By Ruth Conniff on May 17, 2012

At a press conference in the ornate Assembly chamber in the Wisconsin state capitol building today, Lisa Graves of the Center for Media and Democracy told reporters how the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has hijacked the state legislature in Wisconsin.

A new Center for Media and Democracy report details the use of ALEC "scholarships" that pay for state legislators to fly to resorts and be "wined and dined" with their families," as Graves put it, by corporations that hope to extract legislative favors in return for these junkets.

Graves and Jay Heck of Common Cause Wisconsin used the term "money laundering" to describe the way corporations pay for individual legislators' "scholarships" to attend ALEC's luxury conferences, funneling the money through an "ALEC scholarship fund" so individual legislators can claim ignorance of which corporation is covering the expenses.

Graves and Heck called on Wisconsin Attorney General J. B. Van Hollen to investigate ALEC lobbying activities. Because the group is a 501(c)3 nonprofit, it is forbidden by law from engaging in lobbying.

"I know lobbying when I see it, and this is definitely lobbying," Graves said.

ALEC scholarships to state legislators "undermine Wisconsin's reputation for clean government and the strict ethics rules designed to protect the voices of Wisconsin residents in our state's democracy," said CMD law fellow Brendan Fischer, the who wrote the Center's ALEC report.

Heck pointed out that at least 49 out of 102 state legislators in Wisconsin are ALEC members.

When he first moved to Madison in 1988, Heck said, there was a scandal on the front page of state newspapers that involved five state legislators who accepted free Green Bay Packers tickets and train rides. Wisconsin legislators are forbidden by the state's strict ethics code from accepting a cup of coffee from a lobbyist.

"How can ALEC fly legislators and their families to resorts?" he asked, calling on the Government Accountability Board to look into the ALEC junkets.

Graves reeled off examples of boilerplate legislation drafted by ALEC's corporate members and sent home with state legislators at the group's conferences: legislation that would protect pharmaceutical companies from liability if their drugs kill people, and require a legislative supermajority for any tax increase.

"Often Wisconsin legislators don't even bother to change the names of these ALEC bills when they introduce them," Graves said.

Among the report's key findings:

• More than $276,000 in campaign contributions were made to ALEC legislators in Wisconsin from ALEC corporations in the past three election cycles.

• More than $406,000 in campaign contributions were made to ALEC alumnus Governor Scott Walker from ALEC corporations over the same time period.

• 32 bills or budget provisions reflecting ALEC model legislation were introduced in Wisconsin's 2011-2012 legislative session

These include:

the ALEC Castle Doctrine Act,

the ALEC Voter ID Act,

the ALEC Drug Liability Act,

the ALEC Freedom of Choice in Health Care Act,

the ALEC Joint and Several Liability Act,

the ALEC Punitive Damages and Standards Act,

the ALEC Product Liability Act.

For a detailed list of the Wisconsin bills and ALEC templates, the top recipients of ALEC corporate member donations, and a list of top ALEC donors to Wisconsin Legislators, check out the full report at: ALECexposed.org.

If you liked this article by Ruth Conniff, the political editor of The Progressive, check out her story "Wis. Recall: Dubious polls/DNC foot-dragging."

Follow Ruth Conniff @rconniff on Twitter

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Capitalism is the enemy, and the ideology of growth and dominion over the Earth.

 

South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham recently joined many of his Republican colleagues, declaring that...

John Kerry used two weak arguments to justify President Obama’s war-making.

By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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