The Wisconsin Supreme Court has agreed to review the long-running investigation into possible criminal campaign finance violations by Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's campaign and "dark money" electoral nonprofit groups, setting the stage for significant questions about conflicts-of-interest on the court and the future of clean elections in Wisconsin.
The Court's decision to take the case raises serious questions of judicial ethics, as the majority of justices were elected with millions of dollars in backing from precisely the same groups that face criminal liability in the probe, as the Center for Media and Democracy first described. The two groups at the center of the investigation, Wisconsin Club for Growth (WiCFG) and Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (WMC), have together spent over $10 million since 2007 helping elect the court's four-justice conservative majority, in most cases spending more than the candidates themselves. Read the rest of this item here.
Low-wage employers have received more than $3.3 billion in taxpayer subsidies from state and local governments, and companies linked to members of the Forbes 400 have received at least $19 billion -- which has the effect of using taxpayer dollars to make income inequality worse.
"When a state or local government subsidizes a Walmart store or an Amazon.com warehouse, it is doing the most to intensify economic inequality by enriching individuals at the very top of the income hierarchy while also perpetuating poor quality jobs at the bottom," according to a new report from nonprofit taxpayer advocacy group Good Jobs First that analyzed official subsidy disclosure data nationwide.
Walmart, for example, overwhelmingly pays low wages and offers few benefits to its workers, yet has been awarded more than $161 million in state and local subsidies. Read the rest of this item here.
In a landmark decision, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that his administration will ban fracking in the state. The decision comes in the wake of sustained campaigning by environmental, consumer and public health groups as well as a scathing report published by the State Department of Health, concluding that the health risks of hydraulic fracturing outweigh the potential benefits.
After spending hundreds of millions of undisclosed funds on state and federal elections, the corporate members of the American Legislative Exchange Council are demanding that state legislators preserve their "right" to anonymously spend money on politics and curry favor with elected officials, and to thwart shareholder efforts to hold the corporations they own accountable.
A December 3 workshop titled "Playing the Shame Game: A Campaign that Threatens Corporate Free Speech," held at ALEC's meeting this week in Washington, DC, warned of "an increasing chorus of anti-business activists calling for an end to corporate political participation in the name of ferreting out so-called 'dark money," according to an agenda obtained by the Center for Media and Democracy. Panelists set their sights on campaign finance disclosure laws and shareholder proposals aimed at promoting transparency in corporate political spending.
It is little surprise that corporate interests would peddle secrecy to the hundreds of Republican state legislators at ALEC. Read the rest of this item here.
Just weeks after Wisconsin's controversial Governor Scott Walker was elected to a second term, a group with ties to the billionaire Koch brothers has launched a new effort to destroy unions.
In 2011, Wisconsin passed Act 10, a complex bill that forced public sector unions to re-certify annually, made it harder for unions to collect dues, and eliminated the incentive of people to join unions by severely limiting issues on the bargaining table. The bill was designed to destroy public sector unions, a powerful force in Democratic politics in the state, and subsequently union membership dropped dramatically.
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is walking and talking a lot like he is running for President of the United States. The Wisconsin governor who famously told his cabinet that he was inspired by Ronald Reagan to kill Wisconsin unions is throwing his hat into the ring, and Walker is garnering kudos from good friends like government-slayer Grover Norquist.
Grover is banging the drum for a Walker presidency, writing rapturously about how Walker is much like Calvin Coolidge, who busted the police unions as governor of Massachusetts. He fails to note that Calvin’s minimalist approach to his presidency between 1923 and 1929 helped bring about the Great Depression. Read the rest of this item here.
Residents of Maui County, Hawai'i voted on November 4 to ban the growing of genetically modified (GMO) crops on the islands of Maui, Lanai, and Molokai until scientific studies are conducted on their safety and benefits. Monsanto and Dow Chemical's unit Mycogen Seeds have sued the county in federal court to stop the law passed by the people.
In Vermont, the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA, of which Monsanto and Dow were recently listed as members) has sued the state over its law requiring GMO labels. And Monsanto has a history of suing to prevent consumer labeling regarding its products.
Republicans and right-wing media are in panic mode. They've spent weeks describing President Obama as an "emperor" or a "monarch" for using his executive authority to grant a reprieve to some undocumented immigrants -- and are now faced with evidence that Republican Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush did the same thing.
They are trying, and failing, to claim that Reagan's and Bush's uses of executive authority on immigration were different than Obama's. Here is what they get wrong. Read the rest of this item here.
Republicans and right-wing groups like the Heritage Foundation are howling that President Obama will use executive action to defer deportation for some undocumented immigrants -- and trying to deny that Republican presidents like Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush led the way, and in some ways extended their authority even beyond Obama's plans.
Obama's planned executive action would not grant undocumented immigrants a "green card" or citizenship -- only Congress can do that -- but would instead grant a reprieve for the same people that would be affected by the comprehensive immigration reform bill, which passed the U.S. Senate and likely has majority support in the U.S. House.
The world's population of Monarch butterflies has been declining for at least the last ten years, according to researchers at the University of Kansas. Some estimates suggest a 90 percent drop since 1994.
Scientific studies by the University of Kansas, University of Guelph, and others point to the increasing use of Monsanto's herbicide Roundup and the rise of genetically modified crops (GMOs) designed to resist such herbicides as one possible cause of the decline. Read the rest of this item here.
Democratic state legislators in Illinois are mulling an effort to thwart Chicago's effort to raise its minimum wage, even as they raise the state wage above the national average. And the state National Restaurant Association affiliate is eating it up.
Efforts to "preempt" local governments from enacting a higher minimum wage is most closely associated with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which counts the National Restaurant Association among its members and has long pushed bills like the “Living Wage Preemption Act." At ALEC's meeting next month in Washington, DC, "Minimum Wage Preemption Policies" will be at the top of the agenda. Read the rest of this item here.
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The small number comes at a time when ALEC is crowing about the November 4 elections, which swept in more Republican legislators and potential recruits for ALEC's operations--where elected lawmakers vote as equals with corporations behind closed doors on "model' bills to change Americans' rights.
The way ALEC works has been called a "corporate dating service" by U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, who has observed ALEC's closed-door votes of corporate lobbyists and state legislators. But with nearly 100 private sector funders having left ALEC since CMD launched ALECexposed.org in 2011 and citizens across the country began learning about how special interests wine and dine lawmakers through ALEC to push controversial bills into law, ALEC brochures listing corporate sponsors are not as full as they used to be. (The list of sponsors is here.)
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.
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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.
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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"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."
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"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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