Posts Tagged ‘ALEC in Iowa’
The headline of this story, Branstad Advocates for School Choice, makes it sounds like Governor Branstad is doing something good. Nothing could be further from the truth. Branstad is signaling his next move to dismantle public education. He is following the ALEC agenda to privatize everything, including education.
The article is about Branstad’s plan to lay the groundwork for further erosion of public school funding while directing more money for private schools.
DES MOINES | Gov. Terry Branstad touted himself as a champion for school choice Wednesday and pledged to try to boost funding next year for a tax credit supporting scholarships for low-income students attending private schools if state finances allow for an increased investment.
Branstad also told the group that funding for tax breaks to private K-12 school donors under the state’s student tuition organization tax credit has increased from $7.5 million in 2010 to $12 million now and he would seriously consider ACE’s request to boost it to $15 million in the fiscal 2017 state budget.
The GOP governor’s comments come at a time when public education advocates claim Iowa school children are being short-changed after a contentious 2015 budget session in which the Legislature forged a bipartisan plan to spend an extra $55.7 million in one-time money for K-12 schools, which Branstad vetoed.
Oops – that is, former ALEC chair Linda Upmeyer chosen as new Iowa House Speaker. But they are pretty much interchangeable. She and ALEC founding father Terry Branstad will make a formidable team that will work hard for corporations, privatization of public services, and more.
Look for Republicans to continue to cut school funds, bust unions, defund public services and push guns – guns on campus maybe? Guns on campus is the new market the NRA and ALEC want to exploit.
Next session will be a long session for anyone who believes that we band together in a government to solve mutual problems for the good of the whole.
On the Iowa Senate Democrats website:
The Legislature closed out the 2015 session with Senate Democrats opting to end five months of gridlock on school funding. The goal of the compromise is to maintain educational opportunities and boost student achievement.
The final agreement provides an additional $156 million for the 2015-16 school year. The compromise includes a 1.25 percent increase in basic aid for our local schools as well as an extra $56 million in one-time funding for Iowa schools this fall.
The attention now turns to Governor Terry Branstad, who must sign this funding or veto the compromise. A veto would result in larger class sizes, fewer course offerings and extracurricular activities, and higher property taxes. Please contact the Governor, and ask him to sign into law the school funding approved by the Legislature in Senate File 510 and House File 666. You can e-mail him by going to www.governor.iowa.gov/constituent-services/register-an-opinion or call his office at 515-281-5211.
After several lean years, Iowa’s improving economy makes it possible to do more for our students and schools. The state has nearly $1 billion in savings, but as support for our public schools has become divided along party lines, Iowa’s investment has dropped to $1,600 less per student than the national average.
In addition to ensuring our K-12 schools can make ends meet this fall, we also voted this year for:
• Continuing a teacher leadership effort that is bringing the best techniques to more classrooms.
• Affordable tuition, job training and skilled workforce initiatives at our community colleges.
• An increase for our state universities that should allow them to continue their tuition freeze.
• Need-based financial aid to help Iowans attend our private colleges.
As we set our sights on funding for the 2016-17 school year, Senate Democrats will continue to work with parents, teachers, community leaders and students to make the case for investing more in educational opportunities that help Iowans of all ages build a successful future.
“No one should be getting fired because we aren’t abiding by the laws of this state.”
Governor Branstad and Iowa’s Republican-controlled House of Representatives propose only a 1.25 percent increase ($50 million) in state funding for elementary and secondary schools in Iowa’s 338 public school districts. This meager increase would keep Iowa’s schools 37th among the 50 states for state-funding level. Iowa’s total expenditure per student is also well below the national average. This puny allocation would put Iowa’s per-pupil payment at 35th among our sister states.
The Democratic-controlled Senate on Tuesday—on a straight 26-24 party-line vote—overcame Republican opposition to seek a 4 percent increase ($212 million). Earlier, the Democratic Senate caucus had discussed proposing a larger, 6 percent increase.
Democrats are right that the 4 percent increase is the absolute least needed to bring our schools up to the standards met in other states, such as Illinois, Missouri, Minnesota and Nebraska. The 1.25 percent proposed by the Republicans would not even cover the increase in costs due to inflation.
Yet, Senate Republicans lamented that they truly want better schools. But they won’t put our money behind their alleged “want.” Instead, they question the “sustainability” of the 4 percent funding level. They would let our public school system deteriorate more.
It does not make sense. The Republicans—through former Secretary of State Matt Schultz—wasted almost a million dollars trying to prove we need “voter identification.” All Schultz proved was there is no voter fraud. Thank goodness it was mostly federal money that Schultz wasted.
As if that was not enough, however, the new Republican Secretary of State, Paul Pate, is now spending even more money in efforts to show that ever-elusive “voter fraud” so they can slap new “voter identification” on our people, thus barring many—mostly poor, old and minority voters—from voting. We all know there is no election fraud. When is the last time you saw “election fraud?”
Yet, the GOP in our state government spend millions hunting down a bogey-man the GOP says is election fraud. And then we can’t give 4 percent/$212M for our children?
No, it does not make sense at all.
What about when Governor Branstad and the GOP in 2012 forced another “economic development” project on us. Branstad said that Iowa had to give Orascom, an Egyptian corporation, “incentive” to put its fertilizer plant in Wever. The incentive was our tax dollars. Through GOP largesse, we taxpayers provided Orascom $100 million in tax credits, $1.6 million in loans, $7.4 million in sales tax refunds, $60,000 in supplemental research tax credits, a $2 million state transportation grant, and about $1.8 million for job training assistance. Branstad did not take account of that Orascom had already been given by the U. S. government about $300 million in savings from a federal tax-exempt bond program; and another $133 million by Lee County in forgone property taxes from the county. The return on Branstad’s Orascom “buy”—165 jobs for an unstated number of years. Those 165 jobs were thus estimated by Sen. Joe Bolkcom to cost us taxpayers about $3.3 million per job. We give an Egyptian private company hundreds of millions to make more money for their shareholders? We can’t give 4 percent/$212M for our children?
I can’t accept the Republicans questioning the “sustainability” of providing a 4 percent increase in public school funding. They sustain spending that is wasteful and pointless if it meets the GOP ends. They should make our children part of their ends.
Education should be priority No. 1. It represents our children’s best future. There is nothing more important than that. We do have to try harder to help our children. They deserve our best.
Please contact your legislators and make sure we get what our children need. Here’s the link to find your state legislators: https://www.legis.iowa.gov/legislators.
Thank you, Melissa Harris-Perry and MSNBC reporter Zachary Roth for covering this egregious incident. The woman in this story was a victim of domestic violence who served 5 years probation for a drug-related crime. When she successfully completed her sentencing, she set out to put her life back together and to her, that included the civic responsibility of voting. But instead of being able to move forward with her new life, she was arrested and charged with the crime of voting.
Kelli Griffin had no idea that the law had changed since Branstad got back in office. Her lawyer had told her her voting rights would be restored. She had no idea it was now illegal in Iowa for people who have served time and who have paid their debt to society, to vote. She even had to stand trial for making this honest mistake that harmed no one. Fortunately, a jury acquitted her.
This is the work of the Terry Branstad administration. The irony is he is considered “moderate.”
Thanks to Matt Sinovic of Progress Iowa for his exemplary work monitoring ALEC’s activities in Iowa.
ALEC WATCH: New Report Details Corporate Influence in Iowa
To take action or ask questions about ongoing ALEC activity in Iowa, contact Progress Iowa ALEC WATCH Hotline: (515) 428-1556 | Via email: email@example.com
Progress Iowa Tuesday released ALEC WATCH, in an ongoing effort to expose the work of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), and to empower Iowans to hold their elected leaders accountable.
Key findings in the report include:
In Iowa, Senator Ernst, Governor Branstad, and the state legislators serving in leadership positions in ALEC have received more than $563,000 in direct campaign donations from ALEC corporations. Due to the opaqueness of independent spending a complete total will never be known, but ALEC members spent more than $4.2 million in independent expenditures to elect Sen. Ernst.
– ALEC appears to be on the decline, but the organization continues to reinvent itself and adapt. Thanks to transparency efforts across the country, ALEC’s corporate membership may be on the decline. Leaked documents and public statements show that 100 corporate members have left ALEC, forcing a budget crisis for the organization. The corporate exodus has continued recently, with companies like Google, and eBay leaving. ALEC has responded by discussing moving to attract new corporate industries, and recently created an effort to influence local government officials en masse and advance ALEC’s agenda. The ALEC hotline and statewide educational effort will empower Iowans to play a more active role in their local government and stand up to the influence of ALEC.
– ALEC distorted its membership figures to the public. Internal ALEC documents reported on in December of 2013 show that the organization considers all 150 Iowa legislators to be members, despite the public denial of membership by every Democratic member of the Iowa legislature. ALEC’s response to questions regarding membership was lacking, and response from Iowa leadership was nearly nonexistent. Because of these discrepancies and, ALEC’s efforts to influence legislators in Iowa is more opaque than any other state.
– ALEC model bills continue to be introduced in the Iowa legislature. Progress Iowa identified at least nine bills with ALEC influence from the most recent legislative session. Bills to privatize education, weaken consumer standards, and the annual iterations of ALEC’s ‘stand your ground’ model were introduced.
ALEC continues to promulgate an aggressive agenda of deregulation and corporate cronyism. ALEC has shown indications that it will continue to advance its issues in Iowa and across the nation including the privatization of education, the erosion of consumer protections, rigging the courts, and attacking workers. Efforts like this report are the only means to track this influential organization.
ALEC WATCH was compiled by the staff of Progress Iowa, with assistance from a number of partner organizations and volunteers. The report relies on and would not be possible without research from ProgressNow, the Center for Media and Democracy, Common Cause, People For the American Way, the Iowa Policy Project, as well as other sources of public information. As information about ALEC in Iowa becomes available to the public, supplemental reports may be issued to offer a more complete picture of ALEC’s influence on our democratic process in the state legislature and across Iowa. View the full report below.
For additional information and further reading about ALEC, we recommend the following sources:
ALEC Exposed, produced by Center for Media and Democracy: http://www.alecexposed.org
Blog for Iowa: All posts about ALEC: http://www.blogforiowa.com/tag/alec/
Internal ALEC documents reported on by the Guardian in 2013, published at the 40th annual ALEC meeting in 2013: https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/841593-alec-docs.html
Progress Report, the blog of Progress Iowa: http://progressiowa.org/sections/progress-report
Common Cause’s posted ALEC documents: http://www.commoncause.org/issues/more-democracy-reforms/alec/
Download the full report here: ALEC Watch
Have you ever heard of ALEC? The Koch Brothers? If you answered yes, it’s probably because of the folks at the Center for Media and Democracy. Read their story then decide if you feel they are worth supporting.
by Lisa Graves
Our country is facing some huge battles with the Koch Party’s expanded power in Congress and the states.
The destruction of election corruption laws has aided–and been abetted by–the billionaire Koch Brothers and their network of billionaires and millionaires, with a cadre of servile politicians peddling the buzzwords masking their selfish agenda.
How can it be that We the People are not allowed to regulate the big money corrupting our democracy and buying the public airwaves but people who peacefully demonstrate for racial justice, for protecting our precious planet from climate change and the ravages of pollution, or for a fair chance at the American dream can be so easily corralled onto narrow public sidewalks, massively monitored, immorally arrested for dissent, or even subjected to brute force?
That’s part of the treachery of the Koch Party’s corruption of our First Amendment, equating money with speech and mutating our democracy into a “dollarocracy,” in the words of John Nichols and Bob McChesney.
What your gut tells you is akin to high-dollar bribery by corporations and CEOs is treated by some judges and Koch Party politicians as practically sacred and beyond regulation, while actual speech and dissent by ordinary people of good conscience is limited and repressed in a multitude of ways.
And it’s unacceptable.
But it’s not hopeless and it’s not unbeatable.
We need your help to push back and to use their strength against them.
The Japanese art of “jujitsu” uses the strength of adversaries to defeat them, to flip them.
We think there are at least three ways to do that in this context.
1. Fearlessly take on the powerful.
Unlike political organizations that set their sights, and your funding, on what a poll says may be winnable in a midterm election, for example, or that has so many focal points it simply cedes the territory where their opponents are strongest, CMD is not an electoral group.
We concentrate on the most powerful opponents of a real democracy, and we take on battles perceived to be unwinnable because they ultimately must be won for the sake of the people.
We scrutinize the real power behind the scenes–the CEOs, their corporations, and the front groups they fund to distort our laws.
We take on some of the most powerful special interests in the country that others say can’t be touched or pushed or shamed.
And, we expose them.
Our investigations make it harder for them to operate their schemes below the radar screen, and sometimes we are able to stop them in their tracks.
2. Relentlessly exposing them where they are most powerful.
We invest the time and effort in in-depth investigations, not bounded by election dates or the 24-hours news cycle that values the easy task of writing or quoting opinions over the hard work of real investigations into the political corruption that has become commonplace.
We know the strength of the powerful lies in the pay-to-play schemes that enrich them at the expense of the common good, and that is one of their greatest weaknesses and vulnerabilities.
We unmask that corruption and pour sunshine onto the players in these special interest games and how their agenda harms ordinary people and the future for our families.
And, we are relentless in these efforts.
3. Patiently pursue them and don’t ever give up.
We exercise strategic patience and are inspired by bold optimism.
We don’t play by the PR playbook or timetable of the subjects of our investigations.
We also know our democracy didn’t get into this mess overnight and it can’t be fixed overnight. Charles Koch invested for decades to reap the greedy and distorted policies in the headlines today. It will take time to undo the damage, but we believe the facts and the good will prevail. They have before and will again.
As the great investigative journalist Izzy Stone said, to win major progress “a lot of other people have got to be willing–for the sheer fun and joy of it–to go right ahead and fight, knowing you’re going to lose” until progress is won.
I think of us at CMD as joyful warriors. When the oily frontmen of the greed agenda attack us, it only underscores how consequential the efforts of our small but might organization are.
I also think it’s important to dream big and challenge conventional wisdom–that’s how I helped block more than a dozen of President George W. Bush’s picks to become judges at the height of his popularity and how I helped stitch together an unprecedented filibuster of the reauthorization of the Patriot Act, among other breakthroughs before leading the Center for Media and Democracy.
One of my favorite quotes is Bobby Kennedy’s paraphrase of George Bernard Shaw, “There are those that look at things the way they are and ask why. I dream of things that never were and ask why not.” I do both.
This three-step jujitsu is what CMD’s transformative investigations and projects do:
It was only CMD that had the courage to publish the nearly 1,000 bills secretly voted on by corporate lobbyists voting as equals with elected officials on American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) trips where lawmakers are schmoozed and boozed by special interests. CMD broke the story with The Nation, and CMD launched ALECexposed to drag the powerful corporations underwriting ALEC, like Koch Industries, and other players into the sunlight.
In response, ALEC’s PR operation targeted and attacked me and CMD as well as the legendary Bill Moyers and other journalists in secret messages CMD uncovered as part of our open records campaign.
Undaunted, CMD along with other groups have helped push100 major corporations out of ALEC–including Google, eBay, Yahoo, and Microsoft and those are just a few from the past few months.
CMD was also one of only a handful of organizations in the country to demand that the Constitution be amended to repeal the despicable Citizens United Supreme Court decision in 2010 and related judicial edicts expanding the power of money, corporations, and CEOs.
Though many DC insiders scoffed at the audacity of our goal, a growing number of Americans have stood up to demand repeal. And just a few months ago a majority of U.S. Senators voted on the record in favor of amending the Constitution to begin the process of undoing those disgraceful rulings.
Meanwhile, a rightwing group with close ties to Koch operatives claimed CMD’s investigations into the Wisconsin recall elections spurred a state criminal investigation of confederates of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker that the public first learned of late last year (“John Doe II”).
That criminal case is awaiting appeal but some of the evidence that has become public is devastating, with a longtime ally of the Kochs–one of the rightwing’s money men, Eric O’Keefe–in the middle of the controversy, which has implications for whether clean election laws will survive nationwide. His group even attacked me and CMD in federal court.
CMD’s hard-hitting investigations and analysis also provoked attacks against us by the PR kingpin Rick Berman, by the man who led CPAC and the American Conservative Union, David Keene, and by operatives with links to the notorious video splicer James O’Keefe–who spent election night celebrating in a limo with Alabama rightwinger Sean McCutcheon, who got the same five guys on the Supreme Court in Citizens United to strike down federal campaign contribution limits. (By the way, we won a retraction from the Washington Times for Keene’s attacks.)
CMD’s work also exposed the shills pushing unlimited fracking and highlighted the work of intrepid activists in New York–who just won the first statewide ban–and across the country. We’ve also helped debunk the lies–like the inflated jobs claims–of backers of the Keystone XL pipeline. We helped expose those trying to crush worker rights and thwart the movement for paid sick leave and increased minimum wage, along with the CEOs profiting big from privatization schemes that are undermining our public schools and our other public institutions and assets, like our water supply and infrastructure.
And, before it was vogue, CMD was one of the first outlets investigating the Koch Brothers, and we are still breaking big news. Earlier this year, for example, I documented Charles Koch’s role raising money for the John Birch Society at the height of its efforts to undermine the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg of our ongoing work in these battles and on other important issues.
I know our impact is greater than many groups that have much larger budgets than ours.
That’s because we have very little bureaucracy and we invest our limited resources in strategic research and the power of jujitsu!
But, it’s also because we don’t spend much time on self-promotion or hitting your mailbox with appeals for money, except at the end of the year.
Will you take a moment right now to support CMD’s transformative investigations?
We don’t accept any grants from for-profit corporations or government agencies. We rely on concerned citizens like you to fund this work. Donations to CMD are tax-deductible.
Center for Media and Democracy
P.S. This year alone, CMD’s investigative work has led to stories on HBO’s The John Oliver Show, Showtime’s Years of Living Dangerously series, MSNBC, Democracy Now, The Guardian, the New York Times, the Washington Post, NPR, and other outlets along with major documentaries like Pay to Play. Beyond those millions of viewers or readers, millions of people visited our websites this past year to get the scoop on these and other issues directly from us. Please take a moment to support CMD’s breakthrough investigations. Our work makes a real difference, and your support makes our work possible.
Groups Expose Assault By ALEC Fossil Fuel & Utility Members on Clean Energy and Environmental Regulations
Through the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), fossil fuel and utility interests are pushing a comprehensive agenda to eliminate environmental and public health regulations, and gut pro-clean energy policies across the country. ALEC’s Energy, Environment, and Agriculture Task Force has proposed model legislation and is now appearing in state legislatures, to:
• Rollback renewable energy policies by weakening or eliminating Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS).
• Weaken solar net metering policies by gutting compensation for homeowners who transmit solar power to the electricity grid.
• Create loopholes in disclosure rules for hydraulic fracturing (fracking), allowing drilling companies to hide chemicals used in the controversial process from the public.
• Reject regulation of greenhouse gas emissions by the Environmental Protection Agency, allowing utilities to continue polluting our air and water.
There will be a tele-press briefing with pro-clean energy and environmental experts to hear about where ALEC’s pro-corporate energy agenda is appearing in state legislatures this year.
Who: Aliya Haq, Climate Program Special Projects Director, NRDC
Brant Olson, Campaigns Manager, Forecast the Facts
Connor Gibson, Reseacher, Greenpeace
Gabe Elsner, Executive Director, Energy & Policy Institute
Steve Horn, Research Fellow, DeSmogBlog
What: Tele-press conference call on ALEC’s fossil fuel and utility members’ comprehensive assault on clean energy and environmental regulations. Speakers will detail efforts happening now in state legislatures to gut clean air regulations, stop pro-clean energy policies, and restrict disclosure of fracking chemicals.
When: Thursday, February 20, 2014 at 1:30 PM CT
How: Reporters should register at http://bit.ly/1ez0voa to join the call.
DeSmogBlog exists to clear the PR pollution that is clouding the science on climate change.Energy & Policy Institute performs research and analysis on lobbyists, front groups, and politicians working to expand our reliance on fossil fuels and slow the development of a clean energy economy.Forecast the Facts is a grassroots movement to spread the truth about climate change. Greenpeace is the leading independent campaigning organization that uses peaceful protest and creative communication to expose global environmental problems and to promote solutions that are essential to a green and peaceful future. Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is a national environmental action group that combines the expertise of more than 350 lawyers, scientists and other professionals with the power of 1.4 million members and online activists.
Iowa House Democratic Leader Mark Smith (D-Marshalltown) sent a letter to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) today denouncing ALEC’s claim that all members of the Iowa Legislature are members of their organization.
“Last year, all 47 Democratic members of the Iowa House informed the Chief Clerk of the Iowa House that no dues or fees were to be paid to ALEC on our behalf and none of us have applied to ALEC for individual membership,” said Leader Smith. “In light of recent ALEC documents made public, we are deeply troubled that ALEC is currently listing us as members without our permission.”
ALEC is a self-described conservative “voluntary membership organization of state legislators.” The recently disclosed agenda of the August 6, 2013 board meeting of the American Legislative Exchange Council lists all Iowa state legislators as ALEC members. ALEC is funded in large part by donations from corporations with interests before state legislatures.
“Since neither we nor the state has paid ALEC dues, we question who has paid the dues on our behalf. Further, we question why ALEC would accept payment of dues on behalf of legislators who clearly want no part of your organization,” said Rep. Smith. “If a corporation or other entity has paid dues to ALEC on behalf of Iowa state legislators, we believe such action likely constitutes a violation of Iowa ethics law.”
Rep. Smith demanded that all names of Iowa House Democrats be removed from ALEC membership lists and that ALEC disclose who paid for the Iowa memberships.
Below is the letter from Representative Mark Smith to ALEC:
Thursday, January 8, 2014
Ron Scheberle, Executive Director
American Legislative Exchange Council
2900 Crystal Drive, 6th Floor
Arlington, VA 22202
The recently disclosed agenda of the August 6, 2013 board meeting of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) lists all Iowa state legislators as members. This is deeply troubling to me as a leader in the Iowa House of Representatives, especially since this information has been repeated many times in on-line blogs and news stories.
ALEC is self-described as a “voluntary membership organization of state legislators.” As we made clear to the Chief Clerk of the Iowa House on the opening day of session January 14, 2013, no House Democrats have applied to ALEC for membership nor do any of us wish to become members of ALEC. Since none of us have become a “voluntary member,” I am concerned about how we came to be listed as members.
The Iowa General Assembly pays membership dues to other organizations of state legislators, such as the National Conference of State Legislatures and the Council of State Governments, but does not pay dues to ALEC. Individual ALEC members pay $100 for a two-year membership. Since neither we nor the state has paid ALEC dues, I question who has paid the dues on our behalf. Further, I question why ALEC would accept payment of dues on behalf of legislators who clearly want no part of ALEC.
ALEC is funded in large part by donations from corporations with interests before state legislatures. Iowa ethics laws in most instances prohibit corporations with interests before the Iowa General Assembly to make expenditures to or on behalf of Iowa state legislators. If a corporation or other entity has paid dues to ALEC on behalf of Iowa state legislators, I believe such action likely constitutes a violation of Iowa ethics law.
Consequently, I ask you to take the following action:
Remove the names of Iowa House Democrats from the ALEC membership list.
Identify who paid our membership dues.
Explain why payment of ALEC dues can be made on behalf of a legislator without the legislator’s knowledge or consent.
If you misrepresented the status of Iowa legislators and we are not all considered ALEC members, I ask you to set the record straight by issuing a public clarification and by providing me with a list of those Iowa legislators who are actual dues-paying members of ALEC.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Rep. Mark Smith
Iowa House Democratic Leader