Friday, May 18, 2012

There Are Some Dangerous People Out There

These are people who want our country to be shaped the way THEY want it.  They are either so full of money that it doesn't occur to them that they live in a democracy or they just wish to control the system from within. 

At lot of this in-fighting within parties might be ended if we didn't have a two-party system.  I wish we had several more parties so that coalitions could be made.  I think most of us would feel part of something we truly believe in rather than lukewarm support we sometimes feel (and could not fathom supporting the other side).

But we don't.  We are allowing our country to devolve into one where someone like Romney can honestly say he will run a clean campaign (but he's fine if others can do the dirty work during it).   Meaning, we have some PACS, some groups that are just going to grind everyone else into the ground, either through death by a thousand paper cuts (see: the teachers unions) or by the might of their money (see: candidates who need dough to run for office).

To whit; ALEC.   Yes, I know many of you have spoken of this group and I've been listening and reading all along.  They are probably the single most dangerous group in the country and people are finally wising up to them.

Who They Are
The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is the nation’s largest nonpartisan individual membership association of state legislators, with over 2,000 state legislators across the nation and more than 100 alumni members in Congress. ALEC’s mission is to promote free markets, limited government, and federalism throughout the states.

It was started 30 years ago during the Reagan administration.   They have corporations represented on all their task forces who vote on the bills to get passed.

What kind of bills?  Health care, workers' rights, corporate power, tax policy, vouchers, voter ID and elections laws, environment (obstruction of protections), 

A New York Times report on Shook Hardy said “tobacco is their middle name,” and the firm’s lawyers have been viewed as “industry propagandists, apologists and co-conspirators.”

Unbelievably, they are not considered a lobbying firm and do not have to register.  

Their tagline:  Limited Government    Free Markets     Federalism 

From Wikipedia:
Each corporate member pays an annual fee of between $7,000 and $25,000 a year, and if a corporation participates in any of the nine task forces, additional fees apply, from $2,500 to $10,000 each year. ALEC also receives direct grants from corporations, such as $1.4 million from ExxonMobil from 1998-2009.

What They Do
They are funded by largely by corporations like WalMart.  They write and promote legislation throughout the country.  From WAMM Today:

ALEC members introduce the bills in statehouses as their own brilliant ideas—without disclosing that corporations pre-voted on them with politicians behind closed doors at ALEC resort meetings. ALEC boasts that it has over 1,000 of these bills introduced by legislative members every year, and more than 20% become legally binding.

They are, of course, very interested in public education especially now with the possibility of for-profit charters (and charters run by for-profits) as well as vouchers

Here's what they think of teachers ( from their Score Card on Education report):
Britain's enemies overreached, invading the Soviet Union and attacking the American fleet at Pearl Harbor. Finally, British forces defeated the German army in Egypt, securing their hold over the strategically vital Suez Canal. Prime Minister Churchill recognized the turning point:
"Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning. Henceforth Hitler's Nazis will meet equally well armed and perhaps better armed troops. Hence forth they will have to face in many theatres of war that superiority in the air which they have so often used without mercy against others, of which they boasted all round the world, and which they intended to use as an instrument for convincing all other peoples that all resistance to them was hopeless.
We mean to hold our own."
 In case you missed it, the Nazis are teachers and the English are ALEC. 

Who Supports Them (or gets help from them)
-the National Association of Charter School Authorizers, one of the most visible corporate charter groups who has received millions from the Fed (via states who get grants).   Well the NACSA just got outed by Republic Report and are now letting their "subscription to ALEC expire".  From the NACSA statement:

Our work with ALEC has been focused entirely on promoting excellent charter schools. As part of our annual review processes, however, we determined that alternative strategies would be more effective in achieving these policy objectives. Thus we will not be renewing our membership in ALEC when it expires next month. 

-Phillip Morris

Who has disassociated themselves from them?

- Senator Nan Orrock (D-Ga)                           - Penn Reps Kate Harper (R), Sandra Major (R),
- Senator Greg Cromer (R-La)                            Mark Mustio (R),Harry Readshaw (D), Senator
- Senator Mike Colona (D-MO)                          John Pippy (R)
- Senator George Munoz (D-NM)                    - Rep. Ted Vick (D-SC)
- Rep. Jennifer Selig (D-UT)                            - Rep. Kevin Van De Wege (D-WA)
- a raft of Texas reps (mostly Dems) and Nebraska senators in their respective legislatures
- Yum! Brands (owners of KFC, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut)
- the Gates Foundation
- Lexis-Nexis                      - Coke                     - Pepsi
- Intuit                                 - Wendy's                - Mars
- Arizona Public Service    - Blue Cross            - Proctor & Gamble
- Kaplan

And ALEC is running scared

What Can You Do?

Follow the ALEC Exposed website for current information.

- Attend this rally

We need to take a stand against conservative corporate special interests writing our laws and setting our priorities. We’re visiting Amazon’s annual shareholder meeting to take this message straight to their executives and top decision makers. Will you join us on Thursday, May 24 to tell Amazon to stop supporting ALEC and denounce its right-wing agenda? Click below for more details and to sign up:


Rally outside Amazon's shareholder meeting, Thursday, May 24th, 8:30 am.  


Anonymous said...

Good info—thanks for posting Melissa. It makes me think of the Sronecutters episode of The Simpsons, I am getting tired of having to fight so hard against all of the corporate interests that try to control this country.

Jan said...

Yes -- and the non-trivial discrepancy between the "four days" that Thomas was reimbursed by ALEC for attending one of their retreats vs. the "he dropped in and gave a quick speech" that his office reported is also troubling.


We need to start, on a state level, requiring that our legislators disclose whether they are channeling ALEC stuff -- and vote them out if they are. We need similar transparency with respect to entities like A4E, STAND, DFER, etc.

Brrr. These guys give me the total creeps. Charlie thought the Board was evil? I think THESE guys are evil.

Anonymous said...

Kudos to Dora Taylor for her long-term, exhaustive documenting and outing of ALEC (and many other groups) who are rooted in greed.

Her blog is an extensive information trove that is a treasured public service.

Many, many thanks, Dora!!

She has an entire category for ALEC.


--enough already

Melissa Westbrook said...

Good grief, how did I forget to put in that link to Seattle Education 2010? My apologies.

Melissa Westbrook said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sahila said...

I'm waiting for the day people here get to the point of realising, accepting that all of it is a sham, that' we're living in a plutarchy...

That ALEC and everything else that is going on is nothing surprising IF/WHEN you accept the reality of what is this country/state you are living in....

Then, maybe, we can get around to DOING something to take back our lives... until then, we're wasting time and energy reacting to what is in effect merely a symptom and a distraction...

Anonymous said...

ALEC and Stand for Children have worked in tandem in other states to depower teachers and privatize the public school system.


I am heartened that in the current local legislative races candidates have started to refuse to participate in WA Stand for Children endorsement process. Encourage your favorite candidate to opt out too.

And who on the current school board was endorsed by Stand last November? Harium and Sherry.

Ed Voter

Jack Whelan said...

It's interesting that our local, pro-Charter, millionaire recently gave a TED talk that TED won't publish because it's too left-wing. See link below. Key graf:

“Rich businesspeople like me don’t create jobs. Rather they are a consequence of an ecosystemic feedback loop animated by middle-class consumers, and when they thrive, businesses grow and hire, and owners profit. That’s why taxing the rich to pay for investments that benefit all is a great deal for both the middle class and the rich.”

Most succinct takedown of trickledown that I've ever heard. His point is that companies don't create jobs unless they are forced to, and the only thing that forces them to is increased customer demand. No money in people's pockets, no increased demand; no increased demand, no increase in orders, no increase in orders, no increase in jobs.

Everyone, including a substantial slice of America's moneyed elites, understood this once upon a time. But ALEC-think & RickSantini-think shape elite groupthink nowadays, including a lot of unthinking elite thinking even among elite Democrats who should know better but don't because they are talking to the wrong people.

Anyway, Hanauer's example of one of our plutocrats who is capable of transcending his so-called class bias, but when it comes to education issues, he's talking to the wrong people. The challenge is to win people like Hanauer and Booker and (Melinda if not Bill) Gates over.

I believe all these people, and many others like them, are persuadable. And nothing short of massive civic unrest changes in this country unless you get a significant number of these class-transcending elites on your side.


Sahila said...

@jack.... Hanauer does none of us a favour in his preachings...

the whole concept of unlimited growth - prosperity for all - is flawed....

we cant have unlimited growth, dressed in the propagandistic costume of "prosperity for all", especially the middle class, in a limited system (earth/resources)...

the entire paradigm we are all playing in, and Hanauer is pontificating about, is on an entropic path....

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Jack. VERY interesting.


Anonymous said...

Hey, Jack, Hanauer was on MSNBC but can't remember the program - Hardball? O'Donnell? Ed? Miserable recall I'm afraid. TED has reinstated that keynote address and it was a good one. It has encouraged me to rethink Hanauer's ideas and perhaps give him the benefit of just being wrong rather than becoming a reformer. Eric Liu was on CSpan talking about the book he and Hanauer wrote together. I liked Eric's ideas but they were a bit pie in the sky and sounded like they came from two very lucky and now privileged people.

I think Hanauer means well. But he listens without questioning and he's listening to the wrong people.

Melissa, I think the most dangerous thing in our democracy is two-fold: corrupt government and corrupt media. When Scott Walker can still be in the game for governor in Wisconsin and Rick Scott get elected governor in Florida, the media is not doing its job at all. And when Fox News won the right in court to lie, we were doomed. How can anyone win against propaganda and lies when they have the veneer of truth (also called truthiness) given it by our fourth estate.

And my biggest disappointment is Obama's lack of voice in the conversation. He's only used it meaningfully during campaigns. If media isn't going to be his friend and it isn't, then he better buck up the microphone on bully pulpit.

It is all so infuriating.


Anonymous said...

Kids need to watch out for dangerous people. One thing about kid on kid bullying is it's not sophisticated and insidious, but when adults bully kids they do it surreptitiously and with clear knowledge of their behavior. So, wow. Yes, there are dangerous people out there.