Institute for Humane Studies

ALEC’s Corporate Membership Exodus Continues

ALEC’s Corporate Membership Exodus Continues

by bob sloan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Richard Fink: The Koch Brothers’ Big Tobacco Man Behind the Kochtopus Curtain

Richard Fink has long been one of the Koch Brothers’ inner circle, playing the role of both political strategist and close confidante.
Richard FinkSome say the Koch Empire wouldn’t have been nearly as successful without Fink. Without him and his ideas, what is now pejoratively known as the “Kochtopus” probably would not have branched so far into research or political advocacy.
kochtopusBut relatively few people have heard of Richard Fink. And even fewer know of his connections to Big Tobacco – connections which may have influenced the creation and actions of Koch-funded front groups for decades to come.

With the Kochs’ support, Fink established the Mercatus Center in 1980, and then co-founded Citizens for a Sound Economy (CSE) in 1984, where he served as President and CEO. Later, Fink helped found Americans for Prosperity to succeed CSE in 2004.

Fink sits on the board of the Institute for Humane Studies and is the former President of two Koch Family Foundations. Further, he has served as the Executive Vice-President of Koch Industries since 1989.

The Koch Brothers are best known as a key funder behind the climate denial machine and for their political attacks on President Barack Obama, as Jane Mayer exposed in her must-read New Yorker article.

The Kochs have donated over $25 million to front groups that attack climate science, create doubt and confusion among the public, and otherwise delay accountability for polluters.

Americans for Prosperity has campaigned against efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions, and amplified the “Climategate” attack on scientists, calling global warming the “biggest hoax the world has ever seen.”

But the Koch front groups’ involvement in the tobacco industry has gone largely unreported.

In 1999, the major tobacco companies were accused of a mass conspiracy to deceive the public about the dangers of smoking. The United States Department of Justice filed a racketeering lawsuit against major cigarette manufacturers, and sought $280 billion in penalties.

To combat this, Big Tobacco called on its allies for support – including the Mercatus Center and Citizens for a Sound Economy – both created by Richard Fink.

THE MOBILIZATION UNIVERSE

In a document called “Mobilization Universe,” as seen on the Tobacco Archives, Philip Morris laid out a plan to call on its allies. The goal: avert White House filing of the federal suit.

Its plan was to leverage third-party relationships to “oppose DOJ appropriations request for federal suit task force, oppose federal legislation enabling cause of action against the industry, and persuade the Administration and Senate and House Democrats of the political liability in a federal suit.”

Philip Morris laid out its key targets and key message points, examples of which include “Assumption of risk,” “Money grab,” and “Bad for Gore and Senate and House Democrats in 2000.” The document calls for third-party surrogates to write op-eds, LTEs and editorials, give speeches or testimonies, create policy reports, join coalitions, and provide access to policymakers, to name several.

CSE and the Mercatus Center were documented as allies several years before that, as well. In 1991, both CSE and Mercatus were part of a portfolio of organizations Philip Morris had cultivated to support its interests during a federal suit. Many other Koch-funded organizations were also included in this list, including the Cato Institute and the Heritage Foundation.

A HISTORY OF ALLIANCE

For several years, Fink acted on behalf of Big Tobacco using tactics laid out in their mobilization strategy – dating back from 1985, when he wrote federal representatives urging them to eliminate the US Tobacco Program. In a hand-signed letter, he wrote:

“Dear Representative: On behalf of the 220,000 members of Citizens for a Sound Economy, I urge you to consider the heavy costs of the U.S. tobacco program, and the enormous benefits to consumers and taxpayers which would result from the elimination of that program.”

The elimination of the tobacco tax bill would have lined the pockets of Big Tobacco CEOs, with less taxes and easier access for farmers to grow tobacco. Fink aligned not only himself but the entire membership of CSE with the interests of Big Tobacco.

In 1988, Fink wrote to the Surgeon General to express concern about the Interagency Committee on Smoking and Health’s inquiries into the subject of tobacco and U.S. trade policy. He warned that it would be unwise to suggest any foreign trade barriers, ending, “we hope that you will keep these thoughts in mind as your department discusses U.S. trade policy toward tobacco.” This letter was tracked down by the Checks & Balances Project in the Tobacco Archives, with an addendum from Samuel Chilcote – President of The Tobacco Institute – urging others to follow Fink’s lead and support.

For Fink’s efforts, Chilcote thanked Fink in a hand-signed letter on behalf of the tobacco industry, writing, “When an advisory body such as the Interagency Committee on Smoking and Health ventures into the field of U.S. trade policy, it is vitally important that the public record be balanced by the sound economic views and sensible business judgments that you provided.”

A LEGACY OF LOBBYING

In 1988, Fink testified on behalf of CSE to the National Economic Commission, urging them to avoid tax increases – increases that would have negatively impacted Big Tobacco’s profits.

Under Fink’s guidance, CSE participated in coalitions and partnered with other tobacco front groups, honing the dirty public relations tactics employed today by the Kochtopus Empire to delay action on combating climate change.

CSE joined the “Coalition for Fiscal Restraint” (COFIRE) in 1988, along with Koch Industries and Philip Morris. This is the only coalition in which Koch Industries represented itself as a corporation, rather than through its myriad front groups.

CSE also took part in “Get Government Off Our Back,” the front group created in 1994 by RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company to fight federal regulation of the tobacco industry. Its involvement in this group was kept in strict confidence until eventually made public via the Tobacco Archives. During this time, CSE was funded to the tune of at least $400,000 by the tobacco industry for its efforts to limit government regulation.

In 1998, CSE lobbied against California’s Proposition 10, an amendment to raise tobacco taxes in the Sunshine State. Members of CSE wrote letters to legislators and put forth a pledge to vote no. Ultimately, the effort “went up in smoke” and Prop 10 passed.

In 2004, Citizens for a Sound Economy split into two groups, Americans for Prosperity (AFP) and FreedomWorks.

Richard Fink continued to lead Americans for Prosperity as President, and the tobacco lobbying efforts continue under the smoke of a new banner.

The most recent AFP pro-tobacco effort occurred this past summer, when it campaigned to oppose CA’s Proposition 29. If Prop 29 had passed, it would have increased tobacco taxes and directed the money raised from taxes towards cancer research – insidious given the Koch Brothers’ support for cancer research at places like MIT.

AFP, along with the tobacco industry, spent around $40 million to defeat Prop 29, mostly on anti-Prop 29 television ads.  During that campaign, AFP was also part of a broader coalition of tobacco and anti-tax groups. According to maplight.com, Philip Morris and RJ Reynolds bankrolled almost the entire campaign.

The arguments made against Prop 29 were very similar to those made by Citizens for a Sound Economy in 1998 when it unsuccessfully campaigned against CA Prop 10.

This was not AFP’s first attempt to shill for Big Tobacco.

In 2006 AFP campaigned to oppose tobacco tax increases in several different states – South Dakota, Texas, Kansas, and Indiana. For their work in South Dakota, AFP received money from US Smokeless Tobacco, Retail Tobacco Dealers of America, and Tobacco Warehouse of Rapid City. It also opposed taxes in Texas, Kansas, and Indiana. The following year, in 2007, AFP campaigned to oppose Texas’ smoking ban in indoor workplaces.

Finally, in 2009, AFP and Philip Morris were both asked to react to Virginia’s smoking ban, in an email from Karen Corriere of Altria Group, Inc. (the parent company of Philip Morris). Unsurprisingly, both voiced their opposition quickly. Americans for Prosperity reacted in full, hiring a company to make tens of thousands of calls to the offices of Virginia legislators, pressuring them to vote against the ban.

FISCAL TIES TO BIG TOBACCO

Throughout the years, the alliances were tied together in one of the most politically influential ways – money. The following is just a sample Big Tobacco’s money trail:

  • In 1987, Roger Ream – Vice President of CSE – wrote to the Tobacco Institute asking for funding. Given their alliance, it is likely they achieved their goal.
  • For its participation in the “Get Government Off Our Backs” (GGOOB) campaign, CSE received $400,000 in 1994 from RJ Reynolds and other tobacco corporations.
  • In 1996, CSE requested a funding increase of $500,000 from Philip Morris. Due to the handwritten “OK $500,000” at the top of the letter, this was almost definitely approved.
  • In 1999, Beth Stevens of CSE wrote to Kirk Blalock of Philip Morris requesting $100,000 in funds to support their efforts “to fight increased government spending, taxes, and regulation.”
  • In the late 90’s and early 2000’s, the Mercatus Center received public policy grants from Phillip Morris: $10,000 in 1999, and $20,000 in 2000. CSE received a total of $520,000 in 1999.
  • In 2000, in a memo to Philip Morris, CSE requested two million dollars to lead the opposition against tax increases and a Medicare suit to fund “big government” initiatives. The plan: “CSE will develop and run print, radio, and television advertising inside the Beltway and in targeted states. They will generate letters and phone calls to Congress from constituents. CSE will also educate Members of Congress and their staffs by preparing and distributing policy papers, conducting congressional education events, and meeting directly with offices.”

HOW DOES FINK TIE INTO ALL THIS?

Richard Fink first formed his alliance with Big Tobacco in 1985 when he urged legislators to eliminate the Tobacco program. But his value to the tobacco industry only increased with time, much like Dick Armey’s did at FreedomWorks.

As Fink gained more influence and power, his relationship with the tobacco industry tightened. When asking the Tobacco Institute for funding, Roger Ream of CSE wrote: “Recently, our president, Richard H. Fink, was appointed to the Consumer Advisory Council of the Federal Reserve and to the Department of Transportation’s Amtrak Privatization Commission. This further enhances CSE’s credibility and effectiveness on these issues.”

From the beginning, Fink’s position in the government was used as a selling point to earn funding support from Big Tobacco, exemplifying CSE’s ability to reduce taxes and fight government regulation.

Richard Fink came to the Koch brothers in 1977 to urge them to turn their libertarian ideals and love of “free markets” into political advocacy. In 2009, he advised them to do everything in their power to change the course of the 2012 election.

The Koch Brothers and their allies have funded attacks on climate science, attacked clean energy and stifled the green debate via an army of front groups. Lo and behold, they also worked with Big Tobacco to stop common-sense regulations and public health measures on smoking. In fact, fighting the tobacco file helped them to hone the playbook they would continue to use to fight against accountability for polluting the atmosphere, harming their workers and fenceline communities, and subverting participatory democracy.

Just as the severe health risks of tobacco are no longer up for debate, neither should be the reality of climate change, though the “Merchants of Doubt” shilling for a killing have – in a self-serving manner – maintained a façade of “controversy” over the issue for decades.

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This article is posted at The Checks and Balances Project  (Holding government officials, lobbyists and corporate management accountable to the public) and may be seen at http://checksandbalancesproject.org/2013/01/31/richard-fink-the-koch-brothers-big-tobacco-man-behind-the-kochtopus-curtain/

 

Trained on Koch: Daily Caller Claims Fake Rebuttal of CMD on ALEC Role Promoting “Stand Your Ground” Laws

From an article published at the Center for Media and Democracy, by Lisa Graves, Ex. Dir.

From Lisa’s outstanding expose on Koch bought media…

“It’s a Koch-Fueled World for Some Given Megaphones on the Right”

The author of the piece was given the title of “Investigative Researcher of the Daily Caller News Foundation” based on his experience in the following internships and gigs at Koch-funded operations, according to his own LinkedIn profile:

I have previously written about the Institute for Humane Studies (IHS) and the Koch Summer Internship Program.  Through these two “non-profit” charities, the Koch’s have provided internship jobs to hundreds of young conservative college students.  IHS and Koch pay to staff more than 80 conservative organizations, foundations and institutes with interns (entities that the Koch’s also fund, by the way).  After successfully completing an internship, individuals are then provided with the opportunity to participate in a follow-up Fellowship program:

“Humane Studies Fellowships are awarded to graduate students and outstanding undergraduates embarking on liberty-advancing careers in ideas. The fellowships support study in a variety of fields, including economics, philosophy, law, political science, history, and sociology.

 

“Awards range from $2,000 to $15,000 and fellowship winners may re-apply for each year of their studies. In 2011, the Institute for Humane Studies awarded more than $750,000 to 195 students.

“The program is open to full-time and prospective graduate students, including law and MBA students. There are a limited number of fellowships open to undergraduate juniors and seniors with a demonstrated interest in pursuing a scholarly career.”

One aspect of the IHS that the article by Ms. Graves didn’t mention that I think is worthy of more attention, is the IHS Journalism Internship Program.  Through this program the Koch’s have a pathway to providing interns to key media outlets that cover the entire reporting genre; digital, broadcast, investigative journalism and print.  As the link to digital media explains, the IHS proudly exclaims that they have successfully placed interns with the Daily Caller  .I have to wonder if one of those placements was Michael Bastasch who wrote the pro-ALEC article at the DC?

“Host organizations include web-only media firms and established media companies with aggressive new media strategies. Program interns have worked at the following organizations:

The IHS Journalism Internship Program also has a Journalism & a Free Society Seminar  for those who successfully complete internships:

“An important part of the internship program is the Journalism & the Free Society summer seminar featuring a mix of lectures, workshops, discussion groups, and social activities. Interns from all three sessions—fall, spring, and summer—attend the seminar.

“Practicing journalists share their experiences and offer career advice. Professors explain contemporary economics and political science as they relate to journalism. Throughout each day, there are many opportunities to network with other program interns as well as with journalists, professors, and the internship program’s director.”

Throughout the IHS site one finds the same “buzz words”; free society, free markets, liberty and individual liberty.  IHS’ site offers guides on Learning Liberty (where it takes you offsite to a video titled; “Is the Affordable Care Act Constitutional?”).  There’s also a “liberty guide” where you can find job opportunities, receive important emails and articles on liberty.  All the “right” terms typically used by Conservatives to mask their actual pursuits of denying the typical middle class citizen actual liberty,chaining our society and markets controlled by the 1%er’s.  All the hype, disinformation and typical propaganda used to misinform and distract….also typical Koch and ALEC strategies and tactics.

To read the full Graves article, click here