ALEC insurgency

ALEC’s Corporate Membership Exodus Continues

ALEC’s Corporate Membership Exodus Continues

by bob sloan

The past month has been one of great disappointment to the American Legislative Exchange Council – commonly referred to as “ALEC”. Since late August corporate giants, Microsoft, Google, Facebook and YELP have each announced they have already left or are soon dropping their membership in ALEC.

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These latest desertions of the conservative bill mill are due to the “Council’s” position on renewable energies, model legislation to reduce government oversight of renewable energy standards and denial of climate change. Each of these huge multi-national companies now support renewable energy sources and have dedicated huge sums to that goal. ALEC’s position regarding energy is exactly opposite that of these corporations, presenting corporate administrators with the dilemma of belonging to and helping fund an organization which openly conflicts with their publicly stated goals.

The issue of renewable energy has resulted in these newest withdrawals from ALEC in a similar manner to what happened regarding the pursuit of “Stand Your Ground” laws by ALEC. With the death of Trayvon Martin and the exposure of ALEC pursuing proposals of similar laws nationwide, corporations and legislators alike began to leave ALEC in ever larger groups back in 2012.

This brings the total number of corporate members ALEC has lost over the past 36 months to 80 -/+. It isn’t just the loss of a member that impacts upon ALEC, it is the loss of revenue from such desertions. In addition to the $7,000 to $25,000 annual membership fees these individual companies fork out, there is an additional price paid to “sit” upon one of ALEC’s nine Task Forces. Each seat is expensive and companies can purchase more than one seat, enabling them to have a larger “voice” and more votes upon proposed legislation. A seat upon the International Relations task force runs as much as $10,000 each and again, companies with an eye upon international influence can purchase as many seats as it can afford.

In addition to the foregoing costs to corporations, there are additional expenses incurred…such as hosting events at one or more of ALEC’s annual meetings, seminars or “summits”. Sponsorship for such events sometimes can cost each “sponsor” up to $50,000 – $75,000. There is also a legislative “slush fund” companies are expected to “donate” or “contribute” to annually. This account is known as ALEC’s “Scholarship Fund” with that money going toward paying travel, meals, housing and similar expenses incurred by state lawmakers attending the various ALEC events. At those events the same “sponsors” wine and dine the legislators with additional funds. This “Scholarship” scheme allows corporations to directly contribute without knowing specifically which lawmaker their “contribution” benefited.

VLTP has continuously called on activists and ALEC critics to concentrate their efforts upon ALEC FIRST…eliminate the enabler of Koch and their ilk and prevent any more “model bills” coming forth from ALEC before going after the brothers Koch. This energy issue demonstrates once again that all of this horrible, single ideological designed legislation emanates from ALEC and will continue to be introduced in our state legislatures until they are stopped. First stand your ground, now energy…and many seem to have forgotten that voter suppression, voter ID, SB 1070 and dozens of other single issue “bills”…originated within ALEC and will continue to do so until they are shut down entirely. Once that is done, the Koch cabal can “wish in one hand and”…well you know the rest of that saying.

Now is the time to put the pressure upon your state lawmakers, favorite companies and others to withdraw from ALEC if members, and help encourage others to quit if they aren’t. Write to your congressmen and women and ask them to investigate ALEC for their lobbying and involvement in crafting state laws. Encourage the IRS to continue to investigate ALEC’s non-profit filing status to help us shut them down.

With the continuing loss of corporate memberships (which currently provide ALEC with more than 90% of their annual income), ALEC has had to begin cutting corners. Their usual three day events have begun lasting only two days…four day events three or less, etc. Less money available to pay for lawmaker attendance results in fewer Legislators attending each of ALEC’s functions. At every event protesters and activists now attend and demonstrate against ALEC and their lobbying our lawmakers and ask companies to leave them.

We can only hope the exodus continues and other companies, corporations, foundations and non-profits we have been asking to leave ALEC will finally do just that. Outfits such as: State Farm Insurance, PhRMA, AT&T, Eli Lilly, Chamber of Commerce…and hundreds of others.

Once ALEC ceases to exist as a bill mill proposing legislation for radical conservative ideologies. we can then truly concentrate on going after the giant financials funding those efforts…and the hired gun non-profits doing their work…like the Koch family foundations and their controlled organizations: Americans For Prosperity, the Institute for Humane Studies, Heritage Foundation, Cato Institute, Citizens for a Sound Economy, Institute for Justice, George Mason University (provides free seminars for teaching judges), Foundation for Research on Economics and the Environment (FREE – also provides all expense paid seminars for judges and state officials), Federalist Society, Reason Foundation and dozens of others.

Of all the organizations, foundations, institutes and non-profits owned, directed and/or funded by the Kochs, ALEC provides some of the best returns for brothers Charles and David by giving them a way to make their brand of free-market fundamentalism legally binding. Help us close this important avenue to the Koch’s and their huge cabal.

ALEC’s days of hiding in the shadows are long gone. We all now know who they are, what they are and why they are such a danger to our way of democracy…and that they are owned lock, stock and law by the Koch brothers.

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

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

by Bob Sloan

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

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

DC 12-13 protest

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jeffersonian project

 

Jeffersonian project 2

document obtained from Guardian document trove

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

Daily Kos: ALEC’s trouble continues as Visa leaves

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

ALEC in the News – Update on ALEC Activities…

ALEC in the News – Update on ALEC Activities…

by Bob Sloan

Been a hectic month since I last posted, so I have to apologize to readers and followers for the lack of material offered during the past thirty or so days.  Not that there wasn’t plenty of ALEC articles and material making the news circuits, I have simply been swamped with research and conferring with multiple government agencies inquiring about ALEC’s tax exempt and “charity” status.  I will write more on these conversations in the future – for right now, mum’s the word for obvious reasons.

Click on the headline for a link to the material, articles or documents posted below…

Sallie Mae drawing all-around fire

Written by Wade Malcolm
The News Journal

“In late May, Sallie Mae held its annual shareholders meeting, a routine, uneventful affair for most companies.

But not for the nation’s largest student lender. About 150 protesters gathered outside the meeting, and some managed to gain entry and the right to speak.

They demanded a meeting with company leaders to talk about student debt problems and questioned the company’s participation in the American Legislative Exchange Council, a controversial free market group that helps businesses lobby state lawmakers and is despised roundly by liberals.

CEO John F. “Jack” Remondi agreed to meet with the students in June, and last month, the company quietly withdrew its ALEC membership…

…Sallie Mae says it joined ALEC to promote a different part of its business, separate from student loans, which collects unpaid debts on behalf of states and municipalities.

The company quit ALEC because, “the noise level was distracting from the original business purpose,” said Martha Holler, a senior vice president at Sallie Mae. “We will pursue other venues in which to share our collections expertise with state and local governments, and hopefully now our discussions with students … can focus on what matters most to us all, the success of our education loan customers.”

The same group of student activists that leveraged a meeting with the CEO and pressured the company to end its ALEC membership recently started circulating a petition asking the U.S. Department of Education to terminate a contact it has with Sallie Mae to providecustomer service for government-issued student loans…”

After Student Protests, Sallie Mae Becomes 50th Corporation to Dump ALEC – From PRWatch…

Sallie Mae has dropped its membership in the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) after a student-led campaign demanding that the nation’s largest student loan lender cut ties with the controversial organization. Sallie Mae is the 50th corporation to publicly drop its ALEC membership in the past year-and-a-half as the organization has come under increasing public scrutiny.

Many students and young people were outraged that a company that profits from student debt would use their loan payments to fund ALEC, which (among other things) works to make the education system a for-profit endeavor and advances laws that make it harder for many college students to vote.

In August, at ALEC’s Annual Meeting in Chicago, organizers with the Student Labor Action Project and the United States Students Association gathered nearly 14,000 signatures on a petition demanding Sallie Mae drop its ALEC membership. A few months earlier, in May, at least 200 student activists protested outside Sallie Mae’s annual shareholder meeting, demanding that it end its relationship with ALEC and increase transparency about its other lobbying and political activities.

The announcement that Sallie Mae dumped ALEC came quietly, in a September 7 article in the Delaware News-Journal.

Colorado Republicans Are Out Of Step With Their Constituents On Climate Change

Coloradans overwhelmingly believe in climate change and acknowledge its impact on drought, wildfires, and their lives, according to new research by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication.

Specifically, the report found that most Coloradans — 70 percent — believe global warming is happening. Relatively few — only 19 percent — believe it is not. Of the Coloradans polled, nearly half believe global warming is caused mostly by human activities and three in four say the issue of global warming is very or somewhat important to them personally.

While a large majority of Colorado residents recognize climate change is occurring, they’re less sure of the cause. The research revealed that while “virtually all climate scientists agree human-caused global warming is happening, many Coloradans, like most Americans, are unaware of this fact. Fully half (50 percent) believe that ‘there is a lot of disagreement among scientists’ about whether or not global warming is happening…”

…The state’s Republican politicians, on the other hand, are singing a very different tune. Last month, unsuccessful 2010 Senate candidate Ken Buck announced he would once again run for a U.S. Senate seat, this time against Sen. Mark Udall (D). Touring the state with climate denier Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK), Buck endorsedInhofe’s conspiracy theory: “Sen. Inhofe was the first person to stand up and say this global warming is the greatest hoax that has been perpetrated. The evidence just keeps supporting his view, and more and more people’s view, of what’s going on.”

And Buck isn’t alone in his refusal to acknowledge the overwhelming scientific consensus — and the opinion of Colorado voters — regarding climate change. All four of the state’s GOP Congressmen are on the record questioning the existence of climate change or whether or not human activity has any bearing. Rep. Mike Coffman in particular has come under fire from the League of Conservation Voters, with the group launching multiple ads against the Congressman for ignoring the scientific facts regarding climate change.

Buck is running against two state senators, Randy Baumgardner and Owen Hill, in the Republican Senate primary. Sen. Baumgardner was opposed to the recently-passed bill increasing Colorado’s renewable energy standard, telling the Colorado Statesman, “It’s a slap in the face of rural Colorado.”

“I know it’s been said that we need ‘all of the above’ [in terms of energy sources] but the prime agenda from Washington, D.C. seems to be that renewable is the answer to everything,” Baumgardner told the Daily Caller. “People don’t like to be mandated that they have to meet certain renewable standards which seems to be another push not only at the state level but at the federal level.”

In addition to working to slash the carbon pollution that fuels climate change, the state’s renewable energy laws have been effective economic drivers. Between 2005 and 2010, the clean technology sector in Colorado grew by 32.7 percent and the state now has over 1,600 clean technology companies employing over 19,000 workers — fourth nationwide.

As for Sen. Hill, earlier this year he co-sponsored a so-called ‘academic freedom’ bill that would have permitted the teaching of antievolution and climate change denial in schools. While the measure died in committee, DeSmog blog notes that the language in the bill closely matched model legislation pushed by the ultra-conservative American Legislative Exchange Council.

The Other NRA: How the Insidiously Powerful Restaurant Lobby Makes Sure Fast-Food Workers Get Poverty Wages and Have to Work While Sick

From PRWatch by Steven Rosenfeld (click on above link to read the entire informative article)

“While thousands of fast-food workers were preparing to walk off their jobs earlier this summer to seek raises to $15 an hour, the industry’s corporate lobbyist, the National Restaurant Association, was celebrating a string of political victories blocking state minimum wage increases and preempting local sick day laws.

“In June, the NRA boasted that its lobbyists had stopped minimum wage increases in 27 out of 29 states in 2013. In Connecticut, which increased its state minimum wage, a raise in the base pay for tipped workers such as waitresses and bartenders vanished in the final bill. A similar scenario unfolded in New York State: It increased its minimum wage, but the NRA’s last-minute lobbying derailed raising the pre-tip wage at restaurants and bars. The deals came despite polls showing 80 percent support for raising the minimum wage…

…“These are horrible things, but there are amazing things that are happening to change it,” said Saru Jayaraman, co-director and co-founder of the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United (ROC), which has been working a dozen years to slowly change the industry’s exploitive business model and labor practices. “And there will be increasingly important stuff coming up…”

“…Most tellingly, almost every national chain—from fast-food outfits such as Yum! Brands Inc. (Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, KFC) and McDonald’s to full-service dining such as Darden Restaurants Inc. (Olive Garden, Red Lobster, Capital Grille)—have reported higher revenues, profits, margins and cash holdings to Wall Street analysts despite the recession, according to the National Employment Law Project. Giants like McDonalds had 7.8 percent revenue growth over the past decade, according to Gurufocus.com, a financial reporting site. Yum had 10-year revenues of 8.7 percent, and Darden’s 10-year revenues grew 9.1 percent.

“The NRA is the worst employer lobby in the U.S.,” Jayaraman said, speaking about its lobbying and PR operation that pretends it is not an industry dominated by Fortune 500 companies, but instead a rickety mom-and-pop operation teetering on the brink of ruin. “The [earnings] data does not bear any resemblance to what they say is true.”

“The business model—where almost everyone except for top management earns an average of slightly morethan $11 per hour—is premised on paying workers the lowest legal salary and has not changed in decades. AsThe New Yorker’s James Surowiecki recently explained, many of today’s largest service-sector companies, particularly restaurants and big-box retailers, were founded decades ago and sought to hire young people and housewives as low-wage, part-time employees, to give them work experience and spending money. “The reason this has become a big political issue is not that the jobs have changed; it’s that the people doing the jobs have…”

“…New York’s passage of sick leave legislation grabbed headlines, especially as it became law when the city council overrode Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s veto. But in the past two years, NRA lobbyists have pushedeight states to preempt or repeal local labor laws that include requiring paid sick leave. The industry—helped by prominent Democrats such as Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter—also beat proposed sick leave laws in Denver and Philadelphia.

“This trend started in Wisconsin and shows how right-wing alliances spread anti-labor legislation. In 2011, Wisconsin’s Republican Gov. Scott Walker backed an industry-led effort to ban paid sick leave laws, like the one Milwaukee’s voters adopted as a ballot measure in 2008 while Walker was county executive — its top elected official. Seventy percent of voters had backed paid sick leave. That spring, the passage of Wisconsin’s bill preempting local laws was touted as a model by the NRA at meetings of the American Legislative Exchange Council, the pro-corporate lobbying mill. ALEC members, almost all Republicans, introduced copycat bills in their states, Wellstone Action’s Goldfarb said, saying this was how the NRA’s priority spread and “scaled.” These were passed by GOP-majority statehouses, sometimes using strongarm tactics that dismayed labor organizers.

“This summer, for example, Republicans in Florida’s Orange County—near Walt Disney World—were lobbiedby fast-food giants, including Darden, which owns Red Lobster, Olive Garden and Capital Grille, and Disney, and intentionally delayed acting on another sick leave ballot measure that had 80 percent support in polls. That tactic gave the restaurant lobby time to push its preemption bill through its legislature, which GOP Gov. Rick Scott signed into law in July. Arizona, Mississippi, Louisiana, Kansas, Indiana and Tennessee have all passed bans on local sick leave laws. Michigan, Alabama, Oklahoma and South Carolina are considering it.”

National Civil Rights Coalition Launches Campaign to End For-Profit Private Prison System

Corporate Investors and Board Members Urged to Drop Exploitative Business

“NEW YORK–(ENEWSPF)–September 4, 2013 – Today, ColorOfChange, in partnership with Grassroots Leadership, launched a national campaignto put an end to the for-profit private prison system. Through extensive and direct outreach, the campaign is asking investors and board members of for-profit prison companies to divest themselves of that business practice — or face being held publicly accountable…

“…Federal agencies and state governments contract with three main companies to lock people up: Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), GEO Group, Inc., and the Management and Training Corporation (MTC). The top two prison companies, CCA and GEO, are publicly traded and financed by investors, major banks and corporations, who hold shares in the industry. CCA and GEO Group make money by charging a daily rate per body that is sent to them — costing taxpayers billions for dangerous, ineffective facilities. The industry also makes money by avoiding tax payments. CCA will dodge $70 million in tax payments this year by becoming a real estate investment trust (REIT) and designating their prisons as “residential”.

“In order to maximize profits, prison companies cut back on staff training, medical care, and rehabilitative services — causing assault rates to double in some private prisons as well as by lobbying for and benefiting from laws that put more people in jail. In the 1990’s CCA chaired the Criminal Justice Task force of shadowy corporate bill-mill, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which passed “3 strikes” and “truth in sentencing” laws that continue to send thousands of people to prison on very harsh sentences…”

Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas Files Brief in Opposition to ALEC’s Effort to Evade Open Records Law

From PRWatch by Brendan Fischer

“The Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas has filed a brief with state Attorney General Greg Abbott in support of the Center for Media and Democracy’s request for records pertaining to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), and further refuting ALEC’s effort to declare its communications immune from the state public records law.

ALEC’s arguments reflect a dangerous trend of claiming a constitutional right to close the public off from governmental body deliberations,” says attorney Joe Larsen, a member of FOIFT’s Board of Directors. “However, the real purpose of the First Amendment is to further the ‘free trade in ideas.’ That’s done through transparency, not behind closed doors.”

“As ALEC has come under increasing public scrutiny in recent years, they’ve taken new steps to cover their tracks and escape public accountability. In recent months, they’ve begun stamping documents with a “disclaimer” asserting that materials like meeting agendas and model legislation are not subject to any state’s open records law. In late July, Texas became the first state where ALEC formally asked the Attorney General for an exemption from sunshine-in-government laws.

“On August 15, CMD filed a brief with the Texas Attorney General asking his office to reject arguments by ALEC and Texas State Rep. Stephanie Klick that the lobbying organization’s communications with lawmakers should be kept secret from the public.

“FOIFT’s brief, filed last week, supports CMD’s position and adds additional arguments countering claims by Rep. Klick and ALEC — noting, among other things, that the arguments made by each are “mutually inconsistent…”

From the Sunbelt to Capitol Hill, Students Mass for Racial Justice

“As Sallie Mae Sits, Arne Duncan Gets Mailed

“Since late August, Jobs with Justice and the Student Labor Action Project have sent Secretary of Education Arne Duncan more than 25,000 e-mails demanding that the Department of Education end its contract with Sallie Mae. Dating back to February, Jobs with Justice has raised concerns over Sallie Mae’s membership in the American Legislative Exchange Council and violations of the Equal Credit Opportunity Act that led to lawsuits, which are now resurfacing due to accusations from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation that Sallie Mae violated the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act and other “unfair or deceptive” practices. On May 9, students from the US Student Association, Student Labor Action Project and Jobs with Justice met with Duncan to raise these concerns about Sallie Mae and were told by the secretary to “hold him accountable.” Now, we’re holding Secretary Duncan accountable as the calls to put an end to this $300 million dollar contract scandal grow louder.

—Chris Hicks

Shareholder Activists: ‘We’re No Angels’ Edition

Among the activist initiatives pursued by the Community Church and Walden are:

UPS (United Parcel Service) – Community Church co-filed a resolution to UPS “seeking lobby disclosure, as the company still refuses to reveal its lobbying through trade associations. UPS also continues to support ALEC [the American Legislative Exchange Council], which is [sic] works to challenge renewable energy regulations at state levels.”

City Cable Channel Isn’t So Basic

State law could leave viewers in the dark

“WTMJ-4 is the current casualty in the dust-up between Journal Broadcast Group and Time Warner Cable.

“But Milwaukee’s City Channel could be the next to go dark, thanks to a 2007 bill pushed by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), its corporate member AT&T, former Democratic Sen. Jeff Plale, now working for the Walker administration, and former Republican state Rep. Phil Montgomery, Walker’s appointee to head the Public Service Commission… 

“…The Video Competition Act of 2007 took cable franchise agreements out of the hands of municipalities and gave them to the state. So when Time Warner warned its customers recently that 11 of its basic cable channels—including the City Channel—would no longer be included for free in its analog cable packages, it didn’t need to inform the Milwaukee City Council about that change. Time Warner will give a free digital to analog converter box to customers who request it by Nov. 11. But these customers will have to pay an extra $.99 for the formerly free service a year from now…

“…According to the Center for Media and Democracy, the Wisconsin law is modeled on ALEC’s Cable and Video Competition Act, a model bill written by its corporate members for use in statehouses around the country. Supporters promised it would lead to more competition, better customer service and lower cable rates.

“Bohl scoffed at those promises.

“I can only tell you it’s gotten worse,” he said.

“Time Warner could not be reached for comment.”

 

The Stranglehold on Our Politics

 

“Most of the electorate can’t be bothered with midterm elections, and this has had large consequences—none of them good—for our political system and our country. Voting for a president might be exciting or dutiful, worth troubling ourselves for. But the midterms, in which a varying number of governorships are up for election, as well as the entire House of Representatives and one third of the Senate, just don’t seem worth as much effort. Such inaction is a political act in itself, with major effects…”

“…The Republicans who took over the states following the 2010 elections arrived with an agenda strongly based on model laws supplied by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), heavily funded by the Koch brothers along with some other big corporations. The other group that benefited most from the 2010 elections was the passionately anti-abortion Christian right—which is not only an essential part of the national Republican Party’s base but also dominates the Republican Party in about twenty states, and has a substantial influence in more than a dozen other state parties. The Christian right is tremendously effective in motivating its followers to go to the polls—and then threaten a loss of support if their agenda isn’t adopted.

“The overall result of the new Republican domination has been that these states have cut taxes on the wealthy and corporations and moved toward a more comprehensive sales tax; slashed unemployment benefits; cut money for education and various public services; and sought to break the remaining power of the unions. Not only did Republican officials in these states manipulate the constitutionally guaranteed right to vote in their effort to win the presidency in 2012 and preserve their own power by keeping Democratic supporters from voting, but they are at it again. The constitutional right to abortion granted under Roe v. Wade has been flouted. The new strategy among anti-abortion forces is to limit legal abortions to the first twelve weeks of pregnancy. Several states have adopted this measure and others are in the process of doing so…”

Gun Fanatics Score Big Victory in North Carolina

“For years, police officers in North Carolina had a choice when it came to confiscated guns. They could use them for law enforcement purposes—training, testing, examining—or they could destroy them.

“But a new law (PDF) passed by Republican lawmakers in the state changes that. Police officers can still use confiscated guns, but as of this week, they can’t destroy them. Instead, if a department wants to get rid of a gun, it has to sell it or auction it. Effectively, men and women who once worked to keep guns off of the streets must now moonlight as gun dealers.

Crafted by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and passed at the urging of the National Rifle Association, the specifics of the “Save the Gun” law are straightforward. When faced with confiscated guns, law enforcement agencies must either donate, keep, or sell the items to licensed firearm dealers. The only guns that can legally be destroyed are those that are damaged or missing serial numbers, the latter an indication the gun was stolen. (In practical terms, that group doesn’t add up to many weapons; nationwide, stolen guns account for just 10 to 15 percent of those used in crimes.)

“As for what law enforcement thinks? After ALEC developed this proposal in 2011, the Fraternal Order of the Police, a national labor union, said that it preferred discretion when it came to dealing with confiscated weapons—a reasonable position. In North Carolina, the Sheriff’s Association, a trade group, declined to comment on the measure while it faced debate in the legislature. Still, it’s hard to imagine that local police are happy with a law that not only limits their options but also blocks judges from ordering the destruction of weapons used in a crime. Indeed, there’s something perverse about forcing a police department to sell guns that may have been used for assault or murder.”

All these laws come from individual concerns

“There ought to be a law. How many times have you heard that said?

“There’s also the common refrain: “We have too many laws…”

“…Every year, hundreds of bills are filed in Nashville by legislators who deal with issues brought to them by constituents, public officials and business interests. Every one of these bills addresses a specific concern of these individuals.

“In some cases the bills are actually drafted by lobbyists representing business or special interest groups. There’s also the American Legislative Exchange Council, which is responsible for drafting many of the “model” bills that are sponsored by Republicans in Tennessee and elsewhere. One of ALEC’s most popular is the voter ID law that is now facing a legal challenge here (and in North Carolina).

Plain Talk: Wisconsin’s school vouchers are a scam

“The recent news release from the State Department of Public Instruction revealing that 67 percent of the applicants to the Walker administration’s expanded school voucher program are already attending private schools elicited cries of “scam” from many quarters.

“And well it should have.

“That two-thirds of the voucher applicants had their children already enrolled in private schools lays waste the argument by Wisconsin legislative Republicans and the governor that vouchers are needed so poor families can rescue their children from poorly performing public schools.

“Not only was it a scheme to avoid the messy constitutional issue of sending tax dollars to private schools often run by churches, but in reality it was a foot in the door for a well-funded extreme conservative movement to weaken public education.

“The Koch brothers, the Heritage Foundation, the DeVos (Amway) family, the Walton family (Walmart) and right-wing front groups have been behind the push for so-called choice schools. Now that several states, like Wisconsin, are controlled by the new far-right Republican Party, they are pushing vouchers as never before.  And the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), of course, has provided the model legislation…

 

How Embarrassing – ALEC Mtg OKC – No Quorum

How Embarrassing – ALEC Mtg OKC – No Quorum

From “Because I Can” Blogspot by 2old2care…

How incredibly sad.
ALEC doesn’t have a quorum
– for their big meeting about writing and passing ALEC “model legislation”.
One of three meetings held annually, this one focuses on ALEC “model legislation” and
only 15% of their ALEC legislators showed up.
How incredibly sad.
ALEC must be so embarrassed.
No Quorum – the votes on the legislation don’t count
No Quorum – the discussion is useless.
What a waste of taxpayer money –
They have NO quorum – they can’t do anything binding
May as well just put those 15% of ALEC legislators back on the plane and send ’em home!
Here you have an organization going down the toilet
and only 15% of their members show up for a meeting.
A meeting where the travel, hotel and registration is paid for by ALEC Corporations
and 85% of their legislative members don’t even show up.
Don’t even show up to show their support of this flailing organization.
That is so sad – it’s funny!
ALEC must be sooooooooooooo embarrassed.
This is so incredibly sad.
I’d feel sorry for them – if I didn’t dislike them so much.
How embarrassing!
“About 500 people, mostly lawmakers from across thecountry, are expected to converge next week in Oklahoma City for the spring meeting of an organization that promotes free-market and conservative ideas.”
ABOUT FIVE HUNDRED “PEOPLE”
NOT 500 legislative members of ALEC
500 PEOPLE
Let’s crunch some numbers on ALEC legislators:
Civil Justice Task Force  – 168 members
Commerce – 214 members
Communications and Technology – 181 members
Education – 181 members
Health and Human Services – 247 members
International Relations – 106 members
Public Safety and Elections – 151 members
Tax & Fiscal Policy – 228 members
168
214
181
181
247
106
151
228
1,476
Assume
50% are corporations (788)
25% of legislators serve on more than one task force (duplication) (225)
That means
553 ALEC members who are task force members
OOOOPS!!!!!!
ALEC BRAGS that they have 2,000+ legislative members
And yet only 500+ are task force members
AND
Only about 500+ PEOPLE will be at the meeting in Oklahoma City today and tomorrow.
That includes the ALEC profit sector members
500 legislators would ONLY be 25% of 2,000+ ALEC legislative members.
NOW – even if we are generous and say 300 of the 500 PEOPLE attending the meeting in OKC are ALEC legislative members – that would be ONLY 15% of ALEC legislators –
15% of the total ALEC members making legislative decisions for all ALEC members.
15% of the total ALEC members developing the nasty ALEC “model legislation” that is distributed across the United States
15% lousy percent
That is really embarrassing.
We’re not even talking a quorum here – unless they consider the quorum to be the ALEC Profit Sector members.
Do these 15% of all ALEC members represent the most extremist, ultra-conservative, right-wing members that the American Legislative Exchange Council has?
Pretty sad, so sad
– when this meeting according to ALEC is to:
During the meeting, legislators will introduce and debate potential model policies that will have a positive impact on the American economy
They should say – During the meeting, only 15% of ALEC legislators will introduce and debate  ….
Pretty sad.
It’s so sad – it’s brahahahahahah funny!
Earlier this week Banz (ALEC-OK) wrote in an opinion piece:
Next week, hundreds of legislators from around the country will gather in Oklahoma City for the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) Spring Task Force meetings.
Should be
Next week, a couple of hundred of legislators from around the country will gather in Oklahoma City for the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) Spring Task Force meetings.
ALEC must be sooooooooooooo embarrassed.
This is so incredibly sad.
I’d feel sorry for them – if I didn’t dislike them so much.
Here you have an organization going down the toilet
and only 15% of their members show up for a meeting.
How embarrassing!
How incredibly embarrassing!!!

04/29 Daily Report on Activities, Legislation and Initiatives of the ALEC/Koch Cabal

04/29 Daily Report on Activities, Legislation and Initiatives of the ALEC/Koch Cabal

By Bob Sloan

In order to keep readers with an interest in ALEC up to date on stories related to ALEC, we’re posting this page with brief descriptions of ALEC activities and links to the articles or material(s).

Included  this update are links to measures or articles published by ALEC (if available) , showing their take on issues.  Simply click on the title and a link will take you to the full article(s).

GOP Legislator Defends ALEC

A decision by the South Dakota legislature’s Executive Board to possibly include paying for trips to American Legislative Exchange Council meetings has created some controversy. ALEC as it is known has advocated for major changes in public education and the role of government. Senator Dan Lederman of Dakota Dunes, a republican, has been a member of ALEC for some time.

Legislative ‘circus’ had its moments of dignity

“The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a corporately financed orchestrator of legislators nationwide, provided the ventriloquy for yet another “smart-ALEC” puppet promoting the use of what would be public funds for private schooling. A contortionist managed to make a bill that limited access to justice for wrongfully discharged employees look like tort reform. After 85 days of cape-swirling and abra-cadabras about tax relief, the majority magician managed to pull two sorry little sparrows out of the hat, both tax breaks for the few at the expense of the many.”

Art Pope Groups Push Extreme ALEC Tax Agenda in North Carolina

“When McCrory appointed Pope as his budget director in 2012, many progressives in the state feared sweeping tax cuts were on the way. The governor has been mostly silent, so far, but the three Pope-tied groups have each released their own highly regressive tax plans.

“The Civitas tax plan was written by Arthur Laffer, the author of the annual American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) tax publication “Rich States, Poor States.” The two plans are like peas in a pod. Like the ALEC publication, the Civitas plan proposes austerity coupled with abolishing individual and corporate income taxes and replacing them with an increased state sales tax. A sales tax is regressive, since the less a person earns, the greater proportion of their income is eaten up by the tax. According to the North Carolina Justice Center, such a shift would mean a tax cut for the wealthiest 20 percent, while placing a greater financial burden on the bottom 60 percent. This would translate into a $500 tax increase for somebody earning $24,000, but a $41,000 decrease for a $1 million earner.”

Did Johnson & Johnson succumb to ‘race baiting’?

“A conservative policy expert recently attended Johnson & Johnson’s annual shareholder meeting last week where he challenged the company for caving to left-wing extremists and deciding to stop working with mainstream conservative organizations.

“At Thursday’s annual meeting of shareholders in New Brunswick, New Jersey, Justin Danhof, general counsel for The National Center for Public Policy Research (NCPPR), criticized Johnson & Johnson CEO Alex Gorsky’s decision to stop working with the American Legislative Exchange Council – a respected, 40-year-old national organization of supporting state legislators.

Audio: National expert on swift, certain sanctions: ‘Rest of the country has its eyes on Washington state

“Swift and Certain Sanctions”…another model bill from ALEC. This “Act” was adopted by the full ALEC membership on June 3 2010.  Assoc. Professor Angela Hawken, PhD of Pepperdine’s School of Public Policy has been touring the U.S. speaking alongside representatives of American Enterprise Institute (AEI) , a staunchly conservative think tank associated with the American Legislative Exchange Council and funded at least in part by the Koch family foundations in similar manner to the Americans For Prosperity organization.  Hawken is an “expert” on topics other than swift and certain sanctions…often speaking on legalization of marijuana.

Many projects of Pepperdine’s School of Public Policy are funded by the Charles G. Koch Foundation:

April 1, 2013, The School of Public Policy and the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation present an Economic Seminar on Wednesday, April 3, at 12 p.m. in LC 159, with a reception to follow. School of Public Policy students Catherine Bampoky (MPP candidate ’13) and Aolong Liu (MPP candidate ’13) will present their research paper titled “The Impact of Entrepreneurship on Economic Growth.” In addition, students Ji Gu (MPP candidate ’13) and Tonghui Zhu (MPP candidate ’13) will present “Research and Development and Economic Growth in the United States.” These projects are joint work with Dr. Luisa Blanco and Dr. James Prieger. Funding for these projects was provided by the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation.

 

Our Voice: State should not pay lawmakers’ dues to ALEC

 “South Dakota’s Republican-controlled legislative Executive Board last week decided that each member of the Legislature should be a member of ALEC — the American Legislative Exchange Council.

“That’s $10,500 of your money: $100 membership each for 105 South Dakota lawmakers’ memberships to a partisan group that is not looking out for the people of South Dakota.

“Then, when lawmakers go out of state to ALEC conventions, South Dakota will foot the travel bill, too.

 

Darden Restaurants Dumps ALEC in Favor of National Restaurant Assoc.

Darden Restaurants Dumps ALEC in Favor of National Restaurant Assoc.

From PRWatch by Rebekah Wilce

The Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) reports that Darden Restaurants which operates Red Lobster, Olive Garden, and other chain restaurants has stated they have not renewed their ALEC membership as of 2010.  Darden representative Rich Jeffers, Director of Media Relations told CMD that the company had not renewed its ALEC membership since January 2010 because it “felt that different organizations like the National Restaurant Association would . . . serve us best.”

Unfortunately the “other NRA” continues to be a member of ALEC so Darden will still have representation within ALEC’s task forces and working group through representation by the National Restaurant Association. This NRA is involved in pursuing “ag-gag” bills and legislation eliminating paid sick days or leave for employees.

Read the full CMD article <- here ->

You can Call me AL or ALE…but not “ALEC!”

You can Call me AL or ALE…but not “ALEC!”

From an article published by Nick Surgey at PRWatch: “ALEC Who?” ALEC Has an Identity Crisis

The American Legislative Exchange Council is trying to change their image and in accomplishing that they would rather toss away the acronym “ALEC” – they’ve been known by and operating under for forty years now – than change their activities.  Four decades they have been secretly meeting, writing pro-corporate legislation and disseminating it throughout America and of late, the world.  Their “International Relations Task Force” includes U.S. state lawmakers and eighteen or nineteen foreign elected officials.  This IRTF is responsible for submitting resolutions and proposed model legislation that has subsequently become law in several U.S. states, so they can now proudly add “Interference with International Policy and Procedures” to their corrupt resume.

Journalist Nick Surgey recently joined the Center for Media and Democracy and writes about the attempt made by ALEC to alter their image in this revealing article published today.  We have to now await anxiously for ALEC to “reveal” their entirely new, squeaky clean “corporate personae”…so we can continue to expose their activities and track their corrupt legislative efforts state by state…

Pictures from ALEC’s 2011 meeting in Phoenix and 2012 Spring Summit in Charlotte that drew hundreds of protesters is the image they are trying to leave behind:

Phoenix 1 Phoenix 6 Phoenix 9 Phoenix 10 Phoenix 2DCIM100MEDIA

Watch YouTube video of Phoenix ALEC Protest here

Read the entire PRWatch article here

 

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.

Where Has Color of Change Been All This Time?

saw this making its way around people’s inboxes yesterday:

postal worker cofc

A most worthy cause.  But, Color of Change, just as you were with ALEC–where have you been?  Must you wait and test the waters before capitalizing by joining in?

With ALEC you jumped in to the campaign to expose them long after so many Daily Kosother researchers had been already doing the research.  People like the Daily Kos writers who have been writing and exposing ALEC for a few years now.  People like Lisa Graves who ALECexposedhas devoted so much of her time and effort to be the face of this movement, someone whose research you take and use to raise funds and increase your membership.  People like Bob Sloan, our executive editor, among the first people to start posting about ALEC.  People like the other researchers who have been identified by ALEC as “to be avoided at all costs”.

the fold

Your claim to fame was getting corporations to quit ALEC.  You fell over yourselves promoting your work,  capitalizing  from it.  Well, how did that workMONEYPOWERANDALEC out?  VLTP has shown how half of the corporations that have quit ALEC did not do so because of their concern about ALEC’s politics.   In fact, they are giving their money to other radical right organizations funded by many of the same people and corporations that fund ALEC.  You can take a look at http://www.vltp.net/?p=4929  to see What Happened to the Corporations Who Quit ALEC.  I wonder which were forced to quit by you, and how many by the socially responsible money managers we have been reporting about?

And now you are finally, finally getting on the bandwagon trying to save the USPS.  A very worthy cause.  But where have you been since Bob Sloan exposed the plan to kill the USPS-LogoUSPS?  I know you are aware of ALEC, but where is mention of it in your donation letter?  Did you not read his special report on the ALEC/Koch Cabal Pursuing Privatization of the US Postal Service for UPS and FedEx…at http://www.vltp.net/?p=122  It was published almost 11 months ago.  Certainly you’ve had time to research how your interest in ALEC is connected to your new interest in the USPS?

No?  You were not aware of it?  Why not?  Given the tens of thousands of hits that this article has received–and continues to receive every day–how did your researchers miss this?

save america's postal service
Welcome to the fight to save the USPS.  We very sincerely applaud your efforts to raise awareness of the plight of the USPS–especially their unionized workers of all skin colors.  And we sincerely hope that you run this campaign to help save the USPS for as long as it takes.

But if you want timely information about issues that have been affected by ALEC – and the “other ALECs”, what we have called the Cabal – you should be looking at the researchers who lead the field in grass roots reporting on these issues.

You might even want to learn about ALEC’s involvement in the rest of the ALEC Internationalworld.  ALEC cannot be stopped simply by fighting them here.  Their offshore operations–funded by many of the same corporations that fund ALEC here–are there to pick up the slack.  You can read our exposure of that in our newest expose–The World Trade in International Corruption – ALEC International, posted here at http://www.vltp.net/?p=5093

Or, you might try working with everyone who is working to expose ALEC without participating in any boycotts of specific groups or people.
if we are fighting each other we can't fight the enemy

Wind, solar groups quit ALEC as conservative powerhouse targets clean-energy programs

no alecTwo renewable energy industry groups have dropped out of the American Legislative Exchange Council, citing the conservative coalition’s efforts to wipe out state-level clean energy programs.

ALEC connects businesses and about 2,000 state lawmakers to push free-market legislation, and state lawmakers who are members of ALEC often introduce the model bills in their home legislatures — an increasingly controversial practice that has been widely criticized by liberal and environmental groups and some government watchdogs.

The American Wind Energy Association and the Solar Energy Industries Association joined the industry-backed coalition for a year because they wanted a “seat at the table” to discuss hot energy issues, said AWEA spokesman Peter Kelley.

But the groups decided to drop out after ALEC adopted the “Electricity Freedom Act” model bill in October, which would end requirements that utilities generate a set amount of electricity from renewable sources, such as wind and solar (E&ENews PM, Nov. 5, 2012). SEIA allowed its one-year membership to expire last fall, and AWEA dropped out earlier this month.

SEIA’s decision to drop out was also fueled by ALEC’s refusal to take up a SEIA proposal to ease permitting costs for distributed generation, said Carrie Cullen-Hitt, a senior vice president for the solar industry group. “We didn’t get very far with that,” Cullen-Hitt said.

Now, AWEA is warning state lawmakers not to be taken in by ALEC’s message, one that Kelley said is driven by fossil fuel companies. He pointed out that conservative think tank and climate skeptic Heartland Institute told The Washington Post last year that it had joined ALEC to write language to revise state renewable energy mandates in 29 states and the District of Columbia.

“We want to warn our former fellow members of ALEC about that misinformation because we won’t be around to protect them,” he said.

Environmental and clean energy groups cite watchdog websites that show companies like Koch Industries, Exxon Mobil Corp., Duke Energy and Peabody sit on ALEC’s energy, environment and agriculture task force and have a hand in crafting energy legislation.

“There are 29 states that have renewable portfolio standards, and it’s my understanding that ALEC is targeting each one,” said Bill Gupton, an outreach director at Consumers Against Rate Hikes.

Renewable energy development on the state level has drawn much of the energy sector’s attention in recent months as efforts to forge a climate bill on Capitol Hill become increasingly unlikely.

Kelley said that although the notion of RPS programs being reversed could be devastating for the renewable energy industry, he doesn’t believe ALEC will get far. “You can find someone to introduce a bill, but that doesn’t mean you can find someone to pass it,” he said.

For its part, ALEC says interest in repealing the state programs stems from the lawmakers themselves, not the conservative coalition as a whole.

ALEC, which does not disclose its membership or sources of funding, is simply a “platform” where lawmakers repeatedly raise the concern that consumers should not be forced to pay for politically backed energy sources like solar and wind through mandates, said Todd Wynn, who directs ALEC’s energy, environment and agriculture task force.

“The characterization of this issue in particular is often misleading,” Wynn said. “I think that, often, our opposition and advocates of renewables energy think that ALEC is opposed to renewables, when we’re not.”

Some renewable energy companies and firms that manufacture goods needed to produce renewable energy belong to ALEC and don’t leave the group — even if they disagree with some policies — because they want to discuss hot-button issues, he added.

ALEC expects a handful of states to introduce bills to repeal RPS programs in February and March and full repeals to be implemented in 2014, Wynn said.

“Members are driving the debate. … Our state legislators have taken up the torch on these issues,” he said. “But ALEC itself isn’t driving an energy mandate repeal campaign.”

‘Dream come true’

Tracking ALEC’s connection to state lawmakers and particular legislation has become more difficult because the group is increasingly savvy about how it reaches out to state legislators, and model bills don’t always match measures that are introduced, said Connor Gibson, a researcher at Greenpeace.

For now, green groups are left checking state legislators’ membership in ALEC and speaking engagements, and waiting for bills to be introduced.

Such is the case in North Carolina, where state Rep. Mike Hager , a member of ALEC, is poised to introduce a bill next month that would repeal the state’s RPS program. North Carolina currently requires utilities to procure 12 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2021.

Hager, a former engineer for Charlotte-based Duke Energy, said during an interview today that ALEC isn’t helping him write his legislation. Instead, Hager said he’s a free-market, conservative Republican who doesn’t believe the United States should subsidize renewable energy when large quantities of cheap coal, gas and oil exist. He added that he does his own research.

“It’s just the central philosophy of the government subsidizing the industry,” Hager said. “It’s a logic issue.”

Duke Energy, a member of ALEC and large player in North Carolina, is trying to sidestep the debate.

Duke spokesman Dave Scanzoni said the utility hasn’t taken a formal position on the bill, and the decision to implement or repeal renewable portfolio standards should be “state specific.”

“Though we’re a member of ALEC, we don’t always agree with every issue that the organization or any other organization of which we’re a member takes,” he said, adding that Duke is a member of a wide array of liberal and conservative groups.

But a spokesman for Duke told the Charlotte Business Journal last May that the utility indeed opposes Hager’s bill and helped craft North Carolina’s RPS. Duke also opposes ALEC’s position to curb U.S. EPA’s ability to regulate carbon emissions and coal ash storage and set standards for mercury emissions, the spokesman said.

Gibson said ALEC’s push to repeal state renewable programs puts Duke in an awkward position.

“They’re still paying ALEC to do work that they say they don’t support,” he said. “This particular bill is attacking a law that Duke helped create.”

Green groups are suspicious that similar efforts could be under way in Virginia, Ohio, Kansas, Arizona, Missouri and Wisconsin. All are states that, like North Carolina, have Republican majorities in the legislature (control of the state Senate in Virginia is split, though a Republican lieutenant governor can break tie votes). Of those states, only Missouri has a Democratic governor.

Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, a GOP gubernatorial candidate, is backing two bipartisan pieces of legislation to eliminate incentives that utilities receive for complying with the state’s voluntary RPS program.

Cuccinelli’s office said the bills would remove the “extra” payments that customers must make while ensuring that the state’s utilities generate 15 percent of their power from renewables by 2025.

“In short, Virginians can expect to have the same amount of renewable electricity as they would have had under the current law, but will pay less for it,” said Caroline Gibson, a spokeswoman for Cuccinelli.

But Beth Kemler, director of Virginia’s Chesapeake Climate Action Network, said that the legislation is a “de facto repeal” of the state’s RPS program and that Cuccinelli has been known to speak at ALEC events.

“We certainly can’t draw any straight lines from ALEC to this bill, but … we can draw a straight line from ALEC to Cuccinelli — he has spoken at their events,” Kemler said. “We basically think of the [bill] as a very smart backhanded way to get rid of the RPS.”

Cuccinelli’s office said today that the attorney general is not an ALEC member.  Editor’s note:  We do not know if Cuccinelli is a current member of ALEC as Legacy Memeberships are extremely difficult to research and prove, HOWEVER, Cucinelli was a member of ALEC as recently as 2008

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This article was written by Hannah Northey and posted at http://eenews.net/public/Greenwire/2013/01/30/1
Greenwire