Friday, December 9, 2011

ALEC, Koch and the Conservative Cabal - How they lobby and get away with it

Original Link:,-Koch-and-the-Conservative-Cabal-How-they-lobby-and-get-away-with-it-

By Bob Sloan

This video first before I get into the meat of the article:
The 99% seem to have finally evoked emotion from Progressives. Seven Progressive House candidates for 2012 confronted John Boehner's office and handing in Petitions urging the Speaker to support and move to pass the President's Job Bill:

This diary is about the agenda of the ALEC fronted "Cabal" and the mechanics of how they are able to accomplish so much in the face of timid Progressive opposition. I use the term "timid" here not to accuse Progressives of lacking the courage to fight ALEC and the cabal, rather as a description of lacking courage to effectively come together to coordinate a proper defense or any offense to counter ALEC and their pro-corporate Conservative initiatives.
Time and again I - and other Kossacks - have written about the Cabal's coordination and ability to bring support for their initiatives from the entire Conservative Right. As the following clearly shows us, on each important pro-corporate, free-market issue developed within ALEC's Task Forces, Koch money and influence is used to bring support from every corner of Conservativedum (pun intentional); the Lame Stream Media, Institutes, Organizations, lobbyists, lawmakers, special interest publications and groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce

This diary uses a transcript of a hearing held in 2005 in Connecticut before a committee examining various proposed state bills to get across my point. I find this incident and what has followed since 2005 very descriptive of how ALEC, their Conservative affiliates, individuals and others help advance the pro-corporate legislation put forth by ALEC. This shows the effort put into just one of ALEC’s thousands of bills spreading like a disease across America over the past 38 years.

This example demonstrates how cohesively the cabal is and their efforts coordinated to achieve the end goal – passage of pro-corporate favored/written ALEC legislation and in effect, getting their way. It also shows how the various organizations, media and lawmakers work closely to support ALEC’s efforts – and why Progressive Democrats are unable to compete against them or defeat their efforts outright. As I said above, ALEC and the Koch funded cabal bring all of their “tools” to bear when advancing a piece of ALEC’s legislation. Since 2005 this same legislation has been making its way state by state across the U.S. When defeated (like it was in Connecticut in 2004) they are patient, revisit the legislation, amend, tweak or revise it then re-propose it the following year and if necessary the next and next until passed. As you read this, keep in mind that this is an initiative begun by ALEC as far back as 2004 and is still being pursued vigorously. What happened in Connecticut in 2005 should be defined as lobbying – in the extreme – yet ALEC and their proponents continue to argue what they are doing is “educating” lawmakers on how to write legislation…

In 2011 ALEC is still pursuing this legislation nationwide: calling it their “Private Attorney Retention Sunshine Act” which they publicized in 2007 A Current New Mexico bill mirroring this earlier Connecticut legislation is titled: “TRANSPARENCY IN PRIVATE ATTORNEY CONTINGENCY CONTRACTS ACT”, in Missouri This Private Attorney Retention Sunshine Act is also independently supported by the U.S. Chamber’s Institute for Legal Reform: Heartland Institute: and when vetoed by Oklahoma’s Governor in 2009, the Wall Street Journal reported negatively upon the Governor’s decision and in support of the legislation: Just this month “The Blaze” published an article about ALEC’s Private Attorney Retention Sunshine Act: , as did the Manhattan Institute:
The below transcript is of a hearing on just one of the ALEC bills being pursued in Connecticut in 2005, HB 5143, “Legislation To Establish Oversight Process For State Legal Expenses”. ALEC is represented at the Connecticut hearing by Mark Behrens from Shook, Hardy and Bacon. Behrens is lobbying for this ALEC legislation sponsored/presented by Representative John Harkins (R)who served as ALEC’s State Chairman in Connecticut:

This clearly shows several things to us; 1) ALEC’s pro-corporate written legislation is disseminated and introduced to individual states by ALEC’s state chairmen as called for under their charter (Article X – 10.03);
Section 10.03 - Duties:"State Chairman duties shall include recruiting new members, working to ensure introduction of model legislation..."
2) once introduced, ALEC sends their lobbyists (disguised as “counsel”) to various states where passage is questionable or has been defeated previously. He/they then lend support for the legislation and present decision swaying arguments in support of their legislation, and; 3) Behrens is not honest and open in those instances when he attends such hearings on behalf of ALEC and their legislation.
First, Behrens failed to advise the committee that he was also registered as a lobbyist for Shook, Hardy and Bacon and had been since 2001. Second he misinforms the committee by stating he is simply “just counsel” for ALEC. Behrens has been ALEC’s Civil Justice Task Force “Advisor” for a number of years as reported by the Federalist Society. Secondly – regarding Behrens’ honesty – as the Civil Justice Task Force advisor, he takes part in the TF’s working groups and actual formulation of legislation. In those Civil Justice task force meetings his SHB boss, Victor Schwartz is the ALEC Civil Justice Task Force Private Sector Chairman and serves concurrently as the chair of the lobbying practice at Shook, Hardy & Bacon though he is identified in his bio as simply the Chairman of SHB’s Policy Practice. This alone shows ALEC's Civil Justice Task Force is Chaired by a lobbyist and the TF's adviser is a lobbyist from the same firm...lobbyists entirely control that one single TF.

Behrens and Schwartz sit side by side with the corporate members, work with them to create and write the legislation, offers legal expertise to further advance proposed task force legislation. Thus, at the Connecticut hearing cited below Behrens knew full well the names of corporations participating in that task force and other activities. Below he misleads the committee, claiming to not be a member of ALEC and thus has no knowledge about the names of corporate members or where the funding for ALEC comes from.

Clearly this hearing was about ALEC legislation proposed by their state Chairman in Connecticut – though at no time during the hearing was that disclosed. Behrens’ appearance “on behalf of ALEC” was clearly an attempt to lobby the committee members in support of this ALEC legislation, though Behrens stated he was appearing as ALEC’s counsel. This is similar to what Behrens did again in 2009 in No. Dakota where he lobbied the state legislature on behalf of ALEC’s proposed Asbestos legislation; but failed to register as a lobbyist for ALEC. Days later when it was discovered that Behrens and the other SHB lobbyist represented ALEC, and had been openly lobbying on behalf of ALEC, ALEC registered them with North Dakota as lobbyists;

This situation in Connecticut 4 years prior to the ND fiasco, was the same operation on different issues with undisclosed lobbying on behalf of ALEC – by one of the same registered lobbyists who would ultimately be caught in 2009 doing the same thing. Common Cause has raised this ND incident with the IRS in trying to get ALEC's 501 (c)(3) exemption revoked. As yet the IRS refuses to act or respond and ALEC continues to get away with these obvious lobbying activities.
You can read the entire hearing transcript at the link below. I have cut and pasted the pertinent section below the link.

REP. CARUSO: I appreciate it. Our next speaker is Mark Behrens...MARK BEHRENS: Good afternoon, Mr. Chairman, and members of the committee. My name is Mark Behrens. I am a partner with a law firm in Washington, D.C. called Shook, Hardy & Bacon. I am here today on behalf of the American Legislative Exchange Council.
ALEC is the nation's leading membership organization of state Legislators with about 2,400 Legislators nationwide. I understand I have about three minutes today.
I have submitted written testimony to the committee, which should have been passed out earlier this morning. I would ask that that be submitted into the record. I will just summarize my remarks today.
I would strongly support Proposed H.B. 5143, which is to be introduced by Representative Harkins. My understanding is that it's similar to a bill that was considered by this committee last year, which was R.B. 570...
REP. O'ROURKE: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I noticed you folks (ALEC)have been pursuing this bill for a year or two now. Generally, I think competitive bidding is very important all across government and something I would want to encourage.
You folks have sort of focused in, your group, ALEC, on the lawyers who were hired. I guess I think, traditionally, when we're doing professional services, the quality, the experience of the people involved, it's not like building a building. You know?
There are a lot of different intangibles that don't exactly equate to the normal low-bid process. Just so I can understand where your organization is coming from on this and why you're focusing in on the lawyers that are hired by the government, where do you folks, the Legislative Exchange Council, get your funding from?
MARK BEHRENS: I am just counsel to ALEC. I don't work there. So I don't know names of companies to rattle off. ALEC is sort of an interesting organization. I've learned more about it.
The reason they call it American Legislative Exchange Council is that ALEC's membership includes public sector members, state Legislators, and private sector members. There are corporate members of ALEC.
REP. O'ROURKE: So, for instance, the big tobacco companies that you mention, they seemed grieved by the tobacco settlements that were forced on them by the action of Attorney Generals across the country.
MARK BEHRENS: I'm not sure.
REP. O'ROURKE: Are they a major funder?
MARK BEHRENS: I don't know whether they are or not, but, frankly, they get nothing out of this bill. Their litigation is water under the bridge at this point. They've entered into their agreement with the Attorney General. That litigation is resolved.
I don't know where they stand, whether they are ALEC members or what their level of funding is. It has absolutely no bearing on this bill because they get nothing out of it.
REP. O'ROURKE: But it's typical, a lot of big business are the funders of the group.
MARK BEHRENS: They get big business funding. Yeah.
REP. O'ROURKE: Okay. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Has this shown us clearly how ALEC's agenda is advanced? How they openly lobby on behalf of "their" model legislation and are supported across the board with every weapon available in Koch's Conservative arsenal - including lies and disinformation? Is the cabal's mechanics clearly shown from this? Can we see the tightly concentrated and coordinated manner in which everything available is brought to bear in support of these Initiatives; media, Institutes, organizations and corporations? I believe the answers are all a resounding "YES".
This is why we have continuously and consistently called out to all individual Progressives, groups, media and organizations to come together and coordinate a defense to ALEC and Koch's agenda. Until we actually present a united front in both a defense to this and to fund an offensive of our own, we are helping enable this kind of agenda. The outcome will continue to be the same if our efforts remain piecemeal and disorganized. CMD, PFAW, The Nation, Common Cause, In These Times and dozens of others have published articles about ALEC, the Koch's and their corporate agenda. These articles are sporadic and and continue to draw attention without inflicting one iota of actual harm to the cabal or their efforts. While the same conservative players concentrate on defeating President Obama and advancing their free-market philosophies of protecting the wealth of the richest through lowering wages, refusing to allow proper taxes, privatizing everything possible and disenfranchising voters...we stand around waffling about President Obama (as if there is any real question of not supporting him or voting for a Republican candidate in 2012). We are fighting them state by state, opposing model legislation one by one when we should be fighting them nationally and doing it tooth and nail.

The cabal pools the Koch, DeVos, Scaife, Olin and Murdoch money along with funding from GE Foundation, Shell, PhRMA, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other corporations to fund their activities and advance their ideologies. They control the MSM and they tell them what stories to follow, what to print and what politicians and model legislation to support. They bring all of those resources to bear upon us and in return we're refusing to pool our resources and fight for our own ideology. They have us divided and we all know what comes after division in any conflict.

I hope the foregoing demonstration of the tactics, ideology and coordinated manner used to successfully advance the Conservative agenda is now clearer. I hope it also demonstrates we're behind the eight ball, underfunded and fighting back in a manner that is beneficial to the Koch and ALEC goals...and awakens more to what has to be done if democracy is going to be saved in the U.S. They are on the verge of a complete corporate take-over and we're on the verge of becoming the latest addition on the endangered species list.

Please help us fight for democracy as the 2012 election comes closer and closer. Help us fight them at ALEC's states and nation meeting in Phoenix from November 30th through December 3rd. Contribute to the efforts of Common Cause, CMD and the others mentioned above. Along with those contributions let them know it's time to pool information, resources and energy to concentrate our efforts on defeating ALEC once and for all. Remove the ability to create and pass legislation from the cabal and Kochs. Abolish ALEC entirely and vote their members from office at every opportunity.

I believe this is the only way forward - unless we want a President Cain, Perry or Bachmann advancing ALEC's agenda far into the future.

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