Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Possible Culprit



Ever Hear of the American Legislative Exchange Council? Chances are that you and most of America have not. It's not important to them that you do...But this group might be responsible for why some us have to have a photo ID when we go to vote in November.

According to a report I was privy to today, it seems as though a growing number of conservative Republican state legislators worked fervently during the past two years to enact laws requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls. No surprise there!

Wait! There is more...These Republican Lawmakers proposed 62 photo ID bills in 37 states in the 2011 and 2012 sessions, with multiple bills introduced in some states. Ten states (including the one I live in) have passed strict photo ID laws since 2008, though several may not be in effect in November because of legal challenges.

More than half, half of the 62 bills were sponsored by members or conference attendees of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a Washington, D.C., tax-exempt organization. A semi secret right wing think tank.

ALEC has nearly 2,000 state legislator members who pay $100 in dues every two years. Most of ALEC’s money comes from nonprofits and corporations — from AT&T to Bank of America to Chevron to eBay — which pay thousands of dollars in dues each year. Think about that folks! All of us patronize these companies...This is what their CEO's think of you and how this country should be run.

“I very rarely see a single issue taken up by as many states in such a short period of time as with voter ID,” said Jennie Bowser, senior election policy analyst at the National Conference of State Legislatures, a bipartisan organization that compiles information about state laws. “It’s been a pretty remarkable spread.”


A strict photo ID law, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, requires voters to show photo ID or cast a provisional ballot, which is not counted unless the voter returns with an ID to the elections office within a few days. Less-strict laws allow voters without ID to sign an affidavit or have a poll worker vouch for their identity — no provisional ballot necessary.

The flurry of bills introduced the last two years followed the 2010 midterm election when Republicans took control of state legislatures in Alabama, Minnesota, Montana, North Carolina and Wisconsin. The same shift occurred in the 2004 election in Indiana and Georgia before those states became the first to pass strict voter ID laws.

ALEC members drafted a voter ID bill in 2009, a year when the 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization had $5.3 million in undisclosed corporate and nonprofit contributions, according to Internal Revenue Service documents.

At ALEC’s annual conferences, legislators, nonprofits and corporations work together without direct public input to develop bills that promote smaller government.
The group’s Public Safety and Elections Task Force at the 2009 Atlanta meeting approved the “Voter ID Act,” a photo ID bill modeled on Indiana and Georgia laws.

The task force convened in committees at the downtown Hyatt Regency Atlanta that July. Arkansas state Rep. Dan Greenberg, Arizona state Sen. Russell Pearce and Indiana state Rep. Bill Ruppel (three Republicans who thankfully are now out of office) led drafting and discussion of the Voter ID Act.

Critics of photo voter ID laws, such as the Advancement Project, a Washington D.C., civil rights group, say voters without a driver’s license or the means (a birth certificate or Social Security card) to obtain free ID cards at a state motor vehicles office could be disenfranchised...Not could be...WILL be! Let's not get it twisted!

ALEC members drafted a voter ID bill in 2009, a year when the 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization had $5.3 million in undisclosed corporate and nonprofit contributions, according to Internal Revenue Service documents.

They claim that ALEC pushed for photo ID laws because poor Americans without ID are likely to vote against conservative interests – a claim that authors of the Voter ID bills deny.  (But we of course know that it's true...You think they'd be doing this if it weren't?)

“By no means do I want to disenfranchise anyone,” said Colorado Republican state Rep. Libby Szabo whose ID bills have failed the last two years in the state’s Democratic senate.



“I can’t speak for each individual person,” Szabo said, “but it seems to me in today’s mobile society people have been able to manage transportation options for other neccessary services.”

Libby Szabo, who is, an ALEC member, (no surpise there)said she did not know ALEC had a model photo ID bill prior to submitting her legislation.

The late Paul Weyrich, a political activist and co-founder of the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, helped start ALEC in 1973. For many years, it steadily increased in state-level legislative members, developed annual conferences and had a relatively low national profile.

As ALEC grew, it began drafting and disseminating so called “model bills” that advocated free market economic ideas, such as eliminating capital gains taxes and weakening labor and consumer laws. Its website states, “Each year, close to 1,000 bills, based at least in part on ALEC Model Legislation, are introduced in the states. Of these, an average of 20 percent become law.”


This statement was difficult to substantiate until 2011 because ALEC’s model bills and membership lists were  a well kept secret. After Ohio community organizer Aliyah Rahman helped start a spring 2011 protest against ALEC in Cincinnati, someone offered her 800 ALEC documents.

Aliyah Rahman, who said she never learned the leaker’s identity, turned the documents over to the Center for Media and Democracy, a Wisconsin investigative reporting group focused on “exposing corporate spin and government propaganda,” according to its website.

The group launched a website called ALEC Exposed in July of last year.
While that site drew attention to ALEC, activist and media scrutiny exploded because of the council’s support for model bills unrelated to economic issues.

In December 2011, ColorOfChange.org, a civil rights advocacy group founded after Hurricane Katrina, began asking corporations to stop funding ALEC because of the group’s role in pushing photo ID bills.


The seeds of a more serious challenge to ALEC’s funding were planted seven years ago. Florida Republican Rep. Dennis Baxley, who in 2011 would sponsor the state’s controversial early voting and registration changes, sponsored a “stand your ground” law in 2005 that gave “immunity from criminal prosecution or civil action for using deadly force,” according to the bill’s summary.

It later became a National Rifle Association-supported ALEC model bill, and 24 other states now have similar laws, according to ProPublica.

Hmmm,sound  familiar????

II-


The February 2012 killing of unarmed teen Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Fla., brought unprecedented attention to the law. Police did not arrest his shooter, George Zimmerman, for nearly two months. That sparked national protests and led to the dismissal of the city’s police chief. Zimmerman eventually was charged with second-degree murder in April and is free on $1 million bond.

In March, ColorOfChange.org began asking ALEC corporate funders why they gave money to a group that supported “stand your ground” and voter ID laws, two controversial non-economic issues.

More than 25 corporations, including Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Wal-Mart and Amazon, have announced they would stop funding ALEC. I'm amazed that they were funding it in the first place without fully knowing what they were giving their money to (or so they say!)

“In a lot of cases, companies didn’t know the full range of what they were funding" through ALEC, said Gabriel Rey-Goodlatte, ColorOfChange.org’s director of strategy. “With voter ID, it’s possible some companies believe it’s in their business interest to tilt the political playing field in one direction, but that would be a very cynical business strategy.

“It’s one that only works if it’s done in the darkness,” he said.

Both the Center for Media and Democracy and the open government advocacy group, Common Cause, have published internal ALEC documents, including model bills, membership lists and correspondence with elected officials.

Common Cause is challenging ALEC’s status as a tax-exempt nonprofit, claiming it lobbies legislators — specifically through “issue alerts.” Common Cause claims these emails from ALEC headquarters to state legislators “constitute direct evidence of ALEC’s lobbying because they are communications that are clearly targeted to influence legislation and disclose ALEC’s view on the legislation.”

Marcus Owens, a retired director of the IRS Tax Exempt and Government Entities Division, represents a progressive church group in Ohio called Clergy Voices Oppose Illegal Church Entanglement, or Clergy VOICE. In June, Owens sent a 30-page letter to the IRS alleging that ALEC has engaged in lobbying and violated federal tax law.
But Baxley called it “a healthy thing for legislators to come together and have dialogue about bills.” He said that ALEC’s operations are similar to, though more conservative than, the bipartisan National Conference of State Legislatures. “If they share ideas, I don’t start yelling conspiracy. It’s very inappropriate,” Baxley said.

Meagan Dorsch, public affairs director for the National Conference of State Legislatures, disputed Baxley’s characterization. “I’m not sure why we’re being compared — probably because we’re two of the larger legislative organizations,” Dorsch said. “The only people who vote on our policies are legislators. No corporate members are involved.”

I smell something rotten in more than Just Denmark...I'll discuss this more tomorrow!

(To Be Continued....)

5 comments:

Arlene said...

I'll hold onto my seat until tomorrow!! You have these types pegged to the tee! We do remember that Grover Norquist said to just elect someone who could hold a pen and sign because the legislation has already been written. If they have their way both houses of congress will be filled with people who believe their "crap!" The presidency is important but look what happened here in PA when folks didn't vote in an "off" year election. We got Corbett for governor and Mike Turzai felt very comfortable handing our state over to Rmoney. (That's not a typo, I like spelling his name that way.)
Have a great day Keith!

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