organized labor

More Controversies at Nevada DOC – Director Cox Resigns

More Controversies at Nevada DOC – Director Cox Resigns

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

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

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

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

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

Alpine Steel owner, Randy Bulloch

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why ALEC is Ultra-Important & Irreplaceable to the Koch Cabal

Why ALEC is Ultra-Important & Irreplaceable to the Koch Cabal

by Bob Sloan

Pursuing Charles and David Koch and their funding of the far right and an ultra-conservative agenda is important. Identifying the “charitable” organizations they launder money through – which is then passed onto other organizations (along with credits), is also important. Exposing the various billionaire families (DeVos, Coors, Bradley, etc.) that contribute to the goals of the Kochs’ and their cabal, is likewise important.

However, what those actively pursuing and exposing the Koch Cabal must understand is that once an integral part of the cabal is exposed, the duties that particular organization was responsible for, is transferred to one or more of the Koch’s vast network – and the agenda continues to move along smoothly without any real interruption. The cabal can afford to “lose” one or more of the network’s controlled “charities” and continue to function without missing a beat.

The one “tool” available to the Kochs’ and their vast network that they simply cannot function without…cannot shift the duties of or advance an agenda without…is the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). ALEC is the “enabler” for the entire cabal’s vast network. Through ALEC legislation is developed that directly benefits that network in one form or another (lower corporate taxes, deregulation of government oversight(s), voter restrictions, tort “reforms” that limit compensation available to consumers, limiting the authority of government agencies such as the DOJ and EPA).

ALEC is what allows corporate interests to be written into laws the general public are made to live by. An example of such laws are seen everywhere today: criminal justice privatization…private prisons, privatized prisoner healthcare, phone services, banking and industries where prisoner labor manufactures goods for private companies; pursuit of privatizing the U.S. Post Office (FedEx and UPS are long time members of ALEC); Stand Your Ground; relaxation of renewable energy mandates and deregulation involving emission standards; privatizing our public school systems, authorization of Charter Schools…and the list goes on with hundreds of laws written to benefit business and corporations adopted by ALEC and sent out nationwide via nearly 2,000 state lawmakers holding ALEC membership and loyalty.

Without ALEC the overall Koch cabal/network would be unable to advance their conservative agenda through “model legislation” presented in all 50 states by ALEC controlled state lawmakers. Without the ability to craft legislation and get it introduced in our states, the entire network would cease to function as a viable political entity – as it has since 1973.

The entire landscape of our laws over the past 40 years has been affected by ALEC. Drug laws, mandatory minimum sentences, truth in sentencing, abolishing parole…all of the hundreds of laws used to incarcerate millions of Americans for victim-less crimes and hold them for years as a vast labor force available to private manufacturers, were written and disseminated by ALEC. Private prison contractors, Geo Group and Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) were members of ALEC when the laws authorizing prison privatization were written and passed state by state.

Some of the companies that have capitalized from these laws and this slave-styled work force include; Boeing, Microsoft, McDonalds, Victoria’s Secret, JC Penney, WalMart, Starbucks, Lockheed Martin, Berkshire Hathaway, Honeywell, Revlon, IBM, Lucent Technologies, AT&T Wireless. Intel, Siemens, etc. Good jobs were taken from American labor markets and turned over to low wage prisoners due to ALEC’s “Prison Industries” legislation.

Conservative politicians have fought against jobs bills and legislation because they’ve spent decades working to lower wages through the insourcing of labor; taking jobs from the public sector and placing them in the hands of a captive workforce.

Today as the GOP struggles to remain a viable political party, American voters have begun to wake up and vote against their extreme agenda. This has resulted in the pursuit of gerrymandering precincts and districts by Republicans as well as introduction and passage of legislation to reduce voter participation through “voter ID” and “voter suppression” laws. These are designed specifically to impact upon minority voters who predominately vote democratic.

The current attack upon voters is not coincidental. ALEC co-founder Paul Weyrich famously stated in 1980 that he did not want everyone to vote because “our leverage in elections goes up as the voting populace goes down“. In 1999 after the election of George W. Bush, a disciple of Weyrich, Eric Heubeck published a “treatise” based upon the teachings of Weyrich, titled “The Integration of Theory and Practice: A Program for the New Traditionalist Movement“.

In this manifesto styled treatise Heubeck put forth the guidelines for conservatives to follow that would allow entirely changing the political landscape, advancing a conservative and evangelical agenda to assume domination over progressive and liberal ideologies. The instructions quite candidly have worked. A reading of this document and comparison to the instructions provided against actual activities, actions and events that have taken place over the past 14 years reveals conservatives (and ALEC) have followed the guidelines religiously.

The Koch agenda is funded by Charles, David and a handful of select rich business owners and corporate executives, many of which sit upon ALEC’s Private Enterprise Advisory Council or are represented by CEO’s, CFO’s or other executives. This “advisory” council has direct access to all of ALEC’s 2,000 legislative members and alumni (many of which are now members of Congress, 82 Representatives and 10 Senators). Of the alumni, several names are associated with today’s gridlock in Congress; Manchin, Inhofe, Graham, Rubio, Shelby, Enzi, Bachus, Blackburn, Boehner, Cantor, Gingrey, Price and King. Again, these alumni and the pursuit of the cabal’s agenda through them is not coincidental. These elected officials have a loyalty to the cabal members, ALEC and campaign donors such as the Kochs and many of the corporations holding membership in ALEC.

Laws must be designed, written and crafted based upon constituent needs and desires – not based upon what fattens the bottom line of some corporation or powerful business owners. Doing it that way has led us to where we are today with a handful of people holding the majority of assets and the middle class existing off the crumbs of the rich.

When you hear philosophy, economics or corporate rights issues discussed by the likes of Steven Moore, Art Laffer or Victor Schwartz upon the airwaves or in the newspapers, keep in mind they are all members of ALEC’s “Board of Scholars”. They along with Congressmen such as Graham, Boehner and Cantor speak on behalf of ALEC, Charles and David Koch and the other cabal members.

As clearly demonstrated by the foregoing, without ALEC and that organization’s ability to advance laws sought by their corporate members and donors, the cabal would be unable to function as a powerful and direct influence upon state and federal legislation. Which leads to the conclusion that ALEC must be abolished – at all costs. They and their considerable influence must be removed from all legislative involvement. The cabal must be denied the ability to draft model legislation favored by them and pass it along to state legislatures through ALEC’s legislative membership.

Once ALEC loses the ability to put legislators and corporations at the same table and write legislation such as they have done for years – the cabal will collapse upon itself. Without the ability to advance legislation the cabal is without the means necessary to control our legislatures and laws. Alec truly is the entity that enables the agenda…and must be eliminated. Until then, the beneficial corporate crafted legislation will continue to flow to every state, year after year until they succeed in passing them into law. Attempts at voter suppression will continue, government oversight will be weakened as the planet’s resources are consumed by hungry corporations without regard for future generations or the impact upon the globe.

All paths to and from the Cabal go through ALEC…
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ALEC the enabler must be forced into extinction…

ALEC Activities, Actions and Articles in Opposition for May 15 – June 8

ALEC Activities, Actions and Articles in Opposition for May 15 – June 8

by Bob Sloan

I apologize for the scarcity of posting over the past 30 days.  Hope to get everyone caught up with everything ALEC that has transpired since my last post.

An important aspect of the ALEC story and saga that everyone MUST keep in mind: is the intertwining of ideology and funding that enables ALEC and which originates from the brothers Koch, Charles and David, disseminated and then supported from Koch run or controlled “non-profit” affiliated organizations such as; Mackinac Center.  Cato Institute, American’s for Prosperity, Manhattan Institute, Reason Foundation, the Institute for Humane Studies, Mercatus Center and many more.

Without Koch’s support and funding ALEC would not be the organization it is today…and without ALEC, the Koch’s and their ideological agenda would not be able to influence our society and government absent the legislation ALEC provides at the state and federal levels to advance that agenda.  The Koch/ALEC relationship has created an evil cabal over the past 4 decades that that prey upon citizen and elected officials alike.

Sadly many fail to realize the symbiotic relationship involving Koch, ALEC and the supporting organizations and corporations that together make up the cabal.  Researchers and reporters continue to look at the various activities of each as separate rather than as coordinated and organized attacks waged by a single entity operating at the direction of the billionaire brothers Koch.

Click on the links in headlines to open new window and read entire article or document.

The Kochs’ 30+ Year Extreme, Self-Serving Agenda (many important Koch documents provided here)

“Over the past forty years, one thing about the Kochs has not changed: their willingness to spend their fortune to drive their extreme, self-serving agenda.

Whether it’s the $125 million their organization Americans for Prosperity has committed to spend in this year’s mid-term elections or the massive funds they spent on David Koch’s 1980 Libertarian campaign for Vice President, the Kochs are committed to seeing through their self-serving agenda.

“In 1980, that agenda involved attacking Social Security and the minimum wage, and defending tax breaks for big oil.

“The 1980 Koch-Clark campaign called Social Security “the most serious threat to the future stability of our society next to the threat of nuclear war” and called for phasing out the program, in addition to proposing to abolish ALL minimum wage laws. What’s more, the 1980 Koch-Clark ticket proposed cutting capital gains tax rates in half and eliminating the “windfall profits” tax on oil companies.

“These revelations came from previously unreleased primary source documents discovered by American Bridge…”

Quixotic ’80 Campaign Gave Birth to Kochs’ Powerful Network

“He backed the full legalization of abortion and the repeal of laws that criminalized drug use, prostitution and homosexuality. He attacked campaign donation limits and assailed the Republican star Ronald Reagan as a hypocrite who represented “no change whatsoever from Jimmy Carter and the Democrats.”

“It was 1980, and the candidate was David H. Koch, a 40-year-old bachelor living in a rent-stabilized apartment in New York City. Mr. Koch, the vice-presidential nominee for the Libertarian Party, and his older brother Charles, one of the party’s leading funders, were mounting a long-shot assault on the fracturing American political establishment.

“The Kochs had invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in the burgeoning libertarian movement. In the waning days of the 1970s, in the wake of Watergate, Vietnam and a counterculture challenging traditional social mores, they set out to test just how many Americans would embrace what was then a radical brand of politics…”

“It was the first and only bid for high office by a Koch family member. But much of what occurred in that quixotic campaign shaped what the Kochs have become today — a formidable political and ideological force determined to remake American politics, driven by opposition to government power and hostility to restrictions on money in campaigns…”

“That election also handed the Kochs their first political setback, driving them to rethink their approach to libertarian ideas. Since then, they have built a powerful network of political nonprofit groups that is exempt from most campaign reporting requirements and contribution limits but will spend tens of millions of dollars to influence the 2014 election. They have exerted enormous influence on American politics, battling government regulation and casting doubt on the urgency of climate change. Instead of replacing the Republican Party, they have helped to profoundly reshape it.,,”

The Republican War on Workers’ Rights

“Midterm elections are like fancy software: Experts love them, end-users couldn’t care less. But if the 2010 elections are any indication, we might not want to doze off as we head into the summer months before November. Midterm elections at the state level can have tremendous consequences, especially for low-wage workers. What you don’t know can hurt you — or them.

“In 2010, the Republicans won control of the executive and legislative branches in 11 states (there are now more than 20 such states). Inspired by business groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers (all ALEC members of affiliates), they proceeded to rewrite the rules of work, passing legislation designed to enhance the position of employers at the expense of employees…” 

On Our Radar – Who’s Your Choice For Most Despicable Politician In America?

“Least Scrupulous – Virginia House Speaker William Howell

“Bill Howell is a shill for ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, bringing the Koch Brothers legislative agenda to a Republican legislature near you. He is a former national chairman of that group and the Virginia legislature has considered more than fifty ALEC-model bills in the last few years. But what is truly aggravating is that Virginia taxpayers have spent more than $230,000 sending their legislators to ALEC conferences…”

Google lobbying disclosure backed by CT pensioners defeated

“A shareholder proposal that would have required Google to disclose further details about its lobbying expenditures was defeated by a more than 10-to-1 margin this week.

“The Connecticut Retirement Plans and Trust Funds, which has approximately $59 million invested in Google, backed the proposal alongside Walden Asset Management and other institutional investors.

“In a statement released Thursday, State Treasurer Denise Nappier called the vote a “strong showing,” given that the company’s executive officers and board members own more than 60 percent of the voting power.

“The proposal would have required the search-engine giant to prepare an annual report to describe its policies and procedures on direct and indirect lobbying activity and grassroots communications; disclose each payment and recipient; and disclose the company’s membership in and payments to any tax-exempt organization, such as the American Legislative Exchange Council, that crafts and endorses model legislation.

“The proposal received 60.5 million votes in favor, 642.7 million against and 43 million abstentions at Google’s annual shareholder meeting on Wednesday.”

Three New Ways the Koch Brothers Are Screwing America

“They are truly cowards in the worst way,” says filmmaker Robert Greenwald, of the notorious billionaires Charles and David Koch. And he should know. After he released his 2012 documentary, “The Koch Brothers Exposed,” Koch-funded organizations took out ads trying to discredit Greenwald and his work, yet the brothers still declined his repeated offers to debate the topics covered in the film, like the re-segregation of schools and the defanging of the EPA. “I wanted to engage in a policy debate,” he says. “But they won’t engage.”

For most people, an attack from the fourth-richest (and perhaps most politically conniving) men in America would slow them down. But instead Greenwald, who became interested in the powerful duo when he read Jane Mayer’s 2010 New Yorker profile, decided to double down, and began work on “The Koch Brothers Exposed: 2014 Edition.” The update, which is now available free online, is centered on their influence in (and outpouring of money since) the Citizens United Supreme Court decision. While researching and producing it with his small staff at Brave New Films, Greenwald says he was “surprised by not just the sheer numbers, but the extraordinary lengths they go to legally to hide the amounts they’re giving…”

Who Is Behind the National Right to Work Committee and its Anti-Union Crusade?

As the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2014 session comes to a close, one of the major cases left for a decision is Harris vs. Quinn,which could effect some 7 million public sector workers in the United States.

The case originates in Illinois, where home health care workers have been successfully organized by public sector unions. Now, a small group of these workers, represented by lawyers from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, have sued and their lawyers contend that the agency fees, or the fair share dues that even non-union members of a bargaining unit are required to pay to unions that bargain for higher wages on their behalf, violate the First Amendment. Agency fees are barred in so-called “right to work” states, which have much less unionization and lower wages and benefits…

…The NRTWC also does extensive lobbying on the state level. In 2012, lobbyists registered with the NRTWC were on the ground in Indiana and Michigan when both states passed anti-union “right to work” bills and are big supporters of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and his efforts to crush public sector unions. The NRTWC was an exhibitor at the 2011 annual conference of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the corporate bill mill exposed by CMD in 2011. ALEC’s “Right to Work Act,” which has been in the ALEC library since at least 1980, is one of its most commonly used “model” bills. When Republicans took trifecta control of 26 state houses in November of 2010, it was a top agenda item at the December 2010 ALEC meeting. According to a 2010 email from ALEC to Wisconsin legislators that CMD obtained, ALEC referred to its “Right to Work Act” as a “solution… for your state’s most pressing issues.” Currently 24 states are so-called “right to work” states. In 2013, 15 states introduced legislation based on ALEC’s “Right to Work Act.”

 Rep. Fred Clark: Time to take a stand for rural schools

For rural Wisconsin, public schools are the hub of activity during the day, doubling as community centers, a place to exercise after work and polling stations for elections. Rural schools, with their mascots and sports teams, school plays, and graduations, tie together generations and capture the story of an entire town.

Unfortunately, we are poised to lose a growing number of those rural schools unless our Legislature reverses course. In the face of declining enrollment and huge cuts in revenue, rural schools are cutting programs, stretching staff with heavier workloads, closing schools, and surviving on referendums year after year. In the outright war on public schools that the Republican majority in the Wisconsin Legislature has waged since 2011 with its $1.6 billion in public school funding cuts, our rural schools are becoming the first casualties…

…The push to privatize public schools with taxpayer funding comes from a national movement advanced by the now-infamous American Legislative Exchange Council, a cadre of wealthy political donors, and an army of lobbyists that includes three former Republican speakers of the Wisconsin Assembly. As recently as their 2014 convention, Wisconsin Republicans have openly committed to blowing the caps entirely off the voucher school program in the next state budget.

Preemptive laws against municipal minimum wages: ALEC idea

“House Finance Committee Chairman Ray Gallison’s new bill to remove local control of minimum wage laws is akin to a corporate-funded effort across the country to suppress living wage protections. The tactic is known as passing “preemption laws” and it’s been tied back to the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, the right wing bill mill that drafts corporate-friendly legislation for state legislators.

“Business-backed groups that oppose living wages and paid leave have a serious problem on their hands: polls show that they’re popular,” according to (Bill) Moyers and Companyin a report on Oklahoma’s new living wage restrictions. “So-called preemption laws provide them with a solution.”

“ALEC-sponsored “preemptive laws” are often cited when it comes to paid leave bills (seeherehere and here). A 2013 Economic Policy Institute study by Gordon Lafer (The Legislative Attack on American Wages and Labor Standards) says ALEC suggests that legislators from left-leaning states introduce bills that stop minimum wages from being enacted at the municipal level…”

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

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

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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…

Nevada Prison Industry Administrative Rules Now in Place

Nevada Prison Industry Administrative Rules Now in Place

by Bob Sloan

silver state industries

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

Sen. Richard Bryan

Sen. Richard Bryan

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

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

Cox-listens-to-testimony-crop

NDOC Dir. Cox

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ALEC News and Articles for Feb 18th…

ALEC News and Articles for Feb 18th…

by Bob Sloan

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

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

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

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

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

Wisconsin Moving to Advance ALEC Constitutional Convention Scheme

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Portrait of Time Warner’s Active Role in ALEC

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

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

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

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

Jindal, a Smart ALEC over Louisiana Broadband

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

Capitol Report: ALEC, broadband, guns, religion

TOPEKA — ALEC official in the House

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ALEC SEEKS TO RECRUIT UTAH STATE REPRESENTATIVE

“Greetings, Rep. Lifferth,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sincerely,

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

American Legislative Exchange Council

VIDEO: ALEC’s Valentine Service for Duke Energy

From Daily Kos by Connor Gibson

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

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

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

Valentine Video For Lonely Lobbyists – PolluterHarmony

“Meet ALEC: pHarmony Expands with State-level Matchmaking

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

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

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

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

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

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

ALEC’s Christmas Gift to All…

ALEC’s Christmas Gift to All…

by Bob Sloan

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

Just let the sun shine on in

Now the Koch brothers are coming after my solar panels.

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

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

What’s not to love?

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

ALEC Members won’t support democracy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Campaign finance: Support disclosure so we can follow the money

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

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

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

Our View: Things go worse with Koch

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

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

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

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

Is Carbon Pricing a Diversion From the Real Story?

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

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

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

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

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

Paid via Card, Workers Feel Sting of Fees

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PSC Again Hikes Georgia Power Rates, Declines on Solar Tax

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quest to restrict union fees targets three additional states

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

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

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

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

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

The State Policy Network’s Cozy Relationship With Big Tobacco

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

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

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

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

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

by Bob Sloan

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

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

DC 12-13 protest

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jeffersonian project

 

Jeffersonian project 2

document obtained from Guardian document trove

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

Daily Kos: ALEC’s trouble continues as Visa leaves

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Nevada Continues to Struggle With Prison Industry Law

Nevada Continues to Struggle With Prison Industry Law

By Bob Sloan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

TRANSPARENCY

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

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

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

 

satisfactory performance

Board of Examiners Contract Form on Alpine Contract 5/11

 

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

Alpine NDOC Contract excerpt

from 2011 Alpine/NDOC Contract

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

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

forbearance excerpt 1

From Alpine Forbearance Agreement

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

Alpine - prevailing wage requirement

2011 Alpine Contract Section 8.6

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

NV OES struct steel fab

2012 NV OES Website

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bulloch’s response was:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CONFLICT OF INTEREST?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NCIA Minimum Wage Resolution

From NCIA Library – Last Accessed 3/10

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

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

Connett NCIA position

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

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

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

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

NDOC public relations officer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

by Bob Sloan

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

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

“Something STINKS In Our Statehouses”

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

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

Soros-funded Media Group Attacks Conservative ‘Stink Tanks’

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

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

IS IKEA THE NEW MODEL FOR THE CONSERVATIVE MOVEMENT?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ALEC Floats Legislation Chipping Away At The 17th Amendment

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

ALEC’s voting bill threatens democracy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Look for similar bold moves like this in your state…

EDF Steps Up to Protect Ohio’s Clean Energy Standards 

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

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

Explaining To Grist Why Facebook And Google Belong To ALEC 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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