"I'm proud to stand with ALEC today," declared Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) last Thursday, as he addressed the American Legislative Exchange Council in Washington D.C.
"I first came to ALEC over a decade ago. When I was serving in the Bush administration, I'd been privileged to work with ALEC in the federal government," Cruz said. "I've been privileged to work with ALEC when I was back in Texas with the Texas Public Policy Foundation, leading the 10th Amendment Center."
As Cruz addressed the conference, around 200 activists marched outside, waving signs reading "A Legislator for Every Corporation" and chanting "you can hear us loud and clear -- we want ALEC out of here!" Read the rest of this item here.
The Internal Revenue Service and Treasury Department proposed new rules on November 29 to provide clearer definitions of political activity for 501(c)(4) nonprofits. In recent years, thanks in part to the IRS' ambiguous "facts and circumstances" definition of political activity, 501(c)(4)s have become the vehicle of choice for individuals and corporations seeking to secretly influence elections: so-called "dark money" nonprofits have effectively acted as political committees, but sidestepped the disclosure requirements of campaign finance laws. Faced with this ambiguity in the rules, some low-level IRS officers relied on inappropriate criteria to scrutinize certain nonprofits for political activity.
For the past five years, The Bright Lines Project -- a diverse coalition of nonprofit leaders, organizations, and tax law experts -- have been working to develop bright line rules for nonprofits that strike a balance between protecting free speech and ensuring that politicking is not subsidized by tax exemption. The proposed rules from IRS/Treasury reflect some of the principles put forward by the Bright Lines Project, but according to an analysis by the nine tax lawyers on the drafting committee, the new rules are underinclusive in some ways, while being over-inclusive in others. Read the rest of this item here.
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. Read the rest of this item here.
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. Read the rest of this item here.
Bulletproof Securities, the Arizona private security firm that was operating without a license in northern Wisconsin to protect a controversial mine owned by Gogebic Taconite, may have broken the law by misleading regulators when it finally got around to applying for its license.
Bulletproof's president, Tom Parrella, wrote a letter on July 18, 2013, to Marlene Meyer of Wisconsin's Department of Safety and Professional Services (DSPS). He presented Meyer with a timeline, explaining how Bulletproof wove its way to Iron County, WI.
Open records requests and follow-up interviews with state and local officials listed in Parrella's July 18 letter poke holes in Bullerproof's narrative of how it worked its way up to northern Wisconsin. Specifically, Parrella claimed in his letter to have reached out to local officials in two counties and to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) before he sent his employees to northern Wisconsin. But officials with those counties and the DNR deny this.
As the movement for public and private divestment from apartheid South Africa grew throughout the United States in the 1980s, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) aggressively mobilized against South African divestment, stymying state and federal efforts to sanction, isolate, and divest from the Pretorian regime, according to documents newly uncovered by People For the American Way and the Center For Media and Democracy.
ALEC used state and federal policy papers, monthly newsletters, "fact-finding" missions, panel discussions led by lobbyists on the payroll of the South African apartheid regime, and other means to pursue an anti-divestment agenda, one that relied solely on "corporate beneficence" to pressure the country to reform. This effort, in turn, was funded by corporations that were heavily invested in South Africa and had the most to lose from divestment. Read the rest of this item here.
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. Read the rest of this item here.
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. Read the rest of this item here
Throughout the 1980s, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) -- now infamous for its work on behalf of “stand your ground” laws and restrictions on voting rights -- was instrumental in pushing anti-gay policies throughout the country, according to documents recently uncovered by People For the American Way and the Center For Media and Democracy.
A 1985 policy memo entitled “Homosexuals: Just Another Minority Group” sums up ALEC’s anti-gay policy positions and the false claims and outrageous stereotypes on which they were based. ALEC disseminated the memo to its public sector members, arguing that the “homosexual movement has had an impact too great and far reaching for Americans to ignore.”
Through the policy memo and its monthly newsletters, ALEC tracked local, state and federal legislation and provided its members with “research” to help them prevent advances in gay rights. However ALEC of course did not view these rights as rights; instead, ALEC asserted that the gay community was organizing “to achieve the privileges it thinks it deserves.” Read the rest of this item here.
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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.
Waste Management, Inc., known as Waste Management or WM, is a publicly traded (NYSE: WM) for-profit waste management company headquartered in Houston, Texas. It is the largest waste collection corporation in North America, where waste management services have traditionally been provided as a public service. Waste Management has been a driving force in the privatization of these services.
In 2012, Waste Management generated $13.65 billion in total operating revenue. Approximately 50 percent of this revenue comes from taxpayers in thousands of municipalities across the country, according to Goldman Sachs.
U.S. taxpayer dollars contribute to making Steiner "America's Highest Paid Sanitation Worker." Steiner made an eye-popping $45,581,052 in compensation from 2006 to 2012. Waste Management's top executives combined made $119,201,381 from 2006 to 2012.
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Waste Management, Inc. (known as Waste Management or WM) is a publicly-traded (NYSE:WM) for-profit waste management company headquartered in Houston, Texas. It is the largest waste collection corporation in North America. It is in the business of waste collection and transfer, recycling and resource recovery, and waste disposal for residential, commercial, industrial and municipal customers in North America. In the United States, waste management services have traditionally been provided by municipalities and public employees, but the privatization of this sector has accelerated. According to a 2007 survey of local governments, some 50 percent of solid waste management is now provided by major for-profit firms like Waste Management. WM has been a driving force in the privatization of these services. WM workers are paid significantly less than their public sector counterparts. The number of deaths in this dangerous industry was higher among workers at for-profit companies than among public sector workers from 2003 to 2009.
In 2005, WM paid $30.8 million to the Securities and Exchange Commission to settle allegations of "egregious" and sustained accounting fraud. (See more here).
WM owns and/or operates 269 landfill sites (as of its 2012 annual report), which the company says is the largest network of landfills in its industry. In general, landfills and incinerators are major producers of greenhouse gases and toxic chemicals that pollute the air and groundwater. Landfills produced 17.5 percent of total anthropogenic methane emissions in the United States in 2011, the third largest contribution in the country, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), although they were the largest contributor, producing 34 percent of total methane emissions, from 1990 to 2003. According to the EPA, "Pound for pound, the comparative impact of CH4 [methane] on climate change is over 20 times greater than CO2 [carbon dioxide] over a 100-year period."
Although WM has touted "green" campaigns in its PR (in addition to its green and yellow logo), the company lists climate change legislation as a potential threat to its operations and cash flow in its annual report, and it has lobbyists working on these issues at the federal level (see below for more). Some WM operated or owned landfills have been designated Superfund sites for hazardous waste that needs to be mitigated, and WM has participated in various efforts to alter or cap landfills.
In its 2012 fiscal year, WM took in $13.65 billion in total revenues, with net profits of $1.3 billion before taxes and $860 million after taxes. As of December 2012, WM employs approximately 43,500 people.
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.
↑Veronica K. Figueroa, Kevin R. Mackie, Nick Guarriello, and C. David Cooper, [A Robust Method for Estimating Landﬁll Methane Emissions], Journal of Air & Waste Management Association, August 2009, Volume 59, pp. 925–935.
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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