As the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) has reported previously, the American City County Exchange (ACCE) was formed in 2014 as a local government version of the state legislature-focused American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). The new group's structure mimics its parent organization, with corporate lobbyists paying between $10,000 and $25,000 to sit side-by-side with city and county elected officials and vote on legislation that all too frequently benefits ALEC's corporate members.
Early reports suggest that ACCE's agenda is a familiar one: introducing local "right-to-work" bills that undermine collective bargaining, blocking local minimum wage campaigns, and privatizing government services to benefit for-profit corporations.
Gail Collins, the award-winning New York Times columnist, riled the right-wing echo chamber this weekend with a one-sentence error in an opinion piece on Scott Walker. What did she do that got the National Review’s knickers in a knot? She penned a piece that rightly called into question Scott Walker’s relationship with the truth as well as his policies and views on education.
The opinion piece recounted the fact that Walker made headlines in the U.K. for “punting” on the question of evolution and dodging the press, that his budget bill gutted licensing requirements for certain K-12 teachers, and also struck the “search for truth” from the mission of the University of Wisconsin system (before he was forced to backtrack due to a public outcry). Collins also reported that Walker misidentified Wisconsin’s “teacher of the year” in a much-discussed Iowa speech where he highlighted the tale of a talented teacher purportedly laid off due to big, bad, union-imposed seniority rules. Read the rest of this item here.
"Last Week Tonight with John Oliver" featured a segment Sunday on how Philip Morris and other tobacco companies are suing countries around the world to limit ways the government can alert the public about the life-threatening risks of smoking. Oliver--who awarded the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) the honorary title of "Associate Producer of Creating Horrifying Things for Us to Talk About" of his show last season--detailed how Big Tobacco has been lobbying to limit graphic warnings on cigarettes. He did not mention how ALEC has helped the tobacco companies, with whom it has a long shared history and from whom it receives significant funding, push their anti-regulatory agenda globally.
Brandie Davis, lobbyist and Director of Corporate Affairs at Philip Morris International, urged lawmakers to adopt a measure in opposition to "plain packaging" laws that ban trademark labels on cigarette packages, branding them as illegal advertising and replacing them with images like the diseased lung featured on Oliver's show that alert smokers to the danger of smoking cigarettes.
The prosecutor leading the probe into possible coordination between Governor Scott Walker's campaign and outside groups has asked some Wisconsin Supreme Court justices to recuse themselves from hearing a challenge to the investigation.
A notation in court records titled "Motion for Recusal and Notice of Ethical Concerns" indicates that on February 12, Special Prosecutor Francis Schmitz filed a sealed motion for one or more of the Supreme Court justices to recuse themselves from the case. Schmitz was previously on George W. Bush's shortlist for U.S. Attorney and said that he voted for Walker.
A bipartisan group of prosecutors allege that the Walker campaign illegally coordinated fundraising and expenditures with Wisconsin Club for Growth (WiCFG) and Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (WMC) and perhaps other groups) during the 2011 and 2012 recall elections. WiCFG director R.J. Johnson was also Walker's campaign manager when the state faced a series of nine recall races after the passage of the union-busting Act 10 legislation. Read the rest of this item here.
Dr. Evil is back. Richard Berman and his phony front group Environmental Policy Alliance (EPA, get it?) released a bizarre video "Breaking Up with Fossil Fuels is Hard to Do" criticizing climate activist and author Bill McKibben and a global day of action on fossil fuels planned for Valentine's Day.
350.org’s campaign to encourage universities and other public institutions to divest from fossil fuels is the fastest growing divestment campaign in history, reports the Guardian. On February 13-14, the group is planning a variety of vigils, sit-ins, calling on individuals and institutions "to close their accounts with banks and super funds investing in climate chaos.”
Nothing is sure to generate more buzz about the planned actions than Berman’s clunky attack ad, which features a young man nuzzling an oil barrel dressed in high heels and urges kids to “fall in love with fossil fuels.” Although it is not known who specifically bankrolled the video, it was being promoted online by Independent Petroleum Association of America, the Institute for Energy Research, the American Energy Alliance, and the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers, ad groups and trade associations representing fossil fuel interests.
Madison -- This week, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker got tripped up by the truth.
First Walker announced he was going to slash $300 million from the University of Wisconsin budget, devastating cuts that will fall hardest on students; then he said he wanted to make the university system operate more like a port authority than a public university. But what really got people riled were his edits to the university's mission statement.
Buried in his proposed budget bill -- on page 546 out of a whopping 1839 -- Walker scratched out "the search for truth" and took an ax to Wisconsin Idea, the guiding philosophy that the university is created to solve problems and improve people's lives beyond the boundaries of the campus. Instead he wanted the university to "meet the state's workforce needs." Read the rest of this item here.
Wisconsin is home to nearly 335,000 Latinos, and 40 percent of these self-identify as Democrats. This is significantly higher than in the nation as a whole (32 percent) but comes as no surprise as the Latino population has suffered disproportionately under Gov. Scott Walker’s tenure. Now, a critical part of the Koch infrastructure called the LIBRE Initiative is poised to bring Latinos back into the GOP fold just in time for the 2016 election cycle. The $5 million-a-year organization spreading the gospel of “free enterprise and personal responsibility” is set to increase its staff by 30 percent, and expand to Wisconsin.
The organization will have its work cut out for it.
They are not supposed to be for major policy initiatives such as destroying public sector unions or upending the University of Wisconsin’s 111 year old mission to pursue truth and improve the human condition.
Budgets are also not supposed to be for petty vendettas against elected officials.
But tell that to Scott Walker.
Last week, the governor had to backtrack and plead "drafting error" and "miscommunication" when CMD discovered edits included in his executive budget that struck "truth" and the Wisconsin Idea from the mission of the University of Wisconsin System. Read the rest of this item here.
After a January 30, 2015 ruling from Milwaukee-based federal Judge Charles Clevert, some declared that the "John Doe" probe into alleged campaign finance violations by Governor Scott Walker's campaign was dead.
The Franklin Center's Wisconsin Reporter website claimed that Judge Clevert's decision "effectively pulled the life support plug" on the investigation. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's right-wing columnist Christian Schneider repeated his erroneous "zombie law" claim, declaring that the ruling "almost certainly means the end of the most recent John Doe investigation."
To adapt the Mark Twain quote, rumors of the John Doe's death have been greatly exaggerated. Read the rest of this item here.
In addition to unprecedented budget cuts to the University of Wisconsin (UW) system, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker struck "the search for truth" and the Wisconsin Idea from the university's mission in his executive budget bill unveiled February 3.
First summed up by UW President Charles Van Hise in 1904, the Wisconsin Idea means that "the borders of the University are the borders of the state." Van Hise declared that he would “never be content until the beneficent influence of the university reaches every family in the state.”
Opening a new front in the multi-pronged corporate attack on working people, two spectacularly misnamed public relations and lobbying campaigns have recently appeared on the scene in Washington, DC, this time taking aim at the relatively low-profile National Labor Relations Board.
Billionaire financier and new Republican Illinois Governor, Bruce Rauner, who already raised eyebrows by calling for lowering the state’s minimum wage during his campaign, continued his war on working families this week with a move straight out of the ALEC playbook.
On February 9, the governor issued an executive order barring Illinois public-sector unions from requiring “fair share” payments from workers who choose not to join the union but still benefit from union-negotiated wages, benefits, and worker protections on the job.
A bipartisan effort to enforce Wisconsin’s longstanding laws governing coordination between campaigns and independent groups has been mislabeled a “partisan witch hunt” by a well-funded legal and media campaign, with the ultimate goal of undermining what remains of limits on big money in politics, according to a new report from the Center for Media and Democracy.
“Anti-coordination laws have become more vital than ever before in the post-Citizens United world, where ‘independent’ political organizations are raising and spending unlimited funds for elections but keeping their donors a secret,” said Brendan Fischer, CMD General Counsel and the author of the report. “If a candidate can coordinate with these secretly-funded groups and establish shadow campaign committees, then the candidate contribution limits and disclosure requirements are rendered meaningless.”
And that, it seems, is precisely the goal.
Read the rest of this item here. Read the report here.
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Walmart announced this week it was raising the wage of 500,000 employees to $9 an hour. But the average wage at Walmart is $9 an hour. The real question is, can you raise a family on that?
Jim, Alice and Rob Walton(L-R)
Walmart had 10,994 stores around the world in 2014, including more than 4,800 stores in the U.S. According to Forbes, it is the world's largest retailer  and the world's largest corporation in revenue, says Fortune. According to the Journal of Commerce, Walmart was the largest importer of goods to the United States in 2013, contributing significantly to the U.S. national trade deficit.
Estimates of the average hourly wage for Walmart associates vary, but several independent sources put it under $9.00 per hour. An independent study found that the average Walmart associate made just $8.81 per hour and a July 2014 report found that Walmart cashiers average $8.48/hour. An April 2014 study by Americans for Tax Fairness estimated that subsidies and tax breaks for Walmart and the Walton family that owns the operation cost taxpayers $7.8 billion per year, including approximately $6.2 billion in assistance to Walmart workers due to low wages and benefits.
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