ALEC Protest

ALEC’s 40th Birthday Bash Crashed in Chicago

ALEC’s 40th Birthday Bash Crashed in Chicago

by Bob Sloan

As members of the secretive American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) meet for their Annual Meeting in Chicago (August 7-9), the organization planned a “two-for” to also celebrate their fortieth corporate birthday.  In addition to a meeting to determine upcoming pro-corporate (anti-consumer) model legislation for the coming year, ALEC hoped to celebrate forty years of secretive activities that has brought American’s new state laws in reference to; “Stand Your Ground”, Privatized Prisons, Prison Industries, Tort “Reforms”, voter ID, voter suppression, fracking and anti-labor.

Why is ALEC so dangerous to our democracy – and how have they been able to chart a conservative course for America for the past forty years?  These questions were answered by the CMD General Counsel, Brendan Fischer in a recent interview on “Real News Network“:

“But with respect to how is this different from traditional lobbying, with traditional lobbying you at least have some level of transparency. If a lobbyist is going to meet with a legislator in a state, they’ll maybe get there ear for 15 minutes. With ALEC, legislators fly to ALEC meetings, usually on the corporate dime. Meetings are held in places like Amelia Island, Florida, or New Orleans, or this year in Chicago, usually at the nicest hotel in town. The corporate members that benefit from ALEC model legislation are footing the bill for legislators’ travel expenses.

While at these meetings, lobbyists get legislators’ ear for three days of meetings and workshops and other events where legislators are sold on these corporate-friendly ideas and urged to pass these bills that are going to benefit the corporations that are footing the bill for the travel, for the meetings, for the nights out. By the time legislators get back to the state, they are the ones who are already convinced that a particular bill or policy idea is right for the state. By the time the public gets a chance to weigh in, the legislator is oftentimes already convinced. So in some ways the legislators are the ones who are becoming the lobbyists for the corporate special-interest agenda advanced by ALEC.”

With all the media attention, things have not been going as planned for the ultra-conservative think tank as hundreds of protesters, activists, clergy, organized labor members and an angry public have turned out to protest ALEC’s existence, their anti-consumer legislative activities and efforts to prioritize corporate rights over human ones.

The protests in Chicago this week are the latest in a long line of similar actions undertaken over the past three years.  In April 2011 hundreds turned out in Cincinnati in the first ever Anti-ALEC protest/rally.  At that event a whistleblower turned over hundreds of ALEC’s secret “model legislation” earmarked for presentation in state legislatures to fatten the bottom lines of ALEC’s corporate membership.  CMD published all of the material at a PRWatch website: www.alecexposed.org to warn the public of then current and upcoming “initiatives” of ALEC that would be detrimental to the general public.

Since that initial protest, VLTP along with organizations such as People For the American Way (PFAW), Center for Media and Democracy (CMD), Common Cause, Color of Change and a half dozen others have pursued ALEC continuously.  We have crisscrossed America following ALEC from state to state, city by city to set-up and protest all of their activities and to offer information to locals about ALEC’s legislative record and ongoing agenda.  Common Cause and VLTP were joined by Clergy Voice in Ohio in filing whistleblower complaints/claims with the IRS, asserting that ALEC’s IRS (c)(3) exempt status is being used to openly lobby at the state and federal levels for legislation they themselves wrote on behalf of corporate interests.  Such activities are prohibited for “charities” holding the 501 (c)(3) exemption.

ALEC protesters have turned to social media of late in an effort of informing more Americans about ALEC.  A special Facebook Group page was established to allow activists to communicate, plan and announce events planned for Chicago this week.  Activists have attracted unions by exposing ALEC’s anti-worker, anti-union legislative efforts.  In Oklahoma city earlier this year at ALEC’s spring summit, AFLCIO members joined with the Teamsters and local unions to organize a huge anti-ALEC protest, rally and march.

In Chicago AFSCME has weighed in along with the Chicago Teacher’s Union

The ALEC protesting started on Monday (Moral Monday) of this week as protesters staged a sit-in at the fashionable Chicago resort/hotel, the Palmer House where several protesters were arrested:

Six people were arrested Monday when protesters descended upon the Palmer House Hilton in Chicago to push back against the impending visit of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), whose conservative agenda, activists say, promotes policies and legislation that protects corporate interests and disenfranchises workers and voters.

Chanting “No to ALEC,” Goodman, along with fellow members of the Chicago Moral Monday Coalition, such as Natalie Wahlberg, were arrested for linking arms on the steps of the hotel’s lobby, at 17 E. Monroe St. According to the Chicago Police Department, six protesters were charged with misdemeanor criminal trespassing for causing a disturbance and refusing to leave the lobby. (see video of the event here.

The arrests demonstrate how ALEC coordinates with Hotel security, local police and some say Homeland Security to provide protection to the hundreds of corporate representatives that attend ALEC events to wine and dine thousands of state legislators in an attempt to woo them into sponsoring proposed legislation beneficial to corporate interests.  In Phoenix in November 2011 dozens of demonstrators were pepper sprayed by local police – most wearing their name badges backwards to hide their identity – before arrests were made at a protest in front of the Westin resort in Scottsdale.

Obviously with their vast influence, money and connections (nearly 2,000 state legislative members), ALEC is able to deter local authorities from the primary task of “serving the public” to “licking the boots of the corporate elite” at each event.  Instead of protecting the public and their rights to protest and demonstrate, local authorities are quick to arrest on behalf of ALEC.

Yesterday, PRWatch published information about ALEC’s efforts in Chicago, exposing the think tank’s upcoming agenda:

CHICAGO — This week, the corporate and legislator members of the American Legislative Exchange Council are meeting at the swank Palmer House hotel in Chicago to celebrate the organization’s 40th anniversary, be educated in corporate sponsored workshops and adopt legislative priorities for the coming year. Here is what is on the agenda for ALEC’s 40th — notably, some of the workshops carry a $40,000 pricetag for corporate sponsors.

Fracking, Virtual Schools, and Privatization

  • New ways to thwart local democratic control by prohibiting city or county governments from regulating genetically modified plant seeds. Members of the Agriculture Subcommittee — which is chaired by Jeff Case of CropLife America — will consider a bill to thwart local democratic control by prohibiting city or local governments from regulating genetically modified plant seeds, which happens to benefit many members of CropLife’s trade association and other big ag companies. Contrary to Jeffersonian principles of local democracy, for years ALEC has promoted bills to preempt local efforts to establish everything from paid sick days to municipal broadband.
  • ALEC's Energy, Environment & Agriculture (EEA) task forcePresentations on how fracking America can lead to increased profits through exporting America’s natural gas. American Petroleum Institute representatives Jon Shore and Rebecca Heimlich will give a presentation on “Local Bans on Hydraulic Fracturing: Coming Soon to Your District.” Jason French of energy company Cheniere Energy will present to the Energy Subcommittee about “LNG [Liquid Natural Gas] exports: A Story of American Innovation and Economic Opportunity.”
  • Discussions of the wonders of nuclear energy and offshore drilling. Other energy-related agenda items include a presentation on “Nuclear Energy’s Continuing Role in Providing Baseload Electricity,” and another on “Developing America’s Offshore Energy Potential: Good Sense and Good Cents.” ALEC will also consider a “Resolution in Opposition to a Carbon Tax.”
  • More climate change denial? Members of the Energy, Environment, and Agriculture Task Force will be part of a breakfast plenary session called “A Thoughtful Approach to Climate Science.” The title is less inflammatory than some of its past panels — at the 2011 ALEC meeting, legislators attended a workshop titled “Warming Up to Climate Change: The Many Benefits of Increased Atmospheric CO2” — but given ALEC funders like the Koch brothers and members like the Heartland Institute, it seems unlikely that the organization has woken up to the dangers of climate change.
  • Expanding virtual “schools,” which enriches ALEC’s online school corporate funders, such as K12 Inc.The Illinois Policy Institute — the State Policy Network affiliate in the state — will present on “digital education.” IPI employees had pushed a Virtual Charter School plan in Illinois, apparently in collaboration with ALEC member K12 Inc., the nation’s largest provider of online charter schools (which has become notorious for poor educational outcomes and high profit margins). Additionally, at least two “workshops” — which carry a $40,000 pricetag — will deal with online education: “Modeling State Funding Formulas, K-12 Online Course Providers” and “Statewide Full-Time Virtual Schools: The Case for Parent Choice vs. Local Control.”

(Read the full agenda at the link provided above).

These topics are why so many Americans are now putting their safety and freedom on the line to step forward and actively protest ALEC.  The future of our society and indeed our nation are at peril from this organization and their powerful members.  Now that organized labor has joined the fray in earnest, I’m hopeful ALEC’s days are numbered and the countdown to the end is accelerating.

Finally, a great article by The Nation encapsulates the complete ALEC story and forewarns all of us of what the future holds if ALEC is allowed to continue operations unabated.

Street protests against ALEC like those planned in Chicago directly led to the organization’s exposure two years ago. After University of Wisconsin–Madison history professor William Cronon wrote a blog post examining the organization’s role in providing model legislation similar to the “Budget Repair Bill” pushed by Governor Scott Walker (a former ALEC member as a state legislator) that led to the famous Madison capitol occupation, Midwestern activists organized a protest outside the annual ALEC convention and a series of informational teach-ins in Cincinnati, Ohio. Two hours later, a whistleblower telephoned protest organizer Aliya Rahman, offering access to 800 of ALEC’s model bills.

Since that leak two years ago, and the subsequent investigation by The Nation and the Center for Media and Democracy’s, “ALEC Exposed,” as well as the CMD’s ongoing coverage through ALECexposed.org, the organization has faced intense national scrutiny, drawing protest from a wide variety of progressive groups in cities around the country for their role in writing and promoting a battery of right-wing legislation.

 

Spring Summit Conference Draws Protesters that Outnumber ALEC Members

Spring Summit Conference Draws Protesters that Outnumber ALEC Members

By Bob Sloan

ALEC Ok 3

Every Spring the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) holds a meeting where their legislative and corporate members are wined and dined and commingle as they develop model legislation intended to provide financial or polictal benefits to corporations.  Model bills are proposed, discussed and voted upon by state lawmakers and their private sector corporate counterparts.  If adopted by the full membership, these policies and models are then sent back to individual states and proposed as new laws for those states – and if passed, will apply to you and I.

This year at the annual ALEC Spring Summit conference held in Oklahoma City , it appeared that for possibly the second time in as many years, protesters, workers and marchers outnumbered corporate and legislative ALEC members in attendance.

The day’s events were organized and planned by the Teamsters, AFLCIO and International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF).  Activists and workers carrying signs provided by ALEC Exposed.org and others bearing handwritten placards joined with the union workers marching and chanting in front of the ALEC meeting place.  Though the crowd of protesters were as vocal about telling ALEC it was not okay to be in OK, they were not unruly or obstructed by police as had been the case at previous ALEC protests.

In Phoenix in November 2011 hundreds of protesters showed up to demonstrate, march and inform the public about ALEC.  Police cordoned off the Kierland Westin resort where the ALEC event was being held, refusing entrance to non-ALEC members or registered hotel guests.  Yesterday there was a police presence in OK City but it was minimal and marchers were able to surround the entrance to the Renaissance Hotel and Cox Convention Center.  No police were blocking the entrance or offering to spray protesters as they did in Phoenix – and before that in a New Orleans ALEC protest.

Outside the entrance to Cox Convention Center, a few ALEC members were standing watching the protesters march by on the sidewalk.  As they watched they smiled and some took pictures or video of the marchers passing by – with one ALEC attendee making faces at the crowd and at the media.  Of course, he had his name badge turned around so no one knew who he was or what outfit he represented.  Could have been a state lawmaker, for that matter.

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One person wearing an ALEC “Private Sector Member” badge, was identified as “Dave”.AFP Com Dir on Right 2

When approached by a news reporter and asked if he was an ALEC member, the man was silent then when the reporter focused the camera on the man’s badge, saying “Your badge says you’re the communications and policy director with American’s For Prosperity…” the man at first tried to deny that, saying “No, I’m not.”  When the reporter asked him “What is the Communications and Policy Director for AFP doing here today,” Dave responded, “Oh, right now I’m just standing here.”

This was an important moment in a day of importance…American’s for Prosperity has previously not been identified as being a member of ALEC.  ALEC Exposed.org does not have AFP listed as a non-profit ALEC member…yet this man’s badge (though the video is shaky) clearly identifies him as an ALEC Private Sector Member and further identifies the organization he represents as AFP.

AFP was founded with the support of David H. Koch and Charles G. Koch, both of Koch Industries.[, and they are represented upon ALEC’s Private Enterprise Board (now called the Private Enterprise Advisory Council) by Mike Morgan of Koch Companies Public Sector, LLC

A full video of the day’s events was livestreamed over the internet and can be found at the AFLCIO site here.  The above confrontation between “Dave” and the media reporter occurs at between 49 and 52 minutes into the video.

All of us here at VLTP send out a heartfelt thanks to the organizers, unions, businesses and individuals who participated in yesterday’s events.  We need much more of this and hopefully as ALEC makes plans for their upcoming Annual Conference in Chicago in early August, a larger contingent will be on hand to again provide ALEC and all of their attending members – a great big Chicago “welcome”.

Below are some screen shots from the protest march yesterday… The first shows “Dave” with the sidekick that made faces at the reporter’s camera and had his name badge hidden.

AFP Com Dir on Right    ALEC Ok 2    ALEC Ok 1

Teamsters Planning To Present Toxic “Welcome” For ALEC in OK. City Next Month

Teamsters Planning To Present Toxic “Welcome” For ALEC in OK. City Next Month

Announcement from Teamsters Local 886: http://teamsternation.blogspot.com/2013/04/expose-alec-take-pledge-today.html

“Our brothers and sisters in Oklahoma are spreading the word about the nefarious ALEC as the group heads toward Oklahoma City for an annual confab. Teamsters Local 886 is working hard to shine a bright light on ALEC’s misdeeds during its stay in Oklahoma City on May 2-3. ALEC “delegates” will be treated to a boisterous march for the middle class (we’re getting visuals of Teamsters trucks here) and a rally at a yet-to-be-disclosed location.

“If you’re new to ALEC, it’s the corporate dating service for lobbyists and state lawmakers. Funded by the Benedict Arnold Koch brothers, it’s a major tentacle in the vast right-wing conspiracy. ALEC is responsible for many state laws that are helping to make your lives miserable. No Rights At Work legislation is straight out of ALEC. So are most bills that punish workers and empower billionaires.”

Union and non-union workers, educators, grassroots activists, environmentalists, healthcare workers and organized protesters should all take note and try and attend or support this effort next month.  ALEC is holding their Annual Spring Task Force Summit in Oklahoma City, Ok. May 2-3 this year.  Last year they held this event in Charlotte and the year before in Cincinnati.  Many of us, including VLTP, MoveOn.org, Center for Media and Democracy, AFSCME and other Union members attended and held demonstrations and teach-ins to inform the community about ALEC and their toxic agenda and anti-American activities.

Since the first ever protest against ALEC in April 2011 in Cincinnati each successive ALEC event has drawn large protests, demonstrations and public awareness events.  Help all of us work to weaken ALEC’s grip upon our legislators and government services and departments by taking part in this event.  If you can’t attend in person, help by supporting the efforts of those who can.  Contact Teamsters Local 886 in Oklahoma for more information.

In the meantime, please TAKE THE PLEDGE to help expose ALEC here.

Better UTAH Launches Statewide ALEC Billboard Campaign

Salt Lake City – Prior to next month’s conference of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) in Salt Lake City, the Alliance for a Better UTAH has launched a statewide billboard campaign designed to educate the public on the realities of ALEC.

“We have both standard and electronic billboards going up across the state, from Ogden to St. George.” said Maryann Martindale, Executive Director of the Alliance for a Better UTAH. “Our hope is to drive as many people as possible to KickALECout.org so they can learn about the serious impact ALEC-policies have had in Utah, such as pushing school vouchers, unconstitutional land-grabs and voter suppression.”

The KickALECout.org website also allows Utahans to easily find out who their legislators are, and whether or not they are members of ALEC.

“Right now we are estimating that more than 2 million people will see our billboards before ALEC comes to town next month.”

To read more about The Alliance for a Better Utah and their efforts, please click here.

To find out more about KickALECout.org, please click here.

Please give these groups all of the assistance you can as they lead the fight against ALEC at their Annual Convention in July.  Stay in touch with their web sites.  Donate to their efforts if you can.  Details about the 39th Annual Convention can be found in our Events listings.

Two More Large Corporations Quit ALEC, Rocking the Conservative Group

By Bob Sloan, at the Daily Kos.

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Earlier this morning it was announced that Wal-Mart, one of a handful of huge U.S. Corporate members (including Johnson & Johnson, AT&T, Wellpoint and State Farm Insurance) refusing to quit their membership with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) – finally succumbed to consumer and activist pressure and ended that membership.  Wal-Mart issued this statement:

“Previously, we expressed our concerns about ALEC’s decision to weigh in on issues that stray from its core mission ‘to advance the Jeffersonian principles of free markets,'” Maggie Sans, Wal-Mart vice president of public affairs and government relations, said in a May 30 letter addressed to ALEC’s national chairman and executive director.”We feel that the divide between these activities and our purpose as a business has become too wide. To that end, we are suspending our membership in ALEC.”

This followed an announcement by Medtronics earlier this week that they had not renewed their membership in ALEC for this year…saying they actually left in 2010.  However, documents obtained by Common Cause and published by PRWatch on Tuesday dispute that claim, the evidence showing:

“ALEC documents obtained and released by Common Cause list three Medtronic representatives on ALEC’s Health and Human Services Task Force as of June and March 2011, as well as in October 2010. In October 2011, Medtronic posted a job opening for a Government Affairs Director that would “participate in and support corporate SGA efforts with select national bodies of state legislators, including ALEC” (emphasis added).

 

Medtronic’s admission of non-renewal of their ALEC membership – made with untruths spilling from the cup, demonstrates how poisonous ALEC has become to corporate members and financial supporters.

Quitting ALEC is no longer sufficient as a degree if separation: these companies attempt to separate themselves even further from the conservative front group by falsely claiming they dropped out voluntarily as much as two years previously. Medtronic’s claim of leaving in 2010 is clearly false, due to the documentation of their holding “three seats upon the Health and Human Services Task Force” as recently as June of last year.  The additional recruitment of someone as a “Government Affairs Director” last October to serve the corporation’s interests with “select national bodies of state legislators” indicates quite clearly Medtronic intended to stay with ALEC and reinforce their relationship.

Medtronic’s three seats upon the H&HS Task Force cost the corporation $3,000.00 each in addition to their membership fees which run from $7,000.00 to $25,000.00 annually (depending upon the degree of influence they want within ALEC).

Maggie Sans, Wal-Mart’s vice president of public affairs and government relations served as Secretary on the same H&HS Task Force.  Medtronic and Wal-Mart’s leaving has hopefully crippled the Health and Human Services’ Task Force – with the loss of the Secretary and three task force seats becoming vacant.  Maybe the H&HS Director, Christie Herrera’s statements to protesters at the ALEC Protest in Charlotte earlier this month hastened the decisions of Wal-Mart to drop their membership.  A person identified as Herrera made statements to the effect that those who “don’t pay property taxes, have no right to expect free healthcare, public education or a right to vote”.

As I noted in yesterday’s diary, Breitbart’s blog has run a video claiming that the Anti-ALEC Protest and Teach-in in Charlotte during the ALEC Spring Summit was a “failure” due to a low turnout.  Those making this claim fail to note that immediately following the protest, the National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA) announced they were dropping their membership. Was it the numerous conversations with the protesting teachers and students outside the Charlotte Westin that was responsible for this sudden decision?

The NACSA left along with the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards which dropped their membership on May 1.

With the loss of Wal-Mart and Medtronics, the number of corporations dropping ALEC during the month of our protest now stands at four!  Not a bad record for a “failed” protest of ALEC. Hopefully the abandonment of ALEC will be even greater in July as we go after them at their Annual meeting in Salt Lake City!

While the news of corporations abandoning ALEC is encouraging and rewarding to those of us who have been pursuing the cabal – we must all keep in mind that the true strength of ALEC lay with their legislative members who disseminate and ensure passage of their model legislation state by state.  To date I believe the number of legislative members who have quit ALEC stands at 57 or 58.  By the end of the year we have to increase that number substantially.  In the absence of corporate financial support and membership ALEC is going to be looking high and low for replacement members.  To do that they have to offer “something” in return for new members to have the incentive to join…that will only come through ALEC’s legislative members working hard to pass their model bills to demonstrate they still have the “power and influence” necessary to advance pro-corporate legislation.

ALEC’s Article X, section 10.03 “Duties of the ALEC State Chairmen” requires each State Chair to “ensure introduction of model legislation”.  These are the legislators responsible for introducing every piece of ALEC crap in each state.  Here is ALEC’s list of current State Chairmen.  Take a look and if you’re rep is on this list, please contact him/her and tell them you “know who they are and what they’ve done”, urging them to drop their membership or answer to you and fellow voters in the next election.

Let’s all concentrate on urging all state lawmakers to drop their ALEC memberships and return to representing their constituents instead. After all, isn’t that why they were elected?

Panama City Occupy Protesters March to Patronis’ Office

Members of Occupy Panama City took to the streets Thursday to protest for what they call a threat to democracy.

SOLIDARITY

To read this important article and see video of their protest, please click here.

VLTP Press release for Charlotte May 11 & 12 Anti-ALEC Protest and Teach-In

 

Press Release

Save Our States (S.O.S.) Conference and Protest –

“They’re sneaking into Charlotte, meeting in secret to write new laws benefiting their corporate handlers…wanting us to remain unaware and silent.”

The Voters Legislative Transparency Project (VLTP), a national non-profit bipartisan organization and Occupy Charlotte announce a two-day schedule of events to protest activities of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and inform about ALEC’s crafting of pro-corporate model legislation.  Corporate representatives expected to attend ALEC’s “Spring Summit” include Duke Energy, Bank of America, Wal-Mart, Carolina Power and Light, Reynolds American, Wells Fargo, BP, Exxon Mobil, Altria and Monsanto.

Those opposing ALEC and their agenda will be marching as ALEC members meet at their Spring Summit to determine laws corporations want passed in 2012 and beyond.

On Friday May 11th9:00 AM until 6:00 PM – anti-ALEC protestors will be marching and demonstrating peacefully at the downtown Westin Charlotte Hotel, 601 S. College Street, Charlotte, North Carolina where ALEC will be meeting.  Activists, Occupiers, and the general public are invited to attend and take part.  Mecklenburg ACTS will be pressing their Resolution Against High Stakes Testing, a by-product of ALEC legislation.

On Saturday, May 12th9:00 AM to 4:30 PM – there will be an all-day “Outsmart ALEC” Teach-In held at the Wedgewood Baptist Church, 4800 Wedgewood Drive, Charlotte, 28210. Sponsors of this event are VLTP, Occupy Charlotte and the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD).

Speakers – Topics

Lisa Graves from the Center for Media and Democracy                 –              Tort Reform and Legislation

Monica Embrey from Greenpeace                                           –              Environment, Fracking, EPA

Bob Sloan from VLTP                                                                      –              Prison Privatization and Industries

Tom Rothrock from Mecklenburg Co. Sr. Democrats       –              ALEC Legislation and Senior Citizens

Pat McCoy from Action NC                                                          –              ALEC Legislation and Immigrants

Peter Grear, attorney and member of Occupy Wilmington          Voter Suppression and Civil Rights

Joe Brewer, Congnitive Policy Networks (via SKYPE)      –              Cognitive Approach to Current Events

Ron Rabatsky from VLTP                                                               –              ALEC and Public Education

LUNCH/Snacks provided from 12:00 to 12:30

Voter Registration form 11:00 AM to 2:00 PM

Roundtable Discussions – with the speakers

Voter registration drive by the NC League of Women’s Voters (bring required ID/docs to register). Round table discussions between panelists and attendees addressing ALEC, their agenda and topics important to North Carolina and beyond.

For more information, press inquiries or to reserve a spot at the Teach-In contact: Ronrabatsky@vltp.net or call Ron at 704-814-0620 Bob Sloan at 317-400-5674.