U.S. Department of Justice

More Controversies at Nevada DOC – Director Cox Resigns

More Controversies at Nevada DOC – Director Cox Resigns

In mid-September Nevada Governor, Brian Sandoval asked for the resignation of Gregg Cox, Director of the state Department of Corrections. The action was taken by the Governor because a report about prisoner shootings and abuses by staff in the state’s prisons was late.

The report completed by the Association of State Correctional Administrators was to be presented by Cox at a Tuesday meeting of the Board of Prison Commissioners, which the Governor is a part of.

The governor felt that it was time to move the department in a new direction,” according to a statement from Gov. Brian Sandoval’s office on the departure of Greg Cox. The corrections department is facing several lawsuits due to prison shootings in the past few years.

One incident at High Desert State Prison left inmate Carlos Manuel Perez Jr. dead. Sources say Perez was handcuffed when he was shot and killed, and accuse prison guards of creating a “gladiator-like scenario” by allowing inmate fights to go on before firing into the fray. It wasn’t revealed until four months afterward that Perez died from gunfire.

Earlier in 2013 Cox’s department came under fire for allowing the DOC’s prison industry program to be used by a private company, Alpine Steel and company owner, Randy Bulloch to use inmate labor – without paying them wages.

Alpine Steel owner, Randy Bulloch

Alpine had been able to avoid paying rent, utilities, inmate or staff labor wages for more than a year, running up a tab of nearly $500,000 – while Deputy Director Brian Connett of the NDOC Prison Industry, (Silver State Industries) – turned a blind eye upon the climbing debt, allowing Bulloch’s steel fabrication operation to continue virtually free of overhead, at taxpayer expense. Connett went so far as to approve Alpines new contract with the NDOC, failing to report the back debt owed while reporting Alpine had fulfilled all requirements under the expiring contract.

The facts surrounding the Alpine case began to emerge in late 2012 when steel companies started protesting to NDOC and legislative authorities arguing they were being unfairly forced to compete against a local company using inmate labor. Business owners asserted they had lost bids on projects and thus were unable to expand their businesses or hire more workers due to interference from Nevada’s prison industry operations.

Governor Sandoval eventually stepped in and ordered the closure of the Alpine operation following those complaints. The challenges centered upon unfair competition by a private company using inmate labor to reduce labor costs and thus underbid complainants for lucrative state and private contracts involving fabricated steel materials.

Alpine quickly paid over $78,000 in back wages owed to inmate workers. The NDOC entered into an agreement with Alpine to repay the state the remaining money owed for staff wages, utilities and lease of prison facilities. Surprisingly the agreement had no provision for Mr. Bulloch to be personally responsible for any of the accrued debt owed.

Within months Bulloch defaulted on the terms of the agreement and the state secured a judgment against Alpine for more than $400,000. Alpine also incurred state and federal tax liens for non-payment of income taxes. These totaled more than an additional $680,000.

The taxpayers have been left holding the bag…. As a result of this I think there is going to be a lot more oversight,” Nevada Assemblyman James Ohrenschall said in an interview on Vegas Inc. September 21, 2013. Mr. Ohrenschall is the former chairman of the Legislature’s Interim Finance Committee on Industrial Programs. At the time of that interview, the IFC Committee was meeting to investigate facts related to Alpine Steel that prompted his concerns.

Unfortunately Mr. Ohrenschall was too optimistic in his assessment of oversight, but his claim of “taxpayers have been left holding the bag” is still accurate. To date the state has been unable or unwilling to pursue collection of the nearly half million dollar debt owed to taxpayers by Bulloch and his company.

Though Bulloch voluntarily surrendered his contracting license to the Nevada Contractors Board in October 2013, saying he was closing down his business…Alpine Steel’a website remains open for business while the company owner continues to avoid paying the state any of the money owed taxpayers under the court ordered judgment. Additionally, along with the Alpine website still showing it is an active business, Mr. Bulloch is now selling structural steel and fabricated components as Hunt Steel, also in Las Vegas. Links to fabrication, etc. on the Alpine site, takes visitors to Bulloch’s Hunt Steel site.

Director Cox managed to retain his position after the Legislature enacted new revisions to existing Nevada law to prevent potential or new industry operators from starting up without posting a surety bond to guarantee payment of leases and utilities owed to the state. Known as Senate bill 478, this law also provides that the public be notified of any potential new prison industry proposals, to date there has been no such notice given to the public or possible competitors though there have been new industries proposed to the Interim Finance Committee on Industrial Programs.

Just prior to Cox taking over as Director in 2011 he was a Deputy Director when the prison industries “wrote off” more than $800,000 in outstanding noncollectable debt owed to the Prison Industry Program. With Alpine’s additional $428,000, Nevada taxpayers have lost more than $1.2 million dollars. The now pending lawsuits against the NDOC, it’s staff and officers, could result in another $1 million or more needed to settle inmate abuse and shooting claims and/or court judgments.

It appears Director Cox avoided one serious controversy involving a lack of transparency only to succumb to another controversy involving transparency before the same Board of Prison Commissioners that again, included Governor Sandoval.

Another former ALEC member to Head (AAPCA)

Another former ALEC member to Head (AAPCA)

by Bob Sloan

For years VLTP, Center for Media and Democracy, PRWatch, Common Cause and other organizations have reported upon alumni of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) taking positions of authority in state and federal agencies. In these articles/reports we have shown how easily and surreptitiously ALEC’s agenda can be pursued at all levels of government. The below Ohio/Kasich/Snitchler case is just one of many involving ALEC alumni in key positions advancing ALEC’s ultra-conservative agenda while enriching corporate members.

In Ohio ALEC alum Governor Kasich appointed state Representative and ALEC member Todd Snitchler to head that state’s Public Utility Commission in 2011.

As the new Chairman, Snitchler immediately increased rate hikes for ALEC corporate members, Duke Energy and American Electric Power (both ALEC members). Immediately following the increases, Snitchler and PUCO had to reverse themselves and throw out the rate increases that cost commercial and residential customers huge power increases.

Today 87 ALEC alumni are U.S. Congressional members. Historically ALEC’s congressional alumni have successfully pursued many of ALEC’s initiatives at the federal level as we again reported in 2012. Many ALEC alum moved on to positions within the U.S. Department of Justice (or were recruited from there) or staff for Cabinet Secretaries.

This week E & E Publishing, Inc. reported that an organization had been formed – the Association of Air Pollution Control Agencies (AAPCA) – . The stated goal of the AAPCA appears to be to thwart federal air regulations pursued by the 34 year old non-profit, National Association of Clean Air Agencies, or NACA. The article announced the AAPCA had chosen a new Executive Director. He is Clint Woods…again an ALEC alum that moved on to the U.S. House and became a member of the House Subcommittee on Energy and Environment. He also was a staff member of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology through the first quarter of 2014.

in 2011 Woods, serving as ALEC’s Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force Director, wrote an article titled “Combating the EPA Regulatory Train Wreck” in ALEC’s April “Inside ALEC” edition under the heading: “EPA’s Reglatory Train Wreck, Strategies For State Legislators”: .

In the article Woods writes:

In response to the growing morass of regulations
proposed by the Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA), the American
Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)
released EPA’s Regulatory Train Wreck: Strategies
for State Legislators. The report serves
as a toolkit for states to use in understanding
and combating these regulations,
which both burdens finite state resources
and impedes on the states’ role in our system
of government.”

In may of last year, Greenpeace reported Woods as being an activist for ALEC in an article titled: CASE STUDY: Koch Front Groups Attack RGGI – the Northeast Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative writing:

Koch-funded front groups – led by Americans for Prosperity (AFP) — joined right wing mouthpieces like Glenn Beck and others who labeled RGGI a “cap and tax” initiative. Conservative activist Clint Woods of the Koch-funded American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) stated that RGGI and other regional cap-and-trade regimes had become the “new battlefield” since federal climate legislation was defeated…”

“…This strategy was confirmed in September, 2010 by conservative activist Clint Woods of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), who said RGGI and other regional cap-and-trade regimes have become the “new battlefield” since federal climate legislation was derailed. ALEC, which has created template legislation for state lawmakers to use as a way to back out of regional climate accords, received $125,000 from the Koch brothers’ Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation in 2009 and has received donations totaling $533,000 from the Koch foundations since 1997. Koch Industries consultant and former executive Mike Morgan sits on ALEC’s Private Enterprise Board, and Wall Street Journal editorial board member Stephen Moore, who has attended the Koch brother’s political strategy meetings, is on ALEC’s Board of Scholars.

Already the AAPCA claims 17 state members: Ohio, Florida, Indiana, Louisiana, North Dakota, Texas — that have already left the NACAA – and 11 states that joined but retain NACAA memberships: Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, Nevada, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia and Wyoming. If you see that member states are those with Republican controlled state legislatures and/or Governors, we see that as well.

This demonstrates how ALEC (through the funding of Koch controlled foundations and ALEC’s corporate member funding) is able to advance each of key initiatives beneficial to their corporate members without the government or public becoming aware of ALEC’s involvement or real legislative controls. Recently several major corporate members of ALEC withdrew from the organization citing opposition to ALEC’s position regarding climate change and renewable energies.

VLTP would urge readers to do a small amount of research into ALEC connections in your key state agencies. You may be surprised how simple it is to cross reference the name of heads of state agencies with the American Legislative Exchange Council to determine any relationship or ties. Right now energy resources and pollution are key issues being fought at all levels of government. You can rest assured ALEC is in the midst of each skirmish, issue and overall war over climate change, support of the views of big oil, gas and coal corporations.

ALEC has shown they are able to “stack the deck” when it comes to issues important to their corporate members. It is up to us to ferret out these ALEC “sleepers” and remove them from their positions of influence. The AAPCA is another “non-profit” formed and funded with money originating from conservative organizations and donors. It needs to be added to the list of known ALEC affiliates. We can’t close them down…but they are deserving of our close attention to their activities and the names of all members who climb on board as the months pass.

May 31-June 7: Weekly ALEC/Koch Review of Articles and Material

May 31-June 7: Weekly ALEC/Koch Review of Articles and Material

By Bob Sloan

Lots of material and topics involving Koch brothers and their ALEC funded organization this week; education, environment, telecommunications, worker rights (paid sick leave).

Grab a cold one, sit back and spend a few minutes catching up on relevant news related to the “Cabal”…

Click on headline to read the full articles or review linked documents.

My view: ALEC coverage a disservice to Utah

The future is bright for many Utahns. So bright, in fact, that it could be blinding us to the many inequities that still exist here. The Deseret News published an editorial (“How to lead a recovery” May 26) and a My View by state senate president Wayne Niederhauser (“Utah’s economic advantage continues” May 28) about the American Legislative Exchange Council’s (ALEC) annual report, both of which are unfortunate examples of this blindness. Both the editorial and My View could be mistaken as press releases straight from ALEC’s public relations department.

New Study Shows ‘Red’ States Have Highest Economic Potential

States with higher taxes and tighter restrictions on business development tend to usually end up at the bottom of the list. “Blue” states New York and Vermont are the last two states on the list this year, Fox News reported. That said, there are some who say Utah is not necessarily an ideal model for economic growth. “It’s hard to say that states should try to pattern themselves after Utah,” said Tracy Gordon of the Brookings Institution. “So for example, I know the authors are not fans of the income tax, but in good years the income tax performs very well in states like New York and California that rely on it heavily. So should California and New York try to look more like Utah? Probably not,” Gordon said.

Tillis-Brawley spat rooted in cable fight

An unusually public dispute between two Republican state legislators that erupted last week has its roots in, of all things, a national debate over city-owned broadband systems.

In the push for the 2011 legislation, telecommunications companies and trade associations steered $1.6 million to state lawmakers from 2006 to 2011, including Tillis, according to the National Institute on Money in State Politics. During 2010-11, the $37,000 Tillis received from eight political action committees and trade associations, including Time Warner’s political action committee, was more than eight times what he received from the PACs from 2006 to 2008.

The American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, a nonprofit that promotes free markets and limited government and receives funding from corporations such as Time Warner, has supported the effort to rein in city-owned systems that can offer cable TV, Internet and phone services. The group offers “model legislation” that can be used by lawmakers drafting their own bills. Tillis is a member of the ALEC board. ALEC members have become concerned in recent years because cities are building broadband systems in areas already served by the private sector, said John Stephenson, director of ALEC’s communications and technology task force. This can lead to high costs for taxpayers if the municipalities incur debt to build the system, he said.

WHERE THE REAL DAMAGE GETS DONE

It long has been the opinion of the blog that the elite political press is missing the real political action in this country because, for the most part, it concentrates either on what’s going on in Washington, or in the horse race aspects of whatever election is next. But the real action — and all the real damage — is being done out in the states, especially in those states in which the 2010 elections brought in majority Republican legislatures and majority Republican governors. This is part of what we play for laughs every Thursday when we survey what’s goin’ down in The Laboratories Of Democracy. But what’s goin’ down is highly organized, tightly disciplined, and very sharply directed. By now, the American Legislative Exchange Council, and what it’s about, is an open secret. Everybody covering politics knows about it. Everybody covering politics knows where the money for its activities comes from. Everybody in politics knows what its political aims are. And yet, when we have retrograde laws and policies pop up in state after state — most notably in recent days, in the newly insane state of North Carolina — it is always treated as a kind of localized outbreak.

Taking On Sallie Mae and the Cost of Education

Nearly 200 students, parents, community members and union leaders rallied at Sallie Mae’s annual shareholder meeting in Newark, Delaware, last Thursday. On the agenda: first, demand that the nation’s largest private student loan lender meet directly with students to discuss their crushing debt burden; and second, introduce a shareholder resolution calling for disclosure of the corporation’s lobbying practices and membership in groups such as the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). The resolution asked that the board disclose in an annual report the corporation’s policies, procedures and payments for direct and indirect lobbying; as well as its membership and payments to any tax-exempt organization “that writes and endorses model legislation.” (See: ALEC.) Although there has yet to be a tally of the vote, organizers hope that they received the support of approximately 30 percent of the shareholders. UPDATE: The resolution has received over 35 percent of shareholder votes. (Importantly, this figure understates support for the resolution, as there were a large number of abstentions counted as no votes.) Student organizers say that they are very pleased with this result.

Is the government spying on environmental groups?

Corporations are teaming up with government agencies to put law-abiding anti-fracking activists under surveillance

By 2007, 70 percent of the US intelligence budget – or about $38 billion annually – was spent on private contractors. Much of this largesse has been directed toward overseas operations. But it is likely that some of that money has been paid to private contractors – hired either by corporations or law enforcement agencies – that are also in the business of spying on American citizens. As early as 2004, in a report titled “The Surveillance Industrial Complex,” the American Civil Liberties Union warned that the “US security establishment is making a systematic effort to extend its surveillance capacity by pressing the private sector into service to report on the activities of Americans.” At the same time, corporations are boosting their own security operations. Today, overall annual spending on corporate security and intelligence is roughly $100 billion, double what it was a decade ago, according to Brian Ruttenbur, a defense analyst with CRT Capital… …Earlier this year, a bill was introduced into the Pennsylvania legislature that would make it a felony to videotape farming operations in Pennsylvania – so-called “ag-gag” legislation that has already passed in Utah and Iowa, and has been introduced in several other legislatures. Many of the ag-gag bills draw on language crafted by the American Legislative Exchange Council’s (ALEC) “Animal and Ecological Terrorism Act.” (In recent years ALEC has received considerable support from the natural gas industry). Section D of the ALEC bill defines an animal or ecological terrorist organization in broad terms “as any association, organization, entity, coalition, or combination of two or more persons” who seek to “obstruct, impede or deter any person from participating” not only in agricultural activity but also mining, foresting, harvesting, and gathering or processing of natural resources.

 A Brief Summary of Corporate Depravity Shows How They Earn Our Contempt

The United States has been described by some as creeping toward corporatocracy, a nation where the government colludes with multi-national corporations and the wealthy elite to rule the populace. The connotation is always that corporations are sinister and operate with almost diabolical motivations. What did they do to deserve this reputation? Why do so many people in capitalist nations mistrust entitieswhose sworn allegiance is to profit above all else? Their stories come out gradually over time, and like the proverbial frog in boiling water, people acclimate to their bad behavior. What happens when you consolidate just a few of their misdeeds into one place? Websites like RedState.com and Foreign Affairs boast that “Corporations Are Good.” The first reaction to this statement is, “Not unless they are forced to be.” Whether they are knowingly using underpaid laborers overseas, refusing to chip in any funds to see these workers’ factory work sites made safer following a catastrophe in Bangladesh, lyingabout oil spills, or they are installing a new government when they don’t like the way the current government is taxing them and making demands about treatment of laborers, corporations have earned their nasty reputations. They have used the resources of each country they occupy, whether it is raw materials, infrastructure, education systems, research, legal systems, or defense, yet they feel no obligation to contribute to any of the nations where they reside. It would seem the only answer is to resist corporatocracy, particularly by not allowing them to write laws through their legislative arm, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). If corporations are people, my friend, they have psychopathic tendencies. People with behavior disorders need supervision, and empowering government and our courts to regulate corporations is the only way they are going to improve their conduct. But there has been a growing tide of opposition, as the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has helped push bills that preempt cities’ ability to pass paid sick leave legislation. Such efforts have cropped up in Florida, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Mississippi.

Connecticut Lawmakers Consider Bill That Could Undermine Paid Sick Leave

Connecticut made history two years ago when it became the first state in the country to guarantee its workers paid sick days. The bill requires service workers to earn an hour of sick leave for every forty hours worked. But now the state’s lawmakers are considering a bill that could undermine the initial legislation. S.B. 1007, which has passed the state Senate and is being considered in the House, would open loopholes for employers while whittling away at the benefits the original law created, according to analysis by the National Partnership for Women & Families and Family Values at Work.

Not-So-Charitable Contributions

This week’s big CBO report on tax expenditures has spurred some interesting secondary analysis. One that should spur some tertiary discussion came from Wonkblog’s Dylan Matthews, who focused on one of those tax policies that primary benefits the wealthiest taxpayers: the charitable contributions deduction. The social theory behind this deduction, it is usually assumed, is that it operates as a form of redistribution, since the contributions channel dollars to the needy clients of charities—without all that messy government bureaucracy, doncha know. But drawing on a couple of studies, Matthews challenges that assumption dramatically: even using a pretty loose definition of “helping the poor,” he finds that only 30.6% of charitable giving actually goes in that direction. Beyond these often-worthy but not exactly redistributive purposes, there are, of course, a bunch of foundations and “public-society-benefit” institutions that have the much-prized tax status of 501(c)(3) organizations, entitling donors to a tax deduction. And here can be found fine organizations like the Heritage Foundation, the American Enterprise Institute, the National Right To Life Educational Trust Fund, and the American Legislative Exchange Council, none of whom are exactly know for a devotion to helping the poor. (It should be noted that some (c)(3)s, including the Heritage Foundation and the liberal Center for American Progress, also have affiliated “action funds” that are outside the charitable designation but have the freedom to more directly engage in political activities. These are among the famous 501(c)(4) organizations that have been in the news lately: contributions aren’t deductible to donors, but the organizations themselves are tax-exempt, which also represents a tax subsidy).

Noam Chomsky on Democracy and Education in the 21st Century and Beyond

Noam Chomsky is an American linguist, philosopher, political critic and activist. He is an institute professor and professor emeritus in the department of linguistics and philosophy at MIT, where he has worked for over 50 years. History educator Daniel Falcone spoke with Chomsky in his Cambridge office on May 14. Falcone: Do we as a nation have a reason to fear an assault on public education and the complete privatization of education? CHOMSKY: So now, take for example ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council. It’s corporate funded, the Koch brothers and those guys. It’s an organization which designs legislation for states, for state legislators. And they’ve got plenty of clout, so they can get a lot of it through. Now they have a new program, which sounds very pretty on the surface. It’s designed to increase “critical thinking.” And the way you increase critical thinking is by having “balanced education.” “Balanced education” means that if you teach kids something about the climate, you also have to teach them climate change denial. It’s like teaching evolution science, but also creation science, so that you have “critical thinking.” All of this is a way of turning the population into a bunch of imbeciles. That’s really serious. I mean, it’s life and death at this point, not just making society worse.

Bill Berry: Scott Walker’s agenda threatens public education By now it’s obvious that attempts by Gov. Scott Walker and some of his pals to privatize K-12 education isn’t sitting well with many in Walker’s own party. Walker’s plan to expand school vouchers has moderate Republicans and many from rural areas concerned. Earlier this month, 14 rural Republicans called for an increase to public school funding, in effect opposing Walker’s budget proposal that would keep revenues flat for another two years. Walker has no such respect for public schools. As Julie Underwood, dean of the School of Education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, has courageously pointed out, Wisconsin is among states threatened by the extremist American Legislative Exchange Council’s formula for privatizing education and eroding local control. Walker is ALEC’s Wisconsin operative.

Scaife-Funded Network Works Hard to Kill Immigration Reform

With immigration reform advancing through Congress, an anti-immigrant network funded by a small group of right-wing foundations is trying to kill reform by pressuring moderate Republicans and appealing to the party’s xenophobic wing. The groups could stymie efforts by some Republicans to appeal to the country’s growing Latino population by moving to the center on immigration. The anti-immigration Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) and others are using shoddy research methods to claim that immigration is at fault for a whole host of problems in America, from crime toincome inequality. ProEnglish, a lobbying organization that advocates for “official English,” has released avideo attacking Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) for his work on the immigration bill. The Center for Immigration Studies has testified in Congress against reform, claiming “virtually all illegal aliens are guilty of multiple felonies.” All of these organizations are connected to John Tanton, a nativist who has formed anetwork of radical anti-immigration groups, all of which receive a significant portion of their funding from foundations tied to the Scaife family. Regardless of their fringe viewpoints, in the past, Dr. Tanton’s groups have played a successful role incrusading against immigration. Four years ago, NumbersUSA was key in organizing protest calls to Congress and supplying talking points to legislators to help defeat President George W. Bush’s legalization plan. FAIRhelped draft the contentious Arizona law, SB 1070, that grants law enforcement the right to question and detain anyone they suspect of lacking proper documentation for lawful presence in the United States. (The law was also adopted as a model bill by the American Legislative Exchange Council). In addition, in 2010 CIS aimed to defeat the Dream Act, which offers a pathway to citizenship and higher education for minors who were brought to the United States illegally as young children.

Brad Ashwell: Would Koch Brothers be good for journalism?

As you read this newspaper you are probably not thinking much about who owns it. But the question of who may be purchasing it along with several other major newspapers has the attention of many. The Tribune Company, which is the second largest media company in the U.S., is considering the sale of eight newspapers, including the South Florida Sun-Sentinel and the Orlando Sentinel, to Charles and David Koch, two of the most politically active billionaires in the country. There is nothing particularly new or inherently wrong about a wealthy family buying or owning a media company. But, the Koch brothers are not a typical wealthy family. The Koch’s have worked for years to benefit their bottom line at the expense of everyday Americans. They have donated millions to organizations and politicians that deny climate change, attack campaign-spending limits, dismantle worker’s rights, promote discriminatory voter ID laws, restrict access to health care, and increase income inequality. They have aggressively pushed a radical and extremist partisan political agenda by bankrolling think tanks, advocacy organizations, shadowy groups like ALEC (The American Legislative Exchange Council), astroturf groups and educational institutions. What seems particularly troubling is that many of their efforts have involved shaping public opinion on issues in a way that lacks transparency in order to benefit their own economic interests. To be clear, the issue here is not whether we agree with the Koch brothers positions on various issues. The question is whether we can trust these partisan ideologues to be good public stewards when it comes to providing us with objective news?

Asbestos Bill Invades the Privacy of Victims and Veterans | Commentary

“My husband was the late Congressman Bruce F. Vento, who served for more than 24 years in the House of Representatives representing our home state of Minnesota. Bruce died from pleural mesothelioma, a cancer of the lining of the lung caused by exposure to asbestos, on Oct. 10, 2000, just eight months after being diagnosed and despite receiving excellent medical care at the Mayo Clinic. He would be very disappointed that his colleagues on the House Judiciary Committee voted to send HR 982, the Furthering Asbestos Claim Transparency Act, to the floor.” Since at least the early 1900s, the lethal risks of asbestos exposure have been known — and intentionally hidden from — American workers and their families by companies of all sorts whose bottom lines were more important than the well-being and very lives of their workers. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, American Legislative Exchange Council and Georgia Pacific — a company owned by the Koch Brothers, who are pushing this bill — claim it is needed to prevent fraud by asbestos victims when filing claims to company trusts. The asbestos company trusts were structured to enable the companies responsible for poisoning their workers to use bankruptcy reorganization to continue operating. But notably the Government Accountability Office analyzed many company trusts and found no evidence of fraud. A recent newspaper investigation of claims found 0.35 percent of “anomalies” that included clerical errors by the claims administrators of the company trust. Yet somehow asbestos victims have ripped off the system.

60 NC Conservation Groups Identify Most Egregious Anti-Environmental Bills Moving Through General Assembly

June 3, 2013. From the Blue Ridge to the Outer Banks and everywhere in between, North Carolina’s clean air, clean water and unparalleled quality of life have made it a special place and the envy of so many other states in the Southeast and beyond. But over-reaching politicians and short-sighted politics in Raleigh are now putting the state’s renowned quality of life – and its future – at risk. Gov. Pat McCrory wants to open the state’s beaches up to the threat of offshore drilling. His appointee to the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources has rewritten the department’s mission statement to suggest that environmental science is subject to “a diversity of opinion” and that protection of the state’s environment be subject to cost-benefit analysis. And fossil fuel companies and groups beholden to them – from Halliburton to the American Legislative Exchange Council – are continuing to pressure lawmakers however they can to push their agendas.

ARTICLES IN SUPPORT OF ALEC:

Here’s a Smart Alec We Ought to Heed

Another pro-ALEC editorial opinion without a named author or editor…

California’s situation is so bad that ALEC devotes an entire chapter to it, outlining problems like its growing number of municipal bankruptcies, including San Bernardino, where the main driver is personnel expenses and pension costs. The latter are expected to rise from 13 to 15 percent of the city budget by 2016. “California’s government has imposed upon its citizenry the most onerous business environment in the United States,” the report says. As its authors see it, California is on a road to disaster. The needed first step to avoid it is a thorough overhaul of the state’s tax system. Given the current makeup of the state’s political leadership that change is unlikely to happen, because though term limits rotate the people who populate our government it does nothing to change the philosophies they hold.

National Center for Public Policy Research Completes Activity at 32nd Shareholder Meeting of 2013 Group Holds Corporate CEOs Who Support the Left Accountable – and Supports Those Who Defend the Free Market

Dallas, TX / Washington, D.C. – The National Center for Public Policy Research completed activity at its 32nd corporate shareholder meeting of 2013 this week, as President David Ridenour completed a presentation at the ExxonMobil shareholder meeting in Dallas a few days after appearing at the Home Depot meeting in Atlanta. At ExxonMobil in Dallas, Ridenour spoke against shareholder proposal #7, sponsored by the United Steelworkers, calling on ExxonMobil to annually release what Ridenour called “an extraordinary level of detail in company lobbying disclosures” and to disclose its “membership in and payments to any tax-exempt organization that writes and endorses model legislation.” At ExxonMobil, Ridenour called the United Steelworkers’ proposal “a barely-veiled attempt to make it difficult for the company to work with… the American Legislative Exchange Council, better known as ALEC, a 40-year-old non-partisan, non-profit organization that facilitates collaboration on issues important to all of us among thousands of state legislators in all 50 states.” Ridenour said special interests dependent on government have been pressuring corporations to boycott ALEC “because ALEC shares good ideas in… important policy areas from a perspective that seeks to keep government small and accountable to the people, and our personal and corporate taxes low.” He urged shareholders to vote against the anti-ALEC proposal, which ultimately failed, 25%-75%. An audio recording of Ridenour’s comments is available here.

Three Reasons Why State Polarization Is a Big Deal

Those of us who report on state-level politics usually brag about how much better it is than following Congress. On our beat, after all, bills actually get passed and become law—unlike in D.C., where the Senate can’t even vote for lack of cloture and the House just keeps reapproving the repeal of Obamacare in some endless Politico version of Groundhog Day. In state legislatures, deals get made, budgets get passed (even balanced, if that’s your thing), and not every single issue is defined by a Democratic-Republican split. A new study shows that polarization—the ideological gulf between the average Republican and average Democrat—is growing in state legislatures. Political scientists Boris Shor (University of Chicago) and Nolan McCarty (Princeton University) combined survey results from the Project Vote Smart office-holder questionnaire with roll-call votes, comparing the average Republican and Democratic lawmakers in each state. (The data are available for anyone to play with.) Their findings tell us that state legislatures aren’t quite as polarized as Congress, but they’re moving in the same direction. What’s even more interesting, though, is what polarization actually means—and who benefits from it… …One reason for the shift: increasingly, national groups call the shots for Republican state lawmakers. Grover Norquist’s no-new-taxes pledge, signed by 1,037 current state lawmakers, helped create a method for nationalizing state issues. Groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) have successfully pushed “model legislation” to Republican lawmakers around the country, accounting for the proliferation of voter ID laws and stand-your-ground laws, among others. Increasingly, big-money conservatives such as the Koch brothers support challenges to “moderate” Republican lawmakers on the state level to enforce ideological purity. The Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC) spent around $30 million to elect GOP lawmakers in 2010 and another $25 million in 2012.

 

5/20 ALEC/Koch News – Weekly Recap…

5/20 ALEC/Koch News – Weekly Recap…

By Bob Sloan

This has been a busy week for us here at VLTP.  To catch our readership and visitors up with news involving ALEC and their cabal, we’re publishing a larger segment today.

Click on the headline link(s) to read the full article or document from the original source.

First a development involving the Occupy Movement and how government resources have been used to suppress the Occupy Wall Street and other Occupy groups.

Obama Admin. Approves ALEC Model Bill for Fracking Chemical Fluid Disclosure on Public Lands

“On May 16, the Obama Interior Department announced its long-awaited rules governing hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) on federal lands.

“As part of its 171-page document of rules, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM), part of the U.S. Dept. of Interior (DOI), revealed it will adopt theAmerican Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) model bill written by ExxonMobil for fracking chemical fluid disclosure on U.S. public lands.

“ALEC is a 98-percent corporate-funded bill mill and “dating service” that brings predominantly Republican state legislators and corporate lobbyists together at meetings to craft and vote on “model bills” behind closed doors. Many of these bills end up snaking their way into statehouses and become law in what Bill Moyers referred to as “The United States of ALEC.”

Government Surveillance of Occupy Movement

– by Beau Hodai, CMD/DBA

“On May 20, 2013, DBA Press and the Center for Media and Democracy ?released the results of a year-long investigation: “Dissent or Terror:? How the Nation’s Counter Terrorism Apparatus, In Partnership With ?Corporate America, Turned on Occupy Wall Street.”?? The report, a distillation of thousands of pages of records obtained? from counter terrorism/law enforcement agencies, details how? state/regional “fusion center” personnel monitored the Occupy Wall? Street movement over the course of 2011 and 2012.

“The report also examines how fusion centers and other counter terrorism entities that ?have emerged since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 have? worked to benefit numerous corporations engaged in public-private? intelligence sharing partnerships. ??While the report examines many instances of fusion center monitoring? of Occupy activists nationwide, the bulk of the report ?details how counter terrorism personnel engaged in the Arizona Counter? Terrorism Information Center (ACTIC, commonly known as the “Arizona fusion center”) monitored and otherwise surveilled citizens active in? Occupy Phoenix, and how this surveillance benefited a number of ?corporations and banks that were subjects of Occupy Phoenix protest ?activity.

“?While small glimpses into the governmental monitoring of the Occupy Wall Street movement have emerged in the past, there has not been any reporting — until now — that details the breadth and depth with which the nation’s post-September 11, 2001 counter terrorism apparatus has been applied to politically engaged citizens exercising their Constitutionally-protected First Amendment rights.”

ALEC & Your Communications: Part 1: How AT&T, ALEC and the Other Communications Companies Created Model State Legislation to Harm You

“Let’s connect the dots.

“Starting in 2007, AT&T, Verizon, Centurylink and the cable companies, working with a group called the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), created state-based model legislation and principles designed by the companies to accomplish one thing — the removal of all regulations, obligations and oversight on the companies’ businesses. As the NRRI report outlines, 25 states have removed some, if not all regulations and oversight, and there are more to come in 2013…”

BOYCOTT KOCH BROTHERS, MONSANTO AND OTHER INDUSTRIES’ PRODUCTS LINING SUPERMARKET SHELVES

“The guessing game is over. No longer will consumers wonder what companies are behind the millions of products that fill supermarket shelves because there’s an app for that.

Buycott, now available on Apple and Android platforms, is a tool that allows consumers to organize their spending depending on personal values.

“The app helps consumers determine whether their spending is funding causes or campaigns that they either support or oppose. Buycott offers consumers the opportunity to align their principals and spending by avoiding products made by controversial big businesses such as Koch Industries, Monsanto and George Soros and, instead, buying products to help support the companies behind initiatives like local and sustainable food.” 

The States That Use the Most Green Energy

“California and Texas might be leading the nation’s rollout of solar and wind power, respectively, but Washington, where hydroelectric dams provide over 60 percent of the state’s energy, was the country’s biggest user of renewable power in 2011, according to new statistics released last week by the federal Energy Information Administration.

More than half of the 29 states that require utilities to purchase renewable power are currently considering legislation to pare back those mandates, in many cases pushed by (surprise, suprise) the American Legislative Exchange Council. “We’re opposed to these mandates, and 2013 will be the most active year ever in terms of efforts to repeal them,” ALEC energy task force director Todd Wynn recently told Bloomberg.”

On Paid Sick Days, Will Gov. Rick Scott Side with Moms or Mickey Mouse?

“Florida Governor Rick Scott is under pressure from Florida moms to veto a bill that would deliver a “kill-shot” to local efforts to guarantee paid sick days for workers. The legislation, which can be traced back the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), is backed by major corporate players with questionable labor records, including Disney.

“In April, the Florida legislature passed a corporate-backed bill to preempt local paid sick day laws, largely in response to a small-d democratic effort in Orange County to have residents vote on the issue. More than 50,000 Orange County voters signed petitions to place a paid sick day measure on the ballot, which would be effectively blocked if Governor Scott signs the law.

“As the Center for Media and Democracy has reported, paid sick day preemption bills have spread across the country after legislation that passed in Wisconsin was shared at an August 2011 ALEC meeting. The legislation in Florida was sponsored in the House and Senate by two ALEC members, House Majority Leader Steve Precourt and Sen. David Simmons.” 

Turning people who report corporate crime into criminals

by Jim Hightower

“In most state legislatures today, bizarre is not unusual, and off-the-wall has become the political center.

“Still, it seems strange that legislators in so many states — from California to Vermont — have simultaneously been pushing “ag-gag” bills that are not merely outrageous, but downright un- American. Each is intended to prevent journalists, whistleblowers, workers and other citizens from exposing illegal, abusive or unethical corporate treatment of animals confined in factoryfeeding operations.

“Oddly, each of these state proposals is practically identical, even including much of the same wording. That’s because, unbeknownst to the public and other legislators, the bills don’t originate from the state lawmakers who introduce them, instead coming from a corporate front group named ALEC — the American Legislative Exchange Council. Lobbyists for corporate funders of ALEC convene periodically to write model bills that serve their corporations’ special interests, then the bills are farmed out to the group’s trusted lawmakers across the country. The secretive ALEC network produced the ag-gag model in 2002, titling it the “Animal and Ecological Terrorism Act. 

The terrible price of ag-gag laws

Rather than shutting observers out of slaughterhouses, we should open the doors even wider

“When the “pink slime” scandal exploded online last March, Iowa Gov. Terry Brandstad called a press conference. But Brandstad and beef industry leaders weren’t there to apologize for processing scraps through centrifuges, then spraying American meat with ammonia gas. The event featured officials showing off t-shirts with the slogan “Dude, it’s beef!”

“After dismissing the public’s concerns about “pink slime,” agribusiness is now trying to stop the public from learning about practices like this in the first place.

“These laws are modeled on an “Animal and Ecological Terrorism Act” produced by the American Legislative Exchange Council, the group behind voter ID laws and “stand your ground” gun laws.”

Open the Slaughterhouse Doors: It’s Time to See How the Sausage Gets Made

“In February in Salt Lake City, Amy Meyer stood on the street and used her cell phone to record what was happening outside a slaughterhouse. She then became the first person charged under one of the new so-called “ag-gag” laws.

“Six states currently have such “farm protection laws,” deliberately designed to stop video recording at slaughterhouses. The bills are largely industry-funded and based on a template drawn up by the right-wing American Legislative Exchange Council. Another eight states have similar legislation in the works. Although the effort to clamp down on slaughterhouse recording has never been more organized, two such bills, in Indiana and here in California, recently failed, and the historic prosecution of Meyer also failed when her case was dropped last month.

 

MP on Google tax avoidance scheme: ‘I think that you do evil’

Google and Amazon face fresh attack over claims that their multibillion-pound UK-facing businesses should not be taxed

“Google and Amazon came under fierce attack from MPs and tax campaigners after fresh whistleblower allegations put further strain on claims by the internet giants that their multibillion-pound UK-facing businesses should not be taxed by Revenue & Customs.

“Margaret Hodge, chair of the public accounts committee, told Google’s northern Europe boss, Matt Brittin, that his company’s behaviour on tax was “devious, calculated and, in my view, unethical”.

“He had been recalled by MPs after being accused of misleading parliament over the firm’s tax affairs six months ago. Hodge said: “You are a company that says you ‘do no evil’. And I think that you do do evil.” Hodge was referring to Google’s long-standing corporate motto, “Don’t be evil,” which appeared in its $23bn US stock market flotation prospectus in 2004.”

This news about Google and Amazon follows the discovery that Starbucks has also been avoiding paying their full tax in the UK.  (Starbucks, Google and Amazon are all affiliated with ALEC or are/have been corporate members).

The shadowy conservative group ALEC has members in Nevada’s Legislature

“For years, liberal interest groups have slagged the American Legislative Exchange Council as a front for right-wing legislators and their supporters among the corporate elite. And with good reason. Corporations and corporate and industrial trade groups formed ALEC and still appear to control the group’s policy-making, legislation-writing apparatus.

“ALEC’s other side is its legislative membership. The group proudly proclaims on its website that it has 2,000 state-level legislators as members, presumably ready to advance its right-leaning agenda. And advance that agenda they do.

“Privatizing education, ditching workers safety and environmental protections, thwarting efforts to develop alternative energy, blocking gun control — the history of ALEC is a history of the modern right and its successes and failures.

‘Big Gulp’ bill passes House

“RALEIGH, N.C. — Cities would not be allowed to ban large servings of sugary drinks under a bill that passed the state House Wednesday night.

“House Bill 683, the “Commonsense Consumption” bill, would also prohibit people from filing “frivolous lawsuits” against food manufacturers or packagers for obesity, weight gain or health issues related to consumption of their products.

“The bill is model legislation promoted by pro-business advocacy group American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC.

“Sponsor Rep. Brian Brown, R-Pitt, said the measure “requests that individuals make smart decisions.”

GOP backs down on “right to work” in two states

“COLUMBUS, Ohio – Fearing public reaction which could hurt their party at the polls next year – symbolized by a mass May Day protest on the state Capitol lawn in Columbus, Ohio – Republican state legislative leaders in Ohio and Missouri effectively stopped drives for so-called “right to work” lawsin those legislatures.

“But the fight isn’t over yet, at least in Ohio. The Buckeye State’s statewide tea party affiliate says it will gather signatures, facing a July deadline, to put “right to work” on the ballot this November.

“Right to work (for less) is a longtime cause of business and its legislative handmaidens. Since the 2010 GOP mid-term election sweep, the radical right – led by the secretive, extremist American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and so-called tea party groups – have joined that cause.

ALEC’s Most Wanted: Exposing a Front Group for Fossil Fuel Interests (and Other Corporations)

“The Center for Media and Democracy’s (CMD) Brendan Fischer and Nick Surgey uncovered an internal document from the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) at the controversial organization’s meeting last week in Oklahoma City. The document entitled “OKC anti-ALEC photos” featured the headshots of eight reporters and public interest advocates that have written about ALEC or been critical of ALEC’s activities (as a front group working on behalf of its corporate membership).” 

Congressmen Pocan and Ellison Introduce “Right to Vote” Constitutional Amendment

“The right of voting for representatives is the primary right by which other rights are protected,” wrote Thomas Paine in 1795.

Yet contrary to popular belief, there is no affirmative right to vote in the U.S. Constitution. This gap in our founding document has provided an opening for the wave of voter suppression measures that swept the country in recent years, and before that, the poll taxes and Jim Crow restrictions that disenfranchised millions. This week, two Congressmen — both from states at the epicenter of today’s voting rights struggles — are seeking to fix that.

“The right to vote is too important to be left unprotected,” said Rep. Mark Pocan of Wisconsin, who is co-sponsoring an amendment to the U.S. Constitution guaranteeing the right to vote.

“Pocan’s state, Wisconsin, passed one of the strictest voter ID laws in the country in 2011 after Governor Scott Walker and a GOP-dominated legislature took power. The law threatened to disenfranchise more than 300,000 voters who did not have the required forms of ID, primarily people of color, students, and the elderly. (Like many of the restrictive voter ID laws proposed since 2011, the bill tracked a “model” Voter ID Act from the American Legislative Exchange Council). But just months after Wisconsin’s law was enacted, a state court struck down the law based on the Wisconsin Constitution’s protections for voting rights.” 

Grading schools based on conservative ideals

“With the release of letter grades for Maine’s schools, Gov. Paul LePage unveiled yet another aspect of his misguided plan to reform education in the state. Looking to Florida as a model, he and his education commissioner assigned each school a grade on a scale of A to F and then published the results without ever explaining to the schools on what basis they were being graded. Imagine if your child were to bring home a letter grade on a test that he or she knew nothing about. You’d be outraged.

“Maine, by the way, also outranked Florida at No. 14 in fourth grade reading and No. 7 in eighth grade scores. So why choose Florida as a model? Why fly a delegation of politicians more than 1,000 miles to tell us how to change our schools when Massachusetts is a car ride away?

“We need look no further than The American Legislative Exchange Council for an answer. ALEC is a conservative think tank and lobbying group that writes model legislation on a variety of topics, including education. ALEC’s favorite education state is Florida, and LePage is one of ALEC’s biggest fans. In fact, his “Putting Students First” plan for Maine takes its language directly from ALEC.

“Among the strategies that ALEC promotes is assigning grades to schools. It assigned Florida the highest grade and awarded Massachusetts a C. ALEC’s grading system is based on how well states implement its conservative platform that includes privatizing education through school vouchers, lifting caps on charter schools, watering down teacher licensing requirements, supporting private schools at public expense, eroding local control through school choice programs, lifting homeschool regulations and encouraging virtual schooling.

Traffic Ticket Camera Company Channels Kafka, Threatening Court Appearances, Even Though “No Such Court Exists”

In fact, the plaintiffs say, a state judge has told the city that its system is illegal.

“May 15, 2013  |  A class action suit claims the City of Center Point and Redflex Traffic Systems illegally ticket drivers by threatening them with a court appearance if they refuse to pay fines, though “no such court exists.”

“Redflex owns and operates the traffic cameras for Center Point, which photographs cars believed to run red lights or stop signs or speed. 

“Similarly, the Notice of Violation sent to Stubbs and other members of the Class did not explain that the $100 ‘fine’ could not be collected unless the City filed a later, separate civil suit. Neither Ms. Stubbs nor any other Class member was informed that the Notice of Violation was not judicial in nature but was actually a non-binding collection notice.”

These laws allowing ticketing of vehicle owners based upon camera’s operated by a private company, are ALEC adopted model bills.  Originally submitted by American Traffic Solutions (an ALEC member) this legislation is being used in several states.  Those ticketed receive notices from the private company to pay traffic fines directly to the company.  Once received the private surveillance camera company takes their cut and forwards the balance to the clerk of the court.  In this way as described in this article about Mississippi, this removes any pretense of judicial review or appeal.  The cities using this form of surveillance often increase fines to cover the cost of additional paperwork or court appearances sought for defending such “camera tickets.”

NASDAQ Data Reveals Who’s Getting Rich Off the Prison-Industrial Complex

“Using NASDAQ data, I looked through the long list of investors in Corrections Corporation of America and GEO Group, the two biggest corporations that operate detention centers in the US, to find out who was cashing in the most on prisons. When we say “prison-industrial complex,” this is who we’re talking about. 

Retired People and Probably You
“The Vanguard Group and Fidelity Investments are America’s top two 401(k) providers. They are also two of the private prison industry’s biggest investors.

“Together, they own about 20 percent of both CCA and GEO. That means if you have a 401(k) plan, there’s a good chance you benefit financially from private prisons. And even if you don’t, there are many more mutual funds, brokerage firms, and banks that invest in private prisons—it being a growth industry and all—so if you have money somewhere other than your wallet or your mattress, it’s a good bet you’re involved in some way with companies that are locking up and probably abusing inmates.

“This is especially true for government employees like public school teachers because their retirement funds are some of the biggest investors in private prisons. According to NASDAQ data, the retirement funds for public employees and teachers in New York and California together have about $60 million ($30 million each) invested in CCA and GEO. Teacher retirement funds in Texas and Kentucky have $8.3 million and $4 million invested in prisons respectively, and public employees in Florida ($10.3 million), Ohio ($8.6 million), Texas ($5.6 million), Arizona ($5.3 million), and Colorado ($2.25 million) are also connected to the industry. Except for New York, which has only one privately run detention facility, each of these states has several prisons run by CCA and GEO Group facilities. And it’s not just Americans who have ties to prisons. Foreign investors have money in them as well, including the pension fund for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, which recently sold off its $5.1 million worth of GEO Group stock.”

 

Government Surveillance of Occupy Movement

Government Surveillance of Occupy Movement

 FROM CMD by Beau Hodai – Dissent_or_Terror-cover200px

Special Report by Center for Media and Democracy and DBA Press

This just released report is a must read for all Americans to understand just how much our Nation’s governmental landscape has been changed since 9/11/2001.  Once again, government agencies created to “protect” Americans have been altered to instead place citizens at risk – physically by arrests and through a loss of guaranteed freedoms under the guise of protecting us.

Not surprisingly, we once again find the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and their corporate “benefactors” and members involved in partnerships to advance these Anti-American activities.

Excerpts from the report below followed by a link to the actual report;

“On May 20, 2013, DBA Press and the Center for Media and Democracy released the results of a year-long investigation; “Dissent or Terror: How the Nation’s Counter Terrorism Apparatus, in partnership with corporate America, turned on Occupy Wall Street.”  The report, a distillation of thousands of pages of records obtained from counter terrorism/law enforcement agencies, details how state/regional “fusion center” personnel monitored the Occupy Wall Street movement over the course of 2011 and 2012.

“The report also examines how fusion centers and other counter terrorism entities that have emerged since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 have worked to benefit numerous corporations engaged in public-private intelligence sharing partnerships.  While the report examines many instances of fusion center monitoring of Occupy activists nationwide, the bulk of the report details how counter terrorism personnel engaged in the Arizona Counter Terrorism Information Center (ACTIC, commonly known as the ‘Arizona fusion center’) monitored and otherwise surveilled citizens active in Occupy Phoenix, and how this surveillance benefited a number of corporations and banks there were subjects of Occupy Phoenix protest activity.

“While small glimpses into the governmental monitoring of the Occupy Wall Street movement have emerged in the past, there has not been any reporting — until now — that details the breadth and depth with which the nation’s post-September 11, 2001 counter terrorism apparatus has been applied to politically engaged citizens exercising their Constitutionally-protected First Amendment rights.”

Key Findings

Key findings of this report include:

  • How law enforcement agencies active in the Arizona fusion center dispatched an undercover officer to infiltrate activist groups organizing both protests of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the launch of Occupy Phoenix and how the work of this undercover officer benefited ALEC and the private corporations that were the subjects of these demonstrations.
  • How fusion centers, funded in large part by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, expended countless hours and tax dollars in the monitoring of Occupy Wall Street and other activist groups.
  • How the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has financed social media ‘data mining’ programs at local law enforcement agencies engaged in fusion centers.
  • How counter terrorism government employees applied facial recognition technology, drawing from a state database of driver’s license photos, to photographs found on Facebook in the effort to profile citizens believed to be associated with activist groups.
  • How corporations have become part of the homeland security “information sharing environment” with law enforcement/intelligence agencies through various public-private intelligence sharing partnerships.  The report examines multiple instances in which the counter terrorism/homeland security apparatus was used to gather intelligence relating to activists for the benefit of corporate interests that were the subject of protests.
  • How private groups and individuals, such as Charles Koch, Chase Koch (Charles’ son and a Koch Industries executive), Koch Industries, and the Koch-funded American Legislative Exchange Council have hired off-duty police officers — sometimes still armed and in police uniforms — to perform the private security functions of keeping undesirables (reporters and activists) at bay. 
  • How counter terrorism personnel monitored the protest activities of citizens opposed to the indefinite detention language contained in National Defense Authorization Act of 2012.
  • How the FBI applied “Operation Tripwire,” an initiative originally intended to apprehend domestic terrorists through the use of private sector informants, in their monitoring of Occupy Wall Street groups. [Note: this issue was reported on exclusively by DBA/CMD in December, 2012.]

Read the complete PRWatch/DBA Press report -> HERE <-

The Criminal Justice Industrial Complex: Seeking Transparency Through Revelation

The Criminal Justice Industrial Complex: Seeking Transparency Through Revelation

By Bob Sloan

Like the military/industrial complex, the criminal justice industrial complex is an interweaving of private business and government interests. Its twofold purpose is profit and social control. Its public rationale is the fight against crime.  To accomplish the goals the public must be made to fear their neighbors, fellow employees…to walk in a public park or to the corner store.  If the public is not made to fear all these things, they will not acquiesce to spending billions in tax dollars on more and more police, more judges, jails or prisons.

The business niche created to profit from imprisoning fully 5% of all Americans has become hugely rewarding.  Companies have pumped billions into expanding “system-gulag” here in the U.S. to generate similarly huge rewards in profits and investor dividends.  Companies such as Corrections Corporation of America have provided an incentive and way for the “small” individual investor to share in the wave of money made off of incarceration in all it’s forms.  Corporations long ago learned that to enable such schemes it was important to get the word “fear” – and what to fear – out to the public.

To accomplish this, those being made wealthy off incarceration diversified and began to buy media outlets; a newspaper here, a radio or tv station there, digital media was created and is now controlled by a handful of such individuals.  Now entire broadcast networks are owned by criminal justice entrepreneurs and they keep Americans fearful and willing to spend billions to overcome that fear…billions that flow smoothly into company coffers and can be used to continue to expand and enlarge revenue streams. Surrounding this criminal justice industry is a curtain that keeps society’s eyes from penetrating a web of intentionally created disinformation.  Think tanks such as the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) have been swept into the fold and used to craft and lobby for ever harsher laws, longer sentences and to “legalize” more privatization efforts.

All of this has been rolled into a cabal of companies, individuals, organizations and institutes dedicated to keeping the criminal justice industry functioning flawlessly and generating ever growing profits.  Articles and studies sometimes written by those who have had a taste of this industry from the inside, are kept from the public by the mainstream media refusing to print them.  Even when alternative outlets publish such articles and attract attention, the MSM immediately goes all out to discredit the facts given and the author.  In just such a non-MSM posting from “Transmissions”, the truth about the criminal justice industry was eloquently and factually stated back in 2001.  Don’t look for the subject or discussion reported by the MSM over the last dozen years, you won’t find it.  I’ve taken the liberty of quoting from that decade old article here:

“Not so long ago, communism was “the enemy” and communists were demonized as a way of justifying gargantuan military expenditures. Now, fear of crime and the demonization of criminals serve a similar ideological purpose: to justify the use of tax dollars for the repression and incarceration of a growing percentage of our population. The omnipresent media blitz about serial killers, missing children, and “random violence” feeds our fear. In reality, however, most of the “criminals” we lock up are poor people who commit nonviolent crimes out of economic need. Violence occurs in less than 14% of all reported crime, and injuries occur in just 3%. In California, the top three charges for those entering prison are: possession of a controlled substance, possession of a controlled substance for sale, and robbery. Violent crimes like murder, rape, manslaughter and kidnapping don’t even make the top ten. Like fear of communism during the Cold War, fear of crime is a great selling tool for a dubious product. As with the building and maintenance of weapons and armies, the building and maintenance of prisons are big business. Investment houses, construction companies, architects, and support services such as food, medical, transportation and furniture, all stand to profit by prison expansion. A burgeoning “specialty item” industry sells fencing, handcuffs, drug detectors, protective vests, and other security devices to prisons…

Research shows that many of the hundreds of companies holding memberships in ALEC, the NCIA, American Correctional Association or other affiliates, have been involved and raking in money off of incarceration in several ways.

“…Communication companies like AT&T, Sprint, and MCI are getting into the act as well “ gouging prisoners with exorbitant phone calling rates, often six times the normal long distance charge. Smaller firms like Correctional Communications Corp., dedicated solely to the prison phone business, provide computerized prison phone systems” fully equipped for systematic surveillance. They win government contracts by offering to “kick back” some of the profits to the government agency awarding the contract. These companies are reaping huge profits at the expense of prisoners and their families; prisoners are often effectively cut off from communication due to the excessive cost of phone calls…

In February of last year CCA’s extensive lobbying contributions to Florida’s Governor Scott and the GOP led legislature in an effort of privatizing the state’s entire southern prison system, failed.  In response, CCA distributed a letter to all Governors offering to buy their state owned prison facilities.  This proffer included terms that CCA would have an exclusive 20 year contract for managing and operating each facility and requiring the state to guarantee to keep the prisons at 90% of capacity during the term of the contract.

ALEC’s Public Safety and Elections “Task Force” is responsible for writing nearly every law that has been adopted nationwide to incorporate Three Strike (Habitual Offender Act), Mandatory Minimum sentences, Truth in Sentencing, Private Correctional Facility ActTargeted Contracting for Certain Correctional Facilities and Services Act,  Prison Industries Act…all to incarcerate more men and women, keep them in prison for the longest term possible and to replace parole with “privatized parole” in the form of a “Conditional  Early Release Bond Act” to allow profiting off the release of offenders prior to end of sentence completion.

“… Like any industry, the prison economy needs raw materials. In this case the raw materials are prisoners. The prison/industrial complex can grow only if more and more people are incarcerated even if crime rates drop. “Three Strikes” and Mandatory Minimums (harsh, fixed sentences without parole) are two examples of the legal superstructure quickly being put in place to guarantee that the prison population will grow and grow and grow…

It is no longer a “U.S.” effort.  This cabal or network of companies and investors micro-managing the criminal justice industry have realized the potential for an additional windfall of profits if expansion to the EU, UK, Poland, New Zealand, Australia and beyond can be accomplished.

“Correctional Corporation Of America, one of the largest private prison owners, already operates internationally, with 48 facilities in 11 states, Puerto Rico, the United Kingdom, and Australia. Under contract by government to run jails and prisons, and paid a fixed sum per prisoner, the profit motive mandates that these firms operate as cheaply and efficiently as possible… The basic transnational corporate philosophy is this: the world is a single market; natural resources are to be exploited; people are consumers; anything which hinders profit is to be routed out and destroyed. The results of this philosophy in action are that while economies are growing, so is poverty, so is ecological destruction, so are sweatshops and child labor. Across the globe, wages are plummeting, indigenous people are being forced off their lands, rivers are becoming industrial dumping grounds, and forests are being obliterated. Massive regional starvation and “World Bank riots” are becoming more frequent throughout the Third World.

Today the same cabal that created initiatives to outsource American jobs to foreign countries for cheap labor,  tax breaks and the ability to not pay taxes on foreign income, are hard at work here in the U.S. – again, led by ALEC – and working hard to take their network international.  They have been writing and lobbying for legislation to end collective bargaining, union organizing, to restrict or abolish minimum wage requirements and eliminate union dues – worldwide.

All over the world, more and more people are being forced into illegal activity for their own survival as traditional cultures and social structures are destroyed. Inevitably, crime and imprisonment rates are on the rise. And the United States law enforcement establishment is in the forefront, domestically and internationally, in providing state-of-the-art repression. For private business, prison labor is like a pot of gold. No strikes. No union organizing. No unemployment insurance or workers’ compensation to pay. No language problem, as in a foreign country. New leviathan prisons are being built with thousands of eerie acres of factories inside the walls. Prisoners do data entry for Chevron, make telephone reservations for TWA, raise hogs, shovel manure, make circuit boards, limousines, waterbeds, and lingerie for Victoria’s Secret. All at a fraction of the cost of “free labor.

Prisoners can be forced to work for pennies because they have no rights. Even the 13th Amendment to the Constitution which abolished slavery, excludes prisoners from its protections.”

The influx of manufacturing and service jobs to nations such as China has led to the creation of working or middle classes in those countries, just as it did in America in the middle of the 20th century.  Wages of these foreign nations have been climbing, labor has begun to organize and CEO’s of companies that have been created due to the integration of American manufacturing in their nations, have begun to seek – and receive – larger and larger salaries and benefits.  The cabal has realized it is no longer logistically possible to continue to manufacture overseas and transport products back to the U.S. due to increasing labor, utility and other costs associated with overseas production.  These rising costs cut into profits and have caused many of these labor-exploiting companies to contemplate a return to the U.S. with their manufacturing.

In order to do this, American worker’s wages must be controlled.  Through hidden legislation they have found a way to bring their manufacturing needs back to America and do it in a way that provides a huge, silent, captive and hugely underpaid workforce: prisoners serving sentences in state and federal prisons.  Through authorization from Congress in 2011 UNICOR secured the ability to participate in the Prison Industries Enhancement Certification Program (PIECP).  This allows all federally owned and operated prison factories the ability to “partner” with private companies, lease them manufacturing space and provide adequate labor via inmate workers.

Along with this new authorization came another “innovative” program titled: Repatriation.  Repatriation as used in this context is the return of U.S. manufacturing jobs to America – under a provision that products no longer made in the U.S. by American companies (or that a company says “may be moved offshore”) can be brought back to the U.S. by those companies.  The products will be made within the industrial facilities of the federal prison industries (UNICOR) by federal prisoners. at wages of between $.23 and $1.35 per hour:

“Federal Prison Industries — also known by the trade name UNICOR — is a self-sustaining, self-funding company within the US Bureau of Prisons. It is owned wholly by the US government and was created by an act of Congress in 1934 to function as a rehabilitative tool to teach real-world work skills to federal inmates. These inmates were historically limited to producing goods for government use, such as furniture, uniforms, even, believe it or not, components for Patriot missiles. “Indeed, FPI/UNICOR’s 2012 annual report states that the board of directors “has approved 14 pilot programs for repatriated products.”  It also details “substantial losses” incurred and asserts that “inmate employment levels have dropped precipitously.” To be sure, not every job being reshored will be filled by an inmate. But according to the report, “FPI anticipates these pilot projects will assist in further reducing its losses,” which would logically induce the Bureau of Prisons to funnel as much business as possible to its 109 existing UNICOR factories, which currently employ just over 21,000 inmates.”

Today with minimum wage jobs disappearing and no longer available to those without degrees or diplomas, work for young men and women has become harder to find.  Employers can pick and choose who to hire and how much they’re willing to pay in wages.  A young Black or Hispanic man with education but few skills, has little value to employers…but they do to the criminal justice industrial complex.  With each new admission to a private prison, taxpayers fork over an average of $32,000 per year for housing, feeding, medical care and clothing. Because of this, poor people of color are being locked up in grossly disproportionate numbers, primarily for non-violent and drug possession crimes. On average they serve 3.5 years of a 5 year sentence for the first offense.  Meals, health services and transportation needs, canteens, personal clothing and banking have all been outsourced so in addition to the private prison company, several other private companies profit off of providing those “services.”

Drug, alcohol and other counseling and rehab programs have been cut.  Education – especially higher education – have all been eliminated and no longer available to prisoners.  So there is no real effort of rehabilitation.  Instead they rely upon the possibility of a job paying as little as $20.00 every other week to keep prisoners behaving in the hope of getting such work – eventually.  And when they’re finally released it is back into the same community with now even fewer jobs and for the ex-convict with a record, any hope of acquiring work to support themselves or even a small family is nonexistent.

In this manner the cycle of incarceration is begun and becomes perpetual.  Those invested in incarceration continue to rake in huge profits as more than 6 out of every 10 prisoners released return to prison within 3 years and are put back to work churning out products and generating income for investors and corporate owners who reinvest their earnings by contributing to campaigns of those legislators responsible for creating more laws, harsher and longer sentences and other means of profiting off human miseries. As the article linked to above, “Prisons are Big Business” informed readers over a decade ago:

As “criminals” become scapegoats for our floundering economy and our deteriorating social structure, even the guise of rehabilitation is quickly disappearing from our penal philosophy. After all: rehabilitate for what? To go back into an economy which has no jobs? To go back into a community which has no hope? As education and other prison programs are cut back, or in most cases eliminated altogether, prisons are becoming vast, over-crowded, holding tanks. Or worse: factories behind bars.  And, prison labor is undercutting wages –something which hurts all working and poor Americans.

Those among our society who have supported “tough on crime” legislation and adopted the “lock ’em up and throw away the key” mantra have helped enrich those individuals and companies profiting off the hard earned tax dollars spent on incarceration.  That philosophy has to be stopped by citizens realizing how they have been manipulated by the MSM and others reaping huge rewards from imprisonment.  To those involved in incarceration, it is no longer a moral or societal duty, it has become a business and like any other business, it exists to make a profit for owners and investors.

Profiting off the misery of fellow human beings is immoral and creates the incentive to imprison more – for additional profit.

VLTP would urge readers to help us battle this means of widening the gap of inequality in our culture and society.  Spread the word about profiting off incarceration, the use of prisoners to rob us of our jobs and how this “system” has developed and works against us all.  Contribute to support our continued research, studies and reporting on this topic.  We do not have paying memberships, receive no corporate contributions or government grants to support our work.  You could not receive a better return for your investment in our work and your society.

Keystone XL Pipeline Reeks of Koch

Keystone XL Pipeline Reeks of Koch

For the public, the entire Keystone XL (KXL) streamliner is washing down easier with a confidential Big Gulp of Koch.

“The too-billionaire Koch brothers, Charles and David, usually get what they want, but never what they deserve.” — Gaea

People who breathe the atmosphere, drink water, eat food, are hostages of an increasingly haywire, engineered climate…that’s us, and at the swipe of Obama’s pen, we have a fresh Kochmare coming on-line.

Misinformation, disinformation, emotional manipulation and Kochspeak are railroading us toward the most dangerous diluted bitumen (DilBit) pipeline ever to sell out vital American resources to benefit so few—not to mention the global atmospheric carbon bomb.

How do we stand to gain from KXL?

The greatest known “public benefit” from KXL will be higher gasoline prices. [1]

KXL’s sheer potential for destruction winds along a bleak and tarry road to deliver hell for the unborn, at a “profit”. From melting bitumen out of the ground using vast amounts of natural gas and fresh water…to dilution with natural gas liquids so the DilBit can be squeezed through a pipeline impaling our heartlands…to filthiest of refining leading to a guaranteed crescendo of environmental disaster. At least in scope, it’s all similar to the sheer profit potential for psychopaths with pockets deep enough for politicos to dive in from the high board and wallow around under the thumb of Koch.

Our system of resource allocation is fatally broken (Kochen). Instead of capitol investment in energy with a future, billions are sucked into the deadest of ends—the blackest of fossil-energy black holes…bitumen. [2]

The dominating Koch agenda seems a ruthless assurance that every child not born into wealth like David and Charles has a nightmare future—if they have a future at all. Could there be a more disgusting example of hubris than Kochs cloaking one of their political-subversion fronts as: “Coalition for our Children’s Future”?

Regarding various breeds of euphemism…Kochism virtually defines “sinister”.

Kochspeak In Action

Whenever corporate profit most degrades the biosphere, Koch-brother tentacles are usually winding around nearby—professionally-cloaked, but there’s the smell.

That smell…biocidal mélange of gas, oil, bitumen, diluted bitumen, refining and shipping, industrial chemicals, paper and pulp mills, chemical fertilizer, corporate “Free $peach!” and politicos up to their hairlines in campaign contributions…. Incredible stench, victim discretion beyond advisories.

Spearheading recent Koch-and-dagger denial is the pronouncement that Keystone XL “oil sands” pipeline has “…nothing to do with any of our businesses”. For people paying attention, that might seem much like Santa Claus announcing that Christmas has nothing to do with any of his businesses.

Rep. Henry Waxman of California is the ranking Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Energy and Power Subcommittee.  Declarations by Koch Industries officials, to the tune of KXL has “…nothing to do with any of our businesses”—a song and dance sharpening Waxman’s focus on the guarded KXL Koch connection.

(Editor’s note:  you can watch this confrontation a recorded from C-SPAN2 by clicking here and you really should witness this as a written description does not do this justice.   It is at the Senate Energy and Commerce Committee Meeting 2.1.12.  Members making opening statements on the Obama administration’s decision to deny permission to deny permission to continue with plans to build the Keystone XL Pipeline.  A very partisan committee hearing—apples talking at oranges and vice versa.

Upton comments about Canada building a pipeline toward shipping to China.  But Koch has a refinery in MN that could be refurbished just as they have to refurbish a refinery in Corpus Christi.  So why is the pipeline even necessary?  Because from Corpus Cristi the oil can be loaded into supertankers for shipping the tar sands oil overseas.

Waxman-Whitfield confrontation at Senate Hearing
The Henry Waxman vs. Ed Whitfield battle begins in earnest 17:22 into the C-SPAN2 video, when Waxman starts quoting facts.  You have to watch this to believe it.  This is our government, and that’s very distrubing.)

Waxman sent a letter to Reps. Fred Upton (R-Michigan, Energy and Commerce committee chairman) and Ed Whitfield (R-Kentucky, Energy and Power subcommittee chairman), urging them to seek Koch Industries documents that Waxman’s staff had been denied.

Upton and Whitfield were dancing to the Koch campaign-contribution rag, busy ramming a bill through congress to force an Obama administration decision on KXL by November 1, 2011. The bill passed in the House, but passed away in the Senate.

Stomping on the face of public interest…for such Orwellian aggression, the language of Kochspeak is money, and political intrigue. The 2010 landmark ruling by Supreme Court of the United States in Citizens United -vs- Federal Election Commission [3] maximized the volume of Kochspeak.

According to the L.A. Times, the largest single donor to members of the Energy and Commerce Committee in the 2010 money miasma called “election” was Koch Industries and their employees. $20,000 of that went to Fred Upton, reliable Koch asset also spearheading efforts to block the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) new rules regarding greenhouse gas emissions.

Koch Industries’ response to Rep. Waxman’s interference included:

“As we explained to Representative Waxman’s staff, we have no financial interest in the project (KXL). Given these facts, we are confused about why Koch is being singled out and inserted into these discussions.”

An L.A. Times op-ed by Michael Brume, executive director of the Sierra Club, describes KXL as being backed by the Koch brothers. Koch officials demanded a “correction”, insisting to L.A. Times editors that: “Koch is not involved in the Keystone Pipeline project in any way as we have stated publicly and has been widely acknowledged. This is not a matter of opinion since there are no facts to the contrary.”

(editor’s note:  I thought I would add this screen shot from Koch Industries’ Discovery Magazine, an in-house production.  Just seemed so appropriate.)

Koch Industries - Discovery Mag - Flint Hills Resources

The shibboleth, “…we have no financial stake in the pipeline” is clearly revealed as classic Kochspeak by a form submitted to Canada’s National Energy Board in 2009 by Koch’s Flint Hills Resources Canada. (Flint Hills) “…is among Canada’s largest crude oil purchasers, shippers and exporters. Consequently, Flint Hills has a direct and substantial interest in the application” (for the pipeline under consideration). That pipeline, approved in 2010, is Canada’s 327-mile portion of KXL.

Responding to a Reuters article titled: Koch Subsidiary Told Regulators It Has ‘Direct and Substantial Interest’ in Keystone XL…Koch representatives assured Reuters that Koch has no interest in Keystone XL—even whined about media bias; meanwhile, Koch Industries was spending millions upgrading its Corpus Christi refinery to handle more DilBit….

Realistically, if the Kochs were “…not involved in the Keystone Pipeline project in any way”, why all the denial?  Considering Koch style, denial seems solid admission that Kochs are positioned to make a killing from KXL, after getting a toehold in Canadian bitumen fifty years ago.

Koch Style

Investigator and author extraordinaire Greg Palast relates this precious episode of Koch style from over twenty years ago:

Charles Koch had a contract to glean oil from the Osage Indian Reservation with a “stripper well”. Secret tape recordings of a Koch Industries top executive document Charles demanding drivers of oil tankers to secretly siphon a few dollars worth of oil from every private tank on the Osage Reservation fed by stripper well. The FBI filmed oil thefts with hidden cameras, recorded Koch’s childish giggling over ripping off Native Americans. Koch even snickered about the question of why a multi-billionaire would steal petty amounts of oil from destitute Osage…and in purest Koch style, replied:

“I want my fair share—and that’s all of it.”

The Justice Department, armed with exhaustive evidence, indicted Koch Industries for “Crime on an Indian Reservation”, and racketeering; major prison-time criminality.

Charles Koch simply stroked a couple of senators in his pockets (Bob Dole of Kansas, Republican majority leader; Oklahoma’s Don Nickles)…and the federal prosecutor handling the case was fired. Case closed (giggle).

Koch Style runs in the family. It was Bill Koch, younger brother of Charles and David, that ratted on his brothers…leading to an open-and-shut case for anyone not above the law.

Bill had been promised a cut of what, in addition to petty theft from personal tanks on the Osage Reservation, turned out to be hundreds of millions in oil stolen from Native lands. But brothers Charles and David reneged on the deal, cut Bill out of profits that hardly register in Koch-level crime. So Bill squealed.

Actual steel pipe in KXL is probably free of Koch-Industries fingerprints; refining, shipping and export is where Kochs have set themselves up for KXL windfall.

Kochs already import and refine 25% of Alberta Death Ooze (ADO) pumped into the US. KXL will increase import by over 500,000 barrels per day. Once again, Kochs’ “…we have no financial interest in the project” seems like Kochspin admission of deep involvement with KXL.

Since Koch Industries Inc. (Mother Hydra to a snarl of subsidiary tentacles) is mostly owned by Charles and David Koch, their operations are mostly private (the second-largest privately-held U.S. corporation is Koch Industries). Kochs parlay secrecy with the flair of billionaires who pilfer from impoverished Native Americans…billionaires who consider their fair share to be, “…all of it.”

One thing not secret: Koch Brothers are President Obama’s bitterest political enemies. Often considered architects of the dirty-energy paradigm, Kochs are enemies of anything to do with clean energy. After all, in Kochworld, clean energy is simply potential for filthy lucre, denied. Fossil energy offers nothing filthier than bitumen, the proverbial “bottom of the barrel”.

The entire energy-from-bitumen industry has very effectively perception-managed the public into shrugging off bitumen as “crude oil”. Inculcation of DilBit being “oil” is relentless. Mainstream media (MSM) has been issued progressive, evolving euphemisms to disguise even the massive Alberta bitumen deposits as “oil”. Success at public conditioning was reflected last week in an Associated Press article titled:

Obama disputes jobs on Keystone XL line

Counting the worm-term “Keystone XL oil pipeline” from the first sentence, the word “oil” is used five times. Not a peep about tar, bitumen, DilBit. The article also quotes a draft environmental report released by the State Department this March:

“…no significant environmental impact to most resources along the proposed pipeline route.”

That’s right, they said “most”. Sinister omen, anyone?

Definition from Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, Tenth Edition:

Bitumen 1: an asphalt of Asia Minor used in ancient times as a cement and mortar 2: any of various mixtures of hydrocarbons (as tar) often together with their nonmetallic derivatives that are obtained as residues after heat-refining natural substances (as petroleum); specif: such a mixture soluble in carbon disulfide

Among bitumen euphemisms foisted upon the public by MSM, there’s been a whiff of truth; “Alberta tar sands”, or simply, “tar sands” for instance. But Koch-furthering of ADO has tarred and feathered truth.

Diluted Bitumen (DilBit) is NOT Oil Ask the IRS—lone public entity to which bitumen pushers don’t try to pawn off DilBit as oil.

The oil industry pays an eight-cents-per-barrel tax on crude oil produced in or imported to the US; proceeds are earmarked for the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund that covers cleanup costs for oil spills.

In 2011, at the request of a company whose identity is kept secret (smell that smell?), an exemption was made that frees DilBit from this tax—an exemption potentially worth over $60 million annually when KXL is on-line. The secret company insisted that “oil” from Canada’s tar sands is so different (chemistry, behavior, how it’s produced) that it should not be considered crude oil.

Deception and KXL go together like rum and Koch.

Texas is where KXL DilBit will be refined for the global market. Texas, and federal statutory codes, define crude oil as “liquid hydrocarbons extracted from the Earth at atmospheric temperatures”. That certainly excludes bitumen.

As if raw bitumen (almost a solid) isn’t bad enough, the stuff must be diluted with up to 50% natural gas condensates (proprietary liquids called diluents) into an abrasive, sulfurous brew that abrades and rots steel pipeline. DilBit. And no matter where you look, DilBit only gets worse. The biocidal brew must be heated to 160-degrees Fahrenheit to reduce viscosity enough that it can be squeezed through pipeline at 1,440 pounds per square inch (PSI). So, DilBit pipelines don’t leak, they erupt!

The most expensive “oil spill” in US history which, according to EPA, “…permanently polluted thirty miles of Michigan’s Kalamazoo River”—that was “The Marshall Spill” [4], a certain sneak preview what might ultimately finish off DilBit pipelines.

The Bitter End Light sweet crude oil is the cream of petroleum. Globally, the cream has been largely skimmed off, leading to higher profits from lower grades (light sour, heavy sweet, heavy sour)…until bitumen itself has become marginally profitable. Lowest sulfur content is “sweet”, higher sulfur is “sour”, with bitumen being the sourest of all, as well as heaviest. And the term, “profitable” has many dynamics, many interpretations, many costs deferred….

A scale to measure profit in exploitation of petroleum resources is Energy Returned On Investment (EROI); how much energy is gained for how much energy invested. Crude oil has a high EROI, averaging out to about 25:1 (25 units of energy gained from 1 unit of energy invested).

Bitumen pushers shill about ADO having an EROI as high as 5:1 when surface mined. ADO from deeper, mined by steam injection, averages less than 3:1, they say. But when transportation, refining, and other economic costs are factored in, ADO might barely make an EROI of 1:1…not counting “unforeseen” disasters such as the Marshall Spill, or anything else non-economic.

Besides ADO having a zombie EROI…there’s the carbon problem. Climatologists talk about “…game over for the climate” if the Alberta ‘tar sands’ are fully exploited.

EPA estimates that ADO has a “well-to-tank” carbon footprint 82% greater than oil. Canadian bitumen deposits could contain twice as much carbon dioxide as we’ve unleashed so far upon the biosphere in our entire history of using oil.

ADO for energy seems about the worst idea ever to divert billions of dollars from investment in new energies—if not one of the worst ideas in the history of…civilization. When it comes to fossil energy, could there be a bitterer end than bitumen?

In a shocking moment of candor, TransCanada even said of their own baby, (Keystone XL pipeline) would be “…a boon for corporate profits, but a burden for American consumers.” [5]

President Obama has a monster tar baby on his hands. Sure seems like, potentially at least, it would be difficult to convince people that a DilBit pipeline through the heart of their nation is in the public’s best interests. Environmental catastrophe risked for largely foreign corporate profits from a product destined for the global market and expected to increase domestic gasoline prices, tough sell. Illusions of public benefits such as jobs are mostly that, illusions.

And if Obama permits KXL he will handing his bitterest political enemies a tremendous victory. Kochs have declared war on Obama, like to call him Saddam Hussein. [6]

Among the best things Obama might ever say about America—especially describing our energy future:

“Without further ADO.”

Problem is, whether on not the 1,375-mile US leg of KXL will go on-line no longer appears to be question of “if”…only, “when”. Kochs usually get what they want. That means our last line of defense against threats of Canadian bitumen could be the inevitable disaster of DilBit itself.

The main question could involve how much environmental damage, how many lives lost or ruined, and how much stealing from the future will we roll over for? How much kicking in the face will we endure before fighting to make more humane the answer to the question: Is corporate profit more important than Life on Earth?

Power never concedes anything without a fight. Will we ever muster the focus and courage to take the fight directly to such as too-billionaire psychopaths for which their fair share equals, “…all of it”—and that includes the future of life on Earth?

For more information regarding Dilbit, ADO, and illusions of KXL public “benefits”, please see:  Keystone XL: DilBit Through the Heartland by clicking here.

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Footnotes:

[1] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/22/report-keystone-xl-gas-prices_n_1536227.html

[2] https://www.google.com/search?q=alberta+tar+sands+raw+bitumen&hl=en&client=firefox-a&hs=rII&tbo=d&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ei=qsbjUJH0KMeeiAKfvoHADw&ved=0CAoQ_AUoAA&biw=734&bih=457

[3] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Citizens_United_v._Federal_Election_Commission

[4] http://insideclimatenews.org/news/20120626/dilbit-diluted-bitumen-enbridge-kalamazoo-river-marshall-michigan-oil-spill-6b-pipeline-epa

[5] http://sierraclub.typepad.com/compass/2012/09/transcanada-keystone-toxic-tarsands-flip-flops.html

[6] https://www.google.com/search?q=kochs%27+war+on+obama&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&aq=t&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a#hl=en&client=firefox-a&hs=2f9&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&q=koch%27s%27+war+on+obama&spell=1&sa=X&psj=1&ei=WbpMUbqBB-HniAKw5oCoDg&ved=0CDAQBSgA&fp=1&biw=734&bih=468&bav=on.2,or.r_cp.r_qf.&cad=b&sei=bDxOUaqNM4LQiwLuo4CgCA
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This article is written by Rand  Clifford and is posted at
http://www.veteranstoday.com/2013/03/23/keystone-xl-pipeline-reeks-of-koch/
veteranstoday

 

 

Casinos & Prison Labor – Strange Bedfellows

Casinos & Prison Labor – Strange Bedfellows

By Bob Sloan

On Tuesday March 19th, the Nevada Board of Prison Commissioners (BPC) met in Carson City to discuss an assortment of prison related issues.  Members of the BPC are: Governor Brian Sandoval, Attorney General, Catherine Cortez-Masto and Secretary of State, Ross Miller.

Issues of: (a) realignment of state Parole and Probation responsibilities with the Nevada Department of Corrections (NDOC; (b) compliance with the federal Rape Elimination Act; (c) certifying the Nevada State Prison as a Historical Site was on the agenda.  However, the topic which generated the most heated public discussion was listed on the agenda was: (d) a review of the prison industries program run by the NDOC.

As I’ve reported over the past two or three months, there has been an increasing amount of criticism of NDOC Director Greg Cox and Deputy Director Brian Connett over the operation of the state’s prison industry program.  This program operates under the name “Silver State Industries” and employs hundreds of inmates in various industrial programs.  Many of those prison workers are actually “employed “by private corporations and companies.

The need for discussion of prison industries during this meeting of the BPC came about due to a total lack of transparency surrounding the program.  The NDOC is reluctant to pull the veil of secrecy from prison industry operations that has hidden it from public and legislative view for years.  This was demonstrated in the meeting on the 19th by Secretary of State Miller when he was forced once again to request a list of industries being run by SSI.  AG Masto made the same request at the previous meeting in December and was assured by Deputy Director Connett that one would be provided at the following meeting.  At this time, no such list has been provided to the BPC by Cox or Connett.

Additionally, for more than two years SSI successfully hid from the BPC and Legislature the fact that Alpine Steel was not paying inmate and staff wages, lease payments, utilities or workers compensation payments owed to the state.  The NDOC also hid their lack of compliance with state statutes requiring notification to private businesses and labor before initiating new industries and took that one step further, by not even apprising the BPC in 2006 of the Alpine contract and creation of the steel fabrication industry.

SSI is operating at least half a dozen industries under the federal PIE Program – yet the Interim Finance Committee on Prison Industrial Programs was never made aware of the mandatory requirements of that program – or that those requirements also called for consulting private businesses and union officials.  They have not paid the inmate workers in the program comparable wages as mandated and have kept that secret from both the BPC and the Committee.

On March 8th the Agenda for the NDOC Budget hearing before the Ways and Means Committee listed several of the prison industries the NDOC claim were operating – but at least one of those was closed back in 2011.  So those excluded by this blanket of secrecy surrounding SSI operations includes the Nevada Assembly.  Unbelievably the one industry that has been closed for nearly two years is still being presented to the BPC as viable and operating and was mentioned as a positive in last week’s discussion.

The need for a review by the BPC in the first place was necessitated by this ongoing secrecy and lack of transparency exhibited by the NDOC, the Director and Deputy Director of Prison Industries.  It was this that caused several Nevada companies to complain the prison industry operation was being used to drive down wages in the private sector, reduce the number of available jobs for unemployed workers and argue prison based companies are competing unfairly against others in the marketplace.

At first it was a handful of steel fabrication companies that complained prison-based companies are competing unfairly against others in the marketplace by using – illegally underpaid – inmate labor to underbid on contracts.  But by the day of the meeting, another business owner named BIllow in an entirely different industry was identified as having notified the Governor and the NDOC for more than two years that his embroidery business had been compromised due to direct competition from prison industries.  This complaint had no impact upon that competition that continues to harm that man’s business in the private sector.

Responding on behalf of those complaining, former Senator Richard Bryan (D NV) proposed to the BPC that Nevada adopt the federal Prison Industry Enhancement Certification Program’s (PIE Program) mandatory requirements as prison industry regulations.  The PIE regulations require prison industries to contact and consult with labor groups, unions and private businesses to determine if there will be a negative impact upon sales, displacement of workers or jobs lost prior to commencing any new product line or industry.  They also require inmate wages set at the same rate as those performing identical jobs on the outside.

The state takes back most of the inmate’s earnings to offset the costs of incarceration, healthcare, feeding and clothing of inmates and for victim restitution and to repay fines or fees owed by the prisoner.  Senator Bryan’s proposed solution is simple and easily adopted since Nevada currently holds a PIECP Certificate issued by the U.S. Department of Justice and has six industries participating in the PIE Program.  These SSI industries already have to abide by the mandatory requirements in more than 50% of their operations. Making it applicable to remaining industry operations, would be easily accomplished and resolve the current issues.  This proposal had the support of many of those who spoke to the BPC last Tuesday on this and other issues. Prison industry operations nationwide have been increasingly scrutinized and widely reported.

Strangely, however, most labor groups and unions have remained silent about the impact – if any – upon their members or workers from competition with prison industries.  The meeting Tuesday broke that ongoing silence, with both the Nevada Executive Secretary Treasurer of the AFLCIO, Danny Thompson and Robbie Conway, Business Agent of Ironworkers Local 433 sitting down with the BPC and objecting to the ongoing competition from prison labor.  Others representing Nevada Law Enforcement, Parole and Probation workers and NDOC employees, also stated their support for the proposed adoption of PIE regulations.

To be fair, the one member of the Committee representing labor is Mr. Magnani of the Teamsters who is totally outnumbered by NDOC, legislative and business members.  His single voice and vote is constantly outweighed by the two members representing the NDOC (Director Cox and NDOC purchasing agent, Greg Smith) and seven more representing business and the legislature. Time and again the minutes reflect Magnani asked for materials, lists of industries in operation and on occasion voiced his opposition to suggested actions advanced by the NDOC (such as the current proposal for a recycling industry).  None of his requests resulted in Connett or the NDOC providing what he’d requested and his vote opposing actions proposed by the NDOC or SSI went against a majority of votes favoring the proposals.

Some members of the Committee would be absent for several meetings then return and cast a vote without any real understanding of what they were voting on – just that the proposals were favored by the NDOC.  So the suggestion presented by Connett last week to the BPC that the “advisory Committee” was a good representation for labor and businesses alike, was disingenuous and misleading at best.

Joining Union voices in opposition of making inmate labor available to private companies were a number of non-union businesses in a rare demonstration of solidarity.  Nearly a dozen union and non-union steel companies signed petitions to the BOPC objecting to the use of prison labor by Alpine Steel, Inc. as a means of underbidding them for steel construction projects in Nevada.  Alpine had been using inmate labor as a means of gaining an advantage over competitors since 2006.

The three petitions stated:

“Honorable Governor Sandoval, Attorney General Masto and Secretary of State Miller; We the undersigned owners of steel businesses in Nevada wish to voice our objection to competing against state subsidized prison industries in Southern Nevada.  Competing against prison labor reduces the number of jobs available in our industry and hampers our businesses from expanding.”

Signatories included; Southwest Steel, Tandem Industries, Vegas Steel, Inc., Southern Nevada Welding, A & N Custom Fabricators, XL Steel and Imperial Iron, Inc. The letter from Southwest Steel outlined the objection(s) best:

“Honorable Governor Sandoval, Attorney General Masto & Secretary of State Miller; As you all know too well, the construction industry in the Las Vegas valley is as competitive as it’s been in 20 years. With that being said, companies large and small have had to make radical changes; be it cutback of manpower, chase work in different markets or revisit our business model in its entirety, to maintain existence over the last 3 – 4 years has been a challenge. “As the Vice President of Operations for one of the larger steel companies in Nevada, I wish to voice our Company’s objection to competing against state subsidized prison industries in Southern Nevada. Competing against prison labor reduces the number of jobs available in our industry and hampers our businesses from expanding. Tom Morgan Vice President, Operations Southwest Steel”

The references to “state subsidized prison industries” come from the unpaid debt outlined above.  For several years Alpine was able to continue operations at the High Desert State Prison, working approximately fifty inmates for several years without paying any of the costs associated with keeping the industry operating. The state of Nevada has had to pay supervisory staff’s salaries, cover the utility costs of Alpine Steel and absorb the lost lease payments.  The total cost to Nevada’s Taxpayers? $438,000+ according to the forbearance agreement between the Attorney General’s office, NDOC and Alpine Steel:

forbearance excerpt

Only after complaints against Alpine Steel’s use of inmate labor was it discovered that the company had been operating basically without covering the costs of operations – which were ultimately passed on to Nevada taxpayers.   Silver State Industries had curiously authorized the steel fabricating prison industry to remain open and available to Alpine even as SSI was losing money throughout 2011 and 2012, essentially “doubling down” in the hope of recovering its losses.  Once the “debt” and gambling was made public, SSI was forced to close the steel fabrication industry and deny further inmate labor to Alpine.

The foregoing debt is to be paid off over another four year period, very surprisingly given the circumstances, without any interest going forward, unless Alpine defaults on monthly payments of $5,000.  An additional state tax lien was placed against Alpine Steel in January of this year for another $38,000 plus owed to the Nevada Department of Taxation.

The Alpine Steel story reveals that this company is responsible for the current problems and full media attention now focused upon Nevada’s prison industry program after the Associated Press, Bloomberg Business, Yahoo Finance and California media picked up this story and spread it as far as New Zealand and Australia.  The entire program and indeed, prisoner labor has now come under intense international scrutiny because of the complaints brought against Alpine Steel and the subsidization of its business using Nevadans’ tax dollars.

This has now resulted in the prison industry program being publicly brought to its knees while state regulations and statutes are under review for amendment because of the actions of Alpine Steel and the NDOC – which occurred without proper oversight.  With the steel fabrication industry shut down, Randy Bulloch has been transformed from a “partner” in the prison industrial program, to a “debtor” forced by the state to repay a huge sum owed to the NDOC.  He has not melted into obscurity with the stigma of having bilked taxpayers out of nearly half a million dollars, instead coming to every meeting involving prison industries and doing his best to fight on behalf of access to inmate labor.

Bulloch and Alpine are out of the prison industry program and business, yet surprisingly, Bulloch is now the “Poster Child” for prisoner labor.  He is now being used by the NDOC to argue on behalf of continuing the program!  Bulloch and NDOC Deputy Director Connett have been seen conferring and whispering before and after budget hearings and meetings – like co-defendants instead of partners in a failed business relationship – a weird sort of relationship with one owing the other nearly a half a million dollars and both continuing to work together.

Mr. Bulloch confided to me in an exclusive interview that he would once again use prisoners to fabricate his steel components…as long as he did not have to pay “comparable wages” to inmates, as was suggested by Senator Bryan’s proposal.  Yet there he was on Tuesday, arguing fiercely in support of the prison industry program, his lone voice supporting prison industries and opposing the views presented by unions, unemployed workers and private businesses.  One has to wonder – why?

Curiously, Director Cox and Deputy Director Connett assign no blame for their current circumstances to Bulloch or Alpine – perhaps that is why Bulloch continues to act as a spokesman on behalf of prison industries.  It will be interesting to see if Randy Bulloch continues his advocacy on behalf of prison labor in future meetings or hearings in the absence of any official business relationship with prison industries.

Nevada companies argue that aside from being forced to compete against already low wages paid to prisoners by Alpine Steel, they have had to pay proper taxes, utilities, leases and workers compensation…or be closed down by the state of Nevada.  This creates a situation whereby the State of Nevada is subsidizing an unfair advantage to Alpine. Now you can play online casino if you are from NJ, have a look at this casino site to view the licensed USA casino sites. This not only hampers any business expansion by free enterprise companies, it also reduces the number of jobs available to unemployed steel workers in Nevada.

Critics of the prison industry programs operated by SSI point to the Legislature’s Interim Finance Committee (the Committee) on Industrial Programs as failing in their duties of oversight.  They blame the committee for failing to protect businesses and workers against prison industry operations.

This committee is made up of Assembly members, Legislators, business owners or representatives and the one member representing labor (Mr. Magnani):

Members Assemblyman James Ohrenschall,

Chair Senator David R. Parks,

Vice Chair Senator Dean A. Rhoads

Assemblyman John Ellison

Bruce Aguilera, Las Vegas – (Vice President/General Counsel, Bellagio)

Michael Mackenzie, Las Vegas – (Principal, Operations Improvement Company)

Mike Magnani, Las Vegas – (Teamster/Union Representative)

Allen J. Puliz, Las Vegas – (Moving and Storage Co.)

James “Greg” Cox, Director, Department of Corrections

Greg Smith, Purchasing Division

Alternate Members

Debra Miller, Las Vegas

Scott Stolberg, Las Vegas

Richard Serlin, Las Vegas

While the arguments of a lack of protecting some businesses from unfair competition appear factual, other businesses represented on this Committee have profited handsomely from prison labor and industries.  In this undated article, NDOC Deputy Director, Howard Skolnik (who preceded Brian Connett) bragged about the prison industry, saying:

 “Skolnik explained, ‘I suspect that most people don’t know that anything they are using is made by inmates. More and more of it is. If you have been in many of our major properties you have seen a stained glass window, you have seen something that is manufactured in one of our institutions.’

Excalibur stained glass 2

They built all the original stained glass in the Excalibur; make casino mattresses, chairs for attorneys, and exclusive lines of clothing for airport retailers. They make award plaques, reupholster cars and rebuild water trucks for a local water company…”

Clothing - mattress pic

Those involved in the Casino industry in Nevada appear to have profited off of prison labor due to the manufacture of mattresses and custom stained glass products – as have clothing retailers selling to travelers and tourists passing through Nevada’s airports.

This “Committee” has been overseeing prison industries since the late 1980’s and every industry, product, contract with a private company and for determining the impact upon competing companies and workers, comes under their responsibility.  They had to approve the prison industry manufacture of the stained glass for the Excalibur and for the mattresses for casino/resorts…and the manufacture of clothing for sale to tourists.

Once the Committee makes their decision on new products or a new industry, that decision is supposed to then go to the Board of Prison Commissioners for final review and approval or denial.  In the recent case involving Alpine Steel, the BPC stated publicly that this was “an isolated incident when a contract was enacted without clearance from the prison board.”  Whether this was indeed an “isolated incident” or a practice of the Committee that became the standard over the years, is unknown.  Certainly the experience of Mr. Billow makes claims of Alpine Steel being an “isolated” incident difficult to swallow.

Throughout this story the elephant in the room remains the total lack of transparency and absence of independent oversight.  The Committee does not pursue any review of programs or industries submitted to them by the NDOC’s Deputy Director of Prison Industries.  Connett brings them a proposal for a new industry or product line and informs that he has determined this would be a viable industry or contract.  The only information obtained by the Committee is a one-sided presentation from the NDOC.  They perform no independent analysis, provide no notice to the public, labor unions of competing private businesses.  No opportunity is provided to any of these affected groups to attend a subsequent meeting where the proposal would be discussed.

Instead, as we now understand from both the NDOC Director and the BPC, the Committee has been operating as the final word on approving new industries.  The requirement of forwarding Committee recommendations to the BPC for final review and approval has been somehow eliminated.  The skipping of this important step results in the NDOC securing approval of an “interim” legislative body for new programs without notice or conference with the executive department.  The BPC has overall authority over the NDOC but in this manner they are kept out of the loop and the only safeguards provided to the public is a small Committee that has never performed their duties as required.

Even if the chain of review operated as required, this Committee would end up stamping proposals with their recommendation and forwarding it to the BPC – with a recommendation that was determined in the absence of any actual review, public input or notice.  Their determinations would be based solely upon the presentation made by the NDOC accompanied by a departmental analysis indicating the program and contract with a private company would be successful.

But, if as the BPC claims, the approval for the manufacture of products for the casinos, resorts and clothing retailers, water trucks, limousines and restoring classic cars, were ultimately not approved by them, they would still share responsibility with the Committee for lost jobs or contracts resulting from those operations.  They too have a duty to perform final reviews and failed to notice that new proposals were not being submitted.

The fact that the BPC is now attempting to address the issue and make corrections to ensure no more Nevadans lose jobs and businesses aren’t faced with unfair competition, is a benchmark.  It also highlights that the Committee has been shirking their duties for decades, approving whatever plans the NDOC and SSI put before them without vetting the company’s or the industries proposed by SSI.  They performed no independent or impartial reviews of such proposals, failed to determine factually the impact upon labor and other businesses before stamping each submission “approved”.  Again, one has to ask – why?

The proposal made by Senator Bryan makes good sense to most.  The argument against it came from NDOC Deputy Director Connett and Alpine’s owner, Randy Bulloch.  Both voiced their opposition to installing the PIE regulations as Nevada law or regulation, claiming that paying prisoners wages comparable to that paid on the outside, would remove the key incentive that attract businesses that exploit inmates  – and ultimately result in the loss of jobs to Nevadans.

Connett told the BPC, “I can’t pay prevailing wages.  If I have to pay prisoners prevailing wages, it would mean closing the industry program completely.”  That statement was more revealing than most who heard it realized.  In the PIE Program industries operated by SSI, prisoners are paid “minimum wage”, not “comparable” or “prevailing” wages as required.  SSI is required to consult with outside businesses and labor unions and groups prior to commencing any new PIE operation…and has not complied with these requirements either.

This explains why Director Cox and Connett have refused to mention or discuss the PIE Program when defending Nevada’s prison industries.  Nor has Connett explained his conflict of interest as head of the NCIA – which promotes prison industries and is tasked with ensuring compliance on behalf of the U.S. Department of Justice. Another duty Deputy Director Connett has failed to fulfill.

Apparently the NDOC and top officials fear the BPC or general public looking at the PIE Program’s requirements, will find that the federal mandates have been ignored as well as existing state statutory requirements. Regardless of whether Governor Sandoval and the BPC adopt the proposed PIE Program regulations as state reg’s, the Governor stated, “”Under no circumstances would I want prison labor displacing private sector jobs,” Sandoval said. “I don’t want a situation where private contractors are underbidding by subsidizing with prison labor.” This statement combined with assurances that no further prison industries will be opened without approval from the Board, indicates business owners and unemployed Nevadans are being offered at least a modicum of protection by the Governor and other members of the Board of Prison Commissioners.

In the next article I will report on my exclusive interview with Randy Bulloch and other interviews obtained while I was in Nevada for the BPC meeting.  I’ll also introduce Jacob’s Trading Company and owner Irwin Jacob and how both have attempted to build a unique empire using prison labor and factories.  JTC operates another of SSI’s prison industries in Nevada using female prisoners as a unique labor force and SSI has applied for funding to expand the facilities for JTC to put on a third shift and employ an additional 18 workers.  This discussion continues, while Nevada’s unemployed remains at near record levels and Governor Sandoval continues to inform that creating jobs is his number one priority.

Will Your Job Be Reshored To A Federal Prisoner?

By Justin Rohrlich Mar 12, 2013 1:21 pm

From Minyanville…

“The good news for the jobless? US industry is now in the throes of a “reshoring” trend…

“The bad news? The Bureau of Prisons is angling to have as many reshored jobs as possible filled by federal prisoners.”

Journalist Justin Rohrlich and VLTP Executive Director, Bob Sloan have begun a project to fully expose the “new” face of prison industries and exploitation of prisoners, America’s workers and “genuine” small businesses.

images (7)

   PI workers, folsom state prison Oregon Prison Ind. Photo Inmate-Labor

 

This article presents the dilemma of a President and part of his administration working to put Americans back to work, while another part of that same administration is actively working to remove jobs from those who still have them, and put them in prison – the jobs, that is.

Unfortunately we are not describing the plot in a Grisham novel…or providing readers with a Roddenberry style “America in 2525” sci-fi mini-series…no, what is occurring now – right now in America – is a push by manufacturers and service providers for a workforce that can be made to work for pennies on the dollar, has no collective bargaining rights by law, is prohibited from unionization and requires no health or medical insurance, no paid vacations, has no representation in government and most importantly, the rest of working America has no sympathy for.  This workforce consists of the more than 2 million men and women incarcerated in state and federal prisons.

Unbelievably it is our Congress and a Federal Prison Industries board appointed by the President who recently opened up federal prison facilities and the labor of prisoners to well connected business owners.  Production lines will be assembled, prisoners assigned to work in newly built factories constructed by a private corporation wholly owned by the United States government.

We’re told by our Lawmakers and government officials that the purpose of these factories is for training of the incarcerated to make them better Americans, give them skills so they can leave prison and secure employment that lessens their desire to return to prison.  We’ll also be assured that these prisoners are not really taking jobs from our communities…the products they make will only represent a tiny segment of any consumer market.  Problem is we heard all this before thirty years ago when there were fewer than 5,000 prisoners working in less than 100 factories across the U.S.

Today there are more than 1,000 factories – and according to Professor Noah Zatz – between 600,000 and 1 million prisoners toiling away inside, making the goods we consumers purchase.  Yes, this is an entirely new era and in the future, this will be remembered as a sad benchmark in our history…when our government swung open the squeaking doors to America’s federal prisons and welcomed the corporate elite to march in and take over this slave-labor operation so each could enrich themselves even further…

…America’s workers…union leaders…don’t ever say you weren’t warned, and this could be the last opportunity you have to stop this exploitation and theft of YOUR jobs.  Please awaken to this danger, join the fight and help us save ourselves and our jobs.

Read the full Rohrlich/Minyanville article here

Lawmakers Lambaste Money-Losing Prison Industries Program

Lawmakers Lambaste Money-Losing Prison Industries Program

We have been posting about an investigation into prison labor violations in Nevada.  Three posts by VLTP Executive Director Bob Sloan, which you can access here, here, and here.  After exposing this to the entire Nevada State Legislature, Governor Sandoval (R), AG Masto (D), and Union leaders, and aided by an interview on the Dana Gentry Show just over a month ago, the ball started rolling fast. 

Elected leaders and Union leaders realized that they were being  at the least, misled by DOC Chief Cox and Nevada Department of Corrections Public Information Officer Brian Connett (who, not so incidentally, also NCIA logo  serves as the head of NCIA and is likely guilty of a serious conflict of interest) and reacted quickly to the information provided to them by Bob.

 

Today, elected officials had a special hearing to address the information about Messrs. Cox and Connett.  Many questions were obviously formed from the Cox and Connettinvestigative report that Bob had  researched and submitted to the Legislature, Governor, Attorney General and Secretary of State.

The following article from the Las Vegas Sun – complete with Bob’s comments – show that there are a lot of powerful people who are very upset and embarrassed about being defrauded.  The disgust was bipartisan, as the impact on Nevada taxpayers and the abuse of prison laborers united both progressives and conservatives in condemning the actions of Cox and Connett.

There is still a lot more to happen until this situation is fully and properly resolved, including what to do about the legal transgressions and tax issues. This issue will be discussed next at an open meeting of the Nevada commission sometime later this month. Bob Sloan will be writing his own article on the events to date, but for now I’d like to present you with the MSM Newspaper coverage of today’s events to bring you up-to-speed on what is happening as the result of Bob’s investigation for VLTP.  All emphasis is mine.

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From the Las Vegas Sun, by   (contact)

Friday, March 8, 2013 | 4:03 p.m. CARSON CITY — Legislators lambasted the state’s prison industry program Friday. They bemoaned the financial losses the program has incurred during the past few years and further decried the possibility that prisoners could be unduly competing with the private sector for scarce jobs.

“It appears that at some point the reserves are going to run out, but in the meantime, it’s a loss-loss across the state,” Assembly Speaker Marilyn Kirkpatrick, D-North Las Vegas, said at a legislative committee meeting, noting that the state would lose money and the private sector could lose jobs.

The prison industries program uses voluntary prison labor to run various shops with some proceeds from sales paying for restitution and room and board for prisoners; the prisoners receive training and skills they can later use to find a job when they are no longer incarcerated.

Department of Corrections chief Greg Cox conceded that the program has been a money loser during recent years but still defended the merits of the Silver State Industries program.

“We have been able to say historically this is helping us operate our facilities, it’s a good management tool, and it provides vocational training,” he told legislators. “The cold hard facts are now that we have to aggressively look at what industries are not turning a profit.”

The prison industries’ furniture and metal shop, auto and upholstery shop, and drapery shop have lost hundreds of thousands of dollars during the past few years.

Others, like the mattress, print and garment shops have turned small profits. But those surpluses aren’t enough to offset losses in the other shops, and the department has been drawing down reserves as a result.

“This is a clear track into the dirt, and without substantial retooling, it’ll be in the hole,” Assemblyman David Bobzien, D-Reno, said.

Bobzien and Assemblyman Michael Sprinkle, D-Sparks, tried to wrangle an answer from Cox about which programs would be cut and what the department would do to get its industry program on a sustainable track.

Cox said he’s “very pessimistic” about future revenues and that “when resources go, of course programs will go.”

He cited the auto shop, the biggest money loser, as one program that could be under the chopping block.

Cox faced further criticism for the prison industry’s public-private partnership with Alpine Steel, which owes the state about $400,000.

The company also got a below-market rate lease to operate within High Desert State Prison, which Bobzien called an unfair subsidy.

The challenge of convincing a business to work within a prison environment necessitated the need for a cheap rate, said Nevada Department of Corrections Public Information Officer Brian Connett. (note: there’s a whole lot of conflict-of-interest here).

Danny Thompson, of the AFL-CIO, also protested Alpine Steel’s use of cheap prison labor.

“They’re displacing people who are out of work with prisoners,” he said. “There’s no way you can compete. … I have 300 out-of-work ironworkers who are not criminals.”

He said Alpine Steel produced steel girders for a construction project at the North Fifth Street Bridge in North Las Vegas.

Calling into question the quality of prison labor, he said the potential lack of certification and training for prison laborers could lead to unsafe construction on a public road over Interstate 15.

The company’s owner, Randy Bulloch, testified to legislators that his company did no work on girders for that project and that the prison laborers have required certifications.

Cox also said Alpine Steel is on a payback program and is no longer operating within the state’s prison system, although that could change in the future.

and now for Bob’s comment posted to the Las Vegas Sun’s article:

  1. By bobsloan

March 8, 2013 8:32 p.m. Director Cox seemed to be at a loss for solutions to the many problems surrounding his prison industries – and on how to damper the criticisms aimed at him because of the industry program. Some obvious solutions that could have been suggested to the legislature today never came up in the responses the NDOC Director and his Deputy provided to pertinent questions. They could have suggested ways to stop the industries from losing money, such as enforcing collection of lease payments, owed salaries for staff.

Reevaluate all facility leases private companies enjoy with prison industries and increase them comparable to similar leases in the private sector – you know at the rate all other Nevada businesses pay for manufacturing space. They could have suggested not extending credit (tax dollars) to companies partnering with the prison industries. The decision on reducing lease rates to private companies on publicly owned property or facilities should not be a decision made by a Deputy Director, rather one made by the Board of Prison Commissioners.

Taxpayers rely upon Director Cox to protect their interests. Entering into leases that cost those taxpayers as much as $90,000 per year in potential income does not generate trust – or a lessening in deficits. To use such low cost leases as an “incentive” to encourage companies to bring manufacturing to the prison industries is an expenditure that should be authorized at a higher pay grade. It was disheartening to learn that after owing the state more than $400,000 for four years the company in question was offered an agreement to repay the money over an additional four year+ period without even interest penalties. Director Cox added insult to injury by declaring that if Alpine Steel’s work picked up he would reopen the prison industry to him.

That statement alone left the impression the Director was willing to move forward with a partnership that has already cost the state nearly a half million dollars – and let that company amass more debt as if the NDOC can extend state subsidies in the face of legislative objections or concerns.