Nel's New Day

May 1, 2013

ALEC, GOP Want Bangladeshi Model

It’s International Workers’ Day, the commemoration of the 1886 Haymarket Affair in Chicago when people protested for the eight-hour workday. When someone threw a bomb at the police trying to disperse the assembly, they fired into the crowd and killed four of the demonstrators.

Also this week, ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, is having its “Spring Task Force Summit” to organize legislatures against not only workers but everyone else except the wealthy. Corporations give so-called lawmakers already-prepared legislation to take back to their states with the purpose of eliminating workers’ rights, public education, and environmental and consumer protections. Other ALEC laws suppress voter rights, lower corporate tax rates, and undermine food safety through “ag gag” laws. Of course, the elected officials present this legislation as their own, hiding the fact that corporations drafted the bills.

Sitting on all nine ALEC task forces, corporations such as Koch industries fund ALEC and are equal members to the legislators who take away 1,000 bills each year. Twenty percent of these make it into law for unsuspecting state residents. Spinning itself as “transparent,” ALEC keeps its organization invisible, refusing to release its agendas.

Wisconsin state Sen. Leah Vukmir, an ALEC Board Member, is on the ALEC National Board of Directors, until recently chaired the ALEC Health and Human Services Task Force, and was the ALEC State Chair for Wisconsin. Last October she wrote an op-ed, “In Defense of ALEC,” that was published in Milwaukee’s Journal Sentinel.

In response to an open records request for all ALEC-related records relating to the Oklahoma meeting, however, Vukmir’s office replied that they do “not have any documents that are responsive to your request.” Yet a Texas legislator released an ALEC email with a link to its Health and Human Services Task Force agenda that Vukmir had led in the past.

ALEC avoids direct email in communicating model bills and meeting agendas. Instead, it provides a link to an Internet drop box for access to documents. The link expires in 72 hours. Thus the Texas legislator provided the email but not the contents of the ALEC’s folder, despite the fact that the request for information specifically asked for that information.

Last year, the Center for Media and Democracy filed a lawsuit against five Wisconsin legislators for hiding from the open records law by using a personal email account, such as gmail or yahoo, for ALEC correspondence. As part of the settlement, legislators, who agreed that they had failed to release ALEC-related emails, promised that they would in the future.

Missouri is another state sympathetic to ALEC and its corporations. At least 60 legislators belong to ALEC, and over 40 bills have come from ALEC model bills. These include so-called right to work laws which remove union rights, support for the Keystone XL pipeline, acceleration for the privatization of public schools, and others that create legal and financial shields for corporations whose products injure or kill people.

Legislators financially benefit from ALEC “scholarships:” corporate-funded gifts of flights, meals, and hotel rooms for those who attend ALEC meetings.  ALEC provided South Dakota legislators over $4 million in scholarships, while state taxpayers were charged hundreds of thousands of dollars for legislators’ ALEC memberships and trips to ALEC meetings. In turn, ALEC gave state residents the “Stand Your Ground” law that increased homicides in states by 8 percent and climate change denier education in the schools.

ALEC benefits in North Carolina from millionaire Art Pope, the state’s budget director, who also funds state campaigns for legislators who will provide giveaways to corporations. His latest project is “tax reform” giving cuts to the wealthiest 20 percent and increasing taxes for the bottom 60 percent. Thus a person making $24,000 would pay an additional $500 whereas a $1-million earner could get a $41,000 decrease.

By supporting what they call “free enterprise” or the “free market,” ALEC supports what I could call the “Bangladesh model.” Hundreds of Banglideshi workers die because of burning or falling to their death in substandard buildings. Through the destruction of regulations, worker safety, living wages, and human rights, ALEC will bring these same disasters to the United States.

GOP lawmakers want “labor reforms” to support “free trade,” increasing exports. Nations can use one of two ways to be competitive in exporting: either develop a more skilled workforce or slash working class wages. In their anti-education approach, the GOP has decided that the latter is far more effective. The result is worsening recessions, which makes the GOP try to further slash wages in a frantic “race to the bottom.” Out of this race, the laws create crime as corporations refuse to pay not only overtime but also the wages that they have already promised.

ALEC claims to “foster the discussion and debate of policy differences in an open, transparent way” and boasts of being an “open exchange of ideas.” Both the press and average citizens, however, are barred from ALEC meetings. A petition is circulating to disseminate information about ALEC.

While ALEC provides regressive bills to GOP legislators, conservatives in  South Carolina are having trouble replacing former Republican Tim Scott with another conservative. Mark Sanford, infamous for exposed trip to Argentina to visit his mistress and the ensuing divorce mess, continues to look like a fool., a website that connects users looking to have casual affairs, spent only $6,000 for this billboard featuring Sanford’s photograph on I-26 that gets almost 60,000 cars daily.


The major GOP organizations may have abandoned Sanford, but Freedomworks, the conservative PAC that its founder Dick Armey left in disgust, gave $7,000 for yard signs and door hangers. The anti-abortion group National Right to Life added a bit more money for mailers and fundraising calls. South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley is having a fundraiser tonight. And both Pauls, Sen. Rand (R-KY) and former Rep. Ron (R-TX) have endorsed Sanford.

The elder Paul also endorsed Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA) for senate. Last year Broun declared that “evolution and embryology and the Big Bang Theory” are all “lies straight from the pit of hell.” Broun is a member of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology. He has compared President Obama to Hitler and said that the president was interested only in upholding the “Soviet constitution.”

My favorite endorsement of Sanford, however, comes from Hustler publisher Larry Flynt, who praised him as “the sex pioneer of our time.”

Flynt added:

“Sanford’s open embrace of his mistress in the name of love, breaking his sacred marriage vows, was an act of bravery that has drawn my support. His attack on sexual hypocrisy is the only issue in this campaign. It is what defines Mark Sanford. Placing sex at the top of the agenda, he continues his courageous fight, demanding forgiveness while brazenly hugging his mistress at campaign parties.”

Of Sanford’s supporters, Flynt said,

“They have the courage to toss aside lifelong convictions to embrace the sex pioneer of our time. They have rejected the religious teachings of their Bible-thumping preachers and tossed the false sanctity of marriage into the trashcan. Sanford’s fellow pioneers are teaching their children the invaluable lesson that traditional values are nothing more than a scam.”

I love the dilemma in South Carolina this coming Tuesday. Do conservatives vote for a symbol of  free sex or—horrors—a Democrat.

[Update: In a final act of desperation, conservatives have started a smear campaign against Sanford’s opponent with not one shred of truth to it. People claiming to be from SSI polling are calling homes with bogus questions such as “What would you think of Elizabeth Colbert Busch if I told you she had had an abortion?”; “What would you think of Elizabeth Colbert Busch if she had done jail time?”; and “What would you think of Elizabeth Colbert Busch if I told you a judge held her in contempt of court at her divorce proceedings?” There’s no validity to any of these veiled accusations, but that doesn’t stop conservatives.]

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