Center for Media and Democracy

ALEC News and Articles for Feb 18th…

ALEC News and Articles for Feb 18th…

by Bob Sloan

Click on headline to read full or actual article or visit website where published.

No-money-for-ALEC measure tacked into Senate ethics bill

“The Virginia Senate added an extra sentence to its ethics bill during today’s floor debate that would prohibit legislators from getting reimbursed for the cost of attending, for lack of a less provocative phrase, secret meetings. “That fits a handful of things, but most notably ALEC – the American Legislative Exchange Council. This group suggests model legislation across the country.

It’s on the right of the political spectrum, and it caught a lot of heat a while back because one of its model bills was based on Florida’s stand-your-ground law, which of course was at issue in Trayvon Martin’s death.

“State Sen. Donald McEachin has been pushing a bill for a couple of years to keep legislators from using taxpayer money to attend ALEC conferences, or other meetings where the order of business is a secret. “He seems to have tacked a more blanket prohibition onto the Senate ethics bill. It reads:”

Wisconsin Moving to Advance ALEC Constitutional Convention Scheme

“Wisconsin is the latest state to line up behind a national effort to amend the Constitution and cripple the federal government’s ability to spend — likely forcing steep cuts in popular earned benefit programs such as Social Security and blocking Congress from responding to economic downturns or natural disasters — apparently with the ultimate goal of completely overhauling America’s system of governance.

Assembly Joint Resolution 81, which passed out of committee on Wednesday, would call for an Article V Constitutional Convention to force a federal balanced budget amendment. Article V of the U.S. Constitution provides that thirty-four states (two-thirds) can trigger a convention to propose an amendment, which must then be ratified by 38 states (three-fourths). The legislation closely tracks the “Balanced Budget Amendment Resolution” from the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and allied advocacy groups promoting an Article V convention.”

WI union group shows hypocrisy with SEIU-influenced living wage bill

By Adam Tobias | Wisconsin Reporter “MILWAUKEE, Wis. — A political nonprofit funded by a union that helped write a Big Labor-boosting living wage proposal is accusing a Wisconsin lawmaker of using theAmerican Legislative Exchange Council’s playbook in drafting an anti-living wage bill.

“State Rep.Chris Kapenga, R-Delafield, author of AB 750, which would negate certain local living wage ordinances, says Wisconsin Jobs Now’s allegations that ALEC influenced him in any way are complete nonsense.

“This has nothing to do with ALEC,” Kapenga told Wisconsin Reporter. “This has to do with making the right choices for the people of Wisconsin…”

(Of course even though it was left out of the article, it should be noted and come as no surprise that Rep. Kapenga is a member of ALEC nad serves as an alternate member of ALEC’s Civil Justice Task Force. As such his denials that his bill “has nothing to do with ALEC, should be highly suspect.  ALEC has worked for years to reduce worker wages, increase corporate profits and reduce pension benefits to public sector workers).

A Portrait of Time Warner’s Active Role in ALEC

“As a merger between Time Warner and Comcast moves forward, the Center for Media and Democracy is republishing an excerpt from an investigative report on PRWatch.org by DBA Press founder Beau Hodai detailing how Time Warner helped bankroll major American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) events, and funded the schmoozing and boozing of lawmakers at ALEC meetings.

Both Time Warner and Comcast have been longtime members and funders of ALEC. “Records obtained in 2011 from the office of Ohio Rep. John Adams, the ALEC public sector chair for the state, show how he worked closely with ALEC’s Ohio private sector chair, Time Warner Cable lobbyist Ed Kozelek, to raise funds for the national ALEC meeting held in Cincinnati in April 2011…”

From Quid pro Status Quo: ALEC & State-Sanctioned Corruption in Ohio

— by Beau Hodai …Records obtained from the office of Rep. John Adams show that . . . Adams and ALEC’s Ohio private sector chair, Time Warner Cable, through the Time Warner Cable Midwest Region Vice President of Government Relations Ed Kozelek, were . . . deeply immersed in fundraising for the 2011 ALEC State Task Force Summit (SFTS), held in Cincinnati on April 28 through 29. According to these records, Adams and Kozelek received pledges from more than 50 corporations and lobby firms, totaling $107,500 to ALEC operations in Ohio, by the end of February 2011….

Jindal, a Smart ALEC over Louisiana Broadband

Tom Aswell, publisher of theLouisiana Voice “Federal Communications Commission allotted $8 million to expand broadband Internet access in rural Louisiana areas. U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu was quick to praise, perhaps a bit prematurely, the “investment,” while Gov. Bobby Jindal remained uncharacteristically silent.
“Despite Landrieu’s laudatory claim that the funds would “upgrade the digital infrastructure in rural communities,” the $8 million represented only 10 percent of an $80 million grant for Louisiana that was rescinded in October of 2011 because of Jindal’s aversion to what then Commissioner of Administration Paul Rainwater deemed a “top-down, government-heavy approach that would compete with and undermine, rather than partner with the private sector…”
“What Rainwater—and through him, his boss, Jindal—did not acknowledge is that the Jindal administration’s obsession with protecting the private sector at the expense of broadband Internet service to customers in the rural areas of the central and northeastern parts of the state was part of the 12-year-old official position staked out by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) in August of 2002. http://alecexposed.org/w/images/6/6f/9A15-Municipal_Telecommunications_Private_Industry_Safeguards_Act_Exposed.pdf…”

Capitol Report: ALEC, broadband, guns, religion

TOPEKA — ALEC official in the House

“A leading proponent of the theory that lower income taxes produces economic growth will be speaking Wednesday to the House Taxation Committee on “Growing the Kansas Economy.”

“Jonathan Williams is director of the Center for State and Fiscal Reform with the American Legislative Exchange Council (and co-author of ALEC’s “Rich States Poor States” annual report).

“He will be speaking to a receptive audience. Tax Chairman State Rep. Richard Carlson, R-St. Marys, has helped pushed through Gov. Sam Brownback’s policy of cutting income tax rates while keeping the sales tax rate high and eliminating or reducing deductions aimed at helping low-income Kansans.

“The Kansas Legislature is dominated by members of ALEC, which argues for lower taxes and smaller government, but which critics say produces model legislation to benefit corporations and the wealthy. Legislation would ban community broadband service

“A hearing is set for Tuesday on a bill that would prohibit communities from offering broadband Internet service. “Senate Bill 304 was introduced by a lobbyist for the cable television industry and will be heard by the Senate Commerce Committee.

“Supporters of the bill say government shouldn’t be competing with private businesses for broadband customers, while critics say cities should be allowed to make decisions that benefit their citizens.

“The bill is moving like a high-speed Internet connection. Final action by the committee is scheduled for Thursday, 10 days after the bill was first introduced…”

ALEC SEEKS TO RECRUIT UTAH STATE REPRESENTATIVE

“Greetings, Rep. Lifferth,

“As policy development stalls in the federal government, legislators like you and me are leading the way and getting the job done that Congress and the Executive branch cannot.

“Please join me and the more than 1,800 state lawmakers who work together to advance the Jeffersonian principles of limited government, free markets and federalism in statehouses across America.

“Now is the perfect time to join the American Legislative Exchange Council.

“As lawmakers, it is our responsibility to work with our constituents, policy and industry experts, as well as our legislative colleagues to provide value to and respect the hard-working taxpayers of our states. As lawmakers, giving voice and representation to our hard-working constituents remains our daily focus.

Now imagine having informational committee meetings with not only the top experts in your state, but the leading experts and other legislators from around the country. That’s a valuable educational resource, and that’s what you get with the American Legislative Exchange Council. States are the laboratories where ideas are tested. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel. ALEC publishes more limited government, free market and federalism studies, issue analysis and research than any other state-based policy organization. My colleagues and I would like to work with you. Together, we share expertise and input and we want to partner with policymakers for limited government, free markets and federalism.

Won’t you join the Exchange Council? You can join ALEC today by clicking here or contacting Jeff Lambert at 571-482-5013 orjlambert@alec.org.

I hope you consider membership in ALEC. At a time when Washington seems broken, state lawmakers lead innovation. Your membership and support for limited government, free markets and federalism is important now more now than ever before. We look forward to working with you in 2014.

Sincerely,

National Chair, Linda Upmeyer Majority Leader, Iowa (HD-54)

American Legislative Exchange Council

VIDEO: ALEC’s Valentine Service for Duke Energy

From Daily Kos by Connor Gibson

Over the last four years, Greenpeace has made a Valentine’s Day tradition of spoofing the influence peddling of corporate lobbyists and captured politicians. This year’s installment embodies the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, which reporters have characterized as a “dating service” for its role in pushing copycat, corporate-crafted laws through state legislatures.

“This year, our PolluterHarmony story wrote itself. Online dating ads running on TV have featured a creepy middleman who plays third wheel on various peoples’ dates. In real life, ALEC is that creepy middleman, creating a tax-deductible process for companies to vote as equals with state politicians on bad laws that appear in legislatures around the country. This all happens with little to no disclosure, away from the constituents who elected ALEC’s member legislators.

“This secretive attack on the public comes in many forms: privatizing education, weakening unions and public employee benefits, increasing gun violence, keeping legitimate voters away from the polls, denying climate change science, limiting the liability of corporations that harm people, and many other items on the Big Business wishlist.  “Want examples? Check our humorous dating profiles (citing real-life events) on an ALEC senator in Ohio attacking clean energy incentives and an ALEC senator in Nebraska who was courted on a trip to the tar sands courtesy of ALEC, oil companies and the Canadian government. “ALEC has said that one of its top priorities in 2014 will be to make it harder for homeowners and businesses to put solar panels on their rooftops by introducing solar taxes on behalf of big utilities that are afraid of losing customers…”

Valentine Video For Lonely Lobbyists – PolluterHarmony

“Meet ALEC: pHarmony Expands with State-level Matchmaking

“Thanks to our new partnership with a service called, “ALEC,” pHarmony now offers corporate executives and lobbyists direct access to state-level legislators. See our new success stories to hear from state lawmakers who are freshly freed of the duty to write their own laws, thanks to ALEC.

I’ve always put ALEC first,” one state lawmaker explains, “because of its proven ability to hook me up with powerful people at the hottest energy companies in the country.

No more waiting for ideas for bills, no more endless phone calls trying to please people who elected me. ALEC works for me, so I work for ALEC.”

“ALEC increases pHarmony’s ability to get dirty ideas into legislators’ heads, with a proven record of pleasing polluters and politicians alike. “Got a crush on coal? ALEC can help you hand over public land to coal companies, and even cut incentives to clean energy competitors.

Do you gush for Big Oil? ALEC knows that when you frack, you don’t want to worry about the public noticing.

“In addition to broadening our reach, ALEC brings new expertise to pHarmony’s legislator-lobbyist matchmaking, including the Prodigal Ex program, allowing you to rekindle lost connections and contracts for those whose ember still burns to exert influence in our Statehouses…”

ALEC’s Christmas Gift to All…

ALEC’s Christmas Gift to All…

by Bob Sloan

Below are links to many articles related to ALEC’s pursuit of oppressing votes, grabbing up all the public education dollars they can and in general advancing the conservative agenda through continuing meme…also included are letters and article opposing this agenda.  Many are letters to editors, opinion pieces by citizens now alerted to the presence and pursuits of ALEC and the SPN cabal…

Just let the sun shine on in

Now the Koch brothers are coming after my solar panels.

I had solar panels installed on the roof of our Washington, D.C. home this year. My household took advantage of a generous tax incentive from the District government and a creative leasing deal offered by the solar panel seller.

Our electric bills fell by at least a third. When people make this choice, the regional electric company grows less pressured to spend money to expand generating capacity and the installation business creates good local jobs. Customers who use solar energy also reduce carbon emissions.

What’s not to love?

According to the American Legislative Exchange Council, a conservative network better known as ALEC, our solar panels make us “free riders.” What?

ALEC Members won’t support democracy

It is fair to assume that America is host to an incredibly ignorant population who know very little about their government and how it affects their daily lives. That sad fact was exposed in a brilliant 2008 book revealing that only 20% of the population can name the three branches of government and 49% think a president has the authority to suspend the Constitution. However, the population’s ignorance of their government aside, it is highly probable that every American supports democracy; unless they are members of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). To Americans aware of ALEC and its intent to create a corporate oligarchy and privatized government, it is not surprising that if ALEC members were asked to sign a pledge to support democracy, they would refuse, and that is precisely what happened in a little-reported story last week.

Last Thursday while ALEC was holding its annual meeting in Washington D.C., a group of working family activists, AFSCME, the Postal Workers union (APWU), AFT, and Jobs with Justice appeared at the meeting and asked ALEC members to sign a pledge “upholding the will of the people and support democracy, or leave their states.” The people at ALEC’s meeting did not sign the pledge and corporate-controlled media did not report the event because a revelation that an organization dedicated to serving corporate interests represented by the Republican Party refusing to support democracy would not play well with the public. In fact, for about 30 years ALEC has quietly been dismantling America’s democracy while hiding in the shadows, and it is just recently that a very tiny minority of the population even know ALEC exists.

(In the following article ALEC acolyte, Sterling Beard accuses Michigan’s AFL-CIO President, Karla Swift of plagiarizing material in an anti-ALEC op-ed.  As most know “Tool kits” are a standard ALEC tool used to put out information to their supporters and encouraging those individuals and organizations to use the material to advance the agenda on specific issues.  Now that the same tactic is being used by their adversaries, ALEC and the RW crowd want to cry foul and accuse folks of plagiarism.  

Here is one current example of ALEC’s use of a “Tool Kit”… “State Budget Reform Toolkit“which has been used and promoted by the Reason Foundation, Heartland Institute, promoted by various SPN or conservative sites such as “State Budget Solutions” and circulated in conservative media outlets such as Louisiana’s “Pelican Post“.  The PP article was written by Fergus Hodgson who is the capitol bureau reporter with the Pelican Institute for Public Policy. which is a state think tank member of SPN, which is a private sector member of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). The Pelican Institute also has ties to ALEC through its annual Policy Orientation for the Louisiana Legislature of which ALEC is a sponsor.[2] ALEC members have also sat on policy panels at the event.[3]

Though this “State Budget Reform Toolkit” was written by and for ALEC, I’ve yet to see any claims that the Pelican Institute, Heartland or Reason have been accused of plagiarizing ALEC’s materials.  This allegation is simply the “Pot calling the Kettle”…)

Michigan AFL-CIO President Plagiarizes Anti-ALEC Op-Ed from Left-Wing Group’s Materials

Michigan AFL-CIO president Karla Swift heavily plagiarized her recent op-ed against the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), lifting entire paragraphs from a “toolkit” created and distributed by the Center for Media and Democracy, a liberal nonprofit group that runs a website entirely devoted to trashing the group…

…Swift’s editorial lifts content from multiple sections of the anti-ALEC toolkit, copying several paragraphs verbatim. We have posted a copy of the toolkit here, with the plagiarized sections highlighted. In all, seven of the editorial’s twelve paragraphs are found in the toolkit. The editorial is part of the Detroit News’s “Labor Voices” feature, which has published pieces by Swift and three other labor leaders, including Teamsters president James Hoffa. The toolkit, dated December 2013, runs for 16 pages and encourages readers to “expose” the groups. 

Campaign finance: Support disclosure so we can follow the money

Yes, Montana Supreme Court Justice Mike McGrath, we need public disclosure of personal financial interest and those of their families.

Montana Supreme Court Justice James A. Rice, while a member of the Montana House of Representatives, was a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council. ALEC is a corporate bill mill; it is not just a lobby or a front group. It is much more powerful than that. Through ALEC, corporations hand state legislators their wish list to benefit their bottom line.

A new study by the Center for Public Integrity shows that outside spending groups, including nonprofits that do not disclose their donors and state-level super PACs, are funneling more and more money into state Supreme Court races. Out-of-state influence likely helped decide recent races in North Carolina, Iowa and Mississippi.

Our View: Things go worse with Koch

Isaiah J. Poole, the author of an op-ed in Thursday’s Standard-Times, brought attention to a well-financed movement that aims to remove economic incentives to put solar panels on a homeowner’s roof. (“National View: Let the solar shine in.”)

It makes reference to a report from a British newspaper, The Guardian, which was covering a Washington, D.C., policy summit of the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, in early December.

ALEC — which cleverly gets around lobbying rules by including right-wing members of Congress in its membership — “specializes in getting the right-wing agenda written into state laws,” according to Poole.

And according to The Guardian: “The group sponsored at least 77 energy bills in 34 states last year. The measures were aimed at opposing renewable energy standards, pushing through the Keystone XL pipeline project and barring oversight on fracking.”

Is Carbon Pricing a Diversion From the Real Story?

“One of the more solid tenets of Big Oil dogma has always been that carbon pricing, whether a straightforward tax or a market-based cap-and-trade system, is terrible and conservatives must stand in unison against it. Daily Caller reporter Michael Bastach, a former Koch Institute Intern, confirmed this recently: ‘This vote against a carbon tax in the (American Legislative Exchange Council) ALEC meeting in Chicago… comes after Republicans in both the House and the Senate voted unanimously against a carbon tax earlier this year’.”

Why Are the Franklin Center’s “Wisconsin Reporter” and “Watchdog.org” Attacking the John Doe?

The Franklin Center for Government & Public Integrity (through its Wisconsin Reporter and Watchdog.org websites) has aggressively attacked the “John Doe” probe into possible campaign finance violations during Wisconsin’s 2011 and 2012 recall elections. Its outlets have also published new information about the apparent targets of the investigation, but they have omitted an important detail: Franklin Center has close ties to individuals and groups that may be caught up in the John Doe.

Franklin Center in Your StateThe only name associated with the investigation, Eric O’Keefe, helped launch the Franklin Center’s operations in 2009, and his Sam Adams Alliance group provided the majority of its startup budget; O’Keefe has spoken publicly about being subpoenaed in his capacity as director of Wisconsin Club for Growth. Franklin Center’sDirector of Special Projects John Connors, and the Executive Assistant to the President Claire Milbrandt, also have close ties to a group reportedly involved in the John Doe probe. Its former Director of Operations and General Counsel, James Skyles, worked with another group active in the Wisconsin recalls…

…Wisconsin Reporter launched its “Wisconsin’s Secret War” series in October, citing unnamed sources to reveal that Wisconsin Club for Growth, Americans for Prosperity, and Republican Governors Association had received subpoenas, and describing details about “after-hours visits to homes and offices” and prosecutors’ “demands for phone, email and other records.” Thanks to those unnamed sources, Wisconsin Reporter had a new platform, and used it to recast the John Doe investigation as “an abuse of prosecutorial powers” with “the apparent goal of bringing down Gov. Scott Walker.” The Walker campaign and 28 other groups also reportedly received subpoenas. 

Paid via Card, Workers Feel Sting of Fees

A growing number of American workers are confronting a frustrating predicament on payday: to get their wages, they must first pay a fee.

For these largely hourly workers, paper paychecks and even direct deposit have been replaced by prepaid cards issued by their employers. Employees can use these cards, which work like debit cards, at an A.T.M. to withdraw their pay…

…But in the overwhelming majority of cases, using the card involves a fee. And those fees can quickly add up: one provider, for example, charges $1.75 to make a withdrawal from most A.T.M.’s, $2.95 for a paper statement and $6 to replace a card. Some users even have to pay $7 inactivity fees for not using their cards.

These fees can take such a big bite out of paychecks that some employees end up making less than the minimum wage once the charges are taken into account, according to interviews with consumer lawyers, employees, and state and federal regulators.

This comes full circle to ALEC and it’s member, VISA.  As documents acquired and published by Common Cause show, ALEC “untabled” their model legislation titled “Electronic Pay Choice Act” in 2010 at the request of VISA representative, Paul Russinoff.  This legislation allows banks and credit card companies to realize huge profits off of fees generated by workers using these payroll debit cards….thus the reason VISA rushed to untable this potential model legislation at ALEC’s December 2010 meeting.  As the Times’ article demonstrates, the legislation is making its way across the country through the efforts of ALEC and their SPN partners in crime.

Once adopted by ALEC the bill passed the private sector unanimously, and passed the public sector with two dissenting votes. Visa also paid to sponsor a workshop at that meeting.  Similar legislation has become law in around a dozen states, according to some estimates.

ALEC’s payroll card legislation, Big banks attack low income workers

A growing number of American workers are no longer given paper paychecks, instead are receiving prepaid cards issued by their employers. Employees can use these cards at an A.T.M. or merchant to withdraw pay.  This may sound convenient but the workers must pay fees to access their pay, and those fees can add up and be very hard on people who earn minimum wage or just above.  Here is an example of such a payroll card in this case a “Citi Payroll card” offered byHome Depot, (https://corporate.homedepot.com/Associates/Pay/Documents/CitiPayrollCard.pdf)…

Burton (IN-ALEC) – Conflict of interest, Nah!

STATEHOUSE (Indianapolis) — The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has appointed State Representative Woody Burton (R-Whiteland) as co-chairman of the Financial Services Subcommittee. This subcommittee is an advisory body to the larger Commerce, Insurance and Economic Development Task Force.
ALEC works at the state level to advance the fundamental principles of free-market enterprise, limited government and federalism. This is done through a nonpartisan public-private partnership of America’s state legislators, members of the private sector and the general public.
“I feel honored to have been appointed to this position and I look forward to working with Paul Russinoff of Visa, who serves as the private sector co-chair,” said Rep. Burton. “This subcommittee is open to all members of the larger task force but typically, the members who are most interested and knowledgeable will attend.”
The Financial Services Subcommittee deals with matters related to the financial industry and insurance with the intent to design national legislation.Some of the issues they have covered in the past include the Dodd-Frank Act, homeowners’ insurance and mortgage licensing reciprocity. 
Rep. Burton is Chairman of the Financial Institutions Committee in the Indiana House of Representatives. He also serves on the Insurance Committee.  He introduces and sponsors the model legislation and another ALEC member moves to propose a resolution in support of “Payroll Cards:”
“Resolution in Support of Payroll Cards” – by Ms. Kate Viar, VISA
Motion to adopt the model resolution as amended; passed the public sector unanimously; passed the private sector unanimously; Resolution Passed.
and the model bill is adopted by the full ALEC membership and sent out to state after state…
Shortly after ALEC’s adoption of the Electronic Pay Choice Act we had it in Indiana.  One of the more insidious uses of this legislation in Indiana is that it has been applied to citizens receiving unemployment and similar state benefits.  Already receiving less than 70% of their former salaries, those on unemployment receive their benefits via VISA cards, with accounts set up through PNC bank.  Those without checking accounts must take their benefits via these cards – and pay the additional ATM and withdrawal fees to the bank and in many cases to the state for “transaction fees”.

After a political setback in NC, ALEC retools assault on renewable energy

After turning back a political assault on its groundbreaking renewable energy law, North Carolina could soon be a proving ground for a new strategy in the corporate-led war on clean energy — this one targeting the fast-growing number of homeowners installing solar panels.

Like the last attack on the state’s renewables program, this one is led by the American Legislative Exchange Council, an influential group that brings together corporations and mostly Republican state lawmakers to advocate for business-friendly legislation — activity that has drawn charges of illegal lobbyingby the nonprofit. ALEC, whose corporate members include major coal and electric companies, has long fought environmental regulations and initiatives that encourage a shift to cleaner energy sources.

Nowhere has its efforts been more concerted in recent years than in North Carolina, which in 2007 became the first state in the coal-dependent Southeast to require investor-owned electric utilities to purchase or generate an increasing amount of energy from renewable sources…

PSC Again Hikes Georgia Power Rates, Declines on Solar Tax

ATLANTA — The Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC) voted unanimously Tuesday, December 17, 2013, to approve a compromise agreement between Georgia Power and the PSC staff.

As previously reported by Atlanta Progressive News, Georgia Power’s original request was for a rate increase of 1.46 billion dollars.  The original request also included a newly proposed “solar tax,” a special tax on customers who have solar panels; as well as an increase in the guaranteed profit to Georgia Power.

The PSC agreement cut the amount of the increase by 573 million dollars.  Now, Georgia’s 2.4 million residential and business ratepayers will pay an increase of 873 million dollars over the next three years.

Enchanted Ad Outpaces FedEx’s Adoption of Eco-Friendly Vehicles (NOTE: Fed Ex, UPS and Verizon are longtime members of ALEC…)

The shipping giant’s “Enchanted Forest” ad came out at the end of 2011, a playful episode about its aspirational seamlessness with nature. How close are those cartoon images to the real world? Judging by the actual adoption of alternative fuel transportation, less than idyllic.

FedEx drew widespread praise a decade ago when it unveiled a hybrid electric delivery truck and said it could replace its 30,000 diesel-burning vehicles in 10 years. In its most recent annual report, the delivery giant said its fleet includes 360 hybrid-electric and 165 full-electric trucks, or less than 1 percent of the now-54,100 ground vehicles in its FedEx Express division.

Other major fleet operators, from UPS to Verizon, have slowed their hybrid-vehicle deployments as well. Total sales of medium- and heavy-duty trucks in North America powered by hybrid, plug-in hybrid and battery electric technologies are projected to grow modestly from 1,800 vehicles in 2013 to nearly 13,000 in 2020, according to a report due out next month from Navigant Research…

League of Women voters to present program on ALEC, policy-making

The League of Women Voters of Central Yavapai County will present an educational opportunity on the American Legislative Exchange Council and Common Cause and their approaches to public policy making from 9 to 11:30 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 4, at Las Fuentes Resort Village, 1035 Scott Drive in Prescott…

Southern Republicans Drag the Rest of the Nation Down by Doing the Kochs’ Bidding

Even though conservatives and right-wing extremists tout America as an exceptional nation, it is fairly common knowledge there is nothing about this country that is exceptional except it has more guns and gun deaths, highest incarceration rate, food insecurity on par with Indonesia, highest first day infant mortality rate, infrastructure behind every developed country in the world, 33rd in life expectancy, highest percentage of adult-onset diabetes, 2nd highest child poverty rate, and the highest proportion of low-wage workers in the developed world. It is true America is the richest nation on Earth, but by every other measure America is a third-world nation…

…This is the nation Republicans built with money from the Koch brothers’ and Americans for Prosperity, American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), Heritage Foundation, Cato Institute, Club for Growth, and Wall Street that have spent the better part of two decades achieving the Koch brothers’ “vision of a transformed America.” The result of their transformation is increasing millions of Americans either wallowing in poverty or stuck in a downward spiral with no expectation of ever achieving anything more than “working poor” status with no more hope than not dying homeless. Sadly, a segment of the population, those most likely drowning in poverty and living in the Southern United States expedited the conservative’s plan by voting for Republicans because they promise to fight for religious freedom, guns, and preserving their European ancestors’ dream of a Christian wonderland…

Quest to restrict union fees targets three additional states

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Buoyed by recent successes in the Midwest, conservatives and business groups are targeting at least three additional states for new efforts that could weaken labor unions by ending their ability to collect mandatory bargaining fees.

The latest efforts are focused on Missouri, Ohio and Oregon and — in a new twist — could put the issue before voters in 2014 instead of relying on potentially reluctant governors to enact laws passed by state legislators…

…Supporters of such laws contend employees shouldn’t be forced to pay fees to a union to get or keep a job. But unions contend the fees are fair because federal law requires them to represent all employees in a bargaining unit regardless of whether they join the union.

Most state right-to-work laws were enacted in the 1940s and 1950s. But businesses and conservative lawmakers, working through groups such as the American Legislative Exchange Council, have mounted a new push as union membership has dwindled and the competition for jobs has intensified among states.

Indiana in 2012 became the first state in more than a decade to enact a right-to-work law. The movement’s biggest victory came later that year, when Republicans in the traditional union stronghold of Michigan followed suit even though thousands of union protesters thronged the Capitol…

The State Policy Network’s Cozy Relationship With Big Tobacco

The State Policy Network (SPN), a web of right-wing “think tanks” in every state across the country, has close ties with the tobacco industry. When tobacco companies like Reynolds American or Altria/Philip Morris want to avoid tobacco taxes and health regulations, reports by SPN groups in many states can help inspire local resistance.

SPN, its member affiliates, and SPN-related entities such as the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the Heritage Foundation, and the Cato Institute,  continued to receive funding from the tobacco industry that has continued through at least 2012, according to Altria/Phillip Morris documentsThe Nation journalist Lee Fang previously reported that SPN relied on funding from the tobacco industry throughout the 1990s, and in return assisted the tobacco industry “in packaging its resistance to tobacco taxes and health regulations as part of a ‘freedom agenda’ for conservatives.”

During SPN President Tracie Sharp’s tenure at the Cascade Policy Institute (CPI, anSPN affiliate) from 1991 to 1999, Philip Morris state lobbyists worked hand-in-handwith CPI to oppose tobacco taxes…

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 and SPN – “Charities” That Just Keeps on “Taking” Citizens Rights

ALEC and SPN – “Charities” That Just Keeps on “Taking” Citizens Rights

by Bob Sloan

A compilation of news, views and articles related to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) for the week of 11/18/2013.

Click on the headline to read the entire article, letter or document referenced below…  At the top of this week’s important news, is the launch of www.stinktanks.org by the Center for Media and Democracy and ProgressNow which worked tirelessly to expose the connections to and from the conservative State Policy Network (SPN) operating like ALEC, as a “Charity”.  Stinktanks.org allows readers to clink on links to each state and discover the various SPN affiliates working to promote a conservative agenda in their particular state.  Informative and well researched data found at this site and I urge everyone to visit and learn about previously unknown efforts involving lobbying, legislation and ongoing in your area.

“Something STINKS In Our Statehouses”

“THE STATE POLICY NETWORK “What Is The State Policy Network? “The State Policy Network (SPN) is a web of so-called “think tanks” that push a right-wing agenda in every state across the country. Although many of SPN’s member organizations claim to be nonpartisan and independent, an in-depth investigation by non-profit, non-partisan investigative reporting groups the Center for Media and Democracy and Progress Now reveals that SPN and its affiliates are major drivers of the right-wing, ALEC-backed agenda in state houses nationwide, with deep ties to theKoch brothers and the national right-wing network of funders, all while reporting little or no lobbying activities.”

Of course, as soon as the press release on the SPN “stink tank” site hit, News Busters quickly responded, attempting to justify the SPN agenda and accuse supporters like George Soros and Bill Moyers of being behind the “attacks” (revelations):

Soros-funded Media Group Attacks Conservative ‘Stink Tanks’

“Two left-wing groups, the Center for Media and Democracy and ProgressNow, launched a coordinated attack against the pro-free market State Policy Network. This attack came six months after the liberal Media Consortium was launching its own series of articles bashing SPN. The accusations that this Center for Media and Democracy report made were completely hypocritical, and misleading. “According to this report, the Center for Media and Democracy has a problem when conservative think tanks are funded by conservative donors and push a conservative agenda. They seem ignorant to the hypocrisy in this, since CMD is a liberal think tank, funded by liberal donors like George Soros, Bill Moyers and the Tides Foundation and pushing a decidedly liberal agenda. “This isn’t the first time CMD has attacked conservatives. In 2012, CMD joined with five other left-wing groups to launch a coordinated attack on the American Legislative Exchange Council. The CMD run “Source Watch” proudly claims that this attack led to 56 former ALEC members cutting ties with the group. CMD’s Lisa Graves, who headed up the attack on ALEC, was also involved with the attack on SPN. In both of these attacks, CMD and its allies try to demonize groups that support free market principles. “The hit job, labeled “Stink Tanks,” says that “SPN and its affiliates push an extreme right-wing agenda that aims to privatize education, block healthcare reform, restrict workers’ rights, roll back environmental protections, and create a tax system that benefits most those at the very top level of income.” The “about” page of the SPN website, describes SPN as “dedicated solely to improving the practical effectiveness of independent, non-profit, market-oriented, state-focused think tanks.”

Of course, the information provided to readers by Mike Ciandella and a similar argument of “not so” advanced by SPN President, Tracie Sharp were both found to be seriously lacking in facts as pointed out by Jane Mayer with the New Yorker in her article:

IS IKEA THE NEW MODEL FOR THE CONSERVATIVE MOVEMENT?

“In every state in the country, there is at least one ostensibly independent “free-market” think tank that is part of something called the State Policy Network— there are sixty-four in all, ranging from the Pelican Institute, in Louisiana, to the Freedom Foundation, in Washington State. According to a new investigative report by the Center for Media and Democracy, a liberal watchdog group, however, the think tanks are less free actors than a coordinated collection of corporate front groups—branch stores, so to speak—funded and steered by cash from undisclosed conservative and corporate players. Although the think tanks have largely operated under the radar, the cumulative enterprise is impressively large, according to the report. In 2011, the network funneled seventy-nine million dollars into promoting conservative policies at the state level.

“Tracie Sharp, the president of the S.P.N., promptly dismissed the report as “baseless allegations.” She told Politico, “There is no governing organization dictating what free market think tanks research or how they educate the public about good public policy.”

“But notes provided to The New Yorker on what was said during the S.P.N.’s recent twenty-first-annual meeting raise doubts about Sharp’s insistence that each of the think tanks is, as she told me, “fiercely independent.” The notes show that, behind closed doors, meeting with some eight hundred people from the affiliated state think tanks, Sharp compared the organization’s model to that of the giant global chain IKEA.

“At the annual meeting, which took place in Oklahoma City this past September 24th through 27th, Sharp explained what she called The IKEA Model. She said that it starts with what she described as a “catalogue” showing “what success would look like.” Instead of pictures of furniture arranged in rooms, she said, S.P.N.’s catalogue displays visions of state policy projects that align with the group’s agenda. That agenda includes opposing President Obama’s health-care program and climate-change regulations, reducing union protections and minimum wages, cutting taxes and business regulations, tightening voting restrictions, and privatizing education. “The success we show is you guys,” she told the assembled state members. “Here’s how we win in your state.”…

Also included in this week’s list is ALEC’s pursuit of doing away with voters electing their state Senators.  In their eyes state lawmakers (especially in “Red” states are better suited for choosing “our” Senate representatives…and no doubt, we know those chosen by predominantly GOP controlled states would be GOP controlled candidates for those offices.

ALEC Mulls Assault On Constitution’s 17th Amendment — The Direct Election Of Senators

“In an agenda for a December meeting posted on ALEC’s website, one of the items up for review is language for a bill, called the Equal State’s Enfranchisement Act, that would allow state legislatures to add a candidate’s name to the ballot for a U.S. senate seat, along with the names of those nominated by voters. “A nomination petition stating that the United States Senate is the office to be filled, the name and residence of the candidate and other information required by this section shall be filed with each Presiding Officer of the legislature of the state of __________,” the model legislation states. “The petition shall be filed at the same time as primary nomination papers and petitions are required to be filed.” The language also adds that at least 20 percent of the “then-sitting members of the legislature” must sign onto the nomination. “If ALEC’s members decide to further pursue this act and manage to get it passed in any state, it would be an assault to the 17th Amendment of the Constitution. “For over a century, Senators were elected by state legislatures. This often led to stalemates, leaving Senate seats open for months at a time. But in 1913, the country ratified the 17th Amendment, which stipulates that Americans are to directly elect their senators:

“The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each state, elected by the people thereof, for six years; and each Senator shall have one vote. The electors in each state shall have the qualifications requisite for electors of the most numerous branch of the state legislatures…”

ALEC Floats Legislation Chipping Away At The 17th Amendment

“WASHINGTON — The conservative American Legislative Exchange Council is wading back into election issues, as it considers supporting a bill that would increase the role of state legislatures in the election of U.S. senators, chipping away at the powers vested directly in the people under the 17th Amendment. “ALEC circulates model legislation to state legislators, and its bills have resulted in states passing laws related to voter ID, so-called Stand Your Ground issues and the elimination or reduction of state income taxes. “In early December, a group of ALEC members are scheduled to consider supporting a range of potential new model legislation, including the “Equal State’s Enfranchisement Act,” according to a memo posted on the group’s website. The bill would significantly increase the role of the state legislature in the election of U.S. senators, inching back toward the process used prior to the passage of the 17th Amendment in 1913. The 17th Amendment established the direct election of U.S. senators. Before this amendment, senators were chosen by state legislators…”

ALEC’s voting bill threatens democracy

“In several of my previous columns, I have made reference to the American Legislative Exchange Council. ALEC is an organization composed of corporations, interest groups and legislators at the state and federal levels. Corporate members of ALEC include AOL, Comcast, Exxon Mobil and dozens of other large corporations. A number of prominent politicians from across the country are former members of ALEC.

‘In addition, more than two dozen members of the Florida Legislature have either claimed ALEC membership or attended an ALEC annual meeting since 2011.

According to its website, the organization seeks to “advance the fundamental principles of free-market enterprise, limited government, and federalism at the state level.” In practice, this means ALEC promotes state legislation like massive tax cuts for the wealthy and reduced government regulations that benefit the rich and powerful at the expense of the middle class and the poor. ALEC has also supported voter ID laws, which require citizens to present certain types of ID in order to register to vote. In addition, its members have supported reducing early voting hours in states around the country. These laws have the purpose of reducing voter turnout, particularly among groups that are least likely to support ALEC’s agenda. These demographic groups include African-Americans, Hispanics and college students….

The Campaign Against Net Metering: ALEC and Utility Interests’ Next Attack on Clean Energy Surfaces in Arizona

“On Thursday, the Arizona Corporate Commission (ACC), the state entity responsible for regulating utilities, voted to charge ratepayers a monthly fee of 70 cents per kilowatt of solar energy installed on their roof. Arizona Public Service (APS) had proposed charging customers who install rooftop solar panels an additional $50-100 on their monthly bills.

APS is an investor-owned utility that serves over 1 million customers and generates the majority of its electricity from coal, nuclear, gas and oil. Ultimately, the ACC’s accepted a compromise struck between the solar industry and the Residential Utility Consumers Office (RUCO) to charge solar system owners a much smaller fee per month. According to solar companies operating in the state, APS was attempting to “tax the sun,” and APS’s proposed changes would have “erase[d] the financial incentive for using solar.” The ACC decision was a blow to APS, and while the fee will slightly impact the Arizona solar industry, it will not be the deathblow APS had proposed. The newly adopted fee would translate into approximately $5 for the average homeowner with a solar power installation.

“APS appears to be leading the first assault of a national campaign by the utility industry trade association, Edison Electric Institute (EEI), and fossil fuel interests like APS, to weaken net metering policies. This year, ALEC failed to eliminate Renewable Portfolio Standards in 16 states across the country, and now, this new attack on clean energy policies could benefit members of ALEC who have an interest in coal and other fossil fuels. In the latest attempt to rollback pro-clean energy policies, fossil fuel and utility interests operating through the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) are proposing new model legislation to slow the rise of the clean energy industry by weakening net metering policies. ALEC released the new model language on their website prior to the group’s “States and Nation Policy Summit” scheduled for early December. If passed, the “Updating Net Metering Policies Resolution” would be sent to nearly 2,000 state legislator members of ALEC around the country.”

‘Stealth Business Lobbyist’ Plans 2014 Offensive Against Solar Net Metering

“The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a “stealth business lobbyist” that writes legislation favoring the interests of its corporate members, is moving into the intense debate on net metering for solar.

“In early December, ALEC will be holding a task force meeting on energy and environmental issues in Washington, D.C. It has now included net metering on its list of priorities for “model legislation” in 2014.

“ALEC recently put together a draft resolution on net metering that will set up discussions at next month’s task force meeting on writing laws changing net metering policies…”

Look for similar bold moves like this in your state…

EDF Steps Up to Protect Ohio’s Clean Energy Standards 

“Ohio’s clean energy standards have helped jumpstart an industry that is spurring economic development, creating jobs, boosting energy independence and cutting the state’s carbon footprint.  Recently, these standards have come under attack and EDF’s own Cheryl Roberto, Associate Vice President of Smart Power, stepped up to defend them by testifying before the Ohio Senate Public Utilities Commission on Senate Bill 58 (S.B. 58).  As a former Ohio Public Utility Commissioner herself, Roberto made it clear that S.B. 58 would destroy Ohio’s clean energy standards and unjustly enrich the state’s electric utilities.

“The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a group of conservative state legislators, is leading a nationwide effort to repeal state clean energy standards, including S.B. 58 in Ohio.  ALEC has previously supported controversial “stand your ground” laws as well as laws classifying environmental civil disobedience as terrorism.  To date, ALEC has failed to repeal clean energy standards in any state.

Explaining To Grist Why Facebook And Google Belong To ALEC 

“You might think this a little odd, that purportedly green and progressive companies like GoogleGOOG -0.2% and Facebook will belong to a lobbying organisation with a reputation as backwoods conservative as something like ALEC. That’s certainly what has they guys over at Grist scratching their heads. The answer is really quite simple: government, governance, at all levels is now so entwined with the business world that it’s simply necessary to, as a large company, join all of these organisations…

“So, why be a part of something like ALEC? For the same reason that they’re both part of any lobbying organisation at all. Sadly, the way that the modern economy works is that government, at all levels, has a great deal of influence over how business works. This is as true of my native UK as it is of the US. So, it is necessary for a large business to flash the cash around to both sides, to join lobby groups from all sides of the political compass. Simply because they have to be there to influence the politicians: no, not so much to get them to do what the corporation desires but to stop them doing something stupid which will screw over the corporation…”

Corporate America: ‘Have You No Sense of Decency?’

“Today the Teamsters and American workers face a moment of reckoning. The time has come where people must stand up and say enough is enough to companies that seek to take advantage of employees and taxpayers.

“Anyone who has followed the U.S. economy in recent years can tell you while corporate America and their wealthy executives have recovered from the last recession, middle-class families have not. About 95 percent of income gains between 2009 and 2012 went to the top one percent. Big business has used the opportunity to increase its bottom line even more. Yet it still asks for more…

“…It is nothing short of a disgrace that those struggling to make ends meet are shelling out their hard-earned dollars to help raise Wall Street stock prices for these companies.

“Sometimes that still isn’t enough. In Washington State, for example, the state government offered airplane manufacturer Boeing $8.7 billion in tax breaks from now through 2040 so it would agree to build its new 777x jetliner in state instead of moving production to its non-union South Carolina plant and overseas. But the company, which recently recorded record profits, said that wasn’t enough and sought union concessions. The future of the deal is now in doubt.

“The Teamsters, too, have taken a stand against businesses seeking to increase profits on the back of workers. Whether its Chicago funeral directors who went on strike more than four months ago and have been locked out of their jobs by funeral home giant Service Corporate International or port truck drivers who just this week stood up to employers that want them to work as contract workers instead of employees even though they work full-time hours, hard-working Americans are pushing back on the anti-worker agenda being pressed by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and others.

New Reports Expose a Hidden Conservative “Cabal” Masquerading as Think Tanks

New Reports Expose a Hidden Conservative “Cabal” Masquerading as Think Tanks

An Analysis by Bob Sloan

ALECExtremeRightWingCPS2001The above graphic charts the relationship(s) between dozens of extreme right-wing organizations, foundations, institutes, conservative owned companies and wealthy individuals working together to advance a pro-conservative agenda against a majority of Americans.  I used this graphic in May of 2011 in an effort of exposing the formation of a secretive “Cabal” dedicated to changing the way our democracy works.  Now other sources have revealed – and corroborate – the existence of such a cabal is in fact true…

Yesterday twelve new reports were jointly announced by CMD and ProgressNow research groups in a press release.  The findings of these comprehensive reports expose the involvement of a nefarious network operating under the umbrella of the State Policy Network (SPN), an $83 million web of right-wing “think tanks” embedded in every state across the country.  This network, operating under guidance from the Koch brothers, Charles and David, is responsible for many “spin-off” organizations and groups such as American’s for Prosperity, American’s for Tax Reform and the Tea Party.  Through their joint efforts our public school systems, healthcare, rights to vote, tort “reforms” and other key initiatives are funded and the conservative position on each advanced.  In effect this is a highly organized and influential network used to advance a political agenda expressing only one point of view.  Additionally nearly every member of this Cabal operates as a non-profit entity with tax exempt status, allowing the millions spent to be recouped as tax deductible “contributions” and/or operations. The goal sought is to allow a minority to gain and exert control and power over the majority.

For three plus years now VLTP, CMD and several other research groups have reported that through the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the Koch brothers along with well known affluent and influential “families” such as the Waltons, (WalMart), Coors, Scaifes, DeVos’  and Bradleys have funded numerous organizations, institutes, think tanks and foundations to coordinate and advance a RW agenda against American workers, consumers and voters.  I have continuously referred to this network as “the Cabal”.  Websters defines a cabal thus: 

“1 :  the artifices and intrigues of a group of persons secretly united in a plot (as to overturn a government); also :  a group engaged in such artifices and intrigues”

Wikipedia provides perhaps the best description of a cabal – and it precisely describes this heretofore secret network…

“A cabal is a group of people united in some close design together, usually to promote their private views or interests in a churchstate, or other community, often by intrigue. Cabals are sometimes secret societies composed of a few designing persons, and at other times are manifestations of emergent behavior in society or governance on the part of a community of persons who have well established public affiliation or kinship. The term can also be used to refer to the designs of such persons or to the practical consequences of their emergent behavior, and also holds a general meaning of intrigue and conspiracy. The use of this term usually carries strong connotations of shadowy corners, back rooms and insidious influence. The term is frequently used in conspiracy theories…”

The founder of ALEC, Heritage Foundation, the Free Congress Foundation and co-founder of Christian Voice and the Moral Majority was Paul Weyrich who used initial funding provided by the Coors family to launch those RW organizations.  Previously we reported on Weyrich’s “manifesto” (written by Eric Heubeck) that was published by Weyrich’s Free Congress Foundation in 2001, titled; The Integration of Theory and Practice: A Program for the New Traditionalist Movement.  This document provides a literal written road map used by ultra-Conservatives to subvert democracy and wrest it from the hands of Americans.

A read of this disgusting but important document reveals that this is indeed the path used over the past 13 years that has totally changed the political atmosphere of the U.S. Prophetically, Heubeck and Weyrich describe their methodology as “dominionism”:

“According to TheocracyWatch, and the Anti-Defamation League, both Weyrich and his Free Congress Foundation were closely associated with Dominionism.[22][23]TheocracyWatch listed both as leading examples of “dominionism in action,” citing “a manifesto from Paul Weyrich’s Free Congress Foundation”, The Integration of Theory and Practice: A Program for the New Traditionalist Movement[24] “illuminates the tactics of the dominionist movement”.[22] TheocracyWatch, which calls it ‘Paul Weyrich’s Training Manual’ and others consider this manifesto a virtual playbook for how the “theocratic right” in American politics can get and keep power.[25] The Anti-Defamation League identified Weyrich and the Free Congress Foundation as part of an alliance of more than 50 of the most prominent conservative Christian leaders and organizations that threaten the separation of church and state.[23] Weyrich continued to reject allegations that he advocated theocracy, saying, “[T]his statement is breathtaking in its bigotry”,[26] and dismissed the claim that the Christian right wished to transform America into a theocracy.[27]Katherine Yurica wrote that Weyrich guided Eric Heubeck in writing The Integration of Theory and Practice, the Free Congress Foundation‘s strategic plan published in 2001 by the FCF,[28] which she says calls for the use of deception, misinformation and divisiveness to allow conservative evangelical Christian Republicans to gain and keep control of seats of power in the government of the United States.”

The above treatise has been more successful than even Weyrich could have predicted.  Today two key ALEC alumni sit atop the pinnacle of our House of Representatives – Speaker John Boehner and House Majority Leader, Eric Cantor.  From positions of nearly unlimited legislative power, these two men ensure that the wishes of the Cabal are carried out at the federal level.  Another 80 members of the House of Representatives are also ALEC alumni – as are 11 U,S, Senators.  We see the guidance of the Cabal in the behavior of ALEC affiliated lawmakers today on key initiatives: Senators – James Inhofe, Michael Enzi (R-WY), Deb Fischer (R-NE), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), James Inhofe (R-OK), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Jerry Moran (R-KS),Jim Risch (R-ID), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Richard Shelby (R-AL) and Roger Wicker (R-MS).  Many of these Senators appear in the media daily, sent out to speak on behalf of the Cabal for or against issues important to Americans; healthcare, voter suppression, right to work, privatization of public schools and dozens more.  They represent the true face of disinformation. Nationally ALEC’s membership of elected state lawmakers number nearly 2,000 today and are used to disseminate legislation written and then pursued by the Cabal state by state.  Over the past decade or so ALEC’s influence has spread from states through the federal level and internationally to foreign governments.  Currently ALEC has more than 18 foreign elected officials holding full membership and sitting down alongside corporate representatives and state lawmakers to help craft legislation that later becomes the law in many U.S. states. Other devoted alumni now hold positions as Governors of many states: Ohio (Kasich), Wisconsin (Walker), Arizona (Brewer) and many former Governors were also alumni or acolytes of ALEC and the cabal, as reported in ALEC Alumni data compiled in 2002 :

Michigan Governor John Engler 1993 Thomas Jefferson Freedom Award Recipient Louisiana Governor Mike Foster Wyoming Governor Jim Geringer Arizona Governor Jane Dee Hull Oklahoma Governor Frank Keating 2000 Thomas Jefferson Freedom Award Recipient Colorado Governor Bill Owens New York Governor George Pataki Connecticut Governor John Rowland Past Governors Idaho Governor Phil Batt South Carolina Governor David Beasley Iowa Governor Terry Branstad ALEC Founding Member/1996 ALEC Pioneer Award Minnesota Governor Arne Carlson Illinois Governor Jim Edgar

This alumni list reveals that the first Homeland Security director, Tom Ridge was in fact an ALEC alum – as was Andrew Card who served as the White House chief of staff for the first five years of George W. Bush’s presidency. Additionally, as in Ohio, an active ALEC member, Representative Todd Snitchler was chosen by ALEC alum Governor Kasich as Chairman of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO).  In that capacity Snitchler immediately raised rates for electric power for two of ALEC’s corporate members, American Electric Power (AEP) and Duke Energy – only to have to revoke the rate increases two months later.  Just this week news from Ohio involving PUCO and AEP revealed the Commission refused to negotiate on behalf of an aluminum company with AEP to ease rates and keep the company in business.  Snitchler’s action caused the shuttering of Ormet Corp., an aluminum smelting giant along the Ohio River and the onetime largest customer of American Electric Power. About 1,000 workers — mostly unionized steelworkers — are out of work.  This development comes as no surprise to most after Governor Kasich’s pursuit of anti-union legislation a couple of years ago. Two weeks ago in Nevada, ALEC’s state Chair, Senator Barbara Cegasvke announced she will run for the office of Nevada’s Secretary of State in next year’s election.  With appointments and election wins through the backing of the Cabal, it now has a sprinkling of hundreds of alumni or members serving as lawmakers, holding key cabinet positions, chairmanships of state departments and agencies.  Each of these individuals pursue the mandates of the Cabal with regard to education, energy, state and federal regulations and contribute to the continued successes of this network.

Kudos to the hard work, research and connecting of the dots by CMD and ProgressNow’s team of researchers.  I know this report took a substantial amount of effort to ferret out the connections, track the exchange of money through tax exempt contributions and donations.  What their work reveals – quite clearly now – is that in America a truly “shadow government” operated by a minority faction is secretly operating at all levels.  Due to it’s secrecy this Cabal has enjoyed success after success  for two or more decades without the public ever knowing of it’s existence. Now that this existence has been made public, I hope American’s will realize how they have been duped by Cabal owned media outlets into accepting this network’s deception and misinformation as fact – and will take the steps necessary in their communities and at the polls to free us all from their talon-like grip.  The CMD/ProgressNow report findings clearly show the efforts of this network to permanently change important programs to all of us; education, healthcare, social security, medicare and operations such as the USPS – in search of control and through that control, enrichment of the families at the top of the SPN “food chain”.

ALEC Posts Legislative Agendas while Hiding Its Very Special Interests

ALEC Posts Legislative Agendas while Hiding Its Very Special Interests

From Center for Media and Democracy, by Nick Surgey

A reminder from VLTP Executive Director to protesters, activists and organized labor…ALEC’s “States and Nation Policy Summit” will be in DC this year in less than a month.  VLTP is hopeful that there will be another anti-ALEC organized demonstration, teach-in and a rally similar to those held in Phoenix, Oklahoma City and Chicago.  Due to the pressures exerted by numerous watchdog groups, legislative activists and researchers, ALEC has scheduled this last 2013 event close to their headquarters in DC – possibly in the hope many will find traveling to the Capital in December difficult.  However, the fact that DC is ALEC’s “Home Turf” we can once again bring protests literally to their doorstep, in the media spotlight that is our Nation’s capital.

bush_alec_rect-460x307Boehner at ALEC

These “Summits” are events attended by key GOP members who speak to the entire membership, encouraging them to “keep up the good work” advancing ALEC’s narrow and oppressive conservative agenda.  This year Senator Ted Cruz is reportedly one such high profile attendee.  Indiana Governor Mike Pence is to speak as well.

 

 

 

Cantor at ALECCheney Jefferson Award at alecPast speakers and influential attendees include, Former President, George W. Bush, former VP, Dick Cheney, House Speaker Boehner, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Presidential hopefuls such as Mike Huckabee, Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry and Herman Cain.

Together these high ranking GOP members, elected members of Congress and presidential candidates serve up marching orders for ALEC’s conservative legislative membership for the upcoming year.

This time, PRWatch has once again secured critical ALEC material for us to read and review.  Through such work, ALEC is no longer able to hide in the shadows, scripting legislative pursuits sought by corporate interests and pursued by your elected state representatives and unknown to voters until the legislation sweeps through their statehouses, becoming law.

Below is an excerpt from Nick Surgey’s excellent article about the materials, proposed legislation and activities that will take place in December:

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has quietly published some agenda details of its corporate-legislator task forces for its upcoming meeting, while keeping the identities of the corporate lobbyists or special interest groups that drafted any of the bills secret.

ALEC Exposed - A project of CMDThe conference in Washington, DC, in December will include a raft of proposed “model” bills to rollback the clock, including limiting the power of the Environmental Protection Agency, undermining the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and cutting federal funding of the states.

Without fanfare, ALEC has posted slimmed-down versions of the agenda material for its task forces, providing the names of new model bills, and language for some bills in full, as well as the title of presentations at ALEC’s closed-door task force meetings where corporate lobbyists secretly vote as equals with state legislators. The documents provide some insight into some of the items that may be on ALEC’s legislative agenda for when state legislative sessions resume in January 2014. CMD recently filed hundreds of public record requests with state legislators in six states, specifically asking for these materials and ALEC’s emails to lawmakers, a tactic CMD has successfully deployed to obtain materials ALEC has sent to legislators as part of its efforts to get laws changed. This latest release by ALEC is likely a response to this success, but the materials released this past week omit key details compared with past materials obtained by CMD…

…Although ALEC has launched a new charm offensive touting its supposed transparency, as CMD’s General Counsel Brendan Fischer has noted, “transparency laws are not premised on permitting a group or legislator to pick and choose which communications to legislators will or will not be made public.” ALEC has also reportedly claimed recently that only legislators will “sponsor” bills voted on at ALEC task forces; however, that sort of window dressing does not actually mean the bills were not pre-written by corporate lobbyists and special interest groups. It also does not negate the powerful role that unelected private sector representatives play in ALEC task forces as equals to lawmakers elected to represent their own constituents back home…

Read the full Surgey article -> HERE <- which includes links to past articles on this topic and to the actual material distributed by ALEC in preparation for the December States and Nation Summit held at the Grand Hyatt hotel, 1000 H Street, NW Washington, D.C. 20001 

 

U.S. Senate Holds Hearing on ALEC, Corporate Involvement and Stand Your Ground Laws

U.S. Senate Holds Hearing on ALEC, Corporate Involvement and Stand Your Ground Laws

Today the long awaited Senate hearing on Stand Your Ground laws and the involvement of the “bill mill”; American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) in adopting, proposing and disseminating model legislation such as the SYG laws, was held in Washington.  This hearing is remarkable – not just because the Senate is holding discussions about this legislation which is now the law in many states – but because it is the first ever acknowledgement of the existence of ALEC and their legislative activities and influences by any government body.

Whether Congress realized it or not at the core of the “need” for this hearing, are the existence and acts of an organization that until recently has remained hidden from the view of government and citizens alike.  An organization that has had possibly the largest influence upon enactment of state and federal law since the mid 1970’s.  Creating laws that specifically benefit corporations and business interests to the detriment of the public and constituents of lawmakers owned by ALEC through loyal membership in that organization – and a “duty” to advance all legislation proposed by it.

_________________

ALEC’s corporate member representatives did not take part in the hearing and offered no testimony – but certain Senators seemingly “owned” by corporate money spoke on their behalf.  Chief among those speaking favorably for corporate interests and in favor of SYG laws?  GOP Senators Cruz, Graham and Gohmert.  Senator Cruz voiced his opinion that Senator Durbin’s request made of ALEC corporate members or supporters, to respond and state their position in support or opposition of ALEC’s Stand Your Ground model legislation…was nothing more than a witch hunt being used to “chill” the first amendment rights of corporations.  

(How far corporate person-hood has advanced since the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United.  Today corporations enjoy the same rights as human citizens…except for the ability to be held accountable, arrested, incarcerated and imprisoned for criminal acts committed behind a convenient corporate veil.)

Cruz voiced sympathy for the family of Trayvon Martin, who was killed by George Zimmerman in the highly publicized Florida case last year, then went on to proclaim that many organizations and others were using that case to advance arguments of “perceived” racial prejudice and for “political gain”.

However, Senator Durbin made clear that of the 140 corporate members contacted and asked if they supported or opposed ALEC’s SYG model legislation, only 1 responded in support of it.

The following excerpts are from the Center for Media and Democracy.  This was published by CMD today and due to the article’s relevance to this important issue should be read in its entirety…

CMD Submits Testimony to U.S. Senate on ALEC and “Stand Your Ground

by Lisa Graves, Executive Director, at the Center for Media and Democracy

Mr. Chairman, and Members of the Committee, my name is Lisa Graves, and I am the Executive Director of the Center for Media and Democracy, the publisher of PRWatch.org, ALECexposed.org, SourceWatch.org, and BanksterUSA.org. The organization I lead is a national investigative watchdog group based in Madison, Wisconsin, that has more than 150,000 supporters.

I previously served as the Chief Counsel for Nominations for the Chairman and then Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator Patrick Leahy. I also served as Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Office of Legal Policy/Policy Development at the U.S. Department of Justice and as the Deputy Chief of the Article III Judges Division of the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, in addition to other posts in the non-profit sector on national security issues.

I commend the Committee, and its Chairman, for holding this hearing to examine the deadly consequences of so-called “Stand Your Ground” (SYG) laws that have proliferated in the states since 2005, at the urging of the National Rifle Association (NRA) and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

SYG laws were peddled by the NRA and ALEC alongside bills to expand the number of people carrying concealed firearms, creating a volatile combination that puts more and more American children and adults at risk of being shot and killed. This Committee has held countless hearings over the years on both federal and state crime policies that affect the rights of Americans, and it is fitting that the Senate examine SYG and the organizations that have urged that SYG become binding law.

I am especially concerned about the activities of ALEC to push the NRA’s agenda into law because ALEC has routinely filed tax returns with the IRS claiming it engages in no lobbying, zero. Yet, ALEC and its agents have routinely bragged about getting SYG introduced and passed – the very definition of lobbying – while claiming to the IRS and the public that it spends not a single dollar on lobbying. Today, I will describe the evidence that shows that ALEC is no ordinary non-profit and the ways in which it has misled the public about the true nature of its activities.

I will also detail the role of the NRA in ALEC and ALEC’s role in pushing for SYG laws. I will also discuss the effect of the three main parts of that law, and how that law affected the initial treatment of George Zimmerman’s killing of Trayvon Martin; how it affected the trial; and how it may affect a civil suit.

In an accompanying appendix to the statement I am submitting for the record, I also describe the role of corporations, such as Koch Industries, and numerous other grantees of the Koch family fortune in advancing the ALEC corporate agenda, along with other aspects of ALEC’s legacy, such as efforts to make it harder for American citizens to vote, as well as its current legislative agenda…

…ALEC describes itself as the largest voluntary group of state legislators in the country, but it is really a corporate-financed lobby that facilitates getting special interest legislation into the hands of lawmakers from every state in the country. In the words of Bill Moyers, ALEC is “the most influential corporate-funded political force most of America has never heard of” as noted in the “United States of ALEC…”

…ALEC is the epitome of a pay-to-play operation that gives special interests special access, but the way it conducts its operations is very unusual and troubling. That is why ALEC is subject to no fewer than three separate tax fraud complaints to the IRS, with supporting evidence provided by four groups: Common Cause, Clergy Voice, the Voters Legislative Transparency Project, and my organization, CMD…

ALEC Is Subject to Three Complaints Alleging Tax Fraud

  1. ALEC is registered as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, which means that corporations can theoretically deduct the thousands of dollars they pay ALEC to get their legislative wish lists in the hands of lawmakers. ALEC has routinely told the IRS that it engages in zero lobbying, even though numerous communications have been obtained through open records requests and other sources that show ALEC asking for legislation to be introduced, urging that specific legislation be adopted, and taking credit when its legislation becomes law. ALEC is no “charity” – it is a lobby that has routinely boasted to its corporate members that each year nearly 1,000 ALEC bills are introduced in state legislatures and nearly 20% become law…
  2. A review of ALEC task forces by CMD revealed that almost all of the for-profit corporations that participate in ALEC task forces are represented by their registered lobbyists or are described by their employers as their “government affairs” staffer within the corporation’s internal lobbying shop. CMD and Common Cause have also obtained documents showing that corporations have secretly and routinely sponsored bills at ALEC Task Force meetings and then voted on those bills with legislators at ALEC meetings. Under ALEC’s published bylaws, its state legislative leaders are tasked with a “duty” to get ALEC bills “introduced,” and they do. Some ALEC corporations then lobby for them without disclosing they pre-voted on them.

ALEC has repeatedly claimed to the IRS that it spends no money on travel for federal or state officials, but CMD has extensively documented that these claims are also contrary to the evidence. DBA Press and CMD obtained a three-year spreadsheet of corporate funding for trips by lawmakers along with the names of every corporation that funded the trips and all of the lawmakers who took them…

 …VLTP’s Bob Sloan has filed an IRS whistleblower complaint against ALEC based primarily on its scholarship program. Clergy Voice also complained about ALEC’s non-disclosed lobbying and how donations bring lawmakers to meet with corporate lobbyists and ALEC meetings while giving the corporations a tax write-off.

Additionally, CMD and Common Cause recently submitted supplemental evidence to the IRS in support of the initial complaint filed by Common Cause’s Mr. Edgar after CMD launched ALECexposed in July 2013. The supplemental filing last month provided the IRS with numerous documents obtained by DBA Press, CMD, and Common Cause in a number of states that show that ALEC has spent a projected $2 million for lawmaker travel in recent years on the state “scholarship” travel alone – in addition to more sums for lawmaker travel via the ALEC task forces. CMD and Common Cause have also asked each state Attorney General to examine whether ALEC is operating in violation of state law.

ALEC’s Corporate Funders Were Well Known before this Hearing

Accordingly, it is astonishing ALEC and a small number of its legislators – many of whom get their trips to ALEC resort meetings paid for by corporations, whose identities are well known to them – are taking umbrage at this Committee for inquiring about ALEC’s legislative agenda and which corporations have bankrolled it. The lawmakers know who funds ALEC’s bill machine and their trips, but until we launched ALECexposed two years ago, the public was largely in the dark about these special interests and the one-stop shopping ALEC provides for corporations and trade groups to secretly advance the same cookie-cutter bills in nearly every state.

Despite the hoopla trumped up over Senator Durbin’s letter, quite frankly, every single for-profit and non-profit corporation this Committee asked about its support for ALEC and its long-standing gun agenda is a corporation that is publicly known to have funded ALEC or participated in its meetings about bills, based on the investigative research of CMD, along with others like Common Cause, DBA Press, VLTP, CAP, Greenpeace, bloggers at Daily Kos, and many, many ordinary citizen sleuths…

Please take the time to read the full CMD testimony provided to the U.S. Senate by Lisa Graves and CMD -> HERE <-

 

Case Study on Alpine Steel: Prison Industry Subsidized by Taxpayers to Compete with Local Businesses Fails Spectacularly

Case Study on Alpine Steel: Prison Industry Subsidized by Taxpayers to Compete with Local Businesses Fails Spectacularly

by Bob Sloan – Cross-Posted from PRWatch

“The taxpayers have been left holding the bag…. As a result of this I think there is going to be a lot more oversight.”

Private prison profitsThose were statements made by Nevada Assemblyman James Ohrenschall in an interview on Vegas Inc. September 21. Mr. Ohrenschall is the former chairman of the Legislature’s Interim Finance Committee on Industrial Programs. At the time of that interview, the IFC Committee was meeting to investigate facts that prompted his concerns.

Ohrenschall was speaking of prison labor and Nevada prison industry’s partnership with Alpine Steel, LLC, that has resulted in nearly half a million dollars of debt owed to the state and a legislative reform of the state’s prison industry program.

When Vegas Inc. anchor Dana Gentry asked the Assemblyman if Nevada’s Department of Corrections (NDOC) or prison industry officials were being held accountable in any way, he responded, “I believe that they will be held accountable…” The oversight authority for prison industries is the Legislature’s Interim Finance Committee on Industrial Programs (IFC-IP). Critics had accused the committee of not providing sufficient oversight or vetting of NDOC contracts with private companies and not enforcing compliance with key statutory duties of the committee. The Committee served, more or less, to “rubber stamp” proposals brought before it by the NDOC without fully determining the impact a new proposed industry would have on Nevada workers and competing businesses.

The Nevada labor force is now represented by two members on the IFC: Robbie Conway of Ironworkers Local 433 and Mike Magnani of Teamsters Local 986. With their dedication to protecting the rights and jobs of Nevada’s workers, it is likely that situations similar to the one involving Alpine will not reoccur.

After the investigation of Alpine Steel, members of the IFC appear to realize that prison labor competing for jobs needed by Nevada’s unemployed is a serious issue that needs constant vigilance. Doubling the number of labor representatives on the committee overseeing prison industries is expected to improve oversight.

With the addition of Conway to the Committee and a new Chairman, the current IFC appears to be a genuine “oversight” body now. They asked key questions, probed for responsive answers and asked IFC member Cox and Deputy Director Connett to provide materials to them supporting answers they provided to the Committee at the initial meeting on the 20th.

Despite Huge Subsidies (and Prison Labor) Alpine Steel Incurs Big Debt

The sad saga of prisoners being used for their labor by private contractors in Nevada continues to amaze the citizens of this state.

Randy Bulloch, CEO of Alpine Steel

Alpine Steel, LLC owner, Randy Bulloch

The story began late last year when steel companies began protesting to NDOC and legislative authorities saying they were being unfairly forced to compete against a local company using inmate labor. Business owners asserted they had lost bids on projects and thus were unable to expand their businesses or hire more workers due to interference from Nevada’s prison industry operations.

Claims were made that dozens of Las Vegas steel workers were being denied jobs and others possibly displaced due to the use of prisoners as a slave-labor force by Alpine Steel, LLC. The NDOC had given Alpine’s owner, Randy Bulloch, a “sweetheart deal” consisting of inmate wage scale set at or below minimum wage (less than 1/2 of the current prevailing wage for Nevada’s steel workers), manufacturing facility leases (set at 66% below the going rate for such space outside prison), and utility costs at NDOC’s reduced rates.

Such state subsidies provided Alpine with a definite advantage over competitors when bids were sought for new projects in and around Las Vegas. Bids won by Alpine due to reduced overhead costs provided by the NDOC included: the “SkyVue Observation Wheel“, the Wet ‘n’ Wild water theme park, bridge work on an overpass over I-15, and the expansion of a mental hospital, among dozens more since 2006.

5th St. bridge over I-15, Las Vegas

5th St. bridge over I-15, Las Vegas

As this story unfolded earlier this year, it was discovered that in spite of receiving the huge financial benefits mentioned above, Alpine was in arrears on payments for inmate wages, staff salaries, utility costs, leases, and workers compensation premiums. In essence, the evidence suggested that the bulk of Alpine’s Las Vegas operation was being quietly financed by the NDOC with state tax dollars.

In addition, prison industry critics learned the IRS had recorded a lien of more than $600,000 dollars against the company; a tax lien had also been filed by the state DOR and several steel suppliers had placed liens against Alpine for failing to pay for materials. (These liens continue to pile up: last month, the IRS recorded a second tax lien upon the company for more than $30,000.)

The story became public through the media and in December 2012 — under pressure from the Board of Prison Commissioners (BPC) and an order from Governor Sandoval — NDOC Director Greg Cox closed down Alpine’s steel fabrication operation at the High Desert State Prison complex. Members of the BPC and the IFC-IP called for some form of personal guarantee from Bulloch to ensure the taxpayers were not left on the hook for nearly half a million dollars owed by Alpine.

Estate of Alpine Steel CEO Randy Bulloch

Randall Bulloch’s estate in Summerlin

In January, Connett and Bulloch reached an agreement on repaying the money Alpine owed to the state. Connett negotiated through Deputy Attorney General Carrie Parker on AG Catherine Cortez Masto’s staff and got her to approve a proposed forbearance agreement setting the Alpine debt at $438,000+ with no interest, penalties or additional fines.

Incredibly, the terms of the agreement failed to include any personal guarantee from Alpine’s owner Bulloch — who resides in a multi-million dollar, 9,400 square foot, guarded and gated estate — while owing millions in state, federal and personal liens — much of that owed to taxpayers.

Though many including the Interim Finance Committee and Secretary of State had demanded such a provision, the final document left any personal guarantee out of the agreement. If a default occurred, Randy Bulloch’s personal property and other assets would be untouchable — and the debt likely uncollectable. The substantial IRS lien precedes and takes precedence over the newly filed NDOC summary judgment, making it less likely the state will be able to recover any of the outstanding debt until the IRS lien is satisfied.

It is incomprehensible to most that in the face of more than a million dollars owed to the IRS, creditors and the state of Nevada, the NDOC would negotiate an agreement on additional debt owed by Alpine without seeking any form of personal guarantee from the company’s owner. Similarly it defied belief that a member of the AG’s staff failed to demand such a personal guarantee for the debt, knowing the repayment plan was being sought for a company that was already in deep financial trouble.

The Alpine contract is at the core of this problematic situation involving the use of state owned facilities and prisoner labor. The NDOC failed to take appropriate action to cure Alpine’s continued default for more than three years. Incredibly, Connett issued a new contract to Alpine in 2011 while the company was in serious default — without requiring the company to come current on its debt — and the IFC-IP approved the contract without knowing of the default(s).

Allowing a contractor to operate for more than four years without making required payments and taking no steps to stop the bleeding of tax dollars before renewing a contract, demonstrates a total lack of responsibility to the state administration and the taxpayers.

Only after the story broke in the media was the Governor, the IFC members and the BPC made aware of the full amount owed due to nonpayment(s). With Attorney General Cortez-Masto sitting on the BPC, the absence of any personal guarantee from Bulloch in the forbearance agreement signed off on by her agency is puzzling.

The NDOC Defends Alpine and Dodges Questions about the Money Due

NDOC Director James "Greg" Cox

NDOC Director James “Greg” Cox

The NDOC’s Director Cox was contacted about details of this debt and any related negotiations. His office forwarded the query to NDOC Deputy Director Brian Connett, who is also the NDOC Public Information Officer. Connett is also the current chairman of the board of the “National Correctional Industries Association” (NCIA), which oversees the Prison Industry Enhancement Certification Program (PIECP).

As of press time, both the Director and Deputy Director have declined to respond. In the discussion at the IFC meeting on the 20th, Connett and Cox specifically directed the members and public to address questions to the AG’s office for a response.

Due to the costly default by Alpine, the state Senate proposed legislation — SB 478 — to amend the rules governing the IFC (NRS 209.461). In addition to adding a second labor representative to the IFC, the bill created a new provision requiring any company wishing to contract with the prison industry program to post a personal guarantee, surety or bond of not less than 100% of the pro-rated annual amount of the contract.

The measure passed and became effective July1, 2013. The NDOC was told to propose new administrative regulations to comply with the changes at the upcoming October 15 meeting of the Board of Prison Commissioners (BPC).

The NDOC’s prison industries (PI) accounts receivable increased rapidly in 2009 to nearly $900,000.

In 2010, the prison industry turned over more than $800,000 in accounts receivable to a collection agency and, for fiscal year 2012, it claimed an additional outstanding accounts receivable balance of $614,200 for a combined potential loss of $1.4 million in revenue in just two years of operations.

On September 20th, the new IFC-IP held its first meeting following the end of the biennial session. One of the main items on that agenda was the discussion of Alpine Steel and the debt owed to the state and state taxpayers.

NDOC Deputy Director Brian Connett

NDOC Deputy Director of Prison Industries, Brian Connett

NDOC Deputy Director Brian Connett read a prepared statement regarding Alpine Steel to the Committee:

“I will read the statement that we have in regards to addressing Alpine Steel…”

“The prison industry has been working very closely with our deputy attorney general and the attorney general’s office on the Alpine Steel situation through our counsel. PI entered into a forbearance agreement with Alpine Steel in January. Basically the terms were that Alpine would make $5,000 monthly payments with balloon payments of a minimum of $20,000 due at the end of June and at the end of December. Alpine made their monthly payments for February through June. Those payments totaled $25,000. Alpine could not make their balloon payment due at the end of June.”

“Again, working with our DAG [Deputy Attorney General], an amendment to the forbearance agreement was created. It amended the balloon payment due to a minimum payment of $10,000 that was due no later than August 30th and an additional minimum payment of $10,000 that was due no later than October 15th.”

“Alpine defaulted on their $5,000 payment due July 15th [and] our DAG and the prison industries quickly filed a summary judgment against Alpine Steel as a result of the breach. The state has been awarded a summary judgment against the Alpine Steel for $428,208 plus post judgment interest growing at the rate of 1/2 percent per month. So being a state agency, this judgment creates a lean on the Alpine’s real and personal property. The collection of these has been turned over to the state controller’s office for the collection process. Thank you.”

Under questioning from Committee members, NDOC’s Deputy Director Connett and NDOC’s Director Cox at times gave somewhat evasive answers.

For example, when asked point blank if any of Nevada’s prisoner-made products were “exported” out of state, Connett responded that state services were the prison industry’s largest customer.

On another matter, they admitted that Alpine’s equipment was still in place at the “High Desert State Prison” (HDSP), saying Alpine had been “locked out” of the facility since December and the NDOC was actively attempting to rent the space to another contractor. Apparently these officials are comfortable with losing a potential $5,000 per month in lease income by keeping the space filled with Alpine’s equipment.

Connett’s new demeanor concerning Alpine has done an about-face of late. Previously, Deputy Director Connett had appeared at several hearings and meetings in support of Alpine, advocating that the company and its prison labor program be kept open, even in the face of the increasing debt. Connett was the sole defender of Alpine in the media and before the BPC and IFC hearings. He now no longer speaks favorably of Alpine in public.

The newest IFC member, Robbie Conway, asked how long it had been since Alpine had been at the prison shop. Director Cox indicated he’d shut the operation down on December 23, 2012, but he did not confirm that Alpine had not been there after that date. Conway went on to ask, “Are we certain that Alpine’s equipment is wholly owned by them or is there is a chance that it is in debt also?”

Connett answered: “There may be some questions on the ownership of some of that property out there.”

Director Cox quickly added: “It is clear and it’s my understanding there is property out there that does not belong to Alpine. So before anything is released, it will go though the attorney general’s office and go through the process.”

Connett added he had inventoried Alpine’s equipment but had failed to secure an appraisal of it.

In a situation such as this where a substantial debt has been incurred, with an ongoing default on a contract and equipment has been seized and being held as collateral against that debt, an evaluation of the “collateral” should be secured quickly to determine the actual financial risk at stake if a judgment results.

Alpine had been in arrears for several years when the NDOC closed down the prison project last December due to the outstanding debt. It is more than odd under those circumstances that since December the NDOC failed to determine the value of the collateral they hold against a $428,000 debt. Now finding that some of the equipment seized and held is not even owned by Bulloch or Alpine puts the state in an even more untenable position to recover the debt.

Key Questions about the Debt Owed Taxpayers Remain Unanswered

Unfinished Alpine Steel SkyVue Observation Wheel

View of stalled SkyVue Observation Wheel project

In response, the Deputy Attorney General — with whom the NDOC has been working on the Alpine case, as noted by Connett’s statement — was asked the following questions that NDOC had failed to answer:

  1. Did the Deputy Director of the NDOC, Mr. Connett and Alpine owner, Mr. Bulloch, negotiate the terms and conditions of the forbearance agreement and then seek approval from the AG’s office?
  2. If the answer is no, that the AG’s office negotiated the terms, did your office seek a personal guarantee from Mr. Bulloch on the debt owed?
  3. In the face of multiple ongoing liens, defaults and creditor/vendor litigation(s) against Alpine Steel, did you suggest a condition that a personal guarantee from Mr. Bulloch be included to ensure repayment should a default occur?
  4. Has anyone come forth and filed a claim of ownership on any of the equipment held by the NDOC at HDSP? [S]ome of the equipment seized by the NDOC as collateral on the debt owed by Alpine has been determined to be the property of a third party. If this is factual, will your office release any Alpine equipment that is claimed by another individual or company?
  5. With IRS and other liens pre-dating the summary judgment awarded to the state last month, will any assets owned by Alpine and held as collateral by the NDOC first go to satisfy those preexisting liens? If so how does the state intend to recover the loss of the $428,000+ debt of Alpine?

The official response from the AG’s office came from its Public Information Officer, Jennifer Lopez:

“My colleague Carrie L. Parker, Deputy Attorney General, Bureau of Government Affairs, mentioned you had questions about Alpine Steel, LLC, Randall Bulloch and the Nevada Dept. of Corrections. We have discussed your question and think because you are seeking attorney-client privileged information, it is best for you to direct this inquiry to Silver State Industries,” which is part of NDOC.

So the “official” response redirects inquiries back to the NDOC which has already directed questions to the AG’s office. Between the two agencies, it appears that in the Alpine matter transparency is non-existent and deliberately so.

During the meeting Connett stated that the PI’s accounts receivable is now $119,567.66 — which would represent a serious decrease from 2012. However, the debt owed by Alpine has been not been collected.

Although the past due account shows a marked recovery, that may be an illusion. Alpine’s $428,208 has merely been transferred from one state department to another state department creating the appearance that PI is recovering financially. The loss of nearly half a million tax dollars still exists but is no longer on PI’s books. Adding Alpine’s default amount to the AR figure provided by Connett shows that without transferring Alpine’s debt, PI’s accounts receivable would be $547,775.66, not significantly different from 2012’s levels.

Earlier this year, Alpine’s license with the Nevada State Contractors Board (NSCB) was reduced to $500,000, but the NSCB allowed Alpine to remain in business.

Despite multiple defaults to the IRS, Nevada’s Department of Taxation, the NDOC contract, vendor invoices and payments on worker’s compensation payments, Alpine has continued to operate, putting out bids on new projects even as Bulloch lays off Alpine employees. Some of those let go have stated that they worked for the company at reduced wages and without receiving overtime due them.

Will Alpine Steel’s License Be Revoked on October 9?

NSCB was asked if that agency is considering revocation of Alpine’s license. NSCB’s Public Information Officer, Jennifer Turner  responded:

“Alpine Steel is scheduled to come before the Board October 9, at which time it is requested they voluntarily surrender their license.”

The NCSB appears to be the sole state agency/department that has decided enough is enough and has taken less than eight months to “cure” Alpine’s non-compliance with state law and hold the company and its owner personally responsible for their actions in some way.

Had the NDOC and the Attorney General’s office adopted the same position months ago, perhaps the amount of the debt owed by Alpine would be guaranteed by Bulloch, providing some hope to taxpayers that the more than half a million dollars owed would be recovered.

It remains to be seen if members of the BPC will ask tough questions — similar to those previously posed to the NDOC and AG’s office — at the upcoming meeting on the 15th. Perhaps they will get complete answers to important questions regarding how and when the state can recover the Alpine debt.

After the Board of Prison Commissioners meeting on the 15th of October, a follow-on article will be published. With the introduction of the new regulations and the removal of Alpine from the prison industry program, perhaps the Alpine saga will finally be put to rest.

Cyber Schools Fleece Taxpayers for Phantom Students and Failing Grades

Cyber Schools Fleece Taxpayers for Phantom Students and Failing Grades

Many times we’ve written about attacks upon our public school system by corporate interests wishing to capitalize off of public tax dollars spent on education.  Cyber schools are some of the most misunderstood programs by parents.  Journalist Mary Bottari at PRWatch has done an excellent job of ferreting through the data – ciphering information from dis-information – to give parents and students a more complete understanding of why Cyber School programs are failing.  Not only failing to achieve the results promised, but companies like K-12, Inc. are amassing huge profits from tax dollars as our children’s education is set back decades.

The full article is a must read for parents, teachers and those trying to decide whether long distance learning and charter schools are the future of America’s education program.

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by Mary Bottari at PRWatch

“The data is in and K12 Inc.’s brand of full-time public “cyber school” is garbage. Not surprising for an educational model kicked off with a $10 million investment from junk-bond king Michael Milken.

“Milken was the Wall Street financier who virtually invented junk-bonds — high-risk securities that were used to leverage hostile buyouts in the “go-go” 1980s. Milken came to symbolize Wall Street excess, serving as inspiration for the Michael Douglas character Gordon Gekko in the 1987 movieWall Street. Milken spent almost two years in a federal penitentiary for securities fraud.

“After he was released from prison, Milken set his sights on the $600 billion public education “market,” forming new companies including Knowledge Universe and Knowledge Learning, parent company of the KinderCare child care chain. With his $10 million stake in K12 Inc., Milken aided one of his Vice Presidents and another junk dealer, Ron Packard, who specialized in mergers and acquisitions for Goldman Sachs back in the ’80s.

“The duo prepped to exploit the public education sector, and boy, have they. His various educational ventures have made Milken one of the richest men in America, and Packard ra

Explosion of For-Profit “Virtual Schools” Linked to ALEC

In recent years, there has been an explosion of full-time “virtual” charter schools paid for by the taxpayer. From 2008 to 2012, 157 bills passed in 39 states and territories (including the District of Columbia) that expand online schooling or modify existing regulations. Many of these bills are attributable to American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) politicians.

ALEC approved a “model” Virtual Public Schools Act in 2005 at a time when both K12 Inc. and Connections Academy (the second largest for-profit) were corporate sponsors and helped craft the measure, according to ALEC’s website at the time. Connections Academy quit ALEC under pressure, but K12 Inc. remains on the ALEC Education Task Force and helped sponsor the organization’s recent 40th anniversary shindig in Chicago…”

Read Mary’s full, informative article at PRWatch -> HERE <- or at Truthout -> HERE <-

Koch Bros Retainer to PRWatch: “Bring It!”

Koch Bros Retainer to PRWatch: “Bring It!”

mary bottariby Mary Bottari at PRWatch

“Some interesting emails were released as part of theMilwaukee Journal Sentinel’s ongoing investigation of a $500,000 taxpayer grant awarded to the Koch-tied United Sportsmen’s group. The grant was tailor-made for United Sportsmen and slipped into the budget by State Representative Scott Suder as one of his last acts as a state legislator. (Suder, who also served as ALEC’s Wisconsin State Chair, was given a new job at the Public Utilities Commission and a $45,000 pay raise by Governor Scott Walker.)

“United Sportsmen of Wisconsin (USW) is a relatively new group that spent more money defending Scott Walker in the recall election than on deer licenses, and more money lobbying for a four mile, open-pit iron ore mine that threatens to shut down a large swath of state forest, than educating people about hunting.

“After the Journal Sentinel reported on the sweetheart deal for this little-known group, CMD/PRwatch uncovered the organization’s deep ties to David Koch’s Americans for Prosperity and the Tea Party. United Sportsmen’s website was registered by an AFP staffer, the group coordinated with AFP to send misleading mailers in advance of the 2011 recall elections, and AFP and United Sportsmen co-sponsored a “Freedom Fest” party in advance of the 2012 elections featuring Republican politicians and right-wing personalities. Luke Hilgemann, Suder’s former Chief of Staff, until recently headed the Wisconsin chapter of AFP and now is #2 at the national organization. CMD also uncovered how the United Sportsmen Board was populated by right-wing apparatchicks, including John Keegan, head of the Sauk County Tea Party, and Annette Olson, the Americans for Prosperity “Activist of the Year” for 2012 and leader of the Tea Party groups Women United for Liberty and Uninfringed Liberty.

“The Journal Sentinel also reported that the group “misled” law makers about its non-profit charitable status. The ensuing outrage over the blatant cronyism prompted Walker to rescind the grant September 5th, but Suder still has his plum job…”

Read the full PRWatch article -> HERE <-