common cause

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.

 

Activists, Union Workers and Chicagoan’s Prepare for ALEC’s August Conference

Activists, Union Workers and Chicagoan’s Prepare for ALEC’s August Conference

by Bob Sloan

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) plans to celebrate their 40th birthday from August 7th to the 9th this year.  A big event for this predominantly conservative organization, to be sure.  The birthday bash coincides with ALEC’s Annual Meeting – one of several key events held annually where corporate prepared legislation is introduced to more than 2,000 state lawmakers to be carried back to their home turf and introduced as proposed new laws.

This year the ALEC Annual Meeting will differ from 37 of the previous 39 such meetings as activists, American workers, protesters and Anarchists are preparing a rousing “welcome” for ALEC’s members – corporate and legislative – when they arrive in Chicago.  Similar protests and rallies against ALEC have marked each of their yearly events since April 2011 when a small group of students and liberal activists held the very first Anti-ALEC protest in Cincinnati.  Following that protest a whistleblower came forward and released hundreds of secret ALEC documents and proposed “model legislation” to the Center for Media and Democracy.  CMD launched “ALEC Exposed” at PRWatch and published the documents for American’s to read, evaluate and discuss.  As more and more citizens became aware of ALEC, the groundswell of anger over such manipulation of our daily lives by a corporate “charity” grew…as did the number of protests.

Following Cincy, protesters and activists followed ALEC to New Orleans for the next meeting…then to Phoenix, Charlotte, Salt Lake City, Oklahoma City and now they’re preparing for Chicago and perhaps the largest turnout of protesters yet.  The growth of ALEC protesters has grown in part due to the involvement of America’s workers – union and non-union – who continue to suffer job losses and lack of available jobs due to ALEC’s pursuits of Right To Work (for less) and other initiatives to abolish organized labor or diminish their voices.  In Oklahoma this spring, the AFLCIO and Teamsters organized the ALEC protest and are again at the front in Chicago.  Their involvement and reporting on ALEC’s non union activities has attracted other strong unions such as AFSCME to participate in the Windy City protest.

At each subsequent ALEC event, the numbers of protesters have grown as more and more has become known about ALEC and their activities.  The public has become knowledgeable about some of the more oppressive laws beneficial to corporate interests disseminated by ALEC and passed through lobbying and campaign contributions from ALEC’s corporate membership.  These include such laws and initiatives as; Right To Work, voter ID legislation and suppression, stand your ground (Trayvon Martin), privatization of public schools, vouchers and “virtual” education (all of which benefit one or more of ALEC’s corporate members) and tort reforms that limit the ability of consumers to recover damages from malpractice or product related injury (such as cancer and illness from asbestos contamination).

Occupy Wall Street and other Occupy groups have also joined the ranks of those opposing ALEC, calling for Americans to turn-out and protest in Chicago.  Through it all, ALEC has maintained a staunch “fuck you” stance against all who oppose them and their agenda by continuing to advocate for corporate interests over the rights of Americans.  They enlisted the help of other right-wing think tanks in an attempt to deflect some of the bad publicity about them and more recently have attempted to avoid referring to themselves and their members as “ALEC” by requesting that the organization now be called the “Exchange Council” to avoid the stigma that has attached to “ALEC” since 2011.

ALEC decided to hold this bash in Chicago where the IRS Exempt 501 (c)(3) “charity” was born in 1973, formed by several disgruntled conservative Republicans looking for a way to change the course of the Republican party and eventually the path of the United States to one of conservative principles; limited government, free markets, individual liberty and federalism at the state level.  As with most terminology used by ALEC’s wordsmiths, the definition of these terms to ALEC supporters is far different than what one would find in Websters.  By founding ALEC as a “Charity” it has allowed ALEC to amass tens of millions of dollars to use in legislative efforts – without declaring or paying any taxes on those millions.  Further it allows individuals and corporate interests to also deduct their ALEC contributions, given in pursuit of seeking corporate-friendly legislation that fattens their bottom line(s).

Since 2011 there have been three complaints filed with the IRS, asking that agency to investigate ALEC’s use of “charitable” funds to advance legislation and promote lobbying, in violation of the 501 (c)(3) provisions and requesting that the charitable classification be rescinded and the government recover any taxes that should have been paid on money used to lobby and influence legislation.  All of these complaints are now pending and under consideration by the IRS.  VLTP is a complainant in one of those whistleblower complaints and awaits a determination by the IRS on the documents provided in that complaint.

To ALEC, limited government is defined as limiting the government’s ability to regulate actions of corporations, manufacturers or businesses that may cause harm to Americans. Individual liberty is seen as corporate liberty…the ability to operate without government interference at the sacrifice of true individual liberties of Americans.

Free-Markets are those markets controlled by ALEC’s more than 350 large, multinational companies that control specific markets by limiting the abilities of true small businesses to break into existing markets.

Federalism is perceived by ALEC as: “a government closest to the people is fundamentally more effective, more just, and a better guarantor of freedom than the distant, bloated federal government in Washington, D.C.”  In other words, since ALEC has a vast influence over state legislatures through membership and control of governor’s mansions in many states, turn over federal control to the states (and through them, ALEC) to run our country.

ALEC has been hugely successful in many of their hidden initiatives designed to meet their twisted definitions of such terms as federalism and free markets.  As an example we have only to look to the ongoing battles in Wisconsin (Governor Walker, an ALEC alum), Arizona (Governor Brewer and ALEC Alum), Ohio (Governor Kasich an ALEC alum) and South Carolina (Governor Haley another ALEC alum).  In each of these – and several other – states, the ALEC agenda has been pushed down the throat of voters by legislatures controlled by ALEC members and Governors who are members of ALEC’s large alumni pool; repeal of clean energy regulations, eliminating worker rights, lowering wages and attempting to abolish minimum wage, ending collective bargaining, privatizing our schools, prisons and government institutions, making it more difficult for minorities to vote and restricting women’s rights.

For all these reasons, ALEC must be pursued and abolished before our country can begin to heal and return to a form of democratic government on behalf of the people rather than the corporate interests and elite business owners.  Chicago next month is only the “next step” in the process of returning state governments to the will of the people and wrenching power from those who get such power by doing the bidding of their corporate masters through ALEC.

We hope that many readers will turn out for the various rallies and protests in Chicago (Unions planning a large event on August 8th at ALEC’s Palmer House Hotel).  If you are unable to attend, please consider contributing to the efforts of those organizations participating; VLTP, CMD, Common Cause, AFLCIO, AFSCME, PFAW, etc.  Your dollar may be the one that finally breaks ALEC’s stranglehold on our nation…

Legislative Leaders Push to Restore Funding for ALEC Trips

Legislative Leaders Push to Restore Funding for ALEC Trips

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Dee Voss

2013.04.01 at 09:18

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Madville Times

ALEC Right to Work (for Less) Battle in Missouri Heats Up

More disturbing news from the midwest.  Michigan, Wisconsin, Missouri?

First of all – let’s start with a recap of information from a report that was issued a few months ago – about the effect of implementing ALEC policies in your state. (my emphasis)

ALEC/Laffer claim that wage suppression policies (anti-union “right-to- work” laws and the lack of a state minimum wage law) lead to greater job creation and prosperity; in actuality, such laws reduce wages and benefits but have little to no effect on job growth (see Chapter 6).

These policies entail cutting or eliminating progressive taxes, suppressing wages, and cutting public services. The evidence and arguments cited to support the beneficial effects of these policies range from deeply flawed to nonexistent. In actuality, the book provides a recipe for economic inequality and declining incomes for most citizens and for depriving state and local governments of the revenue needed to maintain public infrastructure and education systems that are the underpinnings of long-term economic growth. ALEC’s policy prescriptions don’t work.
More →

The Massive New Liberal Plan to Remake American Politics

A month after President Obama won reelection, America’s most powerful liberal groups met to plan their next moves. Here’s what they talked about.

It was the kind of meeting that conspiratorial conservative bloggers dream about.

A month after President Barack Obama won reelection, top brass from three dozen of the most powerful groups in liberal politics met at the headquarters of the National Education Association (NEA), a few blocks north of the White House. Brought together by the Sierra Club, Greenpeace, Communication Workers of America (CWA), and the NAACP, the meeting was invite-only and off-the-record. Despite all the Democratic wins in November, a sense of outrage filled the room as labor officials, environmentalists, civil rights activists, immigration reformers, and a panoply of other progressive leaders discussed the challenges facing the left and what to do to beat back the deep-pocketed conservative movement… More →

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In the case of Mr. Horn More →

ALEC-New Partnerships and Exposing Hidden Foreign Influences – with a Comparison to the NCSL

ALEC Finds New Friends

Republican Study Committee (RSC) a Quiet New Partner

Seems ALEC is searching for legislative support through a new partnership as dozens of members – legislative and corporate – abandon membership in the organization.  In the article about this they provide the RSC is meeting with ALEC at the Heritage Foundation next week:

“Frankly, this gathering is long overdue,” Paul Teller, the executive director of the RSC said in a statement.

“As Washington encroaches more and more into state and local spheres, it’s important that conservative legislators at the federal and state levels collaborate on policies to stop and roll back the ever-expanding federal government.”

“Recent legislative proposals on Capitol Hill have focused on rolling back federal involvement in states, such as efforts to replace Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program with block grants and to allow states to opt out of the federal highway and mass transit programs. Those positions are very much in line with ALEC’s efforts to empower states…Kaitlyn Buss, a spokeswoman for ALEC, said in an email that there is “no formal partnership with ALEC and any organizations.”

“Obviously federalism is one of ALEC’s foundational principles, and so facilitating a conversation about federalism is very much in line with our work,” Buss added.”

I would suggest to the RSC that they fully research ALEC and understand the extent of the group’s efforts to “Roll Back” the federal government before ecstatically climbing into bed with them…but of course, since the RSC, ALEC and the Heritage Foundation were all founded by Conservative activist, Paul Weyrich, they’re already well acquainted.

This is why it is important for us to understand just how far ALEC will go to influence state sovereignty by attempting to lessen the controls exerted upon individual states through federal governmental controls and oversight. In the past the Heritage and members of the RSC have quietly lent assistance to ALEC in their pursuits – now it appears they are preparing to remove the curtain obscuring the close troika-like relationship. I think this removes any further claim of ALEC being truly “bi-partisan” in their operation and legislative pursuits.

Before we consider what the impact of a joint RSC/ALEC partnership against federal controls would have upon the U.S., we should first look at current ALEC activities along these lines involving memberships held by foreign representatives. Together ALEC’s state lawmakers work hand in hand with several influential foreign elected officials to establish US state and foreign policies and pass laws suggested by those representing foreign powers…and the claim ALEC makes that their activities are similar to those of the National Conference of State Legislators (NCSL)….not by a long shot More →

Center for Media and Democracy Comes Under Attack For Reporting on ALEC

A VLTP OP-ED in response to an article from PRWatch today  by Lisa Graves — August 29, 2012

“The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) sent a message to hundreds of legislators across the country attacking the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD), the creator of ALECexposed.org. Among other things ALEC claimed, “CMD is an attack-dog, not a watch-dog.”

The error-filled missive, which was intended to buck up the ALEC faithful as more and more corporations flee the organization, has us here at CMD pondering the old adage, “First they ignore you. Then they ridicule you. And then they want to attack you and then you win…”

You should read this important article by Lisa Graves here

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It appears the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is tiring of losing legislative and corporate members and support due to exposure of their ultra-conservative activities.

For years bloggers, citizen journalists at Daily Kos, PFAW, Think Progress and even foreign news services have reported on various activities and actions of ALEC.  Until 2011 those reports and mentions of ALEC were rare, sporadic and lacked any real depth about the organization.  This was because while many were concerned about the activities of this registered U.S. charity’s involvement in crafting and supporting partisan legislation, they had few facts and little documentation to work with.

Concerned citizen journalists at Daily Kos worked for a couple of years developing facts and documenting activities of ALEC.  In April of last year students activists from Cincinnati and many of the DK writers worked to plan and implement a protest and rally at ALEC’s Spring Summit held in that city. By anyone’s measurement the event held on April 29th could best be described as a “small but enthusiastic” event with Teach-Ins to educate Ohioans about ALEC and report on their activities.  There were speakers, a rally at Fountain Square and a couple of hundred of us marched around the hotel where ALEC’s corporate and legislative members were meeting to determine new laws they wanted imposed upon Americans.

ALEC members strolled through the rally, laughing and shaking their heads at such foolishness aimed at them.  Many smirked, asking; “ALEC? Alec who…Baldwin?”  Legislative members came out of the hotel during the march, attempting to speak with marchers and inform that “they” were not the ones supporting SB 1070 style legislation, or in favor of attacking collective bargaining…while around the corner at another entrance to the Hilton Netherland Plaza hotel corporate members laughed and pointed at marchers passing by, shaking their heads at the futile protest while they smoked their cigarettes and cigars, holding drinks in their hands.

Though all of this took place in view of the Cincinnati Enquirer’s windows, not one word about the protest march was reported in the Gannett owned paper. To the ALEC contingent and their supporters, the rally, march and teach-ins were nothing more than a minor inconvenience and served to fill them with a sense of pride that their power and influence were so vast – and opposition to both so small.

That all changed after the CMD and Nation Magazine went public with documents and materials turned over to a protest organizer in Cincinnati by a whistleblower associated with ALEC.  As the site “ALEC Exposed” went up in July 2011 with public access to all of the “model bills” in ALEC’s arsenal, the Nation and CMD published several articles detailing the model legislation disseminated by ALEC to every state and chronicled the impact that legislation had upon various segments of our society.

Third IRS Whistleblower Complaint Brought Against American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)

BREAKING NEWS FROM VLTP –

Earlier this year two complaints were filed against the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) by Common Cause and Clergy Voice, alleging major violations of IRS Code lobbying prohibitions committed by ALEC, a “charity” which enjoys a 501(c)(3) tax exempt status with the IRS.

ALEC claims their activities are all related to educating lawmakers and that none are related to lobbying for or against legislation or a particular candidate.  Nearly all of their activities, however, appear to be directly related to creating thousands of pieces of model legislation and lobbying for passage of each one in most U.S. states.  ALEC openly boasts a success rate of 17% of “their” model legislation becoming law.

The first two complaints address issues of lobbying and soliciting contributions from corporations, businesses and other organizations.  The contributions are then used to reimburse ALEC state legislative members for their travel, lodging and incidental expenses related to attending any of ALEC’s three annual events (Summits or Meetings).  The money is requested by ALEC’s state chairmen and when received they forward the funds to ALEC to “hold” until an event is concluded.  Then state legislators submit requests for reimbursement for the costs of their attending, and ALEC disburses the held funds.

A third issue involves state lawmakers strategizing with corporate lobbyists or representatives at these annual meetings to develop proposed legislation in one or more of nine (9) ALEC task forces.  Once adopted by ALEC these model bills are sent back to states with ALEC members who are required by ALEC’s by-laws to ensure introduction of any legislation adopted by ALEC.

The Voters Legislative Transparency Project (VLTP), Inc. filed a third complaint and in it reports that it concurs with and supports the allegations put forth in both of the now pending complaints.