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Archive for the ‘National Politics’ Category

The Nuclear Treaty with Iran: Please Write Your Legislators

Fri ,03/04/2015

 

The framework for nuclear deal with Iran has now been approved with the details to be worked out later.

       In Our Hands

In Our Hands

Eventually the Senate will be called upon to ratify the final treaty, and it is important that we begin building support for the treaty in Congress. A war between Iran and Israel would destabilize the Middle East further and lead to unthinkable war and terrorism. Please write your Senator, and also your Representative as well,  to ask for their support. Below is a letter that I sent to my Legislators, which you may use for ideas. I am sure there will be several petitions circulating about this, but sometimes a personal letter carries more weight.

 

The US had many Iranian students and friends back in the 60s and 70s who thought America was great. When the Revolution started, many of them returned home to protect their families. Iran has been under the control of extremists for over 30 years and the moderates have just recently been able to elect a president who wishes to improve relationships with United States and remove the sanctions on their country. If we think we have trouble in the Middle East now, imagine how it would be if a war started between Israel and Iran, and the radicals seize power again.

While the negotiated agreement may not be all we would wish, we should give it a chance. Under the framework, Iran would give up two-thirds of its centrifuges used to enrich uranium and would reduce its stockpile of low-enriched uranium from 10,000 kilograms to 300 kilograms. These two things alone would diminish Tehran’s ability to produce a nuclear weapon. Its nuclear apparatus would be smaller, and under these guidelines, Iran’s pathway to nuclear weapons, while certainly not impossible, would be much more difficult.

Iran would convert its underground nuclear reactor, which could produce weapons grade plutonium, to one which could not and would be used primarily for research purposes. The agreement contains inspection and verification to see that Iran complies fully.

Please support the agreement. It is not just a treaty with United States, but with six other countries and the European Union. Our failure to approve it would cause trouble with our allies, who are anxious to put an end to this crisis, and could lead to a devastating war in the Middle East.

Your Constitutional Right to Vote

Mon ,23/03/2015

This is a guest post by Barbara Moore.

Hearing that voting was not a Constitutional right and that it is not mentioned in the United States Constitution made me feel kind of disillusioned. Wait a minute, as a woman I am well aware of the hard won right for women to vote. I know this is protected in the 19th Amendment of the United States Constitution.

The 19th Amendment plainly states, “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged…” The RIGHT of citizens of the United States to vote should be clear enough as it is used here – for even those who say that the right to vote is not in the Constitution. But, if that is not enough, the right to voteis also mentioned four other times in the Constitution. As well as the 19th, it is mentioned in the 15th, 24th and 26th Amendments to the Constitution. Each time it plainly states the right of citizens of the Unites States to vote….

I do not think any other right is mentioned five times in the Constitution as is the case with the right to vote. It should be clear Vote that the Constitution of the United States plainly states that is a right of citizens of the United States and makes clear that it is also a protected right which, “shall not be abridged or denied.”

Unfortunately,the need for the four special Amendments has been due to the injustice of political manipulation. Perhaps, sadly, even with these protections of the right to vote, we have not seen the end of political attempts at the manipulation of citizens’ right to vote.

Here is a link to a very good article by Garrett Epps who teaches Constitutional Law.

(C) 2015  Barbara Moore

Bits and Pieces 14: Will Rogers on Trickle-down Theory

Thu ,29/01/2015

The Trickle-down Theory, has been around a long time. Back in the 1800’s, they called it the Horse and will rogeresSparrow Theory. If you feed the horse enough grain, some of it will be left over for the sparrows. No economist took it seriously. By Will Rogers day it was called the trickle-down theory and the picture shows what he thought of it. Eric Laffer convinced Ronald Reagan that he should try Laffer’s version of it, and the economy grew less while the public debt ballooned. George W. Bush tried the same thing, and that plus two unfunded wars put our nation deeper in debt.

At the state level, Oklahoma has tried their version of it. They are now having to make cuts in education, infrastructure, the salaries of public workers, and pension plans. Even yet, Oklahoma is cutting taxes even more next year thinking that the problem is that they just have not tried it hard enough. Governor Sam Brownback has put Kansas deeply in debt with his experiment, he calls it, with the trickle-down theory. He refuses to raise taxes even though there is $179 million budget shortfall. Governor Brownback, too, thinks the problem is that Kansans just have not wished hard enough that Tickle-down Theory will work. He is also wishing that the $500 million budget deficit projected for next year will somehow magically go away.

Will Rogers had the theory right. Money trickles up and pools at the top. Those at the top really like that, and they pour campaign money to politicians who will try keep trying the Trickle-down Theory. If there is one good thing that comes out of Brownback’s experiment in Kansas, it will prove once and for all that the Trickle-down Theory does not work. Why should it, it never has.

Profits at All Cost: Shareholder Value Vs. Stakeholder Value

Tue ,30/12/2014

At one time, most American companies saw their role as being responsible to their stakeholders, i.e., being a good corporate citizen and taking 0paycare of both its stockholders and its workers. There was a change in the 1980’s toward increasing shareholder value, i.e., a shift toward considering the companies’ profits to be primary even if it hurt the rest of its stakeholders. The graph at the right shows how that change affected our economy. Corporate profits increased,  CEO pay increased remarkably, and worker wages stagnated.

An example: Wal-Mart is a good example of that shift. As with many companies, the corporate culture changes when the founder dies. Sam Walton believed you should buy American and that you should treat workers fairly, a policy of maximizing stakeholder value. His heirs apparently thought that profits should be the main goal, a policy of maximizing shareholder value, and in the process making themselves fabulously wealthy. The company now imports many of their products and pays its workers poorly. Wal-Mart just announced that it may raise its minimum salary to $8.50 an hour. The Tulsa World editorial board approved saying,” If they (the workers) earn more, they will spend more, spurring the economy. They also will be less prone to need government entitlements such as food stamps.”  True, and while the salary increase may sound generous, it really isn’t. In 2009, when the minimum wage was raised to $7.50, Wal-Mart stock was worth $50 a share. In 2014, workers still earn only $7.50, but the stock is now at $88. If wages had kept up with the stock price, the minimum wage worker would get $13.20.

Earnings: Corporate earnings are one of the most closely watched indicators of a company’s profitability. Stock prices reflect the companies earning or its potential for earnings. Wall Street likes it that way, as it boils a company’s value down to one number which can be measured or approximately estimated for the future. CEO salaries are closely tied to their stock’s performance, making increased shareholder value the 0ratioprimary goal of the company. This leads to policies which boost the company’s earnings and the CEO’s pay in the short term, even though it may hurt the company in the long term. That’s why most CEOs insist on Golden Parachutes which make them fabulously wealthy even if the company declines in the future. Rewarding CEO’s for increased profits had led to policies that created a huge pay gap. While in 1980 CEO earned 42  times as much as an average worker, that gap has grown to 354 times as much.

Abuses: Salaries are one of the biggest expenses for most companies, and keeping average employee salaries low increases profits. Announcing layoffs, though it may reduce a company’s future productivity, is often rewarded with an increase in stock price. Some companies resort to practices such as shifting earnings overseas, setting up tax havens, or ignoring safety and environmental regulations which would cost money to implement. These policies hurt the workers, damage the US economy, and sometimes shift a companies business expenses to the US taxpayer. Many companies justify these practices by saying that they are following the law, but we should not forget that many of the laws were made by politicians influenced by lobbyists and money. Even though they are following the law, the ethics and the patriotism of those companies are questionable.

Stakeholders: Though Wall Street and CEOs may profit from the focus on shareholder value, there are other stakeholders in the company who should be considered. Workers have a stake in the company as their well-being depends on it. Yet, low pay makes workers lives miserable and many of them must sacrifice time with their family in order to take a second job. Taxpayers also a have a stake in companies. shareholdersTax avoidance and tax havens reduce tax revenue and add to the national debt. Shifting jobs overseas hurts American worker’s buying power and reduces their contributions to income taxes. Workers who are unable to afford health insurance or enough food for their family are forced to apply for government assistance. This shifts the burden to taxpayers and the reduced purchasing power slows the economy. Cutting corners on safety means damage to worker’s lives and health and puts a burden on our healthcare and workmen’s compensation system. And, we are all stakeholders in the environment as clean air, pure water, and a hospitable environment are considered our birthright.

 

Stakeholder value: The idea that corporations exist to reward shareholders arose not from law but from the work of ideologically driven economists. It’s a shift that Wall Street and corporate executives brought about, as they reap the rewards. They argue that shareholder capitalism will bring about the greatest good for our society, but in reality it is created economic inequality that is destroying the quality of life for a majority of American citizens. Gap As a contrast, Germany has adopted an emphasis on stakeholder values.  German corporation are required by law to have at least 50% of hourly workers on corporate boards. German workers are involved in decision about wages, healthcare, pensions, overtime, vacations, and other decisions that affect them. The workers certainly have an incentive to see that the company succeeds and they have more security and opportunity than ours. Germany has the strongest economy among the European Union countries and a much greater after tax economic equality .

Socially responsible investors recognize the value of considering all the stakeholders in a company. Many retirement funds and investment firms have social choice investment funds.  The fund’s investments favor companies that are strong stewards of the environment; devoted to serving local communities; committed to higher labor standards; dedicated to producing high-quality and safe products; and those managed in an exemplary or ethical manner. Though the funds are chosen for their ethical values, some of them do quite well. The TIAA-CREF Social Choice Equity Fund, for example, now has $2.6 billion in assets and has grown at the rate of 15% a year for the last five years.  Socialist choice funds are often less volatile as they are more immune to the wild swings in stock prices that occur when earnings reports come out.

Another factor driving the shift toward stakeholder investing is the choice by socially responsible institutions to divest from corporations which have a history of worker or environmental abuses. At its 2014 meeting in  Geneva, the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches (WCC), a fellowship of over 300 churches which represent some 590 million people in 150 countries, endorsed fossil fuel divestment, agreeing to phase out its own holdings and it encouraged its members to do the same.

Social entrepreneurism: Is not likely that the United States will pass laws requiring more emphasis on stakeholder values, but there is beginning to be a shift in that direction. There was recently an entrepreneurial seminar which promoted “Social entrepreneurism: the tricky balance of doing good while doing well”. It pointed out that twenty-seven states have passed legislation to make ”for benefit corporations”, called B Corporations,  possible. These are tax paying for-profit corporations which include an explicit social mission in their corporate charters.  One example is Grameen Bank, an organization that popularized micro-credit, which makes small loans to impoverished families in developing countries so they can invest in small businesses. Its founder was recognized with a Nobel Prize. Another example is Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, with its explicit corporate emphasis on social causes, such as paying more for sustainably grown milk, sugar, eggs, vanilla and chocolate; curbing climate change; and mandatory labeling of genetically modified organisms. People are apparently willing to pay more for a product from companies that emphasize stakeholder values.

(c) 2014   J.C. Moore

 

The 1956 Republican Party Platform vs. Todays

Sun ,02/11/2014

The chart at the right compares the 1956 Republican platform when Eisenhower ran with what the party’s platform seems to be today. Some things aagop platformevolve, and some things devolve. The modern Republican Party is an example of the latter. Trying to hold power, rather than govern well, the party has molded itself to satisfy the religious right, the anti-science anti-intellectuals, the false conservatives, and the very wealthy. Unable to progress as the world changes, without offending those, the party leaders have taken the path of obstructionism.

It is a rather vicious cycle for Republicans. As moderates and progressives move away from the party, the extremist are more in control. That influence is seen most in the primaries where the extremist and money interests can insert more influence to elect their candidates. It is tough to be an Eisenhower Republican these days.

The 2014 platform is very similar to that developed by the Republican Party in 2012. Republican leaders  used a push poll to develop the 2012 Republican presidential platform. Here  is an analysis of that poll.  The poll was an affront to intelligent Republicans as it was not really to solicit their opinions but instead an effort to spread propaganda and to raise money. It signaled the big money interests and extremists that if they gave generously, the Party would reward them. And it did. Here is an analysis of the 2012 Republican Party platform that Romney ran on. Can any Republican actually be proud of that platform? It is no wonder Romney lost.

Which platform in the chart do you prefer? It will never be 1956 again, but think where we might be today if the Republican Party had remained progressive. It is time for the Grand Old Party to become Grand again.

The Economic Recovery in the Past Five Years: Then and Now

Sun ,02/11/2014

We have heard so much bad economic news that most people believe it, even though it is not true.The economy has recovered to the point that theRecovery economic stimulus is being ended. That would normally be good news. It is strange that it has not been widely disseminated and many people may be unaware of it. You may read a little piece here and there in the paper about it, but it hasn’t seemed to enter the public’s mind. Actually, since it would help the Democrats, great efforts have been made by some money interests and obstructionists to downplay the recovery.

The chart at the right summarizes the recovery in the last five years. Though it was put together by the Occupy Democrats, the numbers seem to be accurate and can be checked. Normally the President would get credit for the recovery, but not so much in this case as it would likely help the Democrats in the next election. The news could probably have been even better except for the missed opportunities caused by obstructionists in Congress. I hope some of them will join the jobless after the next election.

More on ALEC: Beware the influence of ALEC in Oklahoma

Sun ,03/08/2014

This article by the author  was first posted in the Oklahoma Policy Institute’s blog.  

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has a great influence on our Oklahoma state politics, but many Oklahomans ALEC2have heard little about the organization. On the surface,  ALEC is an organization made up of corporations and state-level elected officials which meets three times a year to write “model legislation” for states. Officials can then take the model legislation back to their state for consideration. That sounds like a good process, except that what goes on under the surface of ALEC is kept secret.

In May of 2013, ALEC met in Oklahoma City. While corporate representatives from ALEC met with our legislators, a group of citizens protested across the street. The protesters, as well as members of the press, had been barred from attending by security guards. The agenda of the meeting was secret and an elaborate drop box system was created to avoid FOIA requests. Now, over a year later, there is still little known about the meeting or its influence on our legislators.

Rep. Gary Banz, who organized the 2013 event, described it as “a giant coaches clinic for legislators” and said that, though ALEC has been criticized for its secrecy, “The bottom line is if it’s not on our website, it’s not an issue or area that we have embraced.” That’s not quite right.  While ALEC’s website lists some of its policies and model laws, a part of the website is off limits for non-members. The public, journalists, and small business owners are excluded from ALEC membership by steep fees and by a screening process which insures new members are in harmony with ALEC’s mission. ALEC’s membership and funding sources are kept secret .

Much of what is known about ALEC has been discovered by leaked documents and by citizen’s watchdog groups, such as SourceWatch.  ALEC is a 501(c)(3) organization which is not required to reveal its donors or its funding. It has 300 corporate and 1,800 legislative members, but it will not release its membership lists. Rep. Banz said 70 Oklahoma legislators are members, but  SourceWatch lists only 38, leaving 32 members’ identities secret.

Because of the secrecy, it is hard to know what legislation comes from ALEC. Legislators can copy the bills, change them to disguise their source, and present them as their own. Most voters, the press, and even legislative colleagues often do not realize that the legislation came from ALEC. Sponsoring ALEC legislation ensures politicians they will receive support for their re-election campaigns. ALEC’s legislation is often supported by one-sided research, talking points, and op-ed articles designed to convince voters that the politicians are really looking after their best interests.

Many of ALEC’s model laws claim to promote freedom, fairness, and reform, but the end result is often that average citizens lose out in the process.  Citizen’s watchdog groups, such as Common Cause and SourceWatch, are critical of ALEC, saying its bills undercut health care reform, undermine environmental regulations, promote school and prison privatization, limit workers’ rights, restrain legislatures’ abilities to raise revenue through taxes, and mandate strict election laws that disenfranchise some voters, among many other issues.

As Bill Moyers argues in his documentary, United States of ALEC, ALEC is undermining our system of democracy. The strength of the United States is its unity, but some corporations are working through ALEC to undermine that unity at the state level so they can escape regulation and avoid taxes. ALEC is designed to give more power to corporations, claiming that businesses making decisions in their self-interest will lead to the most good for everyone, but the reality is that it does the most good for the already wealthy. We live in a state with enough resources to ensure that every citizen has food, shelter, medical care, education, and an opportunity to contribute back to society. That won’t happen if our state legislature is unduly influenced by ALEC.

What to do about ALEC is the hard question. ALEC hides its members and its funding sources, and it operates as an educational organization to escape lobbying restrictions. There are apparently 32 ALEC members in our state legislature who have not been identified. My plan is to give ALEC as much publicity as possible and to make it a campaign issue by asking candidates to pledge they will not join any organization which will keep them from representing the best interests of Oklahoma citizens.

J.C. Moore is a retired science teacher, a member of the the American Geophysical Union, and co-founder of OKcitizensfirst.org.

McCutcheon vs FEC: Destroying Democracy $1 Million at a Time

Wed ,09/04/2014

“Americans need to take responsibility for government” – Steve Fair

Steve Fair’s article  in the Tulsa World, by that title,  was meant to describe how we should  address the McCutcheon versus FEC Supreme Court ruling. However, it turned out to be a rationale for putting more money into politics and blaming the citizens for allowing it. The ruling  furthered the damage done by Citizens United, which essentially ruled money was the same as speech, corporations were entitled to free speech, and corporations could express their political opinion by donating money. McCutcheon versus FEC essentially removed the restrictions on how much could be donated.

McCutcheon vs. FEC  was supported by the Republican National Committee and applauded by Chairman Reince Priebus: “Today’s court decision is an important first step toward restoring the voice of candidates and party committees and a vindication for all those who support robust, transparent political discourse.” However, when someone speaks, we know who is speaking, while much of the money in politics is funneled through 501C(3) foundations and other tax-exempt organizations, which hides the identity of those giving the moneyand the amount given.  So much for transparency.

Mr. Fair had three points to his article:

First, the Supreme Court got it right. The First Amendment trumps federal campaign laws. Americans have a constitutional right to participate in the political process at whatever level they want, whether it be volunteering for a candidate or contributing money to their campaign.

Second, it is indisputable that money rules in the political process. Candidates at all levels now must raise large sums of money to “get their message” to voters. State legislative and county candidates must solicit donors for money in order to be competitive in the political arena.

Third, big donors and political consultants are not to blame for money in politics. A common misconception is if big donors and political operatives were taken out of the process, big money in politics would dry up. That is simply not true. The reason we have so much money in politics is because we have an unengaged and ignorant electorate.

Equating money with speech means that those who donate large sums money have a much louder voice than the ordinary citizen. Money did have a role in the political process before, but it was limited so that an average citizen could at least make a reasonable donation. This ruling, and Citizens United , means that money will have even a larger role. Republican presidential candidates are already trekking to Las Vegas to be anointed by Sheldon Adelson. The third point  blames an “unengaged and ignorant electorate” which seems to echo our Republican leader’s perception of American voters. Does it mean you’re “unengaged” if you can’t donate millions and that you are “ ignorant” if you can’t sort through all the propaganda, misinformation, and lies created by those with money.

Quid pro quo corruption:  Chief Justice John Roberts tried to justify the decision when he wrote in the majority opinion. “We have, however, held that this interest must be limited to a specific kind of corruption — quid pro quo corruption — in order to ensure that the government’s efforts do not have the effect of restricting the First Amendment right of citizens to choose who shall govern them.”

By requiring proof of quid pro quo corruption,i.e. outright bribery, the decision fails to address the problem of indirect bribery. An example of that is the effect of ALEC in Oklahoma politics. ALEC is composed of about 300 corporations and special interest groups who supposedly help our legislators write model laws. Those laws, of course reflect the interests of the corporations and the special interest groups, often over those of the citizens. The legislators who are members and support ALEC’s goals are guaranteed the support of the special interests and their money in the next election. Not only does ALEC provide money, but it also provides propaganda support such as letters to the editor of newspapers and op-ed pieces that favor the special interest’s viewpoint – and praise the politicians who support them.  And, ALEC does not thrive on openness as it keeps its agendas, meetings, members, and proposed legislation secret.

Mr. Fair finished by emphasizing again that the voters are at fault,  “ Ignorant voters believe candidate propaganda, and whichever candidate in a race that is the most effective at ‘marketing their message’ wins.  America is a country founded on the principle of self-governance. If we have poor government, it’s our fault. If we have too much money in politics, it’s our fault. It’s time Americans took responsibility for the mess we call our government and quit blaming the system. ” He says,  “ First, don’t just swallow a candidate’s  propaganda without researching the facts. Stay engaged in your government at all levels 24/7/365. Second, hold elected officials and our government accountable. Trust, but verify. Once elected, watch what they do and not what they say.’’

Mr. Fair is right that much of the influence of money in politics could be overcome if voters were more informed, but they can’t research everything they read in the paper or hear on television. It is unrealistic to ask, as he does, that citizens spend 24/7/365 working to ensure that what they read is true. Only politicians and pundits have that kind of time to spend on politics.

Justice Stephen Breyer, writing for the minority, said the decision “understates the importance of protecting the political integrity of our governmental institutions. Today’s decision eviscerates our nation’s campaign finance laws, leaving a remnant incapable of dealing with the grave problems of democratic legitimacy that those laws were intended to resolve.” It is too bad that some Republicans see money as a way to gain power and the spoils of power, rather than seeing it as an impediment to democracy, which it is.

Frank Kennedy, in a post in the Tulsa World summed it up quite nicely,” Freedom of speech, guaranteed in the First Amendment, is not unqualified: one cannot falsely yell fire in a crowded theater. Nor should corporations and billionaires, under the guise of free speech, be able to nullify the concept of one man, one vote with mountains of cash to politicians. It is the job of the Supreme Court to decide among contending rights which have priority. This time the Roberts court got it wrong.” Again.

(c) 2014 J.C. Moore

Where Do Our Tax Dollars Go?

Fri ,21/03/2014

The federal debt has been one of the most divisive issues in Congress, leading to cuts in public welfare, near default on our debts, and a sequester agreement which has hurt almost every segment of our economy. Yet, we have not adequately addressed two of the largest expenses, which could be reduced without sacrificing our security or our safety net programs.  The graph below reports the way our country spends its money.

spending

Interest on the public debt is one of our largest expenses and one that could easily be addressed. That could be addressed by restoring a progressive tax rate, by cutting tax loopholes,  and by removing subsidies to profitable industries and the wealthy. Congress cannot seem to act on raising taxes as many of the Legislators have signed on to Grover Norquist’s pledge not to raise taxes.  Senator Tom Coburn, in his Back in Black report , has identified many of the porkbarrel programs that could be cut if Congress had the will to do so.

The second area could be cut is military spending. The graph below shows the military spending by country. The United States spends five times as much as any other country, and as much as the next 10 countries put together on defense. We certainly need to defend our country, however, we still invest a tremendous amount of money in military hardware which is mostly useless against our greatest threat, which is terrorism. Why do we do so? President Dwight Eisenhower warned us in his farewell speech,

My country wants to be constructive, not destructive. It wants agreement, not wars, among nations.  In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex.”

Defense

The military–industrial complex refers to the policy and monetary relationships which exist between legislators, the armed forces, military contractors, and the military industrial base that supports them. These relationships include political contributions, political approval of military spending, and lobbying to support military bureaucracies and weaken oversight of the industry. We have not followed Ike’s advice, as we have allowed the military-industrial complex, in the name of providing security, to gobble up a large share of our national spending. We need to shift our resources to intelligence and diplomacy to combat terrorism, and away from the much more expensive, and much less necessary, conventional military spending.

It should be possible to eventually reduce our expenses for social programs, but not while we are still recovering from a recession which has greatly increased the need for public assistance. To justify that I will quote Eisenhower again:

To blend, without coercion, the individual good and the common good is the essence of citizenship in a free country. Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.” 

(c) 2014  J.C. Moore

More on ALEC

Tue ,25/02/2014

This is a continuation in the series  Who Is ALEC ? and Academic Freedom and Democracy – ALEC Style, as it is important to keep the light on ALEC. On the surface, the American Legislative Exchange Council provides model legislation for state and national legislatures. Its membership boasts 300 corporations and special interest groups, and about 2000 state legislators, governors, US Congressmen, and US Senators. ALEC sponsors meetings where corporations and their representatives entertain our legislators and help craft “model legislation”. From the corporation’s viewpoint, it is “dream legislation” – and ALEC is the organization that helps their dreams come true. What corporation wouldn’t want legislation designed to limit liability, provide subsidies, weaken regulations, criminalize whistleblowing, lower taxes, provide an edge over competing technologies, or to transfer public funds to them by privatizing education, health care, workers comp, public pensions, and prison systems?

About 1000 model bills are available from ALEC. Legislators can copy the bills, change them to disguise their source, and present them as their own. Most voters, the press, and even legislative colleagues often do not realize that the legislation came from ALEC. ALEC’s hidden hand was exposed when a Florida lawmaker introduced a resolution urging “Congress to Cut the Federal Corporate Tax Rate” that carelessly included ALEC’s mission statement. Sponsoring ALEC legislation insures politicians they will receive support for reelection campaigns. ALEC’s legislation is supported by biased research, talking points, and slick ads to convince voters that the politicians are really looking after their best interests. 

 The press, average citizens, and small business owners are excluded from ALEC by steep fees and screening to insure harmony with ALEC’s mission. An elaborate system insures that information cannot be obtained by Freedom of Information Act requests. Much of ALEC’s secret activity is coordinated through Americans for Prosperity, a Libertarian think tank, which now has offices in all 50 states. ALEC takes great pains to keep secrets, as several corporations have withdrawn when their participation was discovered. Clearly, transparency and full, honest disclosure is need.  However, ALEC has 401(C)3 status, which makes it tax exempt and allows it to hide its agenda and the identity of donors. Although ALEC claims it is not a lobbying group, it is hard to see how claiming they are “coaching” and “educating” legislators exempts them from laws requiring disclosure of lobbying activities.

ALEC’ s most shameful activity is attempts to suppress the votes of those not likely to support its agenda – the poor, the elderly, minorities, college students, and working people. Paul Weyrich, the founder of ALEC, once explained why, saying “our leverage in the elections goes up, quite candidly, as a number of voters go down.” One of ALEC’s favorite tactics is to accuse detractors of being leftists or liberals to discredit them with religious groups and Conservatives. However, the network of think tanks and donors that support ALEC are not Conservative, but Libertarian, and their low regard for the for the truth  or the poor or is hardly Christian.  Citizens United gave corporations a large voice with their money, but it could not give them a heart or a soul.

 According to  Bill Moyer , ALEC is undermining our democracy. The strength of the United States is its unity. Corporations, through ALEC , Libertarian think tanks, and the far right wing of the Republican Party, are working to destroy that unity so they can escape regulation and avoid taxes. We live in a country with enough resources to insure that every citizen has food, shelter, medical care, education, and an opportunity to contribute back to society. That won’t happen as long as our legislatures are willing to let some citizens go without so others can have more. The best situation is a balance in power between business, labor and government. However, modern-day Libertarians want to give all the power to businesses, claiming that businesses making decisions in their self interest will lead to the most good for everyone, but the reality is that it makes the most good for the already wealthy.