Recently in ALEC Category
From the RI AFL-CIO
Rhode lsland scored a major victory for working families in yesterday's Democratic Primary Election when union firefighter Stephen Casey, Woonsocket FF Local 732, defeated three term incumbent and ALEC board member Rep. Jon Brien in House District 50- Woonsocket. Aside from being a vocal supporter of ALEC legislation including being a sponsor of the new voter ID law in Rhode Island, Brien was one of the most anti-union legislators in the state. Labor activists from across the state worked long hours knocking doors, making phone calls, and talking to friends, family and neighbors all summer long to help elect Casey a first time candidate.
John F. Killoy III
Director of Communications, Mobilization, and Research
Rhode Island AFL-CIO
Posted by Zaid Jilani
The American Legislative Exchange Council, one of America's most powerful corporate front groups, has been taking a beating since their role in promoting voter suppression and "Stand Your Ground" laws was exposed. Dozens of corporations have left. Today, the labor federation AFSCME, along with a group of socially responsible investors, informed Republic Report that drug company Amgen told them that it will not be renewing its membership in ALEC.
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by Brendan Fischer
A right-wing group that pledged to "continue the excellent work of the American Legislative Exchange Council" (ALEC) and promote voter ID has published a thinly-sourced blog post that purports to show people of color and the poor are actually helped by voter ID laws, an unsupported claim that is being hyped as a "study" by outlets like Fox News and the Daily Caller. More comprehensive research has demonstrated that these laws threaten to disenfranchise around 5 million people nationally, primarily people of color, students, and the poor.
In April, ALEC disbanded its Public Safety and Elections Task Force to distance itself from the controversial "Stand Your Ground" and voter suppression laws that had prompted a public backlash and an exodus of corporate funders (30 corporations have dropped their ALEC membership as of August 6). Soon after, a right-wing group called the "National Center for Public Policy Research" (NCPPR) announced that it would "continue the excellent work of [ALEC]" and form a Voter Identification Task Force to promote voter ID laws.
The only activity thus far from the NCPPR task force appears to be a blog post that tries to turn the tables on critics of voter ID laws and divert attention away from the well-documented fact that the laws are a cynical and politically-motivated effort to suppress the vote of Democratic constituencies like people of color, college students, and the poor, who lack the state-issued IDs the laws require.
Posted by Suzanne Merkelson
Today, five new companies have pledged to stop funding the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). They include John Deere, CVS Caremark, MillerCoors, HP, and Best Buy.
According to the activist group Color of Change:
"Over the last few weeks, we have closely followed the issues surrounding the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and have heard from numerous stakeholders expressing their views," said Larry Burton, CVS Caremark Senior Vice President for Government Affairs, in an email to ColorOfChange. "As a result, after careful consideration of the available information, CVS Caremark has discontinued its membership in ALEC."
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Tell your legislator to quit ALEC - click here.
Posted by Zaid Jilani
We've just received word that Dell has dropped its membership in the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a powerful corporate front group that passes off corporate-written bills to state legislatures. Here's a statement from Dell:
Dell makes it a practice to review our memberships each year. We reviewed the value of our participation in the Education committee and decided that we will not be renewing our membership with ALEC next month. We provided our feedback to ALEC a few weeks ago when we told them we were not renewing.
Dell joins Wal-Mart, Amazon.com, and many other corporations and other organizations that have fled the organization, especially in light of the revelation that it helped spread "Stand Your Ground" and voter suppression laws.
Read entire article at Republic Report
Decision On Punitive Damages Rule Is a Positive Step Towards a More Fair Judiciary
PHILADELPHIA, PA -- The Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas' has decided to allow punitive damages in pharmaceutical mass tort cases once again. Consumer groups and civil justice rights advocates are hailing the decision as a step towards a more just and fair judiciary for all.
"The Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas' has shown us again why it has been called one of the best courts in the country"1 Keystone Progress Executive Director Michael Morrill said. "When the judicial administrators make decisions like these, it helps promote the health of our courts and our democracy."
The recent administrative change is expected to make the mass tort process more transparent and fair for both plaintiff attorneys and the defense once again. The decision to allow punitive damages in these cases will be subject to review by Common Pleas Court justices Sandra Mazer Moss and Arnold J. New. It is seen by many as providing limited saving grace for Court of Common Pleas administrator Judge John W. Herron who made several changes this past winter that has made the mass tort process less transparent and more difficult for consumers to seek justice.
Furthermore, American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) leaders Shook, Hardy, & Bacon and the American Tort Reform Association (ATRA) opposed the decision. Special interests lobbying groups like ALEC and ATRA will likely always oppose decisions like these that hold corporations accountable for gross negligence. Comment from the defense side has advocated for the "deferment of punitive damages" in an effort to break down the civil justice system and shake any meaningful responsibility held by pharmaceutical groups whose products may hurt consumers.
A recent report by Keystone Progress called "Justice Denied in Pennsylvania"2 tackles the role of ALEC, Shook, Hardy, & Bacon, and others in an effort to break down Pennsylvania's civil justice system. The report found that ALEC has created a stealth legislature in Pennsylvania, bringing together corporate lobbyists and elected state legislators who meet behind closed doors to initiate corporate-friendly bills to introduce, sometimes verbatim, into our General Assembly.
Taking Back Our Courts is a civil justice project designed to protect Philadelphia courts and promote fair access to justice for consumers. Keystone Progress is Pennsylvania's largest online progressive organization, with over 260,000 subscribers. KP uses the Internet and new media to organize online at the state and local level; and utilizes cutting-edge earned media strategies to promote a progressive agenda and counter right-wing misinformation.
Believe it or not, there are still 49 Democratic legislators in PA who have not told the public whether or not they are members of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). There are also more than 75 Republicans who not yet made that declaration, but we are not holding our breath waiting for them to self-disclose.
Is your legislator on the list? If so, tell him or her to come clean. Are you a member of ALEC? Or do you stand with the working families of PA.
Here's the list of Democrats who have no told the public they are not affiliated with ALEC.
Office Name District
Rep. Barbin, Bryan 71
Rep. Bishop, Louise Williams 192
Rep. Boyle, Kevin 172
Rep. Bradford, Matthew 70
Rep. Brown, Vanessa Lowery 190
Rep. Burns, Frank 72
Rep. Carroll , Mike 118
Rep. Conklin, Scott 77
Rep. Costa, Paul 34
Rep. Cruz, Angel 180
Rep. Curry, Lawrence 154
Rep. Davidson, Margo 164
Rep. DeLissio, Pamela 194
Rep. DeLuca, Anthony 32
Rep. Dermody, Frank 33
Rep. Donatucci, Maria 185
Rep. Evans, Dwight 203
Rep. Galloway, John 140
Rep. Gergely, Marc 35
Rep. Haluska, Gary 73
Rep. Hanna, Michael 76
Rep. Kavulich, Sid Michaels 114
Rep. Kirkland, Thaddeus 159
Rep. Kortz, William 38
Rep. Kula, Deberah 52
Rep. Mann, Jennifer 132
Rep. McGeehan, Michael 173
Rep. Mirabito, Rick 83
Rep. Mullery, Gerald 119
Rep. Myers, John 201
Rep. Neuman, Brandon 48
Rep. Parker, Cherelle 200
Rep. Preston, Joseph 24
Rep. Roebuck, James 188
Rep. Sabatina, John 174
Rep. Santoni, Dante 126
Rep. Smith, Ken 112
Rep. Smith, Matthew 42
Rep. Staback, Edward 115
Rep. Waters, Ronald 191
Rep. Wheatley, Jake 19
Rep. Youngblood, Rosita C. 198
Sen. Blake, John 22
Sen. Farnese, Lawrence 1
Sen. Kasunic, Richard 32
Sen. Kitchen, Shirley 3
Sen. Stack, Michael 5
Sen. Tartaglione, Christine 2
Sen Yudichak, John 14
By Bob Edgar
During my 12 years in Congress, I got to know plenty of lobbyists. They wrote endless letters, called on me at my office, pursued me through the Capitol, and chatted me up over hors d'oeuvres at fundraisers around Washington. I learned a lot about what they do and how they do it, knowledge that's proven useful in my post-congressional career, including my current role as president of--and occasional lobbyist for--Common Cause.
One observation I've had is that the best lobbyists take extra care to follow the rules. After all, it's pretty hard to promote or protect your client's interests or hold on to your client's business if your name starts showing up in news stories with even the smallest hint of a scandal, much less a real legal problem. If you don't believe me, just ask Jack Abramoff.
So I was surprised when my staff discovered evidence that the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), an organization backed by some of the biggest and most respected names in American business, is violating--flouting, really--federal tax laws and at least skirting some state lobbying laws.
Common Cause started looking at ALEC out of concern about some of the legislation it has helped promote, and about the way it gives corporate interests special access to and an equal vote with elected officials in developing that legislation.
A lot of ALEC legislation appears to have been drafted by companies that are members of the organization to enhance their profits. It's understandable, and not necessarily bad, that companies support legislation that benefits them. But the way ALEC hides its initiatives--wining and dining state legislators behind closed doors at resort hotels and then stepping into the background as those legislators introduce the bills under their own names--is deceptive.
Other ALEC bills, like the "Stand Your Ground" laws that have generated so much controversy in the wake of the Trayvon Martin tragedy, have no apparent connection to the free-market and limited-government agenda that ALEC claims to promote.
The "tax whistleblower" complaint Common Cause filed against ALEC with the Internal Revenue Service in April has nothing to do with any of that, however. It counters claims by ALEC that it is a charity entitled by law to tax-exempt status, demonstrating that it's actually a well-organized lobby.
Taxpayers shouldn't be asked to subsidize anyone's lobbying by providing a tax break for the donations that support it. ALEC should be held to the same rules the law imposes on other lobbying organizations.
That includes us. Like many nonprofits, Common Cause operates as two organizations. One, the Common Cause Education Fund, solicits tax-deductible contributions under Section 501 (c)(3) of the IRS code to support our educational and research efforts. The second, Common Cause, conducts our lobbying and operates under Section 501 (c)(4); its contributors get no tax break in return for their support.
ALEC does not dispute that federal tax laws put strict limits on lobbying by (c)(3) groups; it simply insists it does not lobby. But we have made public and submitted to the IRS more than 4,000 pages of materials--mostly ALEC's own records--that document its lobbying. The materials include emails and "issue alerts" detailing arguments on behalf of ALEC's "model" legislation, talking points to coach legislators through questions about those bills, and tracking documents to help ALEC member lawmakers guide the bills through the legislative labyrinth. There are even copies of invitations to social events hosted by ALEC member companies, a National Rifle Association-sponsored clay pigeon shooting event and a Reynolds Tobacco "cigar reception" among them.
ALEC has not challenged the authenticity of this evidence, even as its attorney has accused Common Cause of running a "tired campaign to abuse the legal system, distort the facts and tarnish the reputation of ideological foes."
If ALEC's member companies and state legislators are so sold on the merits of the bills they've developed and gotten passed, why hide their involvement in the lobbying they do to get the bills enacted? Why risk their reputations by claiming a tax deduction to which they're not legally entitled?
Common Cause is not interested in shutting ALEC down. We would like nothing better than to have the debate on ALEC focus on the merits of the legislation it develops and promotes. But ALEC and its member companies ought to observe the same rules that the tax and lobbying laws impose on everyone else.
Mr. Edgar is president and CEO of Common Cause.
"The ABC positions itself as the voice of contractors, but this new report makes clear, once and for all, that they represent a very small fraction of licensed contractors in the U.S. construction industry," said Sean McGarvey, the President of BCTD. "What we now know is that the ABC's primary purpose is not to engage in issues of importance to the construction industry, but to engage in ideological, anti-union advocacy that is hurting workers and damaging the industry overall."
"We're calling on the ABC to come clean with its members, legislators and the press," said Richard Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO. "It's time to be honest about the agenda driving ABC's anti-union efforts, and who is funding them."
"This report proves what we in the organized building trades have known for some time: that the ABC is essentially an astro-turf advocacy group funded for the sole purpose of torpedoing worker's rights around the country," said Terry O'Sullivan, President of the Laborer's International Union of America (LIUNA).
The report, written by Dr. Thomas J. Kriger, analyzes the ABC from a number of different perspectives, including its origins, its membership and density among contractors in the American construction industry. The report also details the ABC's finances, its formal apprenticeship and craft training programs (along with its affiliate, the National Center for Construction Education and Research, NCCER), and ABC's more recent electronic, ideological issues advocacy.
Among the key findings of the report:
* In spite of the ABC's claim to represent "80% of construction," its membership in reality amounts to only 1% of the construction industry. The ABC has approximately 22,260 apprentices. The Building and Construction Trades Department, AFL-CIO, has 429,000 by comparison.
* The ABC's membership amounts to only 1% of all US construction businesses.
* A substantial number of the ABC's membership is not related to the construction industry at all.
* In no state in the 46 where the ABC has chapters does the percentage of its member-contractors exceed 6%.
The data shows that the ABC's workforce development capacity, based on its financial commitment (estimated at $30-50M annually) and the corresponding size and scope of its apprentice training system, is dwarfed by the $750 million annual investments made by America's Building Trades Unions and its affiliated contractors, which has produced one of the nation's largest, private, self-funded education systems.
While misrepresenting its member base as representative of "80% of construction," the ABC engages in highly organized lobbying and advocacy campaigns that undermine project labor agreements (PLA's) and other labor laws, including the Employee Free Choice ACT and Davis-Bacon, according to the report. State lawmakers and the press are in turn misled into believing that the ABC speaks for labor and construction, which is not the case. Many of its agenda items are aligned with the American Legislative Exchange Council, also known as ALEC. The ABC's 2009 Chapter Legislative Guide contained 18 bills listed as "property of" ALEC, while the ABC's 2010 Legislative Handbook included 10 examples of copyrighted ALEC model legislation.
Examples of the ABC's ideologically-based advocacy campaigning include:
* ABC's national organization funds two political groups that provide legal services for chapters fighting PLAs (project labor agreements).
* To fight PLAs, the ABC created "thetruthaboutplas.com" (as well as "stopunionstimulus.com") to perpetuate so-called news stories, as well as a blog that tracks labor proposals and links to an anti-PLA Facebook page.
* ABC launched a prominent new media campaign known as "Halt the Assault," which includes a website and videos on Youtube.
The report features a state-by-state analysis of the ABC's local efforts to undermine unions and labor laws. The states in particular where the ABC is shown to be the most active are Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, California and Washington, DC.
"At a time when the construction industry is hurting and unemployment continues to be high, the ABC is spending millions a year to promote anti-union, anti-government policies that are putting America's workforce at risk," said Dr. Thomas J. Kriger, author of the report. "The ABC's low road employment strategy may have produced short term gains for open shop contractors and construction users, but this strategy also produced negative consequences for the industry and society."
For a copy of the full report, go to www.knowyourabc.com .
American Legislative Exchange Council writes bills and then gives them to PA legislators who pass them off as their own work
(HARRISBURG,PA)--A new report released today reveals a disturbing level of influence by corporate lobbyists in Pennsylvania. A secretive organization known as the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has been writing legislation which PA legislators have been passing off as their own work. The bills written by ALEC cover virtually every area of public policy, including healthcare, budgeting and tax policy. The report was written by Keystone Progress, a progressive advocacy group based in Harrisburg.
"We are not talking about legislators following a corporate agenda, there is nothing new in that." said Eileen Connelly, chair of Keystone Progress. "This is legislation which is used verbatim by legislators who pretend that they wrote these bills."
Among the bills copied from ALEC's "Model Bills" website are:
- HB 42, the "Freedom of choice in Healthcare Act," introduced by Rep. Matthew Baker (R, Bradford, Tioga)
- HB 250, the "Council on Efficient Government Act, " introduced by Rep. Rep. Seth Grove (R, York)
- HB 1349, the "Regulatory Review Act," introduced by Rep. Tina Pickett (R, Bradford, Sullivan, Susquehanna)
The report identifies 23 legislators who are ALEC members, including much of the GOP leadership in the General Assembly. Twenty-two of the 23 are GOP legislators. Only one is a Democrat.
Until now it has been difficult to show the connection between ALEC and corporate takeover of democracy. Last week The Center for Media and Democracy uncovered 800 bills and resolutions that were voted on by ALEC members
, showing how its unelected corporate members are given a direct voice on the creation of bills that affect the lives of American citizens every day. The agenda embedded in these bills is about tilting the system into favoring those with money and power. Through de-regulation of industry, voter suppression and setting up barriers to direct democracy ALEC legislation has greatly influenced the political landscape in many states, including Pennsylvania.
These bills align closely with the agenda of the Republican leadership in both chambers. With over 800 bills, it is impossible to compare each to the bills introduced in the PA House and Senate this year without reviewing each ALEC bill and comparing it to similar legislation in PA.
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