How ALEC Subverts Democracy

How ALEC Subverts Democracy

I just saw a nasty ad about Jay Nixon, the very popular democratic governor of Missouri, being paid for by an organization called United for Missouri.  Letunited for missouri me tell you they are not united for Missouri, at least not the Missouri we want.  It affects us all on a national level because it’s happening all over the country. I’m just using my home state as an example.  If you’ve wondered why your representatives never seem to be concerned about your issues and national politicians seem to blithely ignore what the voters say then you need to read this.

The Executive Director of United for Missouri and United for Missouri’s Future Carl Beardenis Carl Bearden, who is a Republican politician and also a member of ALEC.  He also runs a “consulting firm” in Missouri and I’ll guarantee you have some like this in your state too.  Both of these organizations are classified as non-profit even though through ALEC they probably see more money changing hands than we, and everyone we know, will see in a lifetime combined.  ALEC stands for the American Legislative Exchange Council so let’s look at what they’re “exchanging.”

Let’s start with the definition of subvert and you can tell me at the end if you think it appropriate in this case.

sub·vert

tr.v. sub·vert·ed, sub·vert·ing, sub·verts

1. To destroy completely; ruin: “schemes to subvert the liberties of a great community” (Alexander Hamilton).

2. To undermine the character, morals, or allegiance of; corrupt.

3. To overthrow completely: “Economic assistance … must subvert the existing … feudal or tribal order” (Henry A. Kissinger). See Synonyms at overthrow.

Briefly, ALEC is a clearing house where our elected officials (nearly all poster 12Republicans) get together with big business lobbyists to auction off our interests by letting them write the law in their favor including tax law, labor laws, regulations, etc.  There were more than 2400 state legislators as members in 2002, nearly a third of the nation’s total.  (Mother Jones, 2002)  In return they get megabucks thrown at their campaigns and who knows what other “perks.”

You can look for yourself to see who the members of ALEC are.  They are all of the companies destroying our economy and environment while they run away with the bank.  They are bankers, Exxon-Mobile, AT&T/telecom, big oil/energy, pharmaceuticals, insurance, the Koch brothers, etc.  Foreign interests are even represented, but you and I don’t have a voice there and we’re footing the bill.  That is the problem in a nutshell.

(editors note:  “Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of State and corporate power.”
 — Benito Mussolini)

You’ll also notice that there are many members who aren’t actually businesses but right wing groups promoting their agenda such as the Cato Institute, Americans for Prosperity, the Heritage Foundation, Crossroads GPS, etc.  They kochtopusclaim to be non-partisan but I think it’s clear that they’re not and it’s all one big nasty batch of snakes twisted together with the Koch brothers.  Their tentacles reach all the way from the federal government down to local school boards strangling the voice of the people and choking the life from our democracy.

Some businesses bailed out of ALEC when it was first exposed but the others seem to think we’re too stupid to understand what’s going on—or too powerless to stop it. Here is a link that shows who the business lobbyists are, who they work for and which of our legislators are meeting them to sell out our interests.  Adding insult to injury, in at least 3 states they can do it on the taxpayers’ dime.  These are “the powers that be” that we’re so angry about.  This is who we need to “take our country back” from because they hold it in a vicious grip.  They are still controlling public policy in secret with money and influence to make sure they retain the money and influence.

Billionaires control the political conversation by staying hidden and paying others to promote their brutal agendas (The Guardian, 2013)

Anybody who is part of this organization is the problem.  They need to be targeted in their districts and thrown out like the sold-out scum they are. If you don’t know for sure about your legislators call them and ask them if they are members of ALEC.

If we want to see government that listens to the people we have to get rid of all of these unprincipled, unethical, and subversive politicians be they Republican, Democrat or whatever.  Throw them out of office and let them go to work directly for their true bosses, like Scott Brown did, so we at least know who they’re representing.

There is nothing in the constitution that gives any elected official the right to meet in the dark to do dirty business with a select group of mega-rich people giving them power over the rest of us.  It’s a shame Nixon’s dead because slush funds are evidently legal now or might as well be.

Contrary to their opinion we are the government; we just need to take back the reins.

References

ALEC Thought of Non-Profit — Then Thought Not – Bloomberg. (n.d.). Bloomberg – Business, Financial & Economic News, Stock Quotes. Retrieved April 7, 2013, from http://go.bloomberg.com/political-capital/2012-12-13/alec-thought-of-non-profit-then-thought-not/

Biography of Missouri Governor Jay Nixon. (n.d.). Governor Jay Nixon. Retrieved April 7, 2013, from http://governor.mo.gov/about/Jay-Nixon.php

Carl Bearden | United for Missouri. (n.d.). United for Missouri | The Missouri Minute – covering grassroots and political issues in the state of Missouri. Retrieved April 6, 2013, from http://www.unitedformissouri.org/about/carl-bearden

Carl Bearden – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. (n.d.). Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Retrieved April 6, 2013, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carl_Bearden

clever, w. d., well-trained., dustbin, w. u., taxes, w. w., Anger, d. t., unions, t., et al. (n.d.). The educational charities that do PR for the rightwing ultra-rich | George Monbiot | Comment is free | The Guardian . Latest US news, world news, sport and comment from the Guardian | guardiannews.com | The Guardian . Retrieved April 7, 2013, from http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/feb/18/charities-pr-rightwing-ultra-rich

http://www.npr.org/blogs/itsallpolitics/2013/02/28/173170193/after-tough-2012-conservative-koch-brothers-regroup

Olsson, K. (n.d.). Ghostwriting the Law | Mother Jones. Mother Jones | Smart, Fearless Journalism. Retrieved April 7, 2013, from http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2002/09/ghostwriting-law

subvert – definition of subvert by the Free Online Dictionary, Thesaurus and Encyclopedia.. (n.d.). Dictionary, Encyclopedia and Thesaurus – The Free Dictionary. Retrieved April 6, 2013, from http://www.thefreedictionary.com/subvert

The separation of profit and state – chicagotribune.com. (n.d.). Chicago Tribune: Chicago breaking news, sports, business, entertainment, weather and traffic – chicagotribune.com. Retrieved April 7, 2013, from http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/sns-201302271700–tms–rkoehlerctnbk-a20130228-20130228,0,2907076.column

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This article is written by cherisplace and is posted at http://thebigslice.org/how-alec-subverts-democracy/

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Is ALEC a Lobbying Group? British Answer is ‘Yes’

Is ALEC a Lobbying Group? British Answer is ‘Yes’

editor’s note:  VLTP has filed a whistleblower complaint with the IRS regarding ALEC’s 501(c)3 tax-exempt status noting that ALEC admits to being a lobbyist by virtue of statements in its own by-laws.  The IRS has received 3 such whistleblower complaints, with VLTP’s being given the master number for the potential investigation.

This report by our researcher in the North Sea, is smoking gun evidence of ALEC”s lobbying efforts in England and the European Union.

 

Definition of LOBBY:

  • intransitive verb: to conduct activities aimed at influencing public officials and especially members of a legislative body on legislation
  • transitive verb1: to promote (as a project) or secure the passage of (as legislation) by influencing public officials
  • 2: to attempt to influence or sway (as a public official) toward a desired action

 
It’s not very often you get the chance to follow a piece of lobbying from inception to end point but there are several occasions in which ALEC has allowed this to happen.

In San Diego August 2010,  a resolution was proposed by Brandie Davis (Phillip Morris International) calling on ALEC ‘to oppose plain packaging bills in legislatures around the world’

Resolution Urging Congress to Pass a Ban on 'Plain Packaging'

Martin Callanan MEP (UK Conservative Party) and Michal Kaminski MEP (Poland) were both in attendance at this meeting.

 

In July 2012 we received FOI responses from two UK government departments and the European Union regarding letters received from ALEC covering both plain packaging and smokeless tobacco products.

The response from the UK government departments involved:

“Both Dr Vince Cable (Secretary of State for Business Innovation and Skills) and Mark Prisk MP (Minister of State for Business and Enterprise) received letters dated 22 December 2010 from one Karla Jones who is Director of International and Federal Relations at ALEC. Neither letter was solicited.

As is the case with much Ministerial correspondence the letters were reviewed by BIS officials. In this case the letters were so reviewed and were placed on the Department’s information keeping system. Neither Minister saw the letters and no advice was provided to Ministers by officials. No further action was taken.”
_______________________________________________________________
Karla Jones 12-22-10_________________________________________________________________Karla Jones-Mark Prisk MP--12.22.10________________________________________________________________
Noble Ellington-European Commission 12-17-10, pg 1Noble Ellington-European Commission 12-17-10, pg 2Noble Ellington-European Commission 12-17-10, pg 3Noble Ellington-European Commission 12-17-10, pg 4

The review of the European Tobacco Product Directive can be found at
http://ec.europa.eu/health/tobacco/docs/tobacco_consultation_en.pdf
It’s an 11 page document, with the cover shown below:
European Commission-Possible Revision of the Tobacco Products Directive

ALEC’s letter to the EU in response to this consultation document doesn’t even acknowledge the document.

Karla Jones-John Dalis 12-22-10

This cover letter from Karla Jones was accompanied by the same 4 page letter from Noble Ellington which had previously been sent to the European Commission on 12/17/10.  ALEC just keeps its head down and keeps charging.

It should be noted that for lobbying to take place it is not necessary that the outcome be that sought by the lobbyist.

na-Saighneain
na-Saighneain

 

 

ALEC’s Involvement in Criminalizing HIV/AIDS Sufferers

ALEC’s Involvement in Criminalizing HIV/AIDS Sufferers

by VLTP Executive Director, Bob Sloan

A recent article from the Advocate and the American Independent caught my attention the other day…then it was picked up and republished by Salon yesterday.

These articles help us to dissect how the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) involves themselves in issue specific initiatives in an effort of promoting their “free market,” pro-corporate agenda.  Not to assist the public in overcoming a health or other issue, not to alleviate the false claims or misunderstandings causing members of our society fear – but rather to capitalize off of that fear and if possible to increase the fear for monetary and political gain.

As we’re told by reading these articles, 1988 was the first time ALEC formed a task force to take up a single issue – HIV and AIDS.  During that period in our history there was much misunderstanding, disinformation and outright lies spread about the disease.  While many were trying to come to grips with the issue, ALEC and one of their pharma members were busy fueling the fires, so to speak…ending with the creation of legislation to criminalize the spread of HIV or AIDS.

I would urge everyone to read the linked articles to fully grasp the way in which ALEC is able to accomplish their agenda – and why they continue to be so successful on advancing their conservative model legislation…

I believe this was a pursuit of ALEC to drive those with the disease to the “cure” which was being manufactured by Hoffman La Roche and was then being studied in trials:

“This pharmaceutical company had the HIV-treating drug zalcitabine (also known as ddC) in clinical trials a couple of years prior. That drug would ultimately win Food and Drug Administration approval in 1992 after three successful trials conducted in cooperation with, among others, the National Cancer Institute.

It was bad enough that Hoffman La Roche was anxious to capitalize off a new drug designed to lead the way in treating a new and dangerous worldwide disease.  The fact that they funded the publishing of a book put out by ALEC that called for criminalizing those with the disease unless they divulged to potential partners that they had such a disease, made it worse.  They weren’t actually trying to cure, rather they were attempting to fuel the flames with incendiary proposals that made it a “law” for those with the ailment to publicly disclose derogatory personal health information…and if they failed to inform, they could face prison.

“The efforts of ALEC’s AIDS policy working group were published that year in a 169-page book containing 13 HIV-specific legislative recommendations. Some of those model laws would, after becoming real state laws, go on to effectively criminalize the behavior of people living with HIV and perpetuate a lasting stigma against HIV-positive people. Today, a majority of states have laws on the books that criminalize HIV exposure regardless of whether the virus was transmitted or there was an intention to infect another person with HIV.”“Every half hour in America someone dies of AIDS!” wrote ALEC’s then-executive director (and former Denver Bronco) Samuel Brunelli and Florida state representative Frank Messersmith, then ALEC’s chairman, in 1989 in their introductory letter published in the AIDS working group’s final report. “Yet, despite this terrible toll, we have been unable to implement a coherent public health strategy for dealing with this modern plague. Instead, we have allowed political special interests to paralyze the legislative process and block effective public health measures. This politicization of the public health process is exacting a deadly price.”

One of the pieces of model legislation drafted by the working group was the HIV Assault Act(adopted by ALEC’s membership as Model legislation in 1995).

“This model bill created a felony charge if a person knew he or she was infected with HIV while engaging in “intimate contact” with another person (exposing one’s bodily fluids to another in a way that could transmit HIV); donating blood, organs, or tissues; or sharing intravenous or intramuscular injection equipment.

There are some who would argue that there were already laws on the books in many states in 1988 making the spread of HIV a criminal act and that ALEC’s efforts were therefore inconsequential.  However, that claim would be false:

“When ALEC produced its model HIV Assault Act in 1989, nine states had HIV-specific criminal laws on the books. Today, 32 states and two U.S. territories have laws criminalizing HIV exposure, according to the Center for HIV Law and Policy. Only a handful of laws require intent to transmit the virus, and none requires an actual transmission for criminal prosecution to proceed. Since 2010, HIV-related criminal charges have led to more than 80 prosecutions against people living with HIV in the U.S., according to the LGBT legal advocacy group Lambda Legal.

ALEC now admits that the creation of the task force and publication of the book was due to the urging of “private interests.”

“Tanner said ALEC, which brings lawmakers and corporate interests together to hammer out legislative recommendations, came to address the HIV epidemic because of pressure from “private interests.””Specifically, he recalled that drugmaker Hoffmann-La Roche was a “big mover” and “put up a lot of funding behind publication of the book…”

The most incriminating aspect of this terrible story?  The names of those sitting upon the ALEC “HIV working group”…

“The co-chairs of the ALEC working group were J. Brian Munroe of Hoffmann-La Rocheand Delaware state Rep. Richard DavisRepresentatives from Nationwide Insurance and Alexander Hamilton Life Insurance also served on the AIDS working group.”

All this sad story is missing is the links between this pursuit of HIV prosecutions, profiting off of the illness and funding and the input from individuals such as Charles or David Koch…but wait, here comes another well known name that weighed in on behalf of ALEC and Hoffman La Roche…:

“Long criticized for not doing enough about the AIDS epidemic, which exploded onto the American medical scene in June 1981, President Ronald Reagan established the first Presidential Commission on the Human Immunodeficiency Virus Epidemic in 1987.The first months of the commission, which deliberated for a year, were plagued by public infighting, leading to the resignation of the chair and another member. The final commission included Richard DeVos, co-founder of Amway and frequent donor to social conservative causes; the late Cardinal John O’Connor, who had served as the archbishop of New York and who openly opposed condoms as an HIV-prevention method; and Penny Pullen, a conservative lawmaker from Illinois.

Penny Pullen
Illinois State Representative Penny Pullen has slipped under the radar of ALEC researchers – until now.  Pullen was a member of ALEC for 14 years, serving on the Board of Directors and upon ALEC’s Education Task Force.  A staunch conservative she complained during the hearings of the Commission on HIV about the tax dollars spent on pursuing the HIV/AIDS epidemic…saying it was paid for by taxpayers and should be used by them and not just as a “headline”, but actually read.
DeVos
DeVos is a well known contributor to ALEC and conservative think tanks and heavily involved in privatization 

efforts of public education.  So President Reagan’s “Commission on the Human Immunodeficiency Virus Epidemic ” included ALEC members and supporters sent there with an agenda.  These folks went right to work finding ways to capitalize off a terrible and frightening disease and to enrich fellow ALEC member, Hoffman La Roche.

Here is a story that only comes out nearly 25 years after the act was accomplished and the damages began to accrue.  This single case demonstrates how ALEC and their conservative cabal use fear to create the illusion that “their” solution is the salvation…how they use the contributors (DeVos and their financial and political influences), their corporate members and influential lawmakers to coordinate their pursuits of profits through crafting legislation that attaches a criminal penalty for failure to comply.

This is precisely what the cabal had already been doing for nearly a decade by filling the public with a fear of crime then crafting criminal justice legislation on three strikes, minimum mandatory sentences and other harsh criminal laws used to fill prisons.  That was followed by creating a prison industrial complex using prisoners for slave labor for corporate manufacturers (claiming the prisoners they worked so hard to imprison needed training for rehabilitation)…when the AIDS/HIV epidemic came along, they put their tried and true skills to work to capitalize off that debilitating disease.  Today they use the same skill sets and tactics to pursue right to work, voter ID suppression and to end collective bargaining.

Still today, the laws ALEC helped to write are still being used to prosecute those with HIV or AIDS in many states.  Hoffman La Roche scored big time, raking in millions in sales of their HIV drug by consumers who’s fears had been elevated by the disease and the legislation put out by ALEC to criminalize those with the disease.

I’m hopeful that the LGBT community takes ALEC and their PhRMA members to task for how this was accomplished, the non-transparent way in which it was done and the mental and physical harm caused by their actions.

BREAKING: Michigan Judge Allows RTW Lawsuit to Move Forward

BREAKING: Michigan Judge Allows RTW Lawsuit to Move Forward

A small victory was won today in the battle against Right-to-Work. Ingham County Circuit Court Judge William Collette refused to dismiss a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union and labor unions against the law. The ACLU argued that the law is invalid because it was passed while the public was locked-out of the capitol building in the 2012 lameduck session — a violation of The Open Meetings Act.

The Assoicated Press reports that Collette referred to the plaintiffs case as a “real uphill battle”. However, this development means the discovery process will move forward, with lawmakers, staff, and state police among those tentatively to be deposed. The Detroit News reports that the ACLU alleges that lawmakers filled the galleries with staff members to block the public from entering.

Legal discovery will be interesting to say the least.

Amy Kerr Hardin from Democracy Tree

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Maine prison furniture store holds annual sale

Maine prison furniture store holds annual sale

Let’s see now, what have we learned from Bob Sloan’s experiences and articles about prison industries in Nevada?  Among other things, they are not supposed to be competing with free market businesses, as well as paying the going wages.

Well, there are furniture factories in Maine.  Do you think that they were consulted about a prison furniture factory?

Do you think that all of the unemployed furniture workers in Maine were consulted about a prison furniture factory.

There are numerous furniture retail stores in Maine.  How do you think they like competing with prison-made furniture at prison labor wages?

Like many people in North Carolina, I used to be in the furniture industry.  I was a retail buyer, a product manager, a sales manager, and a furniture importer.  When I first started learning about prison industries from Bob Sloan, I thought “here is an opportunity to make a lot of money.  With all of the wood casual dining factories gone from the U.S. for the inability to compete with S.E. Asian labor rates, could this be the way to compete with the Asian factories on price?  If so, I could get rich selling furniture made over here that would not require the letters of credit, the long lead times, long production runs in one color finish…”

But then, re-calculating what would be required by law to pay to the inmate workers. all of a sudden the numbers did not work and such a venture would not be competitively viable in a commodity business like the retail furniture business.  (Trust me, you only think its a fashion business.)

That being the case, I don’t know if you realize the furniture industry is hurting.  Almost all wood production (especially promotionally priced wood dining furniture) is long gone from American factories which had never re-invested in plant and equipment and were not able to compete with low labor cost factories using the newest technologies available.  Entire towns were factory towns for domestic furniture manufacturers–now they house warehouses for good imported from Asia.

Getting back to this newspaper clipping from Boston.com, how do you think this prison factory and prison store are competing in the Maine market if they were playing by the rules?

THOMASTON, Maine (AP) — A well-known retail store that sells wooden furniture and knickknacks made by Maine State Prison inmates is holding its annual spring sale.

The Maine State Showroom’s ‘‘spring spectacular’’ sale begins Sunday and runs through April 21. During the sale, all in-stock products are marked down 25 percent.

The store sells a wide range of wood products ranging from bureaus and bookcases to ship models and cutting boards made in the wood shop at the Maine State Prison in Warren. The store’s located on Route 1 in Thomaston, near the site of the old state prison before it was demolished a decade ago.

The Department of Corrections says the store has annual sales of about $1.5 million.
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This article is published at http://www.boston.com/news/local/maine/2013/03/31/maine-prison-furniture-store-holds-annual-sale/goOEB1Kfl9YjkZa9VFYR6O/story.html

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Gov. Snyder Plays Hunger Games With Michigan Counties

Gov. Snyder Plays Hunger Games With Michigan Counties

Local governments in Michigan are being subjected to the equivalent of The Hunger Games under Gov. Snyder’s policies. New laws and budgeting dictates have pitted community against community and department against department as if they were competing corporate entities. Snyder and GOP lawmakers naively think that this is a good thing — believing it will lead to a smaller, more efficient government, and thereby some sort of magic kingdom of prosperity.

Wayne County is the poster-child of the fundamental flaws in the governor’s boilerplate municipal fiscal policies. Applying the Government = Bad hypothesis, Snyder starts with the corporate-borrowed premise that eliminating governmental functions, and the infrastructure they are designed to provide, through cut-back management is an end goal meant to create “savings”. This demonstrates Snyder’s deep misunderstanding of the primary function of government — to provide infrastructure, not dismantle it. The basic necessities of a prosperous civil society cannot be achieved by starving it of revenue, especially while lavishing tax cuts on private corporations, held unaccountable as job-creators in the state.

Sound infrastructure is key to growing Michigan’s economy — which can only be achieved through government investment in the state’s future. Private sector rules of capitalism fail miserably in this regard.

Wayne County has been pushed to the breaking point. The prosecutor’s office is suing the county over inadequate funding. As Democracy Tree reported last week, the Wayne County prosecutor is no longer able to service many misdemeanors, and not just traffic violations. Their $25.6 million dollar budget has nearly eliminated their ability to issue Personal Protection Orders. The Associated Press reports that they are facing a $160 million dollar deficit, and just laid-off 22 attorneys and 3 investigators. They have a backlog of 40 homicides, 130 child abuse cases and 66 sexual assaults. Paula Bridges, spokesperson for the Sheriff’s office said: “If it takes longer to get a case to court, that person will have to spend more days behind bars…This means we are going to be paying more to house these individuals”. It costs the county $140 per day for each prisoner.

Sheriff Benny Napoleon is also squaring-off with the county over his department’s funding. Their current budget provides for 1754 inmates, but they are actually servicing an additional 1000 (at the above mentioned cost). Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano complains that the department is already $35 million over their $85 million dollar budget, and laments that the state didn’t step-in and make it illegal for departments to sue the county.

The county itself has been using inter-departmental bridge loans for stop-gap budgeting emergencies, but the state recently denied approval for the county to temporarily reallocate some unused grant monies for that purpose, and last year passed a bill that spun-off the Wayne County Department of Mental Health as a separate entity to protect its revenue stream.

There you have it, Wayne County: starving poster-child of Michigan.

Former Governor Milliken, a true statesman and visionary, understood the importance of investing in Michigan. Snyder however, is still thinking about window-dressing his quarterlies for Gateway.

Whatever happened to that company anyhow?

Amy Kerr Hardin from Democracy Tree

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The Criminal Justice Industrial Complex: Seeking Transparency Through Revelation

The Criminal Justice Industrial Complex: Seeking Transparency Through Revelation

By Bob Sloan

Like the military/industrial complex, the criminal justice industrial complex is an interweaving of private business and government interests. Its twofold purpose is profit and social control. Its public rationale is the fight against crime.  To accomplish the goals the public must be made to fear their neighbors, fellow employees…to walk in a public park or to the corner store.  If the public is not made to fear all these things, they will not acquiesce to spending billions in tax dollars on more and more police, more judges, jails or prisons.

The business niche created to profit from imprisoning fully 5% of all Americans has become hugely rewarding.  Companies have pumped billions into expanding “system-gulag” here in the U.S. to generate similarly huge rewards in profits and investor dividends.  Companies such as Corrections Corporation of America have provided an incentive and way for the “small” individual investor to share in the wave of money made off of incarceration in all it’s forms.  Corporations long ago learned that to enable such schemes it was important to get the word “fear” – and what to fear – out to the public.

To accomplish this, those being made wealthy off incarceration diversified and began to buy media outlets; a newspaper here, a radio or tv station there, digital media was created and is now controlled by a handful of such individuals.  Now entire broadcast networks are owned by criminal justice entrepreneurs and they keep Americans fearful and willing to spend billions to overcome that fear…billions that flow smoothly into company coffers and can be used to continue to expand and enlarge revenue streams. Surrounding this criminal justice industry is a curtain that keeps society’s eyes from penetrating a web of intentionally created disinformation.  Think tanks such as the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) have been swept into the fold and used to craft and lobby for ever harsher laws, longer sentences and to “legalize” more privatization efforts.

All of this has been rolled into a cabal of companies, individuals, organizations and institutes dedicated to keeping the criminal justice industry functioning flawlessly and generating ever growing profits.  Articles and studies sometimes written by those who have had a taste of this industry from the inside, are kept from the public by the mainstream media refusing to print them.  Even when alternative outlets publish such articles and attract attention, the MSM immediately goes all out to discredit the facts given and the author.  In just such a non-MSM posting from “Transmissions”, the truth about the criminal justice industry was eloquently and factually stated back in 2001.  Don’t look for the subject or discussion reported by the MSM over the last dozen years, you won’t find it.  I’ve taken the liberty of quoting from that decade old article here:

“Not so long ago, communism was “the enemy” and communists were demonized as a way of justifying gargantuan military expenditures. Now, fear of crime and the demonization of criminals serve a similar ideological purpose: to justify the use of tax dollars for the repression and incarceration of a growing percentage of our population. The omnipresent media blitz about serial killers, missing children, and “random violence” feeds our fear. In reality, however, most of the “criminals” we lock up are poor people who commit nonviolent crimes out of economic need. Violence occurs in less than 14% of all reported crime, and injuries occur in just 3%. In California, the top three charges for those entering prison are: possession of a controlled substance, possession of a controlled substance for sale, and robbery. Violent crimes like murder, rape, manslaughter and kidnapping don’t even make the top ten. Like fear of communism during the Cold War, fear of crime is a great selling tool for a dubious product. As with the building and maintenance of weapons and armies, the building and maintenance of prisons are big business. Investment houses, construction companies, architects, and support services such as food, medical, transportation and furniture, all stand to profit by prison expansion. A burgeoning “specialty item” industry sells fencing, handcuffs, drug detectors, protective vests, and other security devices to prisons…

Research shows that many of the hundreds of companies holding memberships in ALEC, the NCIA, American Correctional Association or other affiliates, have been involved and raking in money off of incarceration in several ways.

“…Communication companies like AT&T, Sprint, and MCI are getting into the act as well “ gouging prisoners with exorbitant phone calling rates, often six times the normal long distance charge. Smaller firms like Correctional Communications Corp., dedicated solely to the prison phone business, provide computerized prison phone systems” fully equipped for systematic surveillance. They win government contracts by offering to “kick back” some of the profits to the government agency awarding the contract. These companies are reaping huge profits at the expense of prisoners and their families; prisoners are often effectively cut off from communication due to the excessive cost of phone calls…

In February of last year CCA’s extensive lobbying contributions to Florida’s Governor Scott and the GOP led legislature in an effort of privatizing the state’s entire southern prison system, failed.  In response, CCA distributed a letter to all Governors offering to buy their state owned prison facilities.  This proffer included terms that CCA would have an exclusive 20 year contract for managing and operating each facility and requiring the state to guarantee to keep the prisons at 90% of capacity during the term of the contract.

ALEC’s Public Safety and Elections “Task Force” is responsible for writing nearly every law that has been adopted nationwide to incorporate Three Strike (Habitual Offender Act), Mandatory Minimum sentences, Truth in Sentencing, Private Correctional Facility ActTargeted Contracting for Certain Correctional Facilities and Services Act,  Prison Industries Act…all to incarcerate more men and women, keep them in prison for the longest term possible and to replace parole with “privatized parole” in the form of a “Conditional  Early Release Bond Act” to allow profiting off the release of offenders prior to end of sentence completion.

“… Like any industry, the prison economy needs raw materials. In this case the raw materials are prisoners. The prison/industrial complex can grow only if more and more people are incarcerated even if crime rates drop. “Three Strikes” and Mandatory Minimums (harsh, fixed sentences without parole) are two examples of the legal superstructure quickly being put in place to guarantee that the prison population will grow and grow and grow…

It is no longer a “U.S.” effort.  This cabal or network of companies and investors micro-managing the criminal justice industry have realized the potential for an additional windfall of profits if expansion to the EU, UK, Poland, New Zealand, Australia and beyond can be accomplished.

“Correctional Corporation Of America, one of the largest private prison owners, already operates internationally, with 48 facilities in 11 states, Puerto Rico, the United Kingdom, and Australia. Under contract by government to run jails and prisons, and paid a fixed sum per prisoner, the profit motive mandates that these firms operate as cheaply and efficiently as possible… The basic transnational corporate philosophy is this: the world is a single market; natural resources are to be exploited; people are consumers; anything which hinders profit is to be routed out and destroyed. The results of this philosophy in action are that while economies are growing, so is poverty, so is ecological destruction, so are sweatshops and child labor. Across the globe, wages are plummeting, indigenous people are being forced off their lands, rivers are becoming industrial dumping grounds, and forests are being obliterated. Massive regional starvation and “World Bank riots” are becoming more frequent throughout the Third World.

Today the same cabal that created initiatives to outsource American jobs to foreign countries for cheap labor,  tax breaks and the ability to not pay taxes on foreign income, are hard at work here in the U.S. – again, led by ALEC – and working hard to take their network international.  They have been writing and lobbying for legislation to end collective bargaining, union organizing, to restrict or abolish minimum wage requirements and eliminate union dues – worldwide.

All over the world, more and more people are being forced into illegal activity for their own survival as traditional cultures and social structures are destroyed. Inevitably, crime and imprisonment rates are on the rise. And the United States law enforcement establishment is in the forefront, domestically and internationally, in providing state-of-the-art repression. For private business, prison labor is like a pot of gold. No strikes. No union organizing. No unemployment insurance or workers’ compensation to pay. No language problem, as in a foreign country. New leviathan prisons are being built with thousands of eerie acres of factories inside the walls. Prisoners do data entry for Chevron, make telephone reservations for TWA, raise hogs, shovel manure, make circuit boards, limousines, waterbeds, and lingerie for Victoria’s Secret. All at a fraction of the cost of “free labor.

Prisoners can be forced to work for pennies because they have no rights. Even the 13th Amendment to the Constitution which abolished slavery, excludes prisoners from its protections.”

The influx of manufacturing and service jobs to nations such as China has led to the creation of working or middle classes in those countries, just as it did in America in the middle of the 20th century.  Wages of these foreign nations have been climbing, labor has begun to organize and CEO’s of companies that have been created due to the integration of American manufacturing in their nations, have begun to seek – and receive – larger and larger salaries and benefits.  The cabal has realized it is no longer logistically possible to continue to manufacture overseas and transport products back to the U.S. due to increasing labor, utility and other costs associated with overseas production.  These rising costs cut into profits and have caused many of these labor-exploiting companies to contemplate a return to the U.S. with their manufacturing.

In order to do this, American worker’s wages must be controlled.  Through hidden legislation they have found a way to bring their manufacturing needs back to America and do it in a way that provides a huge, silent, captive and hugely underpaid workforce: prisoners serving sentences in state and federal prisons.  Through authorization from Congress in 2011 UNICOR secured the ability to participate in the Prison Industries Enhancement Certification Program (PIECP).  This allows all federally owned and operated prison factories the ability to “partner” with private companies, lease them manufacturing space and provide adequate labor via inmate workers.

Along with this new authorization came another “innovative” program titled: Repatriation.  Repatriation as used in this context is the return of U.S. manufacturing jobs to America – under a provision that products no longer made in the U.S. by American companies (or that a company says “may be moved offshore”) can be brought back to the U.S. by those companies.  The products will be made within the industrial facilities of the federal prison industries (UNICOR) by federal prisoners. at wages of between $.23 and $1.35 per hour:

“Federal Prison Industries — also known by the trade name UNICOR — is a self-sustaining, self-funding company within the US Bureau of Prisons. It is owned wholly by the US government and was created by an act of Congress in 1934 to function as a rehabilitative tool to teach real-world work skills to federal inmates. These inmates were historically limited to producing goods for government use, such as furniture, uniforms, even, believe it or not, components for Patriot missiles. “Indeed, FPI/UNICOR’s 2012 annual report states that the board of directors “has approved 14 pilot programs for repatriated products.”  It also details “substantial losses” incurred and asserts that “inmate employment levels have dropped precipitously.” To be sure, not every job being reshored will be filled by an inmate. But according to the report, “FPI anticipates these pilot projects will assist in further reducing its losses,” which would logically induce the Bureau of Prisons to funnel as much business as possible to its 109 existing UNICOR factories, which currently employ just over 21,000 inmates.”

Today with minimum wage jobs disappearing and no longer available to those without degrees or diplomas, work for young men and women has become harder to find.  Employers can pick and choose who to hire and how much they’re willing to pay in wages.  A young Black or Hispanic man with education but few skills, has little value to employers…but they do to the criminal justice industrial complex.  With each new admission to a private prison, taxpayers fork over an average of $32,000 per year for housing, feeding, medical care and clothing. Because of this, poor people of color are being locked up in grossly disproportionate numbers, primarily for non-violent and drug possession crimes. On average they serve 3.5 years of a 5 year sentence for the first offense.  Meals, health services and transportation needs, canteens, personal clothing and banking have all been outsourced so in addition to the private prison company, several other private companies profit off of providing those “services.”

Drug, alcohol and other counseling and rehab programs have been cut.  Education – especially higher education – have all been eliminated and no longer available to prisoners.  So there is no real effort of rehabilitation.  Instead they rely upon the possibility of a job paying as little as $20.00 every other week to keep prisoners behaving in the hope of getting such work – eventually.  And when they’re finally released it is back into the same community with now even fewer jobs and for the ex-convict with a record, any hope of acquiring work to support themselves or even a small family is nonexistent.

In this manner the cycle of incarceration is begun and becomes perpetual.  Those invested in incarceration continue to rake in huge profits as more than 6 out of every 10 prisoners released return to prison within 3 years and are put back to work churning out products and generating income for investors and corporate owners who reinvest their earnings by contributing to campaigns of those legislators responsible for creating more laws, harsher and longer sentences and other means of profiting off human miseries. As the article linked to above, “Prisons are Big Business” informed readers over a decade ago:

As “criminals” become scapegoats for our floundering economy and our deteriorating social structure, even the guise of rehabilitation is quickly disappearing from our penal philosophy. After all: rehabilitate for what? To go back into an economy which has no jobs? To go back into a community which has no hope? As education and other prison programs are cut back, or in most cases eliminated altogether, prisons are becoming vast, over-crowded, holding tanks. Or worse: factories behind bars.  And, prison labor is undercutting wages –something which hurts all working and poor Americans.

Those among our society who have supported “tough on crime” legislation and adopted the “lock ’em up and throw away the key” mantra have helped enrich those individuals and companies profiting off the hard earned tax dollars spent on incarceration.  That philosophy has to be stopped by citizens realizing how they have been manipulated by the MSM and others reaping huge rewards from imprisonment.  To those involved in incarceration, it is no longer a moral or societal duty, it has become a business and like any other business, it exists to make a profit for owners and investors.

Profiting off the misery of fellow human beings is immoral and creates the incentive to imprison more – for additional profit.

VLTP would urge readers to help us battle this means of widening the gap of inequality in our culture and society.  Spread the word about profiting off incarceration, the use of prisoners to rob us of our jobs and how this “system” has developed and works against us all.  Contribute to support our continued research, studies and reporting on this topic.  We do not have paying memberships, receive no corporate contributions or government grants to support our work.  You could not receive a better return for your investment in our work and your society.

Everything You Need to Know About the Exxon Pegasus Tar Sands Spill

Everything You Need to Know About the Exxon Pegasus Tar Sands Spill

In Greek legend, everytime the winged horse Pegasus struck his hoof to the Earth, an “inspiring spring burst forth.” Unfortunately for residents in Mayflower, Arkansas, when the Pegasus pipeline ruptured, the only thing bursting forth was a nasty tar sands oil spill.

On Friday afternoon,the Pegasus pipeline operated by Exxon Mobil ruptured, flooding an Arkansas neighborhood with thousands of barrels of Wabasca Heavy crude from the Athabasca tar sands in Alberta.Here’s what you need to know about the spill, with links to some reporting on this awful event, which at very least ruined the holiday weekends of many Mayflower, Arkansas residents, many of whom didn’t even know the pipeline was running through their neighborhood.
What is Pegasus?

The 20-inch pipeline carries diluted bitumen — originating from the Alberta tar sands — for 858 miles from Patoka, Illinois to refineries in Nederland, Texas. It was built in the 1940s and can carry up to 95,000 barrels a day.

Pegasus was built to funnel crude from the Gulf Coast up to the Midwest, but the flow was reversed in 2006 to help relieve the tar sands crude bottleneck in Cushing, Oklahoma. (The same reason given by proponents for the construction of Keystone XL.)

It is worth noting that a similar line reversal has been proposed by Enbridge to potentially ship tar sands crude for Atlantic export from a port in Maine.

In 2009, Exxon Mobil successfully petitioned regulators to allow them to expand capacity on the pipeline from 65,000 barrels per day to 95,000 barrels per day, a nearly 50 percent increase.

How bad is the spill?

In 45 minutes, the spill spread through the suburban neighborhood, filling the streets and covering lawns with dilbit.

Because of the dangerous vapors emitted from the dilbit, residents of at least 22 homes were forced to evacuate.

Here’s a firsthand video account of the dilbit running over lawns and streets.

The spill was first estimated by the EPA at 84,000 gallons, but already over 189,000 gallons of oil and water (combined) have been collected.

On Mother Jones, Kate Sheppard has written about her frustrating interactions with Exxon and is properly chastising the company for its vague answers.

Is it under control?

Cleanup crews scrambled to prevent the diluted bitumen (or dilbit) from reaching Lake Conway, an important local source of drinking water and a popular recreation spot. A local judge, who was responsible for declaring a state of emergency and is coordinating response efforts, told Lisa Song of InsideClimate News that they were successful in doing so.

Dodson said emergency crews led a “monumentally successful” effort to prevent the Exxon spill from entering nearby Lake Conway, a popular recreational area. First responders set up earthen dams to contain the flow of oil, he said, and crews are working to shore up the protections as rains continue to fall and complicate the cleanup operations.

Sign of things to come?

Just last week, we wrote about how the oil spill from a derailed train in Minnesota was being used by Keystone XL boosters as an argument for the pipeline. We sarcastically ended that post with a “sure, pipelines never spill,” linking to a catalog of multiple spills along existing stretches of the Keystone pipeline system.

Pegasus provides yet another example — on top of those Keystone spills and the so-called DilBit Disaster of Enbridge’s Line 6B — of how pipelines carrying tar sands crude are more susceptible to leaks and ruptures and spills. Here’s an earlier post on the many problems with tar sands pipelines.

Who is on this story?

We’ll update this story with any new developments, but here are some of the best pieces of reporting on the Pegasus spill thus far:

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This article is written by Ben Jervey and is published at http://www.desmogblog.com/2013/04/01/everything-you-need-know-about-exxon-pegasus-tar-sands-spill

DeSmogBlog logoPhoto: AJ Zoltan on Facebook

Legislative Leaders Push to Restore Funding for ALEC Trips

Legislative Leaders Push to Restore Funding for ALEC Trips

This article cam across my desk today, from the liberal newspaper of South Dakota.  Interesting–but–I found the response from Dee Voss to be particularly informative.

Remember the half-million dollars that the Legislature added to its own budget, giving themselves twelve times more money to play with than they could find for each K-12 teacher in South Dakota. The Legislative Research Council never said they needed that money, so what on earth could fiscal conservative Republicans Speaker Brian Gosch and Senate Majority Leader Russell Olson have wanted that money for?

Why, to attend ALEC meetings, of course. Here’s Rep. Kathy Tyler’s account of the LRC’s Executive Board’s first meeting on how to spend that new mad money:

Our inaugural meeting saw the election of chair and vice-chair and a discussion of legislative travel. There are three organizations to which South Dakota belongs: National Conference of State Legislators, the Council of State Governments, and the Midwestern Legislative Conference.  One trip per year per legislator is the current policy.  There are also four national projects or forums that appointed legislators can attend.

The travel policy used to be much broader—go to wherever and you’ll be reimbursed.  Of course, without any restrictions, things got a bit ugly, and travel was restricted. After much discussion of increasing the number of trips to three and adding ALECAmerican Legislative Exchange Council, as a destination, time forced the final decisions to be made at the April meeting. The inclusion of ALEC will be an interesting discussion.  While the organizations currently approved are run basically by dues and have legislators’ issues in mind, ALEC is funded about 98% by corporations and tends to have its own agenda—HB1234 for example [ ref: Rep. Kathy Tyler (D-4/Big Stone City), “Summer Break?Kathy’s Corner, 2013.04.01].

Rep. Gosch and Sen. Olson wouldn’t want South Dakota to fall behind the faux-conservative pro-corporate agenda. So they want to use your money to send their minions for marching orders from ALEC. I’m sure you won’t mind if your legislators pay less attention to you and more attention to the Koch brothers.

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Response to “Legislative Leaders Push to Restore Funding for ALEC Trips”

  • Dee Voss

2013.04.01 at 09:18

They should not need state money for these trips. And the state probably shouldn’t have paid in the past. If the state paid for the trips in the past – I would ask the legislators if they received an ALEC corporate funded scholarship to attend the meeting and if they did receive a corporate scholarship – I would ask the legislators to reimburse the state for past conferences that the state funded.

Why? because most of your ALEC legislators are task force members
http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php/South_Dakota_ALEC_Politicians

And because of they are task force members – the corporations that fund ALEC also pay for your task force legislators to go to meetings – for free – through corporate scholarships – travel, room, registration, parking – paid for by the corporations.
http://www.commoncause.org/atf/cf/%7Bfb3c17e2-cdd1-4df6-92be-bd4429893665%7D/CIED%20SNPS%202012.PDF

SCHOLARSHIP POLICY BY MEETING
ALEC Spring Task Force Summit: 1. Spring Task Force Summit Reimbursement Form: ALEC Task Force Members are reimbursed by ALEC up to a predetermined set limit for travel expenses. Receipts must be forwarded to the ALEC Policy Coordinator and approved by the Director of Policy. 2. ALEC Task Force Members’ room & tax fees for a two-night stay are covered by ALEC. 3. Official Alternate Task Force Members (chosen by the State Chair and whose names are given to ALEC more than 35 days prior to the meeting to serve in place of a Task Force Member who cannot attend) are reimbursed in the same manner as Task Force Members. 4. State Scholarship Reimbursement Form : Any fees above the set limit, or expenses other than travel and room expenses can be submitted by Task Force Members for payment from their state scholarship account upon the approval of the State Chair. Receipts must be submitted to the State Chair, who will submit the signed form to the Director of Membership. 5. Non-Task Force Members can be reimbursed out of the state scholarship fund upon State Chair approval. Receipts must be submitted to the St ate Chair, who will submit the appropriate signed form to the Director of Membership.

ALEC Annual Meeting : State Scholarship Reimbursement Form : State scholarship funds are available for reimbursement by approval of your ALEC State Chair. Expenses are reimbursed after the conference, and may cover the cost of travel, room & tax, and registration. Receipts are to be submitted to the State Chair, who will then submit the signed form to the Director of Membership.

PLEASE NOTE: From 2006 – 2008 ALEC Corporations put a total of $45,000+ into the SD ALEC meeting scholarship fund, for SD legislators to go to ALEC meetings.
http://www.alecexposed.org/w/images/f/fa/BUYING_INFLUENCE_Main_Report.pdf

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This article is published at http://madvilletimes.com/2013/04/legislative-leaders-push-to-restore-funding-for-alec-trips/

Madville Times

Koch Bros Exploit Loophole in Judicial Conduct Rules

Koch Bros Exploit Loophole in Judicial Conduct Rules

New Investigation Reveals Corporate Interests Have Been Quietly Influencing Federally Appointed Judges

Leave it to the Koch brothers to find a perfectly legal way to buy influence with federally appointed judges. The billionaire siblings are already well-established in their gluttonous abuse of lax campaign finance laws under Citizens United — pulling the strings of elected judges, but they’ve also been quietly greasing the palms of appointed judges too.

The Center for Public Integrity released a report on March 28th that details the results of their investigation into the corporate exploitation of a loophole found in The Code of Conduct for United States Judges. In that code, we find canon 4D(4) which refers to the Judicial Conference Gift Regulations which states that the following type of “gift” is allowable under the law, if it:

“…consists of an invitation and travel expenses, including the cost of transportation, lodging, and meals for the officer or employee and a family member to attend a bar-related function, an educational activity, or an activity devoted to the improvement of the law, the legal system, or the administration of justice.”

Translation: Training seminars, and plenty of them, with titles like “The Moral Foundations of Capitalism”, “Corporations and the Limits of Criminal Law”, Terrorism, Climate & Central Planning: Challenges to Liberty and the Rule of the Law”, and “Criminalization of Corporate Conduct”.

Sound like fun? Well, apparently 185 federal judges thought so. Fully 11 percent of these appointed members of the judiciary felt compelled to be wined, dined and “educated” in these classes, among the other 100 such seminars sponsored by corporate interests between 2008 and 2012.

Most seminars were paid for by multiple benefactors, but some sponsors were more enthusiatic than others. The Charles G. Koch Charitable Trust Foundation, The Searle Freedom Trust, ExxonMobil, Shell Oil, Pfizer, and State Farm Insurance all stepped-up to fund, or co-fund, 54 seminars each. The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, Dow Chemical, AT&T, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce similarly shelled-out for around 50 learning experiences for our federal judges. Many of these seminars were held at George Mason University, who coincidentally recently received a $4.4 million donation from the Koch brothers.

Judicial impropriety, or just the appearance thereof?

For disallowed behaviors, the judicial code of conduct does not make a significant distinction between the two because their net result is the same: a public diminution of respect for the judiciary. But, since this activity is permissible, judges are fair game for corporate interests — and, boy do they ever know it.

Federal Judge E. Grady Jolly, of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, attended the 2009 seminar, “Criminalization of Corporate Behavior”, sponsored by American Petroleum and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The judge later went on to rule against the EPA in a suit where the plaintiffs were (you guessed it) American Petroleum and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

U.S. District Court Judge Carl J. Barber also attended that 2009 seminar, and went on to dismiss a strong wrongful death case against ExxonMobil and Chevron USA — both corporations were also co-sponsors of the seminar. This judge has recently been assigned the BP Deepwater Horizon case. He will decide if the oil company owes the U.S. billions in fines from the 2010 blow-out which killed 11, and damaged the gulf coast environment and economy for untold years and in yet undiscovered ways.

(editor’s note:  also please see VLTP’s Special Investigative Report – ALEC’s Koch-Funded Cabal’s Educating our Federal Judges, by clicking here)

Amy Kerr Hardin from Democracy Tree

democracy tree-vltp