Leaked documents expose a plan by Edelman for TransCanada to launch an "aggressive" American-style policy/politics PR campaign to persuade Canadians to support a Canada-based alternative to the stalled Keystone XL pipeline to get controversial tar sands oil to refineries in eastern Canada for export.
But, according to the documents, this Canada-centric campaign would actually be run out of an office in Washington, DC. And the digital campaign is being led by a rightwing American political operative employed by the world's largest public relations firm.
The embattled American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) lost nearly 20 percent in grant revenue between 2012 and 2013 according to new tax filings, reflecting the financial hit that the "corporate bill mill" has suffered as it has been dragged into the sunlight and its corporate members have fled.
Emerson Electric is the latest corporation to confirm it has ended funding for the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), joining a notable wave of recent corporate defectors that has included Microsoft, Google, Facebook, AOL and Yahoo.
Emerson first revealed that it ended its association in discussions with Walden Asset Management, which has engaged the corporation over its affiliation with ALEC. An Emerson spokesperson confirmed this to CMD, but refused to provide further details about the reason for its decision or precisely when the relationship ended. The equipment manufacturer, which employees more than 131,000 people and has annual revenue of nearly $25 billion, has faced pressure from shareholders for several years over its relationship with ALEC. Read the rest of this item here.
The residents of Denton, Texas, had a remarkable victory over Big Oil in the midterm elections, becoming the first town in Texas to pass a ban on hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking. But now state officials with ties to energy interests and to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the pay-to-play corporate bill mill, are threatening to undermine local democracy by refusing to follow the ban.
The chair of the Texas Railroad Commission, Christi Craddick, stated that she would not abide by the ban at an event held by the Texas Tribune on November 6. “It’s my job to give permits, not Denton’s. We’re going to continue permitting up there because that’s my job,” Craddick said. Read the rest of this item here.
Healthcare for millions of Americans is at stake in the latest Affordable Care Act challenge to reach the U.S. Supreme Court -- and if the Court sides with the challengers, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and other Koch-funded groups will have laid the groundwork for the healthcare law's destruction.
On November 7, the Court granted review of the case King v. Burwell, which argues that the ACA should be read as prohibiting insurance premium subsidies for low-income citizens in states that refused to set up their own online healthcare exchanges -- which is contrary to the clear intent of the law's drafters and to a reading of the law as a whole. The chief advocate for the interpretation of the ACA advanced by the King plaintiffs is Michael Cannon, a fellow at the Koch-funded Cato Institute.
If the lawsuit is successful, it would have the immediate effect of making health insurance unaffordable for more than four million people, and could kill the ACA altogether. Read the rest of this item here.
Calling for a “reboot” of public education in Minnesota, hundreds of thousands of dollars flowed into the Minneapolis school board elections this November to try ousting an incumbent and to usher in an education agenda that resembles that of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).
The four-way race for two seats on the Minneapolis School Board was flooded by money from out-of-state interests on an unprecedented scale. The big player was an independent expenditure group calling itself the Minneapolis Progressive Education Fund.
Following criticism of it teaching climate change denial, AOL, the owner of the Huffington Post, became the latest major corporation to announce a decision to cease funding for the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), following similar statements in recent months from a wave of other tech firms including Google, Facebook, Yelp, Yahoo and SAP America. Read the rest of this item here.
At least twenty American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) member state legislators and alumni ran for higher office in the midterm election, in races from U.S. House and Senate to governor and other executive branch state positions. How did they fare? The short answer is that most won their elections with the support of Koch-tied groups.
Rick Berman, the king of corporate front groups and propaganda, has been caught on tape detailing his attacks on public interest groups in the labor and environmental movements, including on efforts to increase the minimum wage for workers.
As noted in a new story by Eric Lipton at The New York Times, Berman met with energy company executives at the posh Broadmoor Hotel earlier this year to raise money from them to attack groups representing citizens concerned about clean water, clean air, and the future of the planet. But Berman's "win ugly" tactics apparently did not persuade all of his prospective clients for his lucrative business of creating tax-exempt non-profit front groups that then contract with his for-profit PR firm to give corporations cover for his attacks on their opponents. The way Berman profits from this arrangement has spawned a legal complaint to the IRS.
The corporate board chair of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the software company SAP America, has quit the group, telling CMD that it has made the decision to "immediately disassociate itself from ALEC" because of the group's position on climate change, opposition to renewable energy, its position on gun safety and its attacks on voter rights.
Facing increased criticism of its role opposing action to tackle climate change and for teaching climate change denial, ALEC has lost numerous major corporate funders in recent months, with tech firms Google, Facebook, Yahoo and Yelp all leaving. Most high profile was Google, with Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt telling the Diane Rehm show on NPR that it made a mistake in funding ALEC. "We should not be aligned with such people. They are just literally lying," Schmidt said in reference to ALEC's teaching climate change denial. "The company has a very strong view that we should make decisions in politics based on fact," said Schmidt. Read the rest of this item here.
Despite big Republican wins in many states, voters in four states approved minimum wage increases, and voters in three states enacted paid sick day laws on Tuesday, giving a boost to progressive policy initiatives even in conservative parts of the country.
Minimum wage and paid sick day measures have been gaining momentum in the past year -- but keep an eye out for bills promoted by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) designed to crush that momentum and limit local control.
Rex Sinquefield, who has been described as a "new American oligarch," has reported spending almost $9.5 million on Missouri state politics in 2014 alone, bringing Sinquefield's total spending in the state to nearly $41 million since 2006.
"If you get involved at the local level with the route I described, you will be amazed at how much influence you can have," Sinquefield told his business school alumni earlier this year.
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The midterm elections may have given the embattled American Legislative Exchange Council a new lease on life. ALEC has been bleeding corporate members, but with Republicans now in control of 68 out of 98 state legislative bodies, there are fewer impediments to the enactment of the corporate-friendly legislation that ALEC peddles -- and in early December, ALEC and the corporations that still fund it will likely lay out the legislative blueprint for 2015 at the ALEC States & Nation Policy Summit in Washington, DC.
Yet, the actual policy ideas that ALEC promotes are less popular than ever. Republican and Democratic voters across the country voted overwhelmingly in favor of increasing the minimum wage on election day -- which ALEC and ALEC funders like the National Restaurant Association have longopposed -- and not surprisingly, a top agenda item at ALEC's December meeting is aimed at thwarting efforts to raise the wage.
In 2007, Philly rolled out the red carpet for state legislators and lobbyists attending the annual “State and Nation” policy summit of the American Legislative Exchange Council. Pennsylvania legislators appropriated a whopping $50,000 of taxpayer money to help pay for the event.
The event apparently had a lasting impact as the ALEC agenda has continued to roll though the hallways of the state capitol in Harrisburg in the years since. After Governor Corbett took office in 2010, ALEC bill after ALEC bill was introduced and signed into law.
With this report the Center for Media and Democracy puts a spotlight on some of the power players behind Corbett’s dramatic moves to reshape state education policy for the benefit of corporate interests. A surprising number of these groups are reportedly under investigation by federal officials or have been charged with wrongdoing.
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Excerpt from a longer SourceWatch article on Americans for Prosperity:
Americans for Prosperity is a right-wing political advocacy group founded by billionaire brothers David and CharlesKoch, the owners of Koch Industries. In the 2012 election cycle, it was a key component of the Kochs' $400 million political network, receiving large portions of its money from Koch-linked dark money groups like Freedom Partners, American Encore, and Donors Trust. AFP's budget, which comes from the Koch family foundations and other unknown sources, surged from $7 million in 2007 to $40 million in 2010 to $115 million in 2012.  According to the Center for Public Integrity, Americans for Prosperity "spent a staggering $122 million (in 2012) as it unsuccessfully attempted to defeat President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats," including $83 million on "communications, ads, and media."
2014 Campaign Ads
As of May 2014, AFP had already spent $35 million on ads targeting Democrats like Kay Hagan, Mary Landrieu, and Mark Pryor. According to Politico, the "projected budget for Americans for Prosperity would be unprecedented for a private political group in a midterm, and would likely rival even the spending of the Republican and Democratic parties’ congressional campaign arms."
Untruthful advertisement from Americans for Prosperity that aired in Colorado
On March 17, 2014, Americans for Prosperity began airing ads in Arkansas, Colorado, Louisiana, and North Carolina that make statements about the Affordable Care Act rated as "false" and "misleading" by fact checkers. These ads target Senators Mark Pryor, Mark Udall, Mary Landrieu, and Kay Hagan, all of whom are up for election in November 2014.
According to Americans for Prosperity, "millions are paying more and getting less." The Tampa Bay Times Politifact rated this claim as "FALSE", noting that there was "a slowdown in the increase in health costs during the last four years, including a modest 4 percent increase from 2011 to 2012" and "Americans are getting more benefits under the law in a number of ways -- including, in some cases, being able to buy affordable insurance for the first time."
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.
"Sinquefield is one of the top right-wing political funders in the country, and the single top political spender in Missouri, where he has spent at least $31.5 million since 2006 seeking to reshape Missouri laws, legislators, and policies according to his own ideological mold," said co-author Brendan Fischer of the Center for Media and Democracy/The Progressive.
"A truly impressive project based on cutting edge web technology."
—David Korten, author of When Corporations Rule the World and The Great Turning: From Empire to Earth Community.
"The troublemakers at the Center for Media and Democracy, for example, point to dozens of examples of "greenwashing," which they defined as the "unjustified appropriation of environmental virtue by a company, an industry, a government or even a non-government organization to sell a product, a policy" or rehabilitate an image. In the center's view, many enterprises labeled green don't deserve the name.
—Jack Shafer, "Green Is the New Yellow: On the excesses of 'green' journalism," Slate.
"As a journalist frequently on the receiving end of various PR campaigns, some of them based on disinformation, others front groups for undisclosed interests, [CMD's SourceWatch] is an invaluable resource."
—Michael Pollan, author of The Botany of Desire
"Thanks for all your help. There's no way I could have done my piece on big PR and global warming without CMD [the Center for Media and Democracy] and your fabulous websites."
—Zoe Cormier, journalist, Canada
"The dearth of information on the [U.S.] government [lobbying] disclosure forms about the other business-backed coalitions comes in stark contrast to the data about them culled from media reports, websites, press releases and Internal Revenue Service documents and posted by SourceWatch, a website that tracks advocacy groups."
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