Young Cincinnati Activists Help Spark International Exposé

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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.

Back to Finish the Job: Ron Young’s history with ALEC

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Since the leak of the American Legislative Exchange Council’s model legislation. Journalists, bloggers and policy researchers have been scouring the documents to make connections with legislation that in statehouses across the country. Already, hundreds of matches have been found across the United States, and in Ohio those interested are doing their best to match the documents. Hoping that the identification of the matches will help halt the passage of legislation, a lot of the attention has been placed on bills currently in deliberation, however, attention needs to also be paid to bills based on ALEC model legislation that have already become law.

One bill currently in deliberation is HB 102, introduced by Ron Young. The bill deals with labor requirements for public works projects, and is part of this year’s anti-union push that has been spearheaded by other lawmakers like State Senator Shannon Jones and Representative John Adams. On first glance, the bill looks like ALEC’s model legislation titled “The Open Contracting Act.” However, the bill itself only inserts a few new words to the existing Ohio revised Code section that it is amending, the sections that are parallel to the ALEC document are actually already law, in fact, those sections of the Ohio Revised Code were amended in 1999, according to the ORC online.

Young was in office from 1997 to 2004, and was reelected again last year. Over the course of his first years in office, he sponsored a number of laws, among them was HB 101, during Ohio’s 123 congress. 12 years ago, HB 101 passed,  and it is the bill that added the original sections to the Ohio Revised Code. Young is back now, amending laws that he originally sponsored. 123’s HB 101 shares language with ALEC’s Open Contracting Act, this congress’s HB 102 is a less clear connection, but it must be examined to determine why Rep. Young would come back 12 years later to change things.

The language Young adds appears to be placed there to ensure that labor laws are relaxed for all state institutions, including universities. This is very deliberate, as the universities often have unionized staff and have labor agreements that prioritize local labor or protect prevailing wage for workers. Sustainable labor policy has been an important issue for many years in these institutions. In 2003, the staff at Miami University went on strike, demanding a living wage, which they only marginally received in the end. More recently, members of The Ohio State University’s staff held a walkout over the latest attacks on their livelihoods under the governorship of John Kasich. The public servants that work as universities, that is, housing and dining staff, maintenance staff, builders and other workers, are already threatened by SB5 which denies them the right to collectively bargain for things like healthcare and pensions.

Theoretically, the law on the books should have already affected those workers, but Ron Young is coming back around a second time to finish the job. This bill removes the special agreements that universities have with labor. Interestingly, he attempted to revise this bill in the 125th congress as well, but failed to pass the bill in the house. The new bill differs from that first revision attmpt and it also adds a section to the revised code specifically exempting private businesses from the regulations, in effect, ensuring that the better-paid, better-organized union labor has no place to hide.

This is not Young’s only use of ALEC model legislation. Also in 1999, he successfully sponsored a bill that added a new felony to the law books: HIV assault. HB 100, based on ALEC’s HIV Assault Act, classifies the body of a person who is HIV positive as a “deadly weapon” and makes intimate contact by that person criminal.

ALEC Model Legislation and Ohio

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Last week, the Center for Media and Democracy launched ALEC Exposed, a website containing over 800 pieces of leaked model legislation from the American Legislative Exchange Council. ALEC is an organization that is made up of corporations and legislators who jointly draft the model legislation and pass it in statehouses across the country. Currently sitting on its private enterprise board are some of the largest corporations in the world: Coke (the world’s largest drink manufacturer), Koch, Peabody Coal and Exxon (both fossil-fuel based energy companies), Altria and RJ Reynolds (both in the tobacco business), Bayer and GlaxoSmithKlein (both in the drug business), and Walmart among others. Many members of congress and state officials–including John Boehner, John Kasich, and Scott Walker–are current or former members of the organization. ALEC’s bills have a clear corporatist leaning and are designed to shift more and more power away from the public and into the hands of the rich.

Over the course of the last week, journalists and other members of the public have been scouring the ALEC bills to find matches with real legislation. Some hits that have come up are Ohio’s SB5 and Wisconsin Act 10, which both appear to be composites of model bills. According to CMD, there are “no ALEC bill that mirrors Walker’s proposal, but the Wisconsin bill does comport with ALEC’s sweeping anti-union agenda, which includes decades of support for “Right to Work” and “Paycheck Protection” legislation, and other measures to disempower and defund unions.” The extent to which legislators will pull text from the model legislation is striking, this is dramatically demonstrated in New Hampshire, where Right to Work legislation introduced earlier this year is an almost word-for-word duplication of ALEC model legislation.

In Ohio, HB194, a Voter ID bill that would have required photo IDs in order to vote includes sections that appear to be pulled from ALEC’s VOTER ID Legislation. That bill was defeated by default after its sponsor was forced to resign amid a scandal. The language used in the model bill and the real legislation are parallel in some important parts.

Here is HB194’s definition of what Photo Identification Means:

(AA) “Photo identification” means a document that meets each of the following requirements:
(1) It shows the name of the individual to whom it was issued, which shall conform to the name in the poll list or signature pollbook.
(2) It shows the current address of the individual to whom it was issued, which shall conform to the address in the poll list or signature pollbook, except for a driver’s license or a state identification card issued under section 4507.50 of the Revised Code, which may show either the current or former address of the individual to whom it was issued, regardless of whether that Am. Sub. H. B. No. 194 129th G.A.
9address conforms to the address in the poll list or signature pollbook.
(3) It shows a photograph of the individual to whom it was issued.
(4) It includes shall have on it an expiration date that has not passed.
(5) It was issued by the government of the United States or this state.

And here is ALEC’s VOTER ID Bill’s Definition:

(a) “Proof of identity” means a document or identification card that:
(1) Shows the name of the person to whom the document was issued;
(2) Shows a photograph of the person to whom the document was issued;
(3) Contains an expiration date, and is not expired.
(4) Is issued by the United States or the State of Arkansas.

Admittedly, this is not a smoking gun, however, it is expected that the passage of such a bill would disenfranchise nearly 900,000 Ohio voters who do not have the correct form of identification. ALEC and its members have a history of issues with voting rights. Paul Weyrich, founder of ALEC and other conservative organizations, has been videotaped declaring that he doesn’t “want everybody to vote… Our leverage in the elections, quite candidly, goes up, as the voting populace goes down.”

Another Ohio bill that appears to be based on ALEC legislation is HB286, sponsored by Representatives Courtney Combs and Danny Bubp, that establishes an e-verify system and require employers to police the immigration status of their employees. The bill would impose penalties for employers of undocumented workers and shares sections with ALEC’s Fair and Legal Employment Act. Combs is also the sponsor of a resolution expressing “the General Assembly’s support of the efforts of the State of Arizona to control illegal immigration.” It is not clear which corporation paid for this bill, however, ALEC’s private enterprise board has included the Corrections Corporation of America and the American Bail Coalition both of which would benefit from more prisoners. CMD expands on ALEC’s push for for-profit prisons in an article on their website, explaining  that “[since] the late 1980s and 1990s, ALEC has created model bills that lengthen sentences, which have dramatically increased incarceration rates, and bills that privatize prisons, putting more of those inmates under the control of for-profit corporations.”

Again, the definitions sections of the bills are very similar. ALEC version:

(C) “E-verify program” means the employment verification pilot program as jointly administered by the United States department of homeland security and the social security administration or any of its successor programs.

(E) “Knowingly employ an unauthorized alien” means the actions described in 8 United States Code section 1324a. This term shall be interpreted consistently with United States Code section 1324a and any applicable federal rules and regulations.
(F) “License”:
(1) Means any agency permit, certificate, approval, registration, charter or similar form of authorization that is required by law and that is issued by any agency for the purposes of operating a business in this state.

(H) “Unauthorized alien” means an alien who does not have the legal right or authorization under federal law to work in the United States as described in 8 United States Code section 1324a(h)(3).

HB 286:

(A) “E-verify program” means the employment verification pilot program as jointly administered by the United States department of homeland security and the social security administration or any of its successor programs.

(B) “Knowingly employ an unauthorized alien” means the actions described in the “Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986,” 100 Stat. 3360, 8 U.S.C. 1324a. This term shall be interpreted consistently with the “Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986,” 100 Stat. 3360, 8 U.S.C. 1324a and any applicable federal rules and regulations.

(C)(1) “License” means any agency permit, certificate, approval, registration, charter, or similar form of authorization that is required by law and that is issued by any agency for the purposes of operating a business in this state.
(2) “License” includes all of the following:
(a) Articles of incorporation or organization under Title XVII of the Revised Code;
(b) A certificate of limited partnership issued under section 1782.08 of the Revised Code;
(c) A license issued to a foreign corporation under section 1703.04 of the Revised Code.
(3) “License” does not include either of the following:
(a) Any permit or license issued under any environmental laws as defined by section 3745.70 of the Revised Code;
(b) Any professional license.

(D) “Unauthorized alien” means an alien who does not have the legal right or authorization under federal law to work in the United States as described in the “Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986,” 100 Stat. 3360, 8 U.S.C. 1324a.

Other Sections are copied almost word-for-word. From the ALEC Bill:

The attorney general shall prescribe a complaint form for a person to allege a violation of subsection A. of this section. The complainant shall not be required to list the complainant’s social security number on the complaint form or to have the complaint form notarized. On receipt of a complaint on a prescribed complaint form that an employer allegedly knowingly employs an unauthorized alien, the attorney general or county attorney shall investigate whether the employer has violated subsection A of this section. If a complaint is received but is not submitted on a prescribed complaint form, the attorney general or county attorney may investigate whether the employer has violated subsection A of this section. This subsection shall not be construed to prohibit the filing of anonymous complaints that are not submitted on a prescribed complaint form. The attorney general or county attorney shall not investigate complaints that are based solely on race, color or national origin. A complaint that is submitted to a county attorney shall be submitted to the county attorney in the county in which the alleged unauthorized alien is or was employed by the employer. The county sheriff or any other local law enforcement agency may assist in investigating a complaint. When investigating a complaint, the attorney general or county attorney shall verify the work authorization of the alleged unauthorized alien with the federal government pursuant to 8 United States Code section 1373(c). A state, county or local official shall not attempt to independently make a final determination on whether an alien is authorized to work in the United States. An alien’s immigration status or work authorization status shall be verified with the federal government pursuant to 8 United States Code section 1373(c). A person who knowingly files a false and frivolous complaint under this subsection is guilty of a class 3 misdemeanor.

From the Ohio Bill:

Sec. 4113.83.  The attorney general shall prescribe a complaint form for a person to allege a violation of division (A)(1) or (2) of section 4113.82 of the Revised Code. The attorney general shall not require the complainant to list the complainant’s social security number on the complaint form or to have the complaint form notarized. A complainant shall submit the complaint to the attorney general or to the prosecuting attorney of the county in which the alleged unauthorized alien is or was employed by the employer. On receipt of a complaint on a prescribed complaint form that an employer allegedly knowingly or purposefully employs an unauthorized alien, the attorney general or prosecuting attorney shall investigate whether the employer has violated division (A)(1) or (2) of section 4113.82 of the Revised Code, as alleged in the complaint. Nothing in this section shall be construed to prohibit an individual from filing an anonymous complaint on a form other than the prescribed complaint form. If the attorney general or a prosecuting attorney receives a complaint that is not submitted on a prescribed complaint form, the attorney general or prosecuting attorney may, but is not required to, investigate whether the employer has violated division (A)(1) or (2) of section 4113.82 of the Revised Code as alleged in the complaint. The attorney general or prosecuting attorney shall not investigate complaints that are based solely on race, color, or national origin.

The county sheriff or any other local law enforcement officer may assist in investigating a complaint. When investigating a complaint, the attorney general or prosecuting attorney shall verify the work authorization of the alleged unauthorized alien with the federal government pursuant to the federal “Omnibus Consolidated Appropriations Act, 1997,” 110 Stat. 3009, 8 U.S.C. 1373(c), as amended. An officer or employee of the state or a political subdivision of the state shall not attempt to independently make a final determination on whether an alien is authorized to work in the United States.

ALEC Bill:

(F) On a finding of a violation of subsection A of this section:
(1) For a first violation, as described in subsection 3 of this section, the court:
(1)(a) Shall order the employer to terminate the employment of all unauthorized aliens.
(1)(b) Shall order the employer to be subject to a three year probationary period for the business location where the unauthorized alien performed work. During the probationary period the employer shall file quarterly reports in the form provided in section 3 with the county attorney of each new employee who is hired by the employer at the business location where the unauthorized alien performed work.
(1)(c) Shall order the employer to file a signed sworn affidavit with the countyattorney within three business days after the order is issued. The affidavit shallstate that the employer has terminated the employment of all unauthorized aliensin this state and that the employer will not intentionally or knowingly employ anunauthorized alien in this state. The court shall order the appropriate agencies tosuspend all licenses subject to this subdivision that are held by the employer if theemployer fails to file a signed sworn affidavit with the county attorney within threebusiness days after the order is issued. All licenses that are suspended under thissubdivision shall remain suspended until the employer files a signed swornaffidavit with the county attorney. Notwithstanding any other law, on filing of theaffidavit the suspended licenses shall be reinstated immediately by theappropriate agencies. For the purposes of this subdivision, the licenses that aresubject to suspension under this subdivision are all licenses that are held by theemployer specific to the business location where the unauthorized alien performedwork. If the employer does not hold a license specific to the business locationwhere the unauthorized alien performed work, but a license is necessary to operatethe employer’s business in general, the licenses that are subject to suspensionunder this subdivision are all licenses that are held by the employer at theemployer’s primary place of business. On receipt of the court’s order andnotwithstanding any other law, the appropriate agencies shall suspend the licensesaccording to the court’s order. The court shall send a copy of the court’s order tothe attorney general and the attorney general shall maintain the copy pursuant tosubsection G of this section.
(1)(d) May order the appropriate agencies to suspend all licenses described in subdivision (c) of this paragraph that are held by the employer for not to exceed ten business days. The court shall base its decision to suspend under this subdivision on any evidence or information submitted to it during the action for a violation of this subsection and shall consider the following factors, if relevant:
(i) The number of unauthorized aliens employed by the employer.
(ii) Any prior misconduct by the employer.
(iii) The degree of harm resulting from the violation.
(iv) Whether the employer made good faith efforts to comply with any applicable requirements.
(v) The duration of the violation.
(vi) The role of the directors, officers or principals of the employer in the violation.
(vii) Any other factors the court deems appropriate

Ohio Bill:

Sec. 4113.86. (A)(1) If a court, pursuant to an action brought under section 4113.84 of the Revised Code, determines that an employer has committed a first violation of division (A)(1) of section 4113.82 of the Revised Code, the court shall do all of the following:
(a) Order the employer to terminate the employment of all unauthorized aliens;
(b) Order the employer to be subject to a three-year probationary period for the business location where the unauthorized alien performed work;
(c) Order the employer to file a signed affidavit of the type described in division (A)(4) of this section with the prosecuting attorney of the county where the violation occurred within three business days after the order is issued.
(2) If a court pursuant to an action brought under section 4113.84 of the Revised Code determines that an employer has committed a first violation of division (A)(1) of section 4113.82 of the Revised Code, the court may order the appropriate agencies to suspend all licenses described in division (A)(4) of this section that are held by the employer for a period not to exceed ten business days. The court shall determine whether to suspend an employer’s licenses based upon any evidence or information submitted to the court during the action and shall consider any of the following factors, as applicable:
(a) The number of unauthorized aliens employed by the employer;
(b) Any prior misconduct committed by the employer;
(c) The degree of harm resulting from the violation;
(d) Whether the employer made good faith efforts to comply with any applicable requirements;
(e) The duration of the violation;
(f) The role of the directors, officers, or principals of the employer in the violation;
(g) Any other factors the court considers appropriate.

The copied section continues, but it is clear just from those few examples that this bill is nearly entirely based off of the model legislation. This is model legislation that corporations paid thousands of dollars ($7,000 at the very least) to sit down with legislators to write. Regular citizens do not have that kind of money and therefore do not have that kind of leverage. The bills address the problems that corporations have with regular people at a time when the upper class is thriving while the lower classes sink. ALEC represents the worst of democracy.