U.S. Chamber of Commerce

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

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

An Analysis by Bob Sloan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The intro to this report begins:

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

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

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

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

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

How successful has this cabal been?:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Latest ALEC Material, Articles and Activities…

Latest ALEC Material, Articles and Activities…

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

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

From PRWatch by Brendan Fischer

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

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

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

Is the WI Legislature Above the Open Records Law?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yelp! Joins ALEC Amidst Ongoing Criticism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Today’s top opinion: Rock the boat

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gaming the system

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

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

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

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

 

Indiana “Right-To-Work” (for less) Ruled Unconstitutional

Indiana “Right-To-Work” (for less) Ruled Unconstitutional

by Bob Sloan

600_right_to_work_statesLast year Indiana became the 23rd state to pass “Right to Work” legislation – a top initiative adopted and circulated by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).  For several years ALEC (with a corporate membership of more than 300 national and multinational companies) has pushed legislation – that can best be described as anti-union – in most states.  In each state where ALEC’s legislative members are part of a GOP majority, these laws have been systematically proposed and passed, nearly word for word as they were written by ALEC’s corporate lobbyists.

Sweeping changes in party control of many statehouses after the 2008 and 2010 election cycles resulted in several new “red” states falling under the control of conservative led GOP lawmakers and Governors.  With GOP majorities in control of states such as Wisconsin, Arizona and Ohio (each with sitting Governors who are ALEC alum), ALEC’s “model legislation” began being shoved through statehouses with little or no notice to – or regard for – voter’s position on such proposed bills.

In this atmosphere, Indiana’s ALEC led legislature/assembly began adopting ALEC written legislation culminating in a contentious fight last year over a proposed Right to Work bill. Organized labor, activists and non-union workers turned out for weeks to protest passage of this anti-union legislation.  In the face of a majority of strong opposition lawmakers managed to pass the bill and Governor Mitch Daniels quickly signed it into law.

In what can only be termed a set-back to Indiana’s GOP controlled Legislature – and ALEC, a Superior Court judge in Lake County, Indiana has ruled the new Right to Work law unconstitutional, as reported by WISH TV, in Indianapolis today:

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A Lake County judge has determined Indiana’s right-to-work law violates a provision in the state constitution barring the delivery of services “without just compensation.”

“Lake Superior Court Judge John Sedia found that the law wrongly requires unions to represent workers who do not pay dues. Indiana became the 23rd state in the nation to ban the collection of mandatory fees for representation from unions.

“Since then, union lawyers have gone to the courts to try and overturn the law. Sedia issued an order last Thursday declaring the ban on collections and associated criminal penalties unconstitutional.

“A spokesman for Attorney General Greg Zoeller says the state will appeal the ruling directly to Indiana’s Supreme Court.

“Union spokesman Ed Maher calls the ruling a victory for the middle class and dues-paying members.”

Though there was no mention of the involvement of ALEC or their 40 or so Indiana legislative members in pushing this legislation through in the public announcement, those tracking RTW legislation nationally know where the legislation originated and who is behind it.

Having researched and tracked ALEC’s activities over the years, it is expected that once the appeal is filed to the IN. Supreme Court an amicus curiae brief will be filed by ALEC and several satellite organizations such as Heritage Foundation, National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB) and the Chamber of Commerce.  This is the standard Modus operandi for the conservative cabal and reported on by VLTP in an independent Report in 2011. Those opposed to these RTW laws should even now be preparing to throw their collective hats into the ring here in Indiana by following ALEC’s lead and preparing amici filings for the upcoming Indiana Supreme Court battle that is forthcoming.

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

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

By Bob Sloan

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

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

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

My view: ALEC coverage a disservice to Utah

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

New Study Shows ‘Red’ States Have Highest Economic Potential

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

Tillis-Brawley spat rooted in cable fight

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

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

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

WHERE THE REAL DAMAGE GETS DONE

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

Taking On Sallie Mae and the Cost of Education

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

Is the government spying on environmental groups?

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

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

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

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

Connecticut Lawmakers Consider Bill That Could Undermine Paid Sick Leave

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

Not-So-Charitable Contributions

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

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

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

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

Scaife-Funded Network Works Hard to Kill Immigration Reform

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

Brad Ashwell: Would Koch Brothers be good for journalism?

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

Asbestos Bill Invades the Privacy of Victims and Veterans | Commentary

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

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

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

ARTICLES IN SUPPORT OF ALEC:

Here’s a Smart Alec We Ought to Heed

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

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

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

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

Three Reasons Why State Polarization Is a Big Deal

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

 

ALEC & Corporate Tort Reform Efforts Surface in Federal Court Decision

ALEC & Corporate Tort Reform Efforts Surface in Federal Court Decision

Featured photo credit: Tim Meko/For the Center for Public Integrity

By Bob Sloan

Recently a federal case involving gross physical abuse, discrimination and underpayment of wages to 32 mentally disabled workers who suffered such abuse and discrimination at the hands of their employer, was decided by a jury in favor of the workers.  The jury awarded $240 million in actual and punitive damages.  Following that judgment another federal judge has reduced that award to a total of $1.6 million.

In an article about this case, written by Chris Young for the Center for Public Integrity, Young identifies two key factors that resulted in the huge reduction in the amount of the award.  First the American’s with Disabilities Act has caps that limit the amount of damages.

“Under the act, compensatory and punitive damages are capped at $50,000 for companies like Henry’s that employ between 14 and 101 employees.”

Secondly, the judge who reduced the award, U.S. District Judge Charles R. Wolle of the Southern District of Iowa is a frequent attendee of pro-corporate seminars and is considered to be “corporate friendly.”

“An Iowa federal judge who frequently attends business-friendly judicial education conferences slashed a landmark $240 million verdict to $1.6 million for 32 mentally disabled workers who suffered abuse and discrimination at the hands of their employer.”

In fact in a related story by Young, Judge Wolfe is one of the top attendees of conservative “junkets” paid for by the likes of the Koch Family Foundations and organized by the Koch funded George Mason University:

“The most-traveled judges, according to reports filed online by the judges, were U.S. District Judge Charles R. Wolle of the Southern District of Iowa and Chief Judge Thomas B. Bennett of the Northern District of Alabama Bankruptcy Court. Each reported attending nine seminars.

“Wolle is a “senior status” judge, meaning he is semi-retired. He did not respond to requests for comment.”

The reduction of the initial jury award by Judge Wolfe appears on the surface to be legally required under existing ADA rules and legislative restrictions.  The judge’s hands were “tied” by the law setting a limit on what those disabled workers could receive.  A larger and more important question is – who is responsible for tying the hands of our judiciary?

When we look beyond the law and investigate why such “caps” are in place, we find that in most cases pro-corporate and anti-consumer laws known as tort laws, originate within and are spread by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).  ALEC claims to have 2,000 elected state lawmakers as members and close to 100 sitting U.S. Congressmen and women are ALEC alumni.  This legislative membership is sponsored, funded and works in concert with more than 350 corporations.

One of ALEC’s key initiatives over the past two decades has been the pursuit of “tort reform” legislation that limits the ability of consumers to recover damages inflicted by defective products, negligence, medical malpractice or corporate malfeasance.  In fact, ALEC and their corporate partners have developed and distributed dozens and dozens of model legislative tort reform “bills” and many of these have been successfully passed and now serve as the “law of the land” regarding consumer and worker rights.

Last year VLTP published several articles related to the ALEC/Koch Cabal’s involvement in unduly influencing our state and federal judiciaries.  This influence included the filing of Amicus briefs (friend of the court) in important cases involving key topics important to corporate interests; tort reform, second amendment gun rights, taxation, EPA and environmental issues and telecommunication laws.

Additional influence involves “training” seminars sponsored and paid for by conservative funded think tanks, corporations and foundations such as the Koch Family Foundation(s) and the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation.  Federal judges are treated to all expense paid junkets to plush resorts where they attend seminars focusing upon the ALEC/Koch agenda of limited government, free-markets and federalism.

Other sponsors of these events include federal judges themselves who help fund these conservative training sessions for new judicial appointees to enhance their knowledge and skills in complex areas of the law – from a conservative POV. The main or core corporate funding comes from:

  • The Searle Freedom Trust
  • ExxonMobil Corp.
  • Shell Oil Co.
  • Pfizer Inc.
  • State Farm Insurance
  • Dow Chemical Co.
  • AT&T Inc.
  • U.S. Chamber of Commerce 

All of these companies and organization have one thing in commonality: they are all either ALEC members, former members or supporters of ALEC and representatives of most even now sit upon ALEC’s Private Enterprise Advisory Council.

The Center for Public Integrity identifies the same companies, foundations and family names involved that VLTP identified over a year ago…and ABC reported on over a decade ago.  Since 2000 states have implemented law after law written by corporate interests, adopted by ALEC and supported by legislators working on behalf of ALEC instead of the rights of their constituents.

In 2001 ABC’s 20/20 presented an expose titled “Junkets for Judges” which can be found on YouTube in a two part presentation.  Here is a link to part one.  Though the 20/20 expose concentrated upon George Mason University’s involvement in providing these trips for our judges,we found several additional universities and private, non-profit organizations participating in these efforts at both the state and federal level.  All but one are provided by conservative organizations, foundations or schools:

•    George Mason University(Law and Economics Center – LEC)   (Recipient of Koch funding totaling $20,297,143 from 1986-2006 ), Earhart Foundation, JM Olin Foundation.
•    Foundation for Research on Economics and Environment (FREE).  Funded by ExxonMobil, GE Foundation, Koch Family Foundation  ($1,305,500 through 2006), JM Olin Foundation, Earhart Foundation and Castle Rock Foundation (Coors). ($65,000 in 2009) and the Claude Lambe Foundation ($1,540,000).
•    Northwestern Law Judicial Education Program (funded by many key ALEC members, including Koch)
•    Liberty Fund providing judicial conferences and seminars to/for Judges.
•    Federalist Society  (Koch funded   $1,437,200 through 2006)
•    Aspen Institute (Koch funded  $1,115,000 through 2006 with David Koch on the BOD).
•    University of Kansas, Law and Organizational Economics Center (LOEC) begun in 1995 by Henry Butler  with a $1,000,000 grant from the Fred and Mary Koch Foundation (see section on Henry Butler below).
•    International Judicial Academy which provides seminars for judges on the International level.

These seminars are a way for ALEC’s corporate members and contributors to assist the cabal’s pursuit of influencing judges to render pro-corporate decisions on important issues and cases.  Another concern is the fact that one or more of our sitting Supreme Court Justices have attended seminars organized or held by these groups and openly favor corporate interests – as witnessed by the decision in Citizens United.

This latest case involving the ADA and 32 mentally disabled workers being cruelly treated by their employer, the outcome of the ALEC/Koch cabal’s pursuit of writing our laws is high-lighted.  Telling our judges how to rule in individual cases through the use of amicus briefs after wining and dining them at plush resorts and indoctrinating them in conservative based ideology – has been successful for the cabal.

Today this cabal is busy privatizing the USPS, public schools, buying up newspapers and media outlets.  No doubt as more and more legal challenges erupt from these activities pursuing control of the media, labor, wages and upcoming model legislation, our courts will be tasked with determining the legality of those pursuits.  Already courts are now busy deciding key cases involving voter ID laws, immigration laws, second amendment challenges and the legality of new laws privatizing our schools.

With friendly judges, cooperating lawmakers and greedy corporations working hand in hand, American consumers, voters and workers are completely compromised.  Unless and until Americans say enough is enough this will continue with corporate owners, investors and politicians reaping the rewards at our expense.  Please join us in abolishing this cabal and returning our country to a country of the people – instead of a growing corporatocracy…

ALEC – A Blunder Down Under – Tobacco Wars

ALEC – A Blunder Down Under – Tobacco Wars

from the archives of  2old2care at BecauseICan

 

ALEC 1975 By Laws

ARTICLE II

PURPOSES

Section 2.01 The purposes and objectives of ALEC shall be to work in cooperation will the private sector to promote individual liberty, limited government and free enterprise.

To achieve such goals ALEC shall:

1. Assist legislators in the states by sharing research information and staff support facilities:

2. Establish a clearinghouse for bills at the state level, and provide for a bill exchange program;

3. Disseminate model legislation and promote the introduction ‘of companion bills in Congress and state legislatures;

4. Improve communications between state legislators and Members of congress;

5. Formulate legislative action programs;

6. Strengthen the position of state and local government relative to the federal governments; and

7. Develop liaison with legislators in other countries on problems of mutual Concern.

Nothing there about international stuff..

 

2010 ALEC Audited Financials

1.  Organization and Summary of Significant Accounting Policies

Organization

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is a non-profit educational entity incorporated in December 1975, under the laws of the States of Illinois.  Its mission is to assist State Legislators, Members of Congress, and the general and business public by sharing research and educational information.  These activities are funded primarily through sponsorships and contributions from the private sector and membership dues.

Nothing there about international stuff..

 

From the cover of the ALEC 2011 report – The State Legislators Guide to Repealing ObamaCare

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is the nation’s largest nonpartisan individual membership association of state legislators, with nearly 2,000 members across the nation and more than 100 alumni members in Congress. ALEC’s mission is to promote free markets, limited government, individual liberty, and federalism through its model legislation in the states.

Nothing there about international stuff..

 

2012 Mission Statement

Mission Statement

The American Legislative Exchange Council’s mission is…

To advance the Jeffersonian Principles of free markets, limited government, federalism, and individual liberty through a nonpartisan public-private partnership among America’s state legislators, concerned members of the private sector, the federal government, and the general public.

To promote these principles by developing policies that ensure the powers of government are derived from, and assigned to, first the People, then the States, and finally the Federal Government.

To enlist state legislators from all parties and members of the private sector who share ALEC’s mission.

To conduct a policy making program that unites members of the public and private sector in a dynamic partnership to support research, policy development, and dissemination activities.

To prepare the next generation of political leadership through educational programs that promote the principles of Jeffersonian democracy, which are necessary for a free society.

Nothing there about international stuff..
Enough – enough.
Nothing there about international stuff – you get it.
Just had to make my point

I never know where I am going to end up when I start researching – today it was five hours of work and a mini-thesis.  But that’s what the universe gave me today.

So grab a cup of coffee – if you are so disposed and read a lot about a little story down under.

 

Today while doing research on something else I ran into the American Legislative Exchange Council and Australia – again  – and that meant it was time to write about it.

This is a two year saga – 2010 and 2011

Yep – Australia.

ALEC’s “newly-formed International Relations Task Force” came about “just in time” to interfere with Australia’s plain packaging of tobacco products..

In 2010 Australia was considering the

Plain Tobacco Packaging (Removing Branding from Cigarette Packs) Bill – Bill 2009, which is currently pending before the Community Affairs Legislation Committee.

In 2010 Australia was exploring the possible legislation that would introduce plain packaging:

What is plain packaging?

Plain packaging, also known as generic, standardized or homogeneous packaging, refers to packaging that has had the attractive promotional aspects of tobacco product packaging removed and the appearance of all tobacco packs is standardized. Except for the brand name (which would be required to be written in a standard typeface, color and size), all other trademarks, logos, color schemes and graphics would be prohibited. The package itself would be required to be plain colored (such as white or brown) and to display only the product content information, consumer information and health warnings required by law.

 what plain packaging of cigarettes looks like

What plain packaging looks like.

The report I read went on to say that:

The current position Plain packaging has not yet been put into effect in any jurisdiction, although it was first proposed by the Canadian government in the 1990s. Legislation is currently being considered by the Australian Government for introduction in 2012 and other governments, such as New Zealand, have expressed an interest in introducing a similar ban. In the UK, the Government’s tobacco control plan2, published in March 2011, included a commitment to consult on plain packaging during 2011, to determine “whether the plain packaging of tobacco products could be effective in reducing the number of young people who take up smoking and in supporting adult smokers who want to quit”. Plain packaging has been supported by the (former) Chief Medical Officer and many other experts and international bodies. The European Commission is exploring the merits of introducing plain packaging as an amendment to the Tobacco Products Directive.

Similar legislation has been or will be considered in/by Canada, Australia, New Zealand, UK, European Commission  …  Also Belgium, Turkey and France from another study

BUT – NOT in the US.

Haven’t heard about pending legislation in the US have you????

Why – because this is where ALEC lives and works behind the scenes and out of the eye of the general public.

As a matter of fact in the August 5, 2010 minutes of the the ALEC International Relations Task Force found on the Common Cause webpage you will find this legislation proposed – look at the submission person!

Resolution Urging Congress to Pass a Ban on “Plain Packaging”

          Submitted by: Ms. Brandie Davis (Philip Morris International). 

AND – they had the chutzpah to send the version “subsequently approved by the Board of Directors”  to the Australian government and the final title?

Resolution Urging the Obama Administration to Protect
Intellectual Property Rights and Oppose Plain Packaging
Initiative Proposed by Trading Partners Worldwide.

 

A little history – this is not the first time ALEC has been involved in tobacco wars.  They are/were a major mover and shaker for the tobacco industry, since the mid 1990’s with the tobacco settlements and on to today.

Why was ALEC messing around in Australia?

2010

In February 2010 – then national Chair – Tom Craddick  wrote a letter on ALEC letterhead to the Senate Standing Committee on Community Affairs – Parliament House – Canberra ACT 2600 Australia [sic]

I am using this letter for snips – because when compared to another ALEC letter written a year later  – this one is more true to the ALEC agenda – whereas the 2011 letter is much more cautious in the way that they word the letter.

This is a significant loss to our private sector members who hold IP rights that are significant assets for their companies. Their logos allow consumers to differentiate between their products and materially inferior ones, and their trademarks protect the reputation of their products. Because of the importance of the trademark in doing business, the protection of the IP rights of our private sector members is a priority for us, and our newly-formed International Relations Task Force committed early on to working on this issue at the international level.

Oh – significant loss to ALEC private/profit sector members.

Protection of the rights of ALEC private/profit  sector members

 

BUT – according to another Australian report Craddick’s whining about IP right for ALEC private sector members is unfounded:

As explained at the seminar and expanded on in an article in the Australian Intellectual Property Law Bulletin, governments are permitted to amend their intellectual property laws to protect public health. Plain packaging does not equate to acquiring the intellectual property of tobacco companies. Governments do not intend to use the logos and tobacco companies will still maintain full rights to their logos and brand imagery; they will simply no longer be able to use these marketing tools on cigarette packages.

So – evidently – ALEC is just making sure they are there for their private/profit sector members – whether they need to be or not.
Back to Craddick

There is no meaningful evidence that plain packaging leads to a reduction in the initiation of tobacco use, overall tobacco consumption or quitting relapses. This conclusion is supported by a series of studies conducted by Dr. Jorge Padilla and Dr. Nadine Watson, “A Critical Review of the Literature on Generic Packaging for Cigarettes” (November 18, 2008). There is, however, evidence suggesting that Bill 2009 could lead to an increase in tobacco use.

“an increase in tobacco use”

But wouldn’t that be a good thing for ALEC’s profit sector members?

Wouldn’t it?

Nope, cause here’s ALEC’s concern:

The brown matte packaging and standard typeface mandated in this bill, would likely occasion an uptick in counterfeit cigarettes, as it is easier to manufacture “plain-packaged” products.

Counterfeit cigarettes?

Does that mean that someone would produce a cigarette that is not a cigarette and sell it as a cigarette?

Fake cigarette – filled with what – oregano?  I think people would figure it out and not buy that brand again.

Counterfeit – isn’t that just an imitation – isn’t that just a new brand – wouldn’t that the  infamous ALEC  free market at work?

 

Is Craddick suggesting  that the Australian government is so dumb it would not be able to regulate their own cigarette industry?   In Australia – counterfeit cigarettes are referred to as “illicit tobacco products” and as you can see , we’re not talking a huge loss of market here:

the Government’s National Drug Strategy Household Survey in 2007[136] found that only 0.2% of Australians — that equates to 1.2% of current smokers—used illicit tobacco products half the time or more. Even allowing for illicit users smoking somewhat more than average, this would make illicit tobacco about 2–3% of the total market—

So, ALEC is just making sure they are there for their private/profit sector members – whether they need to be or not.
But then 2- 3 % loss of revenues by ALEC profit/private sector members might lead to a reduction in “sponsorships and contributions from the private sector and membership dues” for ALEC.

Nope not really.  Here’s the issue – Back to Craddick

The competition from contraband cigarette companies as well as an inability to differentiate their products from others on the market will force legitimate tobacco companies to lower their prices.

Oh, yeh – PROFIT.  After all ALEC is commenting on behalf of their profit sector members.  That is the ONLY reason they are making a case before the Australian government is on behalf of their profit sector members.

BUT again – other sources note there is no proof to support this

This would occur due to reduced product differentiation and the entry of unbranded products. The Europe Economics study by contrast predicted that prices would fall only for premium brands, with growing and niche brands likely to be hit the hardest. Little information is available internationally about what happens to consumption of tobacco products when prices fall. This has been a rare occurrence over the past four decades.

Again, ALEC is just making sure they are there for their private/profit sector members – whether they need to be or not.


2011

MAY 2011  ( I tried – but I can’t find the actual report released in Australia – but, I did find a one page article in the May 2011 issue of Inside ALEC that has the exact phrases shown in the article below.  “Plain Packaging: A Government Seizure of a Company’s Most Valuable Asset”)

From: The Australian May 28, 2011

This week a US think tank, the American Legislative Exchange Council, published a paper claiming the move “threatens to dismantle over a century of international intellectual property rights protections”. It raises the spectre of counterfeiting and piracy.

“Although this ill-considered legislation targets tobacco packaging, the alarm over the policy relates to the effects it will have on international intellectual property rights and protections,” the paper reads. “Australia’s plain packaging policy will send the wrong message to the developing world where IP co-operation is already difficult to obtain.”

 

JUNE

In June 2011 a letter was sent by the past ALEC chair Noble Ellington to Assistant Secretary, Drug Strategy Branch – Attention: Tobacco Reform Section – Department of Health and Ageing – Canberra, ACT 2606 Australia opposing “Tobacco Plain Packaging Bill 2011”

This letter by Ellington sounds less like a lobbying letter and nowhere does he use the phrases that were found in the Craddick letter.  The language is more sterile – ambiguous about intent while being direct in content.

It is possible that after a year of feedback – they realized people were not reacting well to ALEC’s interference in Australia .  But he still does spend a lot of time on the hysteria of IP and trademark protection – which they probably have found is the only thing that they can write about.


But wouldn’t what Craddick proposed in his ALEC letter  be lobbying?

Well Craddick says in the opening sentence that:

On behalf of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), I respectfully submit these comments

Oh, yeh – comments.  Respectfully submitted comments – that’s not lobbying, right?

But the closing paragraph Craddick says this:

While ALEC understands the motivations behind the Plain Tobacco Packaging (Removing Branding from Cigarette Packs) Bill, we believe that it will undermine the international system of intellectual property rights protections setting in motion a precedent that could ultimately devitalize the free market system while aggravating the very problem it purports to address.

Which seems to fit Australian law regarding the definition of lobbyist:

Lobbying activities means communications in an effort to influence Government decision-making.

 

That is what this seems like to me – lobbying.  BUT

Oh, yeh –

ALEC is a U.S. nonprofit and nonprofits in Australia are “not considered a lobbyist under the Lobbying Code and are not required to register” [as lobbyists]

Or they could be viewed as a “Members of foreign trade delegations” which also aren’t considered lobbyists in Australia.

And ALEC has members in Australia.

 

So folks, the moral of the story –

ALEC’s stated mission might be to:

  • promote free markets, ALEC letterhead
  • limited government,
  • individual liberty,
  • and federalism through its model legislation in the states.


But it appears their real mission is promoting ALEC private sector member PROFITS.

And the rest of the world doesn’t like ALEC “butting” into international affairs– as demonstrated by a letter sent by the Physicians for a Smoke-free Canada to the Assistant Secretary, Drug Strategy Branch – Attention: Tobacco Reform Section – Department of Health and Ageing – CANBERRA, ACT 2601

You may also find it helpful to regard with healthy suspicion lobbying opposed to the plain packaging initiative from sources apparently independent of the tobacco industry. Frequently, such sources are not independent at all, but avatars of the tobacco industry. Here is an example. It was reported in The Australian of May 28, 2011 that the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) “threatens to dismantle over a century of international intellectual property rights protections.” ALEC arguments have no basis in fact. Moreover, ALEC is not very far removed from the tobacco industry. Representatives of two American tobacco companies are members of its Private Enterprise Board of Directors.

And yes, Australia doesn’t appreciate the interference of ALEC in their politics.

And at least one Australian legislator, Christine Milne was willing to speak out before the bill passed!

I think that it is much more interesting to look at the wholesale adoption by Senator Bernardi of the policy agenda of the extreme US radical Right and the policies that he brings to the coalition in Australia.

Disgraced Liam Fox was a former minister in the UK who was forced to resign because of his association with a Mr Werritty. Mr Werritty was one member of the American Legislative Exchange Council. It is fascinating to see that the Australian representative of the American Legislative Exchange Council is none other than Senator Bernardi. The American Legislative Exchange Council is backed by big oil, big tobacco, the National Rifle Association, the climate change deniers and the defence hawks in the US.

I note with interest than on 2 June this year the American Legislative Exchange Council wrote to the Department of Health and Ageing opposing plain packaging and making a strong case, on behalf of big tobacco, against plain packaging. Among the people they copied it to was none other Senator Bernardi, their Australian representative. You have to wonder about the extent to which Senator Bernardi has adopted their agenda and, indeed, the agenda of another US right-wing radical organisation, none other than the Heartland Institute. We recall that Senator Fielding went across to the US at the expense of the Heartland Institute and came back and told us that global warming was not real and was to do with solar flares et cetera.

And yes – if you prefer hearing it – she is still speaking out about ALEC.  Australia doesn’t appreciate the interference of ALEC in their politics.
Please click here to see Australian Senator Christine Milne on the Climate Denial Machine.

Oh yeh – the continuing saga of the ALEC plain packaging story:

November 2011

Parliament Passes World First Plain Packaging of Tobacco Legislation

The Australian Parliament has passed the Australian Government’s world-leading tobacco plain packaging legislation, meaning all tobacco products sold in Australia will need to be in plain packaging from 1 December 2012.

November 2011

Cigarette giant Philip Morris sues Australian government for billions over plain packaging law

The Australian government is facing a lawsuit that could cost billions after tobacco giant Philip Morris instigated legal action over the incoming law forcing cigarettes to be sold in plain packaging.

The controversial law, which comes into effect from late next year, is being closely watched by other governments in Europe, Canada and New Zealand as they consider similar moves.

But the legislation change has angered tobacco firms who are worried that it may set a global precedent and by infringing on trademark rights as all images and logos are wiped off the packets.

April 2012

Australia tobacco plain packaging case in court

The world’s biggest tobacco firms are challenging the Australian government in court over a law on mandatory plain packaging for cigarettes.   The suit, led by British American Tobacco, is being watched around the world as a test case.

Australia last year passed legislation requiring all tobacco to be sold in plain packets with graphic health warnings from 1 December 2012.

It is the first country to pass such stringent packaging legislation.

The proceedings, being heard before the High Court in Canberra, are scheduled to run until Thursday. It is not clear when a decision might be reached.

And I’m sure the American Legislative Exchange Council will find a way to stick their nose into Australia’s business again and probably file an amicus brief in the lawsuit.

UPDATE – August 15, 2012

By ROD McGUIRK

updated 8/15/2012 12:22:56 AM ET

CANBERRA, Australia — Australia‘s highest court upheld the world’s toughest law on cigarette promotion on Wednesday despite protests from tobacco companies that argued the value of their trademarks will be destroyed under new rules that will strip all logos from cigarette packs.

The decision by the High Court means that starting in December, tobacco companies will no longer be able to display their distinctive colors, brand designs and logos on cigarette packs.

 

Posted by 2old2care
on June 23, 2012becauseican-vltp

 

ALEC and the Tories: A History (Part 1) – ALEC in Great Britain

ALEC and the Tories: A History (Part 1) – ALEC in Great Britain

flag of great britain

In my previous article I introduced the European members of ALEC the majority of whom come from the British Conservative Party, the ‘Tories‘ (from the Irish which roughly translates to ‘thieving bastards’).

This link between US and UK right wing lobbyists actually stretches back Institute of Economic Affairs - IEAdecades and indeed some groups in the US only exist to help fund UK lobbyists, an example being the American Friends of the IEA. The IEA, Institute for Economic Affairs, was founded in the 1950’s and, although I dislike quoting from Wikipedia,  their entry on its founder is particularly succinct:

Sir Antony Fisher (28 June 1915 – 8 July 1988) was a background player in the global rise of libertarian think-tanks during the second half of the twentieth century, founding the Institute of Economic Affairs and the Atlas Economic Research Foundation. Through Atlas, he helped establish up to 150 other think-tanks worldwide.

His successors seem to have carried on the family tradition and indeed have a direct line to the office of the UK’s Tory Prime Minster!

He was father to Linda Whetstone, who has been involved with many of Fisher’s think tanks, and grandfather to Rachel Whetstone, formerly Political Secretary to Conservative leader Michael Howard, now global head of communications and public policy for Google, who is married to David Cameron’s [former?] Director of Strategy Steve Hilton.

In looking at the specific ALEC links with UK Tories I will present a chronological timeline stretching back around a decade. Due to the amount of information presented comment has been kept to a minimum.

Note: many historical links may not work but are provided for information; the data has been extracted from local copies we hold.


2002 – International Freedom Exchange

ALEC is also working to promote closer working relations between America’s International Freedom Exchange (IFEX)state political leaders and their foreign counterparts. The underlying purpose is to build a better understanding of America’s political process and maintain an ongoing dialogue of how free-market societies are prepared to meet future challenges and the emerging global economy.

In 2002, ALEC staff held discussions with several international delegations, including British Members of the European Parliament, regional leaders of the Parliament of the Kyrgyz Republic, and representatives of the Kosovar Parliament. More recently, ALEC’s Michael Flynn held a briefing at an international conference on federalism sponsored by the German think tank, Friedrich Naumann. Future ALEC activities aim to bring emerging political leaders from other countries into this international freedom exchange.

In 2003, a delegation of European Members of Parliament will be meeting with American state lawmakers at ALEC’s Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C.

 

2004 – Senator William G. Hewes III, ALEC National Chairman

Just as the White House and Congress gear up for their new electoral cycles, Europe is also at the start of a new 5 year phase. The new enlarged European Parliament is just finding its feet following June’s Europe-wide elections and she has already shown signs that she will fully flex her institutional muscles when needed. Soon the new European Commission of 25 will also take up a fresh term, with a new set of priorities and challenges.

One of the biggest challenges facing Europe is surely its very direction. The new Constitutional Treaty currently undergoing ratification in Member States is by no means a shoe-in and the EU will spend much of the next 18 months trying to establish its exact place on the world stage. Perhaps this is why EU-US relations have become schizophrenic of late. At times Europe and America have acted in complete harmony and presented a united front; At other times, our relationship has been overtly fractious. That is where legislators have a key role to play – in bringing forward a relationship based on co-operation and trust.

ALEC’s EU project is now well under way and we’ve found friends in the conservative delegations of Britain, Hungary and the Czech Republic. We hope to extend this further and establish an on-going dialogue with conservatives across the European Union.

Indeed, the new European Commission is also showing very welcome signs european commissionof pragmatism and collaboration. The EU’s incoming Commissioner for External Relations, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, says she wants a determined and decisive multilateral effort to fight international terrorism. She has also stressed that the EU must now show support for the broader political process in Iraq. This common-sense approach to the international scene is to be welcomed as a positive sign of things to come.

ALEC will welcome three MEPs to its States and Nations Policy Summit in Washington D.C. this December to discuss the latest aspects of the transatlantic relationship. We also hope to build a firm bridge across the Atlantic for our shared conservative ideas and I know that everyone at ALEC will do their best to welcome our European guests.


Note this phrase
: ‘a firm bridge across the Atlantic’.  In a future article the ‘Atlantic bridge’ will be discussed further.

 

Speech by Chris Heaton-Harris MEP – 2004 States and Nation Policy Summit,  Washington, D.C.

Mr Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen,

 Before I start may I just say thank you to ALEC for inviting me to this excellent conference. It is a great privilege for me to be here with my colleagues from the European Parliament: Martin Callanan, who, alas, returned to the UK last night and Roger Helmer, who I know many of you have met and listened to.

I am Chris Heaton-Harris and all three of us were re-elected for our second five year terms to the European Parliament back in June.

The European Parliament has 724 members from 25 countries representing 450m people and using 20 official languages. As you can imagine, it is a very complicated place….

…Now, I can’t claim to be an ALEC member or alumni; in fact it was only a http://na-saighneain.com/alec_uk.jpgcouple of years ago that I was introduced to this organisation and Jeffersonian principles. In the UK I’m pretty well known for my Conservative views – it seems to me that no matter where you are true Conservative will always stand for the same things:

  • To limit government
  • For lower taxes
  • For free trade and open markets
  • Individual freedom
  • Showing respect and taking personal responsibility.

 But I didn’t know these core values as Jeffersonian principles – to me these were Thatcherisms…

…And there’s worse yet to come… many of you will have heard of the European Constitution – and just by its name you might think, well this is a good thing.

But whereas your Constitution is a truly enduring historical document based on life, liberty and limiting government; ours is a socialist manifesto.

 Let me list some things it calls “fundamental rights”:

  • The freedom to form trade unions.
  • The right to collective bargaining and action.
  • The freedom to choose an occupation. (I want to be an astronaut and I’ll sue you if you don’t let me be one!)
  • The right to have fair and just working conditions.
  • The right to reconcile family and professional life.

And these rights will all be interpreted by our version of your Supreme Court – the EU’s Court of Justice….

But why should you all care about what’s happening over in Europe?   Surely, if Europe’s economy goes downhill it won’t effect America.

Well do remember that the EU is one of the biggest markets for American produced goods.

And also remember what Ronald Reagan once said in one of his radio commentaries back in the 70’s:   “we should always be wary and watch out for government’s communications grapevine. When one set of jungle drums is pounded by a group of bureaucrats” he said “another group of bureaucrats will be listening.”

That’s how regulation spreads: from you to us, like smoking bans, or from us to you! And trust me – those jungle drums are beating hard and fast in Europe.

To me the solution to all these problems I’ve outlined seems obvious – Europe needs Jeffersonian principles/Thatcherisms.

In fact we must really start by helping Europe’s Conservatives remember what being a Conservative is all about – and to do that I believe we need a role model.

And actually I think we have a ready-made role model here today in ALEC and all of you.

 You understand what Jeffersonian principles are all about and you deliver policy that makes them work and improves peoples’ lives.

 But alas, in Europe, we have no organisation like ALEC – and we really need one.

 That is why I am so glad you have started your international program – that will help us true believers out there fight the good fight.

 Over the past couple of years it has been really tough being a Conservative in Europe.   Coming here this week has been like taking a bottle of political Viagra – I feel completely re-energised!

 So I’d like to thank you all – for your friendship, your hospitality and your inspiration…

 

Roger Helmer – Speech to American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) –  Washington DC – December 1, 2004

 

Mr. President, Ladies and Gentlemen,

As always, it’s a huge pleasure for me, and my colleagues Chris Heaton-Harris and Martin Callanan, to be here with you at another ALEC Conference. I’d like especially to thank Duane Parde, and his fellow officers at ALEC, for the invitation, and I’d also like to thank ALEC staffer Sally McNamara for organising our programme. Sally previously spent five years working for Chris Heaton-Harris and me in the UK and Brussels, before coming to Washington.

In a world where globalisation is accelerating, and where we all face the common threat of terrorism, I believe that the transatlantic relationship, which has underpinned our security for all of my life-time, is becoming more, not less, important. I very much regret the apparent lack of commitment to this relationship from Brussels, with its constant sniping and posturing on transatlantic trade and security issues.

In these circumstances, it is crucial to maintain and strengthen links between conservative politicians and thinkers on both sides of the water. I believe that ALEC has a vital role to play in this dialogue, and this is why it is such a great pleasure, and privilege, for me and my colleagues to be here with you today….

…While we enjoy coming to Washington, we also do our best to maintain transatlantic relations in Brussels, and we always look forward to events organised by the American Chamber, which has a high reputation over there. Indeed I sometimes think they know more about what’s going on in the EU institutions than we do!

On Nov 17th we were guests at the American Chamber dinner in Strasbourg, where David Cote, the CEO of Honeywell, was the keynote speaker. I met a charming, tall, elderly Polish MEP, whom I had better not name…

…It is easy to ridicule, but dangerous to ignore the threat. There is a world of difference between the EU we have today, and the EU of the Constitution. Today, at least in theory, the EU is a Treaty-based organisation linking independent, democratic sovereign nations. Under the Constitution, it becomes for all practical purposes a country in its own right, with its own legal personality.

What do you call an organisation that has, or is putting in place, a Constitution, a currency, a central bank, a supreme court, a President, a Foreign Minister, an elected parliament, common external borders and tariffs, border guards, an army — not to mention a passport, a flag and an anthem?

Ladies and gentlemen, if it walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck ….. !

And in that new country called Europe, the ancient nations of our continent will be little more than provinces.

Does this matter to America? You bet it does! Too many of the Chancelleries of Europe are animated by an endemic Anti-Americanism, heightened recently by the Iraq war. They speak of a euro currency, and EU armed forces, to “counter-balance US dominance”. They are developing their own Global Positioning System, Galileo, not because they need it — you make your own system available free of charge — but to assert their growing confidence as a global power. In doing so, they threaten the strategic balance, and the vital transatlantic flow of military and security intelligence.

My advice, which I have offered whenever I have been this side of the water, is that the US should know its friends in Europe, and work with them country-by-country, rather than seeking to deal with the EU as a single entity. I am delighted to see that this view is catching on in Washington, and I particularly commend the Heritage Foundation briefing paper of October 2004 by John C. Hulsman and Nile Gardiner, entitled “A Conservative Vision for US Policy Toward Europe”, which takes exactly this position.

I and my colleagues are convinced that the EU Constitution is a profound threat to the prosperity, the democracy and increasingly to the security of our country. But we also to believe that an assertive, unified, Constitution-based EU is not in America’s best interest either.

Our great task for the next couple of years is to campaign in the UK against ratification of the EU Constitution. We think we can win this battle, and we would be hugely encouraged to have your moral support in our campaign. Thank you.

( Roger Helmer article for ALEC, September 2004)
helmer - 2004

from the aforementioned Martin Callanan, an article for ALEC, November 2004
callanan - 2004

 2004- 2005 Articles, Publications and Newsa list of ALEC articles from 2004 and early 2005

Having been recently appointed ALEC National Chairman, I am delighted to see our international relations project now moving full steam ahead. I have asked my immediate predecessor as National Chairman, Senator Billy Hewes, to Chair the ALEC Board of Director’s Committee on International Relations, while Ken Lane of DIAGEO will co-chair in a private sector capacity. These gentlemen enjoy my full support, and I believe that we have a strong a team to lead from the front & move forward with our international coalition-building.

Anyone who attended our States and Nation Policy Summit in Washington this month knows just how important it is to have friends across the Atlantic. Chris Heaton-Harris MEP delivered a remarkable speech, which directly addressed our principles. He asked for our help and mutual support – and ALEC is delighted to offer it. Not least because the threats posed by the European Constitution can easily be transported over here – the threats to free trade, free markets and individual liberty.

These debates about the future of Europe & its international status are increasingly relevant to America and to our companies who operate inside the EU. That is why I am so happy to see ALEC taking the lead in shaping the policy debate for the future of transatlantic relations.

 


LA State Senator Noble Ellington, ALEC Board of Directors

Think tanks have become somewhat part of the establishment in Washington. In fact, it would be fair to say that there’s a healthy amount of competition among DC’s thinkers; competition for the best people, for the best promotional tools and for the best access to the Nation’s policy makers. And there is little doubt in the conservative movement that this has been a good thing – that new think tanks have increased the strength of existing think tanks, attracting new activists and advancing “the movement”.

But what about Europe? Brussels has previously been marked by its very lack of free market think tanks, and its proliferation of EU funded “groups”. It is a fact that virtually all government funds which flow into lobbying/pressure groups go to leftist organizations. This fact underlies the damaging economic road the EU has chosen to go down in recent years, spurred by its “consultations” with these elite, quasi-independent interest groups.

But it seems that the conservatives are fighting back. On my recent trip to Brussels with ALEC, I attended a conference entitled Does the West Know Best, organized by The Stockholm Network. SN is a network of 120 market-oriented think tanks, working with Europe’s brightest policymakers and thinkers. Does the West Know Best examined the new EU member states’ more radical approaches to social and economic reform, such as flat taxation, the privatization of social security and moves towards more market-oriented health systems. I was awed to meet people from think tanks in places such as Croatia and Estonia, who have literally lived (or indeed still living) through the transition from communism to democracy. Their determination to pursue the ideals of the free market – regardless of the current political climate or pressure – amazed me. Newly elected Polish MEP Michal Kaminski frequently relays the story about how he learned about conservatism by listening to Mrs. Thatcher & President Reagan on the BBC World Service on a clandestine radio, hidden under his bed covers, for fear of the authorities.

Free market think tanks are now converging on Brussels, either directly or indirectly. The Center for New Europe, a non-profit, pro-market research foundation is headquartered in Brussels, popping up everywhere with its well-researched publications and arguments; SN’s Europe-wide network is rapidly developing into a formal arrangement of academics, policy practitioners, journalists and business people, exchanging market-oriented policy ideas and reform strategies right across the EU. The conservatives are seemingly back in Brussels. Lets hope for good.

 

ALEC News

Sally McNamara has been invited as a regular columnist for the London-based think tank, The Bruges Group. The Bruges Group is an independent all-party [exclusively Conservative Party] think tank, founded in February 1989 with the vision of a free trading, decentralized, deregulated and democratic Europe of nation-states.  Its inspiration was Margaret Thatcher’s Bruges speech in September 1988, in which she remarked that, “We have not successfully rolled back the frontiers of the state in Britain, only to see them re-imposed at a European level.”

(The Bruges Group can be found at http://brugesgroup.com)

 

ALEC NEWS

 

ALEC was privileged to host five conservative legislators from the European Parliament at a roundtable discussion on June 27th. Martin Callanan, Chris Heaton-Harris, Roger Helmer, Dan Hannan and Michal Tomasz Kaminski MEPs briefed ALEC members on a range of topics, including REACH, the draft European Constitution and the precautionary principle.

 ALEC’s Executive Director, Duane Parde, was invited to visit London last month in order to attend a gala dinner in honor of former Prime Minister, Lady Margaret Thatcher.  At the personal invitation of British Conservative MEP Chris Heaton-Harris, Mr. Parde met Mrs. Thatcher, who later addressed the dinner, speaking through an aide.

ALEC’s International Relations Project Director, Sally McNamara, attended the Heritage Foundation’s conference “Is the European Union in the Interests of the United States?” Speakers included Christopher Booker (journalist and editor, UK Daily Telegraph), Judge Robert H. Bork (Distinguished Fellow, Hudson Institute) and The Rt. Hon David Heathcoat-Amory MP (British parliamentarian). [Conservative Party, naturally]

ALEC’s Adam Smith Scholar Roger Helmer MEP produces a monthly e-update on his parliamentary activities, entitled Straight Talking on Europe. To receive Straight Talking, please email rhelmer@europarl.eu.int

ALEC NEWS

 ALEC was delighted to welcome Czech Republic MEP, Dr. Ivo Strejcek to its 32nd Annual Meeting in Grapevine, Texas. Dr. Strejcek spoke about the importance of the Transatlantic Relationship and the role of legislators in preserving the alliance. Christopher Horner, of the European Enterprise Institute, then spoke about the precautionary principle and the EU’s attempts to make it the international standard.

For copies of Dr. Strejcek or Mr. Horner’s PowerPoint presentations, please contact Sally McNamara – smcnamara@alec.org

 

ALEC NEWS

 As part of its International Relations Project, ALEC took a group of legislators and private sector members to Strasbourg and Prague last month, and met with leading members of the European public policy community to debate various issues on the current global agenda. In Strasbourg, we were hosted at both the European Parliament and the U.S. Consulate General; In Prague, we were hosted at the Czech Parliament, Senate and the American Embassy. We were personally welcomed by Consulate General Frankie Reed and His Excellency William Cabaniss in Strasbourg and Prague respectively.

For more details and a full report on this educational exchange, please contact Sally McNamara – smcnamara@alec.org

 

ALEC was privileged to attend the Autumn Strategy Meeting of the Transatlantic Policy Network in Washington D.C. this month. Entitled “The United States and the European Union: Working Together to Solve Global challenges”, TPN is a non-governmental, public-private network working for a stable, strong transatlantic partnership. Hosted at the Capitol, successful sessions were held on financial services, the digital economy and intellectual property rights.

 

SALLY MCNAMARA, INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS PROJECT DIRECTOR

As part of its annual exchange visits with European legislators, a bi-partisan, high-level ALEC delegation visited Strasbourg, France and Prague, Czech Republic last month.

Meeting in Strasbourg during the plenary session of the European Parliament, ALEC met with 20 European legislators, from several EU Member States and, in keeping with our non partisan philosophy, from differing Parliamentary parties. During this session, we were particularly proud to welcome Roger Helmer MEP as the first member of our new for international legislators membership program. Roger has served as ALEC’s Adam Smith Scholar for several years and will also attend our upcoming States and Nation Policy Summit in Washington D.C. next month. ALEC is delighted to continue this successful public policy exchange with Europe’s legislators.

ALEC’s Prague program was equally as exciting. It began with a series of meetings with representatives from the ODS Party, the Czech Republic’s conservative party and major opposition to the current left-wing government. We were welcomed by leading legislators, including Mirek Topolanek (Chairman of ODS) and Ivo Strejcek, Member of the European Parliament. Ivo addressed ALEC’s Annual Meeting in Texas earlier this year, and reminds us that the diversity and vibrancy of the European Parliament has been vastly enhanced with the inclusion of several hundred legislators from Eastern and Central Europe.

ALEC was also exceptionally privileged to be hosted at the American Embassy in Prague, to be personally welcomed by His Excellency, Ambassador William J. Cabaniss. In the spectacular surroundings of the Ambassador’s private residence, former Alabama State Legislator Mr. Cabaniss enthusiastically greeted ALEC and encouraged the continuance of deep bi-lateral relations between our two nations.

The ultimate mission of the international relations project is: “To foster a policy-based program for the promotion, exchange, and implementation of Jeffersonian principles at the international level.” With a varied program, meeting all levels of policy-makers, ALEC’s international visit successfully continues our dialogue with like-minded legislators, as well as establishing new working relationships throughout the international policy community.

 

DUANE PARDE – ALEC’s Executive Director

The tragedy of the terrorist bombings in London seem all too vivid this side of the Atlantic – and not just because of our own recent experiences; the ‘special relationship’ that defines Anglo-American relations means that we have a shared understanding that these attacks are attacks on the liberty and freedom we fight together for, at home and abroad. We know that the sympathies and resolve of the American people are with the British people right now then – just as they stood shoulder-to-shoulder with us in the wake of 9/11.

I visited London for the second time this June, to meet with conservative legislators from both Westminster and Brussels. Newly elected Conservative Party MPs Robert Goodwill and Peter Bone both talked about the domestic policy scene in England, including the problems of devolving power down from the national governmental level. Although the Conservatives are in a minority at a national level, they are in the majority at the local level. But in the absence of any sort of ALEC model, they often have trouble benchmarking conservative policies or sharing information. Chris Heaton-Harris MEP, who stood for local election several times before entering the European Parliament, believes that ALEC’s formula of sharing model legislation and meeting on a consistent basis to share best practice is one that British Conservatives should now start to imitate.

I also met with several British MEPs in London, including Michal Tomasz Kaminski (Poland) and Roger Helmer (UK and ALEC’s Adam Smith Scholar). With the emergence of strong ‘new” member states in the European Union, like Poland, they too are having trouble bringing together genuinely conservative legislators to form international alliances. Michal Kaminski talked extensively about how well organized the left is, and how they bring fresh impetus to their work across the world with mutual support and information-sharing; he too is keen to use the ALEC model to bring international leadership to the conservative movement.

The highlight of the trip though had to be a gala dinner hosted in honor of former Prime Minister, Lady Margaret Thatcher. Despite turning 80 this October, the Iron Lady is still an imposing figure on the world stage; and our brief meeting seems all the more poignant now as America and Britain once again fight together to preserve our way of life – just as she did with such conviction throughout the Cold War with President Reagan.

Our two countries have shared the greatest of triumphs and the greatest of tragedies over the years, from the beaches of Normandy to the deserts of Iraq. My visit to London highlighted to me that this alliance is one that we conservatives must fight to preserve. ALEC’s model of sharing information and promoting policies rooted firmly in our Jeffersonian principles is surely the best place to start then.

na-Saighneain

na-Saighneain

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Institutional Investors Continue To Press Companies For Disclosure Of Lobbying

Shareholder resolutions filed with more than 50 companies by  more than 65 institutional and individual investors for 2013

BOSTON, Ma. – Investors today announced the filing of shareholder resolutions at more than 50 corporations as part of a 2013 proxy season initiative asking companies to annually report their federal and state lobbying, including any payments to trade associations used for lobbying as well as support for tax-exempt organizations that write and endorse model legislation.

The resolution filers believe that shareholders need better, more complete disclosure of how companies in which they invest use resources to affect both elections and legislation. The lobbying disclosure initiative is a natural extension of ongoing shareholder efforts for greater corporate political spending transparency and accountability. Specifically, enhanced lobbying disclosure will enable shareholders to better evaluate whether a company’s lobbying expenditures and actions advance the company’s interests and do not present risks to company value.

A recent report by the U.S. SIF Foundation found that disclosure of lobbying and political spending has emerged as the “greatest single concern of shareholders among environmental and social issues,” with more than 100 resolutions being filed annually on the subject in 2011 and 2012. (1)

Reflecting investors’ interest in enhanced disclosure, the S.E.C. announced on Dec. 21, 2012, that it is considering a rule to require public companies to disclose their spending on politics and lobbying.

While the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision and the unprecedented amount of political spending in the 2012 elections have attracted a great deal of media attention, company expenditures on federal lobbying far exceed political election contributions by approximately a nine-to-one ratio. A 2011 study by Si2, funded by the IRRC Institute, found that in 2010, S&P 500 companies spent a total of $1.1 billion on political contributions and lobbying, of which $979.3 million was spent on federal lobbying (2).  These figures do not include state level lobbying  expenditures by companies, where there is incomplete disclosure and yearly spending exceeds $1 billion.

Moreover, lobbying by trade associations is indirectly supported by corporate contributions that are substantial and largely unreported. For example the Chamber of Commerce spent more than $500 million on lobbying since 2009, making it the country’s largest lobbying spender. The majority of companies do not disclose the portions of their trade association payments used for lobbying. These payments can create reputational risks for companies. Lobbying disclosure proponents believe companies need to manage these risks by assessing whether their memberships in trade associations accurately represent their corporate interests and policy positions, and that shareholders need to understand their companies’ expenditures for trade association lobbying and the risks they might represent.

The resolutions therefore also ask companies to disclose support for and membership in tax exempt organizations that write and endorse model legislation, which includes the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). ALEC approved model legislation based on Florida’s Stand Your Ground law that gained national attention after the tragic killing of Trayvon Martin. In response to investor and grassroots pressure, 42 companies, including Amgen, Bank of America, Coca-Cola, General Electric, Johnson & Johnson, Kraft, McDonald’s, Pepsi, Walgreens and Yum! Brands, evaluated the risk to their corporate reputations, compared to the benefits, of continuing membership, and made the decision to leave ALEC. (2)

Thomas DiNapoli, comptroller of the state of New York and an active proponent of corporate disclosure of both political spending and lobbying, stated, “As a fiduciary, it’s important that companies in which the New York State Common Retirement Fund invest are open, transparent and demonstrate high standards of governance.” Mr. DiNapoli’s office oversees the $133.8 billion state fund. “Thus we have joined once again in 2013 filing resolutions urging companies to report to their investors about their lobbying priorities, oversight and corporate dollars spent.”

Lee Saunders, president of AFSCME and chair of the AFSCME Employees Pension Plan’s Pension Committee, stated, “These proposals are based on the simple principle that what gets disclosed gets managed. Corporate payments for lobbying are a use of shareholder assets. Disclosure will help ensure these expenditures are in the company and shareholders’ best interest.”

Timothy Smith, director of environmental, social and governance (ESG) shareowner engagement at Walden Asset Management and one of the coordinators of this initiative, stated, “Over the last six years, investors increasingly have urged companies to disclose their spending aimed at influencing elections. This year investors have once again taken a logical next step and asked companies to disclose their direct and indirect lobbying activities. Whether the issue is environmental impact, consumer protection, financial reform or shareholder rights, it is important for investors to understand how company dollars are spent to influence our laws and regulations by lobbying activities. While many companies have modest government affairs budgets, others spend tens of millions of dollars annually on lobbying directly and through trade associations. In addition, many companies work through lobbying organizations like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) to influence legislation and regulation at the state level. We believe it is timely and appropriate for companies to be much more transparent.”

More than 60 investors joined in filing and co-filing the resolution seeking comprehensive disclosure of corporate lobbying, among them are the AFL-CIO; the AFSCME Employees Pension Plan; Benedictine Sisters of Virginia; Boston Common Asset Management; Christopher Reynolds Foundation; CtW Investment Group; Dignity Health; First Affirmative Financial Network; Green Century Funds; Mercy Investments; Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate; Nathan Cummings; Needmor Fund; New York State Common Retirement Fund; Province of St. Joseph of the Capuchin Order; Responsible Endowments Coalition; Sisters of St. Francis; Trillium Asset Management; UAW Retiree Medical Benefits Trust; Unitarian Universalist Association; United Steelworkers and Walden Asset Management. This unique investor network is organized by the AFSCME Employees Pension Plan and Walden Asset Management, a division of Boston Trust & Investment Management Company.

Specifically, the resolution asks for disclosure of:

1. Company policy and procedures governing lobbying, including that done on our company’s behalf by trade associations.

2. Payments used for lobbying as well as grassroots lobbying communications.

3. Membership in and payments to any tax-exempt organization that writes and endorses model legislation.

4. Decision-making processes and oversight by management and the Board.

 

AMONG companies receiving lobbying disclosure resolutions for 2013 are:

3M (MMM)

Abbott Laboratories (ABT)

Accenture (ACN)

Allergan (AGN)

Alliance One International (AOI)

Alliant Techsystems (ATK)

Allstate (ALL)

Altria Group (MO)

American Electric Power (AEP)

AT&T (T)

Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMY)

Chevron (CVX)

Cigna (CI)

Citigroup -C-

ConocoPhillips (COP)

Corrections Corporation of America (CXW)

CVS Caremark (CVS)

DaVita (DAV)

Devon Energy (DVN)

Dupont (DD)

EBay Inc. (EBAY)

Endo Health Solutions (ENDP)

Entergy (ETR)

Equity Lifestyle Properties (ELS)

ExxonMobil Corporation (XOM)

General Dynamics (GD)

GEO Group (GEO)

Goldman Sachs (GS)

IBM (IBM)

JPMorgan Chase (JPM)

Lockheed Martin (LMT)

Lorillard (LO)

Marathon Oil (MRO)

Norfolk Southern Corporation (NSC)

Northrop Grumman (NOC)

Nucor Corporation (NUE)

Peabody Energy (BTU)

PepsiCo (PEP)

Pfizer (PFE)

Philip Morris (PM)

Reynolds American (RAI)

SLM Corporation (Sallie Mae) (SLM)

Time Warner Cable (TWC)

Union Pacific (UNP)

United Parcel Service (UPS)

United Health Group (UNH)

Universal Corporation (UVV)

Verizon Communications (VZ)

VISA U.S.A. (V)

Walgreen (WAG)

Wells Fargo (WFC)

WellPoint (WLP)

Xcel Energy (XEL)

 

Filers of Lobbying Disclosure Resolutions 


Pension Funds

New York State Common Retirement Fund

 

Labor

AFSCME Employees Pension Plan

AFL-CIO

CTW Investment Group

Service Employees International Union

UAW Retiree Medical Benefits Trust

United Steelworkers

 

Asset Management Companies

Boston Common Asset Management

First Affirmative Financial Network

Green Century Funds

Jantz Morgan

PAX World Fund

Sustainability Group, Loring Wolcott & Coolidge

Trillium Asset Management

Walden Asset Management

Zevin Asset Management

 

Foundations

Brainerd Foundation

Center for Community Change, Washington, DC

Edward W. Hazen Foundation

The Funding Exchange

Haymarket Foundation

Lemmon Foundation

LKMC Aquinas Funds

Max and Anna Levinson Foundation

Merck Family Fund

Nathan Cummings Foundation

Needmor Fund

Oneida Tribe of Indians Trust Fund

Oxfam America

Responsible Endowments Coalition

Christopher Reynolds Foundation

Russell Family Foundation

Swift Family Foundation

Tides Foundation

 

Non-Profit Institutional Investors

Manhattan Country School

 

Religious Filers

Benedictine Sisters of Baltimore

Benedictine Sisters of Virginia

Catholic Health East

Catholic Health Initiatives

Community Church of New York

Congregation of Benedictine Sisters,

Boerne, Texas

Congregation of Divine Providence, San

Antonio, Texas

Congregation of St. Joseph of Carondelet,
St. Paul Province

Congregation of the Sisters of St. Agnes

Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph of
Brighton

Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy
Cross, Indiana

Convent Academy of the Incarnate Word

Dignity Health

First Parish Unitarian Church, Cambridge, Ma.

Glenmary Home Missioners

Marianist Province of the United States

Mercy Investment Services

Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate

Monasterio Pan Vida

Province of St. Joseph of the Capuchin Order

School Sisters of Notre Dame

Sisters of Charity of St. Elizabeth, New Jersey

Sisters of the Holy Family

Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, Boston

Sisters of Notre Dame

Sisters of Providence, Mother Joseph

Providence

Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia

Sisters of St. Francis, Academy of Our Lady
of Lourdes, Rochester

Trinity Health

Unitarian Universalist Association

Unitarian Universalist Service Committee

United Church Foundation

 

Individuals

Daniel Altschuler

Gwendolen Noyes

Gun Denhart

Carol Master

____________________________________________________________

ConocoPhillips Lobbying Disclosure

Whereas, we rely on the information provided by our company to evaluate goals and objectives, and therefore have strong interest in full disclosure of our company’s lobbying to assess whether it is in the best interests of shareholders and long-term stockholder value.

Resolved, the shareholders of ConocoPhillips request the Board authorize the preparation of a report, updated annually, disclosing:

1.  Company policy and procedures governing lobbying, both direct and indirect, and grassroots lobbying communications.

2. Payments by ConocoPhillips used for (a) direct or indirect lobbying or (b) grassroots lobbying communications, in each case including the amount of the payment and the recipient.

3. ConocoPhillips’ membership in and payments to any tax-exempt organization that writes and endorses model legislation.

4. Description of the decision making process and oversight by management and the Board for making payments described in section 2 above.

 

For purposes of this proposal, a “grassroots lobbying communication” is a communication directed to the general public that (a) refers to specific legislation or regulation, (b) reflects a view on the legislation or regulation and (c) encourages the recipient of the communication to take action with respect to the legislation or regulation.

“Indirect lobbying” is lobbying engaged in by a trade association or other organization of which ConocoPhillips is a member.

Both “direct and indirect lobbying” and “grassroots lobbying communications” include efforts at the local, state and federal levels.

The report shall be presented to the Audit Committee or other relevant oversight committees of the Board and posted on the company’s website.

 

Supporting Statement

As shareholders, we encourage transparency and accountability in the use of staff time and corporate funds to influence legislation and regulation both directly and indirectly.

This resolution received 25 percent voting support in 2011.

ConocoPhillips sits on the Board of the United States Chamber of Commerce, which is noted as “by far the most muscular business lobby group in Washington” (“Chamber of Secrets,” Economist, April 21, 2012). In 2010 and 2011 the Chamber spent $198 million on lobbying. Yet ConocoPhillips does not disclose its trade association payments nor the portions used for lobbying on its website.

ConocoPhillips spent approximately $40.2 million in 2010 and 2011 on direct federal lobbying activities, according to disclosure reports (Senate Records). These figures may not include grassroots lobbying to directly influence legislation by mobilizing public support or opposition and do not include lobbying expenditures to influence legislation or regulation in states that do not require disclosure.

Also, ConocoPhillips does not disclose its contributions to tax-exempt organizations that write and endorse model legislation, such as a $10,000 contribution to the American Legislative Exchange Council (“ALEC”) annual meeting.

According to the Wall Street Journal (Oct. 26, 2012) the oil industry, including ConocoPhillips, spent “tens of millions of dollars” related to the 2012 election to galvanize employees to support their industry’s agenda and elect sympathetic candidates. We also believe the costs of these programs should also be fully disclosed.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
FOOTNOTES:

(1)  “Report on Sustainable and Responsible Investing Trends in the United States 2012,” US SIF Foundation.

(2).  Heidi Welsh and Robin Young, “Corporate Governance of Political Expenditures: 2011 Benchmark Report on S&P 500 Companies,” Sustainable Investments Institute & IRRC Institute, November 2011 www.irrcinstitute.org)

 

Originally posted at http://www.waldenassetmgmt.com/social/action/Lobbying_PR_212013.pdf
For Release: February 1, 2013

Contact: Timothy Smith, Walden Asset Management, (617) 726-7155,     tsmith@bostontrust.com

Cheryl Kelly, AFSCME, (202) 429-1145, ckelly@afscme.org

Companies Challenged over Membership in ALEC and Heartland Institute

Walden Asset Management spearheads a letter-writing campaign by shareowners urging corporations to review their memberships in the controversial organizations.

Tim Smith of Walden Management was instrumental in getting Bank of America to quit ALEC.

SocialFunds.com — Following the US Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision in January, 2010, the years-long campaign by investors to pressure corporations to disclose their direct political contributions was expanded to include payments to activist trade associations like the US Chamber of Commerce. Sustainable investors and other governance advocates recognized that inconsistencies between a company’s stated position on sustainability issues and the lobbying activities of trade associations left it exposed to reputational and business risks.

Following a number of highly publicized incidents, investor concerns have now widened to include corporate membership in partisan More →