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Welcome to SourceWatch!

The Center for Media and Democracy publishes this wiki, SourceWatch.

Please check out our sister sites, PRWatch and ALECexposed, to read our original reporting and see our award-winning investigations.

Lisa Graves, Executive Director

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Featured Work

Corbett Outsources Legal Counsel to Campaign Contributors

by Jonas Perrson and Mary Bottari

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett
image by Hunter Kahn
Pennsylvania’s Office of General Counsel “serves as the Governor’s in-house legal counsel,” providing the executive branch with “expert, responsive and cost-effective legal services … for the benefit of the public.” In addition to the 498 attorneys employed by the state, the handling of legal business is frequently outsourced to outside counsel. Last year, the total bill for private law firms – footed by the taxpayers – amounted to a whopping $32.7 million in 2013 and $100 million over three years, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

Outside counsel, it has been pointed out, is an insider’s game. A comparison between the firms used as outside counsel last year and their contributions to Corbett’s gubernatorial campaign of 2010 makes for interesting reading. Read the rest of this item here.


Spending for ALEC Member Tillis Breaks All Records in NC Senate Race

by Rebekah Wilce

North Carolina Rep. Thom Tillis
The Kochs are spending big to advance the career of American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) leader Thom Tillis.

The Koch brothers' new Super PAC, Freedom Partners Action Fund (FPAF) -- launched this summer -- has announced a huge new seven-figure ad buy attacking Senator Kay Hagan (D-NC). The ad buy makes the North Carolina Senate race between Hagan and Republican state Speaker of the House Thom Tillis all-time number one in outside spending, at $55.7 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP).

Read the rest of this item here.


MO ALEC Leader Says Right to Work Is Solution to Ferguson

by Brendan Fischer

Missouri Speaker of the House
Tim Jones
The protests that erupted in the wake of 18 year old Michael Brown's death at the hands of a Ferguson, Missouri police officer in August have many causes, ranging from longstanding tensions between the largely African-American community and a largely white police force, systematic targeting of people of color fueled in part by revenue-driven law enforcement practices, residential segregation, and disparities in racial power arising from under-representation in local government thanks in part to Ferguson's unusual elections calendar.

Yet a leader of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) in Missouri, House Speaker Tim Jones, says he has the solution to unrest in Ferguson: bust the unions. Read the rest of this item here.


Inmates Die in Droves After Governor Rick Scott Outsources Prison Healthcare

by Mary Bottari and Jonas Perrson

Florida Gov. Rick Scott
image by Meredyth Hall
Suffering from lung cancer? Here’s a Tylenol and some warm compresses. Are your intestines escaping? Not to worry; here’s some K-Y Jelly to shove them back in.

Between 2008 and 2013, Corizon Health – the country’s largest prison health care provider – was sued 660 times for malpractice. But Governor Rick Scott’s administration failed to take note of this history when it awarded Corizon a $1.2 billion contract in 2011.

Now an investigation by The Palm Beach Post reveals that Florida inmates have been dying in droves since the state privatized prison health care. Read the rest of this item here.


Governor Snyder Stands Behind Prison Privatization, Even After Maggots and Murder for Hire

by Jonas Perrson and Mary Bottari

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder
Ideological slogans often trump facts when it comes to the outsourcing of public services. When independent studies are commissioned, the conclusions are often disregarded. In some cases, however, there seems to be solid research supporting the cost-efficiency of privatization. Such was the case in Michigan – at least at first glance.

In April 2013, Simon Hakim and Erwin Blackstone published a paper based on their study, “Cost Analysis of Public and Contractor-Operated Prisons.” The results were staggering. Not only would private (or “contractor operated”) prisons generate savings of up to 58 percent, but they would also help alleviate overcrowding “without sacrificing the quality of the services.”

Read the rest of this item here.


AG Candidate Supports Reforming John Doe Law to Protect Politicians

by Mary Bottari

Brad Schimel
Republican attorney general candidate Brad Schimel has taken some heat when it comes to his firm conviction that a prosecutor’s job is to defend the laws on the books, whether that be a gay marriage ban or an old time interracial marriage ban. But when it comes to Wisconsin’s John Doe statute, which has been successfully used to convict both Democrats and Republicans of criminal corruption in office, he is ready to make some changes.

Schimel spoke at length with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel editorial board recently and suggested that he would work to change Wisconsin’s John Doe statute to give politicians more protections than average citizens. Wisconsin’s John Doe process is similar to that of a grand jury, but the legal proceedings take place behind closed doors in front of a judge, and a strict gag order is in place to prevent those involved from talking to the press. Read the rest of this item here.


Recent Articles from PRWatch.org

Randa Redux: Federal Judge OK's Dark Money Coordination in WI

by Brendan Fischer

Wisconsin candidates can now coordinate with "dark money" nonprofits that accept secret, unlimited donations and run sham "issue ads," under a ruling from the same federal judge who blocked the criminal coordination investigation into Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker earlier this year.

If the decision from Judge Rudolph Randa is upheld, some candidates elected this November will know exactly who bankrolled their campaign -- but the public will be left in the dark.

The ruling comes in a lawsuit filed earlier this month by Citizens for Responsible Government, a group tied to Wisconsin Club for Growth, against the Government Accountability Board and Milwaukee's District Attorney, John Chisholm. Judge Randa issued his order before the GAB and Chisholm had even spoken with the attorney assigned to represent them. Read the rest of this item here.


War on Witches: Reagan Judge Denounces Myth of Voter Fraud

by Brendan Fischer

Voter ID is “a mere fig leaf for efforts to disenfranchise voters likely to vote for the political party that does not control the state government,” federal appellate Judge Richard Posner wrote in a scorching dissent published October 10.

“As there is no evidence that voter-impersonation fraud is a problem, how can the fact that the Legislature says it’s a problem turn it into one" that could justify voter ID restrictions, Posner asked.

"If the Wisconsin Legislature says witches are a problem, shall Wisconsin courts be permitted to conduct witch trials?” Read the rest of this item here.


U.S. Supreme Court Puts ALEC-Inspired Voter ID on Hold in Wisconsin

by Mary Bottari

With only weeks left in the election, the U.S. Supreme Court put a halt to the implementation of voter ID in Wisconsin for this election cycle.

Voting rights advocates were jubilant, “This is wonderful news and a victory for voters in Wisconsin,” said Andrea Kaminsky, executive director of Wisconsin's League of Women Voters.

Kaminsky and other advocates had challenged Wisconsin’s voter ID law in the courts. Voter ID laws swept the nation after President Obama was elected in 2008 with huge voter turnout in black communities and on college campuses. The American Legislative Exchange Counsel (ALEC) and its member politicians helped spread the voter suppression laws, but ALEC subsequently attempted to distance itself from its model Voter ID Act. Read the rest of this item here.


News Corp and Occidental Among Latest Firms to Cut Ties with ALEC

by Rebekah Wilce

Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., Occidental Petroleum, International Paper, and Overstock.com are the latest corporations to say they have left the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) after a wave of technology companies led by Google and Facebook announced their departures in September.

News Corp. had been a member of ALEC's Education Task Force and Communications and Technology Task Force. Occidental Petroleum, at $24.5 billion in annual revenue, is one of the largest global oil and gas exploration and production companies based in the United States. It had been a member of ALEC's Energy, Environment, and Agriculture Task Force. Read the rest of this item here.


Rolling Stone Report Rocks Koch Industries

by Rebekah Wilce

A recent Rolling Stone article documenting Koch Industries' "lucrative blend of pollution, speculation, law-bending and self-righteousness" over the last few decades has sparked a string of personal attacks on the reporter, Tim Dickinson, by "KochFacts.com" and a point-by-point rebuttal from Rolling Stone.

The Rolling Stone article details the polluting activities, regulatory violations and penalties, and extractive goals of a privately-held company with larger annual revenues than IBM, Honda, or Hewlett-Packard. A company whose predecessor was founded on the design of a "near carbon copy" of another company's breakthrough piece of equipment with "only tiny, unpatentable tweaks" and sold equipment and technology to Stalin's Soviet Union, and which in its current iteration did business with Iran "every single chance they had" between when President George W. Bush branded it a member of the "Axis of Evil" in 2007. Read the rest of this item here.


In Paid Sick Days Fight, Open Records Dropbox Dodge Reemerges in Florida

by Brendan Fischer

A tactic used by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) to evade state public records laws has popped up in Florida, prompting a lawsuit against the Orange County mayor for allegedly using an internet dropbox to dodge transparency surrounding the county's latest effort to thwart paid sick day legislation.

Organize Now, with assistance from the Florida First Amendment Foundation, filed a lawsuit last month against Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs, alleging her office has used the cloud-based file sharing service Dropbox to undermine the Sunshine State's sunshine laws. Organize Now's Executive Director Stephanie Porta suspects that Mayor Jacobs not only deleted public records, but also may have given non-county employees -- like lobbyists -- access to files that were kept hidden from the public.

The increasing use of technology like Dropbox pose new issues for open government. Read the rest of this item here.


WI Attorney General's Latest Attack on Transparency Reeks of Partisanship

by Brendan Fischer

Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen's refusal to defend the Government Accountability Board in a federal lawsuit challenging the investigation into Governor Scott Walker and his allies is a reversal of his office's earlier position, could have grave implications for openness in the state, and undermines the GAB's role in enforcing the state's campaign finance laws. It isn't the first time that Van Hollen has put politics above government transparency.

Last week, Van Hollen refused to defend the GAB in a [federal lawsuit filed by a group tied to Eric O'Keefe, a target of the investigation. Read the rest of this item here.


Popular SourceWatch Articles

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Editors' Pick

White Hat’s Magic Trick: Transforming Public Schools into Private Assets

by Jessica Mason and Mary Bottari

Ohio Gov. John Kasich
There’s a lot of money at stake in Ohio charter schools, which as a group will receive almost $900 million in 2014. Charters get about $7,200 per student in taxpayer funding, compared to about $3,500 per student in traditional public schools.

On paper, Ohio’s charter schools are operated by non-profit organizations whose governing boards hire management companies to operate the schools. The boards are supposed to have a strong oversight role and have the power to fire charter operators if they don’t measure up.

Read the rest of this item here.


Governor Brownback Outsourced Child Support Services to Donor

by Mary Bottari and Jonas Perrson

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback
When he was elected in 2010, Kansas Governor Sam Brownback began to slash core government services and privatize the rest. His austerity politics resulted in the state being downgraded by S&P in August 2014, and his privatization initiatives have also drawn criticism, causing one leading Republican to state, “I had hoped that it wouldn’t be as extreme as it’s been … what we didn’t know was that Sam would use this state as crash test dummies for his own fiscal experiments.”

Kids receiving child support payments from absent parents would be among Brownback’s first crash test dummies. Read the rest of this item here.


LePage Supports Pumping Public Water for Private Gain

by Mary Bottari and Jonas Perrson

Maine Gov. Paul LePage
image by Jason Savage
Around the world, private firms have been given “carte blanche rights to mine local groundwater supplies at the expense of local populations, say experts.” In 1997, Swiss food giant Nestlé signed a contract with the privately- owned water services provider in Fryeburg, Maine, to buy freshwater in bulk for its Poland Spring brand of bottled water. Fearing that large-scale commercial water exploitation would lead to groundwater depletion and the Saco River drying up, the town of Fryeburg enacted a Land Use Ordinance that required that any company pumping more than 10,000 gallons of water a day get approval from the planning board. With a constant stream of litigation and appeals, however, Fryeburg Water Co. was able to buy time while continuing its moneymaking sideline business without interruption. Read the rest of this item here.

Pay to Prey: Governors Facilitate the Predatory Outsourcing of America's Public Services

Pay-to-Prey200px.jpg
Maggots, drug smuggling, sex with inmates. As if the news were not already bad enough, shocking new allegations of a murder-for-hire plot are emerging from Michigan as the media digs deeper into that state’s failed outsourcing of prison services.

In 2013, Governor Rick Snyder invited the Philadelphia- based for-profit company Aramark to take over food services in the state’s prisons. The action was a 180-degree change in course, as the administration previously rejected all such bids on the grounds that none of the proposals would save the state money. The $570,000 Aramark spent on lobbying surely helped the company persuade the administration to change its mind.

Since Aramark took over Michigan’s $145 million food service contract – eviscerating the stable middle class jobs of some 370 public workers – one stomach churning scandal followed another. Read the full report at Outsourcing America Exposed.


Follow the Money! Wiki Resource

KochExposed.org200px.jpg
The Center for Media and Democracy, publisher of ALEC Exposed, brings you this unique wiki resource on the billionaire industrialists and the power and influence of the Koch cadre and Koch cash.

Read about Koch Funding Vehicles:

The Kochs' Anti-Civil Rights Roots

Vist Koch Exposed for more.

Watch the Video!

Watch Lisa Graves talk about her new article, "The Koch Cartel: Their Reach, Their Reactionary Agenda and Their Record."

Read the article here.



Featured Video

Outsourcing America, Privatization Bites Back

Outsourcing America, Privatization Bites Back


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