Archive for lobbyists

First evidence that ALEC effort to rebrand as being legislator-driven is “sham”

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ALEC general

ALEC is a topic I write about often. Allow me to refresh your memory:

ALEC  (American Legislative Exchange Council) is an organization of state legislators which favors federalism and conservative public policy solutions. They literally write legislation for Republican Congress members, who then do whatever they can to pass it. The Nation:

Of all the Kochs’ investments in right-wing organizations, ALEC provides some of the best returns: it gives the Kochs a way to make their brand of free-market fundamentalism legally binding.

Now that you have some background, here is some good reporting by Madison.com that should hopefully inspire you to vote (Koch-owned) Republicans out in November and get others to do the same. It involves Wisconsin Sen. Leah Vukmir, R-Wauwatosa who "voted on a policy allowing only lawmakers, and not lobbyists, to introduce model bills":

At the same meeting, she sponsored a model bill under the direction of a lobbying group, according to documents released Thursday following an open records lawsuit that cost state taxpayers $15,000 to settle.

Brendan Fischer, a lawyer for the liberal Center for Media and Democracy, which filed the lawsuit, said the more than 100 pages of documents provide the first evidence that an effort by the American Legislative Exchange Council to rebrand itself as being legislator-driven is “just a sham.”

“This demonstrates that ALEC is really a lobbyist-driven organization,” Fischer said. “The lobbyists are the ones calling the shots. The legislators are just following along.”

That's what we in the bloggy biz call a big oopsie. And it's about time someone went very public about how legislators are nothing more than puppets with people like the Koch brothers pulling the strings. I mean other than Harry Reid:

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In one email, Christie Herrera, vice president of policy for the Florida-based Foundation for Government Accountability, a conservative think tank with a registered lobbyist, wrote to Vukmir and three other legislators from other states thanking them for sponsoring a resolution opposing the expansion of state Medicaid programs under the Affordable Care Act and coaching them on what to say.

More details here.

Kochtopus

Speaking of legal issues, here are a couple of good Progressive lawyers, should you ever need one: Barry Scheck and Seth Price. We have a complete list of those we like to occasionally recommend at the bottom of our right sidebar.

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Gays And The NFL - Tax Exempt Status At Stake

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football NFL

When the crazies get going, the going gets crazy. Yesterday there was an article circulating about Jack Burkman, a lobbyist trying to propose a bill that would ban gay players from the NFL.

What's crazy about that? Well everything from the fact that lobbyists can't propose bills, senators and congressmen must introduce them. But putting that behind, the fact that discrimination in the workplace is prohibited by law, this would stand in the way of such a bill. But some bills do pass that are found unconstitutional, then they're struck down.

Think of all that cost. And also think of this: The NFL exists as it does with a congressional granted tax exempt status. The multi-billion dollar industry saves millions because of that designation. You think they want to risk their non-profit status? According to CBS MoneyWatch:

This decision has saved the NFL uncounted millions in tax obligations, which means that ordinary people must pay higher taxes, public spending must decline, or the national debt must increase to make up for the shortfall. Nonprofit status applies to the NFL’s headquarters, which administers the league and its all-important television contracts.

The NFL is already under attack. Senator Tom Coburn (R-Oklahoma) has already introduced a bill to strip tax-exempt status from sports leagues. How many co-signers do you think would jump on that bandwagon if Congress were to even entertain a bill banning homosexuals from participating in the league?

Two days ago Jason Collins, an openly gay man, joined the NBA Brooklyn Nets. He played in his first game. And guess what? The league didn't collapse. When number 42, Jackie Robinson became the first black player in the MLB, the league didn't collapse. And when and if Michael Sam is drafted by the NFL, the league isn't going to sputter or disintegrate.

Life goes on. Bigotry must fall.

So before ending this post, it might be interesting to know a final fact or two about Jim Burkman, the lobbyist. Via HuffPo:

WASHINGTON -- A Republican lobbyist, [Jack Burkman], hawking a bill that would bar gays from playing in the National Football League has a younger brother who is gay [Jim Burkman].

“I think the idea that he is pushing legislation that is just hurtful and ridiculous is just plain stupid,” said Jim Burkman. “He is not a legislator and he can’t really push legislation. I don’t think there are any cosponsors for a bill. It is just an attention grab and a media grab to pander to those folks who pay him to lobby on their behalf.

Well, now it's time for the NFL to speak up -- and they should because they have a lot to lose -- millions -- if their tax exempt status should be removed. And if they don't come out as accepting of gays, you can count on their exempt status going the way of the "leather helmet" or "Statue of Liberty" play.

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Surprise: Newest American Saboteurs are Democratic Senators

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aipac

When you hear names like Charlie Schumer, Mark Warner, Cory Booker, Kay Hagen, Mary Landrieu, Bob Casey and Richard Blumenthal, you usually hear that some Democratically sponsored bill has their support. And usually you're right, give or take one of the above.

Yet recently, led by Senator Bob Menendez, these US elected officials to the upper house have been sold a bill of goods. And it's not a jobs or education bill. Nor is it some health plan or civil rights issue. It's war.

Real war. A potential nuclear war.

Why these guys? This isn't the Republican Party war stalwarts, Lindsay Graham and John McCain. These are normal people -- at least as normal as it gets in the senate.

The truth is these new Hawk senators are on the dole. Not necessarily news there -- all elected officials are influenced by lobbyists. But this time, and I'm going to take heat for this, it's the Jewish Mafia. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). It's the most influential Jewish lobby group in the US. And historically they have backed candidates who fight for justice and equality in social issues, and political ones when it comes to Israel.

Now Israel has a special place in my heart. Not just because it's the Jewish homeland and I was born a Jew, but my wife is a Sabra, a native born Israeli. And once you have that in your blood, you're generally a dyed-in -the-wool supporter of anything the Israeli Knesset (parliament) proposes.

This brings us to war and peace. For nearly 30 years we've been in a cold war with Iran. We've had no formal diplomatic talks with them and we've been the world leader in getting other nations to impose austere economic sanctions against them. That was until about four months ago. There was a breakthrough. John Kerry reported back to the US that talks on stopping or at least tightening nuclear safeguards with Iran were possible. But like all negotiations, there's a bit of 'give a little' to 'get a little.' The price for us was to hold off on further economic sanctions while negotiations would take place (a six months moratorium). The price to the Iranians is to allow open international monitoring of the Iranian nuclear program -- full inspections.

This was a great tit for tat -- especially as pressure was building for war between our two countries.  That would ultimately would result in a nuclear conflagration. There's no way around that. Yet here's a potentially peaceful solution at hand. The only ones unhappy in that region are Saudi Arabia (remember where the 911 trainees spent much of their pre-attack time) and Israel -- the other nuclear armed country in the region who doesn't want any competition in weapons superiority. And I can understand that.

Obviously those in the pocket of the neo-cons -- the entire GOP party hierarchy -- were against this. But the Democrats? How could they be against peace -- especially one their President is working so hard to accomplish? And if you're looking at public opinion, over 60% favor a peaceful solution with Iran over war. So how could 16 Democrats come out and favor new sanctions which would lead to Iran pulling away from the negotiating table?

Obama was told in no uncertain words that new sanctions  against Iran would be a line in the sand by the their President. Secretary of State Kerry was told the talks would be DEAD if Congress passed new sanctions by the Iranian Foreign Minister. So until we find a reason not to, why not give peace a chance?

The Republicans want war and they've been able, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. to stir the pot and brainwash the Jewish senate members (or those gentile members who aren't totally anti-semitic) by selling a bill of goods that peace negotiations can't be trusted. Netanyahu along via the dangerous and borderline deranged John McCain (who's totally bonkers) contacted his influential PAC, the AIPAC, and forced them to exert pressure on the weak and vulnerable among the Democratic senators. Face it, backbone is not a prerequisite for being a Democrat.

But don't take my word for it. Here's Chris Hayes:

Finally, some sense of sanity. Obama spoke to the Democratic Senate Caucus last night and evidently they've seen the light of their wayward ways.

UPDATE: Since this airing, according to WAPO:

But editorial boards and commentators have harshly condemned the push for a vote. Many Senate Democrats have continued to remain silent, which could well be a sign of an unwillingness to sign on to the bill. A couple Dem senators have come out against it in the last couple of days, joining 10 Dem committee chairs who have already done the same. At last whip count, this bill will not get past Harry Reid and is now considered dead.

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VIDEO-- Legal bribery: A lobbyist and a Senator walk into a restaurant…

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lobbyists pigging out

America Profits first!

Via Represent.Us:

Think you know how negotiations work in DC? Think again. If you’re not laughing by :59, then you’ll probably be crying at 2:19.

We couldn’t believe it when one of our members sent us this two-minute video. He's a talented filmmaker who is tired of explaining money in politics corruption to his friends. Instead, he wanted something quick that he could send around…

It's a video that tells the story of what’s wrong with our political system in an emotional and funny way.

Watch it. Share it. If it makes you mad, that’s good. We all need to get mad, and get busy fixing this problem.

-Graham

Joshua Graham Lynn, Program Director
Represent.Us

We have a winner.award goes to

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Group finds that ALEC falsified signatures on "stand your ground" letter to Sen. Dick Durbin

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alec

We've posted about ALEC a lot here at TPC. For example:

ALEC  (American Legislative Exchange Council) is an organization of state legislators which favors federalism and conservative public policy solutions. They literally write legislation for Republican Congress members, who then do whatever they can to pass it. The Nation:

Of all the Kochs’ investments in right-wing organizations, ALEC provides some of the best returns: it gives the Kochs a way to make their brand of free-market fundamentalism legally binding.

And as ALEC Exposed explains:

ALEC bills would privatize public education, crush teacher’s unions, and push American universities to the right. Among other things, these bills make education a private commodity rather than a public good, and reverse America’s modern innovation of promoting learning and civic virtue through public schools staffed with professional teachers for children from all backgrounds.

Now we have this, via Think Progress:

This week, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) sent Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) a letter that claimed the Senator’s investigation into ALEC’s involvement “Stand Your Ground” laws was a form of “intimidation.” The letter was supposed to have carried the clout of about 300 state legislators who signed onto it, but, according to an investigation by progressive group by ProgressNow, many of the signatures on that letter were falsified or duplicated. [...]

The group said it was signed by 293 elected officials. But, ProgressNow found, 55 of the signatures are “blatantly invalid.”

ALEC itself is "blatantly invalid," yet it still dictates legislation on behalf of Corporate America. Let's hope this tarnishes ALEC's image and helps more people to become aware of how they operate, eventually leading to its undoing.

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Reality TV and Reality Law Creation. Fact vs. Fiction.

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Congressional bill

Okay, we all understand how a bill becomes law. A bill is proposed  either by the president or a congressperson. If it makes it through congressional committee, it goes to the floor for a vote. From there assuming it passes, it goes to  the President for signature. If he signs it, we have a new law -- unless the Judicial branch finds it unconstitutional. If the president vetoes it, the house and senate get another shot at it -- needing 2/3 majority to override the veto. Boom. You have it. Reality of bill passage.

That's how it's drawn up, anyway, according to the Constitution. But how does it really work?

Real Housewifes

Like with reality TV, you're told something's real, you see it, and you're expected to buy it as reality. Horsepuckey. The truth is the subjects involved are put in scripted/planned situations and these featured characters are told how to react and what to react to. Sorry to burst your bubble but those Housewives of Beverly Hills aren't really housewives. And those Jersey Shore kids aren't just happening on the outrageous drunken adventures on their own. And Househunters shows start with a couple already buying a house and after they close escrow,  they're shown two others houses and they fake interest. I'm not trying to dispel truths you may wish to believe, but thats how these shows are done. They're plotted, scripted and produced. I know because I've worked on them.

So now that we understand reality, let's put a bill under the same eye of scrutiny. Let's take this creating a law as described above, and get down to brass tacks. Examine the real nitty-gritty. And what better way to do it than with animation?  What follows below is how a bill is really passed today, the hoops and rings of fire that must be jumped through. When the framers of the Constitution drew up our guidelines, they didn't know about lobbyists -- though undoubtedly they must have existed. Maybe even agreement on the Constitution itself came down to some backroom horse and slave trading. So with a h/t to Lucian Dixon, here's something to chew on:

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VIDEO: Corporate CEOs admit pushing credit agencies to lower Illinois's bond rating as part of attack on pensions

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biden big f'ing deal

Relevant segment at around the 47-minute mark.

Via IllinoisChannelTV,  Mar 8, 2013:

From the Union League Club of Chicago: Former Attorney-General Ty Fahner, who now heads the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago, talks about the urgent need to cut the cost of state pensions.

H/t: @johnvmoore who said, "I believe corporations screwing a state's bond rating is huge." Why yes, yes it is.

Via We Are One Illinois (bolding is mine) released the following statement. They are responding to Ty Fahner, president of the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago, who said that members of that committee lobbied major credit agencies to downgrade the bond ratings of Illinois:

Coalition Calls for Investigation into Corporate CEOs Who Lobbied for Illinois Bond Downgrades

"Ty Fahner and unnamed members of his corporate-backed committee have shown their true colors. Fahner bragged openly about joining members of the business-backed group, behind closed doors, in lobbying credit rating agencies to lower Illinois' bond ratings in an irresponsible and unethical attempt to put the state in an even more difficult position. They show total contempt for the taxpaying public, total disregard for the difficult fiscal challenges the state faces, and total hypocrisy over their alleged care for the working families of Illinois.”

In addition, a serious conflict of interest may exist if either these unnamed CEOs or the big corporations they control profited in any way from lobbying to make Illinois pay more interest on its bonds -- bonds which they or their corporations may hold. [...]

Yesterday, Capitol Fax shared a video of Fahner speaking before the Union League Club, where he said, "Me and some of the people that make up the Civic Committee...did meet with and call...Moody's and Fitch [Ratings] and Standard and Poor's...and say, 'How in the hell can you guys do this [maintain the state's credit rating]? You know, you are an enabler to let the state continue. You keep threatening more and more and more.'"

Fahner then took credit for the subsequent downgrades to Illinois' credit ratings, stating, "But if you watch what happened in the last few years, it's been steadily down. Before that, it's been the blind eye."

As Vice President Biden would say, this is a big f'ing deal.

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