immigration

Secret funding helped build vast network of climate denial thinktanks

Anonymous billionaires donated $120m to more than 100 anti-climate groups working to discredit climate change science

Funding climate deniersnn :  Americans For Prosperity

Climate sceptic groups are mobilising against Obama’s efforts to act on climate change in his second term. Photograph: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

(editor’s note:  this article refers to even more about members of the ALEC/Koch Cabal and their efforts to promote climate change denial)

How Donors Trust distributed millions to anti-climate groups

Conservative billionaires used a secretive funding route to channel nearly $120m (£77m) to more than 100 groups casting doubt about the science behind climate change, the Guardian has learned.

The funds, doled out between 2002 and 2010, helped build a vast network of thinktanks and activist groups working to a single purpose: to redefine climate change from neutral scientific fact to a highly polarising “wedge issue” for hardcore conservatives.

The millions were routed through two trusts, Donors Trust and the Donors Capital Fund, operating out of a generic town house in the northern Virginia suburbs of Washington DC. Donors Capital caters to those making donations of $1m or more.

Whitney Ball, chief executive of the Donors Trust told the Guardian that her organisation assured wealthy donors that their funds would never by diverted to liberal causes.
Koch Industries Executive Vice President David H. Koch : Funding climate chang deniersThe funding stream far outstripped the support from more visible opponents of climate action such as the oil industry or the conservative billionaire Koch brothers. Photograph: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

“We exist to help donors promote liberty which we understand to be limited government, personal responsibility, and free enterprise,” she said in an interview.

By definition that means none of the money is going to end up with groups like Greenpeace, she said. “It won’t be going to liberals.”

Ball won’t divulge names, but she said the stable of donors represents a wide range of opinion on the American right. Increasingly over the years, those conservative donors have been pushing funds towards organisations working to discredit climate science or block climate action.

Donors exhibit sharp differences of opinion on many issues, Ball said. They run the spectrum of conservative opinion, from social conservatives to libertarians. But in opposing mandatory cuts to greenhouse gas emissions, they found common ground.

“Are there both sides of an environmental issue? Probably not,” she went on. “Here is the thing. If you look at libertarians, you tend to have a lot of differences on things like defence, immigration, drugs, the war, things like that compared to conservatives. When it comes to issues like the environment, if there are differences, they are not nearly as pronounced.”

By 2010, the dark money amounted to $118m distributed to 102 thinktanks or action groups which have a record of denying the existence of a human factor in climate change, or opposing environmental regulations.

The money flowed to Washington thinktanks embedded in Republican party politics, obscure policy forums in Alaska and Tennessee, contrarian scientists at Harvard and lesser institutions, even to buy up DVDs of a film attacking Al Gore.

The ready stream of cash set off a conservative backlash against Barack Obama’s environmental agenda that wrecked any chance of Congress taking action on climate change.
Graphic-climate-denial-secret funding - guardian UKGraphic: climate denial funding

Those same groups are now mobilising against Obama’s efforts to act on climate change in his second term. A top recipient of the secret funds on Wednesday put out a point-by-point critique of the climate content in the president’s state of the union address.

And it was all done with a guarantee of complete anonymity for the donors who wished to remain hidden.

“The funding of the denial machine is becoming increasingly invisible to public scrutiny. It’s also growing. Budgets for all these different groups are growing,” said Kert Davies, research director of Greenpeace, which compiled the data on funding of the anti-climate groups using tax records.

“These groups are increasingly getting money from sources that are anonymous or untraceable. There is no transparency, no accountability for the money. There is no way to tell who is funding them,” Davies said.

The trusts were established for the express purpose of managing donations to a host of conservative causes.

Such vehicles, called donor-advised funds, are not uncommon in America. They offer a number of advantages to wealthy donors. They are convenient, cheaper to run than a private foundation, offer tax breaks and are lawful.

That opposition hardened over the years, especially from the mid-2000s where the Greenpeace record shows a sharp spike in funds to the anti-climate cause.

In effect, the Donors Trust was bankrolling a movement, said Robert Brulle, a Drexel University sociologist who has extensively researched the networks of ultra-conservative donors.

“This is what I call the counter-movement, a large-scale effort that is an organised effort and that is part and parcel of the conservative movement in the United States ” Brulle said. “We don’t know where a lot of the money is coming from, but we do know that Donors Trust is just one example of the dark money flowing into this effort.”

In his view, Brulle said: “Donors Trust is just the tip of a very big iceberg.”

The rise of that movement is evident in the funding stream. In 2002, the two trusts raised less than $900,000 for the anti-climate cause. That was a fraction of what Exxon Mobil or the conservative oil billionaire Koch brothers donated to climate skeptic groups that year.

By 2010, the two Donor Trusts between them were channelling just under $30m to a host of conservative organisations opposing climate action or science. That accounted to 46% of all their grants to conservative causes, according to the Greenpeace analysis.

The funding stream far outstripped the support from more visible opponents of climate action such as the oil industry or the conservative billionaire Koch brothers, the records show. When it came to blocking action on the climate crisis, the obscure charity in the suburbs was outspending the Koch brothers by a factor of six to one.

“There is plenty of money coming from elsewhere,” said John Mashey, a retired computer executive who has researched funding for climate contrarians. “Focusing on the Kochs gets things confused. You can not ignore the Kochs. They have their fingers in too many things, but they are not the only ones.”

It is also possible the Kochs continued to fund their favourite projects using the anonymity offered by Donor Trust.

But the records suggest many other wealthy conservatives opened up their wallets to the anti-climate cause – an impression Ball wishes to stick.

She argued the media had overblown the Kochs support for conservative causes like climate contrarianism over the years. “It’s so funny that on the right we think George Soros funds everything, and on the left you guys think it is the evil Koch brothers who are behind everything. It’s just not true. If the Koch brothers didn’t exist we would still have a very healthy organisation,” Ball said.

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The Precarious Situation of Nevada’s ELL Students

(or “Why Nevada is Going to Get Sued for Millions.“)

With recent headlines like “Conference attendees say Nevada isn’t doing enough to educate ELL students,” and “GOP lawmaker seeks more state funding for English language learners,” it should come as no surprise that Nevada has an English Language Learner problem in its grade schools. What such headlines don’t show is the depth and breadth of the peril we place our state in by not doing enough to educate ELL students.

Economic Impact

According to 2012 Applied Analysis impact study, the cost to Nevada of ELL students who will fail to graduate, or unlikely to graduate, is projected at $17 trillion, in loss of tax payments, unemployment benefits, cost of incarceration, and health care costs that will have to be subsidized. This net economic drag can be reversed if Nevada adequately educates ELL students early on and fixes its high school graduation crisis. The estimated return on investment if this is accomplished is tenfold for each dollar spent over the coming years. Therefore, every day Nevada continues to view the investment of educating ELL students as a burden is another day that the potential return on investment is not realized.

Depth of the ELL Population

Nevada school age children in general are demographically diverse and likely to be “at risk” – three in five are minorities, one in six is an ELL learner, and one in two qualifies for free or reduced cost school lunches – further exacerbating efforts to educate ELL students.

ELL population has remained stable for the last five years, even as immigration has declined into the state.  Although some immigrant families, particularly undocumented immigrants left Nevada in the last three years, the bulk of the immigrant families have decided to make Nevada their home in spite of the hard times. As is evident the magnitude of Nevada’s ELL demographics is no longer small enough to fully address by diverting minor resources from general education funding as it once was decades ago.

Breadth of the ELL Achievement Gap

Nevada has a legal obligation under constitutional law, federal law, and state law to provide ALL children with an equal quality of education and quality educational opportunities; free of charge and regardless of legal status. However, Nevada’s ELL children lag significantly behind their English-speaking counterparts, third grade ELL children lag 15% behind in CRT reading scores, and the gap becomes larger the longer that they remain in ELL programs, one in twelve ELL children passes the English high school proficiency exam.

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Experts agree that teaching special populations of ELL children require skill sets and expertise that the average teacher is not taught. In addition, for ELL children to succeed they need to receive instruction from teachers who understand how to teach the development of language as well as how to communicate to English Language Learners academic concepts. Shockingly, in a recent review of Clark County School District classrooms 69 out of 70 teachers were rated as not providing high quality ELL instruction and most observed classroom interactions contained NO instructional content for ELL students on language development. Reviewers made it loud and clear that the high quality instruction required for ELL students was almost completely missing. This is overwhelming evidence that Nevada is not meeting its legal obligations requiring that “the programs and practices actually used by a school system [be] reasonably calculated to implement effectively the educational theory adopted by the school.

Providing Resources for ELL Needs

Increased funding does not guarantee that the additional resources needed for educating ELL students are provided. However, Nevada doesn’t currently provide any funding for ELL resources, one of only a handful of states that does not provide any state funding for ELL children. In failing to provide even minimum services for ELL children the state places itself at risk of a multi-million dollar lawsuit. School districts with comparable ELL student populations, who have settled ELL lawsuits, such as Florida, California and Arizona provide substantial state support for ELL programs leaving a strong precedence for substantial ELL resources as a funding requirement. Further deteriorating ELL resources in Nevada:

This leaves us asking the question “What level of funding for ELL will fix the looming human, work force and legal crisis?” The Nevada legislature has commissioned two studies in 2006 and 2012; both recommended increasing funding for ELL students. According to the 2006 adequacy study, Nevada should be funding English Language Learners at $5600 per child which when adjusted for inflation would have equated to $3,551.3 million in additional funding dedicated strictly for English Language Learner instruction and resources. The 2012 study was unable to propose an updated estimate for funding ELL resources because it was “simply not possible to disentangle the relationship between – low?income [students] and ELL students.”

Authored by Sebring Frehner with the expertise of various community leaders.

ALEC Executive Director Caught LYING about NRA

WELL – ALEC is doing what they do best again – LYING

An editorial by Executive Director Ron Scheberle included the following misleading statements (my emphasis):

“I wish that our critics would conduct themselves similarly. Instead, liberal activist groups like Color of Change have used this tragedy to falsely accuse ALEC of collaborating with the National Rifle Association on model legislation. The truth is that ALEC has no affiliation with the NRA, which is not a member of ALEC.

“ALEC is a partnership between state legislators, members of the nonprofit and private sectors, and the general public that works to support the fundamental principles of free-market enterprise, limited government and federalism at the state level. ALEC does not have any model legislation involving the NRA.”

Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm. More →

Michigan Right to Work Law Was the Brainchild of ALEC, The Most Dangerous Group in Politics

From article written by Bob Sloan and published on Policy Mic...

Fact: 282 bills were passed in Michigan during the lame duck session. 42% of all the bills passed in the last two years were in this last lame duck session, with 180 votes taken on the last day of the 2012 session alone.

Fact: In the session from Dec 13 to Dec 14 (ending at 4:29AM), 180 roll-call votes were held. This took place in the 18 hours leading up to the ending of lame duck.

No sooner had the GOP secured total control of Michigan in 2010, holding majorities in both houses and winning the governorship, than the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a right-wing ultra-conservative “bill mill” and THE source of money and corruption in politics today, lept into action. ALEC wasted no time in sending many of their most onerous “model legislation” bills to Michigan. These included the Emergency Manager law, , expansion of charter schools, HB 5221 (Voter ID Act), which required voters to provide proof of citizenship when registering to vote, and HB 4305 with language similar to ALEC’s model “Immigration Law Enforcement Act.” More →

In Arizona dissent, Scalia blasts Obama’s deportation stay, immigration policies

Justice Antonin Scalia criticized President Barack Obama’s announcement earlier this month that he would stay the deportation of young illegal immigrants and suggested that the federal government does not want to enforce its immigration laws…

…Scalia also repeatedly referenced Obama’s policy of prosecutorial discretion…

…Scalia directly referred to Obama’s immigration enforcement policy as “lax”…

…Arizona’s entire immigration law should be upheld, Scalia wrote, because it is “entitled” to make its own immigration policy. At one point, he cites the fact that before the Civil War, Southern states could exclude free blacks from their borders to support the idea that states should be able to set their own immigration policies.

Ron’s personal opinion:  Scalia is clearly not rational when it comes to anything having to do with President Obama, as he opined more about politics and the President, than about the law in his dissent to the court’s decision.  And if he wants a return to pre-civil war civil rights, a predisposition to racism is apparent in his personal beliefs which prevent him from interpreting the law impartially--as a Supreme Court Justice is charged..  If it was not for a republican majority in the House of Representative, he should be impeached–but the House is not going to impeach one of its own.

To read more about Scalia, and the way he thinks, click here.

Making the Most From Prison Labor

Many prisoners work within prisons producing goods and services to maintain correctional facilities, reducing the costs to taxpayers of maintaining prisoners and gaining some work skills. A much smaller number work in traditional correctional industry activities, such as for the Federal Prisons.  The ABA Subcommittee on Correctional Industries estimated that total employment of prisoners in 1997 in traditional correctional industries amounted to about 75,000 in a workforce of over 136 million persons, while just 2,400 prisoners worked for private sector industries (ABA, figure 3).  Federal Prison Industries, UNICOR, employs about 17,000 inmates. With nearly 2 million inmates in 1999 the majority of whom are in state and federal prisons where inmate work could be most readily increased, there is considerable potential scope for increasing the work activity of prisoners.

What are the likely economic consequences of an  increase in  the amount of  work prisoners do for the market outside of prisons?  Who would benefit?  Who would lose?  What would be the most efficacious way to increase the work activity of prisoners?

To read this excellent economic analysis of Prison labor, please click here where it is one of a number of articles.

Obama unveils immigration policy at White House

President Obama spoke this afternoon in the Rose Garden, explaining the importance of today’s new immigration policy, effectively implementing the goals of the DREAM Act.

To read the article and watch the embedded video of the press conference–including the dignified way President Obama handled a heckling right wingnut–please click here

How Do You Fight Voter Suppression?

The single most effective way to fight voter suppression is to register to vote, and then vote on election day.

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) made news this week when they announced that they were discontinuing their Public Safety and Elections Task Force. This Task Force was responsible for the promotion of ‘model’ voter identification and stand-your-ground legislation that has recently been in the news. This announcement came after many organizations put pressure on corporations to withdraw their support from ALEC.

 This retreat by ALEC is an important step for organizations like the League that have worked so hard to protect voting rights and protect the public interest in many other areas.  We must still remain vigilant against special interest influence on our government and democracy which has too often been hidden from the public.

The League always encourages voters to stand their ground. Special interests cannot prevail when confronted by an informed and engaged electorate. In order to do this, Leagues across the country will continue to work hard registering and educating voters, while also seeking to improve our government and elections.

To this end, The Charlotte-Mecklenburg League of Women Voters will be on hand from 11AM-2PM on 5/12 at the ALEC Teach-In to register people to vote.  Please be sure to bring all materials that you will need to register.

And remember, those who will be 18 by election day in November can register to vote in the 5/8 Primaries.

To find out more about this vital organization, please click here