highplainsdem's Journal - Archives
This is by Mike Lofgren, who retired in June after 28 years as a Congressional staffer, inclding 16 years as a professional staff member on the Republican side of both the House and Senate Budget Committees.
What he has to say is damning for Republicans, but he doesn't spare Democrats, either.
Please read this in its entiretly There's way too much important stuff to quote all the important sections.
The reader may think that I am attributing Svengali-like powers to GOP operatives able to manipulate a zombie base to do their bidding. It is more complicated than that. Historical circumstances produced the raw material: the deindustrialization and financialization of America since about 1970 has spawned an increasingly downscale white middle class - without job security (or even without jobs), with pensions and health benefits evaporating and with their principal asset deflating in the collapse of the housing bubble. Their fears are not imaginary; their standard of living is shrinking.
What do the Democrats offer these people? Essentially nothing. Democratic Leadership Council-style "centrist" Democrats were among the biggest promoters of disastrous trade deals in the 1990s that outsourced jobs abroad: NAFTA, World Trade Organization, permanent most-favored-nation status for China. At the same time, the identity politics/lifestyle wing of the Democratic Party was seen as a too illegal immigrant-friendly by downscaled and outsourced whites.<3>
While Democrats temporized, or even dismissed the fears of the white working class as racist or nativist, Republicans went to work. To be sure, the business wing of the Republican Party consists of the most energetic outsourcers, wage cutters and hirers of sub-minimum wage immigrant labor to be found anywhere on the globe. But the faux-populist wing of the party, knowing the mental compartmentalization that occurs in most low-information voters, played on the fears of that same white working class to focus their anger on scapegoats that do no damage to corporations' bottom lines: instead of raising the minimum wage, let's build a wall on the Southern border (then hire a defense contractor to incompetently manage it). Instead of predatory bankers, it's evil Muslims. Or evil gays. Or evil abortionists.
How do they manage to do this? Because Democrats ceded the field. Above all, they do not understand language. Their initiatives are posed in impenetrable policy-speak: the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The what? - can anyone even remember it? No wonder the pejorative "Obamacare" won out. Contrast that with the Republicans' Patriot Act. You're a patriot, aren't you? Does anyone at the GED level have a clue what a Stimulus Bill is supposed to be? Why didn't the White House call it the Jobs Bill and keep pounding on that theme?
Lofgren also says that the Republican Party of 2011 believes in only three tenets, with the rest of their platform just window dressing. These are their core beliefs:
1. They care solely and exclusively about their rich contributors.
2. They "worship at the altar of Mars" in their enthusiasm for invading other countries.
3. They pander to religious fundamentalists, resulting in the normalizing of what would once have been considered reactionary or quaint beliefs, and also resulting in the spread of anti-intellectualism and hostility to science.
more about its results.
I ran across one example of the right-wing spin this afternoon while checking Google News. This is from John Fund at the Wall Street Journal:
Polling Entitlement Reform
A CBS News/New York Times poll reports that a plurality of Americans approve of Rep. Paul Ryan's Medicare reforms.
By JOHN FUND
The CBS News/New York Times poll is thought to skew a little to the left due to its tendency to oversample Democrats. That's why Washington insiders sat up and took notice on Good Friday, when the poll reported that a plurality of Americans actually approve of GOP Rep. Paul Ryan's Medicare reforms.
A startling 47% approved of changing Medicare from a program in which the government "pays doctors and hospitals for treating seniors" to a program in which the government "helps seniors purchase private health insurance." Only 41% disagreed.
This is the PDF file for the poll:
Some numbers Fund doesn't mention.
From page 15:
41% of those polled give Bush most of the blame for the current federal budget deficit. Only 14% blame President Obama.
Only 29% think a major reduction in the deficit would help with job creation.
56% say providing health care coverage for the poor is the responsibility of the federal government.
76% say providing health care coverage for the elderly is the responsibility of the federal government.
58% would be in favor of reducing government spending on people like themselves, IF it meant raising taxes on people like themselves.
BUT -- on page 16:
45% would be in favor of cuts in defense spending to cut the deficit, as opposed to only 21% who'd cut Medicare and 17% who'd cut Social Security.
61% say Medicare is worth the cost of the program to taxpayers.
72% favor raising taxes on those making more than $250,000 a year, to reduce the deficit.
On page 17:
56% would rather increase taxes to keep Medicare going, as opposed to 28% who'd favor reducing benefits.
The next question, question 54, asks: "If you HAD to choose ONE, which of the following changes to Medicare benefits would you prefer in order to reduce the federal budget deficit: 1. raising the age people start receiving Medicare benefits, OR 2. raising the premiums all Medicare recipients have to pay, OR 3. raising the premiums Medicare recipients who have high-incomes have to pay OR
4. covering fewer treatments?"
The overwhelming favorite was raising premiums for high-income Medicare recipients. 49% chose that.
And this was question 55, which John Fund latched onto:
"In order to reduce the budget deficit, it has been proposed that Medicare should be
changed from a program in which the government pays doctors and hospitals for treating
seniors to a program in which the government helps seniors purchase private health
insurance. Would you approve or disapprove of changing Medicare in this way?"
47% approved, 41% disapproved, and 12% didn't know.
Of course that question omits the fact that seniors would be left paying for much of their own health care and insurance costs, even with vouchers.
Anyway, THIS is what you're going to see those on the right trumpeting in the near future as proof that more Americans approve of the Ryan plan than disapprove of it.
I'd say the other numbers in that poll are more important. And they show clearly that Americans don't approve of Ryan's plan to cut taxes on the rich, and they think higher Medicare costs should be paid by those with higher incomes.
And if they don't make the right choice, taxing the rich more, they'll eventually destroy our entire society, because this society will not survive if it's run by tame politicians serving plutocrats blinded by greed.
Robert Reich made a strong case for raising taxes on the rich in his blog post yesterday:
Here’s the truth: The only way America can reduce the long-term budget deficit, maintain vital services, protect Social Security and Medicare, invest more in education and infrastructure, and not raise taxes on the working middle class is by raising taxes on the super rich.
Even if we got rid of corporate welfare subsidies for big oil, big agriculture, and big Pharma – even if we cut back on our bloated defense budget – it wouldn’t be nearly enough.
If the rich were taxed at the same rates they were half a century ago, they’d be paying in over $350 billion more this year alone, which translates into trillions over the next decade. That’s enough to accomplish everything the nation needs while also reducing future deficits.
If we also cut what we don’t need (corporate welfare and bloated defense), taxes could be reduced for everyone earning under $80,000, too. And with a single payer health-care system – Medicare for all – instead of a gaggle of for-profit providers, the nation could save billions more.
The NBC/WSJ poll in late February showed that the vast majority of Americans -- 81% -- are aware that we need to raise taxes on the rich, and they're in favor of it.
We have an obvious solution to this budget crisis, a solution that's overwhelmingly popular with voters.
What we don't have, at this time, are enough politicians who are brave enough to frame the argument, bolster it with statistics, and REPEAT IT OFTEN ENOUGH AND LOUDLY ENOUGH to override the right-wing noise machine, which has in effect made taxing the rich the new third rail of American politics.
We've seen entirely too much compromise already. Continuing to compromise with the Republicans while they're the ones framing the debate might not destroy the Democratic base immediately, but it does lead to step-by-step destruction.
And for that matter, you can't have ANY hope of achieving a compromise that's in any way helpful to your side if you start out by letting the other side frame the debate.
It's time for Democratic politicians to return to traditional, populist arguments.
It's time for them to start reminding the public of what tax rates on the rich used to be, and emphasizing how much restoring those tax rates will help now.
Former state Rep. Phil Montgomery named PSC chairman
By Thomas Content of the Journal Sentinel
March 28, 2011
Former state lawmaker Phil Montgomery will chair the state Public Service Commission, Gov. Scott Walker announced Monday.
Montgomery, a Republican who represented the Green Bay area in the Legislature, worked on utility, energy and telecommunications issues during his 12 years as a state representative. He served as chairman of the Assembly's energy and utilities committee.
During his 12 years on the Legislature, Montgomery received $24,540 in campaign contributions from energy-related companies and organizations and $10,800 from the companies in the telecommunications and computer sector, according to statistics from the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign's database. The only sector that provided more to Montgomery than energy was manufacturing.
Until January, Montgomery served on the board of directors of the American Legislative Exchange Council, a national organization that works on development of state-level polices that promote limited government, free markets and federalism.
Montgomery said his getting so much financial backing from industry "was not a concern in the Legislature; it's not a concern now. It's about moving policy forward."
Of course it's pro-industry policy.
This is ALEC's press release about naming Montgomery its Legislator of the Year in 2005:
American Legislative Exchange Council
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
THURSDAY, AUGUST 18, 2005
Wisconsin State Representative Phil Montgomery Receives "Legislator of the Year" Award
ALEC Honors Montgomery for Supporting Free Market and Limited Government Principles
(Washington, DC) The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) honored Wisconsin State Representative Phil Montgomery with the prestigious "Legislator of the Year" award at the organization's 32nd Annual Meeting in Grapevine, Texas on Thursday, August 4, 2005.
ALEC's 2005 National Chairman, Representative Earl Ehrhart (GA) said, "Representative Montgomery works hard to implement Jeffersonian principles and restore our founder's principles of individual liberty, limited government and the free market.
"As chairman of the Telecommunication and Information Technology Task Force's Subcommittee on Competition he has taken an active role in bringing different sides of the subcommittee together to reach compromises on divisive issues."
Representative Phil Montgomery has been an ALEC member since 1999. He serves as chairman of the Telecommunications & Information Technology Task Force's Competition Subcommittee. As a legislator, he has led the fight against government intrusion in the broadband marketplace, and has pursued competitive policies to help the industry grow and provide consumer services at affordable prices.
ALEC offers state legislators the opportunity to interact with some of America's most influential public and private sector leaders to discuss critical issues facing the states and nation today. It is the nation's largest nonpartisan, individual membership association of state legislators with over 2,400 members representing all fifty states, and 96 alumni serving in the U.S. Congress.
Notice they're praising him for leading "the fight against government intrusion in the broadband marketplace."
According to Commmon Cause
what that really means is carrying water for the telecom industry by pushing "legislation that bars or makes it difficult for local governments to offer broadband Internet services to their citizens, even in areas where the telecom giants have determined it's not economically worthwhile to offer such service, such as rural and low-income areas (view ALEC's "model bill" online). ALEC has backed such bills in a number of states, including Louisiana,<27> Nebraska,<28> and Wisconsin.<29>" (The note on Wisconsin led me to look for the press release about MOntgomery being named ALEC's Legislator of the Year.)
More on what Montgomery did for ALEC in the Progressive States Network's report on ALEC, "Governing the Nation from the Statehouses":
TELECOMS: BLOCKING MUNICIPAL BROADBAND AT EXPENSE OF HIGH TECH
In August 2005, ALEC honored Wisconsin State Representative Phil Montgomery with its “Legislator of the Year” award for his Wisconsin legislative efforts against local government plans for municipally-owned broadband networks and his role in ALEC in taking the campaign national. This campaign both reflects ALEC’s effective representation of its own corporate telecom clients, and the way it serves that narrow if powerful economic base at the expense of the broader economic interest.
Rolling Back Local Action: Across the country, ALEC has helped draft state legislation to block or hamstring cities that sought to bypass high-cost telecom services in favor of building cheaper or even free Internet services for their residents. ALEC’s research ally, the Heartland Institute, has been particularly obsessed with the issue, churning out multiple research attacks on the proposed municipal networks.
By June 2005, lobbying by ALEC and its telecom company backers had pushed through legislation in Arkansas, Florida, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, and Washington State to limit municipal broadband networks.
Montgomery was "chairman of the Telecommunication and Information Technology Task Force's Subcommittee on Competition" according to that ALEC press release in 2005.
More recently he was on ALEC's Board of Directors, and this is their announcement in May of last year about his plans to retire soon:
Wisconsin Representative Phil Montgomery Announces His Retirement
May 7, 2010
Washington, D.C.--Our good friend and colleague Phil Montgomery, Wisconsin State representative and long time ALEC member, has announced his retirement from the State Assembly on Friday, May 7th. Phil will continue to serve his constituents and remain on the ALEC Board until the completion of his legislative term which will be the end of this year. He was first elected in 1998, from the 4th Assembly District, which includes the villages of Allouez and Ashwaubenon, and parts of the cities of Green Bay and De Pere.
Phil’s outstanding leadership and initiative has been instrumental in making ALEC a better and more effective organization. It has been a great pleasure to serve with him on the ALEC Board of Directors and his wit and wisdom will be missed. We all wish him the very best in his future endeavors and hope that he will remain an active participant in ALEC.
Oh, I'm sure he will "remain an active participant in ALEC."
I'm sure, too, that Walker was planning to appoint Montgomery well before Professor Cronon drew lot of attention to ALEC.
And this is one of the reasons for the Republcans' vindictive demand for Cronon's emails.
There have been some other topics here speculating on why we're seeing so much right-wing state legislation introduced at once, even though it's provoking a backlash, with approval ratings for these governors dropping and some state legislators facing recalls within months.
In some ways, it looks like a political kamikaze mission. Rachel Maddow was commenting the other night on how politically stupid these bills seem, when they're so unpopular with voters.
But she's assuming -- many of us are assuming -- that these politicians are seriously interested in re-election.
I'm not so sure they are.
As has been posted in other topics here, both Ohio's John Kasich and Florida's Rick Scott stand to make a lot of money from "reforms" they're pushing.
Others, like Wisconsin's Scott Walker, probably think that no matter how much trouble they get into in their own state, they'll have a better shot at national office as they get national publicity for legislation that appeals to the GOP's right-wing base, who'll be more likely to applaud "budget reforms" when they don't personally know anyone hurt by them.
So I really don't think those governors care all that much about a backlash from the voters who elected them and now have buyer's remorse.
State legislators are probably more nervous, but many of them are also likely to profit directly or indirectly from these "reforms" that steal from the poor and middle class (or the entire state and its future citizens, when the plans are something like Ohio's plan to open state parks to fracking), in order to give to the rich and corporations. And those legislators who are most worried can probably be bullied into line by the governor and legislative and party officials.
So they're trying to pass as much of this legislation as they can, all at once.
This will also allow a bit more time for the backlash to subside before the next election, if it does subside. I suspect that's one way those who are planning to hit (and loot) and run are reassuring those who'd like to get re-elected.
The media won't be all that likely to revisit old stories, after all.
And if legislators in different states tackle all these bills at once, the media can't cover them as well. Especially the national media, from which many people get most of their news, now that fewer read newspapers.
The media should become more aware of just what's going on and how widespread this is. But look how long it's taken the media to notice how much ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, has to do with the introduction of all these right-wing cookie-cutter bills.
Means, motive and opportunity. The GOP has all three right now, in the states they control.
And the perps getting the most attention probably don't plan to stick around after these legislative crimes.
Real reason behind decision to derail high-speed rail
March 19, 2011|By Curt Levine
Rick Scott's decision to reject federal funds to construct Florida's high-speed rail project was no surprise to observers who knew Scott's game plan. When Scott appointed Robert Poole as his transportation advisor, it sounded the death knell for any type of non-highway-based mass-transit public transportation projects in Florida during Scott's administration.
Poole is director of transportation policy at the Reason Foundation, a right-wing lobby group of road-based transportation industrial interests, including petroleum, asphalt and rubber-tire manufacturers. And, not coincidentally, Reason receives substantial funding by the ultraconservative billionaire Koch brothers. David Koch serves as a Reason trustee.
Scott claimed he was rejecting federal funding for Florida's high-speed rail project based upon a Reason Foundation report of Jan. 6, 2011, authored by Wendell Cox, head of the Wendell Cox Consultancy. Cox claims to be a disinterested, independent transportation consultant, but has long been known as an opponent of rail transit projects and on the roster of the Reason Foundation and other highway promoters such as the American Highway Users Alliance, a pro-highway construction lobby group.
The Reason Foundation report urged Scott to cancel the high-speed rail project "as Wisconsin and Ohio have recently done." Scott complied. Will Florida be the next Wisconsin?
One of the paragraphs snipped out there is about Jeb Bush, who "relied on Poole and the Reason Foundation as cover" when he derailed plans for a bullet train after Floridians had voted for it. His decision to do so makes much more sense when you know who's behind the Reason Foundation.
Curt Levine, who wrote this piece, is a former Florida state representative.
I ran across the latest in this series today while checking Google News for stories on the Kochs, but it had been announced at DeSmogBlog.com last week:
14 March 11
Major Investigative Series Into US-Canada Tar Sands Politics Launched Today at The Tyee
Anyone concerned or simply intrigued by the controversy over Canada's climate-wrecking tar sands needs to check out The Tyee homepage every day for the next few weeks. The Tyee's tar sands investigative reporter Geoff Dembicki today released the first installment of his upcoming series exploring the intense lobbying battles taking place right now in Washington, D.C. over the future of tar sands development vis-a-vis the United States' oil addiction.
The Tyee is an independent Canadian web magazine:
Link to Dembicki's bio at the Tyee, which lists his stories, most recent first:
This is the series so far, in chronological order:
In America's Capital, a Fierce Fight over Oil Sands
Today begins The Tyee's major series reported from Washington on the intense, high stakes political struggle fueled by Alberta crude.
14 Mar 2011
Breakfast With the Oil Sands' Top Salesman
Meet Tom Corcoran, the ultra-Republican hired to stop clean energy bills that threaten the flow of Alberta crude.
15 Mar 2011
Canada Teams with Oil Lobby to Fight US Clean Energy Clause
In tandem with Ottawa and Alberta, top oil sands lobbyist Tom Corcoran keeps chipping away at Section 526.
16 Mar 2011
The Battle to Block Low Carbon Fuel Standards
How the oil sands lobby and a 'supportive' Canadian government defeated US lawmakers trying to make fuels greener.
17 Mar 2011
How Enviros Helped Block a Pipeline Worth Billions
Battlers against the Keystone XL say they're safeguarding a massive aquifer, the climate, and Canada's reputation.
21 March 2011
The Kochs: Oil Sands Billionaires Bankrolling US Right
They process about one in four barrels of US-bound Alberta bitumen, and pump millions of dollars into highly conservative, anti-green causes.
22 March 2011
His earlier articles look interesting, too.
I've posted that link in a reply (# 111) in my more general topic about ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council:
But after seeing topics here from people wondering what's going on -- what's behind this legislative blitz targeting state pensions and so on -- I decided it needed its own topic. (Please read the general topic if you don't know what ALEC is, though, since it's important that you realize how much influence they have.)
Basically this 40-page publication is their blueprint for crippling and privatizing state governments, selling off public property, and making changes in employee benefits that will give them a rationale for union-busting.
Look at the table of contents for just one section:
IV. Tools to Control Costs and Improve Government Efficiency
A. Adopt a State Hiring Freeze
B. Reform State Pensions
C. Restructure State Retiree Health Care Plans
D. Eliminate Positions Vacant More Than Six Months
E. Delay Automatic Pay Increases
F. Adopt Activity-Based Costing
G. Adopt a Sunset Review Process for State Agencies, Boards, and Commissions
H. Allow the State Auditor to Conduct Performance Audits
I. Establish a System of Independent Recovery Audits for Improper Payments of Taxpayer Funds
J. Embrace the Expanded Use of Privatization and Competitive Contracting
K. Establish a State Privatization and Efficiency Council
L. Create a Statewide Real Property Inventory and Search the
Balance Sheet for Asset Sale and Lease Opportunities
M. Achieve Savings Through Employee Incentive Programs
B & C are the goals that involve union-busting.
J & L will turn state services and property over to private businesses and individuals.
The two most common and effective ways of extracting
value from government assets are asset divestiture (the
outright sale of government land or assets) and asset
leases (long-term leases of public assets to private sector
investor-operators). Government asset sales and leases
can take a variety of forms. In some cases, government
entities sell real property outright, in either an “as is”
or “entitled” state (having secured necessary zoning ap-
proval). In other cases, these transactions are established
as a long-term lease agreement or concession, particu-
larly for revenue-generating enterprises like a golf course,
toll road, or parking facility. In still other cases, such as
government-owned buildings, approaches include sale-
leasebacks, where the private sector purchases the prop-
erty for a fixed price and agrees to lease back the facility
to the government entity for an agreed upon period of
time. Importantly, the government entity can receive a
lump-sum cash payment in all three scenarios.
Incentivize quick identification and disposal. State
officials should develop a system to disburse some
portion of the proceeds from real property and
asset sales to programs and departments, provid-
ing an incentive for those departments to partici-
pate in the divesture process. Agencies that iden-
tify assets for divestiture should benefit from those
sales. For example, the department that operated
the surplus property (parks, etc.) should be given a
“commission” for helping identify unneeded prop-
erty—perhaps 10 percent of proceeds—which
could be used for needed capital upgrades or other
purposes. As it stands, departments have few incen-
tives to seek divestiture opportunities because
they receive none of the benefits of surplus sales.
• Contract with the private sector to conduct a
market-value disposal of surplus property. Such
opportunities include partnering with local private
real estate brokers. Additionally, rather than con-
ducting its own live auctions, the state can employ
readily available online auction markets for the dis-
posal of property. Whereas live auctions require a
physical presence and severely limit participation,
online auctions are global in their reach and par-
THIS is the more formal plan for what some rightwingers are referring to as the "yard sale" they want to have of government property, including government land whose natural resources can be exploited.
Of course this will also benefit local realtors, as this publication explains. And sales should be open to people around the globe -- after all, maybe a Saudi prince would be interested in a state park that they decide is no longer needed. And if the auctions are online, you don't have to worry about them possibly being disrupted by, for instance, pesky citizens wondering why their favorite parks are being sold. And make sure that state employees who identify property that can be sold off are "incentivized" by being given their cut, a 10% commission for such things as "capital upgrades" and "other purposes" that could be lavishly remodeled offices, luxurious junkets, etc.
Oh, and before you think only state parks would be at risk -- you should know that ALEC is also behind legislation in some states to claim the right to use eminent domain to seize federal lands and make them state property.
See reply 46 in the general topic about ALEC:
They're opposed to the federal government designating land to be protected from development, or creating new national monuments.
The National Poison Data System - probably the GOP's real target in defunding poison control centers
It seems inexplicable to most of us that the GOP would want to defund poison control centers, which do so much good.
But it makes sense if your corporate donors want to limit the amount of information collected on how harmful various products are.
That page about the NPDS, on the American Association of Poison Control Centers website, explains that their data can "help provide evidence for product repackaging, recalls, bans, and over the counter status changes." Which makes it extremely important and helpful to consumers, but a threat to business profits.
A similar threat is posed by something else the GOP is planning to defund now -- the Consumer Product Safety Commission's public complaint database.
It isn't that the GOP is out to poison us, as some have said.
It's just that they're less concerned about people (and animals) being poisoned than they are about their donors' profits. Databases showing which products are harmful are a threat to those profits.
Those who would destroy or further limit the rights of organized labor -- those who would cripple collective bargaining or prevent organization of the unorganized -- do a disservice to the cause of democracy.
Fifty years or so ago the American Labor Movement was little more than a group of dreamers, and look at it now. From coast to coast, in factories, stores, warehouse and business establishments of all kinds, industrial democracy is at work.
Employees, represented by free and democratic trade unions of their own choosing, participate actively in determining their wages, hours and working conditions. Their living standards are the highest in the world. Their job rights are protected by collective bargaining agreements. They have fringe benefits that were unheard of less than a generation ago.
Our labor unions are not narrow, self-seeking groups. They have raised wages, shortened hours and provided supplemental benefits. Through collective bargaining and grievance procedures, they have brought justice and democracy to the shop floor. But their work goes beyond their own jobs, and even beyond our borders.
Our unions have fought for aid to education, for better housing, for development of our national resources, and for saving the family-sized farms. They have spoken, not for narrow self-interest, but for the public interest and for the people.
-- John F. Kennedy * August 30, 1960
Posted: March 7, 2011 06:01 PM
ALEC: The Behind the Scenes Player in the States' Fight Against the Middle Class
One of the most influential organization which connects state legislators with corporate money and corporate think tanks to influence pro-corporate, anti-union state legislation is the secretive American Legislative Exchange Council, often known as ALEC. Funded by some of the largest corporations based in the United States, ALEC takes the policy ideas of corporate-friendly think tanks, turns them into hundreds of "model legislation" bills undermining unions, blocking environmental protections, opposing health care reform, and supporting the tobacco and private prison industries.
ALEC has two kind of members:
1. State legislators who pay $50 per year in dues and in exchange get junkets to luxury resorts, free or heavily subsidized vacations for their families, and other fringe benefits including free child-care and medical tests, Broadway shows, and dinners at expensive restaurants. ALEC's membership includes 2,400 state legislators, which is over 30% of all state lawmakers in the country.
2. Over 300 corporate sponsors who pay up to $50,000 per year in dues plus up to $5,000 to sit on industry-specific task forces in their areas of interest such as energy, healthcare, telecommunications and taxes. The task forces write and approve the model legislation that conforms to the business interests of their corporate members. Tax records indicate that corporations collectively pay as much as $6 million a year. The corporate executives and their lobbyists then get substantial face time with the state legislators at ALEC's retreats and other events.
According to its website, the corporate funders currently on ALEC's Private Enterprise board include Koch Industries, Altria, Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKlein, Pfizer, Reynolds American Inc. (the parent company of cigarette maker R.J. Reynolds), Energy Future Holdings, Peabody Energy, PhRMA, AT&T, UPS, Wal-Mart Stores Inc., and State Farm Insurance.
I found out about ALEC's role in pro-business rightwing legislation across the country after reading about its role in new legislation designed to keep students and others from voting.
After finding out just how enormous its role is, I posted a separate topic about it
with links to more info on Alec.
But I want to give this article by Miles Mogulescu more attention, since this is apparently the article he posted late last month, which Huffington Post then removed:
There's a reply from quiller4 there saying the removal was due to "attribution issues" but no further info was given, including where that information had come from.
Anyway, the article is back, a week and a half after the original publication, and apparently shortened (the first version had been part 1 of 2) and with a different title. It had been titled "Wisconsin is Part of Nationwide Corporate-Funded Movement to Destroy Unions and Undermine the Middle Class."
Please share and tweet about this, whether this Miles Mogulsecu article or my other topic about ALEC (where I'll add a reply linking to this topic).
ALEC needs a lot more attention. Voters need to know how much legistlation has been written by this group. It's actually considered a CHARITY for tax purposes, something I explain in one of the replies in my topic about ALEC, the reply about a Fortune article. And the way ALEC is being used to craft pro-business rightwing legislation across the country makes regular lobbying seem almost like amateur hour by comparison. No wonder they're trying to stay under the radar.
Please read that topic
for more on this very powerful organization. As Mogulescu says, this "goes far beyond the Koch brothers."
And, not surprisingly, the Koch brothers are involved.
I'm talking about the American Legislative Exchange Council.
I don't recall even hearing of this group till I read about its model legislation to disenfranchise many voters, including students, which I posted about in another topic:
It's likely I did hear of it before but the name of the group, and its attempts to change legislation across the country, didn't register as much as they should have.
If I had been more aware of it, I might not have been wondering, as I'd found myself wondering in recent days, just who was coordinating the very similar rightwing legislation that was being pushed in so many legislatures across the country. Rightwing legislators often don't seem very bright, and this nationwide attempt to change so many policies, so quickly, just seemed too well crafted not to be coordinated. Tonight I found out that it is, and which group is providing the model legislation.
Since other DUers might also be unaware of ALEC, I made the subject line of this OP attention-getting.
I think most DUers are aware there is a real basis for Hillary Clinton's often-derided comment about the "vast rightwing conspiracy" -- and it has everything to do with billionaires who met decades ago to plan how to shove American to the right and limit taxes and government regulation of their businesses.
The same group, basically, that's funding ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council.
This is their website
and this is their Model Legislation section
which provides rightwing legislators with model legislation in these areas:
Commerce, Insurance, and Economic Development
Energy, Environment, and Agriculture
Health and Human Services
Public Safety and Elections
Tax and Fiscal Policy
Telecommunications and Information Technology
From the Wikipedia article on ALEC:
More than thirty years ago, a small group of state legislators and conservative policy advocates met in Chicago to implement a vision: A nonpartisan membership association for state lawmakers who shared a common belief in limited government, free markets, federalism, and individual liberty. Their vision and initiative resulted in the creation of a voluntary membership association for people who believed that government closest to the people was fundamentally more effective, more just, and a better guarantor of freedom than the distant, bloated federal government in Washington, D.C.<3>
At that meeting in September 1973, state legislators, including then Illinois State Representative Henry Hyde, activist Paul Weyrich, and Lou Barnett, a veteran of then Gov. Ronald Reagan's 1968 presidential campaign, together with a handful of others, launched the American Legislative Exchange Council. Among those who were involved with ALEC in its formative years were: Bob Kasten and Tommy Thompson of Wisconsin; John Engler of Michigan; Terry Branstad of Iowa, and John Kasich of Ohio, all of whom moved on to become governors or Members of Congress. Congressional members who were active during this same period included Senators John Buckley of New York and Jesse Helms of North Carolina, as well as Congressmen Phil Crane of Illinois and Jack Kemp of New York.<3>
ALEC has approximately three hundred private sector members including corporations, state and national think tanks, and trade associations. Some corporations and trade groups that have supported ALEC include: American Nuclear Energy Council, American Petroleum Institute, Coors Brewing Company, Texaco, Pharmaceutical Research & Manufacturers of America, Philip Morris, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco, VISA, Exxon Mobil, the National Rifle Association, Amway, Koch Industries, and others. Groups critical of ALEC claim that the organization is controlled by the entities that fund it, subsequently promoting donors' agendas and goals, along with attempting to advance legislation that favors their interests.<11><12> NPR reported that the Corrections Corporation of America was present at meetings when legislators were introduced to model immigration laws, used for example as the template for Arizona SB 1070, passed in 2010.<13> The report suggested that the group could be used to avoid state laws requiring legislators to disclose meetings with and gifts from politically unpopular corporations.<14> Shortly after the report was published, ALEC released a response statement addressing some of NPR's accusations.<15>
People for the American Way, the self-proclaimed left-wing advocacy group, refers to ALEC as "a right-wing public policy organization with strong ties to major corporations, trade associations and right-wing politicians" with an agenda that includes "challenging government restrictions on corporate pollution, limiting government regulations of commerce, privatizing public services, and representing the interests of the corporations that make up its supporters." <16>
This 1999 Washington Post story says Richard Mellon Scaife kept ALEC going in its early years:
ALEC makes a mark with its model legislation. The last time it counted (1995-96), 132 ALEC bills were enacted in various states, from charter school legislation to pro-business bills on environmental and regulatory topics. Many states used its version of welfare reform legislation.
ALEC is unabashedly pro-business. Its expert task forces, which write the model legislation, are composed of legislators and business representatives. About two-thirds of ALEC's $6 million budget comes from corporate contributions.
Scaife has given ALEC more than $2 million since 1975, keeping the group alive in its early years. Now his donations ($75,000 last year) are an insignificant part of its budget.
ALEC prefers to stay under the radar. I suppose they realize voters would be turned off if they knew how much Republican legislation came from model bills drafted by corporations.
This 2010 article from Physician for a National Health Program explains how ALEC was operating in Arizona:
Another article on ALEC, this one from 2005:
Even the politically aware can be forgiven for their ignorance about this conservative ghostbuster. ALEC – the American Legislative Exchange Council – does its best to appear innocuous and fly beneath the radar. In fact, it bills itself as “the nation’s largest bipartisan, individual membership organization of state legislators” that seeks to “advance…Jeffersonian principles.”
Of course, when ALEC says bipartisan, it is referring to the award it recently gave Senator Zell Miller. And by Jeffersonian principles, ALEC apparently means turning legislators into corporate whores. Less than 1% of ALEC’s funding comes from legislator members. The bulk comes from large corporate donors.
That corporate money buys access, and lots of it. ALEC’s “Private Enterprise Board” – a second Board of Directors for the organization – reads like a who’s who of America’s most powerful lobbies: pharmaceuticals, tobacco, the oil industry, and insurance companies are all well represented. There are over 300 corporate sponsors of ALEC, including Coors, Phillip Morris, Shell, Texaco, American Nuclear Energy Council, and many more. The “tort reform” crowd, medical interests, and anti-environmental crowd have gotten what they paid for, too.
Additionally, each corporate member of ALEC has the opportunity to pony up a few thousand additional dollars (the actual number is an ALEC secret) for the right to sit on public policy task forces comprised of state legislators and as many corporate representatives as there are corporations willing to pay to play (that’s right, you can, literally, buy votes in ALEC). And where your typical Americans might see conflicts of interest, ALEC sees only opportunity, which might explain how industry representatives end up crafting model legislation that goes under ALEC’s banner, including proposals to allow for-profit private businesses to take over many critical public services including schools, prisons, public transportation and various social services.
More on ALEC, from Progressivestates.org:
Conservative Corporate Advocacy Group ALEC (linked to Kochs) Behind Voter Disenfranchisement Efforts
Posted by Tobin Van Ostern
March 8th, 2011
The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a conservative organization linked to corporate and right-wing donors, including the billionaire Koch brothers, has drafted and distributed model legislation, obtained by Campus Progress, that appears to be the inspiration for bills proposed by state legislators this year and promoted by Tea Party activists, bills that would limit access of young people to vote.
ALEC describes itself as a “nonpartisan membership association for conservative state lawmakers who shared a common belief in limited government, free markets, federalism, and individual liberty.”
In Wisconsin, where public attention now is focused on Gov. Scott Walker’s (R) efforts to undermine the rights of workers to engage in collective bargaining, there is another piece of proposed legislation that could have a substantial negative impact on the state’s young and minority voters. Conservative representatives in the state have proposed a law that would ban students from using in-state university- or college-issued IDs for proof-of-residency when voting. This legislation, backed by Walker, would also end same-day voter registration at the polls. If passed, the law would become one of the strictest voter registration laws in the country and would provide significant logistical and financial barriers for a variety of groups, including student and minority voters.
Meanwhile, as Campus Progress reported last month, in New Hampshire, state House Speaker William O’Brien (R- Hillsborough 4) says that proposed election legislation will “tighten up the definition of a New Hampshire resident.” O’Brien claims that college towns experience hundreds of same-day voter registrations and that those are the ballots of people who “are kids voting liberal, voting their feelings, with no life experience.”
I found that article via this article in Forbes, which is also worth reading:
The Forbes article also links to this Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article:
Republicans unveil plan for voter ID, constitutional amendment
Wisconsin's requirement would be among strictest in nation
I'd been wondering about what seemed like coordinated efforts by these rightwinger legislators. We need to pay more attention to the American Legislative Exchange Council.
There's another topic here today about a Mother Jones article which points out that David Koch, while funding the Koch Institute for cancer research at MIT and lamenting deep federal cuts in research money (and asking people to donate to his institute to make up for that), has been bankrolling the same Republicans making those cuts.
Which would make no sense, if Koch is at all sincerely interested in this research, unless there's a profit motive -- unless Koch Industries stands to make a lot of money from advances in cancer research that will be more and more likely to happen at the Institute as the Kochs do all they can to cripple research elsewhere (research that won't make money for them).
I haven't been able to find out anything yet about exactly what share of any profitable advances in treatment -- for instance, drugs that can be patented -- will go to the Kochs.
"koch institute for integrative cancer research" patent
immediately turned up this profile of one member of the Institute's Leadership Council:
Dr. Janis K. Fraser is a Principal at Fish & Richardson P.C., one of the top intellectual property law firms in the world. Since joining Fish & Richardson in 1989, she has helped the firm's biotechnology patent practice grow to its current preeminent position. Her multi-million dollar practice spans all aspects of biotechnology and pharmaceutical chemistry patent law, including patent prosecution, due diligence, freedom-to-operate analyses, and strategic advice. Dr. Fraser's clients include AstraZeneca, Biogen Idec, Genzyme, Chugai, Massachusetts General Hospital, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, the Dana Farber Cancer Institute, and numerous other biotech, pharmaceutical and venture capital companies and academic institutions around the world.
So I started checking out the profiles of others on the Institute's Leadership Council.
Pierre Casimir-Lambert was on the Board of Directors of Solvay, the Belgian multi-national pharmaceuticals, plastics and chemicals group, from 1971 to 2003. Solvay is one of Belgium's largest industrial companies.
Janice Bourque is Managing Director of Life Sciences for Hercules Technology Growth Capital. At Hercules, the leading specialty finance company, she provides venture debt and equity to venture capital and private equity backed technology and life science companies at all stages of development. Ms. Bourque recently advised and provided strategic corporate investor fundraising for Commons Capital and Oxford Bioscience Partners, two life science venture capital firms, to create a Gates Foundation supported $100 Million Commons Capital Global Health focused on innovative healthcare investments for emerging and developing countries.
Dr. Nick Galakatos is a co-founder and Managing Director of Clarus Ventures, a leading venture capital firm focused on life science investments. He has been a venture capital investor since 1992, initially at Venrock Associates and then at MPM Capital where he was General Partner of the BioVentures II and III funds. From 1997-2000 Nick was Vice President, New Business and a member of the Management Team at Millennium Pharmaceuticals. He is a co-founder Millennium Predictive Medicine and TransForm Pharmaceuticals, where he also was the Chairman and founding CEO. Nick entered the venture capital business after being Head of Molecular Biology Research at Ciba (presently Novartis). He holds a B.A degree in chemistry from Reed College, a Ph.D. degree in organic chemistry from MIT, and performed postdoctoral studies in molecular biology at Harvard Medical School.
I want to make it clear that not everyone on the Leadership Council seems to have been chosen for expertise in making money off medical research. For instance, there's William M. Haney III, a filmmaker and environmentalist and philanthropist.
And there may be others there who don't have a lot of expertise in profiting from advances in medicine.
But at least some of them do. Which makes me think Koch Industries will make a lot of money from the research, and this is just as much about investment as it is about philanthropy.
And in the context of this research as investment, there's no paradox in the Kochs funding politicians who'll cut federal spending on cancer research while spending their own money on a cancer institute.
And this speech Moyers gave at Boston University last fall needs to be posted here again. You'll find a link to a two-hour video of the entire speech and the question-and-answer session there, too. If you haven't read it and watched it, you should. And you should forward it and Like it and tweet it.
This is the argument that needs to be made now.
We can't win the debate and deal with this threat to our democracy if we can't frame the debate.
Bill Moyers: "Welcome to the Plutocracy!"
So the answer to the question: “Do the Rich Need the Rest of America?” is as stark as it is ominous: Many don’t. As they form their own financial culture increasingly separated from the fate of everyone else, it is “hardly surprising,” Frank and Lind concluded, “ that so many of them should be so hostile to paying taxes to support the infrastructure and the social programs that help the majority of the American people.”
You will hear it said, “Come on, this is the way the world works.” No, it’s the way the world is made to work. This vast inequality is not the result of Adam Smith’s invisible hand; it did not just happen; it was no accident. As Hodge drives home, it is the result of a long series of policy decisions “about industry and trade, taxation and military spending, by flesh-and-blood humans sitting in concrete-and-steel buildings.” And those policy decisions were paid for by the less than one percent who participate in our capitalist democracy political contributions. Over the past 30 years, with the complicity of Republicans and Democrats alike, the plutocrats, or plutonomists (choose your own poison) have used their vastly increased wealth to assure that government does their bidding. Remember that grateful Citigroup reference to “market-friendly governments” on the side of plutonomy? We had a story down in Texas for that sort of thing; the dealer in a poker game says to the dealer, Now play the cards fairly, Reuben; I know what I dealt you.” (To see just how our system was rigged by the financial, political, and university elites, run, don’t walk, to the theatre nearest you showing Charles Ferguson’s new film, “Inside Job.” Take a handkerchief because you’ll weep for the republic.)
Looking back, it all seems so clear that we wonder how we could have ignored the warning signs at the time. One of the few journalists who did see it coming – Thomas Edsall of the Washington Post – reported that “business refined its ability to act as a class, submerging competitive instincts in favour of joint, cooperative action in the legislative arena.” Big business political action committees flooded the political arena with a deluge of dollars. They funded think tanks that churned out study after study with results skewed to their ideology and interests. And their political allies in the conservative movement cleverly built alliances with the religious right – Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority and Pat Robertson’s Christian Coalition – who zealously waged a cultural holy war that camouflaged the economic assault on working people and the middle class.
Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan also tried to warn us. He said President Reagan’s real strategy was to force the government to cut domestic social programs by fostering federal deficits of historic dimensions. Senator Moynihan was gone before the financial catastrophe on George W. Bush’s watch that could paradoxically yet fulfill Reagan’s dream. The plutocrats who soaked up all the money now say the deficits require putting Social Security and other public services on the chopping block. You might think that Mr. Bush today would regret having invaded Iraq on false pretences at a cost of more than a trillion dollars and counting, but no, just last week he said that his biggest regret was his failure to privatize Social Security. With over l00 Republicans of the House having signed a pledge to do just that when the new Congress convenes, Mr. Bush’s vision may yet be realized.
He outlines the solution, too, as well as the problem.
What do we do about Big Money in politics buying off democracy?
But we need to be clear about why this has to be done, and what we're fighting.
We can't be afraid to name the enemy of democracy -- the plutocracy.
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