Some powerful players are coming to the aid of ALEC board member Thom Tillis, the Speaker of the North Carolina House of Representatives who seeks to challenge Democrat Kay Hagen for her U.S. Senate seat. The North Carolina race could determine control of the U.S. Senate. If Tillis, a member of ALEC's board of directors and the 2011 ALEC "Legislator of the Year," can make it through the May 6 GOP primary, which he is currently leading, he will face Kagen this November.
David Koch's Americans for Prosperity (AFP) has released a series of television ads attacking Hagen for her support of the Affordable Care Act. AFP has long been a member of ALEC, and both David and Charles Koch have made personal loans to ALEC and funded the group through their foundations. Additionally, a Koch Industries lobbyist sits on the national board of ALEC -- along with Tillis. The connections that Tillis has cultivated through ALEC appear to have paid off. Read the rest of this item here.
New court filings in a federal challenge to Wisconsin's John Doe campaign finance probe into Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker undermine claims from Wisconsin Club for Growth and the Wall Street Journal that the investigation is a "partisan witch-hunt" and a case of biased selective prosecution on the part of Milwaukee's Democratic District Attorney.
If Walker and Wisconsin Club for Growth prevail in their challenges to the probe, the state's campaign finance laws would be effectively eviscerated, which prosecutors say would "open the door to impropriety."
The investigation has gone national in some circles, with the Wall Street Journal and right-wing outlets portraying the enforcement of Wisconsin's campaign finance laws as the government using its power to suppress political "speech." Yet it has attracted relatively little attention in the national mainstream media -- despite the direct involvement of Walker, a presidential aspirant who just launched his 2014 gubernatorial reelection bid and whose campaign has asked the state Supreme Court to stop the investigation. Read the rest of this item here.
On Friday, the Obama administration let it be known that it was punting a decision on Keystone XL pipeline until after the midterm elections in November, a surprising and disappointing decision to many.
The State Department's decision "shows the problems with the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline continue to grow," stated Jim Murphy, senior counsel of the National Wildlife Federation. Bill McKibben of 350.org said in a statement: “It’s as if our leaders simply don’t understand that climate change is happening in real time — that it would require strong, fast action to do anything about it.” The administration is also postponing the deadline for public comment after receiving an unprecedented number of comments.
But the opposition to the pipeline is not taking a vacation. Read the rest of this item here.
Amidst a new "Sagebrush Rebellion" ignited by a Nevada rancher and his armed supporters that threatened to turn violent, Congressman Raúl Grijalva has asked the U.S. Department of the Interior to "investigate the role of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) in efforts to pass bills at the state level" that undermine federal authority over state lands and thwart the agency's duties.
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s campaign has asked the state Supreme Court to review the legal basis for the John Doe campaign finance probe looking at coordination between his campaign and third-party groups. And, a separate federal challenge to the investigation filed by Wisconsin Club for Growth will move forward, after the judge hearing the case denied a motion to dismiss it.
District Attorneys in five Wisconsin counties, from both political parties, have been investigating whether candidates -- including Walker’s campaign – coordinated with independent electoral groups like Wisconsin Club for Growth (WCFG) during Wisconsin’s contentious 2011 and 2012 recall elections. WCFG spent $9.1 million in undisclosed “dark money” during the recall elections, and groups it funded spent millions more. Read the rest of this item here.
A coalition of genetically modified organism (GMO), pesticide, grocery and agriculture corporate trade groups are fighting mandatory labeling efforts at the state and local level by pushing preemption measures in Congress and at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The GMO lobby has found a Congressional sponsor for its "federal solution" -- a bill to override states' mandatory GMO labeling laws and replace them with optional labeling regulated by the FDA -- according to Politico. Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS) reportedly hopes to introduce the bill, which would "create a friendlier, preemptive set of federal rules to quell public concerns over GMOs and stem the roughly 20 pending state bills and ballot initiatives that will be costly for the industry to fight," before the Spring legislative recess. Read the rest of this item here.
Wisconsin again ranked among the best in the country when it comes to running elections, according to a new study from Pew Charitable Trusts -- yet apparently this outstanding performance is a problem, and it might be "fixed" through new limits on early voting and proposals to kill same-day registration.
In the 2012 elections, Wisconsin ranked second in voter turnout, just behind neighboring Minnesota. Both states allow election day registration and adequate time for early voting (a combination that studies show increases voter participation), and both had turnouts well above 70%. Read the rest of this item here.
Last week, the Missouri House of Representatives passed a measure to put an anti-union "paycheck protection" measure on the ballot in August which, if approved by voters, will make it harder for unions to raise funds and engage in the political process. "Right to work" could be next -- and both measures are being pushed by an array of out-of-state right-wing interests.
New documents released as a result of the Center for Media and Democracy's open records lawsuit against American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) vice-chair Senator Leah Vukmir provide more evidence that lobbyists and special interest groups are calling the shots within ALEC, undermining that group's latest PR spin that it is a "legislator-driven" organization.
The previously-undisclosed records from ALEC's Spring 2013 meeting show a Florida-based State Policy Network lobbying group instructing Senator Vukmir and other legislators to introduce a "model" resolution for legislators to thwart Medicaid expansion in their state, and even writing an entire "script" for legislators to parrot in the ALEC task force meeting -- contradicting ALEC's claims to reporters last year that only legislators propose model policy, and demonstrating that such claims are merely a talking point. Read the rest of this item here.
The U.S. Supreme Court's 5-4 ruling in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission may actually undermine the Court's reasoning in Citizens United that unlimited spending from Super PACs pose no risk of corruption.
Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for the majority in McCutcheon, now appears to acknowledge that big donations to independent Super PACs can be useful to candidates -- and arguably, pose a risk of corruption -- yet somehow uses these facts as justification to strike down the total amount that individual donors can give to federal candidates and political party committees.
McCutcheon builds on the Court's awful ruling in Citizens United, which kicked open the door to unlimited fundraising and spending by nominally "independent" corporations like Super PACs and dark money nonprofits. Limits on both independent expenditures and direct contributions can now only be justified if they prevent "corruption," which the court has narrowly defined as "quid pro quo corruption" like bribery. Read the rest of this item here.
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The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is slated to roll out its annual "Rich States, Poor States" publication this week. The document, whose lead author is economist Arthur Laffer, is sold to the press as an objective, academic measure of state economic performance, but should instead be viewed more as a lobby scorecard ranking states on the adoption of extreme ALEC policies that have little or nothing to do with economic outcomes. This year, leaked documents revealed that the report is directly funded by the Kochs, on top of longstanding Koch support for ALEC itself.
Until recently, little information was available about the funders of Rich States, Poor States, but tucked in a cache of ALEC internal documents obtained by the Guardian in December was a spreadsheet (PDF pg. 40) that showed for the first time that Rich States, Poor States is funded by the Kochs' Claude Lambe Foundation, as well as the Searle Freedom Trust.
This film, produced by the Center for Media and Democracy, debunks the claims of proponents of the Keystone XL pipeline regarding jobs, energy security, gas prices, safety, and climate change. More information about this film and research project, "Keystone PipeLIES Exposed"
SourceWatch.org is an interactive wiki website that depends on readers like you to improve content. If you want to help us grow SourceWatch with well documented research and become a volunteer editor, click here for more information.
Excerpt from a longer SourceWatch article on the National Restaurant Association:
The National Restaurant Association (NRA) is a trade association for the $600 billion  restaurant industry and has an annual revenue of over $91 million, according to its 2011 Form 990.  NRA has been a major force in keeping the federal tipped minimum wage at $2.13 for restaurant workers for 20 years. As discussed below, NRA and its member companies represent a lobbying powerhouse working against state minimum wage increases and paid sick leave for workers.
The NRA has 53 state restaurant affiliates, and operates a nonprofit arm, the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation, out of Chicago, which has an annual budget of over $4.3 million. 
NRA has 177 corporate restaurant members representing the dominant players in this global industry,  and other members including supplier companies, faculty and students in hospitality education, and nonprofits “such as state hospitals, state health care facilities, state schools, state prisons, military foodservice establishments, etc.” 
With nearly 750 employees, the group represents 500,000 restaurant businesses. 
Excerpt from a longer SourceWatch article on the Berman & Co.:
Berman Heads Phony Think Tank, Employment Policy Institute
Rick Berman created EPI in 1991 to "argue the importance of minimum wage jobs for the poor and uneducated."
The Employment Policies Institute (EPI) is headed by Richard Berman according to tax filings. It shares the same office as Berman's PR firm and it funnels money to the PR firm as the New York Times reported in a front page story in 2014: "the Employment Policies Institute has no employees of its own. Mr. Berman’s for-profit advertising firm, instead, “bills” the nonprofit institute for the services his employees provide to the institute. This arrangement effectively means that the nonprofit is a moneymaking venture for Mr. Berman, whose advertising firm was paid $1.1 million by the institute in 2012, according to its tax returns, or 44 percent of its total budget, with most of the rest of the money used to buy advertisements." 
In 2013-2014, EPI has become a primary industry attack dog, fighting minimum wage as dangerous to the economy, fighting living wages and advocating a low road economic development policy.
The Center for Media and Democracy outed EPI as a phony think tank in a Salon article in 2013 and critiqued media coverage of EPI, which consistently failed to note that EPI was run by a PR firm:  "We recently analyzed three years of newspaper stories from across the country that quoted from EPI or Michael Saltsman. In 83 percent of the stories we examined, reporters provided readers with no information about EPI’s relationship with Berman and Co. In most cases, journalists stated that EPI is a “Washington DC nonprofit” and called Saltsman a “research director.” In some instances, reporters took tentative steps in the right direction and called EPI “conservative” or “pro-business.” Only about 3 percent of the time did they correctly link EPI to Berman and Co." The Salon article prompted an amusing interview on MSNBC's Chris Hayes show where Hayes demanded to know how many economists EPI had on staff and the qualifications of its "Research Director" who has no training in economics: 
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.
Outsourcing America Exposed
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 December 2013, Google joined up with 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 were on the agenda.
"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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