George Zimmerman

ALEC — Announces the End of the Public Safety and Elections Task Force – No Sighs of Relief Just Yet…

Under intense pressure from activists and organizations including VLTP and the Center for Media and Democracy, ALEC begins to crack internally as the shadowy organization has been drug into the light of day – with great difficulty.  Over the past few days twelve top corporate members/sponsors fled ALEC in haste as their brands became synonymous with ALEC’s political and legislative corruption.  This morning Blue Cross and Blue Shield is the latest corporation to sever all ties with ALEC.

Also this morning – and possibly in response to this latest defection by Blue Cross – ALEC quietly issued this statement in a press release:

ALEC Sharpens Focus on Jobs, Free Markets and Growth — Announces the End of the Task Force that Dealt with Non-Economic Issues

(Washington, D.C.) April 17, 2012—David Frizzell, Indiana State Representative and 2012 National Chairman of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), issued the following statement today on behalf of ALEC’s Legislative Board of Directors:

“Today we are redoubling our efforts on the economic front, a priority that has been the hallmark of our organization for decades. Fostering the exchange of pro-growth, solutions-oriented ideas is precisely why ALEC exists.

“To that end, our legislative board last week unanimously agreed to further our work on policies that will help spur innovation and competitiveness across the country.

“We are refocusing our commitment to free-market, limited government and pro-growth principles, and have made changes internally to reflect this renewed focus.

“We are eliminating the ALEC Public Safety and Elections task force that dealt with non-economic issues, and reinvesting these resources in the task forces that focus on the economy. The remaining budgetary and economic issues will be reassigned.

“While we recognize there are other critical, non-economic issues that are vitally important to millions of Americans, we believe we must concentrate on initiatives that spur competitiveness and innovation and put more Americans back to work.

“Our free-market, limited government, pro-growth policies are the reason ALEC enjoys the support of legislators on both sides of the aisle and in all 50 states. ALEC members are interested in solutions that put the American economy back on track. This is our mission, and it is what distinguishes us.”

This Public Safety task force is the one used in the recent spread of; anti-immigrant legislation (SB 1070 in AZ. and other states), the current spate of voter ID bills and earlier bills such as prison privatization, prison industries, minimum mandatory sentencing and truth in sentencing (85% completion of sentence imposed) as well as the now infamous stand your ground (kill at will) legislation in Florida and more than 20 other states.  This same task force has been used to coordinate redistricting legislation on behalf of the GOP for years.  This ALEC body has been used to incarcerate millions and disallow their right to vote upon release or completion of probation or parole – and has been working overtime to disenfranchise millions more in 2012 and beyond through unnecessary voter ID model legislation written by ALEC and proposed, enacted and passed in many states already.

Eliminating this one branch of the organization does not mean all the legislation they’ve sent out to the states is going to be withdrawn, laws already on the books and being used to drive mass incarceration and exploitation through privatization of prisons and prison industries will remain as a testament both to ALEC’s successful influence and as a testament to their corruption.  Neither is erased by eliminating the original source for the legislation and exploitation.  Trayvon Martin’s life will not be restored, millions will not be miraculously released from our jails and prisons and corporations will not withdraw from prison industry operations and exploitation of slave labor.

The disbanding of this one task force does however mark the beginning of what most hope is an internal implosion that will eliminate ALEC altogether.  The announcement that ALEC is, “redoubling our efforts on the economic front, a priority that has been the hallmark of our organization for decades. Fostering the exchange of pro-growth, solutions-oriented ideas is precisely why ALEC exists“, does not bode well for America’s economy and jobs.

The statement that they will focus on jobs and the economy at this moment in the battle against ALEC, serves as both an acknowledgement of ALEC’s participation in actions we’ve long complained of and an admission of their guilt for those acts.  Additionally it serves as a warning to us that they intend to double-down on the war waged against economic reform and the pursuit of jobs.  These issues are now controlled nationally rather in the separate states by ALEC’s alumni/members in the U.S. Congress.  VLTP has been trying to emphasize this fact for many months now.  While ALEC and their critics alike continue to deny that the organization is involved with U.S. federal laws and policies, our research clearly refutes that denial.

VLTP knows ALEC’s influence within our Congress is immense and their alumni have been obstructing any real attempts at true economic reforms since the 2010 election.  Through ALEC the states have been taking their cues from Congress on these critical issues and causing obstruction and obfuscation of the arguments. When ALEC says it will focus on
jobs & the economy, it is not a good thing for you, your family, your job, your community or our national economy.

In fact the U.S. House has been directed by two key ALEC members; House Speaker, John Boehner and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor.  As the videos linked to below demonstrate, once Boehner and Cantor advanced from state legislatures to Congress, they remained loyal and subservient to ALEC and their agenda.  If you take a few moments and listen to the speeches given by both in their presentations in 2009 you’ll get a grasp of their continued commitment to ALEC and Conservative policies.

Under their direction and that of 89 other House members and 9 Senators who are loyal ALEC alumni, we’ve been shown a snapshot of what the future of our Congress will be should they continue to hold a House and gain a Senate majority in the future. For this reason we must not be swayed by one press announcement served up in the way of appeasement.

ALEC is an American disease that has been infecting all segments of our society and simply carving off one piece of that diseased carcass does not provide a cure.  The cure is a total elimination of the cancerous mass that is ALEC.

We’ve managed to expose the manipulations that for decades had been hidden away behind closed doors in dark smoke filled chambers deep within ALEC – and behind tight security at luxury resorts.  Joint corporate and legislative maneuvering, negotiations and crafting of pro-corporate profitization laws for all Americans to live by have been exposed to the light of day shining through ever widening cracks.  I fear that ultimately we’ve now driven these men and their hidden agenda from those rooms and forced them into a much smaller, much darker, better hidden “closet” in the corner.  From there they will surely continue their agenda, feeling safer for the lack of attention and public focus.

It will be our considerable job to follow them, throw open the doors to the empty chambers and seek them out by shining the same light of truth through the keyhole and under the edge of their closeted meetings until finally they flee from sight and rather than seek another dark crevice to hide in, disband altogether.

We are working on bringing that eventuality to a reality even as this is being written.  Serious and experienced researchers have been pouring over documents, links, pictures and other important materials.  There is much, much more to the ALEC saga and story that is known but has not been released yet.  More facts and information to show the depth of corruption practiced by ALEC and the network they are a part of; organizations, think tanks, foundations, corporations and individuals all working behind a curtain of secrecy to change the face of democracy and turn our government over to the highest bidder.  Right now the top bidder is the Koch brothers, Charles and David with their massive wealth, influence and total control over dozens of Tea Party lawmakers elected by Koch money in 2010.  Add the Tea Party legislators to the state and federal ALEC alumni and members…and you realize the job is far from over.

This picture represents the attitude, personae and total lack of respect or regard ALEC has for our democracy, the office of President and Americans in general: 

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer is an ALEC Alum and has implemented every possible piece of ALEC written legislation in her state since taking office.  She serves as a key enabler of ALEC through SB 1070, expanding prison privatization, reductions in corporate taxes, voter id laws to disenfranchise, privatization of education, long distance learning, school vouchers, tort “reform”…anything that crosses her desk with ALEC’s DNA upon it is immediately signed and the citizens of Arizona be damned as she bows on behalf of Arizona’s citizens to ALEC’s will and influence.

ALEC, INTUIT & Reverse Mortgages – A Primer on Corporate Exploitation of Americans

It isn’t often with ALEC that one can actually see firsthand the entire procedure from creation through outcome of an initiative advanced by this “charity” through manipulation of state and federal legislation.  Usually when we buy a happy meal at McDonalds, or a two liter of Coke or Pepsi, use TurboTax to prepare our income taxes, we are not aware of or see the laws that have been put in place to increase the profits, allow less regulation concerning food safety or reducing corporate taxes to increase profits.  As consumers we are interested in the end product and put less thought into what determines the cost or safety standards in manufacturing or delivering the products we buy.

In one specific instance we can dissect both the legislation advanced by ALEC, who it was designed to benefit and which consumer market has been targeted.  It involves senior citizens, ALEC, Intuit and Reverse Mortgages.

______________________________

Today several prominent corporations – most with national markets – have publicly ceased membership to/with the American Legislative Exchange Council.  These companies; Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Mars, Intuit, Kraft Foods, American Traffic Solutions (ATS) and Arizona Public Service Company (APS, Arizona’s largest electric utility) made this choice following an intense campaign by activists to expose their involvement with ALEC.  Though these efforts of separating ALEC from their affluent benefactors and members has been ongoing for a couple of years, the discovery that the Stand Your Ground law in Florida that may allow the murderer of a 17 year old to go free, has served as a new catalyst.

Each of the (now) eleven corporations that have left ALEC over the past few days have benefited from their membership with ALEC.  The important aspect is that these benefits will continue to drive profits to these companies after they’ve quit ALEC.  The laws they helped enable that extracts profits from costs to consumers and taxpayers will continue.  I believe they should not be allowed to so easily walk away unscathed.

Most are satisfied just to see these companies publicly pull their membership and support from ALEC.  Each ALEC defector did so with public claims they were only interested or participated in discussing legislation important to taxation related to their particular products or operations.  In public statements about leaving ALEC each also disavowed any participation in the Stand Your Ground and other onerous legislation disseminated by ALEC.  Activist organizations such as Color of Change, Common Cause and MoveOn.org count these corporate desertions as a victory and appear to accept the corporate claims, shifting efforts on to the hundreds of companies still refusing to drop ALEC membership, such as ; Koch Industries, BP, Centerpoint 360, UPS, FedEx, PhRMA, GlaxoSmithKline, Diageo and State Farm Insurance.

The Voters Legislative Transparency Project (www.vltp.net) urges voters to slow down just a moment and realize the amount of damages this small, handful of companies have caused us collectively and individually before we simply allow them off with a public “warning.”  Yes, we are gladdened to see ALEC’s members ceasing involvement with them – but much of the damage they’ve caused has already been done and the laws they helped write and get passed are still out there and in force.  The profits they sought are still rolling in and the legislative initiatives their financial aiding and abetting helped start, are still in the legislative pipeline; voter id, right to work, privatizing education, prison privatization expansions, privatization of utilities, etc.

As we wrote earlier this month, ALEC and their corporate members UPS and FedEx have been working silently to privatize our Postal Service (USPS), based upon a comprehensive report we publicly released in November, 2011 which identifies ALEC’s federal involvement in passing legislation favorable to corporations.  This effort of taking over the USPS and the nearly $70 billion in revenue it generates per year is only the latest privatization effort of ALEC

Several years ago ALEC and their members developed a legislative project involving a way to gain access to and control of a projected $2 trillion dollars; home equity held by seniors. The method developed to tap into this huge pool of privately held equity is today called a Reverse Mortgage.  In 2005 the CATO Institute published a Policy Analysis titled: “Aging America’s Achilles’ Heel Medicaid Long-Term Care,” written by Stephen A. Moses and nearly at the same time a similar report was issued by the National Council On Aging (NCOA) titled: “Expanding the Use of Reverse Mortgages for Long-Term Care: A Blueprint for Action”.  These reports were followed by ALEC crafting and adopting new model legislation titled the “Reverse Mortgage Enabling Act.” As with most of ALEC’s initiatives, multiple players contribute simultaneously to achieve the desired outcome.[1]

The NCOA report reveals:

Reverse mortgages are specialized loans that enable seniors to tap their home equity while they continue to live in the home. With an estimated amount of over $72,000 available on average to older households from these loans, reverse mortgages can help impaired elders pay for several years of daily home care visits, over a decade of out-of-pocket expenses and respite for family caregivers, or substantial home modifications. Despite the promise of this financing option, older Americans have not been encouraged to tap into their substantial housing assets.

The purpose of this project is to outline the rationale for increasing the use of reverse mortgages for long-term care and to identify areas where government interventions may be able to stimulate the market.

This ALEC initiative has since become the “law of the land” in nearly every state and through federal legislation developed by ALEC as a means of lowering the dependency of elderly or senior’s needs upon state Medicaid and SSI payments.  Their view was seniors held approximately $2 trillion dollars of equity in their homes and government laws provided a way for those seniors to exempt their homes from:

  1. being used to calculate eligibility for Medicaid assistance.
  2. and allowing estates or heirs an exemption from Medicaid reimbursement for their parents who had received Medicaid.
  3. allowed heirs to avoid repayment of any medical expenses paid for by the state for the deceased and to keep the land, property and assets previously owned and exempted by then current law.

They argued that it was allowing anyone to find a way to lower their assets and holdings through loop holes to avoid personally paying for their own long term care (LTC) through a program primarily designed for the poor.  The solution ALEC came up with was the Reverse Mortgage Enabling Act, “designed” so once a senior homeowner received a reverse mortgage, they no longer qualified for state Medicaid or Social Security’s Supplemental Security Income (SSI) due to liquid assets received through the transaction.  The RM proceeds were intended to be used by the mortgagee to fund forward healthcare costs, insurance premiums and long term care expenses.  This legislation was crafted to relieve the stress being experienced by individual states for financing necessary Medicaid expenses by using the equity in the property owned by seniors (age 62 or older) who were receiving Medicaid, SSi or similar government assistance.[i]They specifically targeted for exploitation the group most needing LTC, Medicaid and SSI benefits – seniors over 62 years of age who own or have substantial equity in their homes.


 

Form(s) of Exploitation

ALEC’s Reverse Mortgage Enabling Act legislation provided several exemptions from laws in place to protect consumers:

Reverse mortgage loans may be made or acquired without regard to the following provisions for other types of mortgage transactions set out in the statutes specified below:

(A) Limitations on the purpose and use of future advances or any other mortgage proceeds,

(B) Limitations on future advances to a term of years, or limitations on the term of credit line advances,

(C) Limitations on the term during which future advances take priority over intervening advances,

(D) Requirements that a maximum mortgage amount be stated in the mortgage,

(E) Limitations on loan-to-value ratios,

(F) Prohibitions on balloon payments,

(G) Prohibitions on compounded interest and interest on interest,

(H) Interest rate limits under the usury statutes; and

(I) Requirements that a percentage of the loan proceeds must be advanced prior to loan assignment.

They opined that seniors would jump at the chance to exchange home equity for liquidity during retirement years with no requirement to repay the loans.  Of course none of the seniors were aware that accepting such a financial “windfall” came with several unknown disadvantages: reverse mortgage payments may affect eligibility for government benefits, including Medicaid and SSI eligibility and payments could be garnished in unrelated circumstances such as liability for a traffic accident.

Homeowners can get the money in one of three ways (or in any combination of the three): in a lump sum, as a line of credit that can be drawn on at the borrower’s option, or in a series of regular payments, called a “reverse annuity mortgage.”  Generally, these payments will not be counted as income as long as they are spent within the same month they are received.  If the funds are not immediately spent, however, they accumulate and can push resources over the allowable limits for Medicaid and SSI.

In addition, payments from reverse annuity mortgages may be counted as income for purposes of Medicaid and SSI whether or not they are spent within the month they are received.  Interest charged on the mortgages is usually in excess of what is normally allowed and will be compounded; adding to the initial principal and future interest applied to new principal amounts.

While reverse mortgages look like no-lose propositions on the surface, in addition to the possibility of losing eligibility for Medicaid and SSi, closing costs for these loans are about double those for conventional mortgages.  Closing costs on a reverse mortgage for a $200,000 home exceeds $10,000. This cost can be financed by the loan itself, but that reduces the money available to the borrower

Finally, when the holder of a RM passes away, the total note, with all principal, compounded interest, fees and other provisions are due and payable as a balloon payment.  Regardless of the assessed and appraised value of the property, the heirs owe what the bank or mortgage holder is contractually entitled to and this amount will normally equal the actual property value and most proceeds going to the lender.  In most cases the mortgage contract contains provisions that property ownership transfers directly to the mortgagor upon the death of the owner.  This removes the home – and principal asset of the deceased – from the estate and inheritance for the surviving family.  These RM’s may be beneficial and thus desirable to a small number of consumers; seniors with no family or those who don’t wish to leave their home to their children and in those circumstances an RM is well suited for their specific needs.

In a MarketWatch question and answer forum featuring the advice of housing writer Lew Sichelman, Sichelman addresses what he calls a little understood and under-publicized aspect of reverse mortgages: their impact on Medicaid eligibility;

“If a patient takes out a reverse mortgage and receives a lump-sum, they’re often ineligible for Medicaid to pay for nursing home care.  The rules are complicated but Medicaid allows a patient to have not more than $2,000 plus a house and automobile. A large, lump-sum payment can impact that dollar amount in the month when it is received.

A reverse mortgage, while it does not impact Medicare or Social Security, can have an effect on Medicaid and SSI Income, he writes.

 “If you opt for a lump-sum payment from a reverse mortgage, any amount retained the month after you receive it would count as a resource and could affect SSI or Medicaid coverage.  Also, when the proceeds of a reverse mortgage are paid out on a monthly basis, the payments act to increase the senior’s income and could possibly render him or her ineligible for Medicaid.”

While reverse mortgages are a viable option for those who wish to improve their later-years’ lifestyle, Sichelman says,

 “They could prove to be deadly—financially speaking—if they must move into a nursing home, even if only on a short-term basis.”

The reason for this concern about moving into a nursing home for any period of time, is that under RM contracts, the homeowner is required to continuously reside at the home, maintain the home and is prohibited from leaving the premises unattended for more than 60 days.  In cases of default, the loan is called due and payable immediately.

From 1990 through mid 2008 there were very few RM’s applied for by seniors; 114,692 reverse mortgages were made in fiscal year 2009, compared to 157 in 1990 when people had actual money.  Home equity was substantially greater than the valuation of those homes and elderly consumers saw no need to take advantage of an RM.  With the mortgage crisis that built and finally exploded in late 2008, homeowners lost as much as 50% of the value and equity in their homes, their retirement and pension accounts took a huge hit as well.  Seniors were particularly hard hit in that they were dependent upon fixed incomes and budgets and their greatest asset – their homes – had been devalued which instantly reduced the percentage of equity they held.  With homes devalued and retirement, pensions and 401K investments sliding by half, seniors were put in a terrible financial situation, with no ability to work and earn an income due to medical issues, age or infirmity.  Reverse Mortgages then looked like a way to keep their heads above water and many began to consider RMs as a means to live out their lives without becoming homeless or destitute.

As the economy continued to slide and property values at the lowest in decades and mortgage interest at or under 5%, banks and mortgage companies realized that the time was ripe to acquire as many properties held by seniors as possible.  The price would never be better; loaning between 65% and 85% of the appraised values would mean they could get their hands on huge numbers of homes for much less than even the depressed value of each – through relatively short term reverse mortgages that had provisions to allow higher interest rates and exemptions from usury prohibitions.  Some of the same lenders now known to be responsible for the economic collapse and sub-prime mortgage and derivatives problems, received bank bailout funding and have used some of that money to invest in lucrative RM’s. The older the borrower the more banks are willing to lend (obviously their actuarial tables provide that RMs to older borrowers results in shorter term loans).

Companies such as Intuit’s “One Reverse Mortgage” which already had a RM program in place (since 2001) began to heavily advertise RMs to seniors.  Many other companies jumped on the bandwagon and from late 2008 through today we see dozens of RM adds on TV, in our print and radio media encouraging seniors to take advantage of a RM.  In these ads seniors are informed they can walk away from the closing with huge amounts of money “to use any way they want” and enjoy the safety and security of owning their own home and having no financial worries through their retirement years.  In fact the paid spokesmen for these companies such as long time ALEC supporter and former Senator, Fred Thompson advise potential RM applicants they can use their funds to pay off any first mortgages on their homes altogether and eliminate any monthly mortgage payment. This reduces any possibility of legal conflicts between lenders when the homeowner dies – and in most cases paying off the first mortgage is a stipulation for in an RM contract.

Intuit was represented upon ALEC’s Private Enterprise Board by Bernie McKay, the Vice President of Government Affairs at Intuit Inc.  Intuit is a long time member of ALEC and as the foregoing demonstrates, this company is suspected of having a hand in writing; passing and adopting this ALEC model legislation…and is capitalizing off of RMs.  Intuit proudly proclaims, “One Reverse Mortgage is the nation’s largest reverse mortgage only company.

Having been involved from beginning to end in the Reverse Mortgage development, Intuit is realizing millions and millions off of the RM legislation they helped lawmakers pass nationwide.  If left in place this one law used to exploit seniors, unbeknownst to them will continue financial streams for Intuit and other lenders indefinitely. Simply leaving ALEC after their future earnings have been guaranteed by the laws they put in place over the past half decade is not sufficient.  Intuit must be made to help clean-up this mess they helped create; stand your ground, reverse mortgage, voter id, abortion, healthcare and other laws that began as ALEC model legislation and are now controlling laws in many of our states.

Similarly, the other corporations that have left ALEC – and those that remain – must also share in the massive legislative clean-up their actions caused.  VLTP believes that once harm has been visited upon consumers and voters there must be an effort to repair the damages done by the perpetrator.  In the case of ALEC there are hundreds of corporate perps, nearly 2,000 state lawmakers and an undetermined number of Alumni who share responsibility for the damage that has been visited upon Americans for the past four decades.

We can see from just the one legislative effort – Reverse Mortgages – that these companies have been able to amass huge profits, acquire the right or titles to millions of homes.  Charting how Coke, Pepsi , McDonald’s, Wendy’s and the others have profited can only be guesstimated for now.  At some point analysts will correlate that information, but for now its sufficient to note that they were enablers for the acts of ALEC and have to share in repairing what ALEC broke.

Too many times over the years corporations have been caught committing criminal acts and gotten away with reasonable fines and no one going to jail.  We have been left to clean up our economy, housing crisis and mortgage frauds on our own.  Now that we know who is responsible for many of these acts, they must be made to step-up, admit their involvement and provide us with financial assistance to repair the damages caused.

VLTP urges everyone to insist that Intuit and the others now trying to separate themselves from ALEC use the vast wealth they have accumulated from their relationship with ALEC and help us rebuild our economy, our communities, property values and above all to help restore a true democracy in the U.S.



[1] Editor’s NOTE: This is the same activity used in that same year to begin the effort to privatize the Postal Service; calls from think tanks to privatize, creation of model bills to address a nonexistent problem with introduction of that legislation and eventual passage.

Mars (maker of Skittles) and Arizona Public Service Dump ALEC

By Center for Media and Democracy’s Rebekah Wilce

“The seventh and eighth corporation to publicly state that they cut ties with theAmerican Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) are candy-maker Mars and the Arizona Public Service Company (APS), Arizona’s largest electric utility. Mars had been an exhibitor at ALEC’s 2011 annual meeting in New Orleans. Mars is the maker of Skittles, the snack Trayvon Martin had purchased before he was shot by George Zimmerman, whose arrest was delayed due to an NRA-backed gun law that was later ratified by ALEC.

Continue reading at CMD here

Smart ALECs Get Their Due

From Business Insider by WhoWhatWhy.

The news in the past week has been heartening to those who see the transparently corrupt nature of ALEC, an organization that works with legislators to come up with and push pro-business legislation on the state level.  Corporations pay up to $25,000 to get in on the action…

“…The term “legislative exchange” must be an inside joke, with the “exchange” not being among legislators, but between those who have the money and those who want it. And ALEC is just the currently most visible arm of one of the most threatening power grabs by big money ever seen.”

Read the Complete article at Business Insider here

FL State Rep. Dennis Baxley, Sponsor of ‘Right to Kill’ Law, Also Proud Racialist, Vote Suppressor

By Brad Friedman

It turns out that Republican Florida state Rep. Dennis Baxley is far more odious than we realized when, last December, we described him as, among other things, “reprehensible”, “anti-American” and “democracy-hating”.

It appears we were way too kind.

Baxley, it seems, was the chief, NRA-funded sponsor behind Florida’s 2005 “Stand Your Ground” law — better described as a “Right to Kill” law — the first of many similar ALEC-templated bills to be passed by Republicans in states across the country, allowing for what opponents had warned at the time, would result in “racially motivated killings.”

To read the rest of this blog, which contains a video by Rachel Maddow and also an interview with Dennis Baxley, please click here.

Exclusive: McDonald’s Says It Has Dumped ALEC

From Mother Jones by Andy Kroll

 McALEC

Add another name to the list of corporations who’ve ditched the American Legislative Exchange Council: McDonald’s.

“The fast food giant tells Mother Jones that it recently decided to cut ties with ALEC, the corporate-backed group that drafts pro-free-market legislation for state lawmakers around the country.”

continue reading–>

Meet The Corporate Members of ALEC’s Task Forces – A Review of Their Backgrounds and Connections

From CNN by Libby Lewis “NRA expands its role from fight for gun rights to conservative causes

CNN reports that the NRA was involved with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) through their representative,

“An NRA lobbyist, Tara Mica, helped shepherd a model bill that requires voters to show a photo ID at the polls…Mica also helped preside over ALEC’s passage of the model bill that became the basis of Arizona’s immigration law.”

_____________________________

When some read about this and related issues of “lobbyists” helping to craft legislation through ALEC, all information about that lobbyists or individual named is often not presented.  For instance about Tara Mica being a lobbyists for the NRA…

Ms. Mica is listed in the CNN article as a “lobbyist” for the NRA, however she was much more than that.  She served the NRA-Institute for Legislative Action as their “State Liaison”.  This NRA-ILA is the NRA – serving as their Lobbying arm…Ms. Mica was representing the NRA directly through this organization while she co-chaired ALEC’s Public Safety and Elections Task Force until last year.  The NRA is a recipient of funding from the Koch family foundations, Bradley foundation, Scaife foundation and Wal-Mart.

This issue of chairing or co-chairing ALEC’s task forces as corporate “Private Enterprise Board” representatives is important to understanding how ALEC’s model legislation processes work.  Coca~Cola, Kraft and PepsiCo have all issued statements that they participated in discussions about issues of interest to their companies, i.e., taxation, product liability, tort reform, but had no input or participation in the voter ID or privatization discussions of developing model legislation.  I believe these claims are false and given out to deflect adverse publicity about their involvement in all model legislation that passes through each task force that they’re a part of.

ALEC’s procedures are set up to require a unanimous vote on behalf of corporate members in each task force or working group, and without that, any proposed legislation cannot be advanced to the entire membership for adoption as model legislation.  If even one  corporate representative votes nay on a proposed model, it is tabled and cannot advance. Legislative members are prohibited from taking proposed legislation not supported by the corporate members back to their home states and introducing it  as a proposed law.

The Immigration legislation disseminated by ALEC could never have happened unless the corporations voted it through to the full membership.  The task force co-chaired by Tara Mica and thus the NRA, is where Arizona’s SB 1070 was born and passed, moving to the full membership for adoption.  Once passed it subsequently spawned similar legislation in more than 25 states since.  The same goes for the voter ID legislation complained of by Americans coast to coast. These legislative “bills” were both approved while Ms. Mica sat as the co-chair of ALEC’s public safety task force from 2008 through 2011 – and they each advanced upon a unanimous vote on behalf of the NRA and others at the table. So the argument that the “NRA took no part or position on those laws” is disingenuous.  Without the NRA’s vote of yea – all of those proposed laws would not have been adopted and now controlling law in several states.

Today the private sector chair of the public safety and elections task force is Stacie Rumenap, representing Stop Child Predators. SCP is an organization dedicated to stopping those who would exploit children  However, their Advisory Board is comprised of individuals with a vast experience in education, student loans and other school initiatives (though there are a couple with past DoJ and related criminal justice experience).  As we are now aware, education privatization, for-profit colleges, vouchers and higher education issues are now at the top of ALEC’s to-do list. One of the SCP board members is the VP of Apollo Group – also involved directly with ALEC on pushing education legislation.  Apollo Group (for-profit college company) was involved with ALEC in their AZ. conference last November and has donated $75,000 to the Romney Super Pac, Restore Our Future when Apollo’s bottom line was threatened or harmed by regulations supported by the Obama Administration.

Other key corporate ALEC Task Force representatives are:

The foregoing does not include those corporate members sitting on the actual task forces or within the “working groups” of those task forces, etc.  As shown those corporations and organizations belonging to ALEC don’t simply have a representative tasked with attending ALEC conferences, meetings and working groups.  They have key corporate executives assigned to liaison with ALEC; vice presidents, directors and highly paid lobbyists who chair or wield influence over the working groups and task forces they sit upon.  In addition as we see with Apollo and SCP above, they are also interrelated away from ALEC but continue to push issues important to ALEC and to openly fund conservative candidates who are pro-corporate.  In the Apollo/SCP case the key issues are for-profit education – from K-12 through college.

What is so puzzling to many today is that as a 501(c)(3) “charity” ALEC is not allowed to lobby, support particular candidates or attempt to influence any legislation.  However with lobbyists representing corporations belonging to that organization as “members” and sitting down at the table to discuss potential laws that benefit them with elected lawmaker “members”, there is no separation between the two groups. The meetings, discussions and determinations about which laws to adopt and attempt to pass in our states is done through the sponsorship of ALEC.  ALEC sets the meeting schedules, picks the locations for those meetings, works with Private Enterprise state Chairmen to acquire “donations” and “contributions” to pay expenses for lawmakers attendance are reimbursed for travel, accommodations, meals and other expenses – including travel and expenses for the families of legislators.

Between meetings ALEC staff members openly travel around the country to each legislature to “testify” about key legislation they want passed.  When critics complain about the open lobbying for legislation directly to a legislature, ALEC claims that they are not lobbying, they were invited to attend the hearing by a member or members of that legislature.  Of course the invites come from lawmakers who are ALEC members and in this manner ALEC is able to directly lobby on behalf of a particular piece of legislation important to them and the conservative agenda.

VLTP is hopeful that this new peeling back of the corporate involvement in ALEC through the numerous article about Coca~Cola, Pepsi, Kraft Foods and those still remaining as members of the cabal will result in longer and harder looks at not just those memberships, but also the bios and positions of the actual individuals representing each member.

 

ALEC is a Shadowy Organization Which Promotes Corporate Interests and Harms Democracy

From PolicyMic by Phy Tran

With the recent controversy of the death of Trayvon Martin, the conservative group American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has come under attacks from public interest groups. Consequently, Kraft, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and Intuit pulled out their memberships with ALEC, an action lauded as a major victory for liberals. However, it is too soon to applaud these recent successes. ALEC, whose influence extends beyond Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law, has disfranchised America through its legislation franchising.

Continue reading at Policymic

Trayvon Martin Killing Draws Hundreds to Protest Stand Your Ground Laws

From Policymic – article on the DC Protest against the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) by numerous progressive, activist and civil rights groups and individuals for their involvement in the creation of the “Castle Doctrine” or stand your ground law.  ALEC has also been identified as the creator of the “Voter ID” legislation now being enacted nationwide to disenfranchise million in this and subsequent election cycles.

From the Article:     “A diverse coalition of advocacy organizations, watchdog groups, activists, and national leaders stood in front of ALEC’s headquarters in Washington, D.C., to protest the “Kill at Will” legislation, which was written by ALEC corporate member the National Rifle Association (NRA). The groups protesting at the event included the National Urban League, the NAACP, ColorOfChange, the AFL-CIO, SEIU, ProgressNow, the Center for Media and Democracy/ALECexposed.org, Common Cause, People For the American Way, ProgressNow, Presente, Public Campaign, UltraViolet, Faith in Public Life, the National Council of Churches, USAction, Moveon.org, and others…”

Read full article here...

Progressive Groups Ask ALEC Funders to Drop Out in Wake of Martin Death and ‘Shoot First’ Laws

Progressive organizations are finally coming together in small groups and unifying against ALEC and ALEC’s pro-corporate Private Enterprise Board member companies.  VLTP has been calling for a unification of progressives to begin an earnest ALEC pushback and eventual banishment from our state and national landscape.

This appears to be the first publicly seen response to that call.
Read the rest of the story here