Last year, over 850,000 people in America were arrested for marijuana-related crimes. Despite public opinion, the medical community, and human rightsexperts all moving in favor of relaxing marijuana prohibition laws, little has changed in terms of policy.
There have been many great books and articles detailing the history of the drug war. Part of America’s fixation with keeping the leafy green plant illegal is rooted in cultural and political clashes from the past.
However, we at Republic Report think it’s worth showing that there are entrenched interest groups that are spending large sums of money to keep our broken drug laws on the books:
1.) Police Unions: Police departments across the country have become dependent on federal drug war grants to finance their budget. In March, we published a story revealing that a police union lobbyist in California coordinated the effort to defeat Prop 19, a ballot measure in 2010 to legalize marijuana, while helping his police department clients collect tens of millions in federal marijuana-eradication grants. And it’s not just in California. Federal lobbying disclosures show that other police union lobbyists have pushed for stiffer penalties for marijuana-related crimes nationwide.
2.) Private Prisons Corporations: Private prison corporations make millions by incarcerating people who have been imprisoned for drug crimes, including marijuana. As Republic Report’s Matt Stoller noted last year, Corrections Corporation of America, one of the largest for-profit prison companies, revealed in a regulatory filing that continuing the drug war is part in parcel to their business strategy. Prison companies have spent millions bankrolling pro-drug war politicians and have used secretive front groups, like the American Legislative Exchange Council, to pass harsh sentencing requirements for drug crimes.
3.) Alcohol and Beer Companies: Fearing competition for the dollars Americans spend on leisure, alcohol and tobacco interests have lobbied to keep marijuana out of reach. For instance, the California Beer & Beverage Distributors contributed campaign contributions to a committee set up to prevent marijuana from being legalized and taxed.
4.) Pharmaceutical Corporations: Like the sin industries listed above, pharmaceutical interests would like to keep marijuana illegal so American don’t have the option of cheap medical alternatives to their products. Howard Wooldridge, a retired police officer who now lobbies the government to relax marijuana prohibition laws, told Republic Report that next to police unions, the “second biggest opponent on Capitol Hill is big PhRMA” because marijuana can replace “everything from Advil to Vicodin and other expensive pills.”
5.) Prison Guard Unions: Prison guard unions have a vested interest in keeping people behind bars just like for-profit prison companies. In 2008, the California Correctional Peace Officers Association spent a whopping $1 million to defeat a measure that would have “reduced sentences and parole times for nonviolent drug offenders while emphasizing drug treatment over prison.”
RELATED: Why Can’t You Smoke Pot? Because Lobbyists Are Getting Rich Off of the War on Drugs
Note: Kansas Gov. Brownback’s disturbing comments posted on the Heritage Foundation’s web site:
“A 61 year old woman with a husband taking care of their disabled child at home while she’s out disrupting the actions of elected officials. Protesting instead of caring for her child, hopefully the cops beat some sense into her but I doubt it, wild indians on the war path are totally out of control. Sounds like a state social services case manager needs to take charge of the child to insure that it is receiving appropriate care !”
Anyone who still votes Republican seriously needs to reassess their position, this is not the same GOP of the good ole days. It’s owned by fascists like the Koch brothers, nothing more than psychopaths fashioning themselves after feudal lords hell bent on hording the wealth and turning the clock back to the dark ages.
Phone numbers are listed at the bottom if you wish to voice your concerns over this incident.
From: Nation of Change
On November 16th, protestors in Wichita, Kansas registered and attended Governor Brownsback’s Town Hall Meeting focusing on child poverty in the state. The group planned to protest the Governor’s decisions on how to improve the poverty level of children in Kansas. To date, Governor Brownback has cut funds for several educational and healthcare programs for children and adolescents while 75,000 children in Kansas are without health insurance.
All citizens in attendance were made to sit at assigned tables while listening to speeches sponsored by the Heritage Foundation, a think tank funded by the Koch Brothers. The meeting that took place failed to discuss Brownback’s several poor decisions and instead was a subtle promotion for marriage in Kansas – something that the speaker related to the poverty level.
At the end of the speech, protestors stood with their backs to the speaker and read their own statement to educate those in attendance on the cuts that Brownback has orchestrated. At the end of this statement, as the protestors attempted to walk out quietly, police officers entered the building and arrested Doris Gent (Ravenfeather), a 61-year-old Native American woman.
Doris was arrested brutally, with onlookers describing the police twisting her arm behind her violently and pushing her against the wall. The police were so forceful she was left with several bruises and a strained neck, prompting a visit Wesley Hospital’s Emergency Room the next day. Meanwhile, Doris had a husband at home caring for their disabled child.
Doris was released after she was charged but will have to return for her trial on April 20, 2012. We ask you to support the activists that are attempting to get the charges against her dropped. We believe that she is being used to set an example for simply exercising her right to peacefully protest.
Please call the Wichita Mayor and City Council. Please make your calls from 9:00 am – 5:00 pm daily until 4/20. Go To Facebook Events Page: Drop the Charges Against Doris ‘Ravenfeather’ Gent and also: Pack the Courtroom for Doris Ravenfeather!
City phone #(316) 268-4331 Fax# (316) 858-7743
Connect with City Council members or leave a message.
This article was published at NationofChange at: http://www.nationofchange.org/61-year-old-woman-violently-arrested-after-peacefully-protesting-koch-funded-meeting-1334850629. All rights are reserved.
This week as I premiered my new film, Koch Brothers Exposed — the result of a year-long investigation on how two billionaires are using their wealth to corrupt democracy — Koch Industries has launched an attack on the film and me. The Kochs intimidate, they menace; they have a letter from their lawyer borderline threatening the media if it reports what’s in the film — and they always try to change the subject so their behavior can stay in the shadows: not only are they unwilling to accept my offer of a debate or interview, they also refuse to testify about their interest in the Keystone XL pipeline and may have to be dragged kicking and screaming into revealing their secret contributions to groups doing election work. This time, the Kochs are using a technique I point out in the film: attacking to avoid dealing with the facts. They are dodging and distorting the truth to avoid confronting our findings on cancer, voting rights, civil rights, and more.
How? Let me count (some of) the ways:
1) Cancer. People are dying of cancer near the Kochs’ Georgia Pacific plant in Crossett, Arkansas, and the Kochs refuse to answer the relevant question: What are they going to do about it? On Penn Road in Crossett, right near the mill, residents powerfully show how nine out of 11 homes have suffered from cancer. A USA Today study said Crossett’s school district is in the top 1% in the nation for cancer. Meanwhile, the Kochs’ facility releases significant amounts of formaldehyde — a known carcinogen — and there’s no other chemical plant in town. The Kochs are among the country’s top 10 polluters and lobbied hard to keep formaldehyde from being labeled a carcinogen. For a company where one of the owners (David Koch) and the communications director (Melissa Cohlmia) are cancer survivors, this is tragic and infuriating. It reflects a warped sense of humanity where greed trumps all.
2) Voting rights. The Kochs have given over $1 million to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a group that’s trying to pass severe voter ID restrictions in states across the country. These bills disenfranchise the poor, the elderly, the young, people of color — in short, people who are likely to oppose a 1% agenda. The Kochs won’t explain why anyone should believe that ALEC’s pro-corporate, anti-99% agenda is somehow detached from its billionaire funders. Onerous voting restrictions are already impacting people’s ability to vote in the 2012 election.
3) Re-segregation. Americans for Prosperity (AFP), which is Koch-founded and Koch-financed (they refuse to say how much but we know it’s at least $5 million), pushed “reforms” in North Carolina that would destroy a school district’s model of racial integration and ensure students go to school mainly with people of their own race. We call out this “re-segregation” in Koch Brothers Exposed. The Kochs, of course, try to hide from their connection — hoping we ignore not only their involvement in the founding and financing of AFP, but also the fact that David Koch has served as chair of the group’s supposedly nonpolitical arm, the AFP Foundation. Their dissembling doesn’t pass the laugh test–particularly when they’ve refused to open the books to show where their funding is coming from.
4) Worker rights. The Kochs have been undermining labor rights, helping anti-union Gov. Scott Walker in Wisconsin and supporting groups that want to boost employer power against employees. They also have pushed the interests of large corporations over Main Street. The Koch brothers try pathetically to attack me on that front, going back eight years to my film Wal-Mart: the High Cost of Low Priceand saying a locally-owned hardware store I profiled as an example of how Wal-Mart shuts down small businesses had actually closed before the retail giant opened. Um, as the store owners said in the film, the reason it closed early was problems involving financing and reduced appraisals in light of Wal-Mart’s impending arrival. This is yet another example of distorting the facts and is ultimately a distraction.
Why are the Kochs flailing so desperately in the face of our findings? Because they can’t give straightforward, convincing rebuttals to the claims we lodge against them in the film. My organization, Brave New Foundation, doesn’t have billions of dollars at its disposal to fight back, but this time time, the Kochs aren’t getting the last word. The smears and name-calling (I’m malicious, I’m a liar, blah blah blah) may not be pleasant but won’t stop the film from being shared by 25 groups partnering with us and thousands of people online.
The Koch brothers epitomize the corruption of democracy that’s going on in our country, with a handful of people at the top expanding their wealth on the backs of the 99%. Americans shouldn’t fall for their attempt to change the subject.
Posted at March 31, 2012, 10:24 am
Orlando Liberal Examiner
If you’re talking about stereotypes throughout history, liberals and Democrats have always been labeled with words like “soft” and “weak” and Republicans have always been the party that was “strong” especially on issues of war and the economy. Over the last few years however, those labels have started to change. President Obama has ended the war in Iraq, drawn down in Afghanistan, killed Osama Bin Laden and was part of the effort that killed Gaddafi. In the meantime, the Republicans have been held back by a decision they’ve made. That decision that has held them back is named Grover Norquist.
@HouseinSession– Norquist advises a room of House Republicans Thursday that a failure to extend the payroll tax cut should not be viewed as raising taxes.
Thanks goes to Pancho for submitting this excellent piece on ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council which is one of the most dangerous organizations driving the right wing to destroy America. The GOP is literally selling everything they possibly can to turn a profit including the educational system, police and fire departments, library’s, parks, post offices. You name it, the reason they hate government is because they see something they can profit from!!! Wake the hell up Republicon’s and Teabaggers, your party is destroying everything that made America a wonderful country.
Granted many Democrats are just as bad, but at least the whole damn party hasn’t taken an oath to Grover Norquist. The only oath your representative should be taking is to serve YOUR best interest, not to protect the tax’s of corporations and the wealthy. There’s plenty of information about ALEC on the left under the Rise of Fascism in America category, please educate yourself and wake up to the fact the Republicon party has accomplished nothing but huge deficits, wars and hate. That’s their track record.
If you plan on voting Republican next year you’re insane, because Ron Paul won’t get the nomination. Which leaves nothing but a bunch of game show contestants who are nothing but corporate shills. The really sick thing is you’re so brainwashed to hate Obama you’ll vote against your best interests and the interests of the nation.
Mr. Hodai was considered to be a persona non grata from the (Koch-funded ALEC) conference (management).”
Dec. 18, 2011
SCOTTSDALE, ARIZ.—There’s something rotten in the air. A muggy,
oniony, chemical smell that wafts over the lines of uniformed riot
police, paddy wagons and metal barriers that are holding back a
straggle of protesters waving slapdash placards reading “Shut Down
“Get back ma’am, for your own safety,” a courteous voice warns me.
“They’re gonna start pepper spraying.”
It’s a surreal touch at the lush, sprawling Westin Kierland Resort,
where the air is scented with fragrant flowering bushes and the
aromatic lotions of the spa.
But the protesters are at the gate, and inside, hundreds of state
legislators from all over the U.S., their wives and entourages are
meeting with corporate leaders for a three-day annual policy summit.
Or, to their banner-bearing foes, a cradle of “corporate profiteering
at the expense of our communities.”
“Today only,” blazons a sign hoisted by a silver-haired protester,
“Buy One Senator Get One Free!”
The target of this anger is the American Legislative Exchange Council,
or ALEC — a benign, user-friendly acronym that fits the friendly turf
of Scottsdale, where the grass is always greener and everything is for
your comfort and safety.
I’m here to learn more about this increasingly muscular organization,
formally an educational non-profit — and one that shuns the “L” word,
lobbyist. It puts state lawmakers together with representatives from
some of the country’s most powerful corporations to advance their
legislative agendas. And it’s the most influential organization the
majority of Americans have never heard of.
As the coming federal election sucks all the oxygen out of America’s
political room, it’s easy to ignore the power of the states, and the
changes that are quietly taking place across the country independent
of — and often hostile to — the federal government. But, for
understanding grassroots America, ALEC, here in God’s golf country, is
a good place to start.
In the words of its manifesto, “ALEC provides its public- and
private-sector members with a unique opportunity to work together to
develop policies and programs that effectively promote the
Jeffersonian principles of free markets, limited government,
federalism and individual liberty.”
And the success of its efforts is in little doubt.
By its own record, it has created an arsenal of about 800 “model”
bills, templates or blueprints for future laws. They are tabled about
1,000 times a year across the country; about one in five are passed.
Some 2,000 state legislators belong to the organization, the vast
majority of them Republican, in spite of its avowed non-partisan
membership. And with Republicans now controlling half of all state
governments, they pack an added punch.
To the protesters, and the growing number of media and
non-governmental organizations who study it closely, ALEC is a factory
for legislative bills that replicate across the 50 states, with the
aim of undercutting the public sector and the role of government and
promoting free-market policy at state level, where it often counts the
ALEC-backed provisions have opposed climate change legislation and
environmental regulation, stoked the effort to privatize prisons and
schools, pushed for rollbacks of workers’ rights, for limited voting
rights and tax breaks for the wealthy. The results, critics say, line
the pockets of corporations — a charge ALEC and its defenders insist
is misrepresenting its operating style.
“The benefits of ALEC are that you don’t have to walk through 50
different legislatures,” says Jeff Reed, an Indiana “school choice”
advocate who campaigns for developing alternatives to the public
school system. “You can share ideas with everyone in the same room.
But the people in the room are not in lockstep.”
But ALEC’s very success in advancing its policies has sparked a
backlash in states such as Ohio and Wisconsin, where police and
firefighters joined protests against anti-union legislation.
Recall campaigns have been launched to end the terms of conservative
lawmakers in several states. And the National Association for the
Advancement of Colored People petitioned the UN to protest restrictive
voting laws in 14 states, inspired, they say, by ALEC’s model
“When a company needs a state bill passed,” writes the
far-from-radical Bloomberg Businessweek, “the American Legislative
Exchange Council can get it done.”
ALEC officials routinely deny it, insisting that in this “laboratory
of democracy” lawmakers, not corporations, have the final word on the
bills that emerge for approval: if companies have a hand on the
legislative tiller, it is not the upper hand.
The group’s 300-strong corporate members include some of the most
high-profile in America: among them AT&T, Wal-Mart, GlaxoSmithKline,
UPS, Pfizer, Bayer, Verizon, and Koch Industries — headed by the
Kansas-based billionaire brothers nicknamed “the Kochtopus” for their
wide-ranging financial and ideological influence.
Outside the wire, the protesters are growing weary, and police have
peeled off their sci-fi gas masks.
“We’ve arrested five,” mutters a close-cropped plainclothes man to his
phone, as I’m warned again not to venture beyond the barrier. Earlier,
an Arizona reporter narrowly escaped arrest for disobeying orders.
As the protesters begin to disperse, a stocky dark-skinned man stays
behind to harangue the police: “You and me, bro, we’re all part of the
99 per cent. ALEC is the 1 per cent. D’you get it, bro? Who are you
protecting here?” The front line cops glance at each other uneasily,
“I was taking pictures and I stepped into a line between the police
and protesters,” Ezra Kaplan, a 23-year-old student activist, tells me
later. “The police moved in and I was trapped.”
Seventeen hours after he was thrown to the ground and arrested, Kaplan
says, he was released and his knapsack returned — “but not my camera,
which was worth $1,000.”
Like many of the protesters, he was drawn to this site by a conviction
that the political system is broken, and ALEC part of the wrecking
“You know that painting The Scream?” asks 51-year-old Diane D’Angelo,
another activist and protester. “That’s what it’s like for me most
“I work, but I’m here for my friends who don’t have proper jobs or
health insurance. I know of some who have committed suicide in this
recession, but there’s no interest in people like them. Members of
ALEC seem to have forgotten what the Constitution means. They make
their own legislation.”
Inside the hotel’s vast conference wing all is calm and bright, in
spite of the numerous vigilant security guards. Here, in a parallel
universe of bonhomie, the men and women in suits who are liaising over
morning lattes are the 99 per cent, and the Occupiers, out of sight
and mind, the 1 per cent. It’s not the percentages, but the placement
that counts here.
Conference tables are strewn with soberly titled reports by right-wing
think tanks allied with ALEC: the Heritage Foundation, the Goldwater
Institute, the Franklin Center, the Tax Foundation and more.
They explain how poor states can become richer by cutting taxes, how
retiree health benefits can be reined in, how “school choice” can
create private alternatives to education. The evils of “Obamacare” are
laid out, along with articles inveighing against federal waste. An
anti-abortion group, Americans United for Life, hands out a model
legislation guide to “changing laws to protect human life, state by
“I heard there was some kind of protest out there,” says a portly man
with a jovial smile, who lines up alongside me to pick up ALEC
credentials, handily strung on an Arizona Association of Realtors
lanyard. “I guess those guys just don’t have anything better to do.
They’d be further ahead if they’d go out and get a job.”
The conversation ends abruptly as I’m handed my badge with the
radioactive label “Media.”
But in spite of reports of the group’s secrecy and antipathy to the
media, my application has been rapidly processed, and response to my
interview requests from its diligent young communications director,
Kaitlyn Buss, prompt and polite. And although some critics were
refused entry, a reporter from a Phoenix paper, who has written
sharply unflattering stories on ALEC, was admitted without question.
“There’s a big disconnect between what (the protesters) think happens
here and what’s outlined in our publications,” maintains Jonathan
Williams, one of ALEC’s senior strategists. “They think we’re a
secretive organization — but how do they know that? How do they know
“We have it on our website, very clearly, where our meetings are, what
our publications are. I write op-eds in the national press that are
open to everybody.”
Williams, an affable, articulate tax wizard who calls himself a
“centre-right kind of guy,” says ALEC’s agenda is much misunderstood.
Far from being a cheek-by-jowl elite of lawmakers and lobbyists —
“crusaders” who aim to shrink government to the size where they can
drown it in the bathtub — it creates “the best agenda for taxpayers at
large to create jobs and increase the overall standard of living
throughout the United States regardless of income group. At the end of
the day the best form of welfare is giving everybody a job.”
At a price.
The price includes doing away with the “ever-increasing federal
environmental and energy regulations” that are in ALEC’s crosshairs.
So are obtrusive unions, workers’ rights, and public pensions and
retiree benefits that are threatening states with “generational
Taxing the rich is no solution to the economic dilemma, Williams
assures me. It’s a lose-lose to “demonize business.” Slap on the taxes
and “they’ll only move somewhere else” and take the jobs with them. In
a globalized world, nobody is safe. Competitiveness is the key.
Keeping jobs in America is vital — but China is just around the
Thomas Jefferson, Ronald Reagan and the Constitution. As lunch is
served in the cavernous ballroom, homage is paid to ALEC’s holy
trinity by an enthusiastic audience that is predominantly white and
over 40. Darker-skinned people carry the trays, an echo of 1787.
“Our patron saint, Thomas Jefferson, said that ‘my reading of history
convinces me that most (bad) government results from too much
government,’” intones a host, to resounding applause. “How true that
The Founding Fathers are dear to ALEC because they speak of a simpler
time when the federal government didn’t get in the way of the states,
or taxation and regulation in the way of progress. A time when “these”
United States took precedence over “this” U.S. of today.
“We’d like to see a shift of power,” William Howell, the gentlemanly,
silver-haired speaker of the house in Virginia, explains to me later:
“It would restore the states’ powers that (the federal government) has
Howell is ALEC’s federalism expert and a prominent backer of a
constitutional amendment to repeal federal laws to which two-thirds of
states object. Federal health-care legislation, for instance, should
be barred because “if the federal government can require you to buy a
product (i.e. health insurance) it can do anything.”
Howell’s vision for America is “50 thriving states. A much more
limited federal and state government.” A vision devoutly wished by
many of the legislative and corporate members here.
That is the Constitutional way, says Howell, the sort of favourite
uncle you would invite to a family dinner. “The Constitution was
authored by Virginians and we take great pride in it. It’s flexible
enough for 300 million people as it was for 13 million.”
Born in 1973, to a group of conservative state lawmakers and policy
wonks, ALEC can’t claim the provenance of the Founding Fathers. But
after a modest beginning during President Richard Nixon’s term, and a
slow ascendancy, it became a resounding hit in recent years, backed by
Now thousands of the elect and the elected head for its conferences,
the latter assisted by ALEC’s “scholarship” funds. Some join the nine
task forces and legislative boards that create template bills,
alongside similar bodies set up for their corporate counterparts. The
final vote, ALEC says, has no input from the corporations. (Critics,
unsurprisingly, say otherwise. “Through ALEC, behind closed doors,
corporations hand state legislators the changes to the law they desire
that directly benefit their bottom line,” says the watchdog Center for
Media and Democracy.)
For Howell, and other lawmakers here, belonging to ALEC is a shortcut
to effective, winnable legislation.
“If I flew to Las Vegas I wouldn’t know anybody,” he explains. “We
have 50 laboratories to find out what they’ve all been doing. ALEC
provides a meeting point, and the distinguishing feature is they’re
very interested in liberty and the free market.”
The air of Scottsdale is free too, of pepper spray. I stroll back to
my room in the nearby Westin Kierland Villas complex, along the
manicured golf course and the limpid pond on which float a family of
Overhead three helicopters hover. One breaks away and seems to shadow
my path. After the years I have spent in conflict zones helicopters
are not a good omen. I squint into the dazzling blue sky and wave. The
chopper wheels back and lazily retreats. Later, that night I fall into
a fitful sleep, pursued by a dark helicopter that always outflanks me.
There’s something happening here. What it is ain’t exactly clear. . .
Back at the conference, a workshop on pension reform is winding up a
lengthy discussion of a proposed Public Pension Accounting
Responsibility Act. The act would force legislators to “tell the
truth” about state pensions, which ALEC supporters claim are
undermining (if not collapsing) state finances.
As the audience files out for a coffee break, I stay behind and wait
for the Fiscal Policy Reform Working Group to begin. It will drill
down on one the hottest issues in Washington, tax reform, and review a
model bill on opposing state bailouts by the federal government.
A friendly voice greets me: Kaitlyn Buss.
“I hope you’re enjoying the conference,” she says. “But I’m afraid
you’ll have to leave the room.”
“But I’ve just sat through another working group. Why is this one different?”
“Some are open, others aren’t. It’s just the rules.”
Night falls, and the tiny sports bar in the hotel basement is crowded.
A ruddy-faced man jumps to his feet, sweating, as touchdowns are
scored on the big screen. He volleys the results at a huddle of young
women who seem barely aware of the action.
Nor am I. I’m talking to a fellow hotel guest, Beau Hodai, a
journalist from the left-wing magazine In These Times who has written
probing articles on ALEC. Unlike me, he hasn’t enjoyed its
co-operation and credentials. His calls have gone unanswered, and he
has been turned back by the police and guards who firewall the
The noise level in the bar rises and so do I. As I say goodnight, Beau
is summoned by hotel security and herded away toward the elevator by
uniformed police. Why? In Slobodan Milosevic’s Serbia, I was evicted
from my hotel by machine-gun-toting militias as the Kosovo war began.
But in America. . . ?
As I stand staring, two cops flank me: Do I know this man? Who is he?
Beau has disappeared now. Will anything I say be used against him? I
square my shoulders and think of my British mother: “How dare you ask
me such a question? Is this a morality charge? Are hotel guests of the
opposite sex forbidden to speak in a bar? Is this Iran or the land of
We face off, not blinking. The questions continue. At last the
inquisitors give in. “Ma’am, you’re free to go.”
They are pointing me toward the lobby, and the front door. On cue, the
helpful young man at the bell desk calls the hotel shuttle to convey
me to the Villas.
At 11 p.m., some 45 minutes later, I call Beau’s number. He is now in
another hotel, his stay at the Westin Kierland terminated abruptly.
“They said they were throwing me out and that they would escort me to
the room to get my belongings,” he tells me. “I had to leave right
then and there — or be arrested.” Off-duty police, it appears, were
moonlighting as security for the conference, but no less determined to
do their duty as they saw it.
(Back in Toronto I reach the hotel’s managing director, Bruce Lang, by
phone and am told, “Mr. Hodai was considered to be a persona non grata
from the conference.” But he adds, “not by the hotel, not by the
police. . . He clearly presented a threat to the conference, based on
his history.”) That would be the threat of investigative journalism?
In the Phoenix airport I move through the tanned, jostling holiday
crowd toward the Air Canada gate.
What just happened here? I board the plane and settle back to watch
the Arizona landscape disappear. The dry, dusty beige and the achingly
lush green. The baronial resorts and the desert shacks. The conference
too has dispersed, and the hotel resumed the even tenor of its ways.
Business as usual. And I think of ALEC and the Constitution it
The First Amendment.
“Congress shall make no law. . . abridging the freedom of speech, or
of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to
petition the Government for redress of grievances.”
The 99 per cent, and the 1 per cent. A nation divided under God.
Billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch finally got their way in 2011. After decades of funding the American Legislative Exchange Council, the collaboration between multinational corporations and conservative state legislators, the project began finally to yield the intended result.
For the first time in decades, the United States saw a steady dismantling of the laws, regulations, programs and practices put in place to make real the promise of American democracy.
That is why, on Saturday, civil rights groups and their allies will rally outside the New York headquarters of the Koch Brothers to begin a march for the renewal of voting rights in America.
For the Koch Brothers and their kind, less democracy is better. They fund campaigns, with millions of dollars in checks that have helped elect the likes of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and Ohio Governor John Kasich. And ALEC has made it clear, through its ambitious “Public Safety and Elections Task Force,” that while it wants to dismantle any barriers corporate cash and billionaire bucks influencing elections, it wants very much to erect barriers to the primary tool that Americans who are not CEOs have to influence the politics and the government of the nation: voting.
That crude calculus, usually cloaked in bureaucracy and back-room dealmaking, came into full view in 2011.
Across the country, and to a greater extent than at any time since the last days of southern resistance to desegregation, voting rights were being systematically diminished rather than expanded.
ALEC has been organizing and promoting the assault, encouraging its legislative minions to enact rigid Voter ID laws and related attacks on voting rights in more than three dozen in states.
With their requirements that the millions of Americans who lack drivers licenses and other forms of official paperwork go out and purchase identification cards in order to cast ballots, the Voter ID push put in place new variations on an old evil: the poll tax.
“We are in the midst of the greatest coordinated legislative attack on voting rights since the dawn of Jim Crow,” says NAACP President Benjamin Jealous. “Voter ID laws are nothing but reincarnated poll taxes and literacy tests, and ex-felon voting bans serve the same purpose today as when they were created in the wake of the 15th Amendment guaranteeing ex-slaves the vote—suppressing voting numbers among people of color.”
Voter ID laws represent only the beginning of the assault on voter rights. In states across the country in 2011, conservative governors and legislators who had swept to power in the 2010 election moved to restrict access to the polls in other ways. They ended election-day registration programs in state such as Maine, ending a practice that had allowed new voters to come to the polls, fill out a simple form and cast a ballot. They restricted early-voting in states such as Ohio, making it dramatically harder for citizens to cast ballots in the run-up to an election. They scrapped weekend-voting in Ohio, where working men and women had been able to cast ballots on their days off. They placed new restrictions on voting by students at colleges and technical schools, even going so far in Wisconsin as to move the primary election date to when most students were on summer break. They reduced the number of polling places in some states, making it harder for voters who lack transportation to get to the polls. And after they established the Voter ID requirements in Wisconsin, and said that citizens had to go to the Department of Motor Vehicles to get the proper paperwork, they tried to reduce the number of DMV offices.
“For nearly a century, there were Jim Crow laws in place that discouraged people of color from voting, explains Wade Henderson, the president and CEO of The Leadership Council on Civil and Human Rights. “Today, there are different laws, but the objective is the same—to prevent millions from exercising their right to vote.”
No one who is serious about voting and elections misses the point of the project.
The point is not just to make it harder to vote. The point is to make it harder for citizens to elect legislators, governors, members of Congress and presidents who will regulate and tax multinational corporations such as Koch Industries, while at the same time establishing programs that meet the needs of the great mass of Americans. “Now, just as before, they are seeking to block us from voting in order to make it easier to come after our other rights,” says Mike Mulgrew, President of the United Federation of Teachers. “Everything we care about is at stake, from the right to a quality education to the right to a fair wage.”
It is with all of this in mind that the NAACP, the National Council of La Raza, the Asian American Legal Defense & Education Fund and allied civil rights and civil liberties organizations, churches and unions have endorsed the “Stand for Freedom” voting rights campaign, which will launch with a march Saturday from the offices of the Koch Brothers to the United Nations. At the United Nations, the groups will mark Human Rights Day by calling for an end to assaults on voting rights in the United States.
The choice of the Koch Brothers office as a starting point is not symbolic. It is practical. For decades, the Koch Brothers and their foundation have funded ALEC and other groups that are now driving the attack on voting rights in states across the country.
The people are pushing back. In November, Mainers voted by an overwhelming margin to restore election-day registration. In other states, voting rights has become a central political issue. And, now, that issue is being raised at the headquarters of the Koch Brothers — and the United Nations.
“From the beginning of our nation’s founding, Americans have understood that voting was fundamental to their pursuit of freedom and equal opportunity,” says Lillian Rodríguez López, President of the Hispanic Federation. “Any attempt to undermine the right to vote, especially when that effort is directed at historically marginalized groups, must be treated as an attack on the very ideals that created our country: democracy and equality. And that is why we stand up for freedom and continue to fight for the right to vote for all Americans.”
The Billionaires Who Would Pick the President of the United States: Charles and David Koch, Kenneth Langone and Paul “The Vulture” Singer…
Excerpts from Christiane Browne’s October 6, 2011 interview of Greg Palast about his book, “Vultures’ Picnic: In Pursuit of Petroleum Pigs, Power Pirates, and High-Finance Carnivores.”
Greg Palast reports on four billionaires who would like to buy the Presidency: Charles Koch, David Koch, Ken Lagone and Paul “The Vulture” Singer.
Learn more here:
This is how right-wing conservatives plan to finalize the destruction of America, turning it into a third world nation and police state ruled under fascist, authoritarian control.
David H. Koch, one of the billionaire brothers who runs Koch Industries, at the Lincoln Center in New York, in this July 9, 2008 file photo. (Photo: Robert Caplin / The New York Times)
On February 25, 2011, Florida State Representative Chris Dorworth (R-Lake Mary) introduced HB 1021. The bill sought to curtail the political power of unions by prohibiting public employers from deducting any amount from an employee’s pay for use by an employee organization (i.e., union dues) or for any political activity (i.e., the portion of union dues used for lobbying or for supporting candidates for office).
Furthermore, HB 1021 stated that, should a union seek to use any portion of dues independently collected from members for political activity, the union must obtain annual written authorization from each member.
In effect, this bill defunds public-sector unions—like AFSCME, SEIU, the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association—by making the collection of member dues an onerous, costly task. With public-sector unions denatured, they would no longer be able to stand in the way of radical free marketeers who plan to profit from the privatization of public services.
Given the similarities between HB 1021 and a rash of like-minded bills in states across the country, including Wisconsin, on March 30 a public records request was sent to Dorworth’s office seeking copies of all documents pertaining to the writing of HB 1021, including copies of any pieces of model legislation the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) may have provided.
Within an hour of submitting this request, Florida House Speaker Dean Cannon’s (R-Winter Park) Communications Director Katherine Betta responded: “We received a note from Representative Dorworth’s office regarding your request for records relating to the American Legislative Exchange Council and HB 1021. Please note that Mr. Dorworth’s legislative offices did not receive any materials from ALEC relating to this bill or any ‘model legislation’ from other states.”
But two weeks later Dorworth’s office delivered 87 pages of documents, mostly bill drafts and emails, detailing the evolution of what was to become HB 1021. Buried at the bottom of the stack was an 11-page bundle of neatly typed material, labeled “Paycheck Protection,” which consisted of three pieces of model legislation, with the words “Copyright, ALEC” at the end of each.
Dorworth legislative assistant Carolyn Johnson claims that, although Dorworth is an ALEC member, neither she nor her boss have any idea how the ALEC model legislation found its way into Dorworth’s office. Dorworth could not be reached for comment.
Enter the Koch Brothers
Nov. 2, 2010 saw a radical cohort of Republicans swept into office in states across the country.
When the legislative sessions began in January, the American news-consuming public was shocked by the tenacity of this new breed of Grand Old Partier as it set to the task of breaking public employee unions, dismantling state government and privatizing civic services.
While battles still rage in the nation’s legislatures and statehouses, mainstream media attention peaked in February and March with the culmination of the fight over Gov. Scott Walker’s budget bill AB 11, which sought to curtail the collective bargaining rights of government employees and thus disempower Wisconsin’s public sector unions.
When on February 23 the Buffalo Beast published recordings and transcripts of a prank call to Walker from a Beast reporter posing as billionaire GOP donor David Koch, it became apparent how intimately involved brothers David and Charles Koch were in Walker’s efforts to break public sector unions.
Subsequently, bloggers and editorialists began batting around possible scenarios involving myriad right-wing public policy foundations funded by the Koch brothers and proceeds of Wichita, Kan.-based Koch Industries (and other Koch-controlled corporations). During such speculation, one name arose as the favorite villain behind the multitude of bills aimed squarely at public employee unions. That name was ALEC (see sidebar detailing the organization’s Koch connections).
An exhaustive analysis of thousands of pages of documents obtained through public records requests from six states, as well as tax filings, lobby reports, legislative drafts and court records, reveal that these suddenly popular anti-public employee bills, while taking different forms from state to state, were indeed disseminated as “model legislation” by ALEC.
Not coincidentally, bills similar to those in Florida and Wisconsin have been introduced in Arizona, California, Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and Vermont.
The purported goal of this nationwide movement has been to reduce the budgetary burden posed by public employee salaries by limiting the right of public employees to collectively bargain for pay and other benefits. These restrictions, along with “paycheck protection” laws, curtail the political power of public employee unions by cutting off funds for political campaign and lobbying expenditures. These measures would effectively thwart attempts by public employee unions to resist privatization of government functions and to support candidates opposing elected officials who vote for corporate giveaways of public resources.
‘Publicopoly’ in play
ALEC contends that government agencies have an unfair monopoly on public goods and services. To change that situation, it has created a policy initiative to counter what it calls “Publicopoly.” ALEC’s stated aim is to provide “more effective, efficient government” via privatization—that is, the shifting of government functions to the private sector. ALEC lists its initiatives on its website (alec.org/publicopoly).
Though the specifics are secret and “restricted to members,” ALEC openly advocates privatizing public education, transportation and the regulation of public health, consumer safety and environmental quality including bringing in corporations to administer:
• Foster care, adoption services and child support payment processing.
• School support services such as cafeteria meals, custodial staff and transportation.
• Highway systems, with toll roads presented as a shining example.
• Surveiling and detaining convicted criminals.
• Ensuring the quality of wastewater treatment, drinking water, and solid waste services and facilities. (After all, when someone mentions a safe and secure public water supply, the voter’s next immediate thought is: “Only if it’s cost-effective!”)
To accomplish these initiatives, ALEC contends that “state governments can take an active role in determining which products and services should be privatized.” ALEC advocates three reforms: creating a “Private Enterprise Advisory Committee” to review if government agencies unfairly compete with the private sector; creating a special council that would contract with private vendors if they can “reduce the cost of government”; and creating legislation that would require government agencies to demonstrate “compelling public interest” in order to continue as public agencies. (Who then oversees these committees to ensure the private sector doesn’t unfairly profit by monopolizing public goods and services? One can only assume it is the same “Private Enterprise Advisory Committee.”)
ALEC nuts and bolts
ALEC is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization that in recent years has reported about $6.5 million in annual revenue. ALEC’s members include corporations, trade associations, think tanks and nearly a third (about 2,000) of the nation’s state legislators (virtually all Republican). According to the group’s promotional material, ALEC’s mission is to “advance the Jeffersonian principles of free markets, limited government, federalism, and individual liberty, through a nonpartisan public-private partnership of America’s state legislators, members of the private sector, the federal government, and general public.”
ALEC currently claims more than 250 corporations and special interest groups as private sector members. While the organization refuses to make a complete list of these private members available to the public, some known members include Exxon Mobil, the Corrections Corporation of America, AT&T, Pfizer Pharmaceuticals, Time Warner Cable, Comcast, Verizon, Wal-Mart, Phillip Morris International and Koch Industries, along with a host of right-wing think tanks and foundations.
ALEC is composed of nine task forces—(1) Public Safety and Elections, (2) Civil Justice, (3) Education, (4) Energy, Environment and Agriculture, (5) Commerce, Insurance and Economic Development, (6) Telecommunications and Information Technology, (7) Health and Human Services, (8) Tax and Fiscal Policy and (9) International Relations—each comprised of “Public Sector” members (legislators) and “Private Sector” members (corporations and interest groups).
Each of these task forces, which serve as the core of ALEC’s operations, generate model legislation that is then passed on to member lawmakers for introduction in their home assemblies. According to ALEC promotional material, each year member lawmakers introduce an average of 1,000 of these pieces of legislation nationwide, 17 percent of which are enacted. For 2009, ALEC claimed a total of 826 pieces of introduced legislation nationwide, 115 of which were passed into law—slightly below the average at 14 percent. ALEC does not offer its model legislation for public inspection.
ALEC refused to comment on any aspect of the material covered here.
The three pieces of model legislation contained in the ALEC “Paycheck Protection” bundle (archived at dbapress.com here) provided by Rep. Dorworth’s office were titled “Employee Rights Reform Act,” “Labor Organization Deductions Act” and “Political Funding Reform Act.”
Employee Rights Reform Act (ERRA): This bill establishes limitations on fees that may be charged to nonunion public employees who are part of a collective bargaining unit represented by a union.
ERRA states that no nonunion public employee may have more than a proportionate share of collective bargaining union costs withheld from their pay by a public employer. Chargeable activities are defined as expenditures for purposes of collective bargaining, contract administration and grievance adjustment. ERRA states that whether or not a public employer can deduct funds from a public employees pay for political activity—union organizing campaigns, contributing to political campaigns of elected officials, lobbying on behalf of their members, or raising money from their members to pay for union organizing campaigns—is dependent on “controlling court decisions.”
Labor Organizations Deductions Act (LODA): This is the only piece of the “Paycheck Protection” trilogy not aimed specifically at public employee unions (although the bill does name both the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers as entities that must comply with restrictions). LODA establishes a stringent set of criteria governing the means through which any labor organization may collect and use funds for political activity, such as lobbying, electoral and political activities, including contributions to any candidate, party or voter registration campaign.
LODA establishes criminal penalties for any labor organization found to have made a political contribution derived from dues or any other fee paid by union members. Further, LODA prohibits unions from soliciting funds for political use from any individual other than union members and their immediate family members.
Political Funding Reform Act (PFRA): While ERRA and LODA seek to significantly limit the amount and type of funds that may be deducted from employee pay—particularly as those funds may apply to union political activity—PFRA is designed to eliminate all withholding of public employee pay for use in any political activity. Simply put, under PFRA, unions would have to raise money for political purposes by directly fundraising to their members or other union supporters.
Florida: A Case Study
In the case of Florida’s HB 1021, e-mails provided by Rep. Dorworth’s office through a public records request reflect that the initial version of the bill had been drafted in January by then-Florida Chamber of Commerce (FCoC) Vice President of Government Affairs Adam Babington. A member of the FCoC Foundation’s board of trustees, Cincy Marsiglio, the senior manager of public affairs and government relations in Florida for Wal-Mart, is the Florida ALEC “private sector” chair (see sidebar below for more on ALEC’s public and private chairs). Babington’s original draft (evidently based on ALEC “Paycheck Protection” model legislation) underwent a revision aimed at curtailing the political activity of public employee unions. This revision was made by Florida State Senate staff who were working with Babington to create a Senate companion version of the bill.
This companion bill, SB 830, was sponsored by Sen. John Thrasher (R-Jacksonville). Thrasher worked for the influential Tallahassee lobby firm of Southern Strategy Group, Inc., from 2002 through his election to the Florida Senate in 2009, where he represented several FCoC and ALEC member corporations, many with interests in the privatization of state governmental functions (particularly in the areas of mental health and healthcare service contracting).
The primary actor on the Senate end of HB 1021’s formation was Andy Bardos, special counsel to Senate President Mike Haridopolos (R-Merrit Island). After a stringent anti-public employee union dues collecting provision was added by Bardos, Babington wrote in an e-mail to Dorworth and Johnson: “So, paycheck protection is about to go on steroids. Apparently the Senate wants to be more aggressive.”
Bardos, prior to joining the office of Senate President Haridopolos in early 2011, had worked since 2005 for the Florida law firm of GrayRobinson as an attorney specializing in governmental affairs.
Bardos’ former colleague, GrayRobinson attorney Fred Leonhardt, is currently on the board of directors of the FCoC, of which he was the former chair. Leonhardt is a member of Enterprise Florida, Inc., a “public-private partnership” that works as the economic development arm of the state.
Another director of Enterprise Florida is former Florida House Speaker Allan Bense (R-Panama City). Bense is the present chairman of FCoC, who derives a large portion of his annual income from a company he co-owns: GAC Contractors, Inc. As reported on his 2009 statement of financial interests (filed pursuant to his membership on the board of the quasi-public Enterprise Florida), Bense held nearly $5 million in GAC asssets, much of which was money earned from contracts to repair state and federal highways.
GAC is a prominent member of Associated Builders and Contractors, Inc. (ABC), which through its legislative efforts seeks to encourage the free flow of public-sector cash to nonunion private companies. ABC bills itself as being the nonunion “construction industry’s voice within the legislative, executive and judicial branches” of government. The bundled “Paycheck Protection” package containing ERRA, LODA and PFRA in Dorworth’s office had originated in ABC’s 2010 “legislative handbook.”
In addition to his FCoC, GAC and ABC connections, Bense is chair of the Florida-based, Koch-funded, ALEC-member public policy foundation, the James Madison Institute (JMI). FCoC baord member Leonhardt serves on the JMI board with Bense.
When asked why the FCoC was so deeply concerned with protecting the paychecks of public employees (to the point where FCoC top lobbyists were drafting legislation to such effect), FCoC Director of Public Affairs Edie Ousley declined to comment.
Both HB 1021 and SB 830 died in their respective chambers following pressure exerted on the FCoC by public employee union members.
According to materials obtained through a public records request, news of a large-scale opposition action made its way back to Dorworth in the form of an e-mail from Ousley, with the terse subject line “here’s the issue.” That e-mail contained a press release from a coalition of unions known as Floridians Outraged at the Chamber of Commerce’s Attack on Workers, which read in part: “Wednesday, April 20…Workers respond to attacks from the Chamber of Commerce… Labor organizations and members withdrew close to $10 million in funds from the Chamber’s largest banks.” The press release went on to indicate that the group was prepared to issue further “wave(s) of withdrawals” and other actions.
Weeks later, on May 7, the bills’ sponsors withdrew both bills from legislative hearings calendars.
Blueprint for Privatization
Should state employee unions be effectively prohibited from politicking, as “paycheck protection” legislation seeks to do, other pieces of ALEC model legislation seeking to privatize state functions would meet with less resistance. Three of these model bills—the Council on Efficient Government Act (CEGA), the State Council on Competitive Government Act (SCCGA) and the Public-Private Fair Competition Act (PPFCA)—call for the creation of state “councils” or “committees” tasked with streamlining state agency performance and identifying services to be outsourced to the private sector.
PPFCA calls for the broadest scope of privatization. The act seeks to prohibit state governments from “engaging in any commercial activity of any goods or services to or for government agencies or for public use which are also offered by private enterprise.” It also calls for the creation of “Private Enterprise Advisory Committees” (PEAC). The committee members—the majority of whom are business owners or corporate officers—would review what services, if any, government should continue to provide citizens.
The Nonprofit Roach Motel
Public records requests demonstrate a clear tradition of ALEC model legislation being passed from ALEC-member corporate lobbyists through the offices of ALEC’s elected public-sector chairs to other lawmakers. In essence, ALEC has created a web of lawmakers and public employees who act as lobbyists/agents on their behalf and on behalf of their corporate and special interest members.
It is important to note that ALEC, as a 501 (c) (3) entity, is strictly prohibited by federal tax code from taking part in the formation of legislation. In the past year, ALEC has vociferously insisted (since falling under increased scrutiny as a result of the July 2010 In These Times cover story, “Corporate Con Game,” which documented ALEC’s role in disseminating model legislation based on Arizona’s SB 1070), that it simply passes model legislation along to lawmakers. As such, ALEC claims it is not engaged in the crafting of actual legislation, nor is it engaged in lobbying.
Despite such protestations, ALEC is a conduit, an intermediary between Corporate America and the Republican Party—a legislative roach motel controlled by corporations, special interest groups and right-wing think tanks through which lawmakers (whose election campaigns are often funded by the same corporations and interest groups) gather model laws to take home and introduce in state legislatures.
Taken together, ALEC’s efforts to shape legislation, beguile lawmakers and privatize government services have one clear goal: to eliminate the public sector altogether.
Playing Fast and Loose With Nonprofit Status
ALEC annually spends more than $1 million for corporate lobbyists to meet state lawmakers at lavish retreats—lawmakers who will return home and try to shepherd ALEC’s corporate-sponsored “model legislation” into law.
However, through an accounting sleight of hand, ALEC hides the identity of the corporations that are paying for the lawmakers’ junkets and backing the group’s model legislation.
In recent years, ALEC has taken in about $6.5 million in tax-deductible donations: From 1999 through 2009, ALEC reported $743,446 in legislative (“public sector”) membership dues, with a two-year membership at $100; during the same 10-year period, ALEC reported $54,504,702 in “gifts,” “grants” and other contributions from its corporate and special interest members.
In 2009 alone, ALEC tax returns show that the group spent a combined $2,620,343 on organizing conferences and a membership services program that manages “the recruitment and retention of ALEC state legislator members” and “provides assistance to ALEC state chairs in raising state scholarship funds, tracking the expenditures of these funds, and ensuring that members of ALEC leadership are operating in accordance with ALEC policies and procedures.” In 2009, ALEC held $1,042,629 as “scholarship” funds to reimburse lawmakers attending ALEC functions. That’s listed on the tax returns not as an expenditure, but as a liability. Through this accounting trick, ALEC retains its tax-exempt status while simultaneously wining and dining thousands of the nation’s state lawmakers—who then go on to introduce ALEC’s legislation. In each state, ALEC has both a “public sector” and “private sector” chair.
In a memo to its “public sector” chairs, on Oct. 29, 2010, ALEC justifies its active role in creating model legislation while maintaining its not-for-profit status this way:
[L]aws are not passed, debated or adopted during this process and therefore no lobbying takes place. That process is done at the state legislatures. … Just like teachers, farmers and ranchers, senior citizens and other groups, businesses have the right to representation and to inform legislators about their industry.”
Case Study: Arizona
Documents released following a public records request to the office of then-Arizona Senate President Bob Burns (R-Peoria) indicate that in 2009 and 2010, Arizona ALEC lawmakers requested more than $60,000 in reimbursement for travel, lodging and registration fees from ALEC’s scholarship fund for their time at ALEC functions—including the December 2009 event at which State Senator Russell Pearce (R-Mesa) submitted his draft of SB 1070 for approval as a piece of ALEC model legislation, the law known as “breathing while Brown” to its critics. (See “Corporate Con Game: How the private prison industry helped shape Arizona’s anti-immigrant law,” In These Times, July 2010.)
Records indicate that Burns approved all of these requests. Disbursements ranged from around $1,000 to $3,000. This is a considerable sum, given that an Arizona legislator earns $24,000 per year and that the maximum allowable contribution from an individual or political action committee to legislative candidates in the state is $424.
But because the monies raised for the ALEC scholarship fund are donated by member corporations and their representatives, and because the identity of these donors is impossible to determine, ALEC may be operating in direct opposition to a provision of Arizona’s “gifting” law.
Arizona Revised Statutes (ARS), title 41-1232.03, section (I), states: “A person or organization shall not make a gift to or an expenditure on behalf of a member or employee of the legislature through another person or organization for the purpose of disguising the identity of the person making the gift or expenditure.” In addition, Arizona law requires lawmakers to disclose all “gifts” over $500.
Yet ALEC does not give “gifts,” according to ALEC Senior Director of Public Affairs Raegan Weber, based in Washington, D.C. “It’s not a ‘gift,’ ” she says. “It’s a ‘scholarship.’ We don’t give gifts. A gift is something given out of kindness. I’m gonna give you this. A scholarship has specific specifications which must be met.”
According to Weber, the scholarship funds do not come from ALEC. Rather, Weber says that all funds are raised in each state by either the state’s public or private sector chairs, independent of ALEC. After being raised, the funds are simply given to ALEC for the group to hold until each state’s public sector chairs request a disbursement, she says.
On Nov. 8, 2010, the Tucson chapter of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), a Quaker social justice organization, called on the Arizona Secretary of State and the Arizona Attorney General to investigate what it describes as ALEC’s “influence peddling.”
“Any rational person can look at what these corporations are doing through ALEC and on their own and know that essentially for-profit corporations are writing legislation in Arizona,” said Caroline Isaacs, AFSC program director. “The spirit of the law—which I think most of us believe is there to prevent money from buying undue influence in politics—is clearly being violated.”
When asked to provide a list of specific donors to the Arizona ALEC scholarship fund, Russell Smoldon, the ALEC Arizona “private sector” chair, utility lobbyist and a member of the ALEC Private Enterprise Board task force that raises those funds, declined to do so. “No. I don’t want to start scaring people off. I have a hard enough time raising money.”
ALEC and Its Tea Party Sugar Daddies
ALEC claims to be an independent, nonpartisan, public-private partnership, but the best metaphor for the organization is an aspen grove. An aspen grove appears to be a cluster of individual trees, but a look beneath the surface reveals that each tree is an offshoot of the same large root network, each tree genetically identical to the other.
In the case of ALEC, a common filament in that network is the Koch brothers, Charles and David. Through the profits of Wichita, Kan.-based Koch Industries (and other Koch-controlled corporations), the two billionaire brothers fund myriad right-wing public policy foundations.
ALEC has received significant funding from the Charles Koch Foundation (CKF), which also funds the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank. In 1974, Cato was originally incorporated as The Charles Koch Foundation. David Koch is currently on its board of directors.
David Koch is also a trustee of The Reason Foundation, a libertarian public policy institute and prominent ALEC member that promotes the privatization of government (and also receives CKF funding). Michael Flynn, Reason’s current director of government affairs, served as a director of ALEC policy and legislative activities/strategic initiatives for several years ending in 2003.
David Koch also currently chairs the Americans for Prosperity Foundation (AFPF), formerly known as the Citizens for a Sound Economy Educational Foundation (another prominent ALEC-contributor), largely funded by CKF and Koch Industries. Joining him on that board is Koch Industries Executive Vice President Richard Fink, who is also the former executive vice president of the Mercatus Center, yet another Koch-funded, right-wing ALEC public policy member.
In 2003, AFPF incarnated two more foundations: Americans for Prosperity and FreedomWorks. As noted in AFPF’s 2003 tax records, the group paid U.S. House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-Texas) $429,583, via FreedomWorks, as a “consultant”–his first year salary as chairman of FreedomWorks.
As Kate Zernike noted in our October 2010 cover story, “Tea Party Confidential,” Armey and the group’s president Matt Kibbe wrote an op-ed article in 2007 proposing the Boston Tea Party as a model for putting grassroots pressure on a central government. She writes, “Presaging Tea Party tactics in the summer of 2009, they described how Samuel Adams packed town hall meetings with his supporters to drown out Tory voices and used each new British policy or tax as ‘an excuse to rally new recruits to the cause of American independence.’ They wrote, ‘Adams was the first American to recognize that “it does not require a majority to prevail, but rather, an irate, tireless minority keen to set brush fires in people’s minds.’ “
Beginning in 2009, FreedomWorks was instrumental in creating the faux-populist Tea Party. The mainstream media uncritically hyped the scores of Tea Party tax day protests orchestrated by FreedomWorks and the National Taxpayers Union (another Koch-funded ALEC group headed by former ALEC executive director Duane Parde), thus helping enable unprecedented Republican legislative majorities in states across the nation.
The source material for this story, including ALEC model legislation and an extended version of this story, is archived by D.B.A. Press at dbapress.com, a website maintained by the author.