Dan Quigley: Filling in the blanks on ALEC

Editor’s note: This commentary is by Dan Quigley, a Winooski resident who is interested in local politics and transparency. He was an intern for Sen. Bernie Sanders and worked on Elizabeth Warren’s Senate campaign. 

Vermont state Rep. Bob Helm recently wrote an opinion piece (“Good policy comes from sharing ideas”) that appeared on VTDigger.org, as well as in the Times Argus and the Newport Daily Express, encouraging participation in and support of the American Legislative Exchange Council. The article neglected to mention some fundamentals about ALEC that should be expressed.

Helm’s characterization of the organization seems hopeful, neutral to positive, and innocent. These characterizations are seriously lacking. ALEC is not simply a community forum about limited government, but rather a distinctly far-right organization focused on deregulation and deinstitutionalization. The trick with ALEC is not that it is supportive of “independent thinking,” as Helm posits, but rather that it gives the illusion of democratic problem-solving. ALEC is almost entirely funded by private corporations and billionaires. The big-money oligarchs who our independent Sen. Bernie Sanders has been warning us about? This is one of their most insidious fronts.

The American Association for Justice characterizes ALEC as “ghostwriting the law for corporate America,” because it develops legislation funded and designed by those corporations. Specifically, it deploys lobbyists to register as members so that they may write “model” legislation as equals alongside our representatives. These model bills are subsequently introduced in legislatures across the country by participating senators, congressmen and policy staff. ALEC’s model legislation becomes a template for conservative politicians to pass at the state or local levels. Mere days ago, Oklahoma passed a bill based on an ALEC model that fines people for using solar power.

The model bills available are great in number and in scope (and are listed on their website). Topics include opposition to the Consumer Protection Agency, privatization of public schools and Medicare, prohibition of school science curricula covering climate change, and expansion of fracking. The now infamous “Stand Your Ground” law that allows murderers to evade prosecution, such as with the highly public case in Florida, is an ALEC model bill. Arizona’s racial profiling bill, SB1070, also comes from ALEC. One such model bill would block Vermont’s present efforts to mandate GMO labeling.

ALEC is increasing its influence at the state and local levels. We are not protected here in Vermont from its sinister encroachment.

 

The Guardian recently reported that, in addition to maintaining its powerful presence in national government (with alumni such as Speaker John Boehner and Eric Cantor, among others), ALEC is increasing its influence at the state and local levels. We are not protected here in Vermont from its sinister encroachment.

The Caledonian Record recently cited ALEC while lamenting Vermont’s “worst economic outlooks.” ALEC has at least three current members in the Vermont Legislature, although they do not publish a comprehensive membership list. ALEC’s promotion by Rep. Helm should be a red flag to those who wish to maintain local control as much as possible in post-Citizens United America.

Comments

  1. Michelle Dail :

    Thank you for this commentary. For a state that prides itself in independence and local control, people need to be aware of the ALEC politicians right here. ALEC is nothing more than a bill mill kicking out template legislation to benefit corporations and destroy what is left of the middle class. It is a dating service between corporations and politicians. Rep. Peg Flory and Rep Kevin Mullin are among the ALEC ranks here in Vermont and they should be challenged by Vermonters for being part if it. Interestingly enough ALEC proposed an oath that they wanted politicians to take. That oath was to put ALEC first before the desires of their constituents. This alone speaks volumes about ALEC.
    http://Www.alecexposed.org

  2. So, This looks more like an across the board bashing of Conservatives in general. I think the Dems and Progs here in Vermont have shown us nothing.

    Deregulation is not always bad, deinstitutionalization would be great, nullifying Common Core Curriculum would be wonderful.

    So, all Corporations are bad? Maybe, but if they are fighting for smaller GOVERNMENT, here in Vermont, I would only have to say, “GREAT”!

    We are slowly sinking here in Vermont and one reason is the cost of our bloated Government. We can no longer support them thru or GDP. Soooo, raise taxes, fees, licenses, fines and permits.

    We need smaller Government. We need more Conservative leaders in order to reduce our bloated Government.

    • Paul Richards :

      Ahhmen!

    • Steven Farnham :

      I don’t care whether government is big or small. It needs to be effective in serving its citizens – not the wealthy elite.

      My sentiment about corporations is exactly the same. They need to exist for the greater good, not merely to serve the excesses of the corporate elite.

      There is a mountain of evidence that the corporate health insurance model is choked with bureaucratic inefficiency, is grossly overpriced and unaffordable, and has egregiously failed at serving the public good.

      Based on this assessment, the score is:

      Dan Quigley – 1

      Ray Giroux – 0

    • Dan Quigley :

      Ray – You bring up some valid points. Our government is a lethargic and inefficient machine in far too many cases. It is truly frustrating how we pay a huge chunk of income in taxes but don’t get a reasonable return from government services.

      I am not blind to the issues of Vermont government, and to be honest, there are some ALEC bills that make practical changes – but only because on a select few issues, corporations and the average citizen can gain from the same reforms. I think what Steven has noted is a very relevant acknowledgement, and if, for instance, our systems of taxation and regulation were made to be high functioning, rather than simply removed, we would still pay taxes but have the payoff (read: healthcare, education, etc. in some European countries).

      • Paul Richards :

        “…and if, for instance, our systems of taxation and regulation were made to be high functioning, rather than simply removed, we would still pay taxes but have the payoff (read: healthcare, education, etc. in some European countries).”
        Sounds great Dan but it’s a pipe dream.

  3. sandra bettis :

    and campaign for vt is alec – make no mistake on that.

  4. Dan:

    You’re apparently an expert in ferreting out far right organizations and their tricks based on your vast experience developed as an intern.

    You cite funding by billionaires and big money oligarchs and lobbying by these same people or the organizations they fund as evidence of problems.

    Now, Dan based on your experience as a intern, can you tell us what kind of organizations are funded by billionaires and oligarchs such as George Soros and John Steyers. Also, do these folks lobby or contribute to other’s lobbying efforts?

    One more question, did you intern for the same Bernie Sanders who believes that dynamiting the tops off of Vermont mountains to build eagle swatting wind turbines is good policy?

    Just asking in the interest of transparency.

    • Dan Quigley :

      Hello Peter. This is my best response to your comments:

      1) I do not consider being a political intern to be a degree in political science. I wished only to disclose so as to avoid seeming like this was coming as a dishonest sponsorship from a political office. It was, in fact, for the purposes of transparency only.

      2) I personally don’t love the impact of wind turbines on the Green Mountains, and don’t see them as the most efficient investment relative to other renewable energies. I cannot speak for Bernie.

      • Dan:

        What’s important is your interest in transparency and your willingness to speak out about it. We all certainly know that transparency problems stretch from Montpelier to Boston to Washington and beyond and occupy both the right and left lanes.

        As far as your level of expertise, there’s no doubt in my mind that you’re well ahead of where I was at your age…..so don’t let old goats like me get your goat.

  5. Ron Pulcer :

    Here is a possible connection between ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) and Campaign For Vermont (CFV):

    http://www.alec.org/about-alec/state-chairmen/

    http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php/ALEC_State_Chairmen

    I’m curious how Source Watch was able to find this “extra” piece of information, since the ALEC.org website does not mention the corporate members / chairs of ALEC.

    Either Source Watch is wrong, OR ALEC is hiding this info. ALEC seems to be hiding the names of the “rank and file” ALEC State Legislative members. I’ve tried doing Google site searches (site:alec.org) and the legislative membership list is locked down. Even with a site search with a known name (Helm), you can’t find the State by State membership list webpage on alec.org.

    But here is the Vermont ALEC member list according to Source Watch from 2013:

    http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php/Vermont_ALEC_Politicians

    According to Source Watch (first link), the extra info is the mention of “Shawn Shouldice, Capital Connections, LLC” as being affiliated with ALEC.

    She is also a partner with Campaign For Vermont (CPF):

    http://www.campaignforvermont.org/who-we-are-partners.php

    Now on to “Transparency”:

    http://www.campaignforvermont.org/cms-assets/documents/53155-810852.03.15.12-cfv-press-statement-transpare

    I think “transparency” should also be applied to ALEC membership within the Vermont Legislature. If “sharing ideas” via ALEC is good for Vermont’s citizens and small businesses, as Rep. Helm suggested, then please tell us who else is “sharing ideas” at ALEC sponsored and paid for events (via legislator “scholarships”) , or by calling the HQ in Arlington, VA.

    And, in the spirit of bi-partisanship, if there are any Democrats in the House or Senate that have “secretive” memberships with any left-leaning “bill mill” version of ALEC, then they should likewise also divulge their memberships in such organizations.

    • Its back to the 1950s with Ron Pulcer and the building of “Black Lists”.

      Who else in Montpelier could be lobbying or listening to lobbyists? Republicans, Democrats, Progressives, whoever, but especially Republicans…… we need names.

      Yes people of Vermont, Ron wants names.

      Joseph McCarthy would be proud that his legacy lives on.

      • Walter Carpenter :

        “Joseph McCarthy would be proud that his legacy lives on.”

        Peter, in light of the info on ALEC which Ron and others have provided here, do you support ALEC and the black lists of laws they target to disrupt the democratic laws in states by their “model legislation?”

        • Walter & Ron:

          The model law problem that you’ve expressed grave concern with is actually more wide spread than you may have expected.

          Are you aware that the State of Vermont is connected to and influenced by another out of state organization that has been quietly drafting model laws for many years for enactment in Vermont and all other states?

          And Walter, I suspect much to your great horror, this organization is heavily influenced by INSURANCE COMPANIES and their lobbyists.

          Oh it gets worse, this is an inside job. Vermont’s Insurance Commissioners have been working, you might call it conspiring, with other Insurance Commissioners, many of them from dreaded “red states” in the development of model insurance laws. All of this has conducted in a distant organization little known to the general public.

          Yes, Walter and Ron, the NAIC or the National Association of Insurance Commissioners has been drafting model laws and little did most people know this has been going on. What’s more, some of these model laws are actually enshrined in Title 8 of Vermont’s statutes.

          Horrors……Do you think we need names?

          • Walter Carpenter :

            “And Walter, I suspect much to your great horror, this organization is heavily influenced by INSURANCE COMPANIES and their lobbyists.”

            :). Once again, Peter, the original question stands. do you support ALEC, and what it does? Thanks for the info of the national association of insurance commissioners. I have heard of them before.

          • Lee Russ :

            Peter,

            Is the NAIC open only to state insurance commissioners who hold a particular set of political and economic beliefs, excluding others, or does it include every state’s insurance regulator?

            Do the members of the NAIC work in secrecy? Or are the drafts of the model insurance laws freely available as they inch their way toward being adopted by the NAIC?

            And when a model law is adopted by the NAIC, are the state legislatures aware of where the law came from when they decide whether their state should adopt it?

            Think about it.

    • Tom Pelham :

      Hi Ron…your comments are usually thoughtful and well documented. But here, you undermine your otherwise credible presentations. I am a co-founder of CfV but have negligible awareness of ALEC but a certain they have nothing to do with CfV. I am certain that’s true for other CfV founders. Yet, you whisper “a possible connection” between ALEC and CfV via “Shawn Shouldice, Capital Connections LLC”. First, “Shawn Shouldice, Capital Connections LLC” is a paid lobbyist with many other clients beyond CfV. Whether or not ALEC is her client is not a concern of CfV and her business choices are not in the control of or influenced by CfV.

      Secondly, Shawn as an individual is a partner of CfV along with her husband Mike McShane, the mens hockey coach at Norwich University. Applying your logic, does that mean the Norwich hockey team has a “possible connection” to ALEC? Or, that the thousands of associations of the more than 1,000 partners of CfV now have “a possible connection” to ALEC? Or that because I worked for Howard Dean for nine years that he has a “possible connection” to ALEC? The practical application of your guilt by association logic causes it to unravel quite readily.

      In a comment below, after extensive research, you’ve found four legislators associated with ALEC, three republicans and one democrat (none of which BTW are partners of CfV). Your source is wrong, Kathy Keenan is a democrat and not a republican. Now Representative Brennan, though a Republican and if your source is accurate a member of ALEC, was appointed as the Chair of the House Transportation Committee by Speaker Shap Smith. OMG Ron, have you uncovered that Speaker Shap Smith has “a possible connection” to ALEC?

      Please Ron, you have too good a mind to be chasing these sorts idiocies.

      • Ron Pulcer :

        Tom,

        I tried to carefully use the word “possible”, since I was not sure if it was true or not, I was only reporting what I found via Google searches. I was just putting it out there for discussion, which you have joined.

        The “revolving door” problem has been reported often regarding Washington DC, Congress, lobbyists, Wall Street and federal regulators. There have been reports of lobbyists and corporate representatives in some Congressional offices helping to write the legislative text. I don’t think this happens in Vermont, because they don’t have offices in Montpelier. But ALEC is a more stealth version of this, via annual conferences and “scholarships” for state legislators across the 50 states.

        Vermont is a small state, and people know each other better than in large states. So there is a built-in check and balance there. We are fortunate in this regard.

        But when you add ALEC and other out of state Super PACs (both left and right), that is why citizens need to be aware and vigilant to what is going on with elections, campaigns and legislation. Legislation can effect everyone, not just the people, orgs or businesses that lobbyists are hired to represent. Even though ALEC is technically a 501(3)c, it is “effectively” a lobbying type of org.

        http://billmoyers.com/episode/full-show-united-states-of-alec-a-follow-up/

        So, if the shoe doesn’t fit re: CfV, then don’t wear it, and move on!

        To extend your examples…, then since former Gov. Dean might be on your list above, then maybe you could add Democracy For America (within the 6 degrees of separation) to your ALEC conspiracy list.

        If you have spent anytime looking into how ALEC operates, then concerned citizens like yourself should be concerned. ALEC is not about “local control” by any means.

        I am sure there are “bill mill” orgs on both the left and right. Mr. Yanknowski mentioned another org above, but I don’t know it’s leanings, just heard of it via this forum.

        Cheers.

        • Tom Pelham :

          Ron….I’m sensing an unhealthy obsession in your pursuit. Even if there are four or five legislators who align themselves with ALEC, they are not of any consequence at the Statehouse. Bob Helm’s agenda leaves not even a ripple at the state house and tracking down his associations and efforts is wasted time and effort. You might better follow your own advice and “move on”.

          If you want to chase after the real influence peddlers at the state house, here’s a better menu.

          http://www.sevendaysvt.com/vermont/the-vermont-statehouse-is-crawling-with-lobbyists-what-does-that-mean-for-our-democracy/Content?oid=2360017

          • Ron Pulcer :

            Tom, thanks for the Seven Days VT article. It is a good overview of lobbyists from all sides of political spectrum, businesses, non-profit and citizen groups. But the fact that lobbyists come into the Statehouse, in public, is what “lobbying” is (being in the “lobby”, hallway or cafeteria, mostly in the open, at least in Vermont). I don’t have an issue with that, it is the “tradition” here in Vermont as far as I know. BTW, I found a handful of companies mentioned in 7dVT article also on a list of ALEC corporate members. So these companies are using the traditional lobbyist approach, plus the secretive ALEC approach (Corrections Corporation of America, Reynolds American (tobacco), and AT&T).

            en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_members_of_the_American_Legislative_Exchange_Council

            ALEC uses a very different approach than mere “lobbying”. If ALEC were a true “lobbying” group there wouldn’t be an issue. But ALEC effectively functions like as a lobbying org, but acts differently. ALEC uses a “non-profit” 501(3)c structure and a secretive process and membership, while representing for-profit companies and multinationals. ALEC does not represent the State Legislators, they are given “scholarships” to attend conferences (in lieu of sending ALEC lobbyists to 50 state capitols). The only 3rd party member lists for ALEC out there on Internet were obtained from investigative reporting.

            I have learned that in Vermont it may not necessarily just be the “Model Legislation” copy/paste/edit approach, but rather the phone calls from Montpelier to ALEC HQ in Alexandria, VA. Rather than the lobbyists coming into Statehouse, some legislators are reaching out to ALEC, out of state. The question becomes, “Who do they represent?” This is much different than running into a lobbyist in the hallway or cafeteria or even scheduling a meeting in the Statehouse. ALEC is not about “local control” or even “Vermont control” by any means.

            Tom, yes I realize or sense that ALEC membership is relatively small. However, most of that small group is from Rutland County. If you don’t live in Rutland County, than maybe you don’t have to worry. But my home county, Rutland County is the ALEC “hot spot” in Vermont. In addition, my town, Rutland Town has a track record of ALEC membership. So I have reason to be concerned. Maybe your county or district is not affected. If so, good for you.

      • Ron Pulcer :

        Tom,

        One more followup: The reason I started to look into current ALEC membership within Vermont Legislature is because Rep. Helm started this conversation with his recent op-ed, which was also published in other Vermont newspapers, besides VTDigger,org:

        http://vtdigger.org/2014/04/15/bob-helm-good-public-policy-comes-sharing-ideas/

        Second, I started to look into if there was a Campaign For Vermont connection only because of the above comment by Sandra Bettis. I don’t know Ms. Bettis and I never met her. I only know her name through VTDigger comment forum.

        As you can see, she made a comment re: ALEC and CfV, but did not provide any web link reference to back up her comment. So I went about to see if it might be true (or not). I am still not sure whether this is true or not, because I don’t have any primary evidence from Rep. Helm, ALEC.org itself, or CfV.org. I am merely trying to see if her comment had any validity. I notice that you did not reply back to Ms. Bettis’ comment, but you replied back to mine, which is fine.

        http://vtdigger.org/2014/04/30/dan-quigley-filling-blanks-alec/?replytocom=109148#respond

        Here is a possible way to resolve this question. After Rep. Helm wrote his op-ed, I emailed him directly and asked if he could furnish a list of Vermont ALEC members, since he was espousing the benefits of ALEC affiliation. I also asked him if he could request that ALEC publish the state by state list (which I believe used to be public). He promptly replied back. But he declined to provide the info or followup with ALEC HQ in Alexandria, VA. He did say he would ask Vermont Legislator ALEC members, and if they agreed he would get back to me, or those members could. But I am not holding my breath, but who knows, I could be surprised.

        Without getting into the specifics of doing Google advanced searches and “site searches” of ALEC.org, I was able via several searches to determine that ALEC is very likely “hiding” their state by state Legislative membership list from the public.

        So Tom, perhaps yourself or other CfF partners could inquire directly to Rep. Helm to see if you could get a list of Vermont Legislative, and perhaps business ALEC members. As Campaign For Vermont is advocating, “Transparency” in government, I think that transparency also extends to the Legislative branch in regards to ALEC membership.

        Otherwise you and I and everyone else in this conversation are somewhat speculating about ALEC membership. Or we are just left to 3rd party websites that may or may not have accurate or current ALEC membership info.

        I encourage all citizens to ask their Town Reps. I already asked mine, since my town has had prior ALEC members. My current rep promptly replied back that he is NOT a member, and I appreciate him replying back to me. The only way that citizens can know for sure, yes or no, is to ASK the “ALEC membership” question.

        Tom, would you or CfV be willing to also ask Rep. Helm to publicly provide the ALEC VT member list, to get the first hand truth? It would surely be a great followup to his earlier op-ed.

  6. Ron Pulcer :

    Peter,

    “Joseph McCarthy”, LOL, that’s a good one! And I suppose you are watchdog, “Edward R. Murrow”?

    Edward R. Murrow – (March 9, 1954)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=anNEJJYLU8M

    Senator McCarthy was a member of Congress. I am merely a citizen asking questions.

    I was careful to mention “possible” connection, and that Source Watch might be wrong (or ALEC is hiding info). That’s why citizens should ask questions…

    Rep. Helm was the one who first brought up ALEC in VTDigger, Rutland Herald and apparently other VT newspapers. Congratulations to Rep. Helm for being the FIRST member of ALEC in Vermont to publicly proclaim he was a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council. After how many years?

    Watch the documentary “United States of ALEC”, and you will see why people are concerned about ALEC influence in Vermont.

    ALEC is not about “local control” by any means.

    ALEC is “officially” a 501(c)3 org, a non-profit, rather than a for-profit lobbying firm. But it effectively acts as a lobbying org. Rather than sending lobbyists to 50 state capitols, they instead give “scholarships” (junkets) to legislators to travel out of state and meet with corporate representatives.

    Rather than lobby, they craft model legislation via policy “committees”. Rather than writing bills in Congress members office, like they do in Washington DC, they craftily post model bills for the state ALEC members to copy/paste and edit.

    Did you hear about the Florida legislator, Rep. Rachel Burgin, a member of ALEC, who forgot to remove the boilerplate ALEC reference, after she copied/pasted the ALEC “model bill” into the Florida bill tracking system? As Rick Perry would say, “Oops!”

    http://www.myfloridahouse.gov/Sections/Documents/loaddoc.aspx?FileName=_h0685__.docx&DocumentType=Bill&BillNumber=0685&Session=2012

    http://www.commonblog.com/2012/01/31/alec-exposed-for-24-hours/

    As a fellow resident of Rutland Town, perhaps you know one of two current / past ALEC members? I already asked Rep. Terenzini, and he is not one of them. So, think prior to 2014.

    If you are a proponent of “local control”, as in the local solar farm debate, then you might want to also be concerned about ALEC.

    • Ron:

      As expected and now confirmed by your own words, you’re unable to cite any concrete instances of problems in the Rutland area arising from ALEC.

      On the other hand, if you are really concerned with losing “local control” to outside organizations coming into the Rutland area, direct your angst to solar developer Gro-Solar, which you know wants to build a 9000 panel industrial solar farm in Rutland Town. This project is opposed by abutting neighbors and several hundred other Rutlanders.

      Playing into your concern with outsiders and secrecy, Gro-Solar petitioned the Public Service Board (PSB) to keep its records relating to the proposed Rutland Town project secret. Thankfully, the PSB rejected this outrageous request.

      Gro-Solar’s behavior is a real and documented example attack on local control that should cause you concern as opposed to imagined concerns that you’re unable to name, much less document.

      • Ron Pulcer :

        Hearing that, as you stated, that the Public Service Board rejected Gro-Solar request regarding secrecy of its records on Cold River Rd. project, it sounds like a good thing to me.

        As per this solar project, had our Select Board and Planning Board not designated that section of town as “commercial”, they probably would not be in this situation.

        Other than the commercial or residential designations, our town has no zoning laws, so the recently proposed Solar Siting guideline document was somewhat of a “reaction” to one project, rather than part of an overall development guideline document or zoning plan.

        As per ALEC, it’s not just what existing laws may or may not have had the ALEC “stamp of approval”, but also knowing about ALEC memberships during election season (i.e. the potential affect on future bills and laws).

        • Ron:

          As a result of your ALEC concerns, today I asked one of our Selectman, a moderate who has a sound reading on the pulse of town politics, if there are any issues with ALEC in town. This Selectman didn’t even know what ALEC is. So it’s probably safe to say that concern with this organization in Rutland Town is zero or very close to it.

          I have never heard of any issues or concerns with ALEC. If any of consequence existed, they would spread around town like wild fire and result in front page coverage in the Rutland Herald, especially if any perceived right leaning activity was afoot.

          If you’re concerned with an individual’s various political or other affiliations when he/she is running for office, simply ask them what they are. I’m sure they would be more than happy to respond.

          Now, on to the Gro-Solar matter and zoning.

          We all can agree that the PSB took the correct action in rejecting Gro-Solar’s petition for secrecy. But it’s not the PSB’s action that is at issue here. It’s Gro-Solar’s opaqueness, offensive mode of operation and disrespect for the town’s people that is so troublesome. This behavior should be very problematic for you, especially in light of your concerns with ALEC and transparency.

          The origin of the commercial designation of the Cold River Road parcel currently at the center of the Gro-Solar project is cloudy at best. This land had always been agricultural and the current designation as commercial is not the product of any zoning planning, study or broadly viewed or challenged town approval process. It is a product of an ad hoc procedure that was put in place several years ago after the Town Plan was produced. The procedure allowed landowners to simply go into the Town Planning Board and request a land use designation change and it was granted.

          For Gro-Solar, Green Mountain Power and Jamie Stewart to base their case on such a questionable usage designation is totally disingenuous. All of the neighbors in the area describe the parcel as agricultural as it has been for generations.

          Maybe your ALEC fears should be directed at Gro-Solar, as they are at the town’s doorstep with an industrial plan for solar development that is widely opposed by the town’s residents.

  7. Paul Lorenzini :

    Hey Quigley, what institution are you from?

  8. See Blake Levitt’s comments on ALEC:

    ” The FCC has already approved AT&T’s request to drop landline service, but that might be dialed back with enough bipartisan effort and I think it is possible with this. It’s just moving way too fast and people don’t like it for all the right reasons noted in the Washington Post. Verizon functions over AT&T’s network. If AT&T doesn’t maintain the wires — and they haven’t been for years — Verizon has nowhere to go BUT wireless. Landline network abandonment is now going state-to-state for approvals since states also regulate landline systems. State legislation arrives compliments of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) — an right-wing nonprofit group that writes legislation for various businesses and is acting like a kind of shadow government now. For more, see The Lakeville Journal editorial by Anthony Piel, former director and general legal counsel of the World Health Organization: http://www.tricornernews.com/node/30433

  9. Ron Pulcer :
  10. John Fairbanks :

    For all you small government fans, I propose a deal:

    Get business, particularly big business, like the Kochs, to agree

    1. They will respect workers, pay a wage that provides for a decent standard of living, and provide health insurance and a secure retirement that cannot be taken away;

    2. They will treat consumers likewise, offering quality products and services and not things that will cause harm, at affordable prices, nor engage in deceptive business practices;

    3. They will maintain a safe workplace where individuals are paid equally for the same work and are protected from harrassment;

    4. They will be responsible stewards of the environment, paying the entire costs of clean up when necessary.

    Then you could get rid of a whole lot of bureaucracy and regulation.

    But until then, government is necessary to protect people and serve as a counterweight to the kind of rapacity we have seen.

    Oh, and while we’re at it, perhaps they should also promise to stop funding anti-democratic voter suppression and laws like stand your ground, which have already resulted in needless deaths at the hands of trigger-happy vigilantes.

    • Paul Richards :

      Sounds like you have been listening to harry reid for too long. While you’re at it why don’t you tell george soros to stop manipulating our government and stop funding efforts to continue to allow dead people to vote?

      • Walter Carpenter :

        “Sounds like you have been listening to harry reid for too long. While you’re at it why don’t you tell george soros to stop manipulating our government and stop funding efforts to continue to allow dead people to vote”

        If this is true which I doubt, I would be glad to tell George Soros to do this, but only if you tell the Koch brothers, Karl rove, the Supreme Court,, ALEC, etc. to stop funding efforts to manipulate our government in the favor their big corporate, anti-union agenda. Would you do that?

    • Paul Lorenzini :

      Dear John,

      I would have to agree with your angst and hatred of big corporate business, they make me sick also.

      I will take issue with each of your points in order.

      “1.They will respect workers, pay a wage that provides for a decent standard of living, and provide health insurance and a secure retirement that cannot be taken away;”

      does our government do these things? look at the soldiers, with a suicide rate far above the norm, and tell me government respects workers. Arizona just plain ignored them, and that is not an isolated case, I believe.
      A retirement that cannot be taken away? Where did social security go? Into the pockets of our elected leaders friends maybe.

      Who decides what a decent standard of living is? Marxists do. But is it fair for everyone that sweats and bleeds, or only those for the Ivory Tower of Marx?

      “2. They will treat consumers likewise, offering quality products and services and not things that will cause harm, at affordable prices, nor engage in deceptive business practices;”

      Quality products and services, like social security, and good roads? What does the government do, with the confiscation of our wealth, that does no harm, to someone somewhere? At affordable prices? Like in my neighborhood, where we pay $25.44 per 1000 gallons of public water? The USA average is $2. Go back to social security, Mr. Fairbanks, and tell me about quality products, and a retirement that can’t be taken away.

      “3. They will maintain a safe workplace where individuals are paid equally for the same work and are protected from harrassment;”

      My opinion is that the safest workplace is at home, collecting welfare, and the pay is equal, for the same work. I do believe that you are the harasser of independent, free minded people, so what is your retort? Does the Ivory Tower have a monopoly on the ability to determine fairness? Obviously not.

      “4. They will be responsible stewards of the environment, paying the entire costs of clean up when necessary.”

      Are you going to climb up the mountain and disassemble the windmill, or clean the waste on the farmers field, when the solar panels die? Will you fill the mine, for the materials that build these things, and turn them green again? I doubt it, but if you say you will, then it is on your soul.

      “Oh, and while we’re at it, perhaps they should also promise to stop funding anti-democratic voter suppression and laws like stand your ground, which have already resulted in needless deaths at the hands of trigger-happy vigilantes.”

      I really like this, it shows your naivete.
      Voters in America, need not prove their identity as Americans? I assume you are talking about voter identity legislation, which seems reasonable.

      And stand your ground, like you mean just run away, right?

      Run away
      run away
      Run.
      Someone will save you.
      We promise
      Sincerely,
      .gov

      • Paul Lorenzini :

        Mr. Fairbanks, what do you think of people that chant “death to America”? Are you there John? Where are you? What did you say? I can’t quite hear you.

        • John Fairbanks :

          Let me speak louder, then (and consider an audiology exam):

          People (like me) who critique, in this case, corporate-funded organizations’ agendas are not un-American. This is the default “argument” for some on the Right. People who chant “death to America” are probably just as stupid and potentially violent as people who threaten the life of our democratically-elected President because he’s African-American. Violent extremism is reprehensible, on all sides.

      • John Fairbanks :

        In reverse order:

        Stand your ground has given a handful of angry guys with guns the go-ahead to murder a handful of people (mostly young black men) who don’t have them. It is not about self-defense (this from a man who (a) is a former gun owner, and (b) has been threatened with guns on three occasions, twice by white rednecks and once by three black muggers); it’s about giving people with chips on their shoulders permission to open fire.

        I cast my first vote in 1972. I have voted in four different states. I always had to give my name and address to the clerk at the polling place. I have never had to show an ID. Since so-called “voter fraud” is so rare, I don’t think it’s necessary to require a form of ID some people don’t have.

        The person who puts up the windmill or solar panel is responsible for its maintenance and, if eventually necessary, removal or replacement. That’s not going to cost taxpayers millions of dollars, as is the case when corporations rape the environment and then walk away. It’s often taxpayers who foot the bill.

        As one whose first job was on the midnight shift, running a drop hammer, I’m quite familiar with what makes for a safe and unsafe workplace. A safe workplace is one in which machines have the proper guards on them, where there is room to get out of the way of trouble, where the pace of the work isn’t such that a worker has to unnecessarily risk life and/or limb to do her/his job. As a former civil rights investigator, I have listened to too many stories of women who can’t just come to work and do their jobs without a fellow employee or supervisor making sexual suggestions.

        As for products and services, let’s see – Dalkon shield, tobacco, cars with faulty systems . . . . Social security hasn’t been taken away yet, but the Rs are still working on that.

        Who decides what’s a decent standard of living? There are numerous studies, beginning with Vermont’s own on a livable wage.

        Hold off on the red-baiting (this is a former Republican, ROTC cadet you’re talking to) and ponder for a moment that the alternative to a cruel and rapacious economic system does not have to be socialism (which I reject). We only need a system of rules that reins in the power of a few (unelected few) over our lives.

        • Paul Lorenzini :

          I will issue a proper response tomorrow, thank you for your thoughts.

          In the day of the written letter, men had time to compose their thoughts and emotions into a reasoned and well written verse that made a difference.

          It was a better time,
          then,
          but now,
          is where we are,
          so please forgive me,
          for needing a car!

          Fairbanks, from the museum?

          • Paul Lorenzini :

            That was the best I have Mr. Fairbanks, sorry but my energy is being consumed by my attempt to sustain myself, and my family, this is a welcome distraction sometimes, and amusing as it is infuriating. Thanks.

  11. Great article, hilarious and educational commentary, this was a big win for VT Digger right here.

  12. Russ Lee:

    In response to your questions:

    Russ Lee Question: Is the NAIC open only to state insurance commissioners who hold a particular set of political and economic beliefs, excluding others, or does it include every state’s insurance regulator?

    Response: The NAIC membership is open to the Insurance Commissioners from all 50 states plus a few U.S. territories regardless of political affiliation or beliefs.

    Like the NAIC, ALEC is non-partisan with membership open to all political affiliations. The organization claims 2,000 members comprised of both Democrats and Republicans. From comments presented above, we see that Vermont legislators from both the Democratic and Republican parties are members of ALEC.

    Russ Lee Question: Do the members of the NAIC work in secrecy? Or are the drafts of the model insurance laws freely available as they inch their way toward being adopted by the NAIC?

    Response: Some NAIC work is done behind closed doors and Commissioners and staff meet privately with insurance companies and lobbyists. This does not mean anything untoward goes on. As a matter of fact, the work done by the Insurance Commissioners in conjunction with the NAIC in regulating the insurance industry is superior to the work done by the Federal Reserve, Comptroller of the Currency and FDIC in regulating banks in my opinion. I say this based on the disastrous bank failures the country has experienced versus that of insurance company failures.

    NAIC model law work is open.

    I don’t know how ALEC handles the development of Model laws. Whether ALEC does its work in open meetings or behind closed doors makes little to no difference when it comes to consideration or adaption of the models by state legislatures. State legislators should consider the model laws based on their merit and not on how they were developed.

    Russ Lee Question: And when a model law is adopted by the NAIC, are the state legislatures aware of where the law came from when they decide whether their state should adopt it?

    Response: Most likely they would know as the model law would be presented by the Insurance Commissioner, if he/she agreed with it. But that’s not the key factor. The key factor is the substance of the model law and not where it originated.

    What I take away from the Quigley commentary, some of the comments appearing above and at other comments on the vtdigger is a fear of open thinking and a mindset to silence those with whom there is disagreement. This should be more troubling to Vermonters than what ALEC may be up to.

    Think about it.

    • Paul Lorenzini :

      John Fairbanks is absent, all I hear is crickets.

    • Lee Russ :

      Peter, if you genuinely believe that ALEC is nonpartisan, that they are open to al members, and that they are little different than the NAIC, there’s nothing left to say. Absolutely nothing in the history of ALEC supports that.

      You honestly think that they would welcome Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren, which would compromise their secrecy? Really?

      You can despise attempts to silence disagreement without supporting ALEC.

      • Lee:

        To start, I don’t support or reject ALEC and have nothing to do with the organization or what they may or may not be up to.

        But beyond me, what is your obsession with ALEC “secrecy”?

        The members of ALEC can meet in the most distance and darkest caves to dream up the most outrageous ideas or model laws. Yet these model laws and the thinking behind them go no where unless accepted by an elected legislative body in an open and public forum. It is at this place and point where a judgement about appropriateness is to be determined.

        I would hope that if ALEC is developing and pushing model laws that are not reasonably appropriate, the members of the Vermont or any other legislature would be able to sort out and reject the problems based on the merit of substance.

        Some individuals seem to have so little faith in the ability of society to separate good from bad, that they aggressively leap out to silence those who’s views they oppose. We have seem such behavior right here on the vtdigger.

        The silencing of those with whom some may disagree is the problem that you should be concerned with. My thinking has nothing to do with supporting ALEC or any other organization left or right in orientation. I’m for letting all speak and then allowing the collective wisdom decide what to accept or reject.

        I thought that liberalism was all about open and free discussion……..so Lee, what is it you are proposing?

        • Lee Russ :

          We’re talking past each other to some degree. I’m not obsessed with ALEC’s secrecy, I’m obsessed with ALEC pretending to be something it isn’t. What I “propose” is something I would have thought that you would support: getting the facts about ALEC–what it is, what ideology they represent, etc.–out in the open so that can no longer claim to be the innocent protector of the public interest.

          Until fairly recently, ALEC’s model laws were presented to state legislatures as the work of nonpartisan experts. Many members of the state legislatures bought this story and did vote for laws they probably would not have supported had they known they were written largely by the very corporations that would benefit from them.

          With more info about ALEC now available to the public, it’s becoming harder for ALEC to get away with this.

          If it doesn’t bother you that corporate interests gather in secret with certain state legislators to concoct laws that benefit the corporate interests, then pitch that to state legislatures as being the product of nonpartisan experts, then it doesn’t bother you. It bothers me deeply. And it has nothing to do with trying to silence anybody.

          • Lee:

            I doubt that ALEC has any monopoly when it comes to secret meetings with legislators, the Governor or everyone else up and down the political food chain.

            These meetings are a reality of representative government. If we have a group of sheep in Montpelier who can easily be misled by lobbyists, it’s not the lobbyists fault. If there are sheep representing us it will show up in policies that are put into place. The voters can then act accordingly.

            Beyond ALEC but still in the realm of lobbyist, I’m more concerned with a Governor and legislature, who promote slipshod renewable energy policies and then invite Bill McKibben in for what is sold as an objective presentation on global warming to justify such policies. This has been done without giving the same platform to opposing points of view, a one sided practice that is scary, unfair and dumb.

            One may ask what motivation McKibben has for providing anything but an objective analysis. In response to such a question, I would suggest the following:

            Go to Amazon.com and view the incredible library of books McKibben has authored, is promoting and profiting from. The more he speaks out on the dangers of global warming, the more books he sells.

            Next go to Google and search the speaker bureaus to see the vast global warming speaking business McKibben is nurturing and profiting from. Again, the more he can raise the temperature on global warming with his rhetoric, the more speeches and higher fees he can generate.

            Get it……once again, its about the money.

            So here we have an activist/ lobbyist addressing the legislature and the entire state via media coverage on global warming. Efforts such as these nicely advance his book and public speaking businesses without any mention of how he is personally benefiting from promoting the dangers of global warming.

            Most in Montpelier apparently have yet to figure McKibben out, or are wont to say anything out of fear of being called climate deniers. Maybe the profit driven motivation of Bill McKibben’s lobbying should be of concern to all as it is abetting the dynamiting of mountaintops, defacing our roadways and much more with little to no improvement in air quality in return.

            In the hierarchy of lobbyist malevolence, Mckibben alone seems to make ALEC look like is rank amateur operation in Vermont.

          • Lee Russ :

            As I said, if it doesn’t bother you, it doesn’t bother you. But it most certainly is not part of representative government, or at least not of representative government that represents the people.

            If you’re worried about polluted air in any sense, ALEC is not your friend. If you’re worried about corporate power and control, ALEC is or should be your enemy. If you’re worried about deception and manipulation of government, ALEC is or should be your enemy. The fact that there are plenty of other problems with government doesn’t change that.

            I suspect you don’t know enough about ALEC to appreciate its fundamental danger. Given the money and influence that ALEC wields, that fact alone is a testament to how successful ALEC has been.

  13. “ALEC’s membership is kept secret. Its meetings are held in secret. Its deliberations and procedures are secret. The origin and content of its planned bills are held secret. The end impact however is no secret: ALEC promotes an extremist brand of “conservatism” (probably a misnomer) aimed at undermining the general welfare and constitutional social democracy.”
    It’s hard to not be suspicious of “secret” organizations, from the Freemasons to Skull & Bones, to the Bilderbergers. This one is no exception, especially regarding “origin and content”. However, my caution lights begin to flash when seeing the U.N. writer’s choice of fear mongering words. “Extremist” conservatism? “Undermining the general welfare”? And how’s about “constitutional social democracy”? Last I knew, we live in a constitutional REPUBLIC with democratically elected representatives. We do NOT live in a democracy that would allow the 51% to bleed us dry, although their death by a thousand cuts via those they blindly elect seems to be doing a good job of it so far.
    “ALEC’s model legislation includes: reducing taxation on corporations and wealthy individuals, voter suppression aimed at the 60 percent, minimizing environmental protection, obstructing public programs, privatizing or dismantling Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid and promoting unregulated gun rights.
    1-reducing taxation is a GOOD thing—if applied equally to all. Consider the abolishment of the Federal Reserve AND the IRS with its zillion page tax code, and instituting a Flat Tax on ALL income, with Zero Deductions. Abolishing the Fed, restoring our money system with a currency solidly backed by gold, and dismissing the bogus debt to the Federal Reserve banksters who create from thin air the “money” they loaned us—and to themselves, to buy our debt– would go a long way toward restoring the United States from the debtor nation it has become since 1913, when the cancerous growth in this once great and prosperous nation began with the plots hatched at Jekyll Island.
    2-voter suppression—engaged in by BOTH major parties. See http://www.votefraud.org for more info.
    3-ah, yes, the environment card—Aside from the aerial spraying, chemtrails, or whatever else you may choose to call it, we enjoy these days some of the cleanest air in the world – if you discount those days when the ocean currents and jet stream carry Fukushima’s radionuclides and airborne Chinese industrial pollution to our continent—even to Shumlin-topian Vermont. I’m certain you must be aware that those stringent industrial emissions standards “enjoyed” by power generators here simply do not apply in China – and elsewhere. The Chinese have also polluted with heavy metals some 20% of their precious arable farmland and their rivers and waterways to toxic levels. Bought any veggies, rice, or fish from China lately? Not to worry though; the Trillions they hold of our debt will enable their buying up of U.S. crop land while the dollar still holds value so that feeding the hogs at the largest U.S. pork producing conglomerate they recently closed the deal on will not be problematic—and still have some left to buy other choice real estate.
    4- obstructing public programs—broad and ambiguous; some careful thought might bring to mind some that could stand being obstructed—like BarryCare.
    5-, privatizing or dismantling Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid—an idea with merit simply because of the graft, fraud and waste inherent in every government program.
    6- and promoting unregulated gun rights—Now who can argue with following the fundamental law of the land? I mean, what part of “shall not be infringed” is incomprehensible to that U.N. idiot?
    Dos vedanya, comrade

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