Financial services company Visa has dropped its membership in the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), providing further evidence of ALEC's dwindling membership in the wake of a major expose by The Guardian. Visa (whose slogan is "everywhere you want to be") made the announcement to Boston Common Asset Management, which had been engaging with Visa over the past year on lobbying disclosure.
CMD counted 50 corporations that had publicly dropped their ALEC membership, but according to internal ALEC documents published by The Guardian, ALEC estimates they've lost around 60 corporate members in the past two years, in the fallout over ALEC's role in promoting Stand Your Ground legislation, voter ID, and an array of other controversial bills. As a result of that shrinking roster of corporate members, "in the first six months of this year [ALEC] suffered a hole in its budget of more than a third of its projected income," The Guardian reports.
Internal documents from the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) published by The Guardian provide stunning insight into the inner workings of the "corporate bill mill" -- and offer new evidence about how the group has continually misled reporters, the public, and even its own members.
The notoriously secretive ALEC has been thrust into the sunlight in the two years since the Center for Media and Democracy launched ALECexposed.org, analyzed over 800 of ALEC's previously-secret model bills, and documented the corporations and legislators pushing ALEC's legislative agenda. It now appears that ALEC has been scorched by the sunshine.
ALEC claims it has made "great strides" in the realm of transparency. -- John Piscopo (R-CT), ALEC National Chair and a Connecticut state legislator, The Hill, Nov. 1, 2013.
FACT: ALEC Goes to Great Lengths to Hide its Activities and Funders
ALEC has gone to great lengths to hide its activities and corporate funders and authors of bills it wants legislators to introduce. This year, ALEC began stamping the materials it gives to legislators with a "disclaimer" asserting that the documents are not subject to any state's open records/freedom of information laws, despite the laws in many states that have long required lawmakers to disclose communications from outside groups and constituents.
The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) meets in Washington, DC this week for its "States and Nation Policy Summit," which is one of the ways ALEC crafts and pushes its legislative agenda for the coming year. U.S. Senator Ted Cruz -- who helped push the country to the brink of financial default to thwart the Affordable Care Act (ACA) -- headlines the conference on Thursday, December 5. Failed vice-presidential candidate Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) and his Senator counterpart Ron Johnson (R-WI) will also address the crowd.
But what will happen behind closed doors during the meeting?
ALEC posted part of its legislative agendas for the meeting for the first time this month, while continuing to hide its funders and corporate authors of special interest legislation, as the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) has reported. On ALEC's agenda for 2014 are the following priorities and bills (which will become official ALEC "models" once passed by the task forces -- with corporate lobbyists voting as equals alongside state legislators -- and approved by the board of directors) ...
Google, the tech giant supposedly guided by its "don't be evil" motto, has been funding a growing list of groups advancing the agenda of the Koch brothers.
Organizations that received "substantial" funding from Google for the first time over the past year include Grover Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform, the Federalist Society, the American Conservative Union (best known for its CPAC conference), and the political arm of the Heritage Foundation that led the charge to shut down the government over the Affordable Care Act: Heritage Action.
Who is Tracie Sharp? She is the executive director of the State Policy Network (SPN), a web of right-wing “think tanks” in every state across the country. Although many of SPN’s member organizations claim to be nonpartisan and independent, our in-depth investigation reveals that SPN and its member think tanks are major drivers of the right-wing, America Legislation Exchange Council (ALEC)-backed agenda in state houses nationwide. They have deep ties to the Koch brothers and the national right-wing network of funders, and several affiliates appear to orchestrate extensive lobbying and political operations to peddle their legislative agenda to state legislators while reporting little or no lobbying activities.
During Sharp’s tenure, SPN has grown at a rapid rate, expanding from 43 member state think tanks in 2002 to 64 member state think tanks as of 2013. Sharp personally co-founded the Cascade Policy Institute, SPN’s franchise-like operation in Oregon. (While she was at Cascade, Philip Morris state lobbyists worked hand-in-hand with CPI to oppose tobacco taxes.) Read the rest of this item here.
Scholars at UC Berkeley recently released a study finding that low wages in the fast food industry cost taxpayers $7 billion every year in a raft of social supports that subsidize the salaries of these low-income workers. The professors argue that the minimum wage should be increased to relieve the burden on taxpayers who underwrite super-sized restaurant industry profits.
But as the bona fide academic study rolled out, multiple media outlets ran comments criticizing the report’s numbers and methodology from the scholarly sounding “Employment Policies Institute (EPI).” The Austin Business Journal characterized EPI as a think tank “which studies employment growth,” while the Miami Herald ran a quote from Michael Saltsman, who the paper named as EPI’s “research director.”
Our friend Jon Romano, press secretary for the inside-the-beltway PR campaign “Fix the Debt” and its pet youth group, The Can Kicks Back, have been caught writing op-eds for college students and placing the identical op-eds in papers across the country.
This is the latest slip-up in Fix the Debt’s efforts to portray itself as representing America’s youth. Previously, they were caught paying dancers to participate in a pro-austerity flash mob and paying Change.org to gather online petition signers for them.
The newspapers involved in the scam were not amused. Read the rest of this item here.
The road to corporate control is paved with high tolls and non-compete clauses.
At ALEC’s 40th anniversary party in Chicago this past August, the corporate lobbyists and legislators on the Commerce, Insurance, and Economic Development Task Force brushed off a statement of principles on transportation urging “a market-driven highway system” that operates “on a user-pays basis.”
ALEC’s vision would implement a fractured system of toll roads crisscrossing the country, with the proceeds going directly into the coffers of private corporations and their shareholders. This is a far cry from Eisenhower’s vision of “mighty network of highways spread across our country” seamlessly enhancing the nation’s economy, public safety and the national defense.
It is not surprising that the same corporations that benefit from road privatization were at the table spearheading this extreme outsourcing agenda.
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This week, Google joins Koch Industries, ExxonMobil and a passel of other fossil fuel barons at ALEC's annual meeting in Washington, DC, where bills to "tax the sun" and limit the EPA's regulation of greenhouse gases will be on the table.
The Powerful Right-Wing Network Helping to Hijack State Politics and Government
The State Policy Network (SPN), a web of pressure groups in all 50 states that call themselves "think tanks" while dramatically influencing state law, is a powerful and stealthy ally of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), as the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) detailed in the recent report, "The State Policy Network: The Powerful Right-Wing Network Helping to Hijack State Politics and Government." That report is part of a new initiative with Progress Now called “StinkTanks.org,” which includes additional research and reports on these groups in each state. Read the rest of this item here.
The Center for Media and Democracy's (CMD) series of profiles on "America's Highest Paid Government Workers" today puts the spotlight on Jeffry Sterba, president and CEO of American Water Works Company.
American Water Works Company, Inc., known as American Water, is a publicly traded (NYSE: AWK) water utilities and sewage treatment company headquartered in Voorhees, New Jersey. It is the largest for-profit provider of water and wastewater services in the United States, where 86 percent of consumers receive their water services from publicly owned water systems. American Water has been a major force behind the privatization of water services and has come under fire from communities across the country for charging high rates and providing poor services.
In 2012, American Water generated $2.9 billion in total operating revenue.CMD estimates that approximately 89 percent of this revenue comes from taxpayers.
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The GEO Group, Inc. (GEO), formerly known as Wackenhut Corrections Corporation, "is the world's leading provider of correctional, detention, and community reentry services with 95 facilities, approximately 72,000 beds, and 18,000 employees around the globe," says the corporate website. It is the second-largest for-profit prison operator in the United States, behind CCA.
Since its founding nearly 30 years ago, GEO Group has profited from the same policies and dramatic rise in incarceration and detention in the United States as CCA has. Although it claims that it has not lobbied for bills that extend or increase sentences for prisoners, for many years GEO Group participated in the task force of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) that pushed bills that lengthened time in prison, such as so-called “truth-in-sentencing” and “three strikes” legislation, as models for states to adopt across the nation.
GEO Group is now a multi-billion-dollar corporation whose for-profit prison operations have become increasingly controversial. The two primary critiques are that (1) GEO Group's lobbying and campaign contributions have led to federal and state policies and government contracts that expand its profit margins, but in many cases at the expense of the public interest; (2) the company's profit-increasing and cost-cutting strategies lead to a vicious cycle where lower wages and benefits for workers, high employee turnover, insufficient training, and under-staffing results in poor oversight and mistreatment of detained persons, increased violence, and riots. Other profit-focused measures that affect inmates, such as withholding medical care or inadequate nutrition, add to the volatility of the situation. This, in turn, has led to dangerous working conditions for correctional staff, as well as the communities where GEO Group's prisons operate.
Recently, the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD), publishers of the award-winning ALECexposed.org, launched OutsourcingAmericaExposed.org, a web resource devoted to helping taxpayers identify the corporations seeking to privatize public assets and services in their communities: including their schools, roads, prisons, drinking water, court systems, and more.
CMD has unveiled corporate profiles of America’s most notorious corporations that are quietly working with state and local lawmakers to take over public services with little accountability, along with in-depth examinations of the CEOs personally profiting from this corporate coup.
For this report, which focuses on ALEC’s 2013 legislative agenda, the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) researched five areas: 1) Voter ID and Stand Your Ground legislation, 2) wages and worker rights, 3) public education, 4) the environment, and 5) citizen access to the courts. Research continues on other areas of ALEC’s agenda.
Read the full report with charts of ALEC bills here.
Pete Peterson Exposed: The "Grand Bargain" Hoax
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