Two weeks ago I was treated to a short presentation by Shelly Van Winkle at the legislative forum in Muscatine. Ms. Van Winkle (is there any title that indicates that a person is an RN?) is a registered nurse and a certified cannabis nurse. She was there once more to demonstrate the need for medical marijuana in Iowa. This time she was with a group of parents with young children who suffer from epilepsy.
She spoke of the suffering the children go through and the feelings of helplessness that the parents suffer when they see their children suffer from something that could be easily and greatly lessened with an application of a natural medication that is legally available in some 20 states including Illinois and Minnesota. Later one of the parents spoke of the hell she and her daughter went through before she was allowed to get medical marijuana through a very special dispensation. She then told of her wrenching fear of what would come when that dispensation expires in July.
The child is 5. You just have to ask what this child has done that Republican legislators would allow her to suffer so much. She is 5. She is taking the medication now. Children across the country are benefitting from such medication without any bad effects. Our governor has said he is open to full legalization of medical marijuana
The two Republicans at the forum claimed they were simply waiting for their leadership to decide what they wanted to do. Republican leadership has so far refused to move on medical marijuana. Claiming things like there is no scientific proof that marijuana works to fear that Iowa doctors will be arrested for even discussing using marijuana, Republicans continue to choke any move.
When last I heard such legislation was tied up in the House Ways and Means committee head by Tom Sands. According to the Des Moines Register, here was the status a couple of weeks ago:
But the legislation has been delayed in the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, headed by Rep. Tom Sands, R-Wapello. He has yet to assign the bill to a subcommittee.
“I’m still trying to gather facts on science and if it’s driving this (conversation) or whether it’s emotion,” Sands said. “… And while I have a lot of sympathy for the parents that have some of these children that are looking for hope, we don’t want to do the wrong thing that actually gives them worse side effects in years to come or sends the wrong message to the rest of our kids on drug use.”
Parents of children with severe epilepsy and other ailments have made emotional pleas at the Iowa Capitol this session and last; some say their children have seen major improvements in their health since using the oil. But Sands and others within the House Republican caucus have said they’re concerned the measure opens the door to possible misuse.
Sorry, I ain’t buying it. The points Sands make plus other points that Republicans have been trotting out are so easily disputed we could send one of the affected kids to take them on in a debate. If you are worried about sending the wrong message about drugs to kids, how about looking into all the mood affecting drugs that seem to be handed out like candies by doctors these days. From the Ritalins to the Prozacs kids have long ago gotten the message that drugs are a basic part of living these days.
The message that Republicans are sending is that even though this drug has long since been proven safe and effective, it will be blocked anyway. The excuses the public are given have long been refuted. So why won’t Republicans come clean with the truth? Could it be that the truth behind keeping cannabidiol oil from Iowans would bring the wrath of the public down on Iowa Republicans.
Could it be that the demon, money in politics, is behind the decision to let to let Iowa’s kids, veterans and many others suffer while relief is actually available? While trails like this are often hard to track, it sure looks like it could be.
When the reasons that we are given don’t hold water, it sure seems like someone is doing the bidding of an unseen driver. As I stated a couple weeks ago, that unseen driver very likely could be ALEC. Among members of ALEC are the drug companies who have a lot to lose if medical marijuana is legalized; the alcohol industry which may not be stung by medical marijuana, but could be stung badly by legalized recreational marijuana and of course the privatized prison industry which has lots of empty cells that our insane drug war helps keep filled.
It may seem like I am beating a drum for medical marijuana. I am.
With only a few days left and lawmakers eager to get out on the campaign trail, the legislative session could easily adjourn with this issue dying what would be a quiet death for most, but what would be a tragic case of purposeful neglect by a group of gutless politicians.
The right thing to do is to pass medical marijuana so that Iowans who need the relief it can give can have access to it. For a party that preaches personal responsibility and freedom once again give the finger and turn their backs on the very human beings they claim to represent.
Not many folks take advantage of the legislative forums that are held throughout the state during the legislative session. Usually these are held on Saturdays in cities and towns around the state. Members of the legislature for the area come in to answer questions from the public.
We hadn’t been this year, so we made our way down Muscatine last Saturday morning. Muscatine County includes Senators Tom Courtney, Chris Brace and Bob Dvorsky as their senators. The representatives for Muscatine County include Gary Carlson, Tom Sands and Bobby Kaufmann. Kaufmann was absent last Saturday.
On the surface the forum seemed peaceful, we could feel an undercurrent of tension. This is not a report so much as an attempt to recreate the atmosphere in the room.
The questions for this particular day centered around legalizing medical marijuana and the conversion of Iowa’s medicaid to private administrators for medicaid. Despite Governor Branstad’s claim that the transition went well, it was very obvious from the comments of all the legislators that there were huge glitches.
Bob Dvorsky was the last to answer one of the questions about the medicaid transition. As he answered the emotions of having been railroaded by the governor seemed to well up and spill out in his answer. He was quite frustrated at the way the administration had handled this whole transition from beginning to end.
Dvorsky said that there is a significant lack of information and accurate information that is affecting what can be done about the bill, and that the Governor’s office said the private corporations could police themselves, although he still feels the need for more oversight through the government, rather than through private parties.
“In my 30 years in the legislature this is the worst debacle I’ve ever seen, and I don’t know how we get out of it but I think the answer may be in November,” he said.
Dvorsky also noted (but not reported in the article) that to cover those on medicaid the system should have around 1500 advocates for the 530,000 Iowans in the system. There are currently two advocates.
Another topic Saturday was the strange situation of medical marijuana in this state. Two years ago the legislature was heralded for the swiftness with which access to medical marijuana was passed and signed into law. What was missing from that legislation was the legalization of obtaining or possessing marijuana. Thus any good medical marijuana could do is totally negated by the inability to buy or possess marijuana. Two years later Republicans refuse to move on fixing those problems.
The bill is currently stalled in the House Ways and Means committee. Tom Sands is the chair of that committee. He claims that he is looking to Republican leadership in the House on whether or not to move the bill along. Once again from the Muscatine Journal:
Rep. Sands said that there are still questions relating to the bill, and he is waiting for direction before moving the bill to a subcommittee.
“I think there’s a lot of questions that need to be answered,” he said, and added, “the bill sits in my committee and it’s sitting there until I get some direction from the house Republican leadership on how they want it and when it’ll be debated.”
What Sands didn’t say was a couple of things. For one thing, as chair of Ways and Means he has quite a bit of influence on what the leadership would do. The other thing is that House leadership means Linda Upmeyer. Now, I do not know the inner workings of the Republican party in the House, but it must be noted that Ms. Upmeyer is the past president of ALEC. Mr. Sands is also reported to be a member of ALEC. ALEC as most know is a lobbying group of businesses which is most noted for writing business friendly “model” legislation. Among the members of ALEC are liquor companies and pharmaceutical companies which have a stake in keeping marijuana as illegal as possible.
In that same vein, a group of mothers of epileptic children who have been able to obtain medical marijuana oil to control their children’s seizures were in attendance to plead their case that the special dispensation be continue beyond its current July 1st end. One mother told how her daughter has gone from 200 seizures a day to less than 16 this year.
One would think that this would be a no brainer for the legislature to move on quickly and probably near unanimously. Oddly, in their answers the Democrats were quite aware of this situation and were working on it. The Republicans both claimed they were unaware of the situation.
Mixed in to all of the topics was the ever underlying budget questions. As usually happens the Republicans claimed that the state had no money. What balderdash! What chutzpah! In the interim between last session and this session the Governor made a couple of administrative tax cuts that cost the state hundreds of millions in revenue, perhaps a billion. This in a state that has a budget of approximately $7 billion. The Republican led House refused to even discuss these cuts. Now they plead poverty! Takes a lot of guts to do that. Add to those cuts didadtrous economic initiative like Oroscom which has cost at least $100 million taxpayer dollars going to build a private business.
In short, another session that showed how Republicans could care less about Iowans, their health needs or real priorities. No wonder citizens stay away in droves. In the words of Senator Dvorsky, “the answer is November.”
video 10 minutes 30 seconds
Republicans have known for a long, long time that they win when they suppress the vote. Below is a video in one of the seminal moments in the history voter suppression. Paul Weyrich reminding the religious right that Republicans lose as voter participation increases. While Democrats work hard to increase participation in government across the spectrum of our population, Republicans work in shadows to suppress the vote of all but those who fit their demographic. (video ~ 1 minute)
Text of Weyrich’s remarks:
“Now many of our Christians have what I call the goo-goo syndrome — good government. They want everybody to vote. I don’t want everybody to vote. Elections are not won by a majority of people, they never have been from the beginning of our country and they are not now. As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.”
Words that are as true today as they were when they were first spoken in 1980.
While Democrats will be working hard on street corners and shopping malls to register voters, Republicans will be enacting laws and filing lawsuits to keep large swaths of “other” citizens from being able to exercise their right to vote. Voting machines that can be easily hacked, gerrymandering to make certain votes of less value, caging, intimidation at the polls are among some of the tricks in the Republican bag. The effects of such suppression is the subject of a study mentioned in the video and found here. The following quote pretty well sums up the findings:
“Can it be the voter identification laws actually have minimal effects on American democracy? In this article, we find that strict voter identification laws do, in fact, substantially alter the makeup od who votes and ultimately do skew democracy in favor of whites and those on the political right. These laws significantly impact the representativeness of the vote and the fairness of democracy.”
The reason this has come to mind this week is the death of the late SCOTUS Justice Antonin Scalia. Scalia billed himself as an “originalist.” Apparently being an originalist means to return the vote to white landowners as was the case at the dawn of the US. As in many cases that moved this country dramatically backwards, Scalia, the self-described originalist, was a main cog in the decision.
In one of its more landmark decisions, Shelby County v. Holder, the SCOTUS handed down a decision that allowed states to roll back decades of expanding voter rolls to all citizens. The rollback has been so dramatic that it even evokes memories of Jim Crow laws.
With a majority of state legislatures and governorships in Republican hands since the 2010 midterm elections as soon as the decision was handed down, states were ready to turn back years of progress in seconds. Armed with laws written by the likes of ALEC, state legislatures disenfranchised millions in minutes. The never ending quest to disenfranchise those who won’t vote for them hit full stride.
Cloaked in a mantle of “scholar” and “originalist” and “conservative intellectual” Antonin Scalia was able to write or join in many decisions that have changed the course of the country.
More on Scalia later.
For what it is worth at this juncture let’s have a big hand for the Iowa Senate which passed SF 2125 Thursday that called for the termination of contracts for the managed care of Iowa’s Medicaid program. This is better known as Gov. Branstad’s attempt to ramrod privatization (profitization) of Iowa’s Medicaid program down the throats of Iowans without regard to patient care.
In case you have missed this battle, Iowa’s governor is much more concerned about giving our tax dollars to three managed care companies than he is about what quality of care those who depend Medicaid for their health care. Branstad has been laser focused on pushing this change through. Cynics among us might be tempted to note that the companies picked by the Branstad administration with no input from anyone were among major donors to Branstad’s most recent campaign. But as we all know quid pro quo is so hard to prove.
The senate passed the bill with 29 votes which was 26 democratic votes and 3 Republican votes. We commend the 3 Republicans who put public good before party loyalty.
Unfortunately, new Speaker of the House, Linda Upmeyer refuses to even bring the bill to the floor. From radioiowa.com:
This senate bill will not be considered in the Republican-led House, however. House Speaker Linda Upmeyer, a Republican from Clear Lake, suggested it’s a waste of time to pass a bill that will be vetoed by Governor Branstad.
May I remind folks that Speaker Upmeyer is the former chair of ALEC and currently serves as vice chair of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) Board of Directors ALEC or the American Legislative Exchange Council is a conservative lobbying group underwritten to a great degree by the the Koch brothers. One of their goals is privatization of government functions.
Someone has suggested that perhaps a campaign to contact Speaker Upmeyer and request that she do her job and bring this bill to the floor for a vote. The Speaker’s contact numbers are through the House Switchboard at (515) 281-3221 or at 641-357-8807 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Whether Branstad has threatened to veto this bill or not, Upmeyer owes it to the people of Iowa and especially the 560,000 Iowans who will be directly and most likely adversely affected by privatizing Medicaid to have their concerns heard in the legislature .
Before You Can Sell Them Crutches
Heard that line on the Stephanie Miller Show (you can listen online at free speech.org from 8 – 11AM Monday to Friday) the other day. As you can guess this line was spoken in a discussion about Republican policies. In particular they were discussing how the Flint, Michigan water crisis slowly evolved.
Iowa is not immune from the rapacious policies of Republicans hell bent on privatizing and profitizing any and every aspect of government and putting the running of them into the hands of their campaign donors. In previous incarnations Republicans used to try to create some flimsy reason to privatize a government process. In many cases they no longer even bother to do that.
In Iowa in recent years we have seen Gov. Branstad in many cases simply make unilateral changes with little substantial reason while daring the legislature to stop him. Privatizing the administration of Medicaid in Iowa is the ultimate example. However, that is just the most egregious. This follows moves such as closing the mental health facilities in Iowa, closing the juvenile home at Toledo, the line item veto of money for food banks and of course last year’s line item veto of school funding.
While Branstad vetoed the special school funding money last year, the Republican Party as a whole has from year to year slowly strangled public education in Iowa. As it dies be ready for Republicans trotting out some form of ALEC written legislation that will slowly privatize education. It won’t happen tomorrow. They play a long game so it may be a decade or more but the goal won’t change.
Schools are only one aspect of government that Republicans are determined to break so they can sell you their solution. But they have to break it first. Starve the schools, starve the counties, starve the cities, cut food banks, on and on. All will get the Republican treatment.
Below is an excerpt from Michigan blogger Mark Maynard on the history of the Flint water crisis. This interview with Flint attorney Alec Gibbs happened before the current water crisis, but if you read it you will see how the many negative interventions, especially the concept of an emergency manager and removal of local control, slowly led to the situation today.
This interview is quite lengthy and involved, but worth the effort to understand the kind of undercutting of government going on across the country, and how greed has led to the point where people are dying from drinking municipal water. Maynard also has updated pieces on Flint at his blog.
Alec Gibbs: …….You see this very clearly in the Detroit water shutoffs. I think that they are very happy to cut off water to unemployed Detroit families, because they’ll either die from dehydration or leave, paving the way for the Detroit Future City plan. The shutoffs weren’t designed simply to improve the water system’s finances; if that was the plan, they would target the corporate accounts, but they don’t want to do that.
In order to convince people that this is a legitimate project, its architects must lay the blame on the working class. They are very cognizant of the parallels to authoritarianism; Kevyn Orr was quick to point out that the takeover would be perceived as a fascist exercise in emails that were released as part of a FOIA request. That was in relation to the idea of the Bloomberg Foundation financing the takeover, which also raises interesting questions about the secret donors who paid for Orr’s $4200 a month condo at the Westin Book Cadillac.
But the corporate press doesn’t dwell on this. Instead there are two competing narratives, one that is reflective of American liberal or Keynesian thought, and the other reflective of more right wing presuppositions. In the liberal framework, which Flint’s Mayor Dayne Walling articulates quite well, this is the inevitable consequence of the decline of the manufacturing industry, and is largely beyond the control of local officials, even if local corruption might exacerbate the problems. The right wing narrative blames unions and local corruption almost exclusively, and that’s the narrative you hear coming out of Orr when he meets with the Wall Street press.
Of course, all of these people are footsoldiers with patrons in the corporate sector. They have been set up to take the fall if necessary. And you don’t have to look very far to see earlier examples of this. The irony of the local corruption narrative is that it is partially true, after all; Detroit’s former mayor, Kwame Kilpatrick, was corrupt. But his bid rigging schemes that rewarded Detroit-based supporters didn’t create Detroit’s cash crisis; the cash crisis was the result of cuts to state revenue sharing as well as predatory lending from Wall Street. Kilpatrick was beloved by Wall Street for his loan deals, and the Bond Buyer invited him to Wall Street in 2005 to accept the “Midwest Deal of the Year” award. Was that deal disastrous and illegal? Judge Rhodes thought so, but he still accepted an $85 million payout to the banks to settle it. That settlement not only meant a loss of $85 million, but the loss of any opportunity to recover hundreds of millions in fees from an illegal municipal financial transaction. And the banks, UBS and Merrill Lynch, will still collect the remaining payments from Syncora, which insured the transaction.
Local corruption exists, but it is a symptom of a disease, and it would be a mistake to view this as a partisan matter, since both major political parties are complicit. President Obama has refused to prosecute the banks that laid waste to this country in 2008 and sought to pick at the ruins like vultures, although the Justice Department is quite willing to prosecute local officials while entering into civil settlements with financial institutions that made corrupt practices an investment policy, like JP Morgan. In this rigged game, only the people lose.
Mark: What are we seeing now in other parts of the country? Is American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), for instance, pushing similar legislation in other areas, seeing how successful it’s been for Republicans here?
Alec: This legislation is a little more organic than something you see out of ALEC. But the state’s main ALEC-affiliated “think tank,” the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, is a strong proponent of this law. One of their resident scholars is Louis Schimmel, the state’s first emergency financial manager and someone who has served as an EM in a number of communities. Public Act 4 of 2011 and Public Act 436 of 2012 were drafted by the current CEO of one of Michigan’s largest law firms, Michael McGee of Miller Canfield. He has floated this law as an alternative to bankruptcy across the country, at seminars sponsored by the American Bar Association, for example. Snyder’s officials have also attended municipal bond seminars to discuss the topic. There are more limited versions of this law that have been enacted in Indiana and Rhode Island. But I think that conservative leaders and activists outside of Michigan who find it attractive are waiting to see how legal challenges play out.
Monday, in honor of the opening day of the 2016 Iowa legislative session, BFIA posted about the State Policy Network, a web of so-called think tanks, apparently founded by ALEC, that push a right-wing agenda in every state across the country, yes, including Iowa http://stinktanks.org/what-stinks/.
The so-called Public Interest Institute, so-named to disguise the fact that it is anything but interested in the public interest, is located in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa on the Iowa Wesleyan campus and is a member of the State Policy Network. The information here about this creepy anti-science, anti-union, pro-climate change denial, organization is from the Center for Media and Democracy’s publication, SourceWatch, but you can also visit their website and see for yourself.
The Public Interest Institute (PII) is a “non-profit, non-partisan, public policy research organization located on the campus of Iowa Wesleyan College in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa.” The PII researches issues “such as limiting government spending and privatization of government services” as well as “principles and methods to promote and encourage human rights, economic freedom, economic growth, and the creation of jobs… in Iowa.” PII is a member of the State Policy Network
In 2009 the institute was a co-sponsor of the Heartland Institute’s 2009 conference for climate change skeptics.
Ties to the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity
The Public Interest Institute has hosted writers from the ALEC-connected Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, which screens potential reporters on their “free market” views as part of the job application process. The Franklin Center funds reporters in over 40 states. Despite their non-partisan description, many of the websites funded by the Franklin Center have received criticism for their conservative bias. On its website, the Franklin Center claims it “provides 10 percent of all daily reporting from state capitals nationwide.”[8
Franklin Center Funding
Franklin Center Director of Communications Michael Moroney told the Center for Public Integrity (CPI) in 2013 that the source of the Franklin Center’s funding “is 100 percent anonymous.” But 95 percent of its 2011 funding came from DonorsTrust, a spin-off of the Philanthropy Roundtable that functions as a large “donor-advised fund,” cloaking the identity of donors to right-wing causes across the country (CPI did a review of Franklin’s Internal Revenue Service records). Mother Jones called DonorsTrust “the dark-money ATM of the conservative movement” in a February 2013 article. Franklin received DonorTrust’s second-largest donation in 2011.
The Franklin Center also receives funding from the Wisconsin-based Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, a conservative grant-making organization.
The Franklin Center was launched by the Chicago-based Sam Adams Alliance (SAM), a 501(c)(3) devoted to pushing free-market ideals. SAM gets funding from the State Policy Network, which is partially funded by The Claude R. Lambe Foundation. Charles Koch, one of the billionaire brothers who co-own Koch Industries, sits on the board of this foundation. SAM also receives funding from the Rodney Fund.
Ties to the American Legislative Exchange Council
PII has ties to the American Legislative Exchange Council(ALEC) through Richard Vedder, a member of their advisory board. Mr. Vedder is listed as a “scholar” at the American Legislative Exchange Council and is the recipient of ALEC’s Adam Smith Free Enterprise Award.
Please see SPN Ties to ALEC for more.
ALEC is a corporate bill mill. It is not just a lobby or a front group; it is much more powerful than that. Through ALEC, corporations hand state legislators their wishlists to benefit their bottom line. Corporations fund almost all of ALEC’s operations. They pay for a seat on ALEC task forces where corporate lobbyists and special interest reps vote with elected officials to approve “model” bills. Learn more at the Center for Media and Democracy’s ALECexposed.org, and check out breaking news on our PRWatch.org site.
Board of Directors
David M. Stanley, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer
Robert H. Solt, Vice-Chairman and Treasurer
Dr. Donald P. Racheter, President
Andrea S. Failor, Secretary
Charles C. Espy, Jr.
Stanley M. Howe, Director Emeritus
Academic Advisory Board
Dr. Richard Wagner – George Mason University, chair
Dr. Robert Bish – University of Victoria
Dr. Edgar Browning – Texas A&M
Dr. Richard McKenzie – University of California at Irvine
Dr. William Peirce – Case Western Reserve University
Dr. Randy Simmons – Utah State University
Dr. Eugenia Toma – University of Kentucky
Dr. Gordon Tullock – George Mason University
Dr. Richard Vedder – Ohio University
Dr. Bruce Yandle – Clemson University
Total Revenue: $1,119,463
Total Expenses: $510,401
Net Assets: $7,198,734
Total Revenue: $1,661,139
Total Expenses: $530,950
Net Assets: $6,589,672
600 North Jackson Street
Mount Pleasant, IA 52641
In honor of the opening day of the 2016 Iowa legislative session, we invite you to partake of some background information that will help make sense of those seemingly crazy ideas of Governor Branstad and the Iowa GOP legislators, like dismantling public education. If you’ve ever made a perplexed comment on social media, or just asked yourself, why?, read this.
Earlier this spring, Republicans in the Iowa House passed two ALEC model bills. One would strip away consumer protections by lowering the statute of repose for construction defects and another unworkable idea deals with state budgeting. They are both bad ideas and I voted against them.
Following the ALEC playbook, House Republicans have even refused to bring up a bipartisan minimum wage bill that has already passed the Iowa Senate. Since the last time a minimum-wage increase was approved in 2007 with 79 votes, there’s no question it would pass the House with bipartisan support again this year if Republicans would bring it up. – Mark Smith is a State Representative and Democratic Leader in the Iowa House of Representatives. email@example.com
THE STATE POLICY NETWORK
What Is The State Policy Network?
The State Policy Network (SPN) is a web of so-called “think tanks” that push a right-wing agenda in every state across the country. Although many of SPN’s member organizations claim to be nonpartisan and independent, an in-depth investigation by non-profit, non-partisan investigative reporting groups the Center for Media and Democracy and Progress Now reveals that the State Policy Network and its affiliates are major drivers of the right-wing, ALEC-backed agenda in state houses nationwide, with deep ties to the Koch brothers and the national right-wing network of funders, all while reporting little or no lobbying activities.
What Is The State Policy Network’s Agenda?
The State Policy Network largely pushes a right-wing, corporate-backed agenda aimed at attacking the middle class. The State Policy Network and its affiliates push for privatizing public schools [italics BFIA’s], blocking expanded access to health care, lowering taxes for corporations and the very wealthy, undermining workers’ rights and unions, and a polluter’s agenda that attacks environmental protections. Some State Policy Network “think tanks” have even advocated for voter suppression laws that make it harder for Americans to vote and opposed common-sense gun safety bills.
How Is the State Policy Network Related to ALEC?
The State policy Network and many of its affiliates are members of the controversial American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), where corporate lobbyists and special interest group representatives vote as equals with state lawmakers behind closed doors on “model” legislation that in many cases ends up benefiting the corporations’ bottom line. The State Policy Network has played a major role in supporting ALEC, serving as a “chairman” level sponsor of the 2013 and 2011 ALEC Annual Conferences and acting as a voting member of several task forces. State Policy Network affiliates push parts of ALEC’s agenda in their respective states, and ALEC is also an associate member of the State Policy Network. State Policy Network and its affiliates have contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to ALEC.
How Does the State Policy Network Push Its Agenda?
While State Policy Network members call themselves “think tanks,” they rarely act as such. State Policy Network groups often engage in extensive lobbying activities, even though nonprofits are limited in the amount of lobbying activity they may participate in by the IRS. State Policy Network “think tanks” release “research” and policy reports, and there are numerous instances of State Policy Network think tanks being accused of skewing facts and using faulty research to reach their policy goals. Many State Policy Network think tanks also collaborate with the right-wing Franklin Center to launch agenda-driven “news” outlets, hawking right-wing talking points from behind a mask of journalism.
Terry Branstad is a founding member of ALEC. Blog for Iowa has mentioned this dozens of times. Curiously, the page where you used to be able to find the original members of ALEC on alec.org has been taken down.
Find out more about ALEC’s influence in Iowa here in a guest opinion by Mark Smith in the Cedar Rapids Gazette.
One of the great pleasures of my young life was to read the incredibly droll and wry way that young Des Moines Register columnist Donald Kaul would approach the opening of the Iowa legislature every year. Kaul would then follow with three to four months of humorous observations as the legislature would often stumble and bumble through the process of making laws.
While the Iowa legislature still has many moments of stumbling and bumbling much of the humor is gone now. The consequences of many of the decisions made by the legislature are now very negative especially for Iowa’s families. The legislature does nothing these days about low wages, temp employers who exploit Iowa’s citizens in the worst way, pay day lenders, lack of daycare for women seeking employment and many other problems that beset Iowa’s poor and middle class.
What was once Iowa’s calling card across the country – the best schools in the country – are now reduced to begging a Republican led House to do the job they are supposed to do by law. Surely we can expect Republicans to once more kick school budgeting down the road in their annual attempt to make Iowa schools look bad so they can have an excuse to turn to their answer to school problems, profitized charter schools. Who can forget last year when Republicans pushed the budget to the very limit before agreeing to a small compromise. Then to see the compromise blown up by a governor who seems to see his only purpose these days as delivering goodies to Party donors.
On the school front, Branstad has already sent forth a message that he wants to start tapping a sales tax dedicated to schools to use the money for other problems. Once that dam is breached the money will flow from the schools in a flood. This is a play from the book of dismantling public schools systems that has been used by tea bag Republicans across the country. In order to use their solutions first they have to create the problems for which they have solutions. And in case you have missed it, these solutions are handed to republican legislators all written and ready to go courtesy of ALEC.
Branstad is already setting his own course by not consulting the people’s representative on such major matters as extending a tax break to businesses through a “reinterpretation” of current tax laws. Then there is his decision to close the juvenile home at Toledo in a move that appeared to be against existing laws. Of course there is the aforementioned line item veto that was a punch in the gut for most every Iowa school district.
But the coupe-de-grace for Branstad was his unilateral decision to privatize (and profitize) the running of Iowa Medicaid system. Not only did Branstad act on his own without consulting any other elected officials, the implementation has been an absolute disaster. His administration was in such a hurry to give his buddies our tax money that they didn’t even pretend to design a system or think through how it would work.
What can we expect this year from Iowa’s finest? It being an election year you can bet there will be no new taxes or even a mention of anything like that. There will no doubt be a lot of grand standing on how such and such will save Iowa big bucks. That will for the most part be malarkey. We can expect our friends at Iowa Policy Project and Progress Iowa to keep a close eye on such malarkey, but their insightful work will be mostly ignored by the corporate media and the legislators themselves.
We will probably see the usual bills to let Iowans carry more guns and do so in stores and restaurants in the open so we can join other crazy states in bringing back the old west. Probably have the bill to allow silencers on guns again too. Those will keep people from being disturbed by the noise of the gun as a mass murder takes place at the movie.
We can always hope that someday the legislature will somehow feel the pain that average working Iowans go through trying to survive on an ever shrinking income. But last I knew there were very few former wage workers in the legislature and lots of business owners. Guess where their interests lie?
Not sure even Donald Kaul could find much to laugh at these days.
Corporate funded creator of state and local legislation goes largely unreported and ignored.
Last weekend ALEC (the American Legislative Exchange Council) held its annual pre legislative session meeting in Scottsdale, Arizona last week. ALEC is funded by corporations and billionaires headed up by the Koch brothers. Like so many right wing organizations they tout a government friendly motto while undermining the very principles of democracy. ALEC is now one of the major vehicles used by the oligarchs to steer state and local governments to the liking of its corporate funders.
Of course, ALEC would be nothing without the useful idiots known as Republican lawmakers throughout state legislatures and county and city governments of the country. These folks are under the delusion that handing corporations their wish list of legislation is somehow good for our country. One need only look at the widening income inequality or the worsening climate to understand that it is truly bad policy.
Every year just before Christmas, corporations have a big fling for their useful idiots. At this event legislators have a chance to act like a bizarro Santa Claus as they get the wish list from companies and wealthy individuals who already own it all. These wish lists are designed for the wealthy to get even more while taking what little the poor and middle class have left. Sort of like Richie Rich goes to the inner city and steals the residents blind.
Since our corporate owned media never covers this event – heck they are there presenting their wish lists, too – and security is extremely tight so no outsiders can get in we have to rely on reporting by the one reporting entity that takes the time and effort to keep tabs on this under the rock lobbying group. Once again we turn to prwatch.org to try to ferret out what the rich kids want this year.
Here is an abbreviated list. Please go to the link to read the whole list. But be warned – it may make you puke when you think of the implications for you and your children and grandchildren:
ALEC Energy Task Force Working to Derail U.S. Climate Action
The “State Withdrawal from Regional Climate Initiatives” pulls states out of regional programs to reduce greenhouse gas pollution, which ALEC called “son of Kyoto” programs, and an agenda embraced by some ALEC politicians, like then-Governor Jan Brewer of Arizona (an alum ALEC) who did just that in 2010. The Environmental Priorities Act would establish a “council” made up of industry representatives–such as state chambers of commerce–to consider likely costs to corporations if a state implements new environmental policies; it’s basically a way for corporations to veto the public’s will and trump the votes of citizens to protect their air, water, and climate from corporate pollution.
The Environmental Priorities Act would establish a “council” made up of industry representatives–such as state chambers of commerce–to consider likely costs to corporations if a state implements new environmental policies; it’s basically a way for corporations to veto the public’s will and trump the votes of citizens to protect their air, water, and climate from corporate pollution.
ALEC Civil Justice Task Force Protecting Corporations from Consumers
In Arizona, ALEC will be proposing a resolution which states, “the civil justice system should be reserved for individuals who have experienced real injuries and actual losses.” This is rhetorical code for legislation restricting claims and damages for Americans who have suffered emotional harm like pain and suffering or future increased risk of injury or who may have to undergo medical monitoring after exposure to potentially harmful materials.
One of ALEC’s most notorious tort bills would bar Americans from suing if their loved one is killed or injured by an FDA-approved drug unless they could prove fraud, but defective drugs are routinely recalled because the FDA relies heavily on testing and assurances by drug companies. Big drug companies and their trade associations have been big ALEC funders.
ALEC is also scheduled to hold a secret vote on a “Statement of Principles on State Workers’ Compensation Reform.” ALEC’s proposed changes to worker’s compensation laws would make it harder for workers to get compensation for injury and narrow their medical and legal options. The resolution promotes legislation to limit which treatments, drugs, medical costs, and doctors are legally allowed through worker’s compensation programs.
ALEC is pushing legal changes to require workers to overcome a higher burden of proof in worker’s compensation cases and to remove any no-fault provisions in worker’s compensation laws—meaning workers that lose a compensation claim would be required to pay their employers legal fees.
This is just a starter list. Please read more at the link.
Remember these folks are working out of sight, behind closed doors, as anonymous as possible while they change the very fabric of our laws and our society. If we had a truly free press the reaction to such a group would be loud and negative. The very silence of most of our media tells us that they too are owned by the owners of our society.
“Why did the board of regents install an overpaid puppet? What is their agenda? Where is the protest?”
In order to understand what has just happened,one has only to look at Republican governors across the country enacting the ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) agenda to privatize/profitize/dismantle public/higher education.
Governor Branstad is a founding member of ALEC and has been its loyal servant. Linda Upmeyer, ALEC national chair in 2014, was recently installed as speaker of the Iowa House to replace Kraig Paulsen, who presided over the passaage of a bi-partisan supplemental education funding bill last session that was subsequently vetoed by Branstad. After the session was over, Paulsen resigned for no apparent reason.
ALEC was established in 1973 (2 years after The Powell Manifesto) and today ALEC corporate members write corporate-friendly state laws and wine and dine state legislators (yes, Iowa legislators) who take bills back to their state capitols and push them through, frequently with campaign contributions as a reward. These bills typically have nothing to do with what would be good for Iowa.
For deeper political background that will expose the long range planning of conservatives to take down intellectual thought on college campuses, read The Lewis Powell Memo of 1971 or The Powell Manifesto. Conservatives, paranoid about liberalism, particularly on college campuses, laid out a multi-pronged plan to save the country from what they viewed as an attack on the free enterprise system from the intellectual left.
The Powell memo “influenced or inspired the creation of the Heritage Foundation, the Manhattan Institute, the Cato Institute, and other powerful organizations. Their long-term focus began paying off handsomely in the 1980s, in coordination with the Reagan Administration’s ‘hands-off business’ philosophy…Most notable about these institutions was their focus on education, shifting values, and [conservative] movement-building.”
Well worth the time to read The Powell Memo in its entirety here: reclaimdemocracy.org/powellmemolewis
The most effective action to take at this time can only be found if it is fully understood what has just happened and how it happened. This was more than simple political payback because Branstad and his BOR cronies don’t like the UI (although they don’t). It is in fact part of a long range plan by conservatives; call it a vast right wing conspiracy if you will, but the facts are well documented and cannot be denied.
You can access these ALEC “model” bills privatizing schools and higher education here: BillsAffectingAmericansRightstoaPublicEducation
The Wisconsin based Center for Media and Democracy has done extensive research and investigations of ALEC. Their website has links to ALEC activities in the states including Iowa. alecexposed.org/ALECExposed
ALEC WATCH: New Report Details Corporate Influence in Iowa progressiowa.org/sections/progress-report
So “What can be done to keep the faculty from storming Jessup Hall with pitchforks?” I don’t know, other than stop electing Republicans.