By Doug Porter
Day One of the American Legislative Exchange Council’s 2015 Annual Meeting actually started Tuesday morning (July 21), the day before most delegates were slated to arrive. The joint ALEC Board of Directors and ‘Private Enterprise Advisory Council’ Meeting will last throughout the day. It is this meeting that will set the agenda for the coming year.
Today we’ll look at the membership of the ‘Advisory Council’ in order to gain insight into the policies and priorities of ALEC in the coming year. Tomorrow, the Center for Media and Democracy’s Brendan Fischer and Mary Bottari will fill-in the blanks with a post entitled Hot Topics at ALEC’s 2015 Meeting in San Diego.
On Wednesday (July 22) the working groups and subcommittees will meet. Larger task forces will gather on Thursday and Friday following policy workshops led by an assortment of right wing policy advocates. There will be no deviation from this agenda; the only questions to be answered are how and when the fill-in-the-blank measures created will be presented to state legislatures.
Behind the Corporate Curtain
The real purpose of ALEC is to provide a private forum for corporate lobbyists to work with state legislators to craft laws that put profit before the public interest. The resulting so-called “model legislation” reaches into almost every area of American life, and often directly benefits huge corporations.
As such, the joint meeting with the ALEC functionaries and their overlords taking place on Tuesday is of special significance.
The information in this post about ALEC’s Private Enterprise Advisory Council is mostly (the italicized material) lifted directly from ALEC Exposed, a wiki consisting of research conducted by the Center for Media and Democracy. There you can find much more complete information, along with sources and citations for the data presented today.
National Chair (Promoted from Vice-Chair as of November 6, 2014)
In September 2012, The Justice Policy Institute, a non-profit “working to reduce the use of incarceration and the justice system”, released a report calling for the “elimination of for-profit bail bonding as part of [the] justice system.”
Key points in the report include the following:
- Bail amounts are increasing
- Political influence keeps bail bondsmen in business
- ALEC has been a driver of harmful bail legislation since 1994
- By its very nature, for-profit bail is ripe for corruption and abuse
- Alternatives to for-profit bail bonding exist and are effective
Altria Group, formerly Philip Morris, is the world’s largest tobacco company. In the U.S. it controls about half of the tobacco market.
I really don’t think I need to say anything more.
AT&T is a global telecommunications and networking company that operates in more than 225 countries worldwide AT&T has used ALEC model legislation to its advantage to prevent public utilities from laying fiber-optic cables to provide high-speed internet access. At ALEC’s annual meeting in Orlando in 2002, a model bill that created significant hurdles for public utilities interested in funding fiber-optic cables. “Since 1998, the company has given more money in campaign contributions than any other firm in corporate America,” according to the Washington Post.
Diageo plc is a global consolidated liquor company Formed in 1997 when Guinness merged with food and spirits company Grand Metropolitan, Diageo was the world’s largest producer of alcoholic drinks in 2011.
(Coal Mines + Power Plants in Texas)
Energy Future Holdings Corp. (EFH) is a Dallas-based, privately held energy company with a portfolio of energy companies serving the Texas electricity market: Luminant,TXU and Oncor. EFH is owned by a group of investors led by private equity firms Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. (KKR) and Texas Pacific Group (TPG), as well as global investment bank Goldman Sachs.
On March 18, 2011 the Sierra Club released a report stating that three of Luminant‘s coal plants in East Texas should be shut down because the facilities do not meet Clean Air Act standards and need $3.6 billion in upgrades in order to comply with federal regulations.
The three plants targeted were Big Brown, Monticello Steam Station and the Martin Lake Steam Station plant. The Sierra Club expressed concern about “the major threats to air and water pollution that citizens in the Barnett Shale [in North Texas] are dealing with firsthand.”
ExxonMobil Corporation, Cynthia Bergman
Exxon Mobil is the world’s largest oil company. They have contributed nearly $1.5 million dollars to ALEC since 1998.
K12 Inc., Don Lee
K12 Inc. is a publicly-traded (NYSE: LRN) for-profit, online education company headquartered in Herndon, Virginia. K12 Inc. was founded by former Goldman Sachs executive Ron Packard and former United States Secretary of Education and right-wing talk show host William Bennett in 1999.
Packard was able to start K12 Inc. with $10 million from convicted junk-bond king Michael Milken and $30 million more from other Wall Street investors. For more on this, read PRWatch investigation: “From Junk Bonds to Junk Schools: Cyber Schools Fleece Taxpayers for Phantom Students and Failing Grades”, October 2013.
K12 Inc. on its own and as a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), has pushed a national agenda to replace bricks and mortar classrooms with computers and replace actual teachers with “virtual” teachers.
The lobbying arm of the Koch Brothers empire
National Federation of Independent Business, Steve Woods
The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) is a powerhouse lobbying group (reporting $100 million in revenue in 2013) that purports to represent small businesses, emphasizing the claim that they are “NOT a voice for big business.”
However, the group has been shown to lobby on issues that favor large corporate interests and run counter to the interests of small businesses. NFIB accepted a $3.7 million gift in 2010, and a further $1.4 million in 2012, from Crossroads GPS, a group affiliated with Republican political operative Karl Rove that overwhelmingly endorses and financially supports Republican candidates.
Other notable contributions publicly disclosed by the donor include $135,783 in 2012 from the Center to Protect Patients Rights, a secretive organization now known as American Encore with intimate ties to the Koch brothers. The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, which has given to a wide range of conservative groups including the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), has also provided financial support to NFIB.
NetChoice, Steve DelBianco
NetChoice is a trade association of eCommerce businesses.
Peabody Energy, previously known as the Peabody Coal Company, is the largest private-sector coal company in the world. Peabody also previously owned coal mines in West Virginia and Kentucky. The company spun-off these assets into the independently-traded Patriot Coal Corporation in October 2007.
Patriot Coal filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in July 2012. The spin-off had inherited over $1 billion in retiree pension and health care obligations from Peabody and Arch Coal. According to People’s World, “Patriot Coal now wants to be released from its pension and retirement obligations covering more than 20,000 UMWA retirees and beneficiaries in West Virginia, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky and Ohio”
Pfizer Inc., Michael Hubert
Pfizer Inc. is the world’s largest pharmaceuticals corporation that manufactures brand names Viagra, Celebrex, Norvasc, and Lipitor. The Center for Responsive Politics writes that “Pfizer is one of the biggest players in what is widely considered the most influential industry in Washington: pharmaceutical manufacturers.
Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, also known as PhRMA, is one of the largest and most influential lobbying organizations in Washington. Representing 48 pharmaceutical companies, PhRMA has 20 registered lobbyists on staff and has contracted with dozens of lobby and PR firms…
In 2010, PhRMA contributed $356,075 to ALEC’s “Scholarship Fund.” The Fund compensates state legislators that are ALEC members for the traveling expenses they incur to attend ALEC conferences, including the costs of flights and hotels. PhRMA’s 2010 IRS filings list the location of the recipient of the funds at the address of the offices of Hamilton Consulting in Madison, WI rather than ALEC’s office in Washington, DC. The tax filing raised questions about which legislators were benefitting from PhRMA’s contributions and why PhRMA made the decision to funnel its funds through Wisconsin.
Soon after Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker came into office, Walker and GOP state legislators pushed for the adoption of Wisconsin Act 2, an ALEC-influenced bill that benefited the bottom line of PhRMA members. The bill seeks to implement “tort reform” by “limiting the ability to hold corporations accountable for causing injury or death” and “make it easier for corporations like drugmakers to escape liability for manufacturing dangerous products or products with insufficient warnings about hazards.” The legislation drew heavily from ALEC Model bills on tort reform, including the “Constitutional Guidelines for Punitive Damages Act” and the “Product Liability Act.” On January 27, 2011, the bill was signed into law.
State Budget Solutions, Bob Williams
(Libertarian ‘solutions’ to pensions, prisons, healthcare, education & unions.)
BW Williams is also a visiting fellow with George Mason University’s Mercatus Center State and Local Policy Project, a Charles Koch-funded project. He is also the president of State Budget Solutions, which partners with the Koch-funded Evergreen Foundation.
The Mercatus Center was founded and is funded by the Koch Family Foundations. According to financial records, the Koch family has contributed more than $30 million to George Mason, much of which has gone to the Mercatus Center, a nonprofit organization. Democratic strategist Rob Stein described the Mercatus Center as “ground zero for deregulation policy in Washington.” The Wall Street Journal has called the Mercatus Center “the most important think tank you’ve never heard of,”
The Mercatus Center has engaged in campaigns involving deregulation, especially environmental deregulation.
State Farm Insurance Co., Roland Spies
State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company is the largest provider of auto insurance in the U.S., the leading US personal property/casualty insurance company (by premiums), and the leading home insurer.
United Parcel Service, commonly referred to as UPS, is a global freight company.
Tomorrow, the Center for Media and Democracy’s Brendan Fischer and Mary Bottari will fill-in the blanks with a post entitled Hot Topics at ALEC’s 2015 Meeting in San Diego.
On This Day: 1877 – Local militiamen were called out against striking railroad workers in Pittsburgh. The head of the Pennsylvania Railroad advised giving the strikers “a rifle diet for a few days and see how they like that kind of bread.” 1925 – The “Monkey Trial” ended in Dayton, TN. John T. Scopes was convicted and fined $100 for violating the state prohibition on teaching Darwin’s theory of evolution. The conviction was later overturned on a legal technicality because the judge set the fine instead of the jury. 1969 – Duke Ellington and a portion of his band performed a 10-minute composition on ABC-TV titled, “Moon Maiden.” The event took place just one day after Neil Armstrong became the first man to set foot on the moon.
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