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ALEC’s 40th Birthday Bash Crashed in Chicago

ALEC’s 40th Birthday Bash Crashed in Chicago

by Bob Sloan

As members of the secretive American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) meet for their Annual Meeting in Chicago (August 7-9), the organization planned a “two-for” to also celebrate their fortieth corporate birthday.  In addition to a meeting to determine upcoming pro-corporate (anti-consumer) model legislation for the coming year, ALEC hoped to celebrate forty years of secretive activities that has brought American’s new state laws in reference to; “Stand Your Ground”, Privatized Prisons, Prison Industries, Tort “Reforms”, voter ID, voter suppression, fracking and anti-labor.

Why is ALEC so dangerous to our democracy – and how have they been able to chart a conservative course for America for the past forty years?  These questions were answered by the CMD General Counsel, Brendan Fischer in a recent interview on “Real News Network“:

“But with respect to how is this different from traditional lobbying, with traditional lobbying you at least have some level of transparency. If a lobbyist is going to meet with a legislator in a state, they’ll maybe get there ear for 15 minutes. With ALEC, legislators fly to ALEC meetings, usually on the corporate dime. Meetings are held in places like Amelia Island, Florida, or New Orleans, or this year in Chicago, usually at the nicest hotel in town. The corporate members that benefit from ALEC model legislation are footing the bill for legislators’ travel expenses.

While at these meetings, lobbyists get legislators’ ear for three days of meetings and workshops and other events where legislators are sold on these corporate-friendly ideas and urged to pass these bills that are going to benefit the corporations that are footing the bill for the travel, for the meetings, for the nights out. By the time legislators get back to the state, they are the ones who are already convinced that a particular bill or policy idea is right for the state. By the time the public gets a chance to weigh in, the legislator is oftentimes already convinced. So in some ways the legislators are the ones who are becoming the lobbyists for the corporate special-interest agenda advanced by ALEC.”

With all the media attention, things have not been going as planned for the ultra-conservative think tank as hundreds of protesters, activists, clergy, organized labor members and an angry public have turned out to protest ALEC’s existence, their anti-consumer legislative activities and efforts to prioritize corporate rights over human ones.

The protests in Chicago this week are the latest in a long line of similar actions undertaken over the past three years.  In April 2011 hundreds turned out in Cincinnati in the first ever Anti-ALEC protest/rally.  At that event a whistleblower turned over hundreds of ALEC’s secret “model legislation” earmarked for presentation in state legislatures to fatten the bottom lines of ALEC’s corporate membership.  CMD published all of the material at a PRWatch website: www.alecexposed.org to warn the public of then current and upcoming “initiatives” of ALEC that would be detrimental to the general public.

Since that initial protest, VLTP along with organizations such as People For the American Way (PFAW), Center for Media and Democracy (CMD), Common Cause, Color of Change and a half dozen others have pursued ALEC continuously.  We have crisscrossed America following ALEC from state to state, city by city to set-up and protest all of their activities and to offer information to locals about ALEC’s legislative record and ongoing agenda.  Common Cause and VLTP were joined by Clergy Voice in Ohio in filing whistleblower complaints/claims with the IRS, asserting that ALEC’s IRS (c)(3) exempt status is being used to openly lobby at the state and federal levels for legislation they themselves wrote on behalf of corporate interests.  Such activities are prohibited for “charities” holding the 501 (c)(3) exemption.

ALEC protesters have turned to social media of late in an effort of informing more Americans about ALEC.  A special Facebook Group page was established to allow activists to communicate, plan and announce events planned for Chicago this week.  Activists have attracted unions by exposing ALEC’s anti-worker, anti-union legislative efforts.  In Oklahoma city earlier this year at ALEC’s spring summit, AFLCIO members joined with the Teamsters and local unions to organize a huge anti-ALEC protest, rally and march.

In Chicago AFSCME has weighed in along with the Chicago Teacher’s Union

The ALEC protesting started on Monday (Moral Monday) of this week as protesters staged a sit-in at the fashionable Chicago resort/hotel, the Palmer House where several protesters were arrested:

Six people were arrested Monday when protesters descended upon the Palmer House Hilton in Chicago to push back against the impending visit of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), whose conservative agenda, activists say, promotes policies and legislation that protects corporate interests and disenfranchises workers and voters.

Chanting “No to ALEC,” Goodman, along with fellow members of the Chicago Moral Monday Coalition, such as Natalie Wahlberg, were arrested for linking arms on the steps of the hotel’s lobby, at 17 E. Monroe St. According to the Chicago Police Department, six protesters were charged with misdemeanor criminal trespassing for causing a disturbance and refusing to leave the lobby. (see video of the event here.

The arrests demonstrate how ALEC coordinates with Hotel security, local police and some say Homeland Security to provide protection to the hundreds of corporate representatives that attend ALEC events to wine and dine thousands of state legislators in an attempt to woo them into sponsoring proposed legislation beneficial to corporate interests.  In Phoenix in November 2011 dozens of demonstrators were pepper sprayed by local police – most wearing their name badges backwards to hide their identity – before arrests were made at a protest in front of the Westin resort in Scottsdale.

Obviously with their vast influence, money and connections (nearly 2,000 state legislative members), ALEC is able to deter local authorities from the primary task of “serving the public” to “licking the boots of the corporate elite” at each event.  Instead of protecting the public and their rights to protest and demonstrate, local authorities are quick to arrest on behalf of ALEC.

Yesterday, PRWatch published information about ALEC’s efforts in Chicago, exposing the think tank’s upcoming agenda:

CHICAGO — This week, the corporate and legislator members of the American Legislative Exchange Council are meeting at the swank Palmer House hotel in Chicago to celebrate the organization’s 40th anniversary, be educated in corporate sponsored workshops and adopt legislative priorities for the coming year. Here is what is on the agenda for ALEC’s 40th — notably, some of the workshops carry a $40,000 pricetag for corporate sponsors.

Fracking, Virtual Schools, and Privatization

  • New ways to thwart local democratic control by prohibiting city or county governments from regulating genetically modified plant seeds. Members of the Agriculture Subcommittee — which is chaired by Jeff Case of CropLife America — will consider a bill to thwart local democratic control by prohibiting city or local governments from regulating genetically modified plant seeds, which happens to benefit many members of CropLife’s trade association and other big ag companies. Contrary to Jeffersonian principles of local democracy, for years ALEC has promoted bills to preempt local efforts to establish everything from paid sick days to municipal broadband.
  • ALEC's Energy, Environment & Agriculture (EEA) task forcePresentations on how fracking America can lead to increased profits through exporting America’s natural gas. American Petroleum Institute representatives Jon Shore and Rebecca Heimlich will give a presentation on “Local Bans on Hydraulic Fracturing: Coming Soon to Your District.” Jason French of energy company Cheniere Energy will present to the Energy Subcommittee about “LNG [Liquid Natural Gas] exports: A Story of American Innovation and Economic Opportunity.”
  • Discussions of the wonders of nuclear energy and offshore drilling. Other energy-related agenda items include a presentation on “Nuclear Energy’s Continuing Role in Providing Baseload Electricity,” and another on “Developing America’s Offshore Energy Potential: Good Sense and Good Cents.” ALEC will also consider a “Resolution in Opposition to a Carbon Tax.”
  • More climate change denial? Members of the Energy, Environment, and Agriculture Task Force will be part of a breakfast plenary session called “A Thoughtful Approach to Climate Science.” The title is less inflammatory than some of its past panels — at the 2011 ALEC meeting, legislators attended a workshop titled “Warming Up to Climate Change: The Many Benefits of Increased Atmospheric CO2” — but given ALEC funders like the Koch brothers and members like the Heartland Institute, it seems unlikely that the organization has woken up to the dangers of climate change.
  • Expanding virtual “schools,” which enriches ALEC’s online school corporate funders, such as K12 Inc.The Illinois Policy Institute — the State Policy Network affiliate in the state — will present on “digital education.” IPI employees had pushed a Virtual Charter School plan in Illinois, apparently in collaboration with ALEC member K12 Inc., the nation’s largest provider of online charter schools (which has become notorious for poor educational outcomes and high profit margins). Additionally, at least two “workshops” — which carry a $40,000 pricetag — will deal with online education: “Modeling State Funding Formulas, K-12 Online Course Providers” and “Statewide Full-Time Virtual Schools: The Case for Parent Choice vs. Local Control.”

(Read the full agenda at the link provided above).

These topics are why so many Americans are now putting their safety and freedom on the line to step forward and actively protest ALEC.  The future of our society and indeed our nation are at peril from this organization and their powerful members.  Now that organized labor has joined the fray in earnest, I’m hopeful ALEC’s days are numbered and the countdown to the end is accelerating.

Finally, a great article by The Nation encapsulates the complete ALEC story and forewarns all of us of what the future holds if ALEC is allowed to continue operations unabated.

Street protests against ALEC like those planned in Chicago directly led to the organization’s exposure two years ago. After University of Wisconsin–Madison history professor William Cronon wrote a blog post examining the organization’s role in providing model legislation similar to the “Budget Repair Bill” pushed by Governor Scott Walker (a former ALEC member as a state legislator) that led to the famous Madison capitol occupation, Midwestern activists organized a protest outside the annual ALEC convention and a series of informational teach-ins in Cincinnati, Ohio. Two hours later, a whistleblower telephoned protest organizer Aliya Rahman, offering access to 800 of ALEC’s model bills.

Since that leak two years ago, and the subsequent investigation by The Nation and the Center for Media and Democracy’s, “ALEC Exposed,” as well as the CMD’s ongoing coverage through ALECexposed.org, the organization has faced intense national scrutiny, drawing protest from a wide variety of progressive groups in cities around the country for their role in writing and promoting a battery of right-wing 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…

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.”

 

5/11 ALEC Articles and Review

5/11 ALEC Articles and Review

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

Click on a headline to read the full article…

Dennis Van Roekel on exposing ALEC’s agenda

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

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

Ohio Consumers And Businesses Come Together To Support Energy Efficiency

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

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

Company to expand e-cig operation

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

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

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

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

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

SD Lawmakers Who Travel The Most

SIOUX FALLS, SD –

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ALEC Gives FoIA the Finger

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

WELL  ….

ALEC is trying to shut the door on that.

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

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

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

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

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

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

AFC sang a different tune for funders.

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

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

 From ALEC…

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

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

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

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

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

5/09 ALEC Articles and News in Review

5/09 ALEC Articles and News in Review

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

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

ALEC in Nevada spotlight

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

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

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

ALEC is not OK

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

NC renewable energy repeal advanced by committee despite losing vote

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

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

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

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

Wendy Greuel and Eric Garcetti Stop Hesitating and Support Parent Trigger

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

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

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

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

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

 

Deal on taxes and spending in Kansas could be near

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Raging Grannies Arrested After Fighting for Poor Kids

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

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

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

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

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

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

05/08 Daily Report on Activities, Legislation and Initiatives of the ALEC/Koch Cabal

05/08 Daily Report on Activities, Legislation and Initiatives of the ALEC/Koch Cabal

By Bob Sloan

ALEC’s Latest “Transparency” Move: Asserting Immunity From Freedom of Information Laws

ALEC Assembles “Most Wanted” List, and Oklahomans Say “ALEC Is Not OK”

SD Legislators Spend Thousands On Travel

SIOUX FALLS, SD – 

Over the past five years, South Dakota taxpayers have spent more than $360,000 for lawmakers to attend out-of-state meetings.

The latest trip was this weekend. More than a dozen Republicans traveled to Oklahoma City for a summit hosted by the conservative-leaning American Legislative Exchange Council known as ALEC.

One of the state co-chairs of ALEC says no tax dollars will be spent on the latest meeting because it’s considered a task force meeting and paid through fundraisers.

However, Democrats are still criticizing the recent approval of tax dollars to pay for ALEC dues and trips even though the state has spent much more on travel expenses for other organizations.

 

Private conservative group ALEC carries sway in legislature

RALEIGH — One bill protects a Fortune 500 company from costly asbestos lawsuits. Another shields food companies from obesity-related liability claims.

North Carolina lawmakers advocating the measures during a recent committee meeting touted how many other states had approved or considered similar measures. It’s good public policy, they argued, and now it’s North Carolina’s turn.

What didn’t get mentioned is the organization that helped coordinate the effort and draft the bills: the American Legislative Exchange Council, a largely private conservative group backed by major corporations that proposes model legislation for like-minded lawmakers to introduce across the country.

Despite being shunned by many of its members amid controversy a year ago, ALEC continues to exert substantial influence in North Carolina. House Speaker Thom Tillis is a national board member, and former Rep. Fred Steen, the past state ALEC chairman, is Gov. Pat McCrory’s legislative lobbyist.

ALEC FINGERPRINTS

A handful of bills filed by N.C. lawmakers include passages with identical language to model legislation supported by the American Legislative Exchange Council, a conservative organization criticized for its close ties to businesses that help write the measures. Here are a few examples:

• Charter schools: Senate Bill 337 creates an independent board to manage charter schools and includes paragraphs near-verbatim to ALEC’s Charter School Growth with Quality Act. It goes for a full Senate vote Tuesday.

• Asbestos: The measure is designed to insulate one company, Philadelphia-based Crown Holdings, from asbestos exposure lawsuits related to a former subsidiary. An ALEC measure pushed by the company matches North Carolina’s House Bill 415 and efforts in other states. A House Judiciary committee heard testimony Wednesday but did not take a vote.

• Obesity lawsuits: The Commonsense Consumption Act is much like an ALEC measure by the same name. It shields food companies from lawsuits related to obesity and weight gain. A House Judiciary committee heard the bill Wednesday but took no action.

• State sovereignty: House Resolution 617 to express support for the state’s rights under the 10th Amendment includes large portions verbatim from an ALEC resolution to “restate state sovereignty.” The resolution, sponsored by Rep. Larry Pittman, a Concord Republican, and others, is sitting in the House Rules committee.

• Anti-union: North Carolina law restricts unions, but lawmakers want to put it in the state constitution. House Bill 6 sponsored by Speaker Thom Tillis is similar to an ALEC “Right to Work” measure and includes some of the same language. The bill is scheduled for a hearing Tuesday.

Exposing ALEC’s Agenda to Defund and Dismantle Public Education

I recently watched: The United States of ALEC.

This film, featuring Bill Moyers, does a masterful job of explaining how the closed-door manipulations of the American Legislative Exchange Council and its corporate lobbyists affect public policy in every realm of our society — including education.

Our nation spends about $500 billion in local, state and federal funds on public schools from kindergarten through high school. Most Americans view this as a wise investment in our nation’s future. Throughout the 20th century the U.S. was the clear leader in public education. We created the most vibrant economy the world has ever known. The record speaks for itself — public education is a great investment.

State Renewable Energy Policy Developments – April Recap

 Media coverage of renewable energy developments at the state level continued to center on the efforts led by the Koch Brothers-backed American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) to try and weaken, repeal, or “repeal-by-weaken” renewable energy portfolio standard (RPS) in a couple dozen of the 29 states plus Washington, D.C. that have them.

There are several, perhaps less well known, positive developments too.

The figure below from a recent report by Justin Barnes and Chelsea Barnes of Keyes, Fox & Wiedman, LLP, categorizing active legislative proposals as either ‘strengthening’ or ‘weakening’ state RPSs, provides what I think is a more accurate and more complete picture of what is going on with clean energy in state legislatures. (The starred states denote the four states with in-depth reviews further down this posting.)

US States 2013 RPS legislative activity map (Barnes, J. 2013)

ALEC’s guy is Thom Tillis

Curious, it seems. N.C. House Speaker Thom Tillis headed off recently to the spring conference of the American Legislative Exchange Council in Oklahoma City. It’s a national group funded mainly by large corporations that advocates for conservative causes and even takes the step of helping lawmakers of a like mind in various states draft laws.

ALEC, as it’s known, has provided language for bills that’s even been used this session in North Carolina, ranging from creating an independent board to take charter school governance away from the State Board of Education to protecting a Philadelphia-based company from lawsuits involving asbestos exposure to installing an anti-union amendment in the state constitution. Closer to home, the Civitas Institute, a conservative group, used ALEC literature in an indoctrination…er, training…session for freshman lawmakers.

This “Partnership” is the Gun Pointed at the Heart of Democracy

There’s a gun pointed at the heart of representative democracy, and your Congressperson has their finger on the trigger.

It’s called the American Legislative Exchange Council-or ALEC for short.

And while its name may sound perfectly harmless, it’s the single reason why your vote no longer matters.

You see, due to the influence wielded by this mysterious group, elected officials have become little more than high-paid rubber stamps.

As for representation, thanks to ALEC, you don’t really have any.

 

Rifts Deepen Over Direction of Ed. Policy in U.S.

“In statehouses and cities across the country, battles are raging over the direction of education policy—from the standards that will shape what students learn to how test results will be used to judge a teacher’s performance…

“…Even as antipathy to the common core fosters some otherwise unlikely alignments, support for charter schools and so-called “parent trigger” laws brings together many Democrats and Republicans in the name of more choice and power for parents.

The lineup on the side of such proposals includes long-standing and new advocacy groups like Stand for ChildrenDemocrats for Education Reform, and StudentsFirst(founded by former District of Columbia Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee). And it features such influential conservative groups as the American Legislative Exchange Council.

 

More Lack of Transparency by ALEC Revealed and Reported

More Lack of Transparency by ALEC Revealed and Reported

From an article at PRWatch by Brendan Fischer

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

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

ALEC disclaimer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From PRWatch by Brendan Fischer and Nick Surgey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Bob Sloan

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

Click on a link to view the complete article.

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

From “The Raw Story”

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

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

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

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

Moffitt skips House session to attend conservative conference

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

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

Ag-Gag Laws Could Make America Sick

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fossil Fuel Empire Strikes Back…At Clean Energy

Front Groups do the Dirty Work for Oil and Gas Industry

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

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

State House leaders off to ALEC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

International:

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

Firms rush to relocate in low-tax Britain

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

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

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

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

Are renewables doomed to failure in Australia?

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

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

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

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

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

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

05/03 Daily Report on Activities, Legislation and Initiatives of the ALEC/Koch Cabal

05/03 Daily Report on Activities, Legislation and Initiatives of the ALEC/Koch Cabal

By Bob Sloan

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

Click on a link to view the complete article.

Thousands Across the U.S. Rightly Protest Sallie Mae For Skyrocketing Student Debt

To coincide with the action students are taking, Jobs with Justice has put out a fact sheet on some of the reasons why the target is Sallie Mae. Points range from Sallie Mae having over 1,500 complaints against them filed to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (and they’re still open to comments up until May 28), to the fact that they were one of the few large corporations to join the American Legislative Exchange Council in 2012. That’s after public pressure drove corporations such as McDonald’s away from the organization for supporting legislature such as the “Stand Your Ground” law. 

Rankings Of Idaho’s Business Climate? Take Them With A Grain Of Salt

Why does Idaho come in ninth in one index evaluating state business taxes and climates, but 31st in another?

Five of the six reports critiqued here have something else in common: They are produced by organizations with distinctly conservative ideologies and agendas (theTax Foundation, the Beacon Hill Institute, the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council, and the American Legislative Exchange Council). The reports, as a result, are really aimed at state policy makers, in the hope of promoting the underlying agendas of the organizations. – Peter Fisher, ‘Grading Places: What Do The Business Climate Rankings Really Tell Us?’

 The report details four business climate indices — including the American Legislative Exchange Council’s “Rich States, Poor States” report, which ranks Idaho in the top ten, and the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council’s U.S. “Business Policy Index,” which names Idaho number 31 — and is available here. 

 

The bill signed into law in 2012 is entitled, “Firearms Destruction Prevention Act”. No kidding, that’s the title. Moreover, the bill to save confiscated guns from destruction was written and lobbied by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)….you may have heard of them. A few months before passage….

….. the corporations and legislators on the ALEC Public Safety and Elections Task Force had adopted a version of the “Firearms Destruction Prevention Act” (also known as the “Disposition of Firearms in State and Local Custody Act”) as a “model,” at the behest of the NRA. Both the ALEC/NRA model and the Arizona law have the same functional impact.

When the bill was introduced in the Arizona state Senate, twenty out of its twenty-six sponsors were known ALEC members.

House sends tax cut bill to Gov. Mary Fallin

The bill thus goes to Gov. Mary Fallin, giving her an opportunity to sign it and a sweeping workers compensation reform measure while the American Legislative Exchange Council, a driving force behind much of the nation’s conservative lawmaking, holds its annual convention in Oklahoma City.

Fallin is scheduled to speak to the convention on Friday.

Picture of Governor Fallin speaking to ALEC members today and pictures from inside the ALEC Task Force meeting…

Fallin speaking in OK  Energy task force pic   States task force summit pic

task force meeting in OK

 

NC Senators force ALEC bill through committee without even counting votes

Bitter from a lack of support for his attacks on clean energy incentives, North Carolina Representative Mike Hager is promising some new, dirty tricks to revive the effort. His colleagues in the NC Senate appear to be helping, today advancing the Senate version of Rep. Hager’s bill through committee without counting the votes.

Representative Mike Hager is a former engineer at coal-burning utility Duke Energy — the largest utility in the country and one of the biggest carbon polluters in the world –  and a member of the contentious American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which created the model bill that became Hager’s attack on renewable energy on the dime of companies like Duke, Exxon, Koch Industries and Peabody Energy. 

Big agribusiness is funding the Eco Terrorism Act

So who is behind these bills? Many of the documents contain wording very similar to the original draft written by the lawyers of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a corporate lobby group posing as a non-profit, ‘non-partisan’ think tank. Until recently, ALEC managed to keep its methods and its membership secret; however, a leak followed by a Freedom of Information Act filing revealed that the organization drafts bills on behalf of transnational corporations, and persuades its legislative members (i.e. conservative Senators and Representatives) to introduce those bills. ALEC has secretly lobbied on behalf of the tobacco industry, the gun industry, and against minimum wage laws, all behind closed doors. The organization is effectively a dating agency which matches legislators looking for donations to their campaign funds with big businesses who want an influence on the law. 

Bad Economic Development Ideas from Conservatives

This is an ambitious study that analyzes six different indexes published by five different groups. Four are simple combinations of a wide variety of policy variables, each with its own idiosyncratic weighting systems, all of which are published by conservative organizations such as the Tax Foundation or the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

Georgia graded on K-12 performance

The American Legislative Exchange Council recently released its ranking by state of K-12 performance, progress and reform.

Georgia’s education policies grade was B-. The state academic standards were B+ for English and language arts and A- for mathematics.

COMMITTEE TO ELECT RON GEORGE SPECIAL CAMPAIGN ANNOUNCEMENT SCHEDULED

Delegate Ron George has served in the Maryland House of Delegates since 2007. Delegate George serves on the Ways and Means Committee, Election Law Sub-Committee, Education Sub-Committee, Transportation Sub-Committee, Veterans’ Caucus, Sportsmen’s Caucus, The Commission on Campaign Finance Reform, and the Waterways Workgroup. He is the Founder and Chair of the Doctor’s Caucus. He serves on the American Legislative Exchange Council’s Tax and Fiscal Policy Task Force.

Pennsylvania lawmakers, officials disclose gifts, travel 

HARRISBURG (AP) — Pennsylvania state lawmakers and other public officials are disclosing gifts, travel and other financial details in annual reports due with the State Ethics Commission.

Elected members of the Legislature reported more than $43,000 in gifts, transportation, lodging and hospitality last year, a number that should rise after the remaining one-fourth of the 253-member body submits their Statements of Financial Interest. The reports are due on Wednesday.

Members accepted travel-related costs for trips to Ireland, Arizona, Illinois, New York, North Carolina and Washington, D.C., among other places. They took free ski passes, entertainment and a membership in the Erie Yacht Club.

Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, R-Butler, said the $2,224 he reported from attending two American Legislative Exchange Council meetings was not for a vacation.