Governors from many GOP-held states occupy a "Governor's Hall of Shame." Abbott of Texas, Brownback of Kansas, Walker of Wisconsin, Snyder of Michigan, Scott of Florida, and McCrory of North Carolina are bringing their states down. There are others, of course. Though they lie about their negative "accomplishments," they are not fooling many.
Their legislatures are even worse. Some are actively trying to tie the hands of their state governments for all time, with the oxymoronically named Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR). This clone of the awful Colorado ALEC-driven TABOR is eyed by NC legislative destructos and winding its way into discussions. Such an amendment would cement austerity and relegate public schools, roads and other good things states once did to history. The Tea Party owned GAs package it as a "bill of rights," specifying in part that taxpayers must be treated with respect. It's about so much more than that. But low-information voters won't get it until their public schools shutter.
Meanwhile, the North Carolina legislature acts daily at the behest of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) bill mill. Though ALEC-driven look-alike legislation has appeared in numerous states, NC is a new experiment on how quickly and extremely the GA can force a Koch-friendly Tea Party state. How hard can it be with Koch buddy and fellow Americans for Prosperity funder, Art Pope, sitting as the state's budget director? Pope and the network of state and national PACs and non-profits was the biggest factor in the GOP win. And now there he sits, pulling the budgetary strings.
There's much more below the fold...
Together with great partners like the Center for Media and Democracy, Common Cause, People for the American Way, Color of Change and the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, progressives presented a series of TED-type talks to a crowd of over 150 at a storefront down the street from ALEC's swanky hotel (video should be coming soon). Bob Edgar, President of Common Cause, spoke about the IRS whistle-blower complaint they've filed against ALEC for claiming on tax returns that they engage in zero lobbying (thousands of pages of internal documents would indicate otherwise). Lori Haas and Josh Horwitz from the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence spoke about ALEC's anti-public safety agenda, that includes model legislation opposing assault weapons bans and taking away colleges and universities' ability to control what weapons come onto their campuses.
We also heard from Wisconsin state representative Mark Pocan, who is a member of ALEC. In fact, Pocan has been a member of ALEC for many years, getting the inside scoop on their agenda and model bills. He has a great recap of his experience this year up at The Progressive, where he describes ALEC as "a dating service for those ugly corporations and the legislative objects of their affection, with a strong bent to the social right-wing elements of the conservative movement."
I summed up the workshops and press conference with an overview of what ALEC looks like on the grounds in the states. In short, it's large network that's promoting corporate interests at the expense of consumers and citizens. The good news is that their network is weakening every day. Thirty corporations have now dropped out of ALEC, including Walgreens and GM, who announced they were pulling out in the middle of the conference. Another 56 state legislators have quit. Now's not the time to let up on the pressure, which means you need to educate yourself, educate your neighbor, and get involved.
While ALEC may have dissolved the controversial Public Safety and Elections Task Force earlier this year, in response to outrage over Stand Your Ground and Voter ID, former Task Force Chair the National Rifle Association is just as involved as ever. The NRA's booth was the largest and most prominent in the exhibit hall and Chuck Cunningham, the NRA's Political Director, was schmoozing it up with legislators. Saturday afternoon the NRA even hosted a trap shoot for legislators and lobbyists to wine, dine, and relax together.
Perhaps the most absurd item on ALEC's agenda last week was a seminar entitled "Can Tobacco Cure Smoking?" The seminar was led by Dr. Brad Rodu, whose chair at the University of Louisville is primarily funded by US Smokeless Tobacco, a prominent ALEC member.
The annual ALEC conference last week at the Grand America Resort in Salt Lake City Utah featured legislators and corporate lobbyists coming together behind closed doors to craft and vote on model legislation to them be introduced in state houses across the country, like Virginia, with no disclosure of from whence it came. The corporate largesse was evident early, with scattered signs thanking (Koch-brothers funded) Americans for Prosperity and the American Insurance Association for providing snacks at the bar. ALEC definitely doesn't miss an opportunity to squeeze corporate sponsors for money. (Picture after the jump)