Lisa Graves

U.S. Senate Holds Hearing on ALEC, Corporate Involvement and Stand Your Ground Laws

U.S. Senate Holds Hearing on ALEC, Corporate Involvement and Stand Your Ground Laws

Today the long awaited Senate hearing on Stand Your Ground laws and the involvement of the “bill mill”; American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) in adopting, proposing and disseminating model legislation such as the SYG laws, was held in Washington.  This hearing is remarkable – not just because the Senate is holding discussions about this legislation which is now the law in many states – but because it is the first ever acknowledgement of the existence of ALEC and their legislative activities and influences by any government body.

Whether Congress realized it or not at the core of the “need” for this hearing, are the existence and acts of an organization that until recently has remained hidden from the view of government and citizens alike.  An organization that has had possibly the largest influence upon enactment of state and federal law since the mid 1970’s.  Creating laws that specifically benefit corporations and business interests to the detriment of the public and constituents of lawmakers owned by ALEC through loyal membership in that organization – and a “duty” to advance all legislation proposed by it.

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ALEC’s corporate member representatives did not take part in the hearing and offered no testimony – but certain Senators seemingly “owned” by corporate money spoke on their behalf.  Chief among those speaking favorably for corporate interests and in favor of SYG laws?  GOP Senators Cruz, Graham and Gohmert.  Senator Cruz voiced his opinion that Senator Durbin’s request made of ALEC corporate members or supporters, to respond and state their position in support or opposition of ALEC’s Stand Your Ground model legislation…was nothing more than a witch hunt being used to “chill” the first amendment rights of corporations.  

(How far corporate person-hood has advanced since the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United.  Today corporations enjoy the same rights as human citizens…except for the ability to be held accountable, arrested, incarcerated and imprisoned for criminal acts committed behind a convenient corporate veil.)

Cruz voiced sympathy for the family of Trayvon Martin, who was killed by George Zimmerman in the highly publicized Florida case last year, then went on to proclaim that many organizations and others were using that case to advance arguments of “perceived” racial prejudice and for “political gain”.

However, Senator Durbin made clear that of the 140 corporate members contacted and asked if they supported or opposed ALEC’s SYG model legislation, only 1 responded in support of it.

The following excerpts are from the Center for Media and Democracy.  This was published by CMD today and due to the article’s relevance to this important issue should be read in its entirety…

CMD Submits Testimony to U.S. Senate on ALEC and “Stand Your Ground

by Lisa Graves, Executive Director, at the Center for Media and Democracy

Mr. Chairman, and Members of the Committee, my name is Lisa Graves, and I am the Executive Director of the Center for Media and Democracy, the publisher of PRWatch.org, ALECexposed.org, SourceWatch.org, and BanksterUSA.org. The organization I lead is a national investigative watchdog group based in Madison, Wisconsin, that has more than 150,000 supporters.

I previously served as the Chief Counsel for Nominations for the Chairman and then Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator Patrick Leahy. I also served as Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Office of Legal Policy/Policy Development at the U.S. Department of Justice and as the Deputy Chief of the Article III Judges Division of the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, in addition to other posts in the non-profit sector on national security issues.

I commend the Committee, and its Chairman, for holding this hearing to examine the deadly consequences of so-called “Stand Your Ground” (SYG) laws that have proliferated in the states since 2005, at the urging of the National Rifle Association (NRA) and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

SYG laws were peddled by the NRA and ALEC alongside bills to expand the number of people carrying concealed firearms, creating a volatile combination that puts more and more American children and adults at risk of being shot and killed. This Committee has held countless hearings over the years on both federal and state crime policies that affect the rights of Americans, and it is fitting that the Senate examine SYG and the organizations that have urged that SYG become binding law.

I am especially concerned about the activities of ALEC to push the NRA’s agenda into law because ALEC has routinely filed tax returns with the IRS claiming it engages in no lobbying, zero. Yet, ALEC and its agents have routinely bragged about getting SYG introduced and passed – the very definition of lobbying – while claiming to the IRS and the public that it spends not a single dollar on lobbying. Today, I will describe the evidence that shows that ALEC is no ordinary non-profit and the ways in which it has misled the public about the true nature of its activities.

I will also detail the role of the NRA in ALEC and ALEC’s role in pushing for SYG laws. I will also discuss the effect of the three main parts of that law, and how that law affected the initial treatment of George Zimmerman’s killing of Trayvon Martin; how it affected the trial; and how it may affect a civil suit.

In an accompanying appendix to the statement I am submitting for the record, I also describe the role of corporations, such as Koch Industries, and numerous other grantees of the Koch family fortune in advancing the ALEC corporate agenda, along with other aspects of ALEC’s legacy, such as efforts to make it harder for American citizens to vote, as well as its current legislative agenda…

…ALEC describes itself as the largest voluntary group of state legislators in the country, but it is really a corporate-financed lobby that facilitates getting special interest legislation into the hands of lawmakers from every state in the country. In the words of Bill Moyers, ALEC is “the most influential corporate-funded political force most of America has never heard of” as noted in the “United States of ALEC…”

…ALEC is the epitome of a pay-to-play operation that gives special interests special access, but the way it conducts its operations is very unusual and troubling. That is why ALEC is subject to no fewer than three separate tax fraud complaints to the IRS, with supporting evidence provided by four groups: Common Cause, Clergy Voice, the Voters Legislative Transparency Project, and my organization, CMD…

ALEC Is Subject to Three Complaints Alleging Tax Fraud

  1. ALEC is registered as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, which means that corporations can theoretically deduct the thousands of dollars they pay ALEC to get their legislative wish lists in the hands of lawmakers. ALEC has routinely told the IRS that it engages in zero lobbying, even though numerous communications have been obtained through open records requests and other sources that show ALEC asking for legislation to be introduced, urging that specific legislation be adopted, and taking credit when its legislation becomes law. ALEC is no “charity” – it is a lobby that has routinely boasted to its corporate members that each year nearly 1,000 ALEC bills are introduced in state legislatures and nearly 20% become law…
  2. A review of ALEC task forces by CMD revealed that almost all of the for-profit corporations that participate in ALEC task forces are represented by their registered lobbyists or are described by their employers as their “government affairs” staffer within the corporation’s internal lobbying shop. CMD and Common Cause have also obtained documents showing that corporations have secretly and routinely sponsored bills at ALEC Task Force meetings and then voted on those bills with legislators at ALEC meetings. Under ALEC’s published bylaws, its state legislative leaders are tasked with a “duty” to get ALEC bills “introduced,” and they do. Some ALEC corporations then lobby for them without disclosing they pre-voted on them.

ALEC has repeatedly claimed to the IRS that it spends no money on travel for federal or state officials, but CMD has extensively documented that these claims are also contrary to the evidence. DBA Press and CMD obtained a three-year spreadsheet of corporate funding for trips by lawmakers along with the names of every corporation that funded the trips and all of the lawmakers who took them…

 …VLTP’s Bob Sloan has filed an IRS whistleblower complaint against ALEC based primarily on its scholarship program. Clergy Voice also complained about ALEC’s non-disclosed lobbying and how donations bring lawmakers to meet with corporate lobbyists and ALEC meetings while giving the corporations a tax write-off.

Additionally, CMD and Common Cause recently submitted supplemental evidence to the IRS in support of the initial complaint filed by Common Cause’s Mr. Edgar after CMD launched ALECexposed in July 2013. The supplemental filing last month provided the IRS with numerous documents obtained by DBA Press, CMD, and Common Cause in a number of states that show that ALEC has spent a projected $2 million for lawmaker travel in recent years on the state “scholarship” travel alone – in addition to more sums for lawmaker travel via the ALEC task forces. CMD and Common Cause have also asked each state Attorney General to examine whether ALEC is operating in violation of state law.

ALEC’s Corporate Funders Were Well Known before this Hearing

Accordingly, it is astonishing ALEC and a small number of its legislators – many of whom get their trips to ALEC resort meetings paid for by corporations, whose identities are well known to them – are taking umbrage at this Committee for inquiring about ALEC’s legislative agenda and which corporations have bankrolled it. The lawmakers know who funds ALEC’s bill machine and their trips, but until we launched ALECexposed two years ago, the public was largely in the dark about these special interests and the one-stop shopping ALEC provides for corporations and trade groups to secretly advance the same cookie-cutter bills in nearly every state.

Despite the hoopla trumped up over Senator Durbin’s letter, quite frankly, every single for-profit and non-profit corporation this Committee asked about its support for ALEC and its long-standing gun agenda is a corporation that is publicly known to have funded ALEC or participated in its meetings about bills, based on the investigative research of CMD, along with others like Common Cause, DBA Press, VLTP, CAP, Greenpeace, bloggers at Daily Kos, and many, many ordinary citizen sleuths…

Please take the time to read the full CMD testimony provided to the U.S. Senate by Lisa Graves and CMD -> HERE <-

 

Where Has Color of Change Been All This Time?

saw this making its way around people’s inboxes yesterday:

postal worker cofc

A most worthy cause.  But, Color of Change, just as you were with ALEC–where have you been?  Must you wait and test the waters before capitalizing by joining in?

With ALEC you jumped in to the campaign to expose them long after so many Daily Kosother researchers had been already doing the research.  People like the Daily Kos writers who have been writing and exposing ALEC for a few years now.  People like Lisa Graves who ALECexposedhas devoted so much of her time and effort to be the face of this movement, someone whose research you take and use to raise funds and increase your membership.  People like Bob Sloan, our executive editor, among the first people to start posting about ALEC.  People like the other researchers who have been identified by ALEC as “to be avoided at all costs”.

the fold

Your claim to fame was getting corporations to quit ALEC.  You fell over yourselves promoting your work,  capitalizing  from it.  Well, how did that workMONEYPOWERANDALEC out?  VLTP has shown how half of the corporations that have quit ALEC did not do so because of their concern about ALEC’s politics.   In fact, they are giving their money to other radical right organizations funded by many of the same people and corporations that fund ALEC.  You can take a look at http://www.vltp.net/?p=4929  to see What Happened to the Corporations Who Quit ALEC.  I wonder which were forced to quit by you, and how many by the socially responsible money managers we have been reporting about?

And now you are finally, finally getting on the bandwagon trying to save the USPS.  A very worthy cause.  But where have you been since Bob Sloan exposed the plan to kill the USPS-LogoUSPS?  I know you are aware of ALEC, but where is mention of it in your donation letter?  Did you not read his special report on the ALEC/Koch Cabal Pursuing Privatization of the US Postal Service for UPS and FedEx…at http://www.vltp.net/?p=122  It was published almost 11 months ago.  Certainly you’ve had time to research how your interest in ALEC is connected to your new interest in the USPS?

No?  You were not aware of it?  Why not?  Given the tens of thousands of hits that this article has received–and continues to receive every day–how did your researchers miss this?

save america's postal service
Welcome to the fight to save the USPS.  We very sincerely applaud your efforts to raise awareness of the plight of the USPS–especially their unionized workers of all skin colors.  And we sincerely hope that you run this campaign to help save the USPS for as long as it takes.

But if you want timely information about issues that have been affected by ALEC – and the “other ALECs”, what we have called the Cabal – you should be looking at the researchers who lead the field in grass roots reporting on these issues.

You might even want to learn about ALEC’s involvement in the rest of the ALEC Internationalworld.  ALEC cannot be stopped simply by fighting them here.  Their offshore operations–funded by many of the same corporations that fund ALEC here–are there to pick up the slack.  You can read our exposure of that in our newest expose–The World Trade in International Corruption – ALEC International, posted here at http://www.vltp.net/?p=5093

Or, you might try working with everyone who is working to expose ALEC without participating in any boycotts of specific groups or people.
if we are fighting each other we can't fight the enemy

What the #&%! Is CMD Thinking?

Dear Center for Media and Democracy,

Are you out of your #&%! minds, or do you just want to throw some red meat to the radical right?  I refer directly to your article:
We’ve got a few bones to pick with you re this…

First, just what “industrialized nations would expect a presidential candidate to indicate his top choice for a position as significant as Secretary of the Treasury prior to the election”.  Sounds kind of like the “trust me, I know what I’m doing” ad nauseum at tonight’s “debate”.

Next up in importance:  it seems to us that since Geithner has said he’s leaving anyway, just what is the point of your throwing him to the dogs?  The right wing might try to use him as a scape-goat for the economic issues that have remained long after Bush left office.  They’re not having much success (according to polls taken before tonight’s debate) going after Obama on the economy, and you are suggesting that Geithner should be a distraction.

We agree with your view about Geithner being one of those who caused the problem(s), and we think that Obama made a crappy choice in selecting him as Secretary of the Treasury.  That being said, is now the time to fuel the fires of the right by agreeing with them on a position they have long held – on the eve of an important election.  Seems kind of political for a 501(c)(3) doesn’t it?  I mean calling for a particular kind of person to be appointed to such a posting?

But most importantly to us is why an organization as responsible as CMD can be even going down this track?  When as leaders of the movement to expose ALEC you are worrying about why any political candidate would make the future choice of a Congressionally-approved post, there is something really wrong.
Why are you not asking how many ALEC members and neocons will be on Romney’s cabinet?  Why are you not thinking about how ALEC will prosper under another republican administration?  Think how ALEC flourished under the Reagan and Bushs’ administrations–to the point of being a virtual partner in the government under Reagan.  And after your own Brendan Frazier’s report on ALEC, Heritage, and the House Republican Study Group…how the heck can you be thinking about who will replace Geithner?  ALEC.  Heritage.  RSC. Weyrich.  What are you missing here CMD?

Who knows, would Tommy Thompson have another cabinet post under Romney?  Or Donald Rumsfeld?  Perhaps Victor Schwarz for Attorney General?  Jack Kingston for HHS.  Joe “you lie” Wilson; Mary Kiffmeyer; Spencer Bacchus, John Boehner…  Neocons like John Bolton are already advising Romney on foreign Policy.  Sure, let’s bring on another war, Iran and/or Syria—we’re still paying for the last ones.
Who is going to create and administer “austerity budgets”?  We’re the ones who are going to get wiped up by this…this…KochtopusAusterity budgets are certainly winning the hearts and minds of Europeans right now, with ALEC–the legislative arm for the entire world’s 1% in America and increasingly in other countries.
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We know Lisa Graves.  We’ve been in sporadic communication and cooperation about our research re ALEC and transparency for almost 18 months.  She is dedicated to exposing and eliminating ALEC.  Watch her on videos on the VLTPVideoChannel.  IMHO, she is the face of the “expose ALEC” community.  She took the information from Cincinnati, organized it carefully, and created ALECexposed.org.  She didn’t just dump the info as others have.  I cannot believe that she approved this article for publication.

CMD–and others–what have you done with Lisa Graves?  We cannont believe that she approved this article for publication.

ALEC Under Fire – VIDEO

Published on Jul 27, 2012 by PRWatch

July 25, 2012 — KSTU Television FOX 13, Salt Lake City,

UT — Max Roth reporting:

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), an
organization that has taken center stage in a national
debate over the proper roles of government and business,
is meeting in Salt Lake City to cheers from a number of
Republican Utah lawmakers and protests from many
national non-profits and local activists.

ALEC brings state lawmakers from around the country
together with corporate sponsors and some conservative
interest groups. They cite free market interests as their
prime mission and they call themselves bi-partisan.

In recent years, however, ALEC has lost the majority of its
Democratic members and in the past year a number of
corporate sponsors have fled as well.

Lisa Graves, the executive director of the Center for
Media and Democracy came to Utah to protest.

“They [ALEC] vote on model legislation behind closed
doors without the press, without people like you or the
public present and then those state legislators come out to
their state house and introduce those bills cleansed from
any fact that they were pre-voted on by corporate
lobbyists,” Graves said.

Please click here to watch the video reporting on the VLTVideoChannel.

25 States Use Identical Language in “Stand Your Ground” Laws

In an excellent example of how ALEC writes the laws, Politics Nation examines how identical language is used to mask that the legislation all came from a common source.

The Stand Your Ground law is used as an example of this.  ALEC and the NRA took this FL law, got it approved as Model Legislation, and their State Chairmen are diligently doing their jobs getting it passed in their states,

But the precise wording “no duty to retreat” is used in the legislation of 25 state laws, and this cannot be spun as being a coincidence.

Please visit the VLTPVideo Channel by clicking hereto watch this video segment from Politics Nation.  Or you can click on our video gallery link (on the menu bar under Media Galleries) and explore all of the videos we have posted,

 

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

ALECexposed at Netroots

Advocates and researchers converged this week in Rhode Island to talk about work exposing the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). The group, including the Center for Media and Democracy‘s Executive Director Lisa Graves, was gathered for a panel at Netroots Nation, a conference which brings together bloggers, social justice advocates, labor and organizational leaders, grassroots organizers, and others. Each in their own way, the panelists talked about how through ALEC corporations are unduly influencing and corrupting American democracy. CMD launched ALECexposed last July after a whistleblower gave Graves “model” bills that had been voted on by ALEC corporations and legislators behind closed doors on ALEC task forces.

…Another ALEC objective discussed is the effort to privatize public pensions. ALEC’s plan for this is to transfer the management of pension funds from the public sector to for-profit Wall Street firms through 401(k) programs. The argument that this is financially beneficial to taxpayers is not true, Carey said. “ALEC preys on legislators who don’t have knowledge on the issue and ALEC spreads misleading information.”

To read all of Sara Jerving’s article at PR Watch, please click here

ALEC’s Fracking Agenda Exposed

Lisa Graves, Executive Director of The Center for Media and Democracy, sheds light on ALEC’s fracking agenda.

To watch this video, please click here

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...