Young Cincinnati Activists Help Spark International Exposé

Standard

Published in the July 27th to August 4th Edition of Streetvibes

In April, hundreds of mostly young activists converged on Fountain Square in Cincinnati to protest the American Legislative Exchange Council. ALEC, whose members were meeting in the Netherland Plaza Hotel downtown, is a group consisting of think tanks and corporate members who produce model legislation to be introduced in local, state and federal government.

The protest was the first of its kind, even though ALEC has been around as a powerful right-wing front-group since 1973 (when it was founded by rabid capitalist-conservative Paul Weyrich) and on its Corporate Enterprise board sit representatives from some of the largest corporations in the world; EXXON, Peabody Coal, Glaxo Smith Kline, Kraft Foods, Coca-Cola, Altria (Phillip Morris), Pfizer and Koch among others (many are still undisclosed).

ALEC sees thousands of its pieces of model legislation introduced in statehouses around the country each year, and sometimes entire bills. ALEC model legislation was used in Arizona’s SB1070 “show me your papers” law. Closer to home, Governor John Kasich is one of the founding members of ALEC and it is believed that SB5’s anti-union provisions, like Wisconsin’s recently-enacted State Act 10, were straight out of the organization’s playbook.

Though the public can view the names of many model bills on ALEC’s website, the actual language in the bills is behind password protection, available only to high-paying members.

That all changed when, after the April protest, Aliya Rahman, one of the organizers, leaked over 800 of the previously unavailable documents. On Wednesday, they were released by the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) at ALECexposed.org. Later in the day, The Nation was the first media outlet to provide in-depth analysis.

One bill that could prove influential in Ohio is the “Education Accountability Act”. This would mean school districts deemed underperforming could be declared “Educationally Bankrupt” and taxpayer-subsidized vouchers provided for parents to enroll their children in private schools, rather than providing funding and other assistance to the district. One owner of a for-profit online school who would benefit from the voucher program is an ALEC corporate Co-chair for 2011.

ALEC model legislation like HB 1021, introduced by Rep. Chris Dorworth (an ALEC member) in Florida in February, directly attacks public workers’ last bastions of defense, union representation, denies them the right to political activity, and seeks to further privatize local and federal government in the interests of a business takeover of public policy.

ALEC openly advocates privatizing transportation and deregulating public health, consumer safety and environmental quality, including bringing in corporations to administer: foster care, adoption services and child support payment processing, highway systems (through heavy tolls resistant to green energy), drinking water, and solid waste services and facilities, etc.

ALEC has a long history of regressive environmental policies that hinder the effectiveness of regulation, protect big business polluters, promote climate change denial, and also threaten the ability of environmental activists to speak out.

“The Groundwater Protection Act,” for example, would limit the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to stop polluters.

“The Animal and Ecological Terrorism Act” would establish an “eco-terrorist” registry that would include activists who have committed, among other things, the new crime of taking photographs of factory farms.

The “Targeted Contracting for Certain Correctional Facilities and Services Act” allow states to contract prisons out to private corporations. Along with other bills that would ‘reform’ the prison industry, it would reduce regulation on private prisons and allow for the expansion of slave labor, particularly using immigrants and detainees processed as part of Homeland Security’s increased power, and the exploitation of prisoners.

The leaked documents help us understand how corporations like Koch Industries (who have given well over $1 million to ALEC) can make billions by demanding bailouts and taxpayer subsidies while corrupting government and polluting for free. ALEC gave the Kochs its Adam Smith Free Enterprise Award, and Koch Industries has been one of the select members of ALEC’s corporate board for almost twenty years. The company’s top lobbyist was once ALEC’s chairman.

The scope of the model legislation is large, ranging from concerted efforts to remove the public option on health care to voting rights, from corporate tax code to public services funding, and from workers’ rights to gun control. ALEC even wrote a resolution
in support of the horrendous Citizens United decision, which opened the floodgates for corporate money in our elections, and helped ensure that a socialized health care system was never considered.

In essence, ALEC has created a deceptive web of lawmakers and public employees who act as lobbyists/agents on their behalf and on behalf of their corporate and special interest members. The laws and the way in which they are written are entirely undemocratic and are an attack on our ability to work toward a more equal future during a time of financial crisis.

In recent years, ALEC has taken in about $6.5 million in tax-deductible donations, and reported $54,504,702 in “gifts,” “grants” and other contributions from its corporate and special interest members. Common Cause calculated that 22 of ALEC’s key member companies had contributed more than $317 million to state election campaigns over the last decade. It is time for ALEC to stop masquerading as a nonpartisan public interest group and receive a full investigation by the IRS.

Currently, their corporate backers can take a tax deduction by giving money to ALEC to push for more tax breaks and less regulation for their companies. The young folks behind the Cincinnati action are now working with organisations and public advocates across the country to organize a protest action at the ALEC August meeting at a luxury hotel in New Orleans’ French Quarter.

Show up, send money, spread information, and ask the media to cover this event. You can make a difference. For more information, visit http://protestalec.org/

ALEC refused to comment on any aspect of the material covered here. Learn more at www.truth-out.org and www.greenpeace.org.

Occupy Cincinnati General Assembly Rules

Standard

As far as I know, these aren’t available anywhere online. So I am posting them here. I have written a few annotations in green.

(Initially adopted 10-8-2011)

DEFINITIONS

  1. Resolution. A resolution put before the General Assembly to be included in Occupy Cincinnati’s official positions/list of grievances/demands.
  2. Proposal. A proposal is any plan of action (such as ideas for marches, logistics, etc.) that the body should undertake.
  3. Reports. Reports are brief summaries of their activities that each committee provides to the General Assembly for purposes of transparency and accountability.

GENERAL ASSEMBLIES

  1. General Assemblies will start by asking for a volunteer to serve as the moderator. If a volunteer is met without objection in the Assembly they will serve as moderator. Otherwise the moderators name should be drawn from a hat. After a moderator is chosen, a proposal for a new moderator may take place.
  2. The moderator is an impartial arbitrator of the assembly. As such, the moderator may not make proposals/resolutions, speak in favor or against any issue, or vote. If the moderator wishes to speak or vote on an issue, they must step down. At that time a new moderator will be chosen.
  3. Once the moderator has been selected he/she will call for volunteer(s) to serve as secretary for the assembly. The secretary(s) will be responsible for keeping the minutes for the assembly and communicating to the Media Committee.
  4. The moderator may delegate the task of keeping the speakers’ list and times. Note: This is typically delegated.
  5. The moderator will ask all committees present to present an oral report to the General Assembly. Any proposals a committee wishes to make will be presented at this time.
  6. Once the committees have submitted their reports/proposals to the General Assembly the moderator will ask if there are any resolutions/proposals that members of the assembly wish to propose. The proposals/resolutions of the Committees and the General Assembly will constitute the agenda for that session. Suggested time limits for debate of each item should be included with each proposal/resolution.

GENERAL PROCEDURES AND RULES OF DEBATE

  1. For each item on the agenda the moderator will draw up a speakers list. The lists will be those wishing to speak in favor of the item (starting with the committee or individual that proposed it) and if necessary those wishing to speak against the item.
  2. If people wish to speak on an item more than once, the moderator should prioritize those who haven’t spoken yet (or as much).
  3. Once the speakers list is exhausted the moderator will bring the body to a vote on the issue. Alternatively any member of the General Assembly may propose to end debate and vote.
  4. No one may speak without first being recognized by the moderator.
  5. All speakers are limited to two minutes for remarks starting when they are recognized by the moderator. Note: This has usually note been enforced.
  6. When speaking, General Assembly members will see that their remarks are germane to the issue being discussed on the floor. If they fail to do so, the moderator shall call them to order without delay. Note: The “Point of Process” symbol serves this purpose.
  7. Once all items on the agenda have been discussed (or the General Assembly is coming close to another scheduled item, for example a scheduled march) the moderator will make a motion to adjourn the General Assembly. If there are no objections the assembly is adjourned, if there is an objection a vote will be held, a majority being necessary for adjournment.

GENERAL VOTING RULES

  1. A 90% three quarters (75%) majority is necessary for resolutions/proposals to pass. (Amended 10-8-2011)
  2. Unless otherwise requested all votes shall be by a show of hands. (see hand symbols below)
  3. Only yea, nay, and on the fence votes shall be counted. Abstentions are not counted. (Amended 10-8-2011)
  4. A block (arms crossed) means someone is morally or ethically opposed to the proposal/resolution and will leave if it passes. If a block occurs and the vote passes, the blockers will be able to state why they are opposed and then another vote will be taken. (Added 10-8-2011)
  5. To take a vote the moderator will ask for “those in favor” (hands up), “those opposed” (hands pointing down), and “those on the fence” (hands level), “blocks” (arms crossed) (Amended 10-8-2011)

QUORUM

  1. Assemblies are held once a day at 6:00 PM.To accommodate as many people’s schedules as possible, General Assemblies will be held twice as day; once in the morning and once in the evening.
  2. All resolutions and proposals (when possible) must be approved by two consecutive General Assemblies. Examples of exceptions are if a morning assembly adopts as a course of action to take place before the evening assembly. Resolutions must be approved by two consecutive assemblies without exception. Note: This is not enforced, as only one assembly is held each day now.
  3. General Assemblies will not be held when the group is substantially divided (ex: part of the group is on a march).

COMMITTEES

  1. Established Committees are Action, Child Care, Communication/Education, Food, Legal, Occupation, Treasury and Security
  2. New Committees may be formed by General Assembly proposal.

CHANGING RULES

  1. Proposals for changes to these rules will be submitted in writing at the same time as all other proposals.
  2. Proposed rule changes take precedence over all non-emergency orders of business (move to the head of the agenda).
  3. Debate and voting on rule changes is the same as for any other proposals/resolutions.

OTHER HAND SIGNALS (not formally adopted, but used)

  1. Finger up – Point of Information – To indicate that person has something relevant (IE: factual info, etc) to say about the current topic, not for opinions. Person is added to the end of the inner stack.
  2. Fist up – Point of Order – To indicate that person has an opinion to share in support/opposition to current topic. Person is added to the end of the inner stack.
  3. Palm Up – New Proposal – Person is added to the end of the outer stack.
  4. Thumb and Forefingers in a triangle – Point of Process – To indicate to the moderator and speaker that we are not following process. Speaker is allowed to finish, and then the person who indicated this voices why they were out of order.
  5. Circular fingers – Wrap it up, we got your point already.