Thursday, November 3, 2011

Koch/ALEC Cabal - a Smoking Gun for financial connections and control...

Many have fought long and hard to prove connections between Charles and David Koch and the various Conservative Right Wing groups, organizations, foundations and Main Stream Media outlets. Hours and in some instances months of deep research has come away with bits and pieces of the involvement of Koch with the various suspect groups. The most that is usually found is a trace of periodic or sporadic funding from one of the numerous Koch held "Foundations" to the individual entities suspected of deeper connections to Koch.

The question of ties between the Conservative Right Wing think tanks, "grass root" activism and Koch money resulted in my coming at the subject from a different angle altogether. I was looking for not only some form of monetary support but control as well - a way in which Koch money not only funded activities of specific entities, but was able to maintain some form of controlling those activities and "keeping an eye" on their investments.

I believe I found the answers to these two key questions. Many wonder how Davy Boy and Ol' Chucky ensure that they get their money's worth out of the organizations they fund and support. How do they control the work or dissemination of Conservative "messages"? I found their operation is much simpler and more effective than many would believe and done through a system that has virtually been ignored by media and most researchers. Going at it the way I did I also uncovered how they are able to have additional control over what is printed about them in corporate controlled media outlets - print, TV and other formats.

It begins with Koch's "Institute For Humane Studies". IHS describes their mission as:
"Mission The mission of IHS is to support the achievement of a freer society by discovering and facilitating the development of talented students, scholars, and other intellectuals who share an interest in liberty and in advancing the principles and practice of freedom. "Each year IHS awards over $750,000 in scholarships to students from universities around the world. IHS also sponsors the attendance of hundreds of students at its summer seminars and provides various forms of career assistance, including sponsored internships, to students and recent graduates pursuing careers in academia, journalism, and public policy. Through its programs, the Institute promotes the study of liberty across a broad range of disciplines, encouraging understanding, open inquiry, rigorous scholarship, and creative problem-solving."
IHS lists 96 - that's right - 96! organizations that Koch provides "internships" to. They pay these interns $10.00 per hour each and that helps keep the payroll costs down for the organizations where they're placed. It also allows Koch to have direct inside information about the ongoing activities and efforts being conducted in each of those organizations, foundations and "charities".

The list begins here. You'll notice that all the usual suspects we've come to know and expect listed here - plus a few that have so far slipped under everyone's radar. Fourth on the list is ALEC:
"American Legislative Exchange Council (Washington, DC) The mission of the American Legislative Exchange Council is to advance the Jeffersonian principles of free markets, limited government, federalism, and individual liberty, through a nonpartisan public-private partnership of America's state legislators, members of the private sector, the federal government, and general public. The council works with state legislators from all parties and members of the private sector who share ALEC's mission. The council conducts a policy making program that unites members of the public and private sectors in a dynamic partnership to support research, policy development, and dissemination activities. The council also prepares the next generation of political leadership through educational programs that promote the principles of Jeffersonian democracy."
There are page after page of these "affiliates" Koch provides intern staffing to annually. This is bad enough - but as with so much else, it gets so much worse...

Many - including myself - have complained for years about our main stream media refusing to report on Koch activities, ALEC's pro-corporate legislation and in general ignoring anything negative to the Conservative far right groups. Perhaps the second "Scholarship" program of the IHS helps shed some well needed sunlight on why this problem with the MSM exists. IHS scholarships include placement in newspaper, broadcast, digital and investigative media outlets.

IHS also funds "scholarships" (there's the same term used by ALEC to excuse their funding of travel and meeting attendance expenses for legislators, indicating "education" rather than programming) for what they term their "Journalism Internship Program". Have you ever written a letter to the editor, sent a query about ALEC to your local newspaper or TV affiliate? And when you got no response or were ignored and wondered if your letter got to the Editor, producer or other executive, did you ever wonder who actually opened your email or letter? That's right, interns. Journalism interns receive an additional $3,000 + stipend along with per travel and other expenses.

Realizing that this is not some intern program that just began...was started last year, or in 2000...but rather has been ongoing through IHS since 1961 when it was founded, helps explain how conservatives have been able to work their way through the media and insinuate themselves throughout our media. Graduates of the internship program also now have jobs as legislative assistants, aides to lawmakers, hold key positions throughout the U.S. and state government agencies and departments. These men and women have been trained, indoctrinated and groomed to go out and take their places as the next - and next - generations of Conservative Right Wingers.

At first blush, some may think how widespread could such influence possibly be? How can a simple "intern" program be used to disseminate a Conservative Right Wing agenda across the country and throughout various businesses, organizations, and our media? When researching IHS on Muckety I found their description of IHS as:
Muckety metrics: Connections: Institute for Humane Studies has direct or once-removed relationships with 51 people, organizations or other entities in our database of the most influential people in America. Under a scoring system that gives more weight to direct links, this score is higher than 62% of all entries. People related to Institute for Humane Studies: Richard H. Fink - director Other current Institute for Humane Studies relationships: Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation - funder George Mason University - program Muckety connection score: 62
Here is a link to the basic view of the IHS chart: imageDownload (9)

 An extended or exploded view of the connections to everyone and every organization affiliated with IHS through Charles G. Koch:

  imageDownload (8)

 At the Muckety map link you can scroll down and all the individuals, organizations, foundations and connections are listed. Mouse over each entry on this huge list of connections and it will provide the affiliations for that person, group, foundation etc. This is a HUGE data base compiled just from the Koch affiliations through the Institute for Humane Studies.

Many will be surprised to see the links and named individuals connected. Lots of connections through Ol' Chucky and his foundations. Let's take a closer look at how widespread his influence is. Again using the Muckety data base I clicked on Charles Koch Charitable foundation and got this return:
Muckety metrics: Connections: Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation has direct or once-removed relationships with 398 people, organizations or other entities in our database of the most influential people in America. Under a scoring system that gives more weight to direct links, this score is higher than 98% of all entries. Muckety connection score: 98
imageDownload (10)

 Those interested can follow this link and click on the interactive map and become overwhelmed - I did that and the expanded map with named affiliations won't fit on this page. I did do some one by one: CATO Institute (Muckety rating 97%):

imageDownload (11)

Federalist Society (Muckety rating 99%!!):

  imageDownload (12)

So far the connections demonstrate a vast wealth of business, corporate and legislative affiliations and influence - from think tanks, to media and wealthy and powerful individuals within society and business. This is the circle within which the interns selected by IHS begin to become acclimated. First they work for these organizations and individuals, then many go on to become clerks for legislators, judges and aides to others. As IHS advertises, the careers and career path of many chosen as interns begin with that internship. Many possibly find their way to invitations to the various groups and organizations affiliated with Koch - such as the Federalist Society.

The Federalist Society - where all the big boys of Conservativism meet, hang out and discuss advancing their ideologies and agenda. Koch supported and funded. Of late we've read several articles about the membership of SCOTUS Justice Clarence Thomas in the Federalist Society:
Charlottesville - Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas spoke at a banquet last night sponsored by the conservative Federalist Society lambasting critics who accuse him of impartiality because of his attendance at a meeting with the Koch brothers."
Thomas' membership in the Federalist Society is confirmed by Wikipedia. At Muckety the chart shows no direct link between Thomas and the FS, but provides his relationship rating as 96% and his influence rating as 92%. Here is his basic chart:

  Justice Clarence Thomas connections

 But when you expand the chart through his current and ongoing relationship with Clerks and his good friend, Harlan R. Crow, that changes dramatically. For instance several of his clerks shown in the above chart were also George Mason University Professors and/or Federalist Society members like Steven G. Bradbury (FS member), Michael E. O'Neill (GMU Law Professor) and Neomi Rao (GMU Law Professor) was a Republican witness against Sonia Sotomayor's confirmation hearing for Supreme Court Justice. Here is Ms. Rao's Muckety chart:

  Neomi Rao

 When I looked at the Harlan R. Crow chart from Muckety I had an OMG moment. Knowing Thomas' wife worked for the Heritage Foundation, was heavily funded by Conservatives and especially Harlan Crow,

  Harlan R. Crow affiliations,

I began to get a more complete, and truly frightening picture. There at the center surrounding Harlan Crow and Clarence Thomas were all the foundations: Castle Rock, Charles Koch, Scaife, Searle and Bradley. Most of the Conservative think tanks and the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth (remember what the did to Kerry?), American Enterprise Institute, National Center for Policy Analysis and Progress for America Voter Fund! Alongside the funders were all the names associated with Conservative influence in America - and some internationally.

Additionally, we have SCOTUS Justice Antonin Scalia who is also a member of the Federalist Society along with Samuel Alito .

Who would believe that this trail from lowly interns would lead all the way to our Supreme Court and into the heart of the Conservative Cabal like never before. For those who have not seen or don't remember the ALEC connections to all this, here it is expanded and found at Muckety.

  imageDownload (2)

 ALEC is the "legislative" arm of the cabal, writing the pro-corporate pro-conservative legislation that become the law of our states and nation. George Mason University is the center of influence upon our Judiciary; seminars, internship programs such as the IHS and their Law Education Center used to "educate" judges. Kansas University named in the IHS chart has a "Shook, Hardy & Bacon Center for Excellence in Advocacy". Most who have studied ALEC know that Shook, Hardy and Bacon's two top lobbyists and partners, Victor Schwartz and Mark Behrens represent ALEC in the filing of briefs, Schwartz is the Chairman of the Civil Justice Task Force and Behrens serves as the "Advisor" on that same ALEC task force. Behrens is one of two SHB lobbyists who got caught lobbying for ALEC in ND in 2009 on Asbestos legislation proposed by ALEC and under consideration in that state at the time.

So we have an intricately and well organized web stretching from the Koch brothers HQ in Kansas all the way through our state legislators, to the U.S. Congress and beyond that right into the halls of the U.S. Supreme Court...and to add insult to injury that influential web crosses the Atlantic in the form of the recently closed Atlantic Bridge Charity operated by/with ALEC. This "Charity" was just closed down and the UK with the Minister of Defense resigning in the midst of a scandal that continues to widen and encompass more of Britain's top government officials, ALEC and some of their corporate members.

The foregoing is why I and many others have tried to convince Democrats - and especially Progessives in the Party to put aside their differences and pool resources and organize a defense against the cabal. As this shows, they are anything but disorganized or under funded in their activities. They may prevail unless we stop beating on them with twigs and begin finding 2" x 4"'s to hit back with. To continue to battle them separately on teachers fighting over their education legislation, unions fighting on collective bargaining, students fighting back over voter suppression is to fight their fight. This is what they anticipate and are prepared to overcome. This cabal has the money, influence and power all concentrated in the hands of Ol' Chucky and Davy Boy. They have gathered the major Conservative family foundations to their side to fund, have used that money to buy further influence within each state, our Congress, the state/federal judiciary and the Supreme Court.

To rebut our identifying all this power and influence the Conservatives rebut that by using George Soros' name as doing the same thing for the Liberals and Progressives...I only frigging wish he would! If/when we come together and unify and take it to them on a national platform, that will be something they will have never anticipated - because Progressives can never quit quibbling amongst themselves and unify. If this is done, they will be caught flat footed and have to develop other initiatives and plans to prevail. Let's not fight their fight any longer...

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

If you are a Progressive, Koch-Cain & ALEC should be illegal | Al Jazeera Video

Way back in April at the Anti-ALEC Protest and March in Cincinnati, Al Jazeera Producer, Bob Abeshouse was working on a documentary about ALEC, Koch and what I have termed (over and over) as the "Cabal". He followed us to New Orleans in August and interviewed many of us for the production. Though much of the interviews he provided did not make the cut, our Marching and demonstrating did. On October 27th, Mr. Abeshouse's Documentary was finally published by Al Jazeera America and uploaded to YouTube: . I have embedded the entire 27 minute piece below the fold for all to watch. This is one of the most informative media presentations yet on Koch and their funded organizations - including ALEC - to be put before the public. I urge readers to take time and watch the video and please pass this diary and the link on to others so they may understand the issue, the problem and many of the facts surrounding this battle over democracy. Since our U.S. MSM continues to be in denial about the Cabal, I'm glad to see that SOMEONE is doing their job.

Monday, July 18, 2011

DK's Exposing ALEC & Protest ALEC efforts pay off big time this week!

As most Progressives are now aware there has been a huge development this week concerning the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). On Monday In These Times (ITT) published an in-depth and well written article by Beau Hodai on ALEC - "Publicopoly Exposed". There were links provided by Hodai to some of the Model Legislation ALEC had developed over the years.

While readers were still devouring this expose, The Nation announced a full court media blitz upon ALEC on Wednesday with a series of articles by their top political journalists such as John Nichols, their Washington Correspondent. A simultaneous announcement from the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) that they had launched an "ALEC Exposed" site consisting of research, facts, articles and links to The Nation's ALEC articles, various other sites and materials all about ALEC. The announcement provided that the site was dedicated for the use by professional journalists, progressive writers, bloggers and every citizen interested in democracy. CMD sponsored a webinar for journalists and those who were already involved in the articles and document dump as their ALEC Exposed site when active. On Thursday's show, Ed Schultz had Lisa Graves from CMD and John Nichols of The Nation on and talked at length about ALEC and their Model legislation (no video file available yet). Yesterday DBA Press released: “Legislative Laundry:” Investigative report on the mechanics of the ALEC scholarship fund" and hundreds of articles were similarly spun off into the WebSphere from all of the above.

At the core of the "ALEC Exposed" site is a section filled entirely with more than 800 of ALEC's Model Legislation, mostly with innocuous sounding titles, described as "Acts" and "Resolutions" and bearing "copyright by ALEC" somewhere within each document. What most are unaware of is that members of "Exposing ALEC" - formed right here on Daily Kos - were responsible for acquisition of the complete ALEC Model Legislation library.

For reasons of security and concerns about push-back from ALEC and their members, the name of the two groups involved - Exposing ALEC and Protest - were not released or mentioned prominently in the articles. The Nation and CMD referred to their acquisition of the documents as having come from a whistleblower through "an Activist Group." In this situation - as in most instances involving the release of high profile and damaging materials showing corruption - the name(s) of whistleblowers need to be kept secret when the information they provided becomes public. Because of this necessary protective need, the names of everyone involved in acquisition of the ALEC materials has been kept low profile in the news.

What I can say, without identifying any one person, is that great courage was shown by the whistleblower that contacted one of our protesters (A Kossack) in Cincy with a willingness to turn over everything to those of us marching and trying to bring ALEC into the light of day. The whistleblower saw the speeches, a march and "Teach-Ins" where anyone could stop by and learn about ALEC and their impact upon our democracy and specifically manipulation of the laws implemented there in Ohio and elsewhere. I'm told by a source that once others were seen to be speaking out and trying to stop this madness of boilerplate legislation to advance ideology, the decision was made to step up and help us save democracy...and the wealth of documents were the outcome.

Rumors abounded since the Cincy rally about these important documents from ALEC and whether they existed or not. We now know they did but were kept under wraps while stories were written, the documents studied one by one by media and political experts, looking and comparing these legislative documents from ALEC against current and past state proposed legislation and actual laws that have been passed in states such as Wisconsin, Ohio, Florida, Michigan and Indiana.

The comparisons revealed that much of the anti-union and voter disenfranchisement legislation ongoing now in many states tracks back to ALEC and their corporate members. In addition research found many corporate funded or linked outfits like Heritage Foundation, CATO Institute, Heartland Institute and their founders or funders of those entities like Charles and David Koch are also members of ALEC and their representatives hold seats upon ALEC's Private Enterprise Board.

As most know, I have been working on issues involving prison industries, exploitation of prison labor, privatization and immigration legislation for more than 8 years now and counting. Once I discovered the money trail on exploitation of prisoner's labor led to and then through ALEC, I began to crunch my research, expanding it from the limited scope of prison related issues and looking at the wide assortment of other issues ALEC was also involved in. When I had a firm grasp of what was going on and how insidious this "organization" is, I began trying to expose them to the public through my website, a blog on Blogger and couldn't generate the interest I wanted on these important issues. I contacted Maddow, Olbermann AG Holder, President Obama and wrote and sent in an article to The Nation. None of these efforts paid off, no one it seemed knew about ALEC, their involvement in increasing prison populations, or issuing their Model legislation state by state to allow corporate members and affiliated companies access to those prisoners as a slave labor workforce.

So I brought the issues here to DK back in November of last year in the first segment of my Corporatocracy series. I immediately began to receive questions from other Kossacks about these corporations and ALEC. Since that day I posted no less than 83 subsequent diaries on these issues and most of them referred to ALEC and their activities involving prison issues. I was not the first to raise the flag of warning about ALEC, there have been others. The first ALEC "tag" was in 2006, though they weren't mentioned in the diary. In the 4 years between that original use of the ALEC tag here at DK and my first use of it in Corporatocracy, there were a total of 9 other uses of the tag. Today I checked and the count for ALEC tags on DK now stands at 483! This is not my trying to be egotistical, rather pointing out - as you'll see below - the power of Daily Kos when Progressives pay attention to important issues and begin to spread the word across the vast internet. I had been writing and blowing whistles, horns, throwing rocks at my Representative and others every chance I got from 2003 through my first posting to DK in 2010 mentioned above. Seven years passed as ALEC continued to eat away at our democracy from the inside, unnoticed and without challenge or question as state by state enacted their corporate friendly legislation.

Once the word - and call for attention to and help on exposing ALEC - came to DK last year Kossacks reacted! You came together and analyzed the issues and problems. We looked for ways to spread the word about their existence, their agenda, their ideology, their members, their Model bills and in general every aspect of ALEC was put under a microscope by one Kossack or another. All the time this analysis was going on more and more came together and began lending their insight and assistance, helping dissect ALEC and how to stop them, while we looked we kept writing and waving to others to come and take a look at what we'd found...urging them to take part and write about them also and help spread the word. MNDem999 put hours into compiling a list of corporations, legislative members - past and present - alumni and other information about ALEC and posted it here for others to use as a reference.

In my diaries in March I began asking others in the comment section if they thought a protest against ALEC at their Spring Summit in Cincy was a good idea. Many Kossacks responded with responses of "Hell yes!" and "I'll be there!" and before I knew it others joined their voices to ours and by the end of March students and others in Ohio put their time and effort into organizing and the thought grew into reality as more and more joined us and agreed to come to Cincy from other states and take part in "Exposing ALEC". One of the Organizers (and possibly more) ManfromMiddletown put together a group here on DK with that title and on April 29th all of us involved here at DK and union members, students from Ohio, Indiana, Louisiana and possibly more showed up. A Huff Post documentary producer sent a cameraman down to interview activists, film the march, teach-ins and Rally on the Square. Many from all walks of life, social and work classes attended and helped us make the rally a success.

April 29th, 2011 is going to have to be a date that will be remembered as an historic event - not only for it being the first public acknowledgment of ALEC's existence and open protest against them - but because though it was the first also produced the environment that allowed the whistleblower to come forward, hand extended - with all of ALEC's secret materials handed over! So it was not simply the first protest - historic enough - it was the beginning of the end for ALEC.

This week another truly historic event in the history of American politics, that will be remembered as a part of American history occurred with the release of the full "menu" of right wing ideology and agenda to the public. This historic release providing us a look into the dark recesses of a corrupt right wing organization with an agenda of despoiling legislation as we know it, will probably be written and heretofore referred to as "ALEC-gate" in future conversations and publications.

This past week and the eruption of material being released, the viral spread of that information across the country by progressives and others of different political affiliations, has kept myself and most of the Exposing ALEC Group busier than a one legged man in an ass kicking contest (and you know who that ass belongs to) so this is the first opportunity I've had to report about the events since Cincy and upon the ALEC Exposed site set up by CMD and The Nation. There is so much more news, but much of it still is being kept under wraps for the time being. This is not going to be a one-time flash upon the political landscape that draws attention which wanes as the brightness dissipates...this is going to stay in the headlines possibly through the 2012 election. It has to when we realize that two of the Republican candidates in that election for President of the United States are affiliated with ALEC. Newt Gingrich is an ALEC Alumni and Herman Caine a bobble-headed lackey who has spoken on behalf of ALEC and at some of their event activities - and proudly uploaded by ALEC to YouTube (if you have the stomach to watch them, they're available there). So not only is ALEC deeply involved in thoroughly corrupting the General Assemblies of each and every state in the country, they have two of their most powerful Alumni sitting at the head of the U.S. House of Representatives. Republican Majority Leader, Eric Cantor (you know, the one who stands to make tens of millions of dollars if the American economy collapses by his investment in betting that will happen) and House Speaker, John Boehner who continues to refuse to budge on repealing any tax loopholes for the rich.

I have to put that into proper context so everyone understands how important it is to abolish this cabal now that it has been exposed: 2,000 plus Legislators - fully one third of all U.S. state lawmakers - are members of ALEC. The top Republicans in our U.S. Congress are Alumni of ALEC and two of the Presidential Republican Candidates are either ALEC Alum or are closely affiliated with ALEC. To me this demonstrates that ALEC and the corporate elite see themselves on the cusp of realizing total control of the White House, U.S. Congress and control of a majority of state General Assemblies and state Governorship. This is simply too damn important to downplay or ignore and pass of as not possible, as Gingrich and Caine don't have a chance of winning. My answer to those with that attitude is that in every national election cycle the front runners going into the primaries are usually not those who come out as a clear winner. If Gingrich or Caine manage to prevail at that level...ALEC will be only one step away from realizing their dream. Just think about that for a moment as you read through the vast documents at ALEC Exposed.

We at Exposing ALEC and other Kossacks have done our part and will continue to work overtime to put an end to ALEC and their aspirations to control us and our country. Now we need you to step-up and lend us your voice and and assistance. Spread the word and keep doing so, until the MSM is forced to pick this up and report on it, join us in New Orleans or donate to the Protest Alec event we're holding on August 5th in New Orleans. Many of us are traveling down there and will need housing, travel and other assistance with organizing, permits, posters, protest signs, handouts and much more. We are going up against the most powerful and influential in this country and we're doing it on a shoestring against those with Koch money and influence behind them. Help us make our voices and message as loud as theirs. There is a "Donate" button right there on the right at the Protest webpage...please click on it and help us stop this vile feces in their tracks - once and for all.

Stay tuned for further updates and again accept my apologies for keeping a couple of hundred followers hanging without a diary for so long. As this diary indicates, we have all been very, very busy on making this happen and working toward the August Protest. There is more news available, but simply no time or security issues prevent it from being put out here. Just stay with us as this moves along and I promise, the prison issues on imprisonment, prison labor and privatization that led me to ALEC and the exposure of ALEC this week is in the works and you'll be able to read about it soon in a national forum.

4:27 PM PT: Here is a link to the Ed Schultz segment on ALEC, provided by shantysue. Kudos:

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

8:17 PM PT: You know since this has become public ALEC continues to say they take no part in state or national legislation.  You have to see this video about ALEC's proposed Healthcare initiative legislation in CO:

Exposing ALEC - ALEC Exposed Democracy Now Video Exposes Koch Influence upon AMERICA!

This is a short diary but of utmost importance as Lisa Graves, Executive Director for Center for Media and Democracy diagrams the involvement of the Koch brother's impact upon all facets of American industry, education, health, jobs, unions and resources - through the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

There is little I can add to what you'll learn from Lisa in this video interview. It is also important that this interview by Democracy Now was an interview given by Lisa from Madison Wisconsin, where this exposure of ALEC exploded through the manipulations of ALEC Alum, Governor Scott Walker earlier this year when he pushed the Koch agenda through Model Legislation introduced and passed by other ALEC members within the Wisconsin General Assembly. Now all of us can understand the impact of the walkout by the Wisconsin Democrats - and why it was so important for them to do so in an attempt to stifle this stranglehold upon us by ALEC and their Koch corporate masters.

Kudos to those brave legislators in Wisconsin and Indiana who fled their states to prevent the implementation of the Koch agenda upon their constituents. If not for their courageous actions back then, it could be far worse and possibly the whistleblower who turned over the ALEC documents to members of Exposing ALEC in April might not have come forward. As I said in my last diary, the Anti-ALEC Protest in Cincinnati on April 29th, 2011 will forever be a moment in our country's history that will be remembered as the day Americans began to wrest their country and government away from the likes of Charles and David Koch and their huge insidious empire. The real power behind ALEC...

Watch, save and spread this video across the nation and the world, Kossacks. This is what you helped expose and bring to the light of day. Make this the mark of what Progressives can do when they put their mind to it and come together to say, "Hell no, you can't!"

If that doesn't describe a clear picture of a democracy on the edge, I'll kiss Ol' Chucky and Davy Boy's asses! What is described in this interview by Lisa Graves has been seen in world history before in countries such as Italy, Spain, Germany just to name those not associated with S. America. None of those events of the past turned out well, and now we're faced with it here at home - eating away at America and democracy from within, like some unstoppable terminal disease.

Many have asked how you can help or become involved in assisting us to clean the political landscape of this vermin and their ilk. We at Exposing ALEC have a couple of suggestions: 1) send an email to or pick up the phone and call your state Representatives. Ask them point blank, "Are you a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council? If they are not, ask them to please help us call out those who are. Keep in mind that there are some Dem's who are also members of ALEC, such as Rep. Peggy Welch here in my home state of Indiana. Just because your Rep is a Dem does not mean they are not an ALEC member.

If the Rep responds with a "Yes" answer - regardless if it's followed by disclaimers like, "I'm an affiliate"...or "I'm a member but not active," tell them they should be ashamed for introducing ALEC's pro-corporate model legislation. Call them out and then pass along the information to us here at Exposing ALEC so we can add them to our list.

2) Write or call your local paper about ALEC and their secretive agenda. Ask them to look closely at any legislation proposed by ALEC Representatives in your state to see if oppressive laws proposed by those members are possibly cut and paste Model Legislation supplied to lawmakers by ALEC. Ask your local media to examine the use of public and private funding used to pay for membership of ALEC members, their travel and expenses to and from ALEC events.

3) When you go shopping, avoid buying products made by Coca-Cola, Kraft Foods or Georgia Pacific (Koch). Each of these companies have seats on ALEC's Private Enterprise Board and are responsible for voting "Yea" on Voter ID, privatization, healthcare, ending collective bargaining and other initiatives harmful to our society and the communities where we live and work. Send them the same message: "Hell no, You CAN'T!"

4) Help make the Protest against ALEC in New Orleans on August 5th a huge success and trap ALEC's members inside a self-imposed jail at the Marriott! Continue to donate to the event, add your moral support to those making huge time and personal contributions to this effort. You can help! Visit and see what you can do to assist us.

It really is that simple and from your home or office you can assist in bringing this horrid chapter in American democracy to an end. Knowledge is what we continue to seek to stop this cabal in it's tracks. For you readers who wonder why I continuously refer to ALEC and their members, corporate benefactors and major contributors as a "Cabal", please read this definition of a Cabal from Wikipedia - that pretty much says it all after watching the Lisa Graves video above:
"A cabal is a group of people united in some close design together, usually to promote their private views and/or interests in a church, state, or other community, often by intrigue. Cabals are sometimes secret societies composed of a few designing persons, and at other times are manifestations of emergent behavior in society or governance on the part of a community of persons who have well established public affiliation or kinship. The term can also be used to refer to the designs of such persons or to the practical consequences of their emergent behavior, and also holds a general meaning of intrigue and conspiracy. The use of this term usually carries strong connotations of shadowy corners, back rooms and insidious influence; a cabal is more evil and selective than, say, a faction, which is simply selfish; because of this negative connotation, few organizations use the term to refer to themselves or their internal subdivisions. Amongst the exceptions is Discordianism, in which the term is used to refer to an identifiable group within the Discordian religion."

Stay tuned as this story continues to evolve and ALEC begins to crumble. They are already scrubbing their site of any reference to the Koch name...legislative members are beginning to deny membership and more and more stories about ALEC's nefarious legislation being passed off as citizen beneficial laws are being discovered. Here is but one story from Tennessee: "Lawmaker used lobbyist template Bill clearing way for online school based on model"

In closing remember what was revealed about Koch and ALEC in the video above and take another look at these charts - depicting merely 1/10th of the "relationships" involving this cabal - (click on the chart to see it at Flikr full size)

imageDownload (2)

This is a chart showing David H. Koch's relationships to conservative organizations, think tanks, individuals and groups:

imageDownload (7)

This last chart is composed of simply one of David H. Koch's "Foundations" (Heritage) and the relationships it has to others...a truly insidious and cancerous blight on America and Democracy itself.

imageDownload (5)

More later as this story continues to wind it's way throughout our society and the political arena...

Sunday, June 26, 2011

ALEC, Koch and the Conservative led "War on the Middle Class"...

I've written extensively about the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the likes of Charles and David Koch, the Council for National Policy, the Heritage Foundation, Reason Foundation, CATO Institute, Freedom Works...etc, etc., and their involvement in starting, funding and advancing similar agendas targeting legislation beneficial to their corporate interests.

Usually I write about involvement of this core group related to incarceration, prison privatization and prison industries. I know to many this is simply not considered a "Hot Topic" - either in personal, business or political terms. This diary is published to show why it should be a hot topic and how the mechanics employed in this one ALEC led initiative is demonstrative of their agenda regarding pursuit of even more important issues facing us today.

I'll begin by saying that over the past decade we have been involved in a huge class war here in the U.S. It has been mostly ignored by many, because the skirmishes have been small scale when compared to larger issues that dominate our media and thus our minds. However, each of these tiny battles have led us to the situation today where the entire middle class is in a battle for it's very existence. The battle is brought upon us by the corporate elite representing the wealthiest segment of our society.

Criminal justice is but one of those "skirmishes" in this war. It is an important one though, for several reasons. The most important aspect is the huge financial windfall realized by these corporatists from our state and federal budgets for incarceration. The billions spent by the middle class on incarceration, is siphoned off through prison privatization of those incarcerated and by companies profiting off of incarceration in general; privatized health, food services, canteen operations, transportation, banking services, phone contracts and of huge importance - privatized prison industries.

Reports by independent and informed sources, provide statistics that as of 2007, American taxpayers spent $74 billion annually on incarceration, an increase of 72% since 1997 (Tracey Kyckelhahn, Justice Expenditure and Employment Extracts 2007, Table 1(Washington, DC: Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2010) as reported by the Justice Policy Institute this week. Out of this huge sum of tax dollars, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and Geo Group (Geo) jointly reported $2.9 billion in revenue for 2010 alone (Corrections Corporation of America, 2010 Annual Report, 2011; The GEO Group, 2010 Annual Report (Boca Raton, FL): The GEO Group, 2011).

In addition to these "earned" profits by CCA and Geo, another $2.4 billion was taken in by companies through the sale of prisoner made goods in 2009. Together the private companies involved in private prison operations and prison industries are realizing more than $5 billion in income per year. This amount does not include peripheral income such as the profits made by Bail bond agents and insurers, medical, food service, banking or sale of products used in prison; chemical sprays, security equipment, construction of new prisons and expansion of existing ones. Altogether an estimated $11 billion dollars changes hands annually from U.S. incarceration and prison industries.

To anyone suffering through the economic situation over the past two or three years, this is a HUGE sum of money - and most of it paid out of state and federal appropriations set aside for correctional services and operations. Conservatives would have us believe that all these incarceration costs are because we as a society demand that we be made safe by locking up every possible individual that commits an offense against us - personally or upon our property. We're told it is because of these demands that so many are imprisoned and the cost of that imprisonment so expensive. These arguments have been used by Republicans since 1980 to increase incarceration by more than 650%, while putting into place legislation that allows their corporate masters and benefactors to realize the most profits possible from locking up everyone and throwing away the key.

Now lets take a close look at how this was done, why and the "mechanics". By doing this I'll demonstrate how these same manipulations and tactics are being used in a similar manner to win the "skirmishes" and ultimately this Class War - that is not even recognized as happening by many Americans...

From 1980 ALEC has been involved in writing model legislation involving criminal justice at the state level (lauding such efforts at their web site). Simultaneously through their huge number of Alumni who have gone on to posts within the federal government, or have been elected to the U.S. Congress, they also have pushed for federal legislation that comports with their state efforts; three strike laws, minimum mandatory drug and gun laws, truth in sentencing laws, replacement of government programs to provide bonding for those charged with, abolishing parole and similar legislation. These efforts have resulted today in more than 2.4 million of us incarcerated.

Also from 1980 on, ALEC developed and pushed their Model Legislation to expand privatization of state and federal prison facilities. Their Model Legislation's such as:
Targeted Contracting for Certain Correctional Facilities and Services Act
Resolution on Prison Expenditures
Inmate Labor Disclosure Act
Housing Out-of-State Prisoners in a Private Prison Act
have all been designed to benefit their long time members, CCA and Geo Group.
From 1993 ALEC has also been actively pursuing involvement in prison industry legislation. Their model legislation titled the "Prison Industries Act" is based upon exploiting the federal Prison Industries Enhancement Certification Program (PIECP) to allow private sector corporations, businesses and companies access to and use of prisoner labor as a cheap workforce and a means of increasing profits.

Through their legislative efforts, ALEC helped create our huge prison population of today. They were able to implement their model legislation on privatization of prisons in many states and on the federal level, creating a huge business niche with substantial profits for CCA and Geo. ALEC's efforts of privatization of prison industries - or allowance of the use of prisoners for corporate labor were equally successful, again resulting in huge profits to manufacturers and other member companies.

Now let's look at how they accomplished all of this so easily...

The criminal justice legislation mentioned above created the "workforce" for their prison industry initiatives. What needed to be done next was to expand prison industry operations state by state to create cheap jobs for inmates and high profits for their corporate membership.

Along came Ray Allen. Allen was elected to the Texas House of Representatives in 1993. As a "freshman" Conservative Republican lawmaker Allen was attracted to ALEC and joined their ranks. In 1993, legislation sponsored by Allen offered tax credits to corporations, encouraging them to engage in prison industries. In1997 he introduced ALEC's Model Prison Industries Act as proposed legislation in Texas and it became law. In 1999 he introduced more legislation on the state prison industry program and subsequent legislation amendments to his original legislation. While Allen was working so diligently on behalf of ALEC and prison industries, he became Chairman of the House Corrections Committee and ALEC's Criminal Justice and Homeland Security Task Force Chairman. In those capacities he assisted prison privatization efforts on behalf of ALEC members CCA and Geo side by side with his prison industry work.

In 1998 Allen participated in a meeting in Washington, D.C. titled: "Policies and Programs In Prison Industries". Key Note speaker was AG Janet Reno and other speakers included Pam Davis, PRIDE CEO and Chairman of the NCIA, FL. U.S. Rep. Bill McCollum, Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Crime (that just months before chaired a hearing on expansion of the federal prison industries). Also present as moderator was Warren Cikins, a representative of the Brookings Institution, another Koch and ALEC affiliate. Allen was also secretly lobbying on behalf of the National Correctional Industries Association (NCIA). As you can see from the articles and links, ALEC, the NCIA, Ray Allen and Koch affiliated Brookings Institution all came together at that meeting to promote expanding the PIECP program so that more corporations could take advantage of prison labor.

The U.S.Department of Justice issued the PIECP final guideline within 6 months of this "workshop meeting" attended by all of the above. Once the federal law was in place, prison industry in the U.S. exploded exponentially - along with the access to that labor by private corporations, many of which were members of ALEC or affiliated with Koch, Heritage or similar Conservative organizations and individuals. The results of the coordinated legislative and lobbying efforts of these lawmakers, corporations, individuals and organizations such as ALEC is today's estimated $2.5 billion dollar prison industry operation.

Just last October Attorney General Holder issued a memo applauding the continued growth of the federal prison population, and urged all federal procurement officers to "open their UNICOR" catalogs and buy - buy - buy products from them so they could expand the prison industries and put more inmates to work. With first Janet Reno and now Holder supporting this exploitation of prisoners as a workforce, the corruption has escalated to the highest office of law enforcement in the U.S. Such is the pervasive nature of this beast - fed by ALEC.

From the profits garnered from prison industries, and privatization, corporate members of ALEC contributed huge sums back to ALEC and affiliated right wing PAC's and political organizations. Conservatives have used both of these "Initiatives" to enrich themselves and to help fund other political efforts of ALEC and the likes of Koch through the Heritage and Reason foundations, etc. In plain terms, this money is being used to promote today's Republican initiatives: repealing healthcare, voter disenfranchisement, privatization of more jails, prisons and state operated facilities. Privatization and prison industry of the past is fueling ALEC and Koch's efforts against the middle class today.

Until this past year many of us had no idea there was even a "war" ongoing against the middle class. We perceived the machinations of the Bush administration and Republicans as simply more of the same political rhetoric between the parties that had been continuing for decades, and chose to ignore it and we did it at our own peril. By our ignorance we allowed this cabal to amass a huge - almost insurmountable - financial war chest, which they used in 2010 to push many Democrats and moderate Republicans from office. With a majority in state governors, state assemblies and ALEC Alumni (Boehner, Cantor, Kasich, Walker and others) holding U.S. and state positions of power and influence they believe they are now in a position of minority strength. They're using that influence to push ALEC's agenda over the top.

If you look at what's been happening on the front lines in Wisconsin, Michigan and Ohio - to name just the top three states - and compare what's happening today to what has transpired in privatization and prison industry efforts in the past, we can easily discern the same pattern. ALEC member, the American Bail Coalition has used ALEC lawmaker members in Wisconsin to slip through a budget amendment to make way for a return of commercial bail bonding in that state. Previous legislative efforts to do that failed, so this time Rep. Robin Vos instead squeezed a last-minute provision into the state budget to enable the ABC to regain commercial bonding in Wisconsin. Of Course, Vos also serves as ALEC's Wisconsin State Chair.

A similar budget manipulation in Florida resulted in more than $100 million being slid to ALEC member GEO Group to build an unnecessary private prison facility in that state in 2008-09. This was accomplished by then ALEC member (and Alumni) Marcos Rubio and FL. House Speaker, Ray Sansom who has already resigned due to corruption and faces indictment for:
Perhaps the most notable individual charged to date is former Rep. Ray Sansom (R-Destin), who while serving as Rubio's budget chief inserted language into the Florida's 2008-2009 budget for what was to become Blackwater CF.
The FBI just issued subpoenas and is fully investigating that entire incident, looking particularly at the campaign contributions and lobbyist payments by Geo Group and to Rubio and Sansom. The fact that Florida has been forced to close up to five state run prisons to accommodate Geo's thirst for more prisoners in their beds, has been ignored by Governor Scott - another corporate hawk looking to fatten his own pocket. In fact Scott just supported legislation to privatize 18 counties in South Florida (home to Geo Group's headquarters) that will put another 15,000 state inmates in Geo's control at the taxpayer expense - a move even some Republicans oppose.

This, I think, clearly demonstrates the vast money being funneled into the pockets of legislators by corporations determined to have their way regarding access to taxpayer money. Today the President is faced with the challenge of repulsing the Republican's demands for no tax increases (actually rescinding the tax breaks given by Bush) while they go after Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and other safety nets important to the middle class. President Obama must be made to see that he has to draw the line on cutting important programs for the middle class and stand firm on repealing the tax breaks that he extended just last year. We have to begin to slow the until now uncontrolled flow of money into the corporate coffers and from there into the campaigns and special interest projects of ALEC's alumni serving as U.S. lawmakers or Conservatives. Repealing these corporate tax breaks to corporations and the wealthy will begin to diminish that flow. Repealing the PIECP laws - or even just enforcing the mandatory laws of the program - will turn that tap another full turn and lessen access to the $2.5 billion prison industry by private companies and ALEC's corporate members. Doing both would severely limit the funding of the Conservative efforts in their unstated open war against the middle class.

Make no doubt, we are in fact under attack from all angles by these efforts. The media owned primarily by conglomerates and corporate masters such as Fox, Bloomberg and Gannett won't report on this war or the battles being fought on all these fronts. Instead they fill their shows, papers and radio reports with inane topics and when something surfaces that points to this war, they downplay the incident, and convince their readers, watchers and listeners that the story is simply more left wing rhetoric that should be ignored...

...and it has been ignored and for far too long. The future of our country and society hangs in the balance today. If we continue to wring our hands and do nothing that future is bleak indeed. Instead we should be taking part in the many demonstrations and protests taking place across the country. Since the exploitation began months ago in Wisconsin and spread like a Republican fueled wildfire across the Midwest, thousands have been speaking out, protesting, demonstrating and fighting for worker's rights, defending voter rights, fighting to stop defunding or our education and similar issues.

Collectively we must come together and for once present a united front against these attacks and the war itself. Join us in Protesting ALEC in August in New Orleans. If you can't come, donate to the effort. You can join or donate here: You can also join the Brave New Foundation in their efforts of exposing the Koch influence, opposing prison privatization and incarcerating immigrants for profits by Geo and CCA.

Please take a few seconds and sign my petition that will be sent to your state legislative members and Governor, asking that ALEC legislation be identified and their state members exposed.

I'll be in New Orleans in August and hope to see some of you there joining arms with us in this ongoing war against the middle class. If our President continues to capitulate to the demands of the minority over the needs and demands of the middle class, we must stand up and speak out for ourselves and our neighbors...just sayin'...

Monday, May 2, 2011

Democracy Stands Up to ALEC and the theft of America by Kochroaches in Cincy!

As most know, many Kossacks traveled to Cincinnati, Ohio this past week to attend the first ever Anti-American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) Protest there at that organization's scheduled Spring Summit. The entire month in the run-up to the event and the actual event were reminiscent to me of the: Civil Rights, draft, Anti-War, government and abortion protests Americans participated in throughout the 60's and 70's across the wide expanses of America. Those were important times and necessary demonstrations in the history of our country. Those who participated nearly a half century ago were trying and succeeding to some extent in changing the course of the U.S. on many matters. As in earlier times when those fighting for fair wages and treatment by employers, the turmoil of the 60's and 70's spilled blood, but in time we prevailed.

This week in Cincy was a reminder to everyone there and even the passers-by, that Democracy is once again under attack and involvement is desperately needed to alter the course our country is being taken - through corporatocracy and corruption driven by greed. The generation of today - those now entrusted with the future of themselves, their children and those rights many of us fought for in the past - has taken the helm and begun to attempt to change the course we've been put upon by corporate interests.

We really are standing perched upon a precipice, collectively as a society and more importantly, as Americans. A terrible void is at our backs and from the front we're being pressured from all points, a steady - and until Friday - unresisted force against our democratic way of life as Americans. Though this force is multi-faceted and comes from different directions, applied by what appears to be groups, organizations, PAC's, think tanks and corporations - these are not attacks by totally independent entities who individually oppose Progressive views. No, this is all coordinated by the power, influence and financing of Charles and David Koch.

Using money generously provided them from the ultra-rich Koch "Monopoly", Right Wing Think Tanks, PAC's, 527's and Conservative groups (Mackinac Center, American Enterprise Institute, American Life League, The Cato Institute, The Heritage Foundation and dozens of other groups and organizations found here) are the ones applying this force pushing us toward the abyss. I accurately and without equivocation call this all a Koch Monopoly - not because they own so much of America's wealth now...or because they have managed to monopolize one particular industry, product or company. No I call them this because today they have a genuine monopoly upon nearly all U.S.legislation proposed and beneficial to corporations, business and of interest to conservatives. Legislation that once enacted further weakens us and enriches the corporations.

What only a handful of us know and understand, is that even if the lawmakers within ALEC come up with legislation they wish to propose in their states that will benefit their constituents - they are prohibited from proposing or introducing that legislation in their state General Assemblies unless the legislation is approved by the Corporate members of the task force or any committee! Really, this is how ALEC works...

"ALEC's task forces craft the organization's public-policy agenda,its "model" legislation and issue positions. On each task force, the private-sector representatives have an equal vote with the state legislators'and effective veto power over the task force's activities and legislative recommendations. Nothing can move out of the task force without agreement from its private-sector representatives."
Because of this single but controlling provision, no laws discussed or supported by any ALEC lawmaker can ever become law anywhere in the U.S. unless the Corporate membership gives their blessing. Think about this aspect for just a moment and consider that by their own admission; ALEC's legislative membership is compromised by 2,400 state lawmakers - fully 1/3 of the total number of duly elected state Senate and Congressional members in this country. Indeed, the state legislators who attend ALEC meetings are joined by the platoons of lobbyists, corporate executives, and representatives of assorted trade and professional associations who pay to have these 2,400 lawmakers as their captive audience...and are prohibited from proposing anything that is not authorized by these corporate interests. To me this indicates that through ALEC, no legislation beneficial to the public will ever reach state assemblies unless it benefits the corporations in some form or manner. Also it means that certain legislation proposed by the corporate arm of ALEC to purportedly protect the public and has become actual state laws, were enacted to enrich the corporate members of ALEC:
"For ALEC's corporate sponsors, "a seat at the table" "on one or more of its "task forces" is the ideal mechanism for pushing "model" legislation favorable to their interests. Consider, as just one example, ALEC's recent work in the criminaljustice arena. "ALEC developed model criminal justice policies that kept criminals off of our streets for longer periods of time,"one of its recent publications notes, "and allowed private industry to use its expertise to help states meet their growing incarceration needs." The publication goes on to point out that twenty-eight states have authorized the use of private prisons to house inmates. Is it any surprise that ALEC's Task Force on Criminal Justice has been cochaired by a representative of Corrections Corporation of America, the nation's largest operator of private prisons?

Another active private-sector participant in ALEC's Task Force on Criminal Justice is the National Association of Bail Insurance Companies, whose membership consists of the ten companies that write the great majority of court-appearance bonds in the United States. In a recent brochure, the association touts "the ALEC connection" as "an essential ingredient" of NABIC's legislative strategy."
This alone generates a lot of income from CCA and Geo Group for ALEC. The old "one hand washes the other", syndrome.

The money and influence guiding each of the cold fingers prodding us toward the precipice I mentioned above, is primarily coming from the Koch family and their Family Foundations through a core group that coordinates them all - the American Legislative Exchange Council Koch money funds everything and Koch influence and real power is exerted through their membership in ALEC and their position upon ALEC's Private Enterprise Board and more than one of the nine (9) ALEC Task Forces.

If I was comfortable in how to produce charts I would have one with Koch Industries at the top and below that: Charles Koch Foundation, the David Koch Foundation, the Koch Family Foundation (that includes the Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation). Below these I'd have a list of "Influenced by the above" with lines running to; the Heritage Foundation, Reason Foundation, American's for Prosperity, Club for Growth, Cato Institute, Castle Rock Foundation, Eagle Forum, Mercatus Center, Institute for Humane Studies, Citizens for a Sound Economy, Institute for Justice, Alexis de Tocqueville Institution, Institute for Energy Research, Foundation for Research on Economics and the Environment, The Manhattan Institute, the George C. Marshall Institute, American Enterprise Institute, Citizens for a Sound Economy and...I could go on but I'd run out of space to fit the little boxes in.

From there I'd run lines through Mainstream media and Fox News, through to the American Legislative Exchange Council. Under ALEC would be lines to the Nine Task Forces and from those would be lines to the top 350 U.S. Corporations on one side and to 2400 Conservative state Lawmakers on the other. From the Corporations and State lawmaker boxes the lines would move inward to a single box that reads "Legislation in the 50 United States of America"...or to be more factual and realistic, the final box would be labeled: "How the Koch brothers Intend to Rule the U.S."

But, like I said I have no proficiency for charts and graphs, so I'll leave that up to a bright University student or grad to accept as a challenge. He or she will no doubt create it in a few moments and post it so all could see graphically what is perhaps today, the worst thing that has ever happened to the U.S. population - from within.

While we are distracted by the marital plans of the British Royalty, and the question of our President's place of birth, covered 24/7 by the mainstream media, ALEC members - certainly including those representing the Koch's interests - hoped to quietly meet in Cincinnati to plan their legislative agenda for 2011. There in the Hilton Hotel they hoped to decide which laws and issues they will present to the entire membership and propose implementing to the individual state legislatures over the next several months. These are laws and legislation intended to be put into place that we, as a society will be told to abide by (properly sanctioned and blessed by the corporate arm of ALEC). They anticipated that as in years past, this would all be done quietly, in secret with no one knowing that those laws would have been written, developed and worded by ALEC - and ALEC alone. We were not to know that those laws were created with specific input from the corporations and owners of those companies so that they could acquire more profits and influence - or a greater market share in their particular fields. This was their intention...

...We, however had an entirely different agenda; to expose their corrupt methods of implementing laws upon Americans that are written and funded by their corporate masters and lobbyists! We few Americans decided enough is enough already. We'd become tired of funding cuts to education, healthcare, necessary and critical social programs, environmental programs and deregulation of all things governmental to keep corporations in check.

Once word got out in Ohio about the choice of Cincy as the Spring Summit location for ALEC's meeting, the students of Ohio, Indiana, Louisiana and other states put together a protest, rally and educational "Teach-Ins." (As an aside, and a proud one, this protest suggestion was proposed and started right here on D Kos)! The purpose of the protest was to awaken more Americans to the pursuits of Koch funded and influenced legislation that would; allow more arrests; increase incarceration and long sentences served in prison where the prisoners would serve as a slave workforce for those corporations affiliated with or members of ALEC; cut funding for education at all grades and levels; reduce wages for public sector workers; end collective bargaining; break up Unions; repeal universal healthcare; eliminate abortion, deregulate important government programs and oversight, and; repeal child labor laws.

These young and highly motivated and intelligent "whipper-snappers" kicked ALEC and their Corporate master's collective asses - and by the looks of some of those CEO's in attendance, many of those backsides were indeed unbelievably HUGE...from living the high life and feeding freely at the trough that is constantly flowing with our tax dollars.

The seeyouincincinnati organizers made me proud to be a Progressive American. Watching them put this protest together, coordinate those to speak, crowd control, housing for those of us from out of state, garner Union supporters, secure permits and space for the protest and march...finally provided me with a sense that just maybe there was hope for us as a democratic society...that Koch and ALEC could be stopped. Oh, not immediately and just because of a grass roots campaign expertly and smoothly operated by college students and supported by a group of us old, because this protest has sounded the alarm and awakened other students and old Dems in many other states. Plans, preparations and strategy is now underway for the next round that will take place in New Orleans from August 3rd through August 6th. This time the students - fighting desperately for an education promised them by the laws and Constitution of this great nation - have become alerted to the legislation intended to deprive scholarships and state and federal funding. Their education and thus their future is in jeopardy if ALEC and the corporations prevail. They have not only become aware about the legislation, they now know the enemy. They met them face to face in Cincy at the Hilton and in Fountain Square as Corporate CEO's , corporate representatives and state lawmakers smiled, snickered and in some instances openly laughed at protesters. But as an old timer at this kind of demonstrating, I and many others looked past the smirks, laughter and smug attitude filled rhetoric. We looked into the eyes of the CEO's and lawmakers...we studied the body language as they laughed...and we saw the signs of nervousness and real unease.

During the march we found a small group of state lawmakers standing outside the Hotel, huddled in the entryway - 3 or four of them with a couple of others that appeared to be staffers. I listened attentively as one of them spoke with one of the organizers wearing a "Marshal"shirt, claiming that he and the other lawmakers standing with him were opposed to the SB 1070 styled legislation other members were pushing for in every state. He described ALEC's membership as being one of diversity and he and the others standing with him strongly opposed such discriminatory legislation. As I listened it dawned on me that what we were witnessing was not simply an attempt to dis-inform, rather it was the first signs of a tiny crack within ALEC. The lawmakers standing nervously around the one speaking (A short man, grey haired, wearing glasses with a name tag identifying him as an ALEC member, named Ralph - couldn't see his last name on the badge) were actually trying to identify with the protesters and separate themselves from the ALEC agenda - at least on the immigration initiative. They weren't trying to justify the ALEC initiatives, they were in fact declaring that at least some of the ALEC and corporate controlled and proposed legislation was wrong. They were anxious to not be included in the group supporting SB 1070.

Just as the march, protest and Teach-Ins were a first in the history of ALEC - so was this crack in the ALEC membership. Lawmakers were starting to realize with the eyes of the public looking intently at them, their political future could be in jeopardy due to membership in ALEC. Seeing this I was actually inspired that with more pressure and a larger turnout in New Orleans later this year, we can create more cracks and widen smaller ones that could develop between now and then due to the document dump many are speaking about.

Wisconsin, Indiana, Maine, Florida, Ohio and many other states are on the ropes financially right now. They are cutting everything beneficial to the public and to workers as they fight to continue funding massive incarceration and the prison industry program that serves as a cash cow to the companies using that labor. Profit from the slave labor is then reinvested in lobbying and campaign contributions to keep the Conservative agenda alive and well, funding even more beneficial corporate initiatives.

I think the cabal is beginning to waiver slightly due to the Protest and confrontations that took place on the 29th. In New Orleans in August we hope to drive a solid, heavy wedge into those cracks, over and over until the whole begins to crumble. It won't happen all at once, but I'm confident that another round or two and some lawmakers will begin to drop their memberships to ALEC. I think others will find that when legislation is proposed by corporate interests that would anger the public, they will be less willing to simply sign on and go along. 'Course, as DM used to proclaim, "That's just my opinion, and I could be wrong..."

Below I've posted some pictures we took at the Protest Friday.

An important message indeed. Some may think this protester missed breakfast before attending, but I think he wants to take a bite out of ALEC...

Important concept, wouldn't you say?

Protest organizers found my wife, Jean and I a place to stay the night before the Rally. We stayed with Flequer Vera (I hope I've spelled his name correctly):

Bob and Flecquar at Rally

Jean and Flequer in front of the Fountain in Cincy:

Jean and Flecquar at Rally

Here's the wife and I holding a sign that we think says it all:

Bob and Jean at Rally"

Prepping for the Teach-In the night before the Rally. Of course I got caught chewing on a scone when the pic was taken:

Busily preparing for the Teach-In

Some Kabuki(?) and Organizer staff signing Petitions against SB 5 in Ohio at the Rally:

A little bit of Kabuki at the Rally

Bad picture of a SEIU Union member and sign at the Rally. Several Unions were present and active in protesting several anti-Union and worker legislation initiatives there in Ohio:

Cincy Rally and a Union Sign

One of the Protest organizers speaking to the crowd of a couple of hundred protesters:Organizer speaking to the crowd

Another shot of the crowd with a Union member in the foreground:

Cincy Rally crowd

My video camera malfunctioned and all of the footage I took of the Protest, Rally and March was not captured. This is why I only have the stills the wife and I took during the event. Wish I had more, but I've seen dozens of others posted in several diaries, so the event was covered from all angles.

My greatest thanks to all the students, grads and others who organized, showed up and took part in the march and more importantly attended the Teach-Ins to find a common purpose and the tools necessary to wage this war against education and American workers. I would have given this praise and written a diary sooner than Sunday night, but I have been inundated with calls, emails and faxes requesting more information, interviews and requests for appearances - all this from the opportunities provided by the SeeyouinCincinnati organizers, students and neighborhood associations and groups that made the spreading of the word and networking really work...

...because of your efforts I am thankful and emboldened to do even more. To Aliya, Ben, Alan and others whose name I unfortunately have forgotten or didn't get in the first place (I've gotten old and remembering names is harder than understanding encryption), congratulations and a heartfelt thanks. If you read this count us in for New Orleans. We wouldn't miss that opportunity, even if Koch gets ALEC to propose legislation making NO off limits to Progressives! I'll just put on my red hat in August and go as a faux Conservative. I'll just have to keep my big mouth shut most of the time :)

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Slave Labor - In the trenches comparing treatment between the Haves and Have-Nots...

I think we should all step back for a moment and take a closer look at the manipulations that have occurred over the past two years involving our collapsing economy, corporate involvement and how that relates to the current tensions in Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio and elsewhere. Today there is no doubts left in anyone's mind that corporations such as JP Morgan, Bank of America, Leahman Brothers and other financial institutions were responsible for the collapse of the housing bubble, and the economy in general. Many of us lost our retirement savings, 401K's and other investments due to these machinations that collapsed everything.

The Government bailed all of these corporations out, feeling that unless they did - with our money - the financial sector would completely dissolve bankrupting the rest of our economy and creating a financial chaos in the U.S. of previously unknown proportions.

Now I have to admit I'm no economist and this is probably an amateurish description of how all this came about and resulted in where we are today. That being said, please follow this train of thought a moment of two longer before hitting the back button...

We bailed out these banks and investment corporations to the tune of more than 3/4 of a trillion dollars. This was money belonging to the taxpayers. Much of it has been transferred to our children and their children and this will be paid for by them in the future. Instead of loaning that money out to those in need of loans, the banks and investment firms used the money to acquire other financial companies or corporations that were floundering. At the same time they rewarded themselves with huge bonuses paid to top executives out of the "bail-out money" the government made available to them.

I believe that another use of the billions we've provided to these corporations has been used to fund lobbying and many campaigns of predominantly conservative Republican politicians that advance the agendas of these corporations at the state and national level(s). As I wrote earlier this week, Koch Industries had an unusual and cozy relationship with Kathleen Sebilius in Kansas when she was Governor, going so far as to "loan" her an economist to provide advice on cutting government spending in that state. As that diary also reported, Sebilius as our Secretary of the U.S. Health and Human Services subsequently approved an application submitted by Koch Industries for a cut of the $5 billion set aside for the Early Retiree Reinsurance Program offered under President Obama's Healthcare initiative. After fighting against the healthcare program from the start, Koch was one of the first in line with their hands out to take money available from that very program. At the same time they continued to fund conservative efforts of repealing the program altogether through direct individual political donations, lobbying and support of candidates that share the same conservative ideology as the Koch brothers.

Throughout it appears that our money provided to these corporate interests (such as Koch Industries) in the bail-out and other initiatives, is being used to further the goals of those corporations against us. Where Republicans have taken office - swept into Governorships, Senate and House seats in 2010, there has been a concerted effort of furthering the goals and agenda of the likes of these corporate elite. One of the more important parts of that agenda is the elimination of Unions and collective bargaining. Another is the matter of abortion and freedom of choice issues. Conservatives have continued battles on these issues for years now. They refuse to accept the opinions of the Court in actions such as Row V. Wade and those involving Unions and collective bargaining and right to work initiatives. They have managed to keep their views and arguments before the public for many decades now as they pursue a reversal of the laws pertaining to both.

In the run-up to the election last year, and even today, both of these key issues remain at the core of the Conservative agenda. Now some may ask how can the issue of fair wages and collective bargaining be related to prison privatization and prison industries - and my least favorite topic, Slave Labor? It is connected in a couple of ways that may not be immediately apparent to most.

First, since the mid 1990's corporations have been using federal laws to merge their production and manufacturing with prison industry operations. Under the PIE program they have been allowed to "partner" with those various state prison industries to use cheap inmate labor to manufacture their products. As these partnerships increased, more and more operations were moved out of the private sector and into the prison environment. This removed jobs from the private sector and put them in the hands of inmates. The prison setting prohibits unionizing, collective bargaining and striking for better or even fair wages by the inmate work force. They are paid no benefits; health insurance, unemployment protection, paid vacations or paid time off. In many states OSHA is not allowed to inspect or become involved in work-place safety or investigate accidents. Inmate workers hurt on the job are treated by the prison medical staff - not by outside work comp physicians or facilities (at the expense of the state taxpayer). In short, all of those things sought by corporate employers and fought for on their behalf by conservatives were found in the prison industries. This was recognized by companies as the nirvana sought by them; low wages, no unions, no benefit or retirement packages and responsibility for worker injuries and upkeep subsidized by the taxpayer. Does all this not sound exactly like what their end goals are for American workers?

How good are the products produced by prisoners in these industries? Are their products efficient and of the same quality as those produced in the private sector? Should we be afraid to fly on aircraft manufactured by Boeing that has dozens of sensitive electronic and cabling products made by prisoners? I say no to the quality and yes to the question of safety. Let's take a look at one example of why I answer these questions as I have.

Republicans - and in general, all politicians and the general public proudly profess that we support our troops fighting in Afghanistan and Irag. As I wrote in a previous diary, many - in fact most - of the equipment and materials being used by our troops today are made in prison. The Federal Prison Industries (UNICOR) has a near monopoly on armed forces gear and materials. Many of these products are manufactured in the prisons, wholesaled to Halliburton (or similar companies) and then retailed to the Department of Defense. One of those products made by the prisoners and distributed to the military serving overseas now, is helmets. Of course helmets have been a necessary part of any armed force, army or military body since the first World War.

Recently a private manufacturer received a government contract to manufacture some of those products for the Army and nearly all of them for the Marines. The contract called for this private manufacturer to utilize UNICOR to manufacture part of the orders (obviously to reduce costs) and it did so, using one of the factories owned by UNICOR in Texas. When many of the helmets made by the prison industry were inspected they immediately failed ballistics testing. Forty-four thousand of more than 600,000 such helmets were immediately recalled. Then it was learned that in 2007-08 UNICOR was awarded non-competitive contracts by the government to manufacture all of the helmets for the U.S. Army and Marines. Questions of safety were raised - along with those of using inmate labor at a time when our economy is in the tank, and millions of American workers were out of jobs and needed employment. Here is a quote taken from an article written by Derek Gilna that came out today in Prison Legal News:
"It is not widely known that UNICOR utilizes poorly paid and often indifferently supervised prisoners to manufacture not only goods for use in the federal prison system, but also products that are in direct competition with private-sector businesses. In the past UNICOR has obtained multiple contracts to make ballistic helmets for the U.S. military, and in 2007 it was awarded a non-competitive Army contract pursuant to a provision in federal procurement regulations.

"UNICOR was awarded another non-competitive contract in 2008, which comprised 100% of the helmet needs for the U.S. Marine Corps and effectively shut out private industry. According to Rep. Carney’s office, in both cases UNICOR’s products failed to pass first article testing – the process that is designed to ensure the equipment meets specifications – and after an 18-month delay, not a single acceptable helmet had been delivered.

“Because the inmates were making the helmets, the cost was down, but the main concern was the product being substandard,” said Rep. Carney. He also was critical of the fact that UNICOR was awarded the contracts during a time when the industrial and manufacturing sections of the U.S. economy were shedding private-sector jobs. “At a time when our economy is rebounding, there are other private firms eager and able to take on this important work, which will lead to the creation of crucial jobs in the United States,” Rep. Carney noted."

Even in the face of issues such as safety for our military personnel, the government is comfortable with awarding such non-competitive contracts for the manufacture of such important and critical equipment as helmets, necessary to keep our troops safe - to prison inmates. This is the federal prison side of the slave labor topic. The PIE program is the state side of the same subject and the government - specifically the Department of Justice is bullish on using state prison inmates to manufacture private sector products that all of us use daily. As I've done previously, here again is the link to the recruiting video used by the National Correctional Industries Association, the Bureau of Justice Assistance and the DOJ to recruit and encourage more private sector manufacturers to move their operations into a "nearby prison industry" to take advantage of highly skilled and willing prisoners...

This PIE Program allows private U.S. corporations to gain access to the vast number of prison inmates as a labor source. It not only allows it, the DOJ and the prison industries encourage it by informing companies that they don't have to outsource jobs overseas where shipping of their products back to the states cut into their profits. Instead they tell them to simply move entire operations into prison industries in the U.S. to take advantage of cheap but skilled labor and allow them to continue to use "Made in the U.S.A." labeling. At the same time the DOJ works hard to hide the use of prison labor by these participating corporations by not enforcing requirements that prison made goods be clearly marked as "Made in Prison by Prison Labor" labels on packaging.

By being allowed access to this captive work force, more and more jobs in the private sector have been steadily lost over the past 15 years. Private sector companies and businesses competing against those using slave labor have slowly been disappearing from the job and sales markets as pricing for their products were underbid or undercut time and again. Another example of this is occurring in Montana as I write this.

Because these same corporations that are using foreign labor to make their products are tiring of paying for shipment of those products back to the U.S., they moved operations into the high profit arena of prison industries to eliminate those costs. At the same time they are supporting an agenda to lower wages and eliminate any form of collective bargaining - public and private - in the U.S. so they can move their operations from inside our prisons and back from China and elsewhere. The obvious purpose of eliminating any form of unionized labor in America is to implement the same wages and conditions they enjoy from those other sources of labor. Just today MSNBC had a report on jobs in the U.S. and reported that jobs are available now, but the wages are much lower and the good paying jobs will never return. This clearly shows how effective this conservative agenda on behalf of their corporate sponsors has been.

As Conservative Republicans win governorships, senate and house seats across the U.S., this agenda I'm speaking of, has been promoted by the likes of ALEC and the Koch brothers and introduced in each state where they prevailed. No need to discuss Wisconsin here, we already know the agenda is in place there and that a phone call from a "Koch" will be quickly answered by Governor Walker as demonstrated yesterday. Down in Florida, Rick Scott won the gubernatorial election there last year and is calling for privatizing most/all of the prison system in that state - even with 8,000 empty beds in state run facilities - and privatization of education and other state programs. Same thing is happening in Indiana and Ohio regarding right to work legislation, union busting and privatization. In these states, conservative leaning media trumpet the benefits of passing such legislation with articles filled with statistics, facts and statements from supporters. Many of these facts and statistics are questionable and avoid informing us of the impact upon wages and employment is such legislation becomes law.

This site provides much information on the progress of privatization of state assets and programs, and the problems that followed. The truth is we have been involved in a war over wages and privatization for more than two decades now but the public has been blissfully unaware of the actual implications of what the issues mean to them as taxpayers and workers. With the explosion of protesting and demonstrating across the Midwest, many have finally been awakened and realize what is being jeopardized by the privatization and right to work initiatives advanced by the Conservative factions in their states.

What many still do not realize though, is that the assets owned by the states are the property of the taxpayers. This includes prisons and prison industries. Once an asset belonging to the citizens is sold, it is gone. It now becomes the property of the buyer to do with as they please. With prisons that cost millions of tax dollars to build, the transfer of those facilities to corporate ownership removes that asset from state ownership, but the taxpayers continue to pay the costs of imprisonment of inmates, but the money goes to the owners of the prison. Once they have control of the facilities it's a done deal and from there on out, the state and taxpayers are held captive to calls for increased spending to continue to house and provide care for the state inmates. While in this time of corporate driven economical downturn, the last thing we should be doing is giving/selling/transferring more and more taxpayer owned assets over to these corporations. We've already given them more than they deserve and they continue to stand before us with their hands outstretched, not satisfied until we also relinquish all right to our jobs and fair wages.

Now Louisiana is proposing to turn two of the state's prison facilities over to county Sheriff's to reduce state costs of incarceration while two more are about to be sold to private prison corporations that already run them under contract. A Google search about privatization efforts of state prisons returns numerous articles informing that this trend is widespread. There is no benefit to these privatizations to either the state or their taxpayers. Many articles, reports and other studies reveal time and again that there is no real savings through privatization and recidivism is not reduced by using private prison operations. Additionally, most states are now suffering serious financial and budgetary shortfalls and as many now realize the first cuts that are made are within the prisons themselves followed quickly by cuts in education, health programs and finally senior programs. Colorado is no exception and as this article informs, at the top of the list are cuts to prison programs.

At the same time these budgetary measures are being made, reducing private sector jobs along with rehabilitation programs to the inmates, each state is increasing their corrections budgets, led by Arizona. Governor Brewer turns every spare penny available in that state over to the DOC and the private prisons operated in that state. Even as lawmakers and Governors promise reducing their prison costs, they increase the budgets more each year. Today Corrections is one of the largest line item expenditures in most state's budgets, yet the "return" on the money spent is negligible as recidivism continues to climb. We're just not getting the bang for our buck that is necessary to impact upon reducing incarceration. We've already decreased arrests and crime in the U.S. since 1990, but can't get a grip on incarceration. The number one reason why is the involvement of corporations and profits derived by keeping prison populations at an all time high. There is absolutely no incentive for corporations to want to reduce the rates of incarceration and put themselves out of business. Why can't our Democratic lawmakers and the public see this?

In conclusion it boils down to simple terms. To drive down wages, companies have moved their operations overseas and into prisons. As the jobs disappeared, more and more Americans have been put upon unemployment and other social programs. This is all driven by the top 1% in the U.S. who hold all the wealth. They use the funds generated from profits to pay lobbyists to buy our legislative members to further their goals. Their bought lawmakers - mostly conservative - use ALEC (funded in part by Koch Industries and their foundations) to propose and enact legislation favorable to the corporations. These legislative efforts include(d): increased criminal laws, truth in sentencing, mandatory minimums, abolishing parole, and expansion of prison industries among others. Using the inmates those laws incarcerate, the companies move operations into the prison industries to take advantage of that large workforce to avoid having to pay standard wages to American workers. Conservatives have worked overtime to put their corporate masters in the cat-bird seat regarding imprisonment and profiting from that incarceration through privatization of prisons.

Now, again using the profits generated from a captive work force, the same companies fund conservative efforts of stifling private sector wages through initiatives proposed by the same lawmakers they always rely upon. They are funding the current legislation to increase privatization, eliminate Unions and collective bargaining rights. In the place of those they are promoting right to work legislation to now make it possible to have access to civilian labor at far reduced wages. All of this is in pursuit of more profits to make themselves richer and richer...and us poorer and poorer to the point we will be willing to work in skilled jobs for minimum wage. But wait, they're even pushing for the elimination of minimum wages in many states. So even that safety net is in jeopardy to workers. Now they believe the time is right to take over for our governments - state and federal - on most issues, believing there is no real need for government involvement in our society, as corporations can run it better.

Somehow we must realize that giving this cabal more and more tax dollars and the power and influence they purchase with those dollars is self-defeating. We should never have bailed out the banks and Wall Street as they brought the entire thing down around their own necks. We now see the kind of reward they have for our bailing them out - enslavement.

We have to wake up to the threats to our freedoms, jobs, livelihood, wages and fundamental rights before we're all working as slave laborers at wages comparable to China...for that's what these insidious bastards want for all of us. In the current the Unions go, so go we. Hate 'em or love 'em, without 'em we lose all voice in opposition to the course planned for us by the likes of Charles and David Koch, ALEC and their conservative lawmakers serving as lackeys...