The post-Citizens United dark money showdown is underway in Wisconsin.
Wisconsin makes sense. In November 2010, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker swept to power at a time of economic turmoil with a promise to create 250,000 jobs. Instead, with Republican control of both houses, he passed a bill knee-capping public-sector unions, sparking an 18-day occupation of the Capitol and weeks of mass protests, regularly topping 100,000.
The controversy immediately kicked off a struggle for control of the Wisconsin Senate. Between 2011 and 2012 Wisconsin voters across the state knocked on doors, circulated recall petitions, and put an unprecedented number of state officials up for recall. Thirteen state senators eventually faced recall elections. Close to one million people signed recall petitions for the Governor and Lt. Governor, and even before an election was certified, outside money began to saturate the state. $137.5 million is estimated to have been spent on the recalls in total, the vast majority from out-of-state players. 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 George Zoley, Chief Executive Officer of GEO Group, one of America’s largest for-profit prison firms providing services to states and the federal government.
GEO Group’s revenue in 2012 exceeded $1.4 billion and CMD estimates that 86% of this money came out of the pockets of taxpayers. CMD’s investigation of GEO Group unearthed how the company’s 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.
But according to SEC filings, top officials at the firm are doing just fine. From 2008-2012 George C. Zoley raked in $22 million in compensation. Thank you taxpayers!
The documents leaked by Edward Snowden and published by the Guardian and other outlets confirm what privacy advocates have been saying for years: The government has secretly turned its most powerful weapons of foreign intelligence surveillance inward on millions of Americans.
How can an ordinary citizen cut through the brush -- with the avalanche of complicated, classified materials released, the flurry of political finger-pointing, and the various denials and narrowly crafted dodges? Welcome to a guided tour of the National Security Agency (NSA) scandal. We'll explore how we got here and what Nixon's got to do with it.
The NSA has rebuffed demands by some in Congress for an estimate of the number of Americans whose information has been gathered, stored and searched, but the math is simple. Unless you are a child, a Luddite or a hermit who has never dialed a phone or used the Internet, records of your phone calls and online interactions have been captured by the NSA.
This includes your number and everyone you dial or text, plus how often and how long you talk, as well as your location -- although the NSA has claimed it doesn't actually use the location data. Read the rest of this item here.
The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is pushing a new "Obamacare kill bill" to thwart implementation of the Affordable Care Act on the state level, but the bill is based on a thin legal argument, and even some ALEC legislators are calling it "the nuclear option."
The "Healthcare Freedom Act," developed by Michael Cannon of the Cato Institute and adopted by ALEC as a "model" in August, is a risky maneuver. The legislation threatens to suspend the licenses of health insurers that accept subsidies under the Affordable Care Act, which Cannon and ALEC claim would effectively thwart the "employer mandate."
It is a surprisingly heavy-handed move for the purportedly pro-business ALEC. Republican state legislators would be forcing insurance companies to choose sides in a partisan policy debate over the Affordable Care Act, threatening to strip insurers of their licenses if they accept the federal subsidies to which they are entitled. And, the legislation is almost certain to be preempted by federal law. Read the rest of this item here.
The Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) today launched “America’s Highest Paid Government Workers,” a new initiative that will expose the taxpayer-funded salaries of CEOs whose corporations make billions by taking control of public services.
“Time and again we’re told that librarians, nurses and teachers are to blame for state and local budget problems,” said Lisa Graves, Executive Director of the Center for Media and Democracy. “In reality, taxpayers are being duped by corporate CEOs and Wall Street banks that are siphoning money out of our communities for huge salaries and bonus packages.” Read the rest of this item here
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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Next week, Google will be joining 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. What happened to "don't be evil?" CLICK HERE TO TAKE ACTION!
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.
In 2013, Google also funded the corporate lobby group, the American Legislative Exchange Council, although that group is not listed as receiving “substantial” funding in the list published by Google.
U.S. corporations are not required to publicly disclose their funding of political advocacy groups, and very few do so, but since at least 2010 Google has chosen to voluntarily release some limited details about grants it makes to U.S. non-profits. The published list from Google is not comprehensive, including only those groups that “receive the most substantial contributions from Google’s U.S. Federal Public Policy and Government Affairs team.”
What Google considers “substantial” is not explained -- no dollar amounts are given -- but the language suggests significant investments from Google and, with a stock value of $330 billion, Google has considerably deep pockets.
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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.
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