Our Common Good

abaldwin360:

As the Supreme Court readies to announce their decision on the individual mandate portion of the health reform, it has emerged that the largest health care lobbying group in the country spent a total of $102.4 million in just 15 months to prevent Obamacare from becoming law in the first place.

In 2009 alone, America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) pumped $86.2 million into a conservative lobbying group, the US Chamber of Commerce, to combat President Obama’s health care reform plan. But with the added months of 2010 prior to the ACA’s March passage, AHIP piled on an additional $16 million to be used against the bill.

That staggering total, which the National Journal’s Influence Alley uncovered today, was not out in the open — rather, the funds were transferred through a secretive process and listed only by the organization as ‘advocacy’ spending

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anonymissexpress:

from the funny-stuff dept, by Mike Masnick, Apr 27th 2012

I recently gave a talk at the Innovate/Activate conference, where I discussed where the copyright lobby had been super successful, and where it seemed some of their weaknesses were. One thing I pointed out was that they had completely lost the hearts and minds of the public — and no matter how hard they tried, they were unable to muster up any kind of public or grassroots support. As an example, I showed a photo of the massive street protests against ACTA in Poland, and questioned what a pro-ACTA demonstration might look like. Well, bizarrely, it appears that some in the Copyright Lobby had decided to try to put on a pro-ACTA demonstration… but they needed to hire people to act as ACTA supporters. Of course, when you seem to think — as the industry often appears to — that the only motivating factor possible in the world is monetary exchange, perhaps this isn’t that surprising.

Copyright Lobby Tries To ‘Hire’ Demonstrators, Since The Public Refuses To Rally In Support Of ACTA | Techdirt

Despite its generally low profile, ALEC has drawn scrutiny recently for promoting gun rights policies like the Stand Your Ground law at the center of the Trayvon Martin shooting case in Florida, as well as bills to weaken labor unions and tighten voter identification rules. Amid the controversies, several companies, including Coca-Cola, Intuit and Kraft Foods, have left the group.

Most of the attention has focused on ALEC’s role in creating model bills, drafted by lobbyists and lawmakers, that broadly advance a pro-business, socially conservative agenda. But a review of internal ALEC documents shows that this is only one facet of a sophisticated operation for shaping public policy at a state-by-state level. The records offer a glimpse of how special interests effectively turn ALEC’s lawmaker members into stealth lobbyists, providing them with talking points, signaling how they should vote and collaborating on bills affecting hundreds of issues like school vouchers and tobacco taxes.

The documents — hundreds of pages of minutes of private meetings, member e-mail alerts and correspondence — were obtained by the watchdog group Common Cause and shared with The New York Times. Common Cause, which said it got some of the documents from a whistle-blower and others from public record requests in state legislatures, is using the files to support an Internal Revenue Service complaint asserting that ALEC has abused its tax-exempt status, something ALEC denies.

“We know its mission is to bring together corporations and state legislators to draft profit-driven, anti-public-interest legislation, and then help those elected officials pass the bills in statehouses from coast to coast,” said the president of Common Cause, Bob Edgar.“If that’s not lobbying, what is?”

[…]

ALEC, which is registered as a public charity under section 501(c)(3) of the tax code, traces its roots to 1973, when the conservative activist Paul M. Weyrich and several other Republicans sought to create a state-level clearinghouse for conservative ideas. Although its board is made up of legislators, who pay $50 a year to belong, ALEC is primarily financed by more than 200 private-sector members, whose annual dues of $7,000 to $25,000 accounted for most of its $7 million budget in 2010.

Some companies give much more, all of it tax deductible: AT&T, Pfizer and Reynolds American each contributed $130,000 to $398,000, according to a copy of ALEC’s 2010 tax returns, obtained by The Times, that included donors’ names, which are normally withheld from public inspection. The returns show that corporate members pay stipends — it calls them “scholarships” — for lawmakers to travel to annual conferences, including a four-day retreat where ALEC spends as much as $250,000 on child care for members’ families.

At the conferences, internal records show, representatives of corporations sit with legislators on eight task forces dealing with issues like telecommunications, health care and product liability. (ALEC announced last week that it was disbanding a ninth task force on public safety and elections, which was the focus of much of the recent scrutiny of the group.) Each task force is led by a legislator and someone from the private sector. Corporate members in recent years have included Bank of America, Walmart, Verizon, Microsoft and Connections Education, an online learning company.

The task forces develop model bills that legislators then introduce in their home states. The provenance of those bills is not always apparent to those being asked to vote on them. But minutes of task force meetings, not available to the public, show how some of the bills were produced and who within ALEC sponsored them.

[…]

ALEC’s bylaws also grant its corporate members greater power over task force appointments. They say lawmakers can be removed from a task force leadership position for any reason, while private-sector members can be removed only “with cause,” like nonpayment of dues.

Beyond creating model bills, ALEC keeps careful track of state legislation, as well as national issues, and tries to mobilize its lawmaker members to take action. Aides on ALEC task forces keep detailed, color-coded spreadsheets on “good bills” and “problematic bills” in all 50 states, and they regularly send e-mails to alert legislators about ones that ALEC opposes or supports.

ALEC also sends talking points to its lawmakers to use when speaking publicly about issues like President Obama’s health care law. Last month, on the day that Supreme Court arguments on the law began, ALEC sent an e-mail to legislators with a bullet-point list of criticisms of it, to be used “in your next radio interview, town hall meeting, op-ed or letter to the editor.”

Alan P. Dye, a lawyer for ALEC, acknowledged that the group’s practice of communicating with lawmakers about specific bills could meet the federal definition of lobbying, if not for an exception that he said applied when such interactions were a result of “nonpartisan research and analysis.” ALEC simply offers independently produced material for elected officials to consider, Mr. Dye said.

There is a lot more - you should take the time to read it all.

The White House said Thursday it launched a new website, Ethics.gov, to promote government transparency.

The new website fulfills a campaign promise made by President Barack Obama to centralize ethics and lobbying information for voters. At its launch, the website pulls together White House visitor records, lobbying disclosure data, ethics travel reports, contribution and committee reports from the Federal Election Commission and foreign agent registry information from the Justice Department.

from 2002:

So most people would be shocked to find that the Komen Foundation helped block a meaningful Patients Bill of Rights for the women it has purported to serve since the group began in 1982.

Despite proclaiming herself before a 2001 Congressional panel as a “patient advocate for the past 20 years,” demanding access to the best possible medical care for all breast cancer patients, Federal Election Commission records show the Komen Foundation and its allies lobbied against the consumer-friendly version of the Patients Bill of Rights in 1999, 2000 and 2001. Brinker then trumpeted old friend George W. Bush in August 2001 for backing a “strong” Patients’ Bill of Rights, while most patient advocates felt betrayed.

[…]

But, Weiner continued, it’s wrong for Komen’s literature, Web site, and public statements to feature a central figure like Nancy Brinker — or Norman Brinker for that matter — while omitting relevant parts of their lives such as seats on boards of private cancer treatment corporations, stock interests, lobbying ties or their political activism as GOP darlings. Weiner said, “If a charity is making recommendations to the public regarding health care among other things, and if they have ties to the industry, then the public needs to be able to objectively use that information.”

Twenty-five of the 100 highest paid U.S. CEOs earned more last year than their companies paid in federal income tax, a pay study said on Wednesday.

It also found many of the companies spent more on lobbying than they did on taxes.

But we are supposed to be angry about “greedy unions” and how much teachers are paid. 

The ABA recommends that Congress amend the Lobbying Disclosure Act to enact a two-year ban on lobbyists engaging in fundraising efforts for members of Congress they lobby, and narrow the lobbying reporting threshold from 20 percent of one’s professional work to a “reasonable,” but unspecified percentage.

The ABA also recommends that “lobbying support” activities that are not currently matters of public record — strategizing and polling, for example — be disclosed.

“These are common sense solutions to restore the faith of citizens in their elected officials by bringing the business of government out into the sunlight,” said Trevor Potter, a former John McCain legal adviser and FEC commissioner who heads the Campaign Legal Center and served as co-chairman of the ABA’s lobbying regulation task force.

Other ABA recommendations include:

* Banning lobbyists from soliciting campaign contributions to the reelection campaign of a member of Congress “whom the lobbyist has been retained to lobby for an earmark or other narrow financial benefit.”

* Banning lobbyists from entering into a contingent fee contract with a client to “lobby for an earmark or other narrow financial benefit for that client.”

* Transferring Lobbying Disclosure Act enforcement to a “suitable administrative authority and empower that agency to utilize appropriate tools such as rulemaking, investigation, and imposition of civil or administrative penalties.”

mgolladwyne:

Yesterday, the Justice Policy Institute (JPI) released a report chronicling the political strategies of private prison companies “working to make money through harsh policies and longer sentences.” The report’s authors note that while the total number of people in prison increased less than 16 percent, the number of people held in private federal and state facilities increased by 120 and 33 percent, correspondingly. Government spending on corrections has soared since 1997 by 72 percent, up to $74 billion in 2007. And the private prison industry has raked in tremendous profits. Last year the two largest private prison companies — Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and GEO Group — made over $2.9 billion in revenue.

JPI claims the private industry hasn’t merely responded to the nation’s incarceration woes, it has actively sought to create the market conditions (ie. more prisoners) necessary to expand its business.

According to JPI, the private prison industry uses three strategies to influence public policy: lobbying, direct campaign contributions, and networking. The three main companies have contributed $835,514 to federal candidates and over $6 million to state politicians. They have also spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on direct lobbying efforts. CCA has spent over $900,000 on federal lobbying and GEO spent anywhere from $120,000 to $199,992 in Florida alone during a short three-month span this year. Meanwhile, “the relationship between government officials and private prison companies has been part of the fabric of the industry from the start,” notes the report. The cofounder of CCA himself used to be the chairman of the Tennessee Republican Party.

The impact that the private prison industry has had is hard to deny. In Arizona, 30 of the 36 legislators who co-sponsored the state’s controversial immigration law that would undoubtedly put more immigrants behind bars received campaign contributions from private prison lobbyists or companies. Private prison businesses been involved in lobbying efforts related to a bill in Florida that would require privatizing all of the prisons in South Florida and have been heavily involved in appropriations bills on the federal level.

Tracy Velázquez, executive director of JPI recommends that we “take a hard look at what the cost of this influence is, both to taxpayers and to the community as a whole, in terms of the policies being lobbied for and the outcomes for people put in private prisons.”

Fuck capitalism!

It’s kind of funny that a bunch of rich people can band together and form a corporation, and that’s called ‘Free Enterprise’, but when workers do it, they call it Communism. Isn’t that weird?

Roseanne Barr (via leftish)

“It is essential that there should be organization of labor. This is an era of organization. Capital organizes and therefore labor must organize. ” -Theodore Roosevelt

(via letterstomycountry)

Corporations also organize together under the U.S. Chamber of commerce and the various industries organize under industry umbrellas like AHIP for the American Health Insurance group or the American Petroleum Company for Exxon and Shell, etc.    There are a lot of “unions” for those with the money - and they organize together to get the best deals they can from Congress at the expense of the taxpayer.  Citizens themselves have very few option and nothing with the same power and money.