Disenfranchisement

CABAL (ALEC, Koch, AEI, AFP) News for February…

CABAL (ALEC, Koch, AEI, AFP) News for February…

Click on headline to read full story/article…

John M. Crisp: Ideology must not trump educationn

‘…Thus, if you want to help the 14.7 million American children who are growing up poor, it serves your cause to point out that, according to the Children’s Defense Fund, the $77 billion that it would cost to reduce child poverty is much less than the $500 billion that poor children cost our nation every year.

And, thus, if you want to promote “school choice” over public education, your first and most prominent means of attack depends on promoting the economic benefits of getting more students out of public schools and into private schools.

That’s what’s happening in Texas right now. A bill has been filed in the Texas Senate that would establish a Taxpayer Savings Grant Program, which would divert public funds to vouchers that could be used to pay for private schools.

But the issue is national. The Texas bill is cobbled together from boilerplate supplied by the American Legislative Exchange Council (“Limited Government Free Markets Federalism”), a nonprofit organization headquartered in Arlington, Va. ALEC is dedicated to the promotion of conservative values and legislation. It provides an extensive menu of model bills suitable for sponsorship in every state, on issues ranging from climate change to “stand your ground” laws.

In the Texas version of ALEC’s vision for American education, vouchers for 60 percent of Texas’ per-student expenditure would be issued to parents who wish to transfer their children out of public schools.

War on Renewables Claims Victory in West Virginia

West Virginia lowered the bar on renewable energy this week when Governor Earl Ray Tomblin signed into law Tuesday the repeal of its Alternative and Renewable Energy Portfolio, enacted in 2009.

In doing so, West Virginia became the first state of the 29 that currently have renewable energy targets to completely eliminate previously passed standards. The previous low bar was set in Ohio last July, when its legislature passed and Governor John Kasich signed into law a two-year freeze of its standards. It too is looking at revoking them permanently; the legislature has convened a panel, loaded with fossil-fuel advocates, to ponder whether to move ahead on this…
….“This whole thing is a charade,” West Virginia citizen-activist Bill Howley told Inside Climate News.”The Republicans had made it a big issue in the elections and they want to be able to say, ‘See, we told you we were going to do something about it and look, here it is.’”

A nationwide push is underway to repeal standards in the states that have them, according to an AP story, which identified the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the far-right fossil-fuel dominated Heartland Institute, as primarily drivers in rejecting renewable energy standards. ALEC has been coordinating the effort to repeal these standards for several years with its “model bill” dubbed the “Electricity Freedom Act.”

Conservative Lobbying Group ALEC Said The Supreme Court Case Trying To Gut Obamacare Is Wrong

The central premise of King v. Burwell, a lawsuit asking the justices to gut much of the Affordable Care Act and take health insurance away from at least 8 million people, is that a seemingly innocuous choice made by many states actually has devastating consequences for the people in those states. In 2011, however, a leading conservative lobbying group rejected this central premise in a proposed legislative resolution offered to state lawmakers.

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is among the most influential conservative advocacy groups in the country. ALEC crafts model legislation that can be introduced by conservative state lawmakers, much of which has gone on to become the law in several states. The “Stand Your Ground” legislation which permits people in many states to shoot others and get away with it, for example, was pushed by ALEC. So are state laws making it harder to vote, keeping workers’ wages low, and blocking paid sick leave for workers.

In October of 2011, ALEC’s board of directors approved a model resolution that state lawmakers could pass, which asserted that “it is not in the best interest of the state for any state official to participate in planning or establishing health insurance exchanges as provided for in the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.” Significantly, however, the resolution also disagreed with the central premise of King v. Burwell, the lawsuit attacking the Affordable Care Act.

Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner Proposes Local Right-to-Work Zones, Ban On Political Spending By Public Sector Unions

Illinois’ new Republican governor, Bruce Rauner, and organized labor have never gotten along. Now the relationship is souring even more. In his first State of the State address since taking office in January, Rauner voiced support for two proposals that are anathema to U.S. organized labor: so-called right-to-work zones and a ban on political spending by public sector unions.

Under Illinois law, unions are permitted to collect dues from all the workers they are legally certified to represent in a given workplace. The idea is to prevent nonmembers from “free-riding,” that is, receiving the benefits of a union contract without paying for the costs of negotiation and administration. “Right-to-work” laws prevent unions from making membership automatic and collecting fees from nonmembers.

In his speech to the legislature Wednesday afternoon, Rauner argued in favor of local-level right-to-work laws — which he termed “employee empowerment zones” — as a form of economic stimulus…

“…Gov. Rauner’s right-to-work-for-less scheme would cause wages to significantly drop for all working families while decimating the middle class,” Tom Balanoff, Illinois State Council president of the Service Employees International Union, said in a statement. “Right to work for less is not economic development. It is not empowerment. It is economic regression.”

Rauner’s support for local right-to-work comes on the heels of a push from conservative groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council and the Heritage Foundation to pass such measures in cities, towns and counties across the country. These groups say such laws promote economic growth by attracting employers who would otherwise be put off by a strong union presence. Since last December, five counties in Kentucky have approved right-to-work ordinances.

ALEC’s Legislative Bawdy House

Do you know Alec? You probably do, even though you never heard of it.

Yes, “it.” Not a person, ALEC is the acronym for a secretive, corporate-funded, state policy front group: American Legislative Exchange Council. ALEC’s “exchange” is very straightforward – it takes about $6 million a year from corporate powers in exchange for linking them directly to hundreds of right-wing state legislators. Like a speed-dating service, ALEC convenes two-to-three dozen private confabs each year, putting corporate executives face to face with lawmakers. In these closed-door sessions, the special needs of corporations are matched with eager-to-please legislators who go back home to push the corporate agenda into state law.

If your legislature is suddenly trying to take away workers’ bargaining rights, outlaw citizen lawsuits against abusive corporations, privatize public schools, reduce corporate income taxes while raising taxes on retirees, and otherwise advance extremist, special-interest notions that go against the public will and the common good – chances are you have lawmakers who’re carrying bills handed to them in one of ALEC’s backroom tête-à-têtes…

Associated Press Hides Dirty Energy Interests Behind Anti-Renewables Campaign

“The Associated Press reported that national groups including the Heartland Institute and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) are heralding the repeal of West Virginia’s alternative energy mandate as a lynchpin to repeal stronger renewable energy standards in other states. But the AP identified the Heartland Institute and ALEC only as “national small government groups,” ignoring their significant ties to the fossil fuel industry…
“…As The Washington Post has noted, “In many cases, the groups involved [in efforts to undermine renewable energy standards and other environmental initiatives] accept money from oil, gas and coal companies that compete against renewable energy suppliers.” The anti-renewables campaign by Heartland and ALEC is a case in point.

“The Heartland Institute, infamous for its annual climate denial conferences, received over $700,000 from Exxon Mobil between 1998 and 2006. Heartland has also received significant funding from organizations with ties to the oil billionaire Koch Brothers, including the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation and DonorsTrust, which has been partially funded by the David Koch-chaired Americans for Prosperity Foundation…”

ALEC Helps Philip Morris Block Plain Packaging Tobacco Rules

“Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” featured a segment Sunday on how Philip Morris and other tobacco companies are suing countries around the world to limit ways the government can alert the public about the life-threatening risks of smoking. Oliver–who awarded the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) the honorary title of “Associate Producer of Creating Horrifying Things for Us to Talk About” of his show last season–detailed how Big Tobacco has been lobbying to limit graphic warnings on cigarettes. He did not mention how ALEC has helped the tobacco companies, with whom it has a long shared history and from whom it receives significant funding, push their anti-regulatory agenda globally.

Jeb Bush in ‘95: We need more for-profit prisons

Jeb Bush began his political career as a firebrand soldier of the Republican Revolution.

Although he’s now widely known as the moderate Republican choice for 2016, Bush ran multiple campaigns for Florida governor while promoting the “deinvention of government” through broad privatization and the rapid shrinking of the public sector—including the transformation of the state’s prison system into a for-profit industry.

Now a national candidate facing a public much more skeptical of private prisons and harsh sentencing, Bush currently supports relatively liberal criminal justice reforms and lighter sentencing laws. In the 1990s, however, he played the conservative tough-on-crime issue at top volume.

“People now cannot walk on their streets without fear of crime!” Bush said during his 1993 gubernatorial campaign. “The simple fact is we are not safe. Not in our homes, not anywhere.”

While Florida crime had just begun a 20-year decline that continues to this day, Bush spent much of the 1990s pushing to build more for-profit prisons in the Sunshine State and around the country, with the stated dual-goals of putting as many criminals in jail as possible and saving taxpayer money at the same time.

“Our criminal justice system is also an obvious target for privatization,” Bush wrote in a 1995 essay in Imprimis, an influential conservative publication. “Our prison population has doubled in recent years, and we are spending billions of dollars on prison construction and operation each year. But, according to a number of independent estimates, partial privatization could save an incredible sum—as much as 10-20 percent.”

In fact, Florida’s private prisons have notoriously had trouble reaching even the state-mandated 7 percent savings at several institutions…

Letter: EPA regulations needed to fight warming

EDITOR: In a recent column, MacIver Institute director Brett Healy predicted economic disaster for Wisconsin due to coming Environmental Protection Agency regulations designed to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants. A check on sourcewatch.org reveals Healy’s organization is allied with the right-wing American Legislative Exchange Council. We can thank ALEC and friends for the recent fixed-rate increase just to bring electricity to our meters.

Healy totally ignored the fact that our planet is heating up, due largely to record levels of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere. Healy clearly has an agenda. You and I may or may not agree with it.

I do understand his distaste for governmental regulations that often hamper the flow of the competitive marketplace. Still, regulations like the EPA’s exist to solve serious problems in the absence of effective legislative solutions. Our planet is undeniably heating up, and our oceans are undeniably rising. If we don’t reduce our carbon dioxide and methane emissions, our future is certainly imperiled.

The Citizens Climate Lobby proposes a legislative solution that Republican legislators like U.S. Rep. Sean Duffy and U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, and Democrats like U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin all should support. This proposal puts a long overdue, annually increasing fee on carbon dioxide and methane emissions, and returns all the money collected to you and me. As the price of coal, oil and gas rises, as renewable technologies improve and prices drop, we will make marketplace choices that ultimately save our planet. Your legislators need to hear from you.

Dan Barth,

Mosinee

ALEC’s Latest Scam Is Sending Public School Dollars to Corporate Owned Private Schools

It never ceases to amaze that as Republicans trumpet America’s greatness and exceptionalism, they paint a deplorable picture of the nation and in typical conservative fashion lay all the blame on government and particularly the waste of money on its social programs. The truth is their main complaint is using government funds to support any program that does not funnel taxpayer dollars to corporations and the wealthy, and they have particularly focused on what they call an obscene waste of money on public education that in their corporatist libertarian philosophy is better spent on for-profit private and religious schools. To bolster their contention that public education is failing miserably, they cite the deplorable performance of students enrolled in the public school systems, and they have had valuable assistance from corporate-owned media and the Koch brothers American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) who want to send taxpayer dollars earmarked for public schools to corporate-owned private schools and religious programs…

Ed Hughes: Scott

Walker’s plan for charter schools outdoes ALEC in privatizing education
Gov. Scott Walker’s plan to privatize authority over charter schools is a trifecta of bad public policy, “untested, excessive, and irresponsible,” Madison School Board member Ed Hughes on his blog.

Walker’s plan, as laid out in his 2016-2017 budget proposal, would privatize and politicize charter schools beyond what is being done anywhere else in the country, Hughes wrote.

The bill calls for the creation of a new state panel of political appointees that, instead of considering charter school applications itself, would review applications by nonprofit organizations to become charter school authorizers that could, in turn, enter into contracts with charter school operators for an unlimited number of charter schools…

…As specified in model legislation by the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council, state authorities would be charged to assure that members of Walker’s proposed state board on charter authorization are “geographically diverse and have experience and expertise in governing public and nonprofit organizations; in management and finance; in public school leadership, assessment, and curriculum and instruction; and in education law; and understand and are committed to the use of charter schools to strengthen public education.”

Wisconsin Lawmakers’ Economic Development Proposal Seems To Be From ALEC’s Playbook

In late January, two Republican Wisconsin lawmakers representing Milwaukee’s suburbs released an economic development plan for the city’s poorest neighborhoods that seems to draw straight from the American Legislative Exchange Council’s (ALEC) playbook.

The “New Opportunities for Milwaukee” plan, proposed by Rep. Dale Kooyenga (R-Brookfield) and Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills), details what the lawmakers say will be solutions for the city’s chronically impoverished economy…

…The proposals outlined include “right-to-work” legislation, zero percent corporate tax laws, the repeal of minimum wage laws, and the creation of for-profit charter schools instead of public schools.

Canadian Supreme Court: Public workers have the right to strike

(“Radical” ALEC modeled legislation on RTW spills over into Canada and is defeated…)

OTTAWA, Ont. – In a ruling that points up the differences – in workers’ favor – between Canada and the U.S., the Canadian Supreme Court has ruled that public workers there have a constitutional right to strike.

The 5-2 decision on Feb. 4 in a case from Saskatchewan, is grounded in Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms-its constitution-the justices said. But it also reflects the fact that Canadian labor law, province by province, is more pro-worker than U.S. labor law. Many U.S. public workers, including all federal workers, lack the right to strike.

The Right-Wing Canadian federal government, which has a slim parliamentary majority, has been making noises about trying to override provincial labor laws and curb worker rights. It’s considering schemes crafted by the secretive Radical Right corporate American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) in the U.S., which several GOP-run states have approved.

Senate Doozies: Big Votes on Common Core, Special Needs, Car Stickers

…With a 29-18 vote, the Senate passed SB 2389, which is more or less a symbol that enacts a compact for a balanced budget. Sen. Joey Fillingane, R-Sumrall, introduced the bill, saying that it essentially just sends a message to the federal government, urging them to limit their spending.

#Democrats pressed Fillingane, worried that the bill would prevent Mississippi from getting needed federal dollars.

#Sen. David Blount, D-Jackson, noted that SB 2389 is an American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) bill, considering that it is nearly identical to a bill ALEC drafted.

#When Blount asked why Mississippi would need to take measures to balance the federal budget instead of letting the U.S. Speaker of the House handle it, Fillingane said, “We all need encouragement.”

ALEC’s Corporate Membership Exodus Continues

ALEC’s Corporate Membership Exodus Continues

by bob sloan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ALEC News, Views and Material for Week of April 8th

ALEC News, Views and Material for Week of April 8th

News and articles relating to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) for the first week of April 2014.  Click on the headline to visit and read the full article or page where the information originates.

New developments in North Carolina and Wisconsin are forcing legislators to be more transparent regarding “model legislation” and identifying where bills originate…

Court: NC Legislators Must Reveal Documents, Purpose Behind Challenged Voting ‘Reform’

A U.S. District judge has ruled that Republican legislators in North Carolina must provide documents revealing their work in passing and implementing a radical election reform bill which, when it was passed last year, was described by opponentsas the “worse-than-anyone-would-have-ever-imagined voter suppression bill.”

Late last week, U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge Joi Elizabeth Peake issued anOrder [PDF] in which she rejected a blanket refusal by NC Republican state legislators to provide any documents that relate to the question of whether the sweeping legislation known as the Voter Information Reform Act (“VIVA” aka HB 589) amounted to nothing less than a racially-motivated attempt to deprive African-Americans of their constitutional right to vote…

…The effort is national in character because it has been concocted by Republicans along with the Koch brothers-funded, Paul Weyrich co-foundedAmerican Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), an organization of rightwing legislators and corporations seeking to pass “model legislation” on issues from election reform to so-called “stand your ground” gun laws to other so-called “free-market” initiatives.

The speed with which the NC GOP was able to ram through what the NAACP described as an “armada of amendments” to VIVA would surprise only those who are unfamiliar with the ALEC scheme to privatize the legislative process; secretly drafting, delivering and, in those states where the GOP maintains a legislative majority, passing ALEC-model bills, such as polling place Photo ID restrictions, all without any meaningful public debate.

Similar bills have been introduced in various state legislatures by one or more of some 2,000 ALEC legislative members. It seemed little coincidence that NC’s state Sen. Tom Apodaca (R), who, within hours of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Shelby County announced, “Now we can go with the full bill,” just happens to be a legislative member of ALEC.

“Before the bills are publicly introduced in state legislatures by ALEC politicians or alumni in the governor’s offices,” according to Lisa Graves, whose Center for Media and Democracy obtained copies of more than 800 ALEC model bills, “they will be cleansed of any reference to the secret corporate voting or who really wrote them.” 

More lawmakers pushing identical bills written by national groups

Arizona lawmakers introduced six bills this session seeking a U.S. constitutional amendment to impose new fiscal restraints on the federal government.

The bills mirror measures introduced in legislatures across the country and are nearly identical to model legislation written by the conservative, corporate-backed American Legislative Exchange Council.

The five Republican lawmakers who introduced the bills in Arizona all attended the group’s conferences over the past year.

Across the nation, state legislatures this year have been considering bills to expand education choices, restrict union influence and guarantee employees sick time off. In state after state, including Arizona, the wording of those bills is nearly identical. And it’s no coincidence.

Rather, it’s an orchestrated use of “model legislation” by national political organizations on both sides of the aisle that have discovered it’s easier to change national policy one state at a time than to get anything through Congress.

ALEC has been the most successful of these groups. Member lawmakers nationwide, including several in Arizona, introduce more than a hundred pieces of model legislation each year…

The Republican ‘Great White Hope:’ Manipulating Election Laws

Across the land, Republican state legislators have shouted “voter fraud, voter fraud” to justify various schemes to restrict voting. Legislative actions, written by the corporate-funded American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), are intended to hamper African-American and Latino voting. Legislators have all but said that they can smell the Rio Grande on new voters. But they “cry wolf” and have created a public understanding that in no way reflects reality. In short, voting restrictions are the very fraud.

The disputed Bush-Gore election of 2000 galvanized Republicans, keenly aware how America’s unfolding demographics threatened to make them a permanent minority national party, overwhelmed by emergent, enlarging blocs of ethnic and racial groups. Since then, we have been victimized by carefully-calibrated public relations campaigns alleging that loyal, upstanding, law-abiding Americans are being negated by voter corruption. It is not true.

Make no mistake: This is a Republican, corporate-funded effort to exclude American citizens from the voting process…

ALEC, heavily funded by the Koch brothers and like-minded allies, has designed the legislation to restrict voting, and circulated their draft bills around the nation, which their members, essentially well-financed Republican state legislators, eagerly adopt as their own. Republicans are blatantly trying to limit the electorate and rig elections. They have actively, enthusiastically launched the fray with an unrestrained prattle of fraud.

Paul Weyrich, a leader of numerous conservative causes and a founder of ALEC,minced no words more than 30 years ago: “I don’t want everybody to vote. Elections are not won by a majority of people. They never have been from the beginning of our country, and they are not now. As a matter of fact our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.

Weyrich and his clients would not rely on voter apathy, indifference or ignorance to ensure low voter turnout. Enter the handle of “voter fraud” to justify legislation to prevent the “unwashed” from voting. Ideologically-driven mandates have little affinity for the truth. Voter ID laws are reminiscent of legislation enacted in the late 19th century by elites increasingly concerned by the emergence of new voters. Read working class immigrants from Eastern or Southern Europe, different in language, religion and class than most Americans. At the same time, southern states enacted Jim Crow laws which denied suffrage to former slaves, who, under the terms of the 14th Amendment nevertheless were citizens of the United States. The nation remained largely white, rural and Protestant for another half century…

Will There Be a Happy Ending to Ohio’s Close Brush with a Rightwing Fantasy? 

Three years ago, on March 31, 2011, the Republican-dominated Ohio legislature passed Senate Bill 5 in the face of overwhelming public protests. That evening Gov. John Kasich had a celebratory signing ceremony covered by statewide television. Senate Bill 5, derived mainly from the right-wing American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), was designed to crush public unions across the state.

Championed by Gov. Kasich, SB 5 was the centerpiece of his legislative agenda, and was defended as necessary to close a $6 billion budget gap. Proponents inaccurately blamed public workers for the deficit when, in fact, it was produced by years of irresponsible income tax cuts imposed on the state combined with the recessions. Since 2005, the income tax had been slashed by 31 percent. The crisis atmosphere was exploited by the Republican Party to try to impose extreme ideological positions on Ohio that in ordinary times Ohioans would not accept…

ALEC Loses Wisconsin Open Records Law Fight

MADISON, Wis. – Republican State Sen. Leah Vukmir of Wauwatosa has settled a lawsuit brought by the Madison-based Center for Media and Democracy regarding emails involving her work with ALEC, the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council.

The messages contained a disclaimer that the content was not subject to Wisconsin’s Open Records law.

Vukmir, who paid a $15,000 settlement in the case, also acknowledged that the ALEC email disclaimer had no force of law.

Brendan Fischer, general counsel for the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD), says ALEC’s efforts to avoid Wisconsin’s Open Records law have not been successful.

“We’ve had strong commitment to open and transparent government, and one of the best ways you can maintain a transparent and accountable government is through the Open Records law,” he stresses. “So, we would hope that all legislators, all elected officials from both parties would give the Open Records law the proper amount of respect.”

Vukmir also has agreed to release other emails about ALEC business from her private email account…

Our View: Lawmakers Dance While ALEC Pulls the Strings

An ag-gag in Kentucky, guns on campus in Georgia, protection for businesses that want to deny service to gays in Kansas; sound familiar? You can thank the American Legislative Exchange Council’s one-size-fits-all bills that are gutting local control.

ALEC is the clearinghouse for conservative ideas, a highly secretive non-profit that puts big business and state lawmakers together to draft model legislation in an effort to undermine regulation, cut taxes and advance other often far-right agendas, all while avoiding the very disclosure of its members. It’s the spoke in the wheel of dozens of conservative organizations that’s weakening the very purpose of the states, especially in Republican-dominated regions. Grassroots state governance and local control has been replaced with confidential meetings with big-money backers. America’s red states are becoming little more than chimeric twins, absorbed by their more powerful plutocratic siblings.

State. Sen. Jim Patrick told us this week that ALEC had nothing to do with the controversial ag-gag legislation he pushed through this year. But Patrick is the ALEC’s state chairman, says internal documents acquired by Sourcewatch.org. The Kentucky state Senate’s Agriculture Committee quietly slid an ag-gag of its own into legislation passed by the lower House designed to protect animals from abuse. Four members of that committee are also ALEC members, according to documents leaked to various news outlets. Coincidence? We don’t think so…

New Law Saddles Kentuckians with Big Electricity Bills; Aims to Block Benefits of Fighting Climate Change

NRDC: Carbon Copy Efforts by Shadow Group ALEC Rebuffed in Other Statehouses

WASHINGTON–(ENEWSPF)–April 3 – A new Kentucky law approved late yesterday will raise Kentuckians’ electricity bills. This bill mirrors efforts that big polluters and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) have unsuccessfully pushed in other states to undermine upcoming federal standards reducing carbon pollution from dirty power plants—the key driver of climate change.

David Doniger, director of the Climate and Clean Air Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council, issued this statement:

“This misguided measure will saddle Kentuckians with higher electricity bills while padding the profits of the state’s biggest polluters. It will also make it harder for the state to increase energy efficiency and switch to cleaner, lower cost energy.

“Coal companies and their political backers want to lock Kentucky into the most expensive way of curbing power plants’ dangerous carbon pollution. Their ultimate agenda is to block every effort to cut the pollution driving the worst impacts of climate change.

“Luckily for consumers elsewhere, ALEC and big polluters haven’t been successful: Lawmakers in Virginia and Florida blocked the polluters’ bills. And cooler heads prevailed in Kansas and even in coal-dominated West Virginia, where legislatures instead passed bills that allow state officials to write carbon reduction plans that will meet the nation’s clean air laws…”

Vermont expands solar net metering, gives finger to ALEC

Bad news for the polluter-fundedAmerican Legislative Exchange Council, but wonderful news for the planet.

In 2012 and 2013, ALEC tried to roll back states’ renewable energy standards, and failed. Now it’s trying to roll back solar net-metering programs, which let homeowners sell electricity from their rooftop panels into the grid, and that campaign isn’t going so well either.

Case in point: In Vermont, Gov. Peter Shumlin (D) just signed a bill that will expand the state’s net-metering program, allowing solar panel owners to sell more of their clean electricity into the grid.

The bill will nearly quadruple the size of a cap on the amount of solar power that utilities must be willing to buy from their customers. It also creates pilot projects that could allow for solar projects as large as 5 megawatts to be built under the scheme…

Voice of the People, Apr. 03

Analyzing the state of our state

The March 30 editorial “How Illinois ranks in the U.S. on key indicators; A state of distress” paints a very disheartening picture of our state.

And in many respects, the problems it points out are real.

However, when one looks at where some of the rankings that are assigned come from, one would be well-advised to take them with more than a grain of salt.

Four of the rankings come from the American Legislative Exchange Council, a supposed non-profit that has been exposed by Bill Moyers and by the Center for Media and Democracy as one of the most influential conservative corporate-funded lobbying tools, working to increase corporate profits at public expense.

ALEC was the driving force behind the Stand Your Ground laws and the voter ID restriction laws.

ALEC not only lobbies but actually allows corporations to draft bills that they then hand to legislators to be introduced in state legislatures.

After their backroom dealings were exposed, more than 70 corporations withdrew from ALEC in 2012 and 2013.

I do not think Illinois should care what ALEC thinks of our state.

Coal-reliant states readying for EPA power plant rules

WASHINGTON – Long before the Obama administration promised sweeping rules to limit pollution from power plants, states in the crosshairs of what critics call a “war on coal” have been finding ways to meet the expected new standards.

President Barack Obama last June directed the Environmental Protection Agency to propose national standards to lower carbon emissions from the more than 1,000 U.S. power plants, a centerpiece of his national climate strategy.

On Tuesday those plans moved a step closer to reality when EPA’s proposed rule arrived at the White House for review by the Office of Management and Budget, which is expected to evaluate the proposal by June 1…

…Local lawmakers in Kentucky and several other states, some with close ties to the coal industry, are considering bills or resolutions that would make it harder for states to comply with new EPA rules or would block compliance altogether.

Some of the bills follow legislative templates introduced by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a lobbying group that focuses on limited government. Arizona, Florida, Ohio, Illinois and West Virginia are considering such actions. 

“Although ALEC resolutions will not change state law, ALEC and its industry supporters are hoping these resolutions will discourage governors and impede EPA action,” said Aliya Haq, who tracks such bills as special projects director with the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental group…

RNC Calls Upon ALEC to Dismantle Campaign Finance Reform

 

The powerful right-wing organization, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has long claimed that it “respects diversity of thought” and that it is a “non-partisan policy resource for its members,” Democrats and Republicans alike.  Indeed, in a television interview with FOX news, an ALEC spokesperson once stated, “we have legislators of all political stripes coming together to talk about the most critical issues facing the states,” and adamantly defended the non-partisan nature of the organization.

It does not take much examination of ALEC policies, funders, or public-sector membership rolls to put these claims into true perspective. ALEC’ s right wing policies are so extreme that over 43 corporations – from Wal-Mart to General Electric – havecut ties with the organization.  As documented by the Center For Media and Democracy, more than 99% of ALEC’s public sector leaders are Republican lawmakers.  And a quick perusal of ALEC funding reveals that the same funders who back the network are also major sponsors of many Republican initiatives.

Yet what may be the most telling evidence of ALEC’s ties to the GOP emerged just this morning. Today, the Republican National Committee (RNC) released its wide-ranging “autopsy” report in response to the party’s disastrous 2012 elections. The report, entitled “Growth and Opportunity Project,” outlines a variety of policy recommendations including, among other base ideas, abolishing campaign spending regulations and contribution limits. In the report, the RNC specifically calls on ALEC to help develop and implement model legislation to “improve” these campaign finance laws.

The RNC places ALEC alongside the Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC)  and the RNC as an organization that is well-suited to “improve” campaign finance laws and propagate them nationwide:

The RNC has called upon ALEC to do its bidding because it knows that ALEC is 100% in support of its anti-democratic agenda.  Beyond pushing for Voter ID laws and adopting restrictive registration requirements – like the registration requirements that ALEC adopted years ago as model policy and that today are being argued over in the Supreme Court – ALEC has a history of opposing campaign finance reform.  The organization has consistently opposed public financing of elections and even issued a resolution in favor of the Supreme Court’s disastrous 2010 Citizens United decision…

Tennessee is a political test tube for Koch brothers

By the time this session of the Tennessee General Assembly comes to an end, Tennesseans understandably should feel a little like the animals used in laboratory experiments — at least the ones that survive.

Our state, thanks to the dominance of a single political party, has been selected for a series of not-so-scientific experiments. The objective? Whatever Charles and David Koch want it to be.

The billionaire Kochs do not live in Tennessee and never have. That is not important, as they, through their group Americans For Prosperity (AFP), and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), also not Tennessee-based, are increasingly deciding what laws the General Assembly should impose on the people of our state…

…The force of the Kochs came down last week when the Tennessee Senate voted to stop Nashville’s Amp project. Stop­Amp.org Inc. publicly thanked AFP for its help. Regardless of what you think of the pricey and controversial bus rapid-transit project, such out-of-state interference is troubling, because it supersedes local knowledge and authority on either side of the issue.

Apparently, there is more to come. AFP’s state director, Andrew Ogles, says that “Tennessee is a great state to pass model legislation that can be leveraged in other states.” Such words give no assurance these organizations care whether the laws that are passed help or hurt Tennesseans. They just need an easy “win” so that they can boost their influence against elected officials elsewhere…

Cheap Prison Labor, Unemployment #’s and Related ALEC News

Cheap Prison Labor, Unemployment #’s and Related ALEC News

standuptoalec

Keystone Pipeline…Voter ID and Suppression laws…Right to Work (for less)…Stand Your Ground…Tort “Reform”…Limiting liability in Asbestos lawsuits…Reducing Energy and EPA Regulations…Trans Pacific Partnership…Repealing Healthcare…Reducing Wages…Abolishing Minimum Wage laws…Eliminating Organized Labor…Defunding Education and Replacing Public Schools with Charters…and Replacing American Workers with American Prison Labor…

All of the foregoing issues can be found in today’s headlines across America. Behind each and every one of these critical issues and hundreds more is the agenda of the conservative controlled and Koch funded American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).  In fact most of the onerous legislation rambling through the statehouses of each state – and in many cases our Congress – are “Bills” that began life as model legislation developed by ALEC.

With thousands of state lawmakers alongside more than 350 multi-national corporations holding active membership in ALEC it is no coincidence that each law that benefits business originates and is promoted by ALEC.  Big oil (Exxon, Mobil, Shell, BP America, Chevron. ConocoPhillips), energy conglomerates (American Electric Power, Duke Energy, Energy Future Holdings, Peabody Energy), pharmaceutical companies (Bayer, Pfizer, Johnson and Johnson, Merck, PhRMA), banking, investments, insurance are all represented upon ALEC’s board and general membership.  Each has the opportunity to write, propose and lobby for legislation friendly to their particular field…and if any proposal is successful, they have an equal vote on adoption by the entire ALEC membership and dissemination to every state via ALEC’s elected lawmaker members.

Below are some of today’s headlines related to the foregoing issues and ALEC’s pursuits on behalf of their corporate controllers…

Hundreds Of American Companies Pay Employees As Little As 23 Cents An Hour

At the heart of this issue of prison labor used by private businesses to undercut competitors and eliminate jobs and living wages, we again find the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)…

When you think of prison labor, what comes to mind? You might envision inmates making license plates and highway signs or cleaning up road debris. For decades, this perception would have been roughly accurate. Using prison labor in the private sector was illegal, so inmates worked on public projects.

But this dynamic changed dramatically in 1979 with the passing of the Prison Industry Enhancement Certification Program (PIE). PIE made it legal for private sector companies to contract prison labor to produce goods…

…The dynamic is a corporation’s dream – inmates make as little as 23 cents an hour, never show up late for work, and don’t demand benefits or time off. These inmates don’t account for some small percent of manufacturing production, either.

According to a report done by the Centre for Research on Globalization, prison labor produces 100% of American military helmets, ammunition belts, bullet proof vests, ID tags, and uniforms. These products are made for UNICOR, a for-profit company owned by the United States government…

…But here is the real problem with privatized prison labor: it puts a financial incentive on incarceration. When companies can push their profit margins through the roof with prison labor, they suddenly have a huge self-interest in maintaining high incarceration rates. This isn’t speculation, either. Since private sector prison labor was made legal, America’s biggest economic powers have actively lobbied for legislation designed to both imprison more people and lengthen their sentences.

Perhaps no organization shows this to be true more clearly than the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). ALEC is an enormous lobbyist organization involved in many issues. They write model legislation used to construct policies in economics, international relations, education, agriculture, and a number of other areas…

Keystone PipeLIES Exposed: The Facts on Petroleum Politicians, Crude Money and Media Spin

“TransCanada set out to build this pipeline five years ago, and they still haven’t. That’s saying something about the efforts of activists throughout the country, in spite of all of the money invested in seeing it happen,” Natural Resources Defense Council analyst Anthony Swift says.

“In the southern portion of the pipeline, we saw ranchers, we saw longtime Texas farmers joining with the climate justice activists from Tar Sands Blockade, working to block the tar sands,” says Kevin Zeese, co-director of It’s Our Economy. “And they did a good job. They slowed it down and made it more difficult and more expensive. And they’re effective; a big French investor pulled out because it was getting too expensive.”

The effort that goes into street-level organizing is as much a matter of necessity as it is anything else. Facing one of the most profitable industries in the world, KXL opponents know they can’t compete in the Washington arena using the traditional weapons of choice: campaign contributions and lobbying budgets.

“Our opposition is quite formidable,” says Jason Kowalski of 350.org “The fossil fuel industry has made more money in the history of money in recent years. If we win, it’s because of our bodies and our spirits and our courage and our numbers. We know we have the moral high ground, and that’s how we are going win this thing.”

Of Course ALEC Is Involved in the Keystone Cash

Not willing to leave anything to chance, the oil industry is taking action to make sure state legislators see things their way. As the Center for Media and Democracy (which publishes PRWatch) reported, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) sent nine state legislators on an industry-paid field trip to the Alberta tar sands in 2012.

ALEC, which receives funding from TransCanada, the Koch brothers (whose Canadian subsidiary has tar sands investments), and other fossil fuel corporations, set up the event to put legislators in the same room as the industry lobbyists who paid for the lavish private-jet travel and fine dining. ALEC also prompted each of the nine legislators to send their corporate sponsors a thank you note, with a reminder of what the lobbyists had paid for the tour.

CMD also uncovered emails between TransCanada’s lobbyist and Ohio state Rep. John Adams in which the lobbyist provided Adams with a model bill in support of KXL, with Adams swiftly introduced in the legislature. The bill was co-sponsored by another participant in ALEC’s Alberta field trip.

Ash Spill Shows How Watchdog Was Defanged

RALEIGH, N.C. — Last June, state employees in charge of stopping water pollution were given updated marching orders on behalf of North Carolina’s new Republican governor and conservative lawmakers.

“The General Assembly doesn’t like you,” an official in the Department of Environment and Natural Resources told supervisors called to a drab meeting room here. “They cut your budget, but you didn’t get the message. And they cut your budget again, and you still didn’t get the message.”

From now on, regulators were told, they must focus on customer service, meaning issuing environmental permits for businesses as quickly as possible. Big changes are coming, the official said, according to three people in the meeting, two of whom took notes. “If you don’t like change, you’ll be gone.”

But when the nation’s largest utility, Duke Energy, spilled 39,000 tons of coal ash into the Dan River in early February, those big changes were suddenly playing out in a different light. Federal prosecutors have begun a criminal investigation into the spill and the relations between Duke and regulators at the environmental agency.

How ALEC helped Duke Energy block stricter coal ash rules

Duke Energy is not only the nation’s largest electric utility but one of its political powerhouses. Besides the millions of dollars the North Carolina-based company spends on federal and statecampaign contributions and lobbying, another tool it has used to get its way in the public policy arena is the American Legislative Exchange Council…

…Contacted about its ALEC membership status this week, Duke Energy spokesperson Chad Eaton said “we do not release each and every group Duke Energy is a member of or involved with since those memberships and sponsorships are evaluated on an annual basis and often frequently change.” He also noted that the company is “active in many groups that have a variety of viewpoints but that does not mean that we support all of the various positions those organizations take.”

Nevertheless, it’s an established fact that Duke Energy was a member of ALEC during the height of the group’s efforts to block strict federal regulation of coal ash and held a seat on ALEC’s Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force. In addition, Duke Energy’s position on coal ash is in line with ALEC’s, as the company itself has lobbied to block strict coal ash rules and submitted numerous comments to federal regulators opposing strict oversight…

…ALEC was one of the drivers of the political backlash that slowed EPA from taking action in the wake of the Kingston disaster. Among the actions ALEC took as part of its efforts to block strict federal oversight of coal ash:

* Passed a “Resolution to Retain State Authority Over Coal Ash as Non-Hazardous Waste.” ALEC’s board of directors approved this resolution, which “concludes that states are best positioned to serve as the principal regulatory authority for [coal ash] as non-hazardous waste.” (2010)

* Published “EPA’s Regulatory Train Wreck: Strategies for State Legislators.” This reporttook broad aim at the EPA for various efforts to curb energy-related pollution, including the proposal to treat coal ash as hazardous waste. It urges state lawmakers to “get the state on record as calling on Congress to stop this regulatory train wreck.” On coal ash specifically, it promoted the “Resolution to Retain State Authority Over Coal Ash as Non-Hazardous Waste” passed by its board the previous year. (February 2011)…

American City County Exchange (ACCE) – A new ALEC Program

The American City County Exchange works with local elected offcials to promote effciency and minimize waste by implementing limited government, free market solutions. The American City County Exchange is an affliate of the American Legislative Exchange Council.

WI ALEC Leader in Hot Water over Allegations of Sexual Harassment

Assembly Majority Leader Bill Kramer, a stalwart of the American Legislative Exchange Council, has been accused of sexually harassing two women while in Washington, D.C. last week for a Wisconsin GOP fundraiser. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that the 49-year-old Republican lawmaker physically and verbally harassed a 33-year-old female lobbyist at the fundraising event and another woman on the plane back to Wisconsin.

Statements from the GOP leadership signal that the incidents were serious: “The alleged behavior is reprehensible and won’t be tolerated,” said Assembly Speaker Robin Vos. Conservative pundit, Charlie Sykes reported: “According to news reports and my own sources, Kramer’s conduct last week went beyond tasteless jokes, and included physical contact that could be construed as sexual assault.” One source told Sykes it was “the least surprising headline ever.”

Kramer’s office staff released a statement indicating that the boss was checking into rehab, but a little counseling may not be enough. This is not the first time that this type of allegation has been made about Kramer. Republican State Representative Chris Kapenga warned his caucus that Kramer was a loose cannon after he engaged in similar conduct at an ALEC meeting in Chicago last August…

America’s corporate revolt against clean energy

The US’s fossil fuel industry is scared at the growth of solar power, and its ever-declining market cost. So it’s fighting back, reports Trip Van Noppen, doing its best to quash solar growth by imposing new costs and restrictions.

From California to Colorado to North Carolina and other states, many generators of centralized fossil fuel energy are trying to prevent individual Americans from producing clean, renewable solar energy on their own roof tops.

They would deny us the opportunity to participate in the greater goal of shifting away from polluting, climate-altering fossil fuels.

There is a simple reason for the utilities’ action: They fear losing their monopoly hold on revenue from power production.

Rooftop solar is a game changer that lets consumers generate their own power, reducing the need for a centralized power system and cutting to the heart of the utilities’ comfortable position of a guaranteed return.

For more than 100 years, power companies have profited from a centralized energy model that distributes power from a fossil-fuel burning power plant out to users through a grid of power lines…

…Legislation is proposed in 25 states to limit, tax or fine rooftop solar and net metering, the billing arrangement that allows rooftop solar customers to get credit for providing energy to the grid.

Further, in their portfolio planning, utilities are deliberately undervaluing the benefits and overvaluing the costs of rooftop solar.

Much of this is an orchestrated campaign by corporate lobby group American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) to promote legislation that encourages continued fossil fuel use and discourages competition from renewable energy sources. The Guardian reported that ALEC sponsored at least 77 anti-clean energy bills in 34 states in 2012.

Symbolic Book-Burning Is Alive And Well In South Carolina

If South Carolina is not the most backward state in the nation, it’s tied for first with some of its red state brethren, like say, Arkansas. The latest insult to the intelligence of any civil human being is the punitive symbolic book burning of a publication titled “Out Loud: The Best of Rainbow Radio.” The local newspaper describes it as a publication comprised of a collection of essays and poems from Southern gay residents.

The book was chosen by a panel of educators on the Upstate campus of the University of South Carolina. It is required reading for all incoming university freshmen. Wait for it! Wait for it! KERBOOM!!! The homophobic right-wing went predictably nuts. And in their corner, eager to please even the most radical of his constituents, stood state Representative Garry (yes, 2 r’s) Smith. Riding to the rescue of Neanderthal parents, whose kids were trapped in a literary web of Queerville.

Smith, just turning 57, is an active and enthusiastic member of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and serves on its Communications and Technology Task Force. In his homophobic wisdom he decided to emulate symbolically, the actual historical book-burnings that have been all the rage since antiquity right up to the present day.

 Via a line item in the upcoming budget, Smith is proposing to cut $17,142 in funding to the University, the exact cost of the books…

Nevada Prison Industry Administrative Rules Now in Place

Nevada Prison Industry Administrative Rules Now in Place

by Bob Sloan

silver state industries

Following a full year of investigating complaints and revising Nevada’s prison industry program statute(s), a new Administrative Rule (AR 854) regulating the operation of that state’s prison industry operation has been submitted to the Board of Prison Commissioners (BPC) by NDOC Director, Greg Cox.  In December this regulation was adopted and became effective.

Sen. Richard Bryan

Sen. Richard Bryan

In October the NDOC submitted a long list of new or amended AR’s to the BPC for approval and implementation.  At that time Cox withheld the proposed AR 854 addressing the operation of the agency’s prison industry operations.  Cox held back on this single AR by advising the Board he wanted to work with former Senator Richard Bryan on the language of that particular regulation.

On December 17th Director Cox submitted the final negotiated regulation to BPC members, Governor Sandoval, AG Masto and Secretary of State, Ross Miller for consideration.  Following approval by the Board, the new prison industry regulations are now in effect.

Cox-listens-to-testimony-crop

NDOC Dir. Cox

Critics and opponents of the prison industry program have now adopted a position of “monitoring” the state’s prison industry program. They’re doing so in an effort of ensuring there are no further infringements upon Nevada’s workers and businesses that compete against prison industries.  Last year it was discovered that the NDOC regulations were not being fully enforced and state statutes controlling prison industry operations were insufficient to protect both Nevada’s private sector workers and competing non-prison partnered businesses.

Alpine SteelAll of this came about after lawmakers, the media and general public learned that the prison industry program was more or less operating without any real oversight.  This allowed the NDOC to “partner” with a local Las Vegas business – Alpine Steel, LLC –  in a manner that provided that business with an unfair advantage over competitors and reduced the number of available private sector jobs.  Not only did this single business enjoy prison labor far below standard wage rates, but it also received low cost taxpayer subsidized utility costs and lease terms for state owned property that was far below the state averages. Additionally the NDOC failed to enforce most of the terms of the contract it had with Alpine, allowing the company to default on paying the salaries of NDOC staffers, prison workers and monthly lease payments or utility costs and making no effort to cure the defaults.

When this partnership was finally terminated by Governor Sandoval and the smoke cleared, the state was left with an owed debt of nearly half a million dollars.  Alpine’s owner entered into a negotiated agreement to repay the state but almost immediately defaulted, leaving taxpayers on the hook for hundreds of thousands of dollars in unpaid leases, staff salaries, utility costs and owed taxes.  This failed partnership resulted in the revamping of the state’s statutes controlling Nevada’s existing prison industries and all proposed new industries.

During the lengthy legislative activities related to the failed Alpine partnership, other issues were discovered that prison labor activists are continuing to pursue at both state and federal levels.  These include the hourly wages paid to inmate workers in the program, deductions taken from prisoner paychecks and working conditions.

Nevada is a participant in a federally run program (Prison Industries Enhancement Certification Program or PIECP) that encourages prison industry/private business partnerships such as the one involving Alpine.   However in order to establish and operate under such partnerships both the state and the private business must agree to abide by stringent mandatory conditions required by the federal government.  Two of the imposed mandatory requirements are that inmates be paid prevailing wages and that the state can only take approved deductions from those wages.  In the case of Alpine, the contract with the state required that inmate workers receive “prevailing wages” (section 8.6) or the same wage paid to private sector workers performing the same duties on the outside.  Instead, the NDOC and Alpine set the inmate wage rate at or below the state minimum wage scale, exploiting the labor of inmate workers and further enriching Alpine.

Subsequently it now appears Nevada is underpaying inmates working in the federal program and taking an unapproved deduction of 5% to fund new prison industry operations.  In effect Nevada’s inmate workforce are being made to fund operating expenses of the prison industry out of their already meager wages.

DD ConnettPrison labor advocates are attempting to work with the NDOC, Nevada authorities and the responsible federal agency to cure any purported violations regarding the PIECP program to ensure Nevada is in full compliance with current state and federal provisions regarding the use of inmate labor.

Currently the Deputy Director of the NDOC’s Prison Industry, Brian Connett has indicated there are no proposed new industries being considered by the agency. However prior to the furor caused by the Alpine situation, Connett was advocating for a new industry in Nevada operated by a California company. The operation would have used inmate labor at minimum wages to sort through collected trash and remove recyclables. The collection of trash and refuse across the state would have been accomplished by the same California company.  This project was moving forward over objections voiced by the labor representative of the Senate’s Interim Finance Committee on Industrial Programs, Mr. Mike Magnani.  This recycling “industry” was tabled once the Legislature began looking into the prison industry operations.

CONWAY ROBERT PDBusinesses and a second labor representative, Rob Conway now sitting upon the legislative Interim Finance Committee will continue to monitor activities of the prison industry to eliminate the possibility of another situation arising that could jeopardize business owners or private workers.  Additionally the amended statute requires the Board of Prison Commissioners to review and approve any new industries or expansion of existing ones.  Hopefully vigilance by the labor representatives will keep the prison industries and expanded partnerships in check and allow more of Nevada’s unemployed to find employment due to the reduction in new prison labor programs that eliminated positions in the past.

Only time will tell if the new regulations prevent another Alpine-styled incident from reoccurring.

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 Released their Policy Report for 2013 – A Must Read!

ALEC Released their Policy Report for 2013 – A Must Read!

by Bob Sloan

ALEC released their 2013 policy report following their Annual Meeting in DC last December: http://www.docstoc.com/docs/166626681/Policy-Report . Some interesting and enlightening reading in this report and we would suggest everyone take a few moments to see what ALEC’s task forces have been up to…the model bills they’ve been introducing and success of passage of those bills state by state.  Reading will allow you to understand the legislation you may be seeing in your state in 2014.  Kudos to Daily Kos blogger MNDem999 for catching and forwarding this important document to us!

Below is an excerpt from ALEC’s Health and Human Resources TF report:

 

 

alec 2013 policy report - health 1

 

Two key issues on the minds of the U.S. citizens today are the Keystone XL Pipeline and the Trans Pacific Partnership Trade Agreement (TPP).  ALEC has their fingers in both of these critical and controversial “pies” weighing in (as expected) on the side of business and corporate interests.  Below are excerpts from their chest thumping on both of these measures:

alec 2013 policy report - IR 1

alec 2013 policy report - IR 2

 

The Commerce, Insurance and Economic Development Task Force announced successful implementation of key ALEC model bills, such as “Right To Work” (for less) and related anti-labor legislation:

alec 2013 policy report -commerce 1The Communications and Technology Task Force was busy as well:

alec 2013 policy report -communication 1

 

Few are aware that in areas where virtually no internet or broadband is available to citizens, cities and municipalities have worked to implement low cost networks to provide access to the internet. In these locales the internet companies won’t expand due to low numbers of households and thus low profits…yet in every case where local government steps up to give access to their citizens, the large media corporations have sued to prevent government from “competing” against private enterprise.  These companies such as Verizon, AT&T, Brighthouse and Comcast are no surprisingly members of ALEC and helped write the legislation being introduced state by state to prevent such government owned broadband systems from competing with them – even in areas where they refuse to run cables or provide service due to the low population numbers.

Recently Kansas ALEC members introduced just such a bill to stop government from developing low cost broadband for rural areas.  The bill was introduced by Senator Julia Lynn (R-Olathe) who just happens to be an attendee at ALEC’s meetings (if not a card carrying member).  Public outrage over this legislation caused Lynn to quickly withdraw the bill.  A rare case of ALEC’s model legislation failing due to an informed public protesting against such a bill.

Please take the time to read the full 8 page ALEC report and become informed on what will be coming your way in 2014…

 

 

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.