European Commission

ALEC – A Blunder Down Under – Tobacco Wars

ALEC – A Blunder Down Under – Tobacco Wars

from the archives of  2old2care at BecauseICan

 

ALEC 1975 By Laws

ARTICLE II

PURPOSES

Section 2.01 The purposes and objectives of ALEC shall be to work in cooperation will the private sector to promote individual liberty, limited government and free enterprise.

To achieve such goals ALEC shall:

1. Assist legislators in the states by sharing research information and staff support facilities:

2. Establish a clearinghouse for bills at the state level, and provide for a bill exchange program;

3. Disseminate model legislation and promote the introduction ‘of companion bills in Congress and state legislatures;

4. Improve communications between state legislators and Members of congress;

5. Formulate legislative action programs;

6. Strengthen the position of state and local government relative to the federal governments; and

7. Develop liaison with legislators in other countries on problems of mutual Concern.

Nothing there about international stuff..

 

2010 ALEC Audited Financials

1.  Organization and Summary of Significant Accounting Policies

Organization

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is a non-profit educational entity incorporated in December 1975, under the laws of the States of Illinois.  Its mission is to assist State Legislators, Members of Congress, and the general and business public by sharing research and educational information.  These activities are funded primarily through sponsorships and contributions from the private sector and membership dues.

Nothing there about international stuff..

 

From the cover of the ALEC 2011 report – The State Legislators Guide to Repealing ObamaCare

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is the nation’s largest nonpartisan individual membership association of state legislators, with nearly 2,000 members across the nation and more than 100 alumni members in Congress. ALEC’s mission is to promote free markets, limited government, individual liberty, and federalism through its model legislation in the states.

Nothing there about international stuff..

 

2012 Mission Statement

Mission Statement

The American Legislative Exchange Council’s mission is…

To advance the Jeffersonian Principles of free markets, limited government, federalism, and individual liberty through a nonpartisan public-private partnership among America’s state legislators, concerned members of the private sector, the federal government, and the general public.

To promote these principles by developing policies that ensure the powers of government are derived from, and assigned to, first the People, then the States, and finally the Federal Government.

To enlist state legislators from all parties and members of the private sector who share ALEC’s mission.

To conduct a policy making program that unites members of the public and private sector in a dynamic partnership to support research, policy development, and dissemination activities.

To prepare the next generation of political leadership through educational programs that promote the principles of Jeffersonian democracy, which are necessary for a free society.

Nothing there about international stuff..
Enough – enough.
Nothing there about international stuff – you get it.
Just had to make my point

I never know where I am going to end up when I start researching – today it was five hours of work and a mini-thesis.  But that’s what the universe gave me today.

So grab a cup of coffee – if you are so disposed and read a lot about a little story down under.

 

Today while doing research on something else I ran into the American Legislative Exchange Council and Australia – again  – and that meant it was time to write about it.

This is a two year saga – 2010 and 2011

Yep – Australia.

ALEC’s “newly-formed International Relations Task Force” came about “just in time” to interfere with Australia’s plain packaging of tobacco products..

In 2010 Australia was considering the

Plain Tobacco Packaging (Removing Branding from Cigarette Packs) Bill – Bill 2009, which is currently pending before the Community Affairs Legislation Committee.

In 2010 Australia was exploring the possible legislation that would introduce plain packaging:

What is plain packaging?

Plain packaging, also known as generic, standardized or homogeneous packaging, refers to packaging that has had the attractive promotional aspects of tobacco product packaging removed and the appearance of all tobacco packs is standardized. Except for the brand name (which would be required to be written in a standard typeface, color and size), all other trademarks, logos, color schemes and graphics would be prohibited. The package itself would be required to be plain colored (such as white or brown) and to display only the product content information, consumer information and health warnings required by law.

 what plain packaging of cigarettes looks like

What plain packaging looks like.

The report I read went on to say that:

The current position Plain packaging has not yet been put into effect in any jurisdiction, although it was first proposed by the Canadian government in the 1990s. Legislation is currently being considered by the Australian Government for introduction in 2012 and other governments, such as New Zealand, have expressed an interest in introducing a similar ban. In the UK, the Government’s tobacco control plan2, published in March 2011, included a commitment to consult on plain packaging during 2011, to determine “whether the plain packaging of tobacco products could be effective in reducing the number of young people who take up smoking and in supporting adult smokers who want to quit”. Plain packaging has been supported by the (former) Chief Medical Officer and many other experts and international bodies. The European Commission is exploring the merits of introducing plain packaging as an amendment to the Tobacco Products Directive.

Similar legislation has been or will be considered in/by Canada, Australia, New Zealand, UK, European Commission  …  Also Belgium, Turkey and France from another study

BUT – NOT in the US.

Haven’t heard about pending legislation in the US have you????

Why – because this is where ALEC lives and works behind the scenes and out of the eye of the general public.

As a matter of fact in the August 5, 2010 minutes of the the ALEC International Relations Task Force found on the Common Cause webpage you will find this legislation proposed – look at the submission person!

Resolution Urging Congress to Pass a Ban on “Plain Packaging”

          Submitted by: Ms. Brandie Davis (Philip Morris International). 

AND – they had the chutzpah to send the version “subsequently approved by the Board of Directors”  to the Australian government and the final title?

Resolution Urging the Obama Administration to Protect
Intellectual Property Rights and Oppose Plain Packaging
Initiative Proposed by Trading Partners Worldwide.

 

A little history – this is not the first time ALEC has been involved in tobacco wars.  They are/were a major mover and shaker for the tobacco industry, since the mid 1990’s with the tobacco settlements and on to today.

Why was ALEC messing around in Australia?

2010

In February 2010 – then national Chair – Tom Craddick  wrote a letter on ALEC letterhead to the Senate Standing Committee on Community Affairs – Parliament House – Canberra ACT 2600 Australia [sic]

I am using this letter for snips – because when compared to another ALEC letter written a year later  – this one is more true to the ALEC agenda – whereas the 2011 letter is much more cautious in the way that they word the letter.

This is a significant loss to our private sector members who hold IP rights that are significant assets for their companies. Their logos allow consumers to differentiate between their products and materially inferior ones, and their trademarks protect the reputation of their products. Because of the importance of the trademark in doing business, the protection of the IP rights of our private sector members is a priority for us, and our newly-formed International Relations Task Force committed early on to working on this issue at the international level.

Oh – significant loss to ALEC private/profit sector members.

Protection of the rights of ALEC private/profit  sector members

 

BUT – according to another Australian report Craddick’s whining about IP right for ALEC private sector members is unfounded:

As explained at the seminar and expanded on in an article in the Australian Intellectual Property Law Bulletin, governments are permitted to amend their intellectual property laws to protect public health. Plain packaging does not equate to acquiring the intellectual property of tobacco companies. Governments do not intend to use the logos and tobacco companies will still maintain full rights to their logos and brand imagery; they will simply no longer be able to use these marketing tools on cigarette packages.

So – evidently – ALEC is just making sure they are there for their private/profit sector members – whether they need to be or not.
Back to Craddick

There is no meaningful evidence that plain packaging leads to a reduction in the initiation of tobacco use, overall tobacco consumption or quitting relapses. This conclusion is supported by a series of studies conducted by Dr. Jorge Padilla and Dr. Nadine Watson, “A Critical Review of the Literature on Generic Packaging for Cigarettes” (November 18, 2008). There is, however, evidence suggesting that Bill 2009 could lead to an increase in tobacco use.

“an increase in tobacco use”

But wouldn’t that be a good thing for ALEC’s profit sector members?

Wouldn’t it?

Nope, cause here’s ALEC’s concern:

The brown matte packaging and standard typeface mandated in this bill, would likely occasion an uptick in counterfeit cigarettes, as it is easier to manufacture “plain-packaged” products.

Counterfeit cigarettes?

Does that mean that someone would produce a cigarette that is not a cigarette and sell it as a cigarette?

Fake cigarette – filled with what – oregano?  I think people would figure it out and not buy that brand again.

Counterfeit – isn’t that just an imitation – isn’t that just a new brand – wouldn’t that the  infamous ALEC  free market at work?

 

Is Craddick suggesting  that the Australian government is so dumb it would not be able to regulate their own cigarette industry?   In Australia – counterfeit cigarettes are referred to as “illicit tobacco products” and as you can see , we’re not talking a huge loss of market here:

the Government’s National Drug Strategy Household Survey in 2007[136] found that only 0.2% of Australians — that equates to 1.2% of current smokers—used illicit tobacco products half the time or more. Even allowing for illicit users smoking somewhat more than average, this would make illicit tobacco about 2–3% of the total market—

So, ALEC is just making sure they are there for their private/profit sector members – whether they need to be or not.
But then 2- 3 % loss of revenues by ALEC profit/private sector members might lead to a reduction in “sponsorships and contributions from the private sector and membership dues” for ALEC.

Nope not really.  Here’s the issue – Back to Craddick

The competition from contraband cigarette companies as well as an inability to differentiate their products from others on the market will force legitimate tobacco companies to lower their prices.

Oh, yeh – PROFIT.  After all ALEC is commenting on behalf of their profit sector members.  That is the ONLY reason they are making a case before the Australian government is on behalf of their profit sector members.

BUT again – other sources note there is no proof to support this

This would occur due to reduced product differentiation and the entry of unbranded products. The Europe Economics study by contrast predicted that prices would fall only for premium brands, with growing and niche brands likely to be hit the hardest. Little information is available internationally about what happens to consumption of tobacco products when prices fall. This has been a rare occurrence over the past four decades.

Again, ALEC is just making sure they are there for their private/profit sector members – whether they need to be or not.


2011

MAY 2011  ( I tried – but I can’t find the actual report released in Australia – but, I did find a one page article in the May 2011 issue of Inside ALEC that has the exact phrases shown in the article below.  “Plain Packaging: A Government Seizure of a Company’s Most Valuable Asset”)

From: The Australian May 28, 2011

This week a US think tank, the American Legislative Exchange Council, published a paper claiming the move “threatens to dismantle over a century of international intellectual property rights protections”. It raises the spectre of counterfeiting and piracy.

“Although this ill-considered legislation targets tobacco packaging, the alarm over the policy relates to the effects it will have on international intellectual property rights and protections,” the paper reads. “Australia’s plain packaging policy will send the wrong message to the developing world where IP co-operation is already difficult to obtain.”

 

JUNE

In June 2011 a letter was sent by the past ALEC chair Noble Ellington to Assistant Secretary, Drug Strategy Branch – Attention: Tobacco Reform Section – Department of Health and Ageing – Canberra, ACT 2606 Australia opposing “Tobacco Plain Packaging Bill 2011”

This letter by Ellington sounds less like a lobbying letter and nowhere does he use the phrases that were found in the Craddick letter.  The language is more sterile – ambiguous about intent while being direct in content.

It is possible that after a year of feedback – they realized people were not reacting well to ALEC’s interference in Australia .  But he still does spend a lot of time on the hysteria of IP and trademark protection – which they probably have found is the only thing that they can write about.


But wouldn’t what Craddick proposed in his ALEC letter  be lobbying?

Well Craddick says in the opening sentence that:

On behalf of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), I respectfully submit these comments

Oh, yeh – comments.  Respectfully submitted comments – that’s not lobbying, right?

But the closing paragraph Craddick says this:

While ALEC understands the motivations behind the Plain Tobacco Packaging (Removing Branding from Cigarette Packs) Bill, we believe that it will undermine the international system of intellectual property rights protections setting in motion a precedent that could ultimately devitalize the free market system while aggravating the very problem it purports to address.

Which seems to fit Australian law regarding the definition of lobbyist:

Lobbying activities means communications in an effort to influence Government decision-making.

 

That is what this seems like to me – lobbying.  BUT

Oh, yeh –

ALEC is a U.S. nonprofit and nonprofits in Australia are “not considered a lobbyist under the Lobbying Code and are not required to register” [as lobbyists]

Or they could be viewed as a “Members of foreign trade delegations” which also aren’t considered lobbyists in Australia.

And ALEC has members in Australia.

 

So folks, the moral of the story –

ALEC’s stated mission might be to:

  • promote free markets, ALEC letterhead
  • limited government,
  • individual liberty,
  • and federalism through its model legislation in the states.


But it appears their real mission is promoting ALEC private sector member PROFITS.

And the rest of the world doesn’t like ALEC “butting” into international affairs– as demonstrated by a letter sent by the Physicians for a Smoke-free Canada to the Assistant Secretary, Drug Strategy Branch – Attention: Tobacco Reform Section – Department of Health and Ageing – CANBERRA, ACT 2601

You may also find it helpful to regard with healthy suspicion lobbying opposed to the plain packaging initiative from sources apparently independent of the tobacco industry. Frequently, such sources are not independent at all, but avatars of the tobacco industry. Here is an example. It was reported in The Australian of May 28, 2011 that the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) “threatens to dismantle over a century of international intellectual property rights protections.” ALEC arguments have no basis in fact. Moreover, ALEC is not very far removed from the tobacco industry. Representatives of two American tobacco companies are members of its Private Enterprise Board of Directors.

And yes, Australia doesn’t appreciate the interference of ALEC in their politics.

And at least one Australian legislator, Christine Milne was willing to speak out before the bill passed!

I think that it is much more interesting to look at the wholesale adoption by Senator Bernardi of the policy agenda of the extreme US radical Right and the policies that he brings to the coalition in Australia.

Disgraced Liam Fox was a former minister in the UK who was forced to resign because of his association with a Mr Werritty. Mr Werritty was one member of the American Legislative Exchange Council. It is fascinating to see that the Australian representative of the American Legislative Exchange Council is none other than Senator Bernardi. The American Legislative Exchange Council is backed by big oil, big tobacco, the National Rifle Association, the climate change deniers and the defence hawks in the US.

I note with interest than on 2 June this year the American Legislative Exchange Council wrote to the Department of Health and Ageing opposing plain packaging and making a strong case, on behalf of big tobacco, against plain packaging. Among the people they copied it to was none other Senator Bernardi, their Australian representative. You have to wonder about the extent to which Senator Bernardi has adopted their agenda and, indeed, the agenda of another US right-wing radical organisation, none other than the Heartland Institute. We recall that Senator Fielding went across to the US at the expense of the Heartland Institute and came back and told us that global warming was not real and was to do with solar flares et cetera.

And yes – if you prefer hearing it – she is still speaking out about ALEC.  Australia doesn’t appreciate the interference of ALEC in their politics.
Please click here to see Australian Senator Christine Milne on the Climate Denial Machine.

Oh yeh – the continuing saga of the ALEC plain packaging story:

November 2011

Parliament Passes World First Plain Packaging of Tobacco Legislation

The Australian Parliament has passed the Australian Government’s world-leading tobacco plain packaging legislation, meaning all tobacco products sold in Australia will need to be in plain packaging from 1 December 2012.

November 2011

Cigarette giant Philip Morris sues Australian government for billions over plain packaging law

The Australian government is facing a lawsuit that could cost billions after tobacco giant Philip Morris instigated legal action over the incoming law forcing cigarettes to be sold in plain packaging.

The controversial law, which comes into effect from late next year, is being closely watched by other governments in Europe, Canada and New Zealand as they consider similar moves.

But the legislation change has angered tobacco firms who are worried that it may set a global precedent and by infringing on trademark rights as all images and logos are wiped off the packets.

April 2012

Australia tobacco plain packaging case in court

The world’s biggest tobacco firms are challenging the Australian government in court over a law on mandatory plain packaging for cigarettes.   The suit, led by British American Tobacco, is being watched around the world as a test case.

Australia last year passed legislation requiring all tobacco to be sold in plain packets with graphic health warnings from 1 December 2012.

It is the first country to pass such stringent packaging legislation.

The proceedings, being heard before the High Court in Canberra, are scheduled to run until Thursday. It is not clear when a decision might be reached.

And I’m sure the American Legislative Exchange Council will find a way to stick their nose into Australia’s business again and probably file an amicus brief in the lawsuit.

UPDATE – August 15, 2012

By ROD McGUIRK

updated 8/15/2012 12:22:56 AM ET

CANBERRA, Australia — Australia‘s highest court upheld the world’s toughest law on cigarette promotion on Wednesday despite protests from tobacco companies that argued the value of their trademarks will be destroyed under new rules that will strip all logos from cigarette packs.

The decision by the High Court means that starting in December, tobacco companies will no longer be able to display their distinctive colors, brand designs and logos on cigarette packs.

 

Posted by 2old2care
on June 23, 2012becauseican-vltp

 

ALEC and the Tories: A History (Part 1) – ALEC in Great Britain

ALEC and the Tories: A History (Part 1) – ALEC in Great Britain

flag of great britain

In my previous article I introduced the European members of ALEC the majority of whom come from the British Conservative Party, the ‘Tories‘ (from the Irish which roughly translates to ‘thieving bastards’).

This link between US and UK right wing lobbyists actually stretches back Institute of Economic Affairs - IEAdecades and indeed some groups in the US only exist to help fund UK lobbyists, an example being the American Friends of the IEA. The IEA, Institute for Economic Affairs, was founded in the 1950’s and, although I dislike quoting from Wikipedia,  their entry on its founder is particularly succinct:

Sir Antony Fisher (28 June 1915 – 8 July 1988) was a background player in the global rise of libertarian think-tanks during the second half of the twentieth century, founding the Institute of Economic Affairs and the Atlas Economic Research Foundation. Through Atlas, he helped establish up to 150 other think-tanks worldwide.

His successors seem to have carried on the family tradition and indeed have a direct line to the office of the UK’s Tory Prime Minster!

He was father to Linda Whetstone, who has been involved with many of Fisher’s think tanks, and grandfather to Rachel Whetstone, formerly Political Secretary to Conservative leader Michael Howard, now global head of communications and public policy for Google, who is married to David Cameron’s [former?] Director of Strategy Steve Hilton.

In looking at the specific ALEC links with UK Tories I will present a chronological timeline stretching back around a decade. Due to the amount of information presented comment has been kept to a minimum.

Note: many historical links may not work but are provided for information; the data has been extracted from local copies we hold.


2002 – International Freedom Exchange

ALEC is also working to promote closer working relations between America’s International Freedom Exchange (IFEX)state political leaders and their foreign counterparts. The underlying purpose is to build a better understanding of America’s political process and maintain an ongoing dialogue of how free-market societies are prepared to meet future challenges and the emerging global economy.

In 2002, ALEC staff held discussions with several international delegations, including British Members of the European Parliament, regional leaders of the Parliament of the Kyrgyz Republic, and representatives of the Kosovar Parliament. More recently, ALEC’s Michael Flynn held a briefing at an international conference on federalism sponsored by the German think tank, Friedrich Naumann. Future ALEC activities aim to bring emerging political leaders from other countries into this international freedom exchange.

In 2003, a delegation of European Members of Parliament will be meeting with American state lawmakers at ALEC’s Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C.

 

2004 – Senator William G. Hewes III, ALEC National Chairman

Just as the White House and Congress gear up for their new electoral cycles, Europe is also at the start of a new 5 year phase. The new enlarged European Parliament is just finding its feet following June’s Europe-wide elections and she has already shown signs that she will fully flex her institutional muscles when needed. Soon the new European Commission of 25 will also take up a fresh term, with a new set of priorities and challenges.

One of the biggest challenges facing Europe is surely its very direction. The new Constitutional Treaty currently undergoing ratification in Member States is by no means a shoe-in and the EU will spend much of the next 18 months trying to establish its exact place on the world stage. Perhaps this is why EU-US relations have become schizophrenic of late. At times Europe and America have acted in complete harmony and presented a united front; At other times, our relationship has been overtly fractious. That is where legislators have a key role to play – in bringing forward a relationship based on co-operation and trust.

ALEC’s EU project is now well under way and we’ve found friends in the conservative delegations of Britain, Hungary and the Czech Republic. We hope to extend this further and establish an on-going dialogue with conservatives across the European Union.

Indeed, the new European Commission is also showing very welcome signs european commissionof pragmatism and collaboration. The EU’s incoming Commissioner for External Relations, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, says she wants a determined and decisive multilateral effort to fight international terrorism. She has also stressed that the EU must now show support for the broader political process in Iraq. This common-sense approach to the international scene is to be welcomed as a positive sign of things to come.

ALEC will welcome three MEPs to its States and Nations Policy Summit in Washington D.C. this December to discuss the latest aspects of the transatlantic relationship. We also hope to build a firm bridge across the Atlantic for our shared conservative ideas and I know that everyone at ALEC will do their best to welcome our European guests.


Note this phrase
: ‘a firm bridge across the Atlantic’.  In a future article the ‘Atlantic bridge’ will be discussed further.

 

Speech by Chris Heaton-Harris MEP – 2004 States and Nation Policy Summit,  Washington, D.C.

Mr Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen,

 Before I start may I just say thank you to ALEC for inviting me to this excellent conference. It is a great privilege for me to be here with my colleagues from the European Parliament: Martin Callanan, who, alas, returned to the UK last night and Roger Helmer, who I know many of you have met and listened to.

I am Chris Heaton-Harris and all three of us were re-elected for our second five year terms to the European Parliament back in June.

The European Parliament has 724 members from 25 countries representing 450m people and using 20 official languages. As you can imagine, it is a very complicated place….

…Now, I can’t claim to be an ALEC member or alumni; in fact it was only a http://na-saighneain.com/alec_uk.jpgcouple of years ago that I was introduced to this organisation and Jeffersonian principles. In the UK I’m pretty well known for my Conservative views – it seems to me that no matter where you are true Conservative will always stand for the same things:

  • To limit government
  • For lower taxes
  • For free trade and open markets
  • Individual freedom
  • Showing respect and taking personal responsibility.

 But I didn’t know these core values as Jeffersonian principles – to me these were Thatcherisms…

…And there’s worse yet to come… many of you will have heard of the European Constitution – and just by its name you might think, well this is a good thing.

But whereas your Constitution is a truly enduring historical document based on life, liberty and limiting government; ours is a socialist manifesto.

 Let me list some things it calls “fundamental rights”:

  • The freedom to form trade unions.
  • The right to collective bargaining and action.
  • The freedom to choose an occupation. (I want to be an astronaut and I’ll sue you if you don’t let me be one!)
  • The right to have fair and just working conditions.
  • The right to reconcile family and professional life.

And these rights will all be interpreted by our version of your Supreme Court – the EU’s Court of Justice….

But why should you all care about what’s happening over in Europe?   Surely, if Europe’s economy goes downhill it won’t effect America.

Well do remember that the EU is one of the biggest markets for American produced goods.

And also remember what Ronald Reagan once said in one of his radio commentaries back in the 70’s:   “we should always be wary and watch out for government’s communications grapevine. When one set of jungle drums is pounded by a group of bureaucrats” he said “another group of bureaucrats will be listening.”

That’s how regulation spreads: from you to us, like smoking bans, or from us to you! And trust me – those jungle drums are beating hard and fast in Europe.

To me the solution to all these problems I’ve outlined seems obvious – Europe needs Jeffersonian principles/Thatcherisms.

In fact we must really start by helping Europe’s Conservatives remember what being a Conservative is all about – and to do that I believe we need a role model.

And actually I think we have a ready-made role model here today in ALEC and all of you.

 You understand what Jeffersonian principles are all about and you deliver policy that makes them work and improves peoples’ lives.

 But alas, in Europe, we have no organisation like ALEC – and we really need one.

 That is why I am so glad you have started your international program – that will help us true believers out there fight the good fight.

 Over the past couple of years it has been really tough being a Conservative in Europe.   Coming here this week has been like taking a bottle of political Viagra – I feel completely re-energised!

 So I’d like to thank you all – for your friendship, your hospitality and your inspiration…

 

Roger Helmer – Speech to American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) –  Washington DC – December 1, 2004

 

Mr. President, Ladies and Gentlemen,

As always, it’s a huge pleasure for me, and my colleagues Chris Heaton-Harris and Martin Callanan, to be here with you at another ALEC Conference. I’d like especially to thank Duane Parde, and his fellow officers at ALEC, for the invitation, and I’d also like to thank ALEC staffer Sally McNamara for organising our programme. Sally previously spent five years working for Chris Heaton-Harris and me in the UK and Brussels, before coming to Washington.

In a world where globalisation is accelerating, and where we all face the common threat of terrorism, I believe that the transatlantic relationship, which has underpinned our security for all of my life-time, is becoming more, not less, important. I very much regret the apparent lack of commitment to this relationship from Brussels, with its constant sniping and posturing on transatlantic trade and security issues.

In these circumstances, it is crucial to maintain and strengthen links between conservative politicians and thinkers on both sides of the water. I believe that ALEC has a vital role to play in this dialogue, and this is why it is such a great pleasure, and privilege, for me and my colleagues to be here with you today….

…While we enjoy coming to Washington, we also do our best to maintain transatlantic relations in Brussels, and we always look forward to events organised by the American Chamber, which has a high reputation over there. Indeed I sometimes think they know more about what’s going on in the EU institutions than we do!

On Nov 17th we were guests at the American Chamber dinner in Strasbourg, where David Cote, the CEO of Honeywell, was the keynote speaker. I met a charming, tall, elderly Polish MEP, whom I had better not name…

…It is easy to ridicule, but dangerous to ignore the threat. There is a world of difference between the EU we have today, and the EU of the Constitution. Today, at least in theory, the EU is a Treaty-based organisation linking independent, democratic sovereign nations. Under the Constitution, it becomes for all practical purposes a country in its own right, with its own legal personality.

What do you call an organisation that has, or is putting in place, a Constitution, a currency, a central bank, a supreme court, a President, a Foreign Minister, an elected parliament, common external borders and tariffs, border guards, an army — not to mention a passport, a flag and an anthem?

Ladies and gentlemen, if it walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck ….. !

And in that new country called Europe, the ancient nations of our continent will be little more than provinces.

Does this matter to America? You bet it does! Too many of the Chancelleries of Europe are animated by an endemic Anti-Americanism, heightened recently by the Iraq war. They speak of a euro currency, and EU armed forces, to “counter-balance US dominance”. They are developing their own Global Positioning System, Galileo, not because they need it — you make your own system available free of charge — but to assert their growing confidence as a global power. In doing so, they threaten the strategic balance, and the vital transatlantic flow of military and security intelligence.

My advice, which I have offered whenever I have been this side of the water, is that the US should know its friends in Europe, and work with them country-by-country, rather than seeking to deal with the EU as a single entity. I am delighted to see that this view is catching on in Washington, and I particularly commend the Heritage Foundation briefing paper of October 2004 by John C. Hulsman and Nile Gardiner, entitled “A Conservative Vision for US Policy Toward Europe”, which takes exactly this position.

I and my colleagues are convinced that the EU Constitution is a profound threat to the prosperity, the democracy and increasingly to the security of our country. But we also to believe that an assertive, unified, Constitution-based EU is not in America’s best interest either.

Our great task for the next couple of years is to campaign in the UK against ratification of the EU Constitution. We think we can win this battle, and we would be hugely encouraged to have your moral support in our campaign. Thank you.

( Roger Helmer article for ALEC, September 2004)
helmer - 2004

from the aforementioned Martin Callanan, an article for ALEC, November 2004
callanan - 2004

 2004- 2005 Articles, Publications and Newsa list of ALEC articles from 2004 and early 2005

Having been recently appointed ALEC National Chairman, I am delighted to see our international relations project now moving full steam ahead. I have asked my immediate predecessor as National Chairman, Senator Billy Hewes, to Chair the ALEC Board of Director’s Committee on International Relations, while Ken Lane of DIAGEO will co-chair in a private sector capacity. These gentlemen enjoy my full support, and I believe that we have a strong a team to lead from the front & move forward with our international coalition-building.

Anyone who attended our States and Nation Policy Summit in Washington this month knows just how important it is to have friends across the Atlantic. Chris Heaton-Harris MEP delivered a remarkable speech, which directly addressed our principles. He asked for our help and mutual support – and ALEC is delighted to offer it. Not least because the threats posed by the European Constitution can easily be transported over here – the threats to free trade, free markets and individual liberty.

These debates about the future of Europe & its international status are increasingly relevant to America and to our companies who operate inside the EU. That is why I am so happy to see ALEC taking the lead in shaping the policy debate for the future of transatlantic relations.

 


LA State Senator Noble Ellington, ALEC Board of Directors

Think tanks have become somewhat part of the establishment in Washington. In fact, it would be fair to say that there’s a healthy amount of competition among DC’s thinkers; competition for the best people, for the best promotional tools and for the best access to the Nation’s policy makers. And there is little doubt in the conservative movement that this has been a good thing – that new think tanks have increased the strength of existing think tanks, attracting new activists and advancing “the movement”.

But what about Europe? Brussels has previously been marked by its very lack of free market think tanks, and its proliferation of EU funded “groups”. It is a fact that virtually all government funds which flow into lobbying/pressure groups go to leftist organizations. This fact underlies the damaging economic road the EU has chosen to go down in recent years, spurred by its “consultations” with these elite, quasi-independent interest groups.

But it seems that the conservatives are fighting back. On my recent trip to Brussels with ALEC, I attended a conference entitled Does the West Know Best, organized by The Stockholm Network. SN is a network of 120 market-oriented think tanks, working with Europe’s brightest policymakers and thinkers. Does the West Know Best examined the new EU member states’ more radical approaches to social and economic reform, such as flat taxation, the privatization of social security and moves towards more market-oriented health systems. I was awed to meet people from think tanks in places such as Croatia and Estonia, who have literally lived (or indeed still living) through the transition from communism to democracy. Their determination to pursue the ideals of the free market – regardless of the current political climate or pressure – amazed me. Newly elected Polish MEP Michal Kaminski frequently relays the story about how he learned about conservatism by listening to Mrs. Thatcher & President Reagan on the BBC World Service on a clandestine radio, hidden under his bed covers, for fear of the authorities.

Free market think tanks are now converging on Brussels, either directly or indirectly. The Center for New Europe, a non-profit, pro-market research foundation is headquartered in Brussels, popping up everywhere with its well-researched publications and arguments; SN’s Europe-wide network is rapidly developing into a formal arrangement of academics, policy practitioners, journalists and business people, exchanging market-oriented policy ideas and reform strategies right across the EU. The conservatives are seemingly back in Brussels. Lets hope for good.

 

ALEC News

Sally McNamara has been invited as a regular columnist for the London-based think tank, The Bruges Group. The Bruges Group is an independent all-party [exclusively Conservative Party] think tank, founded in February 1989 with the vision of a free trading, decentralized, deregulated and democratic Europe of nation-states.  Its inspiration was Margaret Thatcher’s Bruges speech in September 1988, in which she remarked that, “We have not successfully rolled back the frontiers of the state in Britain, only to see them re-imposed at a European level.”

(The Bruges Group can be found at http://brugesgroup.com)

 

ALEC NEWS

 

ALEC was privileged to host five conservative legislators from the European Parliament at a roundtable discussion on June 27th. Martin Callanan, Chris Heaton-Harris, Roger Helmer, Dan Hannan and Michal Tomasz Kaminski MEPs briefed ALEC members on a range of topics, including REACH, the draft European Constitution and the precautionary principle.

 ALEC’s Executive Director, Duane Parde, was invited to visit London last month in order to attend a gala dinner in honor of former Prime Minister, Lady Margaret Thatcher.  At the personal invitation of British Conservative MEP Chris Heaton-Harris, Mr. Parde met Mrs. Thatcher, who later addressed the dinner, speaking through an aide.

ALEC’s International Relations Project Director, Sally McNamara, attended the Heritage Foundation’s conference “Is the European Union in the Interests of the United States?” Speakers included Christopher Booker (journalist and editor, UK Daily Telegraph), Judge Robert H. Bork (Distinguished Fellow, Hudson Institute) and The Rt. Hon David Heathcoat-Amory MP (British parliamentarian). [Conservative Party, naturally]

ALEC’s Adam Smith Scholar Roger Helmer MEP produces a monthly e-update on his parliamentary activities, entitled Straight Talking on Europe. To receive Straight Talking, please email rhelmer@europarl.eu.int

ALEC NEWS

 ALEC was delighted to welcome Czech Republic MEP, Dr. Ivo Strejcek to its 32nd Annual Meeting in Grapevine, Texas. Dr. Strejcek spoke about the importance of the Transatlantic Relationship and the role of legislators in preserving the alliance. Christopher Horner, of the European Enterprise Institute, then spoke about the precautionary principle and the EU’s attempts to make it the international standard.

For copies of Dr. Strejcek or Mr. Horner’s PowerPoint presentations, please contact Sally McNamara – smcnamara@alec.org

 

ALEC NEWS

 As part of its International Relations Project, ALEC took a group of legislators and private sector members to Strasbourg and Prague last month, and met with leading members of the European public policy community to debate various issues on the current global agenda. In Strasbourg, we were hosted at both the European Parliament and the U.S. Consulate General; In Prague, we were hosted at the Czech Parliament, Senate and the American Embassy. We were personally welcomed by Consulate General Frankie Reed and His Excellency William Cabaniss in Strasbourg and Prague respectively.

For more details and a full report on this educational exchange, please contact Sally McNamara – smcnamara@alec.org

 

ALEC was privileged to attend the Autumn Strategy Meeting of the Transatlantic Policy Network in Washington D.C. this month. Entitled “The United States and the European Union: Working Together to Solve Global challenges”, TPN is a non-governmental, public-private network working for a stable, strong transatlantic partnership. Hosted at the Capitol, successful sessions were held on financial services, the digital economy and intellectual property rights.

 

SALLY MCNAMARA, INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS PROJECT DIRECTOR

As part of its annual exchange visits with European legislators, a bi-partisan, high-level ALEC delegation visited Strasbourg, France and Prague, Czech Republic last month.

Meeting in Strasbourg during the plenary session of the European Parliament, ALEC met with 20 European legislators, from several EU Member States and, in keeping with our non partisan philosophy, from differing Parliamentary parties. During this session, we were particularly proud to welcome Roger Helmer MEP as the first member of our new for international legislators membership program. Roger has served as ALEC’s Adam Smith Scholar for several years and will also attend our upcoming States and Nation Policy Summit in Washington D.C. next month. ALEC is delighted to continue this successful public policy exchange with Europe’s legislators.

ALEC’s Prague program was equally as exciting. It began with a series of meetings with representatives from the ODS Party, the Czech Republic’s conservative party and major opposition to the current left-wing government. We were welcomed by leading legislators, including Mirek Topolanek (Chairman of ODS) and Ivo Strejcek, Member of the European Parliament. Ivo addressed ALEC’s Annual Meeting in Texas earlier this year, and reminds us that the diversity and vibrancy of the European Parliament has been vastly enhanced with the inclusion of several hundred legislators from Eastern and Central Europe.

ALEC was also exceptionally privileged to be hosted at the American Embassy in Prague, to be personally welcomed by His Excellency, Ambassador William J. Cabaniss. In the spectacular surroundings of the Ambassador’s private residence, former Alabama State Legislator Mr. Cabaniss enthusiastically greeted ALEC and encouraged the continuance of deep bi-lateral relations between our two nations.

The ultimate mission of the international relations project is: “To foster a policy-based program for the promotion, exchange, and implementation of Jeffersonian principles at the international level.” With a varied program, meeting all levels of policy-makers, ALEC’s international visit successfully continues our dialogue with like-minded legislators, as well as establishing new working relationships throughout the international policy community.

 

DUANE PARDE – ALEC’s Executive Director

The tragedy of the terrorist bombings in London seem all too vivid this side of the Atlantic – and not just because of our own recent experiences; the ‘special relationship’ that defines Anglo-American relations means that we have a shared understanding that these attacks are attacks on the liberty and freedom we fight together for, at home and abroad. We know that the sympathies and resolve of the American people are with the British people right now then – just as they stood shoulder-to-shoulder with us in the wake of 9/11.

I visited London for the second time this June, to meet with conservative legislators from both Westminster and Brussels. Newly elected Conservative Party MPs Robert Goodwill and Peter Bone both talked about the domestic policy scene in England, including the problems of devolving power down from the national governmental level. Although the Conservatives are in a minority at a national level, they are in the majority at the local level. But in the absence of any sort of ALEC model, they often have trouble benchmarking conservative policies or sharing information. Chris Heaton-Harris MEP, who stood for local election several times before entering the European Parliament, believes that ALEC’s formula of sharing model legislation and meeting on a consistent basis to share best practice is one that British Conservatives should now start to imitate.

I also met with several British MEPs in London, including Michal Tomasz Kaminski (Poland) and Roger Helmer (UK and ALEC’s Adam Smith Scholar). With the emergence of strong ‘new” member states in the European Union, like Poland, they too are having trouble bringing together genuinely conservative legislators to form international alliances. Michal Kaminski talked extensively about how well organized the left is, and how they bring fresh impetus to their work across the world with mutual support and information-sharing; he too is keen to use the ALEC model to bring international leadership to the conservative movement.

The highlight of the trip though had to be a gala dinner hosted in honor of former Prime Minister, Lady Margaret Thatcher. Despite turning 80 this October, the Iron Lady is still an imposing figure on the world stage; and our brief meeting seems all the more poignant now as America and Britain once again fight together to preserve our way of life – just as she did with such conviction throughout the Cold War with President Reagan.

Our two countries have shared the greatest of triumphs and the greatest of tragedies over the years, from the beaches of Normandy to the deserts of Iraq. My visit to London highlighted to me that this alliance is one that we conservatives must fight to preserve. ALEC’s model of sharing information and promoting policies rooted firmly in our Jeffersonian principles is surely the best place to start then.

na-Saighneain

na-Saighneain