at 6.8 percent, nearly double Nebraska’s unemployment rate and substantially higher than many of our neighbors like Kansas, Iowa and Oklahoma.

This may explain why over the past three years, Missouri has suffered a net loss in migration as people leave for stronger economies.

Why are we in this mess? Gov. Jay Nixon refuses to lead and has taken zero initiative to grow the Show-Me State.

EPA Growth Knows No Limits

Simply put, the president is using Congressional inaction as a pretext for a climate policy power grab, and that is very troubling. Alas, it is only the latest development in a worrying accumulation of authority at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. A new American Legislative Exchange Council report, The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Assault on State Sovereignty, reveals that the agency has been systematically centralizing environmental protection by seizing rightful control from the states and replacing local community input with extreme environmental activists.

 

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

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

By Bob Sloan

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

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

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

My view: ALEC coverage a disservice to Utah

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

New Study Shows ‘Red’ States Have Highest Economic Potential

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

Tillis-Brawley spat rooted in cable fight

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

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

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

WHERE THE REAL DAMAGE GETS DONE

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

Taking On Sallie Mae and the Cost of Education

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

Is the government spying on environmental groups?

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

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

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

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

Connecticut Lawmakers Consider Bill That Could Undermine Paid Sick Leave

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

Not-So-Charitable Contributions

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

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

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

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

Scaife-Funded Network Works Hard to Kill Immigration Reform

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

Brad Ashwell: Would Koch Brothers be good for journalism?

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

Asbestos Bill Invades the Privacy of Victims and Veterans | Commentary

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

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

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

ARTICLES IN SUPPORT OF ALEC:

Here’s a Smart Alec We Ought to Heed

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

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

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

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

Three Reasons Why State Polarization Is a Big Deal

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

 

Weekly ALEC/Koch Review of Articles and Material

Weekly ALEC/Koch Review of Articles and Material

By Bob Sloan

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

John Laird: Foxy Don wears ALEC badge in environment henhouse

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

Just a tad counterintuitive.

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

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

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

Scott Walker, GOP Slip ALEC Education Agenda Into Wisconsin Budget

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

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

Christensen: 5 troubling ideas for NC democracy

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

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

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

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

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

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

Importance of Disclosing Financial Gifts

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

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

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

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

Campaign financing: ALEC undermines democracy

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

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

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

The importance of privacy protections

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

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

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

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

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

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

Red states hold the edge in growth

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

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

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

Time to open Connecticut for business

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Forum editorial: Call it a sign of the times

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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