postal service

ALEC and OREGON PROTESTERS

ALEC and OREGON PROTESTERS

Most of us are now aware of the ongoing takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge by Ammon Bundy, Ryan Bundy and dozens of followers. Ammon and Ryan Bundy are sons of rancher Cliven Bundy, who notably took part in an armed standoff with the federal Bureau of Land Management, or BLM, in Nevada in 2014.

The protesters cite convictions in a local arson case against ranchers for burning more than 130 acres of federal land in 2 separate fires as being the initial cause for the occupation of the refuge. Rancher brothers, Dwight and Steven Hammond were convicted in 2012 and after losing an appeal, were sentenced and to turn themselves in the week of the takeover. The Bundys demand that the two Hammonds be released from custody as their first demand.

A second and more important demand being made by these protesters as they continue to occupy the buildings and grounds of this federal reserve, is a demand that Washington return federally owned land back to the states. Ryan Bundy laid out the militants’ demands: that the surrounding federal lands be ceded to local control.

This reflects a decades-old dispute over land rights in the United States, where local communities have increasingly sought to take back federal land.

According to the Congressional Research Service, in Nevada the U.S. owned more than 81 percent of the land in the state in 2010. In Oregon, that number hovered right around half — 53 percent of the land, more than 30 million acres of which were administered by either the BLM or the U.S. Forest Service.

The federal government owns, maintains and cares for millions of acres nationwide. Over the past two decades the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has pushed for the federal government to turn over much of this land to the individual states. Once transferred, the use of such land becomes the responsibility of the states.

ALEC’s model legislation pertaining to pursuit of taking federal land began back in 1995 and was titled the “Sagebrush Rebellion Act”.

Today, you’ll find no reference to this model legislation at ALEC’s web site because of the exposure it and other proposed “model” legislation has been given upon the “ALEC Exposed” website. ALEC has scrubbed much of their model bills following publication of their entire stash of proposed legislation in 2011.

I urge everyone to read the Sagebrush Rebellion Act to understand exactly what this conservative organization was attempting to accomplish with this proposed state legislation. At a minimum, it proposes to transfer ownership of tens of millions of acres of land to each state and allow them to continue existing leases, grazing, ranching and other income generating pursuits, with the income transferring to the states as well.

Included is the transfer of all mineral, water, oil and similar rights to the states to do with as they please….including leasing the rights to private companies, individuals and/or corporations.

…to permit ranching, mining and timber production and the development, production and transmission of energy and other public utility services under principles of multiple use which provide the greatest benefit to the people of this state“.

As I indicated previously, ALEC has erased all traces of this model legislation from their website of model bills. However ALEC Exposed retains a copy of the legislation as does the Heartland Institute (linked to above).

However, ALEC is still pursuing a takeover of federal lands today. They’ve simply changed the model legislation to a Policy Statement entitled Public Policy Statement on Transfer of Public Lands.

ALEC’s “policy” on the takeover of federal land was approved in January of last year. Below is an excerpt of that document, showing admission that though you won’t find any model legislation pertaining to this issue upon their website, they advise current legislation does exist:

This Draft Model Policy, ratified by unanimous consent on October 9, 2014 at American Lands Council (ALC) Multi-State Workshop convened in Salt Lake City, UT and on October 20, 2014 by ALC Board of Directors, resulted from that summit. This statement is supported by existing ALEC model policy and calls for the restoration to the western states their most basic right – control over their land with important exemptions for national parks, Congressionally-designated wilderness area, Indian reservations and military installations.”

They provide several uses of the land once transferred all of which ensure economic productivity. Section X provides:

x. GENERATE SELF-SUPPORTING FINANCE: Foster compatible economic productivity to support essential government services such as local roads, utilities, emergency services, public health and safety, education, justice, and other civic functions while reducing tax burdens on citizens nationally and offsetting federal Payment in Lieu of Taxes and Secure Rural Schools funds“.

The ALEC Board of Directors approved this public policy on January 9, 2015.

Essentially our friends at ALEC are working to cut federal income generated off these tens of million acres of land. I find this attempt at reducing federal income consistent with their pursuits of lowering corporate and high income taxes. Both the transfer of federal land and reducing taxes cuts off income to the government. With less income, the federal government would have difficulty paying down the national debt, maintaining federal employee workforce and consequently, less of an ability to function. This would allow for a louder hue and cry from the Conservative political right about our government being unable to function and meet budget requirements.

If this sounds far-fetched to you…consider what’s happened to the U.S. Post Office (USPS) since 2005 as ALEC pursued privatization of that federal agency. In 1995 ALEC proposed privatizing the USPS. Then as now, Fed Ex and UPS were members of ALEC with representatives holding positions upon ALEC’s various task forces. Both of these private companies then (and now) complain that the USPS’s first class mail and parcel post contracts are a monopoly owned by the “government” and seek access to both. Fed Ex and UPS argue that back when the USPS was enacted, there were no private companies available or willing to take on the task of delivering mail and packages…but today there are private companies willing and demanding they be allowed to deliver both at a profit.

By 2005 through ALEC they were successful in getting legislation passed by Congress to make the USPS fund retirement and healthcare for workers for the next 75 years! In 2006 the legislation passed and became known as the “Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act”.

Since then the USPS has been forced to set aside billions every year to fund healthcare and projected retirement benefits for workers who haven’t even been born yet. This diversion of income has caused the USPS to be unable to modernize facilities, close many facilities, lay off workers and to defend themselves against the onset of emails to replace “snail mail”.

Once the income was diverted in the manner I described above, ALEC’s Republican Alumni in Congress began expressing their views that the USPS was failing, unable to properly fund themselves or operate. They started the pursuit of privatizing the post office.

Unfortunately this is how ALEC and their Koch funded and backed politicians operate…cut off funding, tax revenue and then offer up a solution of privatization or the selling off of assets – such as federal lands and all the mineral rights.

Today it’s an armed “militia” taking over a federal facility in a remote part of Oregon demanding the federal government release convicted criminals and hand over publicly owned land to the states. It isn’t a stretch of fact to realize that the Bundy boys and their supporters are conservative believers following the proposed legislation and acting upon the ideology provided by ALEC and their conservative state members and Congressional alumni.

For a full comprehensive expose on ALEC’s attacks upon the federal level, please take a few minutes and review VLTP’s “American Legislative Exchange Council – Federal Government and Corrupt Practices” article published in 2011. In this document the chronological attack upon the USPS is laid out beginning on page 24.

Yesterday it was the USPS, today it’s the acquisition of federally owned public land. One can only wonder where ALEC’s next attack will be and when.

Doc’s Leaked by The Guardian and Visa Quits ALEC As Members Meet in DC

Doc’s Leaked by The Guardian and Visa Quits ALEC As Members Meet in DC

by Bob Sloan

Lots of reassuring news for those pursuing transparency in legislation AND the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) this week.  As ALEC met in DC this past week for their annual States and Nation Policy Summit, the Guardian released a scathing expose on that organization, using more leaked ALEC documents.  In addition VISA announced they were quitting ALEC…after Visa’s Vice President of State Relations, Paul Russinoff, received ALEC’s “Private Sector Member of the Year” award in 2012.

Documents acquired and made public by the Guardian in the ALEC article; “ALEC facing funding crisis from donor exodus in wake of Trayvon Martin row” revealed just how badly publicity and activism has hurt ALEC over the past three years since the Center for Media and Democracy first released all of ALEC’s model legislation and other documents on July 13, 2011.  At every ALEC meeting, “Summit” and conference since then, protesters have demonstrated and others have provided public teach-ins or community action seminars to inform the public about ALEC and their activities.

DC 12-13 protest

Last week the ALEC Summit in DC was also protested by activists and informed citizens working to abolish ALEC and stop their interference with writing and proposing state laws designed to enrich corporations and their elite owners. Union workers, food service workers, teachers and postal workers showed up Thursday and marched from Franklin Park to the Hyatt in Northwest DC where ALEC’s meeting was taking place.

While working Americans marched in the streets of DC, Keynote GOP speakers such as Ted Cruz and Indiana Governor Mike Pence took to the stage at the ALEC convention, applauding ALEC and their efforts of lowering taxes for the rich, privatizing education and making private scholastic corporations unbelievably rich…for holding down wages for working Americans to further enrich the 1%.  Cruz actually advised ALEC to “Stand Your Ground” (@4:12) in the face of the increasing pressure to abolish them.

As usual, ALEC refused entry to legitimate media; reporters, journalists and refused to allow any cameras or video equipment or crews into the hotel during their “Summit”.

Labor representatives were ejected when they attempted to get legislators attending the conference to sign a pledge to put the needs of their constituents first.  John Williams, Head of the Washington DC Central Labor Council, was thrown out of the Hyatt lobby when he tried to get legislators to sign what he called a “Rights Priority Pledge.” “Nobody wanted to sign the pledge because they said it did not apply to them,” he said.

Washington Post reporter, Dana Milbank was excited to be attending an ALEC meeting last week, anticipating learning about the initiatives presented by ALEC that would be discussed in task force meetings and working groups…

I descended the escalators at the Grand Hyatt downtown, two floors below street level, excited by the possibilities listed on the ALEC agenda: “The environment and energy task force, led by private-sector American Electric Power. The tax and fiscal policy task force, headed by Altria. The international relations task force, run by Philip Morris. The commerce and insurance task force, by State Farm. And the health and human services task force, by Guarantee Trust Life Insurance.

DC 12-13 protest 2However, like journalists and reporters from as far away as Toronto previously discovered, entrance to an ALEC function was not possible unless reporting for a “friendly” Right Wing outlet – as reported by CMD:

Select media have been allowed to hear keynote addresses from politicians and to attend “workshops,” but ALEC has denied press credentials to news outlets including Al Jazeera, The Nation, and Think Progress. Hotel security has even accosted and questioned credentialed press speaking to other reporters without credentials or interviewing protestors, such as the Toronto Star and the Arizona Republic.

Like dozens of other credentialed journalists over the past three years, Mr. Milbank was refused entry to any of the functions – except a luncheon…which ALEC’s security advised he could attend only if he did not record it:

Alas, I was quickly regurgitated from the belly of the beast. Outside the meeting rooms, a D.C. police officer, stationed to keep out the riffraff, turned me away. “Our business meetings are not open, and so the subcommittee meetings and task force meetings are not open,” explained Bill Meierling, an ALEC spokesman. I could wait a few hours and then attend a luncheon and some workshops, as long as I promised not to record them.”

ALEC has promised critics that they will provide “transparency” about their activities, lobbying, model bills and about legislative actions taken at their 3 annual events.  But to date, the organization has worked overtime to bury any semblance of transparency behind a facade built upon new layers of secrecy.  They have gone so far as to now claim that any communications between ALEC and state lawmakers is privileged and thus exempt from disclosure through responses to FOIA requests.

An even darker development is a draft agreement prepared for the Summit proposing that Alec’s chairs in each of the 50 states, who are drawn from senior legislators, should be required to put the interests of ALEC first before the interests of their constituents, thus setting up a possible conflict of interest with the voters who elected them.

Under multiple IRS complaints by whisteleblowers claiming ALEC has been abusing, misusing or hiding their lobbying activities and expenditures as a 501 (c)(3) tax exempt “charity”, ALEC has offered up a new program designed to circumvent such IRS tax prohibitions and restrictions: “The Jeffersonian Project” (@pg. 15) which will be a 501 (c)(4) with much more lenience in performing lobbying activities.  A Memorandum (provided below) from ALEC’s counsel, Alan P. Dye admits that activities performed heretofore by ALEC could indeed be considered “lobbying” by IRS definitions – as could activities of this “Jeffersonian Project”.  It also advises that “it is possible that at some point the IRS will audit ALEC”…

Jeffersonian project

 

Jeffersonian project 2

document obtained from Guardian document trove

In concert with ALEC’s 40th States and Nation meeting last week, dozens of news articles, blog posts and reports have hit the media.  Each reporting on one or more of ALEC’s initiatives relating to; voter ID, voter suppression, environmental deregulation, criminal justice, immigration, healthcare, worker’s rights, wages, anti-union and similar “model legislation” efforts.  Each of these are/were critical of ALEC efforts and written to inform and warn voters about upcoming legislation proposed and now being pushed by ALEC nationwide.  Below examples of some of the articles about ALEC this week and a video of the DC protest march against ALEC and corporate greed:

Daily Kos: ALEC’s trouble continues as Visa leaves

http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2013/12/07/4523002/alec-documents-show-strong-ties.html#.UqN94vRO58E

http://www.counterpunch.org/2013/12/06/stink-tanks/

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/dec/03/alec-funding-crisis-big-donors-trayvon-martin?CMP=twt_fd&CMP=SOCxx2I2

http://www.dcmediagroup.us/2013/12/05/corporate-interests-come-first-alec-convention/

U.S. Republicans shift health care fight to state level – The Globe and Mail

Conservative Group ALEC in 1985: S&M Accidents Cause 10 Percent of San Francisco’s Homicides | Mother Jones

Your daily jolt: 38 percent of state lawmakers are ALEC members | Political Insider | www.ajc.com

Senator, farmer, rabbi speak on climate change | CJOnline.com

ALEC Opposed Divestment From South Africa’s Apartheid Regime | The Nation

Don’t Fund Evil: 230,000+ Americans Tell Google To Quit ALEC

ALEC calls for penalties on ‘freerider’ homeowners in assault on clean energy | World news | theguardian.com

State conservative groups plan US-wide assault on education, health and tax | World news | theguardian.com

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6sHiDahO16I&feature=c4-overview&list=UU_tkppmH9q7WYNKtnMQOJLQ

This mass reporting about ALEC is a welcome development.  As recent as 2010 few were aware of ALEC and any media reference to their activities were usually found only in articles written and published by Conservative leaning outlets – and were published to applaud ALEC’s work to that faction.

Late last month it was an expose by CMD linking the State Policy Network (SPN) and their dozens of affiliates to ALEC and their cabal funded by the likes of the Koch brothers that helped many understand precisely how dangerous this huge cabal has become to our democracy.  Through these organizations with members and acolytes throughout our U.S. Congress, state legislatures and former ALEC members holding key positions within many state and federal agencies this minority made up of Conservatives and ultra-Conservatives have been able to obstruct our entire government and defeat the will of the majority of Americans.  They have become so powerful and influential over the past 4 decades that today ALEC has dozens of foreign elected officials on their membership roles…foreign conservatives who come here on travel paid for by ALEC to help them and the SPN/Koch cabal set policies for Americans to live and abide by.

VLTP applauds the work of CMD, PFAW, ProgressNow, Color of Change, Common Cause, the AFL-CIO, American Postal Worker’s Union, Daily Kos Bloggers and the other organizations that have joined forces to keep exposing ALEC, the SPN and all of Koch’s cabal for their lack of transparency and pursuit of anti-democratic activities.  Through the work of these dedicated groups, organizations and individuals our democratic heritage and rights are beginning to win out.  Hopefully through these efforts ALEC will soon become a thing of the past – as will corporate corruption and control of our elected officials.

 

Republicans Applaud the Slow Death of the US Postal Service–VIDEO

“The USPS announced that it will end mail delivery on Saturdays this year.  Republicans in Congress have been waiting for this moment.  Ed Schultz talks to Rep. Gerry Connelly, D-VA, and letter carrier Audrey Himes about what can be done to save the postal service.”
U.S. Postal Service Reports Yearly Loss Of 15.9 Billion Dollars

This is the description of a segment on The Ed Show tonight.  You can watch the video by clicking here.

But this is not quite the full underlying story of the USPS’s predicament that it claims to be, as readers of www.vltp.net know.  Ed stops short of noting that this goes beyond the Republican Party, this goes to their owners – corporations, and their legislative “arm” – ALEC.  I guess that ALEC and the Republican Party are already so intertwined as to be indistinguishable–and that is before the new Republican Study Group-ALEC-Heritage Foundation (now headed by Jim DeMint) formal alliance as reported on in The Center for Media and Democracy‘s PR Watch by Brendan Fischer, please click here for link).

And of course, Ed Schultz needs to comply with MSNBC’s apparent business decision not to talk about ALEC–except when they otherwise make the news.

But I am very surprised about Truthout’s reporting of this.  Truthout is an excellent source for a wide range of information, and their copyrighted reports on The Other ALECs (which we re-printed with their permission here and here) go further than anyone other than VLTP or CMD’s Sourcewatch at identifying the various members of The Cabal.

Why am I surprised?  Well, here is a link to Bob Sloan’s expose on ALEC, The Koch Brothers, and the USPS as published here some 10 months ago.  And here is a link to an infographic in our Photo Gallery showing the Koch network of right wing associates.

But here is what I just don’t get:  If you treat the symptoms rather than treating the disease, you do not arrive at the cure.  If we are to neutralize ALEC then we must talk about them.  As Bob Sloan’s article showed, yes, republicans carried the bill through Congress.  Republican Members of ALEC.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

video and description were posted at:

The Ed Show
Feb. 6, 2013
http://www.nbcnews.com/id/45755822/ns/msnbc-the_ed_show/#50725523

(please note that this clip has been edited to remove the other stories being introduced in the show’s opening)

Regulations Driving the USPS Out of Existence – Video

we are the USPS“The United States Postal Service doesn’t cost you a dime of taxpayer money, but Republicans are regulating it in a way no other agency or business has ever been regulated.  The USPS doesn’t add to the debt, but is required to fund a retirement account that covers workers who haven’t even been hired yet.  At this point the Postal Service could be out of business by 2014 Ed Schultz explains what’s at stake and why Republicans are going after an American institution.  He’s joined by Rep. Gerald Connolly, D. VA”

Folks (as Ed would say), this is a good summary of what is going on with the privatization efforts aimed at the US Postal Service,and if you click here you can watch this video broadcast from The Ed Show.

But I wonder.  Those of you who have read Bob Sloan’s expose [link]ALEC/Koch Cabal Pursuing Privatization of the US Postal Service for UPS and FedEx… how do we advance the conversation when you watch this video and wonder when Ed is More →

Massive Cuts to Postal Service a Step Towards Privatization?

editors note:  VLTP continues to follow the assault on the USPS…We wrote about this USPS privatization effort in April 2012: http://www.vltp.net/alec/senat… and released a full investigative report about such privatization efforts and how Congress was influenced to pass the The Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act to begin the process of privatization: http://www.docstoc.com/docs/10What was not mentioned in this informative audio was membership in ALEC by UPS and FedEx and how ALEC lawmakers brought about the PAE Act in 2006.

Plan to restructure post office a big real estate play and boon to private courier companies

see the video at http://youtu.be/eOKY994hg5c

A proposal is currently being considered by the US Postal Service to sell its building in downtown Berkeley, CA and relocate its services. This is just one city that is feeling the impact of a crippling financial crisis currently affecting the Postal Service. In fiscal year 2012 it lost approximately 5.9 billion. And now thousands of buildings may be sold and thousands of workers laid off in what USPS says is an attempt to save itself, but critics argue is a step toward privatization.

It’s commonly understood that the internet and e-communication is causing the demise of USPS, but that’s not the full story. What seems to be the prime cause is actually a little-known law passed in 2006.

Susan Hammers, APWU: The Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act requires prefunding of pensions 75 yrs into the future.

Augustine Ruiz, USPS: This is a huge burden on us and it’s unfair.

Gray Brechin, UC Berkeley faculty/activist: It seems as though it was designed to destroy the postal service. More →

McCrory Appoints Art Pope To Head Budget

Here is something of critical importance to North Carolina immediately.

First, excerpts from the article/broadcast at WFAE, the NPR station in Charlotte, NC.  Then, my personal commentary. ‘At a press conference ,,,Governor-elect Pat McCrory appointed …conservative activist Art Pope to be his deputy budget director–the governor’s top aide on budget issues. Pope … is a director of the Americans for Prosperity Super PAC, and he contributes millions to conservative causes and candidates through the John W. Pope Foundation, which he also runs… …”Bob Phillips, the North Carolina director of Common Cause, a non-partisan campaign watchdog organization…”Are folks going to be able to do their job serving their constituents and properly scrutinizing the budget?”… Phillips says he is not opposed to Pope’s new role…” ‘

Now for my comments on this development. More →

Ohio Bleeding

Paula Garfield is a 30-year veteran teacher of special education for Columbus city schools.  She was recently elected as an Ohio Education Association Delegate, and received the Columbus Education Association’s Outstanding Member of the Year award.  She was highly involved with We Are Ohio, and is a guest speaker for Ohio Women’s Democratic Caucus, War on Women, and others.  This is Paula’s blog, and it is a beautifully eloquent posting.  Paula is a member of our Facebook group–Resist The Privatization of America, where she posted this article. 

Thank you Paula.

With 24 days until the Presidential election, I spent a total of 26 hours of my weekend travelling across the State in Ohio, speaking at 3 events regarding Educators for President Obama: Women, laborers, middle class, elderly, minorities, college students,  teachers, firefighters, police, unions, pensions, postal service: we all have the same attackers. Their tactics consist of the war on women, replacing public schools with private for profit schools,replacing free public schools with the Kasich (K-suck) voucher system  attacking and dismantling of free public appropriate education, destroying planned parenthood, holding jobs for ransom.

The same Republicans try to make sure that measures don’t get by the House of Representatives and thus cannot get to the Senate .Since the Republican Party controls the House, it serves the Corporations  and not “We the People,” who elected them to represent us.

I talked about Right to Work -for less-, Voter ID Laws and other means of voter suppression across the USA in Republican governed states as I canvassed on Sunday. I knocked on doors for all Congress Reps in my voting area, delivered signs, got the appropriate forms to those  who have relocated to Columbus, Ohio.  I answered questions from a Canadian, who works here in the area, who was in disbelief about what is happening to America in comparison to Canada’s rights, freedoms.

I am just now sitting down, after finding all my lawn signs for my makeshift Democratic ballot, destroyed…some burned, some shredded.I am cleaning up what the wind scattered across my complex. I am just off the phone trying to hook up voters with signs in the district/area with field leader contacts across the state, and staring at 122 emails, all of which I must answer from people wanting to know what they can do to help because some have awakened, and have realized the impact on them, their children, their futures, their homes, their lives.

There is a great deal more covered in Paula’s article, Ohio Bleeding.  I highly recommend clicking here to read all of it.

Does the USPS have Ties to ALEC?

Here at vltp.net we pay attention to the searches made by those who visit our site to see what interests our readers.

Last night the top search was  does the usps have ties to alec? which, in different iterations, is a common question.

The USPS is under attack by ALEC, which has been working for almost 10 years to have it privatized and essentially sold to ALEC members FedEX and UPS.  Please read Bob Sloan’s groudbreaking report on ALEC/Koch Cabal Pursuing Privatization of the US Postal Service for UPS and FedEx, which you can find at http://www.vltp.net/alec/aleckoch-cabal-pursuing-privatization-postal-service-ups-fedex

Mail Handlers Union to Protest at DNC on Labor Day

We generally do not post articles about up-and-coming events, but our support for all USPS workers does not waver.  Please see the event details in our EVENTS section.  And please, support the USPS against privatization as laid out and executed by ALEC and their corporate members UPS and FedEx.

Privatize the Postal Service? That’s Just Going to Make a Small Number of People Rich

From AlterNet by David Morris –

VLTP has been fighting against privatization of the USPS by ALEC and others.  This taking over of the Postal Service by corporate interests has been ongoing for more than a decade now and recently the former Director of the OMB, Peter Orszag has written articles in support of privatizing the USPS.  Orszag is currently vice chairman of corporate and investment banking at Citigroup.
Much of Today’s problems with the USPS are a direct result of actions taken by Congress back in 2006, that forced the USPS to prefund retirement benefits of workers.   Under the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006 the USPS was forced to prefund future health care benefit payments to retirees for the next 75 years in ten years, something no other government agency or private corporation is required to do.  Congressional members with ties to ALEC were responsible for pushing this “Act” upon the USPS and getting it passed.  This legislation turned what should have been considerable profits into significant losses.  Indeed, 90 percent or more of the current deficit is a result of these artificially created debts.
When the 2006 Act was passed there were immediate increases in the price of stocks for both FedEx and UPS – both members of ALEC – and as we’ve written before, both seek access to the first class mail and parcel post contracts held by the USPS.
Read the full AlterNet article here