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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Of Course ALEC Is Involved in the Keystone Cash

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

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

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

Ash Spill Shows How Watchdog Was Defanged

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

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

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

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

How ALEC helped Duke Energy block stricter coal ash rules

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WI ALEC Leader in Hot Water over Allegations of Sexual Harassment

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

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

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

America’s corporate revolt against clean energy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Symbolic Book-Burning Is Alive And Well In South Carolina

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

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

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

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