Something is very wrong in the Land of Cotton



Dr. Robert Bullard
Environmental Justice Movement Founder

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

We'll Be Back Soon After a Much Deserved December Break

Alabama's state house is known as "Goat Hill," a term it has earned for its uncanny ability to be stubborn as a farm animal, and its uncanny ability to consistently pass some of the most odiferous legislation this side of a barnyard. The new year in the Montgomery legislature is shaping up to be the same old predictable, treacherous rocky terrain we've come to expect from our lawmakers, if we use the intent of the pre-filed bills as our guide to coming 2012 attractions. 

Here are just some of the of the issues on tap from the republican majority in Alabama:
  • Charter Schools
  • Corporate Welfare
  • Voter ID Laws (as if we didn't have enough already!)
  • Changing Ballot Access Requirements for Potential Candidates
  • Medicaid/Medicare
  • Private Prison Industrialization
  • Personhood Amendments
  • Constitutional Reform and Amendments
  • Drug testing for public assistance recipients

With 2012 being an election year, all elections count no matter how small they have been in the past. The Public Service Commission election, usually a low voter turnout election, will be one of the most expensive and contentious on record this year as republicans continue their "paint the state red" agenda. It's an important election because whatever the next PSC board is made of, it will stand as the only defender between the utility giants and fair rates for all citizens.

Local elections, school board vacancies and community elections will all serve to further the republican agenda in Montgomery, if the citizens blink, and don't use the only power they have left in the state--their votes.

With so many citizen's rights to trample and only three months to do it in, expect the legislators to pass many bills without reading them. (like they did last year, i.e. #HB56) They'll bend to the will of the hundreds of lobbyists swarming around the state house like flies on goat droppings.

It won't be pretty and it won't smell nice whatever gets planted on the books as law with the current herd of horn heads in charge.

The republican majority promised the citizens of this state "transparency and accountabilty" and we've experienced very little satisfaction from their empty, 'elect me' promises. In fact, their actions have often gone completely in the other direction of truth and light and straight into the mud ditch of business as usual.

But they won't hide from us, or you, our valued readers.

Thanks to all you for your support in our ongoing efforts, and here's to the next year of watchhdog journalism in Dixie from all of us at The Confidential.
*illustration by JD Crowe
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Thursday, December 8, 2011

A River of Influence Runs Through It

"Coal Ash in the Coosa Valley"
Coosa Riverkeeeper's Frank Chitwood, takes us on an eye-opening ride through a section of Alabama's Coosa River and the effects of "dirty, dirty coal" from Alabama Power's two coal fired power plants on the historic waterway

Ironically, the capture of the Coosa by Alabama Power translated into another form of pollution affecting Alabamaians--a usurping of our political process by one of the most generous political donors and strongest lobbying forces in the history of Alabama.

When Alabama Power says “It’s always on,” they’re talking about more than energy; they’re describing their tireless and unending efforts to control the Alabama legislature and our regulatory agencies, and to continue their pollution of the once-beautiful Coosa River.

Every year, when Alabama’s legislature meets, APCO’s there, a de facto “shadow government” that serves their corporate interests first, the legislature second, and the citizens last.

How do they do it? By lobbying, political influence, horse-trading, and lots of cash and favors for the people whose votes and decisions affect the people of Alabama in ways many eyes-wide-open but unseeing people don't fully grasp.

Alabama Power's 'absolute power' began over a century ago, back when the mighty Coosa meandered freely through Alabama for centuries until the early 1900's, when three men changed the course of the river, and Alabama's history forever. The vision of William P. Lay, James Mitchell and Thomas Martin, and what was to become Alabama Power, wrestled the Coosa away from the citizens of the state and imprisoned the river to the utility giant's command.

They've not been good stewards of the river despite the bounty of monetary richness the Coosa has provided to Alabama Power for decades. What we've gotten in return is the erecting of an iron curtain around Alabama, effectively shutting out any 'consumer benefits' competition in electric service providers. We've gotten pollution that ranks Alabama at eight out of fifteen for the dirtiest air in the nation according to a recent report from the Environmental Integrity Project 

And we've gotten a form of government that owes their political careers to the demands of the power company. Few politicians have shown the fortitude to stand up to the smokestack bullies and put the interests (and health) of Alabamians before the wants of Alabama Power.

During a fight over rate increases in the late 1970's, The Times, a newspaper that served the black community, ran an account of the experience of one low-income father and his run-in with the power company:
The Times, a Black Montgomery newspaper, quoted a local man, "I have four children. It was about the coldest day of the year when they (power company workmen) came out and cut off my electricity.

"I had not received a light bill. I went down to the office and wanted to pay half of my bill, and they refused me.

"I told them that I had not received my bill, and they said it was my mistake-not theirs.

"I didn't have anywhere to take my family that night, and one of my daughters caught the flu. She almost died," he said.

After that night, he said, his family began using kerosene lamps for light.
The annals of Alabama's history are overflowing with stories of that nature, stories that continue unabated in the modern day. If you're unlucky enough to fall on hard times, and have your electric service cut off, the average cost to have it restored runs upwards of $500, a huge, and often unreachable sum for most economically disadvantaged groups.

The Coosa River has a diligent watchdog in the efforts of Frank Chitwood. Sadly, the same cannot be said of the watchdog agency that serves as the only barrier between the citizens of Alabama and APCO.

The Public Service Commission (PSC) is charged with regulating APCO and they've done very little over the years to reign in the company's harsh business practices. In fact, the PSC has long been viewed as being in league with the company first, contrary to their mission statement of 'fairness' to the rate payers of Alabama.

PSC member Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh serves as a prime example of APCO's ability to influence the commission. Cavanuagh took to the editorial pages earlier this year publicly blasting the proposed EPA regulations on coal fired power plants. She called climate change a "medicine-show tonic of global warming" and made a lot of outlandish and less-than-factual statements designed to garner public support for APCO.

Her claims were based solely on a power point presentation given by APCO. Bama Fact Check researched her rhetoric and found little evidence to support any of them. Of course she's not the only PSC member to act more like an APCO lobbyist than public servant, candidates now vying for a seat on the commission are spouting off the same old tired spiel that the power company has been peddling for years.

If you were to gather up all of the 'unofficial lobbyists' for APCO in one place and then asked to pick the ones that carry 'the water' for the power company, you'd be looking at the entire membership of the Alabama legislature.

But that's the nature of coal, utility companies, politics and undue influence in Alabama--it's always on.
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Monday, December 5, 2011

Corrections Corporation of America Lobbyists in Alabama

Tobin "Toby" Bernard Roth & John W. Hagood of Capital Resources, LLC

*Updated 6/12/2012  -  Alabama Judge Says Enough With the Debtor's Prison  Roth & Hagood may not have managed to create a CCA prison in Alabama, but as the linked article illustrates, they've been doing a lot of damage in a short span of time. A record check of Judicial Correction Services in the Alabama SOS database shows the entity address as the Capital Resources, LLC Alabama office of Roth & Hagood.

"Correctional officials see danger in prison overcrowding. Others see opportunity. The nearly two million Americans behind bars—the majority of them nonviolent offenders—mean jobs for depressed regions and windfalls for profiteers." --Eric Schlosser The Atlantic

Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) has been slithering in and out of Alabama to  some degree since *the late 1990's when Hal W. Bloom, Jr. (The Bloom Group) lobbied briefly for the corporation. Fine & Geddie were next in 2006. In 2011, new players Roth & Hagood are entering the 'incarcerate for profit' game-- CCA is back, and possibly positioning themselves to profit from the "meanest immigration law in the country."

Who else in state political power will benefit if CCA becomes Alabama's next nightmare reality? Someone always does. Alabama didn't become one of the most politically corrupt states in the nation by chance-- it's an honor among elected thieves that they strive to excel at dishonor, every chance they get.

Will Alabama eventually go the way of Arizona and allow CCA to reap windfall profits from HB 56?

What happened in Arizona, in the run up to their anti-immigration law, SB 1070, gives us a glimpse into the intertwining of the Prison-Industrial Complex, the agenda of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), and the undue influence both held over Arizona's elected officials in adopting the stern immigration legislation. The same law that cost long-time AZ Senator Russell Pearce his seat in a recent recall election largely fueled by citizen outrage over SB 1070. NPR reports:
It was last December at the Grand Hyatt in Washington, D.C. Inside, there was a meeting of a secretive group called the American Legislative Exchange Council. Insiders call it ALEC.
It was there that Pearce's idea took shape.
Pearce and the Corrections Corporation of America have been coming to these meetings for years. Both have seats on one of several of ALEC's boards.

And this bill was an important one for the company. According to Corrections Corporation of America reports reviewed by NPR, executives believe immigrant detention is their next big market. Last year, they wrote that they expect to bring in "a significant portion of our revenues" from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the agency that detains illegal immigrants.
Once Pearce's bill landed on the AZ House floor sponsors jumped on and the money started to flow from CCA:
Thirty of the 36 co-sponsors received donations over the next six months, from prison lobbyists or prison companies — Corrections Corporation of America, Management and Training Corporation and The Geo Group.
Elected officials rattle on incessantly about the dangers of prison overcrowding and how "we must deal with this pressing issue" in our states, but their true motives are simpler and more devious: it's all about the money and what CCA is willing to pay to gain access to a steady flow of prisoners.

In 2003, CCA paid the State of Alabama $25,000 benefiting a PAC for former Governor Riley's 2003 Alabama Excellence Initiative Fund aka "The Riley Plan" which voters defeated by a wide margin. What was going on in Alabama in 2003, coupled with Bob Riley approving a flurry of prisoner transfers to CCA facilities in other states, gives us a hint of the power of CCA's monetary persuasion. Via AP 6/26/03:
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) -- Alabama will transfer about 1,400 male inmates to a private prison in Mississippi to help address the state's overcrowded prison system.
Gov. Bob Riley and the Alabama Department of Corrections have authorized an emergency contract with Corrections Corporation of America to send the inmates to CCA's Tallahatchie County Correctional Facility in Tutwiler, Miss., CCA said in a statement issued Thursday.
The contract with the medium-security facility will be on a short-term basis while the state develops a plan for the future, the statement said.
The state is trying to comply with two court orders to end overcrowding -- one calling for removal of state prisoners from county jails and another ordering the state to reduce the number of inmates at Tutwiler Prison for women in Wetumpka.
The state has already sent 300 women prisoners to a private lockup in Louisiana to alleviate overcrowding at Tutwiler. 
Alabama has always had issues with prison overcrowding. Those long-standing problems will only worsen with the recent state budget cuts directly impacting the state's woefully inadequate judicial system. Admittedly, there is a real dilemma with outdated facilities that are overloaded, understaffed and not serving anyone any good--staff, inmate or taxpayers.

The same taxpayers that always carry the load of Alabama's poor political decisions, have also paid dearly for Alabama's attitude of 'incarcerate, not rehabilitate' for decades, and it appears the Alabama legislature is content to lumber down that same ineffective path for some time to come.

Or is it?

With the presence of notorious GOP operative Toby Roth, and the former head of the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) John Hagood, now on the CCA payroll, there may be a change coming. There's an oddity in Hagood that reminds us of the strange circumstance of former Alabama Department of Corrections (ALDOC) Deputy Commissioner Vernon Barnett. Mr. Barnett was a Riley appointee in the ALDOC.

Barnett moved quickly from an all-but-done-deal position as the successor to outgoing ALDOC Commissioner Richard Allen, into another position as an ADEM lawyer. He figured prominently in former state legislator Greg Canfield's coal ash bill that moved at lightning speed into law. A majority of Alabama Power Company's 26 state lobbyists were hard pushers for the wrong-headed legislation. (Canfield is now enjoying a plum role as the head of Alabama's quasi-governmental economic development agency.)

It seems ridiculous that a background in corrections translates to a job in environmental management, and vice versa.The two careers seem as far removed from each other as ethics in Alabama politicians, but here once again, is a connecting path between the two departments with Hagood in the employ of CCA.

Roth, on the other hand, is a very savvy political animal with on-high powerful connections. He's not going to waste his time on anything that doesn't have big money and bigger power attached to it for him to glorify himself. His mere presence with CCA is very unsettling and indicates a high probability that something big is in the works behind the curtain, out of public view.

Hagood, Roth and Barnett all have one thing in common: deep connections to Bob Riley. Mr. Riley stunned everyone by suddenly announcing his 'new job' and beating a rapid departure to DC to become a lobbyist earlier this year. He's well-positioned to aid Roth & Hagood on the federal level in their CCA endeavors with Alabama's representatives in Congress, especially the two powerful federal purse-string pullers, Spencer Bachus and Richard Shelby. (No relation to the author.)

Alabama tried this private prison idea before in Perry County with bad results. Less than a year into the contract, Alabama had to buy the facility back from the LCS Corporation and wasted $60 million dollars in the process. The state seems poised to take another bite at the private prison poison apple, and this time they couldn't have picked a more unsavory corporate character than CCA. 

If Alabama's anti-immigration law stands the test of an expected SCOTUS challenge, violators of the law will have to be housed somewhere. We don't believe it's a series of chance coincidences that so many moving parts, with connections to other states actions, don't have the same kinds of connections in Alabama.

Here's what we do know about Alabama that gives us pause:
  • HB 56 is a bill rooted in ALEC agenda--the state legislature imposed their own draconian ideas into the final legislation creating the "meanest" immigration law in the country
  • ALEC has made strong inroads into Alabama in the last decade
  • The (Koch funded think tank) Alabama Policy Institute is firmly on-board with prison privatization
  • Senator Jabo Waggoner, an ALEC member, is in place as the chairman of the powerful Senate Rules Committee in the legislature 
Proponents of prison privatization always make the same case based on false positives: "saving thinly-stretched state budgets money," "removing a burden from the state," etc. As with other states that have bought what CCA peddles, reality eventually settles in, and the numbers game just doesn't add up for anyone involved except CCA's bottom line and a few well-lined political pockets.

*Update: Osborne Ink upload Senator Arthur Orr's SB63 bill for 2012 Alabama session
              (Rep Jim McClendon has two bills HB30 & HB36 that mirror ALEC's)
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Friday, November 18, 2011

Congressman Gutierrez Heading to Alabama With Nine Member Delegation Against HB 56


Rep. Gutierrez: "I am going to Alabama to stand with the good, decent people of
Alabama to fight back and defend what I think is right and just."

November 17, 2011

Media Contact: Douglas Rivlin (202) 225-8203


(Washington, DC) --
Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) and nine other House Democrats are traveling to Alabama on Monday for an ad hoc hearing on immigration and Alabama's HB56 immigration law.  A group of five of those traveling held a press conference today in Washington to discuss the trip.  In addition to Rep. Gutierrez, who chairs the Immigration Task Force of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, those speaking at today's press conference included Terri A. Sewell of Alabama, Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chair Charlie Gonzalez of Texas, Congressional Progressive Caucus Co-Chair Raul Grijalva of Arizona, Rep. Joe Baca of California, and Rep. Silvestre Reyes of Texas.

[Completing the delegation, but not present at today's press conference, are: Secretary of the Congressional Black Caucus Yvette D. Clarke of New York; Rep. Al Green of Texas; Immigration Subcommittee Ranking Democrat Zoe Lofgren of California; and Rep. Grace Napolitano of California.]

Details of the planned trip on Monday November 21, including the hearing in the Birmingham City Council Chambers and an evening event at the historic 16th Street Baptist Church, can be found on Rep. Gutierrez' website.

The following are the remarks of Congressman Gutierrez at today's press conference:

Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez Opening Statement as Prepared for Delivery:

As you know, a group of nine Members of Congress is traveling to Birmingham, Alabama for a series of events on Monday.

We will hold an Ad Hoc hearing at 3 p.m. in the chambers of the Birmingham City Council to hear from residents.  While some of the details are still coming together, we will have a range of people offer their testimony: local elected leaders and law-enforcement, families, educators, farmers, and small business owners and the like.

We want a range of people who fit into categories including those who were the intended targets of Alabama's law, but we also want to hear from and those who have proven to be targets, perhaps unintentionally, as the law has begun to be implemented.

After the hearing we will meet with leaders of the immigrant advocacy and civil rights community in Birmingham and across the state at a private meeting at the Civil Rights Institute.

Then we will walk across the street to the historic 16th Street Baptist Church -- the church where four little girls were killed by an assassin's bomb -- and at 7 p.m. there will be a huge rally that marks the kick off of the "One Alabama" statewide campaign to repeal the law.

I was in Alabama in October and I came back to Washington and said to my colleagues, "you have got to go and see for yourself."  In other states we have seen anti-immigration bills pass, but in Alabama it has triggered something unique.  The fear and chaos in a small, not very well established Latino and immigrant community has run deeper.  The feeling of danger and despair is palpable, perhaps owing to Alabama's history of dogs and water cannons and bombings and worse.

But that same history also gave me a great deal of hope.  All across the state I met people at rallies, at the NAACP state convention, at the Spanish language radio station, and I got a sense that the history of fighting for justice and fighting for basic rights is still alive in Alabama.

Indeed, a lot of what we know about social movements, about social change and fighting for justice, we learned from the people of Alabama less than a generation ago.

We are seeing what happens when Congress is prevented from passing immigration reform for a decade or two decades.  We see the reaction on the ground to an immigration system that is a quarter century out of date.

Ironically, the Republican Party in Alabama that pushed this law through is the same Republican Party that has actively blocked immigration reform in Washington.  And those few Republicans with whom I and Senator Kennedy and others worked with across the aisle have all drifted away from the negotiating table.

In particular, Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, in his role on the Judiciary Committee, has played a substantial role in obstructing immigration reform along with a handful of Southern Republican Senators.

In order to get control of immigration, we need to strengthen legal immigration and make sure enforcement is both firm and fair.

In order to get control over immigration we have to get immigrants who live and work here into the system and on-the-books because we simply will not deport of drive out 10 million people who have deep roots, family, property, and lives here.

But Republicans, often led by *Senator Sessions of Alabama, have prevented us from moving from the current chaos and blackmarket to a modern, efficient and legal immigration system because they think immigration is a good political football.

Perhaps more so than anyone going on this trip, I have been critical of the President because of the one million people he has deported, but I am pleased that the Justice Department is fighting against unconstitutional laws in Alabama, Arizona, South Carolina and elsewhere.  We simply cannot have 50 separate immigration laws and the Constitution is clear about that.

We will hold President Obama and Secretary Napolitano accountable for sticking to the federal policies they laid out that put a priority on deporting criminals so we can get bad people out of our communities.  That means standing up to and not cooperating with the state policies that create broad roundups based on appearance or make it a crime to work or take your children to the library.

Anti-immigration laws at the state and local level come with tremendous costs…

-- in terms of the slowed economy, businesses that fail and millions of tax dollars paid to lawyers to defend against lawsuits.

-- in political terms, these laws have changed the way America thinks about Arizona and Alabama and whether they are modern states or backward-looking ones.

-- and at the local level -- from family to family, business to business, and town to town, the divisiveness of playing politics with such an important issue carries a huge cost to the very fabric of a community.

There is a very high moral cost. 

I am going to Alabama to stand with the good, decent people of Alabama to fight back and defend what I think is right and just.

*GOP Showdown With Justice Department Over Immigration 
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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Governor Bentley "Fires Back" at NY Times Article on Alabama's 'ALEC Styled' Anti-Immigration Law

Updated 11/17
Alabama Governor Robert Bentley sat for an interview with Fox News Channel's Megyn Kelley this afternoon to respond to a November 13th NYT article about Alabama's HB 56 passed into law earlier this year. Alabama's law was modeled after Arizona's anti-immigrant law and the same xenophobic mindset was present in both state's laws from the shadowy group called ALEC.

The Fox News interview with Kelley revealed that Decatur Utilities has been cutting off electric, gas, water and sewer service to immigrant families under the guise of following HB 56. Huntsville Utilities is set to follow suit:
The human toll of the policy could be devastating, said Stephen Stetson, a policy analyst for Alabama Arise. He heard about DU’s policy Saturday while listening to a radio station playing Christmas music.
“I’m listening to these songs about charity and compassion,” Stetson said. “It struck me as a cruel and ironic policy as we head into the coldest months of the year.”
The governor feigned ignorance of that fact (the story came out 6 days ago) and repeated over and over that HB 56 "is not racist." He goes on to say that "if the federal government would do their job we wouldn't have to pass these kinds of bills."

It's compelling to note that Governor Bentley considers himself a man of God. He's bragged about being a deacon in his church and labels himself one of the compassionate Christians the state GOP party defines itself by. If the law, as he claims is not racist (debatable), then at the very least it is completely heartless, an economic disaster and utterly devoid of compassion:
“People who have their power cut off are going to be among the most disadvantaged,” he said. “It’s kicking them when they are down.”
He worried about the health ramifications of the policy and the impact it would have on immigrants’ ability to care for their children, many of whom are U.S. citizens.
“Opponents of the law see it as self-evident that the element of human tragedy is a sign the law is defective. They need to remember the law’s supporters see it differently,” Stetson said. “It’s designed to make life more difficult. By destroying households and families, it’s doing that.”
The highly controversial (and equally religious) main sponsor of HB 56, Senator Scott Beason, lost his committee position earlier today according to a press release put out this morning by Senate President Pro Tempore Del Marsh-R. Beason was given the opportunity to resign his post and he refused to do so resulting in the Senate Committee on Assignments ousting him from his powerful position.

Beason's replacement, Senator Jabo Waggoner-R, is another story of corruption out and corruption in that we''ll cover soon. In the meantime, the passage of HB 56 is widely viewed as the harshest anti-immigration bill in the country, and we believe Governor Bentley didn't do the state's tarnished image any luster by signing it.

In the following interview, Bentley comes across as meek and unable to intelligently articulate a credible argument for what he did when he signed that law. It is a law that was straight out of the ALEC legislative handbook. Kansas Republican Kris Kobach conceived Alabama's law in a turkey blind in Kansas before handing it off to Senator Beason.

Kobach (and ALEC) were also the forces behind Arizon'a anti-immigration law and many of the voter ID laws across America:
Kansas Republican Kris Kobach, who along with ALEC itself helped draft Arizona’s anti-immigration law, has warned of “illegally registered aliens.” ALEC’s magazine, Inside ALEC, featured a cover story titled “Preventing Election Fraud” following Obama’s election. Shortly afterward, in the summer of 2009, the Public Safety and Elections Task Force adopted voter ID model legislation. And when midterm elections put Republicans in charge of both chambers of the legislature in twenty-six states (up from fifteen), GOP legislators began moving bills resembling ALEC’s model.
*Update: (Kris Kobach is helping to "coordinate the state's legal strategy" for defending HB 56 and is accusing the DOJ of "overplaying it's hand" by demanding enrollment records to see how Alabama HB 56 has affected schoolchildren. Our question is: Who's paying Mr. Kobach and from what fund source?)

Where are we going in Alabama Governor Bentley and who (and what) is leading the way? Upright elected officials of high character and ethics, or men (and women) who are following the orders of the ever elusive ALEC organization? We're continuing to ask the question your office refuses to answer: Are you a member of ALEC?

It's not a tough question. Why won't your office answer it?

The same question to you, Senator Waggoner, now the head of legislation in the state legislature, are you still a member of ALEC, and how will that affect your positions on what legislation comes up and passes into law?

Alabamians deserve some transparency and answers to what the "new republicans" agenda is based in. Governor, you promised the citizens of this state "complete transparency" from your administration and that you would "not be beholden to lobbyists or special interests" during your 2010 gubernatorial campaign:
"The people of Alabama deserve a Governor who is responsive to the needs of all the people, not just the well connected.
....ensure complete transparency in the efforts of special interests to influence public policy so that voters can decide whether their representatives are serving their needs, or the needs of campaign benefactors.
I have never been, nor will I ever be, beholden to lobbyists or special interests;
I will make our state's government one of the most transparent in the country by creating a strong executive branch code of ethics for myself, all cabinet officials, and our staffs."
We believe it's time for you to stand and deliver on those promises you made to Alabamians when you stumped for our vote. From your actions in office so far, what we're seeing is you are willing to tell us what you think we want to hear, meanwhile, you're going along with ALEC's agenda and believing that no one will catch on to who you really serve.

Matthew 7:16--By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?

The jigs up Dr. Dr. Bentley. Consider yourself caught and "ALEC Exposed."

*Update 11/17: Bloomberg Business Names Alabama's Biggest Loser
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Monday, November 14, 2011

EPA Regulations Will Create New Jobs, Says American Electric Power CEO: “No Question About That”

"We have to hire plumbers, electricians, painters, folks who do that kind of work when you retrofit a plant. Jobs are created in the process — no question about that.” — Mike Morris, CEO, American Electric Power 

Think Progress reports:
What happens when the GOP mantra that environmental regulations kill jobs is proven false? In politics, that usually means doubling down on the original false argument.

Even after losing a bid to roll back EPA’s cross-state air pollution rule last week, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul vowed to keep fighting federal air pollution standards, saying that he would not “let this administration continue to pass job-killing regulations.”

But those regulations aren’t killing jobs. And as we’ve pointed out several times, strong, well-designed environmental regulations have never killed jobs. The entire anti-environmental regulation platform of the Republican party is based on a made up scenario that has somehow trumped reality.

In fact, data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that regulations are having virtually no impact on job losses. In 2010, only 0.3% of job losses occurred because of government regulation, according to the figures.

Read more here

Posted by Winger
Image credit: sodahead.com
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Saturday, November 12, 2011

Monsters, Inc.--The Horror of Child Sex Scandals

*Updated 11/14
In the wake of the shocking pedophile sex scandal unfolding at Penn State University, some sources are suggesting that it might be as big as the "Franklin Scandal." 

Never heard of the Franklin Scandal

There's a reason for that:
"Originally scheduled to air in May of 1994 on the Discovery Channel, "Conspiracy of Silence" was yanked at the last minute due to formidable pressure applied by top politicians. Some very powerful people did not want you to watch this documentary.
 "Conspiracy of Silence" reveals how rogue elements at all levels of government have been involved in systematic child abuse and pedophilia... 
When the Nebraska legislature launched a probe into the affair, what initially looked like a financial swindle soon exploded into a startling tale of drugs, money laundering, and a nationwide child abuse ring. Nineteen months later, the legislative committee's chief investigator died suddenly and violently, like more than a dozen other people linked to the Franklin case."

Warning: Graphic language and content that may be disturbing to some viewers

Craig Spence, a republican lobbyist who's mentioned towards the end of the film, was found dead in his Ritz Carlton Hotel room in 1989.

Washington Times June 29, 1989: "Homosexual Prostitution Inquiry Ensnares VIP's With Reagan and Bush"
Tom Flocco & Mary Schneider story "Bless the Beasts and the Children"

Andrew Vachss the 'child's lawyer'-- "The Difference Between "Sick" and "Evil"

*Update--Sandusky in a chilling 1987 interview talking about his 'enjoyment' of children:

Judge who granted Sandusky bail is Second Mile volunteer
Second Mile president resigns

Posted By Winger
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Wednesday, November 9, 2011

In the Company of Scoundrels

Grover Norquist and the felonious Jack Abramoff
"Abramoff would have had no value without Norquist," said J. Michael Waller, a scholar at the Institute of World Politics who followed the two men at College Republicans. "Norquist was the pivot, he had the speaker of the House as his friend, all the new leadership, all the visionaries for more than a decade."

Abramoff was convicted of fraud and tax evasion in 2006. He was recently released from prison and now he's busy hawking his new book "Capital Punishment" with includes four pages of fodder pertaining to Alabama, Indian gaming money and influence buying  His long-time friend and money funneler, Grover Norquist, emerged miraculously unscathed from Abramoff's scandalous criminal enterprise and is "living well."

Grover is continuing to wreak havoc on America's political process while earning himself a fat stipend in the process. He's still up to his old tricks that he learned from his galloping days with Abramoff, and hasn't changed his political stripes one bit--even though he really deserves stripes of the black and white hue furnished by the federal penal system.

He's a scoundrel, a mighty mouse motormouth who deceives sheeple voters, conservative groups and willing politicians with red-hot anti-government rhetoric he's paid to deliver by the biggest special interests around: the Koch Brothers. In the republican world 'special interest' is a dirty word, a scourge to be rooted out and banished from existence before it "destroys America"--unless it's on the 'right' side of the equation.

Norquist plays that fiddle with all the dexterity of Nero inciting the right wing masses to dance in rapturous approval oblivious to the fact that real democracy is burning:
Today, GOP politicians who have signed Norquist's anti-tax pledge include every top Republican running for president, 13 governors, 1,300 state lawmakers, 40 of the 47 Republicans in the Senate, and 236 of the 242 Republicans in the House. What's more, the GOP's Tea Party foot soldiers are marshaled by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor – a veteran of Norquist's farm team, who first signed the pledge as an ambitious member of the Virginia legislature. Under Cantor's leadership, Norquist's anti-tax pledge was directly responsible for last summer's debt-ceiling standoff that wrecked the nation's credit rating by leading the nation to the brink of default. "Congress was willing to cause severe economic damage to the entire population," marvels Paul O'Neill, Bush's former Treasury secretary, "simply because they were slaves to an idiot's idea of how the world works."
Grover's undue influence has managed to rope-a-dope numerous Alabama politicians into signing his infamous pledge--a pledge that demands allegiance to Norquist first, and the respective office of the promised politician last.

Some conservative outlets recognize a street fighting omnipotent thug when they see one as Joseph Farah wrote for the ultra-conservative website World Net Daily in October of 2011:
Grover Norquist represents a grave danger to the conservative movement – and thus to the future of America. In my view, if America is to be saved from the gruesome fate of its current projector, the conservative movement will need to play a major corrective role. I simply don't see how that is possible when it is compromised, infiltrated and misdirected by people like Grover Norquist who are covertly promoting an agenda that is not only unconservative but, frankly, un-American.
Alabama doesn't get it and some of our political leaders made a deal with devil by signing Norquist's pledge despite what's known about him. Farah continues:
Over many years, he has carefully constructed a power base for himself inside the movement through relationships, favors, money, introductions. His official resume looks strong. And few of those he has worked with over the years are prepared to defy him, question his funding, investigate his friendships or connect the dots of his many and varied and sometimes seemingly contradictory alliances.
The GOP party in Alabama proudly places a high priority on morals, ethics, religion and keeping the right kind of company, lest they be judged by socializing with unsavory sorts who may tarnish their carefully polished public images. Ironically, those carefully crafted images are being peeled back through Abramoff's confessions and the Norquist element, revealing the gigantic hypocrisy within their party and what really happened in Alabama:
Abramoff's book does not detail how the $20 million was spent in Alabama over the course of five years. Part of his crimes included overcharging his clients and pocketing the extra money.
Abramoff said he "war-gamed" the Alabama strategy with his partner Michael Scanlon, who also pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 20 months in prison.
Abramoff wrote that conservative activist Ralph Reed, whom he enlisted to help on the Alabama anti-gambling campaign, didn't want his "co-religionists" to know the operation was financed with gambling money.
The way in for Abramoff's scheme was to rapture the religious right and the Christian Coalition's Ralph Reed was the go to guy to pull that maneuver off successfully:
"It was obvious to me that the only way to stop Siegelman, MacGregor (sic) and the Poarch Creeks was to organize the Christians," Abramoff wrote. "Ralph could do this in his sleep."
"Our efforts for the Choctaw in Alabama were extensive and expensive, and included radio and television advertising," he wrote. "We organized scores of pastors and voters to lay siege to the statehouse and the governor's office." 
Former Alabama Governor Bob Riley (now a Washington lobbyist who's also "living well") was the brains behind anti-gambling in Alabama. Riley's connections to Abramoff's 'injun money' didn't dull the fool's gold shimmer of his own political legacy. Like Norquist, he walked away scot-free--a beneficiary of blind justice and the larger-than-life obvious corrupt behavior, deflected by "I didn't know" weak explanations:
The book does not mention the financial donations that Scanlon made to Republican groups and PACs that in turn made donations to Siegelman's anti-lottery Republican opponent, Bob Riley. Scanlon, who worked for Riley briefly in Congress in 1997, never made a direct personal donation to Riley. But Scanlon's public relations consulting firm gave more than $650,000 during that election cycle to four entities that contributed large sums to Riley's campaign. 
A half-sighted man in dark woods could have seen how unsavory that situation was. The corruption, payoffs and influence buying coupled with the complete disregard for ethics is revolting beyond the pale. Everyone involved with Abramoff is tainted. Not everyone involved with him is in jail. Or judged with the same standards the upright Christian soldiers apply to the democrats and any of their special interest groups.

This is why republicans are the epitome of hypocrisy and ridiculed for their many positions on policy matters--do as we say, not as we do. It's becoming increasingly clear to us that 'Christian' is rapidly gaining the notoriety usually associated with a four-letter word. The more the right makes excuses for, and turns a blind eye to, the systemic and pervasive corruption operating within their own ranks, the less credible they appear on anything.

So Say We The Opinion Board Of The Vincent Alabama Confidential 
*Abramoff interview with Lawrence O'Donnell 
Precursor to Abramoff book from 2009 "So Damn Much Money
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Monday, November 7, 2011

NPR--Secret 'Watch List' Reveals Failure To Curb Toxic Air

NPR and the Center For Public Integrity team up for a four part series "Poison Places: Toxic Air, Neglected Communities" kicking it off with the release of an EPA "secret watch list:"
Pollution violations at more than 1,600 plants across the country were serious enough that the government believes they require urgent action, according to an analysis of EPA data by NPR and the Center for Public Integrity. Yet nearly 300 of those facilities have been considered "high priority violators" of the Clean Air Act by the Environmental Protection Agency for at least a decade.
About a quarter of those 1,600 violators are on an internal EPA "watch list," which the agency has kept secret until now.
The report cites a "lack of modern equipment and rules" and a "system of self-reporting" as major contributors to the rampant, serial pollution that's continuing to threaten communities and lives. They're exactly right, but industry propaganda spins out fear and misinformation to the masses by claiming that increased regulation and equipment updating will result in a "loss of jobs and unnecessary rate hikes."

What these industry disinformation spin masters leave off is the documented increase in costs to Americans for health care, higher mortality rates and the overall increasing toll on human health from less stringent regulation and oversight. These industry apologists would have us believe that profits by the polluters trump citizen's rights to clean communities.

That idea came about during the Bush era EPA which instituted a steady decrease in the value of a human life as a means to institute less regulation.

It was a big lie then and it still is now. 

Incredulously, only one Alabama company wound up on the serial offender list: Chemical Lime Company of Alabama in Calera.

Region 4 EPA recently released their 'answers' to the residents of North Birmingham in response to the Walter Energy contamination (Deadly Deception). The 'answers' and explanations from the EPA are couched in generalities and offer no real solutions to the resident's plight.

On the heels of media attention and the environmental justice meeting that occurred in Birmingham this past July, it's our postilion that no one at that meeting heard a word. Inside sources tell us that the meeting was never supposed to be public, and it only went public because of pressure from the right people in positions of influence.

The EPA acts schizophrenic at times, listens to too many voices, contradicts itself and occasionally does things that defy logic unless you're a mental patient. This may be one of those instances. Why do they seem more concerned with keeping secrets and remaining less than transparent in releasing information that serves the public good? There's no excuse for that, but we're interested to hear their explanations.

Allowing these toxic titans to self-police and self-report is inexcusable. So is misleading the public by keeping internal 'secrets' designed to protect corporate America at the expense of citizen America.
*additional reading: "Many Americans Left Behind in the Quest for Cleaner Air"
Air monitoring results N. Birmingham--locations to view data
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Thursday, November 3, 2011

Martin Bashir MSNBC--"When Elephants Rage" Herman Cain's Bull Elephant

Conservative fire brand activist, Apostle Claver Kamau-Imani, chairman of the right wing blog RagingElephants.com, throws dialectical desperation to the blind and faithful Cain followers in the following segment from Thursday's Martin Bashir show.

Apostle blasts the Democrats as "the racist party of the Ku Klux Klan" among other inflammatory accusations, while speaking at a Houston dog track, in a rally that was sponsored by the Clear Lake Tea Party.

Herman Cain was the keynote speaker.

“They’re the racists, not us,” bellows the 'Christian' Apostle, alluding to the Democratic party’s past affiliation with Jim Crow and segregation. What he leaves out is that once President Johnson signed the Civil Rights legislation Act of 1964, the democrats and Dixiecrats migrated to the republican party in droves driven by the ideology of the Southern Strategy.

Never waste a good chance to obfuscate truth when it serves your political smoke and mirror show eh, Mr. Claver Kamaui-Imani?

It was an appalling spectacle of epic proportions and it gives us a clear view of which side of the political aisle modern day political racial intolerance truly lies.

From the Clear Lake Tea Party "Raging Elephants" August 2011 "Campaign Boot Camp"
What does the complexion of this room say?
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Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Power & People - The Koch Brothers and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)

*Updated November 4: Salon.com "The Third Koch Brother?" (VIDEO)

There’s a cancer spreading through Alabama--a cancer that's poisoning our political and judicial process with the ideologies of the Koch Brothers. It advances unchecked through their legislative arm known as the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the ubiquitous Koch political heavy Grover Norquist, author/enforcer of the "No New Taxes Pledge" signed by overwhelming amounts of republican and Tea Party candidates.

Alabama has 35 confirmed signers of Norquist's 'I own your political future' oath.

The Koch's, Norquist and ALEC disseminate their ill ideas primarily through the Tea Party, but the GOP frequently acts in conjunction with the metastasizing of this sickness through the powerful political kingmaker and Jack Abramoff associate Norquist.  

The sweep of the Alabama state house and all three branches of Alabama's government by the republicans in 2010 was not a fluke. Maybe the best question to ask is : Was it a Koch induced event?

Let's review on who these forces are that are dominating the US and state political landscapes:
"ALEC and the Kochs often pursue parallel tracks. Just as ALEC “educates” legislators, Koch funding has helped “tutor” hundreds of judges with all-expenses-paid junkets at fancy resorts, where they learn about the “free market” impact of their rulings. But ALEC also operates like an arm of the Koch agenda, circulating bills that make their vision of the world concrete. For a mere $25,000 a year, Koch Industries sits as an “equal” board member with state legislators, influencing bills that serve as a wish list for its financial or ideological interests.
It’s a pittance for the Kochs but far out of the reach of working Americans. Ordinary citizens rely on our elected representatives’ efforts to restore what’s left of the American Dream. But through ALEC, billionaire industrialists are purchasing a version that seems like a real nightmare for most Americans."
The Nation--August 2011 "ALEC Exposed: The Koch Connection"

Here's another glimpse of ALEC's 2011 New Orleans Convention, at least as much as they would allow anyone to see that is:

Democracy as we know it faces a grim prognosis. Alabama's fate of true representative government fares no better with the explosion of these forces in our political system.

ALEC's Alabama Influences

In the early 2000's, state political members of ALEC were low (at least in the public eye) and confined to the verification of the only two confirmed members: State Senator Jabo Waggoner-R and previous Alabama State Representative Bob McKee-R (former ALEC State Chair.) There were probably others in that time frame, like ALEC lifetime member *"the Godfather" State Representative Victor Gaston AL-D 100 and Steve French-R, the former senator from Mt. Brook, but for the most part, ALEC's presence in the state seemed to really explode in the mid to late 2000's.
*(section three--"Victor Gaston to Mike Hubbard: Shape Up"

That's right about the time the republicans, through House Speaker Mike Hubbard and the ALGOP, began to concentrate their efforts in earnest to unseat the state house from 136 years of democratic rule. The birth of the Tea Party in 2004 aided these often clandestine maneuvers by aligning themselves with (and essentially taking over) ALGOP operatives to ensure that Tea Party minded candidates dominated the 2010 state elections.

It was a plan that was years in the making and executed with all the precision of a well-honed (and funded) political machine that had phenomenal payoffs. It also heralded in a quick buyer's remorse--voter dissatisfaction has steadily increased with the newly anointed kings in the state house fast and loose playing with accountability.

Taxpayers are feeling shorted on the new state ethics laws. They don't believe they got what they paid for when former Governor Riley tapped their tills to the tune of an estimated $500,000 for a special session to enact this legislation in his waning days of office.

Ethics and Alabama politics wouldn't recognize each other if both of them were wearing  foot-high name tags. We take our corruption seriously here in Dixie and it's the way things have always been--pay to play, misbehave, violate the public's trust and you'll go far. Governor Riley became the first governor in the history of Alabama to become a federal lobbyist, and his client list includes some of the same interests he passed millions to while in office.

Another story broke in October of 2011, based on a report from the Center For Responsive Politics, that the Poarch Creek Indians (the only Indian gaming in the state) had funneled $550,000 to the state Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC) for the 2010 state elections. $200,000 of that sum was donated in January of 2010, after the "platinum standard" new ethics laws were passed, supposedly outlawing that kind of political persuasion.

Were these new ethics laws an attempt to conflate republican and Tea Party public personas and enacted solely to further erode democratic power in Alabama? Judging from the after-the-fact movements of the new republican majority, the answer, in true Koch philosophy, seems to be 'yes.'

The republicans wasted no time de-fanging the political clout of the state teacher union (AEA), and ending numerous programs to Alabama's disadvantaged, cutting funding to child advocacy groups, while stumping for special interests wants. They gifted more tax credits to big business, and set about growing government through governor appointed committees galore, adding additional 'friends and donors' to the state payroll.

(And let's not forget that one big trick that House Speaker Hubbard and Senate President Pro Tem Leader Del Marsh tried, in the wake of the Gabrielle Giffords shooting, proposing to disallow citizens in the state house when the legislature was in session that really riled Alabamians. So much so, that Hubbard and Marsh were forced to quickly abandon the idea, but it was fine with them if the people were cut off from access to lawmakers.)

Former State Finance director David Perry echoes the words that the Koch's love to hear:
Perry defended the governor’s choice of appointees to the Commission on Improving State Government, which includes several CEOs and business figures, but no representatives from education or anti-poverty groups.
Some of “these CEOs have done more to help the poor than some of those advocates that have devoted 100 percent of their lives to helping the poor,” he said.
The new ethics laws also made sure that the AEA could no longer draft union fees from its member's paychecks. Republican control in Alabama had a nemesis in the form of former AEA head Paul Hubbert and he had to be neutralized. The republicans went a step further and forced out one of the most powerful men in Alabama politics. Hubbard later revealed he had debilitating health problems that played a large role in his "early retirement."

We think it's compelling to examine two of the players, who went along with that expensive special session, and rewriting the ethics laws, for the purposes of our discussion on ALEC and Koch influence.

Shelby County--Root of All ALEC?

State Senator Cam Ward-R AL-D 14 and the Alabama Policy Institute (involved with ALEC since 1992) both praised the calling of the special session by Bob Riley. Senator Ward is a confirmed ALEC member and the Alabama Policy Institute is a Koch brothers think tank, offering summer fellowships in the name of Charles G. Koch. Something interesting about the Alabama Policy Institute that we also discovered was their ties to the State Policy Network, Donors Trust and an affiliated group Donors Capital, Inc.
Senator Ward and Texas Governor Rick Perry getting acquainted in the Alabama State House 2011
The group that is helping Shelby County, Alabama *pay for their redistricting fight, the  Project on Fair Representation, receives money from Donors Trust. An affiliated group, Donor's Capital Fund, contributes to the Alabama Policy Institute, (IRS 990 filings amounts received by API from DCF: 2008-$315,000 2009-$170,000) which is under the umbrella of the Koch influenced State Policy Network:
*(NYT--"Is Anybody Watching?" paragraphs 5 & 6)
State Policy Network (SPN), which is partially funded by The Claude R. Lambe Foundation. Charles Koch, one of the billionaire brothers who co-own Koch Industries, and his wife and children, along with long-time Koch employee Richard Fink, comprise the board of this foundation
Shelby County is Senator Ward's home district. Shelby County is also home to one of Alabama Power's five coal fired utility plants. Through the Alabama Power Foundation, Inc. 501(c)(3) 2010 IRS filing, we note a donation of $21,387 to the Alabama Policy Institute. What was that for exactly? Only "general operating" is noted as a purpose. (2008 amount from APCO APF, Inc. to API: $27,024.00, 2009--$16,300.00)

Southern Company, the parent company of Alabama Power, counts itself among the ALEC membership according to Sourcewatch.org records "ALEC Corporations." Alabama Power is also the go-to money source for Alabama politicians and lobbyists--they spend millions of dollars in campaigns, influence peddling and are as firmly entrenched in the political and economic structures of the state as kudzu is on the southern landscape.

No matter which way you turn in this tangled labyrinth all roads lead back to a Koch.

Senator Ward is also on the Alabama Senate leadership committee that voted to keep the controversial Senator Scott Beason, sponsor of the Koch DNA infused HB-56, the harshest anti-immigration law in the country, in his position as head of state legislative agenda.  US District Judge Myron Thompson excoriated Beason and his other wire wearing politicos as 'racist and opportunistic' in an October 20th ruling issued in the wake of the Alabama bingo trial earlier this year

The state chair for ALEC lives in Shelby County: Representative Mary Sue McClurkin, who was appointed to that position, following Representative Jim Carns departure for the infamous Jefferson County Commission.
L-R: Charles Koch, Mary Sue McClurkin, David Koch

McClurkin's voting record reflects a true believer of the radical beliefs instilled in her by the brothers Koch and ALEC. She even voted against repealing the food tax on groceries, an unfair tax burden that hits low-income Alabamians the hardest. It's been a topic of scorn for years, adding fodder to the critics decrying of Alabama's regressive tax system which works against the disadvantaged in favor of the advantaged.

When you live in a gated community that's 98% Caucasian, with a median home price of $341,879 dollars, it's not difficult to imagine how you may become a little out of touch with the average working stiff. But it's tragic nonetheless that Ms. McClurkin is so consumed by ideological thinking, that her self-professed strong Christian principles don't allow her a bit more empathy for her fellow man when voting on legislation that has real consequences for a large segment of the population.

Financial Planning--Corporate Alabama Is Covered. Are you?

We're curious about McClurkin's ALEC corporate co-chair, Rosemary Elebash, State Director of the National Federation of Independent Business--what's the relationship between Elebash, Greg Powell and wealth growing? It seems a tad off-putting and odd that a state employee is involved with a financial planning outfit.

Perusing Fi-Plan Partners Greg Powell's "giving back" list we see a few obligatory feel-good entries: Camp Smile-A-Mile, Special Equestrians are among them. It's what's above the fold that's troubling: Birmingham Business Alliance and Business Council of Alabama to name two of them. Both of these groups have strangleholds on federal, state and community purse strings (and politics) and exert far too much influence over local elected leaders for most Alabamians comfort levels. 

Still, it's not unexpected these two, Elebash and Powell, would align themselves together. Alabama's "Big Mule" team always has room for more governor appointed lackeys and lock-step mules to join the state economic swindle development team. Especially when they get to get their picture taken with the governor on the steps of the capital to boot, touting the "Full Employment Act of 2011" which provides "tax credits and tax incentives to NFIB/Alabama members."
Governor Bentley introduces the Full Employment Act of 2011 at a press conference at the State Capitol today.  From L to R, Rosemary Elebash, State NFIB Director; Greg Powell, President and CEO of fi-Plan Partners; Governor Bentley; State Representative Blaine Galliher; State Senator Arthur Orr.
It's a great concept, but with Alabama's Right to Work status who really benefits in this scenario? Governor Bentley claims that "small businesses are the backbone of Alabama's economy." It's almost obscene that giant corporations like Thyssen-Krupp and Alabama Power are among the businesses that qualify as 'small.' Both of these companies have received millions in "corporate welfare" from Alabama, and now they'll get a little more if they throw the folks a $10.00/hr job here and there.

Are we beginning to see a repeating pattern here?

Who else in Alabama administers the bad medicine of the Koch's and ALEC?

According to Sourcewatch, these members are confirmed:
Alabama House of Representatives:
Former Rep. Greg Canfield (R-58; resigned July 11, 2011 to accept an appointment to Governor Robert Bentley's administration)
Rep. Richard Laird (D AL-D-37)    
Rep. Mary Sue McClurkin (R-AL-D 43), State Chairman    
Rep. Jack Williams (R-AL-D 47)  Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force
Rep. Greg Wren (R-AL-D 75)    
Rep. Howard Sanderford (R-20) Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force
Alabama Senate:
Sen. Steve French-R
*(Thanks to sourcewatch for updating the page on Nov. 2 with additional Alabama legislators!)

We've located the additional members of Victor Gaston and Cam Ward (mentioned previously) and three other members listed on the ALEC Alumni page:
US Senator Richard Shelby-R
US Representative Spencer Bachus-R
AL State Senator Michael "Mike" J. Rodgers-R AL--D 3 

Why should we be afraid of ALEC? 

An article published by The Nation from July 2011 gives us enough clues to make proponents of citizen's rights shudder: 
In the world according to ALEC, competing firms in free markets are the only real source of social efficiency and wealth. Government contributes nothing but security. Outside of this function, it should be demonized, starved or privatized. Any force in civil society, especially labor, that contests the right of business to grab all social surplus for itself, and to treat people like roadkill and the earth like a sewer, should be crushed.
ALEC believes that anything the government does is wrong and everything private enterprise can do is better--so privatize everything--and "starve the beast" of government to brittle bare bones. Anyone who is dependent on the government for anything is out of luck because "it's their own fault they aren't rich" according to Tea Party madman and republican presidential hopeful Herman Cain.
A bespectacled and (maybe begrudging) Bill Armistead (ALGOP Chair) peers out from Cain's tour bus (on Cain's R shoulder) at a recent stop in Homewood, Alabama. Credit: Linda Stalter
ALEC's National Chair also has southern roots and comes from the hugely successful money machine of the Southern Governors Association, who has an ALEC economic report from June of 2011 displayed on their site. Southern governors are skilled loot raisers (i.e. Haley Barbour, Rick Perry, Bob Riley etc.) and the only thing that gets them more excited than money is economic development schemes (read: more money.)

NPR's Fresh Air correspondent Terry Gross interviewed John Nichols of The Nation magazine on July 21, 2011 about ALEC:
"Legislators in ALEC pay a minimal fee to join the group, while corporations pay much more — up to $25,000," Nichols says.
"But once they're in, they sit at the same table," he says. "On the board of ALEC, you have an equal number of legislators and corporate members. ... They then set up task forces to deal with topics like health care, education, election law, and you have an equal number of legislators and corporate and/or interest groups [and] think tanks in each grouping. They have to agree on any model bill or model resolution."
Terry Gross conducted a follow-up interview with ALEC's National Chairman, La. State Representative Noble Ellington, who came to the defense of ALEC and took issue with The Nation's report:
"I work for the taxpaying public, so don't assume that they're not [at the table] because they are. And we represent the public and we are the ones who decide. So the taxpaying public is represented there at the table because I'm there."
Mr. Ellington repeats the idea of a 'mandate to legislate'-something we often hear from our own elected officials, whether they are local community politicians or state leaders. The problem with that thinking is that politicians in Alabama really believe that the voter's gave up their right to complain or speak out once they pulled the lever in the voting booth.

Numerous readers of our site have told us of the great difficulties they experience trying to reach their representatives, especially if it's to complain about their representative's stance on an issue. Emails go unanswered, phone calls are serially ignored, etc. More than one citizen has relayed to us that after taking the time to visit Montgomery, once they are in their representative's office, they have had to compete with television stations blaring Fox News as they sat in front of their elected official trying to communicate with them about a concern.

(On the subject of unanswered emails: Why do Alabama politicians use their personal and business email accounts for citizen correspondence, and refuse to use a state email address, claiming they "don't have one?" Is this their way of avoiding traceable public record electronic communications that can be examined at a later date?)

One especially troubling account that we've heard was from a citizen who took the day off from work, and drove over 200 miles to meet with their representative in their state office. A television was on the entire time. When asked to turn off the television so the conversation could proceed without distraction, the newly elected senator stated: "I have to have the background noise" right before he cut the meeting short to attend a meeting with a lobbyist.

We know the people don't have much of a voice in legislation, and they surely do not have the voice that corporate and business interests enjoy, including their lobbyists, despite what Mr. Ellington claims. We genuinely hope, through this article, that people have a better understanding of what else is adding to that problem.

John Nichols has it exactly right--"the people deserve to know where the ideas for legislation come from"--whether it's a turkey blind Kansas--or an upcoming ALEC Arizona Conference in November 2011--the secrecy employed by ALEC suggests there's more to hide than reveal to the public. Nichols also says that "politicians like to be put in the same space with folks who have the ability to give money." The average citizen doesn't have the buying power of corporate interests, and as a consequence, their 'value' to politicians is relegated to election cycles.

It makes us sick as a collective whole, Alabama. Terribly, horribly and pervasively. And we may never recover if we don't excise these peddlers of Koch cancer before it's too late.

Plain talk isn't always straight talk

Our Governor, the former dermatologist, is quite the fancier of folksy sayings, and he believes, as most politicians do depending on the audience or region they're addressing, it endears him to the masses. 'Kitchen table issues' and plain talk are hard to disagree with, they fit comfortably in most ears and politicians are keenly aware of the power of the right presentation.

Governor Bentley has been schooled on the ability to appear simpler in his public persona--he carefully plays up his 'country doctor' demeanor for full effect. He's especially enamored with one phrase that he repeats, (ad nausea) to disarm his listeners, and play up his physician background giving him cover for snake oil peddler he really is: "Alabama needs a doctor and I am going to be that for the citizens of this state." 

Governor, if only the citizens of Alabama had known what your brand of medicine really was, before we elected you and your team of interns, we may have gotten a second opinion first.
* Note to readers--We realize this is a lot of information and 'heavy sledding.' 
Please bookmark, return and absorb the material. These issues are important!