Why hire individual lobbyists and send them out in search of Congressmen when you can set up a lobbying clearinghouse and have them come to you?
ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, does just that. Funded by the likes of the Koch brothers, Exxon Mobil and PhRMA, a trade association for the pharmaceutical industry, legislators are paid to come to ALEC meetings, where they are wined, dined, and handed “model” legislation to make into law in their state. Through ALEC, corporations vote on “model” legislation alongside politicians behind closed doors.
So instead of the lobbyists fanning out on Capitol Hill to meet with Congressmen individually, public officials are invited en masse to an ALEC meeting off Capitol Hill at a fancy resort, and they had better be there or be square if they want a campaign contribution or a great job when their “public service” career comes to an end.
Foundations controlled by the billionaire Koch brothers gave ALEC over $200,000 in 2009. And that’s in addition to the undisclosed amount paid in membership dues by Koch Industries. The Koch foundations have given ALEC at least $600,000 in the past decade or so, and Koch Industries has donated an untold amount.
There are also a number of other right wing moneybags contributing to ALEC. The Castle Rock Foundation, which is run by right wing beer heir Peter Coors and the right wing John M. Olin Foundation have also been donors to ALEC. Another of the big right wing foundations, the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, has been a funder as well as right winger Richard Scaife.
ALEC brings legislators and their families, rich individuals and corporations together at luxury resorts. For a few hours of work on a task force and a couple of indoctrination sessions by ALEC experts, part-time legislators can bring the whole family to ALEC’s annual convention, work for a few hours, then stay in swank hotels, attend cool parties and raise funds for the campaign coffer, all heavily subsidized by the corporate till. In 2009, ALEC spent $251,873 on childcare so Mom and Dad could have fun.
The legislators from all levels – local, state and national – are then handed model legislation which the legislators then take back home to their districts where they present it as having been crafted by themselves instead of by corporate lawyers. ALEC makes old-fashioned lobbying obsolete. Once legislators return to their state with corporate-sponsored ALEC legislation in hand, the legislators themselves become “super-lobbyists” for ALEC’s corporate agenda, cutting out the middleman. The fusion of politician and lobbyist is complete.
A lot of this legislation then gets passed in states that are controlled by Republican governors and legislators. For instance, in Michigan the legislature just passed a so-called right-to-work law which basically defunds unions. Right to work laws ban mandatory union dues. Unions are one of the biggest funders of Democrats so taking money away from union coffers essentially helps more Republicans get elected.
In Wisconsin Republican Governor Scott Walker tried to strip unions of their collective bargaining rights. After much ballyhoo and a recall election, Walkerwas able to retain his position although much of his union busting efforts were struck down by a state judge. To give you some idea of the influence that ALEC has in Wisconsin read the following:
- 32 bills or budget provisions reflecting ALEC model legislation were introduced in Wisconsin’s 2011-2012 legislative session;
- 21 of these bills or budget provisions have passed, and two were vetoed;
- More than $276,000 in campaign contributions were made to ALEC legislators in Wisconsin from ALEC corporations since 2008;
- More than $406,000 in campaign contributions were made to ALEC alumnus Governor Walker from ALEC corporations over the same time period for his state campaign account;
- At least 49 current Wisconsin legislators are known ALEC members, including the leaders of both the House and Senate as well as other legislators holding key posts in the state. Additionally, the Governor, the Secretary of the Department of Administration, and the Chairman of the Public Service Commission are ALEC alumni; and
- At least 17 current legislators have received thousands of dollars of gifts cumulatively from ALEC corporations in the past few years, in the form of flights and hotel rooms filtered through the ALEC “scholarship fund” (complete “scholarship” information is not available).
ALEC’s 2010 annual meeting was held in San Diego at the Manchester Grand Hyatt resort. In California the main ALEC affiliate is the State Policy Network, of which the San Diego Institute for Policy Research founded by Steve Francis is a member. Francis unsuccessfully ran for mayor in 2005 as a fiscal conservative against former San Diego Chief of Police Jerry Sanders and Councilwoman Donna Frye. Francis ran again in 2008 against incumbent Jerry Sanders.
(UPDATE #1: See email/comment from W. Erik Bruvold, President, National University System Institute for Policy Research. Mr. Bruvold asserts that his group is not affiliated with ALEC. We are currently researching this further.)
(UPDATE #2: Mr Bruvold has apparently had a meltdown over this over on Twitter, saying that we’re engaging in “McCarthesque bullying” because we didn’t move fast enough to meet his demands that this item be amended. We weren’t about to change it based on his say so, but were willing to make note of his disagreement with the author’s statement. Things didn’t play out fast enough for him, so now he’s angry. What he would like us to say is : “Write that SDI is listed on a web site as a “Other Organization” on an organization which, according to you, has cooperated with ALEC.” Anyway, we’ll end this by quoting Bruvold’s last Tweet: ‘Anyway, done with you hack job”. )
San Diego just escaped an ALEC invasion when Bob Filner beat Carl DeMaio for mayor. According to Jim Miller:
“[The Center on Policy Initiatives report, ‘Target San Diego: The Right Wing Assault on Urban Democracy and Smart Government’ by Lee Cokorinos] carefully documents the intricate web of connections between the corporate-funded think tanks at the national, state and local level. Some of the key organizations include the aforementioned Americans for Tax Reform, Freedom Works and the American Legislative Exchange Council at the national level; the Project for California’s Future, the Pacific Research Institute, the Claremont Institute and the Reason Foundation at the state level; and the Performance Institute [founded by Carl DeMaio] here in San Diego.”
Miller goes on:
“In California, privatization advocates at think tanks like the Pacific Research Institute and the Claremont Institute argue that, according to Cokorinos, “a key political objective for the right wing is to compel states and localities to compete with one another in a frenzy of deregulation and privatization that will supposedly attract investment…. Taken to its extreme, this would involve a race to the bottom, where perfect efficiency equals no regulation, and the perfect state is a minimal government that simply secures the sanctity of contracts and provides for the common defense.”
“In addition to the work being done at the Pacific Research and Claremont institutes, the Reason Foundation cranks out an endless flow of pro-privatization propaganda aimed at lambasting the incurably wasteful inefficiency of government in contrast to the flawless productivity of market forces. Through the use of “performance reviews,” which inevitably show how government just doesn’t work like the business world, the idea of “performance-based government” is promoted as the final solution for the hapless public sector, which just needs to be put to sleep.
“As Cokorinos observes, “the performance review, while long a part of organizational culture public and private, is used [in Reason Foundation reports] as a non-threatening entry point to achieve an ideological purpose” to identify inefficiencies that require the expertise of right-wing think-tank experts to be solved. DeMaio, in his time at Reason, and others after him have promoted a radical privatization agenda by releasing annual “privatization reports” that have advocated the privatization of military housing, education, transportation systems, public roads and highways, housing, major infrastructure projects and much more.
“DeMaio founded the Performance Institute in 2001 and set about bringing to San Diego the skills he learned at Reason and while working to starve the beast in the Beltway with Newt Gingrich at the Congressional Institute. The conservative old guard in San Diego seemed to be in peril, with labor, environmental activists and other progressives gaining new political clout. Democrats controlled the City Council for the first time in the history of the city, and a significant political realignment seemed possible.”
It’s clear San Diego barely escaped an extreme right wing radical who would have privatized city government and made San Diego a model of what ALEC is trying to accomplish throughout the US.
For some time legislation has not been written by elected officials but by lobbyists and presented to elected officials who then get it enacted into law if they have the votes on their side. In the election of 2010 Republicans swept into power at the state level particularly in states like Michigan,Ohio,Wisconsin and Florida. In all Republicans control 27 state legislatures and Democrats control 19. A lot of the right wing action, therefore, is at the state level. High on their agenda is privatization. Publicly owned assets are put up for sale. Government provided services are outsourced to private corporations. Public schools are replaced by charter schools.
In the last few years, the Michigan state government has engaged in several privatization efforts. In 1992 the governor issued an executive order creating the Michigan Public-Private Partnership Commission and charged it with analyzing ways in which state services can be provided more efficiently by “introducing competition into the public sector.” The commission encouraged the various departments to review each activity and every program in state government to find candidates for potential privatization.
ALEC members represent a who’s who of right wing politicians and major corporations. The organization has 2000 legislative members and over 300 corporate members. Corporations not legislators fund almost all of ALEC’s activities. Corporations sit on all nine ALEC task forces and vote with legislators to approve “model” bills. The long-term representation of Koch Industries on the governing board means that Koch has had influence over an untold number of ALEC bills.
ALEC has given awards to: Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, George H.W. Bush, Charles and David Koch, Richard de Vos, Tommy Thompson, Gov. John Kasich, Gov. Rick Perry, Congressman Mark Foley (intern sex scandal), and Congressman Billy Tauzin. ALEC alumni include: Speaker of the House John Boehner, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Congressman Joe Wilson, (who called President Obama a “liar” during the State of the Union address), former House Speaker Dennis Hastert, former House Speaker Tom DeLay, Andrew Card, Donald Rumsfeld (1985 Chair of ALEC’s Business Policy Board), Governor Scott Walker, Governor Jan Brewer, and more. Featured speakers have included: Milton Friedman, Newt Gingrich, Dick Cheney, Dan Quayle, George Allen, Jessie Helms, Pete Coors, Governor Mitch Daniels among others.
Jillian Barclay says
Almost every state Republican assembly member in California is a member of ALEC. If you want to know if your State Assembly member is, send an email and ask. Ask them if they have brought to the floor any ALEC sponsored and written-bills, if they have been paid (through what ALEC calls “scholarships”) to attend any ALEC conferences, and ask them why they belong. Check out ALEC’s own website- it will amaze you!
These reps are not working for you- they are owned by ALEC!
Anna Daniels says
John- thanks for the in-depth guide to all things ALEC. It is not going away, despite the loss of some corporate members this past year over their model Stand Your Ground and Voter ID bills. The good news is that more citizens are learning about ALEC and not liking what they see.
Here in San Diego we need to keep an eye on the San Diego Institute for Policy Research.
More info on ALEC here:
“Selling Snake Oil to the States,” a study published today by Good Jobs First and the Iowa Policy Project and freely available online at http://www.goodjobsfirst.org/snakeoiltothestates.
We must continue to shine the light of knowledge on these shadowy roaches.
BTW, has his carlness ever shown what the Performance Institute accomplishes besides fleecing government?
John Lawrence says
The Performance Institute is a subject for further study as we zero in on the ALEC affiliates in San Diego. Suffice it to say that Carl DeMaio is all about fleecing government and privatizing the hell out of it. In this regard he makes Jerry Sanders seem like a piker.
We also need to watch the San Diego Institute for Policy Research and National University and smoke them out.
If DeMaio had gotten in with his allies Lynch and Manchester at the San Diego Union or U-T as it’s been renamed, San Diego would have become a right wing paradise almost overnight.
Frank Thomas says
In Black’s Law Dictionary the definition of a bribe is direct and simple:
“A price, reward, gift or favor bestowed or promised with a view to pervert the judgment of or to influence the action of a person in a position of trust. Bribery is a felony in most jurisdictions.”
There’s ample evidence that ALEC’s “scholarship” program includes gifts to legislators (90% Republican) in the form of flights, hotels, rooms and other perks to attend so-called “education” conferences around the US. ALEC gets its money to send politicians to conferences (in excess of $6 million annually) from corporations and the wealthy who are also members of ALEC. Corporations and legislators vote as EQUALS at conferences to approve so-called “model bills” ultimately benefiting the very corporations that indirectly fund the legislators’ travel costs through a segregated ALEC “scholarship”fund. Discussions of bills secretly developed — under closed doors to public and media — finally serve the interests of lobbyists and their wealthy clientel. No moral compass reigns in this process for the common interests of our country. It’s all very elitist and money driven. More on this in a moment.
This has been going on for decades with so much money, so secret, so impenetrable and so determined not to be exposed. If this secret “scholarship” scheme is not a form of bribery and public deception, developing changes to laws before their introduced to state legislatures, then what is it? It certainly appears to violate the ethics and lobbying laws of many states as well as the terms of ALEC’s charitable non-profit status.
For ALEC misleads the IRS when repeatedly saying it provides no travel, hotel or other expense perks for elected officials. Gifts of flights and hotel rooms represent a direct financial benefit to state legislators in violation of ALEC’s 501(c)(3) status.
Boilerplate “model” bills voted on at a particular conference in any state are later introduced in similar form by ALEC legislators in other states who claim such bills as their own to the general public’s unawareness. For example, it is said that one-third of Wisconsin’s lawmakers are ALEC members. If the ALEC “scholarship” scheme was made public, then all citizens in a state would know who’s channeling cash benefits indirectly to legislators as an inducement to act in a certain way, generally unfavorable to Joe Doe’s interests. This comes very close to being the definition of a bribe according to Blank’s Law Dictionary. In the words of an academic MD:
“As a physician employed at an academic medical center, I cannot accept a cup of coffee from commercial interests. I cannot research without declaring all interests. Why should politicians be treated any differently?”
As noted, subject-discussions at an ALEC conference focus on private profit-driven legislation not in Joe Doe’s interests but in a political and legislative process owned by corporations and special interests . The “model” bills that evolve for legislators to adapt as their own in any state principally embody right wing goals of reducing the size of government and enhancing corporate riches by privatizing government assets and functions as profitable markets.
ALEC “model” bills focused in some states on without the general public often ever knowing who’s behind them include (among others):
(1) limiting corporate product liability and ability of citizens to sue for damages for harm caused, i.e., promoting tort reform legislation favoring corporations
(2) inspiring bills to privatize education at taxpayer expense, such as bills making private corporations elgible for public money for online education
(3) promoting ideas to reduce govenment’s size by willy-nilly firing public servants
(4) diluting collective bargaining rights and making it more difficult for unions to work and exist
(5) exploiting non-profit tax exempt status as a charity offering an “education” service and not a lobby exercising legislative influence over politicians under a tax code that says a gift is not a bribe if it doesn’t produce a profit
(6) being relentlessly hostile to environmental protection or climate-change related legislation
(7) sponsoring voter ID cards and immigration laws that are borderline illegal and bills making it harder for Americans to vote
(8) protecting the gun industry against regulation including private selling of automatic military-type rifles.
No one’s saying corporations have no right to present arguments and participate in public-private discussions/projects on how to solve serious problems or exploit opportunities in the public’s interests. But doing this and reworking the laws secretly, as ALEC does, by taking people away on trips, wining and dining them at secluded spots , convincing them of specific legislative needs, and sending them back to their home state with the legal framework to implement legislative changes is clearly NOT RIGHT.
So what to do? As a minimum, there should be laws requiring legislators to expose their ALEC ties and gifts received. I’ll bet 98% of Americans don’t know what ALEC is and does! The public is excluded from the whole process and the players behind the scenes. It’s obvious ALEC’s secret alligence is to corporations’ first and their profits.
A re-examination is needed of what constitutes a transparent non-profit institution. The definition of a tax exempt corporation as it applies to a firm like ALEC appears far too broad. ALEC’s activities are in reality lobbyist activities as opposed to being works of a charity … except being a source of charity for the rich and powerful.
John Lawrence says
Thank you for your very cogent and informative comment. You said it all! When you consider that Grover Norquist is largely funded by the Koch brothers and ALEC is also similarly funded, a picture starts to emerge of a few billionaires controlling the legislative agenda of the US. It seems like Republican legislators pay more allegiance to Grover Norquist and ALEC than they do to the US Constitution.
Jillian Barclay says
Not only the scholarships, but at their meetings, they have Kiddie Congress, where legislators’ children are also indoctrinated- FUN! FUN! FUN!
And don’t forget ALEC’s push to privatize all prisons, for profit!
Doug Porter says
We received the following notice in our email today:
San Diego Institute was NEVER affiliated with ALEC. We are listed (as the Daily Kos article indicates in the comment section) as an “other” organization on the State Policy Network website but we have not been involved with SPN for at least 6 years and our involvement consisted of about 1/2 dozen phone calls and attendance at a conference during our first year of existence. It is at least our understanding that SPN and ALEC are distinct organizations so I am not sure as to why you reached the conclusions you did. You also made no effort to call the Institute, even though we are well known to several members of the press writing for alternative new sources and are easy to find on the web. I would be happy to discuss further with you and you can check out our publications/research at
W. Erik Bruvold
National University System Institute for Policy Research
the author will respond shortly
John Lawrence says
According to sourcewatch.org: “SPN was a “Chairman” level sponsor of 2011 American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) Annual Conference, with a required sponsorship level of $50,000 in 2010. ALEC is also an Associate Member of State Policy Network, as of Aug. 11, 2011.
2.↑ American Legislative Exchange Council, 2011 Conference Sponsors, conference brochure on file with CMD, August 11, 2011
3.↑ State Policy Network, Directory, organizational site, accessed August 11, 2011
According to State Policy Network (spn.org) the San Diego Institute for Policy Research (SDIPR) is listed in their directory under “Other Organizations”. One can assume that this implies some sort of affiliation with SPN which is an ALEC affiliate. Otherwise, it would not have been mentioned at all.
There is a spidery labyrinth of affiliates all of whom share similar values, some of whom – as does the SDIPR – claim to be “non-partisan.” Why would SDIPR be listed in the SPN directory if there weren’t some sort of connection with SPN and hence, directly or indirectly, with ALEC?
After perusing the SDIPR website, I notice a featured article, “FIXING WEAK ECONOMY A PRIORITY FOR ROMNEY BACKERS.” Hmmmm, no mention of Obama but Romney prominently featured. You say you’re non-partisan. I’m not so sure.
Your article about drone research (Jobs Worth Keeping”) says this:
“The report is designed to serve as a wakeup call to San Diego to ensure it doesn’t take this new business for granted. No university in the region grants doctorates in aerospace engineering, there is scant room in the local congested airspace to fly drones, and “there seems only scant awareness as to the looming challenges at the federal level in respect to defense spending and what those challenges could mean for San Diego’s leadership role in UAVs,” says the study, done by economist Kelly Cunningham at the National University System Institute for Policy Research.”
You’re all about taking it for granted that drones are a good thing unconditionally. You’re not the least bit critical of drone research or drones. We are!
Your article about the fiscal cliff is all about the horrendous impact on the military-industrial complex in San Diego if we should go over it. There’s nothing critical about the military-industrial complex – just fearmongering about the effects on the economy. By the way irregardless of the effects on San Diego, the military-industrial complex is so bloated that diminishing it by 8% ,which is what the fiscal cliff does, is not near enough reduction in defense in order to get our fiscal situation in balance in my opinion.
In summary the SDIPR exists to uncritically examine the San Diego economy. Our job at SDFP is to be critical of the defense establishment and to suggest other ways that the monies could be spent to build a better and stronger San Diego such as applying them to infrastructure rebuilding, for example.
May I suggest, Mr. Bruvold, that if you’re so concerned about being seen as having some connection with SPN and hence with ALEC that you tell SPN to take your name (SDIPR) down off their website under “Other Organizations.”
Anna Daniels says
Erik- your argument should be with SPN, which according to you is erroneously listing you with Other Organizations after the listing of SPN affiliates. A reasonable person would find a linkage between those Other Organizations to SPN and their ALEC influenced policies. Removing the institute’s name from that webpage should be fairly easy and I don’t understand why you haven’t done that.
I stand with the author’s response on this.
John Lawrence says
Righton, Anna. Please see my comment below.
Jillian Barclay says
Pay $50,000 to ALEC, you are a member- What? It is just coincidence that the same bills show up in every Republican state legislature at the same time? Give me a break!
How stupid do they think we are—John, you have done a great job on this article! Don’t back down! They are treacherous! So few of us know how far their tentacles reach!
A friend of mine who writes for Daily Kos has the list of every state rep that belongs- So large that it is on a spreadsheet- I have a copy, but was sworn to secrecy- offline- will give it to you if you are interested…Get in touch with him if you are interested in pursuing this- He is awesome! He goes by MNDem999- Check him out!
Erik Bruvold says
It is incorrect to state that we are “is an ALEC affiliate”. Nor is that what the Daily Kos link provided indicates. The rest of the points made above seem, bluntly, tangential to the issue that the article is factually in error. It should be changed and a correction made.
John Lawrence says
OK should we parse the definition of “affiliate”? How about “some sort of connection”? The point is that the San Diego Institute for Policy Research’s name appears on the State Policy Network’s website. State Policy Network is a full-fledged “affiliate” of ALEC. Should we have said instead that the San Diego Institute for Policy Research is an affiliate-lite?
Erik Bruvold says
You should factually report what it is (or at least that is what you should do as a journalist). Write that SDI is listed on a web site as a “Other Organization” on an organization which, according to you, has coorperated with ALEC. That would be factually accurate. I await the revision and correction.
Anna Daniels says
Erik, I beg to differ with you about “according to you.” That is factually challenged. Here’s info on SPN’s policy specialist– “Joseph Coletti is the policy specialist at the State Policy Network. In this role, he connects policy experts across the country with one another so they can be more effective researchers, communicators, and evangelists for market-driven policies in your states. Before joining SPN, Joe handled budget, tax, and health policy issues at the John Locke Foundation in North Carolina. He has been a contributing editor for the Heartland Institute’s Health Care News and is an executive committee member of ALEC’s Health and Human Services task force.” This is not according to me, it’s according to the SPN site.
No revision or correction necessary.
Jillian Barclay says
I am curious…
ALEC provides privatization and downsizing campaign models, then applies the same formula on an issue-by-issue basis—Am I to understand that your organization has NOT looked to ALEC for any help in any of your policy research?
Erik Bruvold says
That is correct Jillian. I have never even spoken to anyone from ALEC. EVER.
Art A Layman says
Given the obscurity with which ALEC prefers to operate, how can you be sure you have never “spoken to anyone from ALEC. EVER.”? Do you perhaps mean, “that you know of”?
John Lawrence says
I conjecture that the reason Mr. Bruvold is so adamant about the San Diego Institute for Policy Research not being affiliated with ALEC is that National University has to be seen as “non-partisan.” Otherwise they are compromising their status as a “university” which is supposed to be dedicated to a non-biased (or non-partisan)pursuit of the truth.
The fact is that many universities have taken Koch brothers money. I’m not saying National University has. I plan to follow up and investigate this further not only with respect to National University but with respect to other local San Diego universities.
That is why there is a spidery labyrinth of organizations connected with ALEC and other Koch brother funded organizations – so there is deniability for universities and others that they are affiliated with overtly right wing organizations like ALEC.
The fact is that the San Diego Institute for Policy Research (I guess they’ve changed the name to National University System Institute for Policy Research) is affiliated with ALEC by virtue of the fact that they are affiliated with State Policy Network which is a direct member of ALEC.
As Anna Daniels said, all Mr. Bruvold has to do is to renounce his affiliation with State Policy Network and get them to remove the Institute’s name from their Directory in order to renounce his affiliation with ALEC. If Mr. Bruvold does that, I will be happy to announce to the world that the San Diego (or National University System) Institute for Policy Research is no longer affiliated with ALEC.
Jillian Barclay says
The I am waiting to SEE YOU REMOVE your organization from the SPN website, and would be interested, as well, in receiving updates from your reaearch center regarding your findings, in regards to policy suggestions. I will compare those to the policy “suggections” promoted by ALEC. In that way, I will be able to determine where your influence emanates. There is a huge, nationwide ALEC-watch coalition out there. We watch ALEC’s every move, compare notes and report on each move and every attempt to subvert this country’s economy, education system, criminal justice system, environment, etc. We have been reporting on this for several years now and the American public is finally waking up to the evils of the ALEC-KOCH philosophy of government… We will not let the public go to sleep again! Suggest you be on the right side of history and support the people vs ALEC…
Please keep up the research and the reporting. In light of the SPN website alone, I believe that the conclusions you have drawn are logical. Let Mr. Bruvold prove us all wrong.
John Lawrence says
Thank you, Jillian, for your many cogent and to-the-point comments.
Debra Severson says
Phil Montgomery, the head of the WI Public Service Commission (PSC) referenced as an ALEC alum in the article was also recognized as an ALEC legislator of the year. That was before taking his post at the Utility (err Public) Service Commission.
With Chair Montgomery at the helm, we have a PSC who refused to meet with citizens and (non ALEC) legislators to discuss energy policy. The PSC cited an undocumented policy and concern that this could be confused with an official hearing. Days before the Senators’ request, Commission Chair Phil Montgomery was the keynote speaker at the Wisconsin Utility Investors annual meeting. His topic? The PSC’s role in protecting the private investor and future of privately owned utilities.
No confusion there.
We finally did get a meeting with 3 staff members of the PSC. During the meeting, one of the Senators asked whose interest the PSC was protecting…citizens or corporate utilities. We also got a follow-up legislative meeting on December 11.
Despite the room being packed with a standing room only crown of concerned citizens who’d reached out to their legislators repeatedly beforehand, very few legislators showed up. Even those on the Energy & Utilities committee.
Trying to put the public back into the Wisconsin Public Service Commission is an uphill battle. John’s review of ALEC sheds some light on why the battle is so immense and why our state is about to be blanketed in 8 new and likely unnecessary transmission lines while more sustainable, non-utility beneficial alternatives are not being comprehensively considered as alternatives. Despite Wisconsin having an energy priority law in place that is to ensure this.
We’re thinking to file a complaint with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission . Don’t know if it will be any better there but, no matter the frustration and disappointment, we the people have to stand up. Or accept that we’ll keep getting rolled over.
John Lawrence says
Deb, thanks for your comment. The private utility corporations are actively involved in opposing many community endeavors especially for alternative energy provision by solar. They realize that the more citizens provide their own solar energy, the more their profits decline. That’s why they won’t support private citizens supplying excess energy back onto the grid that the utility companies have to pay for. In Germany they support private solar farms, and many people are making a living from supplying energy to the grid – not just the utility companies. In this way profits from generating energy are dispersed to a wider segment of the population. In the US there aren’t many incentives for individuals and families to get involved, and in fact the utility companies are in the business of providing disincentives.
John Dunn says
The explosion of transmission line construction for the purpose of creating a greater wholesale market does not serve the public interest; it serves the privileged few who can position themselves to profit (immensely) at public expense.
People have much to be concerned about once they start to become aware, a short list:
– defense contractors influence on government and the oil, arms, drugs trade triangle
– companies that can be considered mercenary-like or private armies: Blackwater, Xe, G4S, Wackenhut, Reflex Responses (R2)
– the UN, agenda 21, the recent UN World Conference on International Telecommunications
– tribalism and gaming industry (gambling)
– media ownership
– unions They are small potatoes but in much need of reform. The need for reform stems from people not exercising their rights and shouldering their responsibilities in the organizations. That’s much the same problem that plagues our government. People don’t take ownership.
These issues with ALEC and with astro-turf groups need to be further exposed and addressed. When there is secrecy and duplicity there is trouble.
We need checks and balances not just within our system of government but in our society as well.
Bev Vaillancourt says
Not only has our state and federal governments been hijacked by the likes of ALEC, the First Amendment has fallen victim, as well. Who owns the media? The political agenda of ALEC and its “affiliates” move through minds of “We the People” with stealth as the result of advertising dollars spent on commercial media and corporate sponsorship of such entities as “public” radio. Even our non-profit, environmental groups are at the mercy of corporate entites with adverse agendas as large donations that are all too tempting to refuse flow into their pool of operating funds. Reporters step back from muckraking reporting because political sunshine threatens the flow of advertising dollars and the financial lifeline of the media that employs them. Reporters depend on information fed to them by corporations instead of doing the hard work of journalism. They have become journalistic vendors, not reporters. With rare and much appreciated exception, this is all too obvious in Wisconsin. It’s a sad day when your state government, its “public” agencies, and the media are all controlled by ALEC dollars that work against the interests of the people. We must rely on the Internet, such as this blog (thank you, John) which remains a free press, at least for now. The power of the press should never be underestimated, eh Mr. Bruvold?