Destroying Access to Local Democracy

Most of you will have no idea what I am writing about – because you are fortunate to have more than just basic cable, and were born after the advent of cable TV.

Many of you – might not know or care – but you should –  if you claim to care about the democratic process – or are a progressive, or a liberal, or just like to spout off something about caring for your fellow man when you’re drunk.

While taking my somewhat regular look at the ALECexposed webpage today to research some model legislation, I was reading about the intricate web of legislation woven in Wisconsin.

As very similar legislation  has already been passed into law here in NC it piqued my interest.  And let me tell you Wisconsinites something — you should really care about this one.

For those of you in the industry – please excuse my simplistic approach to this issue – this is the best I could surmise from my research.


rabbit ears antennaBack in the “good old days”, if people wanted to watch TV they had to have an antenna either on top of the TV, next to their house or on top of their house.

Back in the seventies – cable broadcasting came about in order to provide more TV service to more people.  Because the signal to an antenna was often interfered with by tall buildings or mountains,  cables were dug underground to improve reception and to bring it to areas beyond the limited reach of broadcast antennae.

The underground areas that the corporations wanted to use for installing these cables were generally located in cities across the United States.  This is referred to as the “right-of-way” where the electric, telephone, and gas lines (aka utilities considered necessary needed to live) were then located.

right of wayThis ”right-of-way” is PUBLIC land – owned by you and me.  Back in the old days, it was determined that cable TV was entertainment, a luxury – not really needed.  So if the private, for-profit cable companies wanted to run their cables in the PUBLIC right-of-way – the cable companies would need to pay a franchise fee (aka rent payment) to the cities to use that space located underground land that belongs to the PUBLIC.

Public Access TVpublic access tv

As part of those franchise agreements allowing private for-profit cable companies to use the PUBLIC right-of-way, was the establishment of PEG programs.  PEG stands for Public, Educational and Government programming.  This is your local public access TV station.

Public – This means that the public access station is available to most any person to use their first amendment rights to do a TV show.  In my area  – every one of these shows is a local citizen spouting right wing babble.  Although in many parts of the country there are many interesting shows focusing on local and national issues, including ethnic groups, youth, seniors, the LGBT… community programming.

Educational – This is available to the schools to broadcast school board meetings, high school sports programs, high school graduations, band concerts, grade school programs, etc. on the public access TV station.

Government – This is available to government to broadcast city and county board meetings, planning meetings, utility board meetings and a host of other meetings that are suppose to be “open meetings”.

vocational programming on public access tvAnd let’s not forget job creation.  Many Public Access TV stations broadcast programming that provides valuable training  to local teens and adults which can help them to learn employable skills.

But don’t believe for a split second that the funding for this was given to the cities out of the cable companies’ goodwill.  The negotiation of franchise renewals continues to be a bitter and horrendous process – a Private v. Public “death-match” every time.

Meanwhile,  the well financed private corporations are effectively acting as a cartel–carving up the country between themselves so that they do not have to have any costly competition with each other…essentially monopolies in their own marketing areas.

In these franchise renewal negotiations the arrogance of the Private cable companies is on display as the use of YOUR Public right-of-way is a bone of contention.  These corporations want to be able to use the right-of-way for Corporations are not Peoplefree–this is just taken for granted.  Apparently this fits well with their corporate personhood,  No restrictions on their profits are acceptable.  Regulations to ensure that Public Access TV remains Public are anathema.  In the pursuit of ever greater revenues – these corporations demonstrate nothing but absolute disdain for the Public services that are part and parcel of Public Access TV.

And that is where the association with ALEC comes in along with cable-company-specific ALEC “model” legislation comes in.

Many Public Access stations across the United States are losing their funding from the cable companies because of ALEC legislation.  The aim of this ALEC legislation is take the franchise negotiations away from the city level and put the negotiations at the state level – where ALEC’s Corporate Member cable companies negotiate with ALEC Legislative Members in the state legislatures.

Quoting very liberally from ALECexposed, here is an interesting timetable for you to consider:

First, in Wisconsin,, there was the The Broadband Deployment Act of 2003, which freed the telecom industry from oversight.  Check out the resemblance to ALEC’s Broadband and Telecommunications Deployment Act

Then came  a Municipal Broadband bill from 2004, which blocked municipalities from competing with corporate providers of broadband services.  A remarkable resemblance to ALEC’s Municipal Telecommunications Private Industry Safeguards Act

And a 2007 Telephone Deregulation Bill, ending public oversight and regulations in Wisconsin for telephone services, looks like the ALEC Advanced Voice Services Availability Act of 2007

And the Video Competition Act, eliminating municipal cable franchises and freeing companies from their previously-negotiated contracts.  Considering that it looks like the ALEC Cable and Video Competition Act, there certainly appears to be a strategy at work for the possible takeover (perhaps privatization?) of Wisconsin’s Public Access TV,

Do Not Forget
The services that are provided by Public Access TV to the public include:

Public – which gives people the chance to voice their first amendment rights to a larger audience.

Educational – which gives people the opportunity to see events that they cannot physically or financially attend.

Government – which gives the public access to their government.  Even when they are working 10 – 12 hour days – the public can watch the government meetings on TV and know what is happening in their community and comment to their city / county representatives.  They can see for themselves just who their elected representatives are indeed representing,  Transparency in government.

Many of you may not watch public access TV – but many people do.

Just because some don’t watch it – does not mean that public access TV should not be available.

As I stated earlier – franchise negotiations appear to be fierce – with the cable companies wielding their well-paid lawyers against public servants.  Many towns don’t have the expertise or the money to pay for the legal expertise to properly negotiate with the legions of highly paid cable lawyers.  And thus many cities across the United States are losing most funding for public access TV or all funding for public access TV.

Think about it – just for a moment. There is something horribly wrong with this ALEC, legislators, corporationsscenario.  ALEC Corporate private sector members come into the state legislature and negotiate cable franchise agreements (for the cities) with ALEC state legislators.  If this piece of ALEC “model” legislation has not already been implemented in your state (and it has been in some) – it will be introduced by an ALEC state legislator sooner than later.

When the public no longer has access to their local government (as provided by public access TV), democracy at the most local level is diminished and that is what ALEC’s pro-cable company “model” legislation and your state ALEC legislator are doing – reducing access to democracy  to increase profits / revenues for some very large corporations.

If you check the corporations listed at ALECExposed – you will find your cable provider.  They attend ALEC meetings to promote legislation that increases cable corporate revenues / profits – with total disregard for the needs of the public.



Lobbyist Named Chair of ALEC Private Sector Board (How Fitting!)

As an example of how secretive people are about their membership or involvement in the American Legislative Exchange Council – if you Google “Steve Seale” “American Legislative Exchange Council” you get twelve hits – eight unique hits.
And if you Google “C. Stevens Seale” “American Legislative Exchange Council”
You get four hits.
“Steve Seale” “American Legislative Exchange Council”, has been active in ALEC for at least 30 years.
From Steve Seale’s LinkedIn page:
Steve Seale
        Shareholder at Wise Carter Child & Caraway, PA
        Partner at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP
        Chief Counsel, US Senate Majority Leader staff at US Senate
        Senator at Mississippi State Senate
From the 1983 ALEC Annual Meeting Speaker bios:
Steve Seale, Chief Counsel, Office of the U .S. Senate Majority Leader
From Steve Seale’s LinkedIn page:
He was also Senator Lott’s representative to state and local government organizations, including ALEC,
From the 2010 ALEC Annual Meeting Task Force Meeting:
Telecommunications & Information Technology Task Force Meeting
ALEC’s 2010 Annual Meeting
San Diego, CA
Friday, August 6th, 2010
Meeting DRAFT Minutes
    Steve Seale, Cellular South
Cellular South ??  Not really – he’s a lobbyist for Cellular South.
He doesn’t work for Cellular South -He’s a lobbyist for Cellular South
From the 2010 ALEC Task Force Roster
American Legislative Exchange Council
Telecommunications & Information Technology as of October 28th, 2010
C. Stevens Seale
Private Sector Member (M1)
Partner,Wise Carter Child & Caraway,
401 East Capitol
Suite 600
Jackson, MS 39201
Phone: (601) 326-7706 FAX: (601) 968-5519
From ALECExposed list of ALEC Award Winners:
Steve Seale (SAP America), Private Sector Member of the Year
SAP America???  Not really – he’s a lobbyist for SAP America.
He doesn’t work for SAP America -He’s a lobbyist for SAP America
When you Google  “C. Stevens Seale” lobbyist you get four pages of hits, including:
Steve Seale bio





Steve Seale named as national Chairman of Private Enterprise Advisory Council for ALEC
Steve Seale, former Mississippi State Senator and former Chief Counsel to US Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, has been named 2013-2014 National Chairman of the Private Enterprise Advisory Council of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). In his role as Private Enterprise Advisory Council Chairman, Seale will coordinate interaction between ALEC private sector member companies and their representatives with the more than 2000 ALEC state legislative members from around the country.
Notice the difference?
Private Enterprise Advisory Council for ALEC.  This is the new name for ALEC’s
     “Private Enterprise” Board of Directors
This is part of the ALEC “re-organization” – the  Edelman PR whitewashing of ALEC – currently taking place at the secretive ALEC offices.
So now it is the Private Enterprise Advisory Council for ALEC, and the
National Chairman is a lobbyist.
The new Chairman of the Private Enterprise Advisory Council  – has NEVER worked in the private sector – EXCEPT – as a lobbyist.
How fitting that a lobbyist will ” coordinate interaction between ALEC private sector” and ALEC state legislators.  After all, what is ALEC if not a highly evolved organization dedicated to lobbying?

How Are Corporations Undermining K-12 Public Education Through These ALEC Bills? – ALECExposed

Courtesy of CMD’s ALECExposed, here is a great 2 page flyer about ALEC’s position on Education.  Perfect for handouts at teach-ins, rallies, protests, etc. More →

Liberty Mutual – Says NEVER Been an ALEC Member

I found this on the MAPE (Minnesota Association of Professional Employees) web site:

Liberty Mutual is not a contributor to ALEC

Submitted by mcody on December 14, 2012 – 11:31am

Liberty Mutual is not a contributor to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), according to extensive research done by MAPE after recent inquiries by members.

MAPE will continue to work with Liberty Mutual and encourages members to take advantage of the discounts on insurance offered to members by Liberty Mutual. Each year, hundreds of MAPE members find that Liberty Mutual offers rates they can’t get elsewhere. Go to Liberty Mutual’s members-only discount page today for a free quote


Which led me to this:

MAPE – Minnesota Association of Professional Employees

01/02/2013 | News release More →

North Carolina Advocates for Justice endorses ALEC Members – UPDATED, and it’s worse

Despite posting this to NCAJ on their Facebook page, there has been no response from anyone at NCAJ.

memo to self:  research NCAJ and see if they are what they claim to be.

updates: NCAJ endorsed candidates Marilyn Avila and Jamie Boles confirmed  as members of ALEC


“The North Carolina Advocates For Justice was formed more than 45 years ago by a small group of trial lawyers who wanted to protect peoples’ rights. Today, the North Carolina Advocates For Justice has almost 4,000 members and is one of the top protectors of individual rights in North Carolina. NC Advocates For Justice members represent those injured by the wrongdoing of others, workers fighting for their rights in the workplace, the disabled, those addressing family problems, consumers, those in debt, and those accused of crime.

“The North Carolina Advocates for Justice accomplishes its mission through effective advocacy work in the NC state legislature advocating for the rights of all citizens, through the development of over 40 professional development seminars annually to help attorneys improve their skills, and through the administration of a variety of public outreach and education initiatives aimed at enhancing public understanding of the US legal system. The organization’s Legal Affairs Committee also monitors the development of law and serves as a trial attorney advocate to the State Bar.”

The above is quoted directly fromo the NCAJ web page located at http://www.ncaj.com/page/about/?submenuheader=0

I want to emphasize that NCAJ is a good organization doing a lot of good work.  But it’s a shame that these well-intentioned attorneys did not bother to do their “due diligence”.  Included in their recommendations are a number of ALEC members:

Dist. 37 – Paul Stam–member Civil Justice Task Force–Art Pope‘s (who used to be, and may still be a member of  ALEC) “boy” in the legislature.

Dist. 40 – Marilyn Avila–possible member–confirmed attending ALEC 2011 Annual Meeting, not on any task forces confirmed member of ALEC

Dist. 52 – Jamie Boles–possible member–confirmed attending ALEC 2011 Annual Meeting, not on any task forces confirmed member of ALEC

Dist. 53 – David Lewis–possible member–confirmed attending ALEC 2011 Annual Meeting, not on any task forces

Dist. 68 – D. Craig Horn – member Energy, Environment, and Agriculture Task Force

Dist. 77 – Harry Warren–possible member–confirmed attending ALEC 2011 Annual Meeting, not on any task forces

Dist. 79 – Julia Howard–member Health and Human Services Task Force

Dist. 86 – Hugh Blackwell – member Civil Justice Task Force

Dist. 90 – Sarah Stevens–was a member of the Public Safety and Elections Task force which was disbanded because of the Stand Your Ground legislation and the Trayvon Martin murder.

Dist. 108 – John Torbett–possible member–confirmed attending ALEC 2011 Annual Meeting, not on any task forces

Dist. 117 – Chuck McGrady–possible member–confirmed attending ALEC 2011 Annual Meeting, not on any task forces.

We know from ALECexposed and Common Cause releases that Mr. Horn is a member of ALEC’s Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force.  But looking at the extensive information provided by the NC Legislature, we can look at every member of the state legislature and see what bills they have introduced and how they have voted on every bill,

In the case of Mr. Horn More →

Tell Reckitt Benckiser – #DumpALEC

An article that brings up MANY excellent points

1.  …Now WE THE PEOPLE are taking to the free market

The Free market is a summary term for an array of exchanges that take place in society. Each exchange is undertaken as a voluntary agreement between two people or between groups of people represented by agents.

and our actions will hopefully lead to a reductions in expectations from ALEC Corporate Profit Sector members on their use of our legislators…

2.  But if the companies didn’t want to publicly support ALEC’s preferred policies, why were they supporting ALEC in the first place?

3.  Most of us have never heard of Reckitt Benckiser, but this may be a time to re-introduce ourselves to this Profit Sector Member of the American Legislative Exchange council (ALEC).  We were introduced to them in this story published by CMD: Kids Eating Rat Poison Is an “Acceptable Risk” for ALEC

To read about these an other insights from MNDem999, please click here


ALECexposed at Netroots

Advocates and researchers converged this week in Rhode Island to talk about work exposing the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). The group, including the Center for Media and Democracy‘s Executive Director Lisa Graves, was gathered for a panel at Netroots Nation, a conference which brings together bloggers, social justice advocates, labor and organizational leaders, grassroots organizers, and others. Each in their own way, the panelists talked about how through ALEC corporations are unduly influencing and corrupting American democracy. CMD launched ALECexposed last July after a whistleblower gave Graves “model” bills that had been voted on by ALEC corporations and legislators behind closed doors on ALEC task forces.

…Another ALEC objective discussed is the effort to privatize public pensions. ALEC’s plan for this is to transfer the management of pension funds from the public sector to for-profit Wall Street firms through 401(k) programs. The argument that this is financially beneficial to taxpayers is not true, Carey said. “ALEC preys on legislators who don’t have knowledge on the issue and ALEC spreads misleading information.”

To read all of Sara Jerving’s article at PR Watch, please click here

ALEC-The Unwelcome and Unregistered Elephant in the Room at NN2012 (I loved it!)

Reposted from Daily Kos blog by Bob Sloan.



Returned from Netroots 2012 convention in Rhode Island yesterday and spent today uploading videos and pictures to my Flikr account.  For the videos I’ve used the great ones provided by Netroots Nation.  I’ll share some of the pictures here for visitors to look at.

First I want to say again I thank those of you who voted for me in the Democracy For America Scholarship contest.  You made it possible for me to be one of the first selected to attend.  Through the scholarship I was able to network with thousands about ALEC and our work on DK and at ALTP and our website.  Thanks to DFA for offering such scholarships, the city of Providence, Mayor Angel Taveras and the staffs of DFA and Netroots for such a wonderful experience.  The staff worked hard and made the convention a success and all of us “scholars” welcome and made to feel at home.

Huge shout-back to the Center for Media and Democracy and Lisa Graves, Executive Director of CMD for Lisa’s shout-out to myself, Daily Kos and VLTP during her presentation at the “Whose Law Is It Anyway? ALEC’s Influence on State Legislatures and What We Can Do About It” as you’ll see at the above link.

I was fortunate to meet and speak to Markos at the DFA’s scholar’s luncheon at Trinity Brewhouse on Thursday:

Netroots 2012 Daiy Kos founder, Marcos Moulitsas attending DFA Scholarship lunch

and also to Jim Dean at the same luncheon (my apologies for the blur, camera setting was on still) on Indiana politics and ALEC:

Netroots 2012 Jim Dean speaking at DFA Luncheon

I was again able to speak with Marcos and a friend at the DK 10th Anniversary celebration on Saturday at the Whiskey Republic in Providence. An open bar and barely room to turn around without really liking your neighbors 🙂 but it was a great experience and a fine ending (for me) to the NN convention (left at 5:00 am yesterday for the return flight:

Marcos, Delia and I at Daily Kos 10th Anniversary Party in Providence.

where ALEC was a topic of conversation as well as Markos’ putting together the DK platform that is enabling progressives to go after ALEC:

Discussing issues with Marcos and another NN attendee at the DK Anniversay party at Whiskey Republic, Providence, RI. 6/9/2012

I was able to network with so many on the ALEC topic, received invites to radio and personal interviews (another shout out to “Talking Left’s”, radio personalities Danielle Guilday and Shane Farnan for their interview and broadcasting the discussion on ALEC).

As another Kossack (ramara) recently wrote, ALEC seemed to occupy an underlying theme at the NN convention – and he was right.

Nearly every; panel, training sessions, keynote speech and conversation one heard walking among the thousands in attendance,  had “ALEC” as a discussed topic and heard over and over again throughout the convention was unbelievable.  I use that term because just over a year ago we organized and put together the first ever public protest against ALEC in Cincy.  A bunch of would-be activists; students, workers and Kossacks – many who took part in the Vietnam, burn the bra and draft protests and demonstrations – came together and decided the word about ALEC had to go out if our democracy was to survive, made up the ranks of the organizers and speakers.

The fact that for this year’s Netroots Convention ALEC was the elephant in the room, ballrooms, exhibit halls and hallways was a testament to how large this “movement” has become and, as Lisa Graves informed during the ALEC Panel presentation…it all began right here on DK just over a year and a half ago.  It began with concerned Progressives who were willing to not look at our calling out ALEC as merely humorous shouts from “conspiracy theorists”.  When more, and more continued to read, research and understand the ALEC influence, the laughs gradually turned to grunts of “What the Hell” and “WTF?” as the news spread out from DK to other venues, blogs, Progressive media outlets, labor organizations and voters in general.

Since that first protest over twenty large corporations and foundations have left ALEC and over fifty legislators (Rep. and Dem. alike) have dumped ALEC.  The senseless murder of a young man, Trayvon Martin, in Florida helped broaden the discussion regarding the serious dangers ALEC represents to the public – to our very democratic system and beliefs.  Not enough…not enough members have dumped ALEC, too few corporations and lobbyists are willing to sever ties with an organization that has now become toxic to so many voters and consumers…not enough from those who have dumped ALEC to save their reputation (lawmakers) and to save their branding (corporations).  These individuals, elected to represent “we the people” owe a debt to us for their involvement in and enabling of ALEC…the corporations who dumped millions into ALEC’s coffers to fund their continuing attacks against the populace and their consumers, owe us a greater debt.  Both should be made to help fund our clean-up of “their” mess.  No free-rides, get-out-of-jail-free cards or other forgiving acts can erase what together these lawmakers and corporatists have done to our country.  I say we must make them help fund our pursuits of shutting down ALEC altogether.

As each announced their dumping of ALEC, corporations and lawmakers alike chose to proclaim “I/we didn’t know” about the agenda, the pursuits of suppressing voter rights, laws to put a bubble of protection around some and allow them to shoot to kill others upon a claim of “I was scared”, or laws to take protections and limit the rights of consumers.  We “didn’t know” does not suffice.  Corporate reps and lawmakers alike sat in those task forces and heard the proposed legislation, discussed the issues and voted on the final model legislation.  But okay, let’s take them at their word…they “didn’t know”.

So the question I have is, now that “you know” what is stopping you from joining us and helping to repair the damage you helped cause”?  Walmart, Amazon, Pepsi, Coca~Cola, McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Yum Brands – and the rest of you – willingly participated in acts that have killed, maimed and helped crush the financial futures of millions of us, reduced our wages, tried to kill our Unions and steal our right to vote.  To leave us with this mess and walk away with those laws remaining intact, bringing you huge profits and benefits, is unacceptable.

The fact that State Farm, AT&T, Johnson & Johnson, Eli Lilly and hundreds more are willing to stay associated with a poisonous outfit such as ALEC is both a testament to the power and influence wielded by ALEC and the corporate willingness to take advantage of that power and influence to continue to enrich themselves.  Greed of the politicians – for power and influence over our political and democratic systems – and greed of the corporations to exploit both for increased profits.  Both earned at our expense.

VLTP is working on a project to take these truths – and a demand to help fund our efforts going forward to abolish ALEC – to the corporations and legislators dumping ALEC.  They cannot dodge responsibility by simply crawling out of the swamp and away.  We saw you, know who you are and are going to be coming to you for your help in setting the world back on its axis.  For those who remain loyal to ALEC, we know who you are and what you are continuing to do while you remain members of ALEC.  We know what to expect and all your ways of exploiting us and our system…we will not be so easily duped again.  As long as you stay we’re asking others to avoid your products, services and false claims of “doing nothing wrong” as we actively come for you through exposure and a large dose of sunlight.  Be forewarned…we are now awake, angered and we all vote…

Apologize for the brief rant, but can’t write without thinking about what they’ve managed to do to our politics, judicial and legislative systems without wanting to tear the keys from my keyboard.

Netroots 2012 was a huge success and ALEC was an underlying theme throughout.  So a huge Kossack shout-out to all the readers, followers and now “believers” in the existence and danger of ALEC and their Koch funded cabal.  I’m hoping that the work we do from now until the Netroots Nation convention in San Jose, CA. next June results in ALEC truly becoming no more than a sad footnote in America’s long history.  If successful it will be one hell of a party in San Jose…