image RINO’S tHINKING, PART VII/ ALEC AND SPECIAL INTERESTS

I have become a self professed RINO, republican in name only who is determined not to vote for a republican until one candidate has the courage to openly stand up to the tea party when they spout their ugly, mean spirited, racist rhetoric like our President is a Muslim and that he is not a U.S. citizen. The more moderate, establishment republicans live in fear of offending this base consisting of evangelical, conservative Christians and tea party republicans just as they pay deference to the NRA. What these conservative groups have in common is access to large sums of monies to fund more compliant candidates to challenge republican incumbents up for election if the legislators do not vote according to their wishes. For example, conservative groups have already pledged to fund the campaign of a more conservative politician to Senator John McCain because they believe he is not sufficiently voting in line with their agendas.

My thoughts are that these far right, Christian zealots who are coaxed to act out of anger, fear, bitterness as amply demonstrated by their actions, are almost indistinguishable from the far right tea party groups. The Christian far right has become so intertwined with the tea party conservatives to where these two groups are acting in concert with each other because of mutually compatible goals which benefit both groups, .

Both groups argue many of the same talking points.

I’ve been noticing the similarity in rhetoric between the far right zealot Christians and the tea party folks. These peoples are acting like lemmings. You could make tea party, Christian right dolls so that when you pull their strings, you can count on them to spout out the same talking points. Almost all the points at least can be said to serve their mutual beliefs, like being anti gay; pro life; anti immigration; anti public unions; pro school choice and vouchers; anti Muslim; pro Israel: anti-Obama Care; anti business regulations; pro-tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations; anti government spending programs and benefits such as food stamps, school lunches for the poor, welfare, unemployment pay; anti government run programs like social security, Medicare, Medicaid, SSI; approving being tough on crime including minimum sentencing laws and privatization of prison systems; anti legalization of medical marijuana; disrespectful of the legitimate authority of our President by the spreading of innuendo, lies, slander; distortions; stressing their goal of ending government intrusion in the life of Americans which translates into reduction of taxes and/ or no new taxes; gerrymandering districts to favor the republicans; limiting qualified voters by requiring extra documentation like special photo voter ids; etc. The issues that could be said to be outside of their direct mutual interests would be the denial of climate change despite ample scientific evidence proving otherwise; the barring at all costs of gun owners being required to undergo universal background check despite 92% of Americans and even the majority of NRA members approving this; and the “stand your ground” laws. For the last three issues, it would be the NRA, the oil and utility industries which would benefit from stoking and promoting these talking points from Christian and tea party conservatives. So, now we have a symbiotic relationship among the Koch brothers; the oil/gas and utility companies; the NRA; conservative lobbying tea party groups and think tanks; religious organizations; conservative, evangelical Christians and tea party republican members.

It is conceivable that these special interests which benefit from reinforcing the inflexible, intransigent, lemming type thinking of the far right, conservative Christian groups and the tea party republicans, would be supportive in multiple ways. This is why Christian and religious organizations along with the far right tea party groups, appear to be functioning in sync, while being well funded, organized etc. To me, the thought that for money, Christian pastors would help foster their members’ type of hateful, selfish, self serving patterns of thinking and acting is beyond sick, it is evil.

Recall before the November 2014 elections when Senator Harry Reid kept talking about the Koch brothers whenever he had the opportunity on the  U.S. Senate floor. There is a reason for this.

Remember years ago, when the tobacco companies were lying to Congress and their consumers about the science not proving that second hand cigarette smoke was harmful to others.   Companies like Phillip Morris used their huge profits to create institutes and smokers-rights groups to promote pseudo-science and false research as the real thing, thereby confusing their consumers and the general public. The campaign convinced many nonsmokers that secondhand smoke was nothing to fret over. Now, this pattern seems to have been co-opted by oil, energy and utility companies to address Americans being fearful of global warming.

In  the 1970’s, the Koch brothers,  Exxon Mobile and other prominent conservatives formed the American Legislative Exchange Council, (ALEC). Their boards and steering committees represented some of the most influential business leaders in America. ALEC provided a forum for corporations and mostly republican legislators to collaborate on “model bills” and draft legislation which the members would like to see become law. During this time, the NRA served as “corporate co-chair” of ALEC’s Public Safety and Elections task force. So, now we are connecting the dots among the oil and utility special interests, the NRA with their soldiers, the Christian and tea party conservatives and their various churches and right wing think tanks, research and other organizations.

UPDATE: 2015 NRA CONVENTION TO BE HELD IN NASHVILLE TN DURING WEEK OF APRIL 13…ALL REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES EXCEPT RON PAUL AND CHRIS CHRISTIE WILL BE IN ATTENDANCE…70,000 PLAN TO PARTICIPATE.

TED CRUZ
TED CRUZ

SHORT HISTORY ON ALEC, THE KOCH BROTHERS AND THE NRA INFLUENCE ON POLITICS

Around 1973, an organization ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) was created by conservative leaders like Paul Weyreich and Henry Hyde with backing from major business contributors like the Koch Brothers, Exxon Mobile and the NRA. Many corporations signed up to become members. The concept was for ALEC to embolden and assist republican legislators in developing laws which were favorable to business.

The organization ALEC has assisted republican legislative bodies with the creation of many conservative model legislative templates such as:   1.)Promoting ways to dismantle public worker unions in states with Republican majority led legislative bodies as these are  the only big money contributors left who can seriously compete with the big money interests who donate to the Republican party. 2.) This includes the promotion of school choice even if the school choices have not been vetted for financial solvency and /or demonstrate a plan for real improvement modeled after current charter schools with outstanding records in impoverished areas around the country such as the Success Schools in New York City; 3.) Promoting voting rules and systems designed to reduce the number of minority folks who vote heavily democrat from having access to the voting booth including the requirement of picture voter identification cards; 4.) Gun rights advocacy including the “Stand Your Ground” Law. This “Stand Your Ground” law which originated in the State of Florida in 2005 has spread to  over  several Republican congressionally led states. (5.) Promoting the interests of the oil and fossil fuel industry including the discounting of scientific evidence regarding the issue of climate change.

There was a game change when an activist organization, “Color of Change” was started. They successfully lobbied different companies for associating with ALEC by  accusing them of working to disenfranchise minority and low- income voters and by them also supporting the coordinated proliferation of voter ID laws which effect these groups. Then the movement accelerated its’ momentum in mid 2012 due to the shooting in Florida of unarmed 16-year-old Trayvon Martin by neighborhood vigilante George Zimmerman triggered a nationwide discussion of “Stand Your Ground” laws. Amazon.com quit ALEC with a flourish at its 2012 stockholders meeting, as a crowd mobilized by Fuse Washington and other groups cheered when news reached the street. Other dropouts have included such giants as General Motors, Proctor and Gamble and Coca Cola, PepsiCo, Wal-Mart, Wendy’s, Blue Cross & Blue Shield.  From 2012- 2014, about 90 companies have permanently separated from ALEC. This is also when ALEC and the NRA parted company.

As a consequence, ALEC’s representatives publicly stated that their organization would no longer participate in these type of political activities. The Koch brothers have instead been actively funding various Tea Party groups to support their various conservative political agendas. Recently (2014), Yahoo decided to no longer be a member. As per the blog, Seattlepi by Joel Connelly, posted on September 25, 2014, “Yahoo, Facebook and Yelp have joined an exodus of technology companies from the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the group that has drafted stand-your-ground and voter ID laws for introduction by conservative state legislators. The first out the door, late in August (2014), was Microsoft. Also, Google announced  that it was quitting ALEC’s Task Force on Communications and Technology:  CEO Eric Schmidt accused the group of “literally lying” about climate change. Yahoo was reserved, very corporate and close to the vest.”

“We have decided to discontinue our membership in ALEC:  We periodically review our membership in organizations and at this time, we will no longer participate in the ALEC Task Force on Communications and Technology,” the company said in a statement.

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Now do you really think that the Koch brothers, the NRA, the oil/ gas and utility companies and other special interests have given up pushing political agendas, favorable to themselves?

Lisa Suhay of the Christian Science Monitor asked a “follow the money” type question, “Who’s pushing the ‘religious freedom’ legislation in states?” The following are some excerpts from her 3/30/15 report:

“A recent opinion piece by Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook, lamented Indiana’s new ‘Religious Freedom Restoration Act’ as what he characterized as a “wave of legislation” which some claim is the result of the emerging power and reach of conservative “bill mills.”

Tea-Party-Occupy-Cartoon GOOD CHOICE

“There’s something very dangerous happening in states across the country. A wave of legislation, introduced in more than two dozen states, would allow people to discriminate against their neighbors,” Mr. Cook wrote in the Washington Post.”

“Cook was referring to Indiana Gov. Mike Pence and his state’s new “religious freedom” law, which gives business owners the right to decline serving customers based on religious grounds – in effect turning away LGBT customers.”

“Some Democrats and political analysts say that the “wave” Cook refers to is not originating with voters, but rather conservative “bill mills” that finance state legislators to attend educational conferences that may provide both unified ideas and prefabricated bills to take home.  Specifically, they see The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) as the primary driver of conservative state laws.”

“But when asked whether ALEC was involved in supporting the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, ALEC spokesperson Bill Meierling responds: “We do not work on firearms, marriage equality, immigration, any of those things people frequently say are ours.”

“Still, North Carolina state Rep. Graig R. Meyer of (D) Durham says that ALEC is having a profound effect on how state legislators in his state are picking their targets.”

“While ALEC may not be directly distributing the template legislation we’re seeing pop up all over the country, they are the primary conservative legislative exchange and are courting legislators at their educational seminars and conferences,” Mr. Meyer says in a phone interview.”

“One such ALEC conference was held in North Carolina. “While nobody can say for sure where the next religious freedom law bill will pop up, it’s probably a safe bet to look at where their most recent national conferences were held and where the next one will be,” says Meyer.”

“The last ALEC national conference was held in December in Washington, D.C. The next one coming up will be in San Diego, Calif., according to ALEC’s Meierling. He describes the organization as “an exchange of legislators and entrepreneurs who come together to discuss policy.”

“A Source Watch report on the legislative authors of Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) shows many are also on the ALEC Indiana membership list.  Three of the bill’s co-authors are also ALEC Task Force committee chairs, including Indiana state Sen. Carlin J. Yoder (R) of District 12, Sen. Jean Leising (R) of District 42, and Sen. Jim Buck (R) of District 21, according to Source Watch.

Other Democratic legislators say ALEC is shaping conservative legislation in their state. For example, Arizona state Sen. Steve Farley sees the non-profit group as a driver of debate on gun legislation and the recently aired idea of mandating church attendance in his state.”

“Both concepts were championed by Arizona state Sen. Sylvia Allen, (R) of Snowflake. While ALEC’s website does not currently list gun legislation as part of its national agenda, Mr. Farley points out that the organization once pushed the proliferation of state Stand Your Ground laws.”

“Farley describes the comments by Senator Allen as “all part of a mindset that is driving one piece of bad gun legislation after another, not just here but nationally,” he says. “This is the same mindset allowing businesses in Indiana to refuse service to the LGBT community. A culture of gun-toting, prejudice is consciously being spread all over the place and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is using leaders like Sylvia Allen to spread this legislative thinking.”

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“Source Watch lists current and former Arizona politicians who are ALEC members, including Sylvia Allen.”

“Meierling at ALEC responds that Senator Allen is not listed as an ALEC member, although Arizona has been the site of ALEC conferences.”

“All of our policy is essentially related to economic freedom, decreasing the cost of doing business and creating a stable and predictable business environment,” Meierling says. “As you might imagine, none of the things Senator Farley talked about have anything to do with a stable and predictable business environment. So it fits quite nicely that we’re not actually doing any of that.”

Meierling adds, “Limited government, free market and Federalism –  if it doesn’t have to do with those three things we don’t do it.”

“It’s semantics,” says Michael J. Gerhardt, director of the Center for Law and Government at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He continues that ” ALEC has a relationship with legislators and people in the Republican Party that strikes me as unhealthy…. This is very disconcerting to those following the pattern of influence by ALEC across the nation coming perhaps in part as a result of the educational conferences they hold for Republican legislators.”

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“Meanwhile, in Virginia, the liberal advocacy group Progress Virginia is attempting to “Close the ALEC loophole” via an ethics bill which which seeks to end the practice of allowing legislators to seek reimbursement – or scholarships – for travel to educational conferences, such as those offered by ALEC”.

“It is our contention that no individual, legislator or not, is an expert on all things and it’s incumbent on each individual – particularly those who are elected leaders – to seek ongoing education,” says Meierling, the ALEC spokesman. “Of course there’s this thing called human free will. So legislators are going to decide for themselves and decide on behalf of their constituents what is best for their specific community. But, how can they make the best decisions if they have no information? So we, we, encourage legislators to come and participate with us, even when they disagree, or agree.”

“Deborah Gerhardt, a law professor in North Carolina is fighting what she refers to as “ALEC-driven education legislation”  being offered in the North Carolina State Legislature concludes, “People don’t realize the magnitude of ALEC’s influence in legislatures all over the nation right now. We need more to come to light.”

6 comments

  1. I have found you! Ever since you left the PI I have been wondering where you were. I loved your work then and I still do!
    politicsbahhumbug.me

  2. I have been following the work of ALEC for some time now, they are frightening. They should be stopped, they only way to stop them is at the grassroots. As always you do an excellent job.

    • I agree with your concern. This template law writing is insidious. I am convinced that the revised “religious freedom restoration act” designed to be discriminatory to the LGBT community was being tested in Indiana and upon success this would have spread to other republican led states. This is the same with all these newer anti-abortion laws and the closings of planned parent clinics.

      There needs to grass root activism to counter this. It is so important that folks become registered and vote in 2016. Sitting home is not an option.

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