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ALEC has “No Comment” on Free Markets Contradiction

6:55 am in Uncategorized by Connor Gibson

Crossposted from Greenpeace’s blog, the EnvironmentaLIST.

The American Legislative Exchange Council doesn’t like clean energy. And ALEC doesn’t care about free markets.

Like most of its operations, ALEC won’t talk about these realities in an open way. I tried at ALEC’s recent Annual Meeting in Dallas, Texas, but ALEC staffer John Eick stood by his organization’s reputation for secrecy and deflected my questions.

The question I posed references a debacle within ALEC’s Energy, Environment & Agriculture task force meeting, of which Mr. Eick is the director. Wisconsin state Representative Chris Taylor was in the meeting–not as a politician carrying water for coal and oil companies, but to provide the transparency that ALEC won’t.

Writing for The Progressive, Rep. Taylor illustrated a rare debate within the ALEC task force that has made a mission of attacking clean energy incentives and taxing homeowners who put solar panels on their roofs.

ALEC’s John Eick has referred to such self-sufficient homeowners as “freeriders on the system,” asserting they should pay monopolistic utility companies like Duke Energy for selling their excess solar electricity back into the grid.

Despite his suggestion that I arrange an interview at the appropriate time by sending an email, I have not heard back from Mr. Eick after repeated attempts.

ALEC: Limited Government, Free Markets, Federalism (all crossed out & replaced with): Corporate Lobbying

ALEC free markets rhetoric is a thin guise.

Check out how the ALEC free markets mantra is contradicted by its roster of dirty energy bills.

ALEC Doesn’t Care About Free Markets: Explaining ALEC’s Shill Bills

8:51 am in Uncategorized by Connor Gibson

Update 8/11/2014: I asked ALEC staffer John Eick about the ALEC free markets contradiction on camera, to no avail:

Today in Kansas City, Missouri, the American Legislative Exchange Council is bringing your state legislators to a closed-door meeting with corporate lobbyists to ghostwrite “model” laws to bring to your state.

ALEC Logo: Limited Government, Free Markets & Federalism crossed out in favor of Corporate LobbyingAs usual, ALEC’s latest conference will be painted with patriotic rhetoric and all of the typical buzzwords: “free markets,” “liberty,” “Jeffersonian,” “Prosperity,”…you get the gist. But in typical political & public relations fashion, these words are a feeble shell obscuring an anti-populist, Big Business lobbying campaign.

The American Legislative Exchange Council doesn’t care about free markets. I know it says it does, and I know they’re Tweeting with the #FreeMarkets hashtag today, but ALEC doesn’t honor the concept by any means. This is easily proven by the extremely narrow range ALEC’s own pay-to-pollute policies.

A simple glance through ALEC’s catalog of dirty energy bills reveals a limited range of work serving the corporations and billionaires bankrolling its operations–not exactly a genuine libertarian utopia. Of ALEC’s 25 “energy” model bills, 24 serve fossil fuel interests and undermine clean energy, as documented in full below.

This may interest ALEC’s friends who actually do care about free markets, since ALEC actively works against the concept when its member companies demand so. Case in point: tea party and free market groups like Tell Utilities Solar won’t be Killed (TUSK) are pushing back on ALEC and its monopolistic utility members for attempting to impose fees on distributed solar electricity generation.

ALEC considers people installing solar panels on their rooftops and feeding extra electricity into the grid to be “freeriders,” and will host a luncheon today to discuss how ALEC legislators can help utilities and the Koch brothers make small-scale solar electricity generation more costly.

Greenpeace just confirmed that at least six utility companies quietly dumped ALEC in recent years. These utilities made no promise to maintain disassociation but responded with a rhetorical defense of their commitments to climate and sustainability initiatives, which is completely counter to ALEC’s ongoing work.

Undeniable Anti-Free Market Trend in ALEC’s Polluter Policies

ALEC has many bills in a few narrow categories that all expand power and government resources for fossil fuel and nuclear companies, complimented by model bills to stifle competition from renewable energy and fuel interests.

How many of these ALEC bills promote renewable energy or renewable fuels? How many ALEC bills propose repeals of coal, oil, gas or nuclear subsidies?

Zero.

The closest ALEC comes is a single model bill to exempt some energy efficient appliances from state & local sales and use tax focuses on consumer-level activity rather than broad systemic issues of infrastructure, pollution reduction, 0r science-based climate policy. This means 24 of ALEC’s 25 “energy” bills are handouts to polluters.

Here’s a rundown of ALEC’s dirty energy bills, which ALEC’s staff routinely characterize in order to sell these bad ideas to the American public. Check for yourself, and call out the only thing ALEC has ever recycled: dishonesty.

ALEC bills Promoting, Protecting or Expanding the Use of Fossil Fuel & Nuclear Fuels: 16

  • Power Plant Siting Actstreamlines coal & nuclear plant construction siting
  • Resolution in Support of Energy Security, Production, Distribution, Environmental Protection and Economic Growth in the United Statesurges Congress to offer special protection to the coal industry as clean energy growths creates more competition
  • Resolution on Mandatory Electricity Consumer Disclosure Informationurges Congress to forbid mandatory disclosure by utilities of their electricity sources. This would cut off consumers’ ability to make decisions about which types of energy they prefer. For instance, a consumer wouldn’t be able to access information on an energy source’s “nonpower attributes” like pollution, carbon intensity, and fuel type, and wouldn’t be able to chose which energy sources to support. This is a way for polluting companies to reduce attention to benefits of clean energy.
  • Resolution on Best Available Control Technology For Coal-Based Electric Generation“interprets” coal pollution control laws in ways that are more favorable to coal companies
  • Utility Construction Review Actwith key provisions of Construction Work In Progress (CWIP), this bill allows utility companies to charge their ratepayers for construction projects before the construction begins, placing financial burden and risk on consumers. CWIP is most commonly associated with prohibitively expensive nuclear projects.
  • Intrastate Coal and Use Actremoves federal environmental oversight of coal that is mined and used within a single state
  • Intrastate Oil and Gas Use Actremoves federal environmental oversight of oil & gas that is extracted and used within a single state
  • Resolution on Responsible Resource Developmenta resolution pressuring federal politicians and agencies to remain absent from oil & gas fracking oversight, placing all regulatory burden on the states, which lack capacity for safe oversight.
  • Resolution Requesting that the Federal Government Confer and Consult with the States on Management of Public Lands and Energy Resourcesone of ALEC’s model policies to decrease federal control of public land. Fossil fuel extractors generally have an easier time lobbying and obtaining land through state authorities where political resources are more limited.
  • Resolution to Retain State Authority over Hydraulic Fracturing – created to block pending US Environmental Protection Agency regulation of fracking by placing oversight with state regulators, who lack capacity for safe oversight.
  • Resolution Urging Congress to End the Outer Continental Shelf Moratorium on Oil and Natural Gas Exploration and Productionputs state-level pressure on Congress to expand offshore oil drilling on the U.S. coastline and give states jurisdiction over offshore drilling near their coastal borders. ALEC “retired” this model bill at its December 2013 meeting in Washington, DC.
  • Pipeline Replacement and Infrastructure Modernization and Enhancement Actwould allow gas pipeline operators to replace pipes on the dime of electricity ratepayers
  • Resolution in Support of the Keystone XL Pipelinestate legislative pressure on Congress and the U.S. State Department to fully-approve TransCanada’s proposed Keystone XL pipeline. TransCanada Pipelines is a member of ALEC’s Energy, Environment and Agriculture task force.
  • The Disclosure of Hydraulic Fracturing Fluid Composition Actpushed through ALEC by ExxonMobil, this false “disclosure” bill actually serves to keep fracking chemicals secret from the public
  • Resolution Urging Quick Congressional Action on the Recommendations of The Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Futurestate pressure on Congress and the Executive branch to fast track a non-permanent radioactive nuclear waste disposal locations
  • Resolution Urging the President and Congress to Act Expeditiously in Procuring a Site or Sites for the Storage of High-Level Radioactive Wastestate pressure on Congress and the President to hasten finding storage sites for radioactive nuclear waste

 

ALEC bills Promoting, Protecting or Expanding the Use of Renewable Energy & Renewable Fuels: 0

  • None.

 

ALEC bills to Undermine Clean Energy Incentives or Development and promote use of Fossil Fuel and Nuclear Energy: 8

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Valentine VIDEO: ALEC Is Duke Energy’s Corporate “Dating Service”

7:28 am in Uncategorized by Connor Gibson

Crossposted from Greenpeace’s blog, The EnvironmentaLIST.

Over the last four years, Greenpeace has made a Valentine’s Day tradition of spoofing the influence peddling of corporate lobbyists and captured politicians. This year’s installment embodies the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, which reporters have characterized as a “dating service” for its role in pushing copycat, corporate-crafted laws through state legislatures.

This year, our PolluterHarmony story wrote itself. Online dating ads running on TV have featured a creepy middleman who plays third wheel on various peoples’ dates. In real life, ALEC is that creepy middleman, creating a tax-deductible process for companies to vote as equals with state politicians on bad laws that appear in legislatures around the country. This all happens with little to no disclosure, away from the constituents who elected ALEC’s member legislators.

This secretive attack on the public comes in many forms: privatizing education, weakening unions and public employee benefits, increasing gun violence, keeping legitimate voters away from the polls, denying climate change science, limiting the liability of corporations that harm people, and many other items on the Big Business wishlist.

Want examples? Check our humorous dating profiles (citing real-life events) on an ALEC senator in Ohio attacking clean energy incentives and an ALEC senator in Nebraska who was courted on a trip to the tar sands courtesy of ALEC, oil companies and the Canadian government.

ALEC has said that one of its top priorities in 2014 will be to make it harder for homeowners and businesses to put solar panels on their rooftops by introducing solar taxes on behalf of big utilities that are afraid of losing customers.

But thanks to increased public scrutiny, ALEC has struggled in recent years to avoid its own controversial shadow. ALEC’s own leaked documents confirm it has lost at least 60 corporate members and 400 legislative members, thanks to ALEC’s role in pushing Stand Your Ground laws and Voter ID legislation that keeps people with social minority status away from the voting booth.

While ALEC staff have given lip service to increased transparency, journalists like Washington Post’s Dana Milbank and Mother Jones’ Andy Kroll have shown how ALEC keeps its doors firmly shut on the public.

Even companies that are sticking with ALEC appear to be embarrassed by the association: Duke Energy has done all it can to not confirm renewed ALEC membership, ignoring repeated calls, emails and a 150,000-strong public petition delivered by a diverse coalition of organizations whose members don’t appreciate how ALEC’s bad policies make Duke appear two-faced.

Please share our video to help spread the word on ALEC, and send a message to state legislators at StandUpToALEC.org.

No Prodigal Sun? ALEC Doesn’t Want Its Clean Energy Members Back

6:58 am in Uncategorized by Connor Gibson

Crossposted from Greenpeace’s blog, the EnvironmentaLIST.

ALEC’s petrochemical companies

Leaked American Legislative Exchange Council documents published by The Guardian recently offered a glimpse into ALEC’s financial troubles, spurred by its role in peddling corporate laws through statehouses around the country. ALEC’s controversial work has caused its member companies to abandon it, such as pushing the National Rifle Association’s Stand Your Ground laws, efforts to undermine clean energy incentives and delay climate change regulations, and breaking workers unions.

The ALEC documents revealed its “Prodical Son” project [sic], a list of 41 corporate members the legislator-lobbyist matchmaker would like to entice back into its roster. ALEC has lost about 60 corporate members since 2011, the year ALEC Exposed was launched by the Center for Media and Democracy.

But there are some private sector members that ALEC doesn’t want back. 60 companies left ALEC and it’s asking 41 to rejoin…so who is missing from the Prodigal Son list?

Conspicuously, both the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) and Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) are not on ALEC’s secret Prodigal Son list. Not surprising, since an ALEC staffer accused residential solar rooftop owners of being “freeriders,” despite how they feed extra electricity back into the grid and spare utilities the capital costs of installing those solar panels themselves.

The solar trade group SEIA left ALEC in the fall of 2012. Shortly before that, ALEC’s Energy, Environment & Agriculture task force considered, but didn’t ever approve, the Solar Streamline Permitting Act (see p. 18). It’s pretty much what it sounds like–making it faster and easier for state governments to approve solar projects, a concept that you might assume ALEC’s conservative member legislators would embrace.

But ALEC didn’t pass the solar permitting model bill. At the same time, ALEC was incubating its assault on state clean energy incentives through The Heartland Institute’s proposed Electricity Freedom Act, the repeal of state renewable portfolio standards, later introduced in some form in 15 states, according to ALEC.

ALEC’s documents list SEIA among “Lapsed” members, with a note explaining “left because their bill did not pass the task force.” SEIA was ALEC’s only interest dedicated entirely to solar energy at the time, and with both SEIA and AWEA absent from ALEC’s ranks, ALEC has no members predominantly focused on clean energy development.

Check out Rachel Maddow’s recent interview with Guardian reporter Ed Pilkington for more on ALEC’s work against clean energy and other revelations from ALEC’s leaked documents:

ALEC’s Energy, Environment and Agriculture task force: Hostile Territory for Clean Energy

Members of ALEC’s EEA task force include Koch Industries, the engine of climate denial finance, not to mention many groups its billionaire owners fund and even helped create, like Americans for Prosperity, the Cato Institute and The Heartland Institute.

There’s ExxonMobil and the American Petroleum Institute, the architects of the leaked 1998 master plan to publicly attack climate science and scientists, which included ALEC itself and other ALEC members like DCI Group.

There’s Peabody Energy, which commands its PR spokespeople to deny global warming. There’s Duke Energy and Arizona Public Service, two major utilities fighting to make residential rooftop solar energy more expensive for residents and small businesses owners in their respective regions. ALEC’s utilities are joined by their top trade association, Edison Electric Institute.

And don’t forget the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, the heavily advertised “coalition that hates each other.” ACCCE was caught subcontracting groups that forged letters to Congress against 2009′s failed national climate policy.

Mining, petrochemical, utility, & agribusiness interests supporting ALEC:

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Oops! CEO of Corporate Front Network Lied to Reporters

9:21 am in Uncategorized by Connor Gibson

Last week, the Center for Media and Democracy and ProgressNow released a series of reports on how the State Policy Network coordinates an agenda carried out by affiliate “Stink Tanks” in all 50 states. Responding to questions from reporters, SPN’s CEO Tracie Sharp demanded that each of the seemingly independent groups were “fiercely independent.”

Koch Bros Caricature

Koch money is behind SPN’s state “stinktanks.”

But Jane Mayer at the New Yorker reports Tracie Sharp said the opposite to attendees of SPN’s recent annual meeting. In Oklahoma City last September, Ms. Sharp plainly told her associates how to coordinate a broad agenda and pander directly to the interests of billionaire funders like the Koch brothers and the Searle family for grants:

Sharp went on to say that, like IKEA, the central organization would provide “the raw materials” along with the “services” needed to assemble the products. Rather than acting like passive customers who buy finished products, she wanted each state group to show the enterprise and creativity needed to assemble the parts in their home states. “Pick what you need,” she said, “and customize it for what works best for you.”

During the meeting, Sharp also acknowledged privately to the members that the organization’s often anonymous donors frequently shape the agenda. “The grants are driven by donor intent,” she told the gathered think-tank heads. She added that, often, “the donors have a very specific idea of what they want to happen.” She said that the donors also sometimes determined in which states their money would be spent.

Tracie Sharp responded to the New Yorker with a generic statement that didn’t address her contradictory statements. And who knows if there’s anything useful she could say at this point, The State Policy Network was just caught with its pants down.

For those who don’t spend their days reading about the inner workings of the corporate-conservative political machine, the State Policy Network isn’t a familiar name. But it’s an important entity. SPN serves as the umbrella of ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) and all of its state and national allies pushing a coordinated corporate-friendly agenda through all 50 states.

SPN and ALEC have led the coordinated attack on clean energy in states like North Carolina, Kansas and now Ohio. Dozens of SPN groups are longtime players in the Koch-funded climate change denial movement. By orchestrating against policies to lessen global warming impacts or by directly undermining the science, SPN’s efforts have ranged from urging inaction on global climate treaties and forcing teachers to misrepresent climate science to their students.

Beyond shilling for the coal, oil, gas and nuclear companies bankrolling ALEC and SPN’s operations, these coordinated entities attack  public employee unions, wages and pensions, block Medicaid expansion, suppress legitimate voters, push to defund and privatize schools, and undermine choice in women’s health.

And who pays for SPN’s work in all 50 states?

SPN’s main purpose is to advance the interests of its corporate funders: dirty coal and petrochemical industries, the tobacco giants, agribusiness, pharmaceutical companies, private education firms, tech and telecom companies, and the usual web of trade associations, law firms and lobby shops paid to represent each of those industries. Corporations use SPN to advance political campaigns they are typically embarrassed to associate with publicly.

The State Policy Network also serves to advance an ideological agenda that tends to undermine the interests of most Americans in favor of those who are particularly wealthy and well-connected.

The Koch brothers fit this description, of course. But they’re joined by a legion of lesser known multi-millionaires and billionaires, sometimes coordinating directly with the Kochs.

These SPN funders include Richard Mellon Scaife, Phil Anschutz, Art Pope, the Coors family, the DeVos family, the Searle family, and the remains of the Bradley family fortune, to name a few of the better known of these sources of dark money. Few citizens recognize the names of this quiet minority of political puppetmasters, but people still feel the bruise of plutocratic spending as state and national politics are pushed to new extremes.

More on the State Policy Network can be read in the National Stink Tanks report. SourceWatch has the full list of SPN members and affiliates and SPN funders.

Check Greenpeace.org for more Koch Facts.

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OHIO: Koch, ALEC and Dirty Energy Co’s Attack Clean Energy Jobs

9:34 am in Uncategorized by Connor Gibson

Crossposted from Greenpeace’s blog: The Witness.

Ohio is currently fighting this year’s final battle in a nationally-coordinated attack on clean energy standard laws, implemented by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and other groups belonging to the secretive corporate front group umbrella known as the State Policy Network (SPN).

ALEC and SPN members like the Heartland Institute and Beacon Hill Institute failed in almost all of their coordinated attempts to roll back renewable portfolio standards (RPS) in over a dozen states–laws that require utilities to use more clean energy over time. After high profile battles in North Carolina and Kansas, and more subtle efforts in states like Missouri and Connecticut, Ohio remains the last state in ALEC’s sites in 2013.

ALEC Playbook Guides the Attack on Ohio Clean Energy

After Ohio Senator Kris Jordan’s attempt to repeal Ohio’s RPS went nowhere, ALEC board member and Ohio State Senator William Seitz is now using ALEC’s new anti-RPS bills to lead another attack on the Ohio law — see Union of Concerned Scientists.

ALEC’s newly-forged Renewable Energy Credit Act allows for RPS targets to be met through out-of-state renewable energy credits (RECs) rather than developing new clean energy projects within Ohio’s borders. RECs have varying definitions of renewable energy depending on the region they originate from, lowering demand for the best, cleanest sources of power and electricity.

Sen. Bill Seitz’s SB 58 takes advantages of existing provisions of Ohio’s RPS law and tweaks other sections to mirror the key aspects of ALEC’s Renewable Energy Credit Act. His RPS sneak-attack is matched by House Bill 302, introduced by ALEC member Rep. Peter Stautberg.

Just five years ago, Senator Seitz voted for Ohio’s RPS law. Now, Seitz calls clean energy incentives “Stalinist.”

Attacks on Ohio’s Clean Energy Economy: Fueled by Dirty Energy Profits

Most of ALEC’s money comes from corporations and rich people like the Koch brothers, with a tiny sliver more from its negligible legislator membership dues ($50/year). This includes oil & gas giants like ExxonMobil ($344,000, 2007-2012) and Big Oil’s top lobbying group, the American Petroleum Institute ($88,000, 2008-2010). Exxon and API just two of dozens of dirty energy interests paying to be in the room during ALEC’s exclusive Energy, Environment and Agriculture task force meetings.

Other polluting companies bankrolling ALEC’s environmental rollbacks include Ohio operating utilities like Duke Energy and American Electric Power. AEP currently chairs ALEC’s Energy, Environment and Agriculture task force.

Some of these companies (like Duke Energy and the American Petroleum Institute) pay into a slush fund run by ALEC that allows Ohio legislators and their families to fly to ALEC events using undisclosed corporate cash (see ALEC in Ohio, p. 6).

Ohio Senator Kris Jordan used corporate money funneled through ALEC to attend ALEC events with his wife (ALEC in Ohio, p. 7). With electric utilities as his top political donors, Sen. Jordan has dutifully introduced ALEC bills to repeal renewable energy incentives (SB 34), along with other ALEC priorities like redirecting public funds for private schools (SB 88, 2011), and blocking Ohio from contracting unionized companies (SB 89, 2011).

Koch-funded Spokes & Junk Data Bolsters the ALEC Attack

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REPORT: Tobacco-style Climate Denial – Greenpeace’s “Dealing in Doubt”

11:08 am in Uncategorized by Connor Gibson

Written by Cindy Baxter, crossposted from Greenpeace: Dealing in Doubt.

Who likes being lied to by people paid by the oil industry who pose as “experts” on climate change?

Did you know it’s been going on for 25 years?

In a couple of weeks, the UN’s official advisors on climate change science, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will update its global assessment on the issue. Yet in the background, more attacks on the climate science are underway.

For the last quarter century, the climate science denial machine, its cogs oiled by fossil fuel money, has been attacking climate science, climate scientists and every official US report on climate change, along with State and local efforts – with the aim of undermining action on climate change.

Our new report, Dealing in Doubt, sets out the history of these attacks going back to the early 90s. These are attacks based on anti-regulatory, so called “free market” ideology, not legitimate scientific debate, using a wide range of dirty tricks: from faked science, attacks on scientists, fake credentials, cherry-picking scientific conclusions: a campaign based on the old tobacco industry mantra: “doubt is our product”.

We give special attention to perhaps today’s poster child of the climate denial machine’s free market think tanks, the Heartland Institute, which is about to launch a new version of its “NIPCC” or “climate change reconsidered” report next week in Chicago.

Unlike the real IPCC, with thousands of scientists involved from around the world, the Heartland Institute’s handful of authors is paid. Several of them claim fake scientific credentials. They start with a premise of proving the overwhelming consensus on climate science wrong, whereas the real IPCC simply summarizes the best science to date on climate change.

This multi-million dollar campaign has been funded by anti-government ideologues like the Koch brothers, companies like ExxonMobil and trade associations like the American Petroleum Institute.

More recently, less visible channels of funding have been revealed such as the Donors Capital Fund and Donors Trust, organization that that has been called the “ATM of the conservative movement”, distributing funds from those who don’t want to be publicly associated with the anti-environmental work product of organizations like the Heartland Institute.

In the last week we’ve seen new peer-reviewed science published, linking at least half of 2012’s extreme weather events to a human carbon footprint in the atmosphere and on the weather and climate.

As the scientific consensus strengthens by the day that climate change is happening now, that carbon pollution is causing it and must be regulated, the denial machine is getting increasingly shrill. But today, while they are being increasingly ignored by a majority of the public, their mouthpieces in the US House of Representatives, for instance, have increased in number.

They’re still fighting the science – and they’re still being funded, to the tune of millions of dollars each year, to do it.

Dealing in Doubt sets out a history of these attacks. We show how the tactics of the tobacco industry’s campaign for “sound science” led to the formation of front groups who, as they lost the battle to deny smoking’s health hazards and keep warning labels off of cigarettes, turned their argumentative skills to the denial of climate change science in order to slow government action.

What we don’t cover is the fact that these organizations and deniers are also working on another front, attacking solutions to climate change. They go after any form of government incentive to promote renewable energy, while cheering for coal, fracking and the Keystone pipeline.

They attack any piece of legislation the US EPA puts forward to curb pollution. Decrying President Obama’s “war on coal” is a common drumbeat of these anti-regulation groups. One key member of the denial machine, astrophysicist Willie Soon from the Smithsonian Institute for Astrophysics, has portrayed himself as an “expert” on mercury and public health in order to attack legislation curbing mercury emissions from coal plants.

This recent history, as well as the prior history of denial by the tobacco companies and chemical, asbestos and other manufacturing industries, is important to remember because the fossil fuel industry has never admitted that it was misguided or wrong in its early efforts to delay the policy reaction to the climate crisis. To this day, it continues to obstruct solutions.

The individuals, organizations and corporate interests who comprise the ‘climate denial machine’ have caused harm and have slowed our response time. As a result, we will all ultimately pay a much higher cost as we deal with the impacts, both economic and ecological.

Eventually, these interests will be held accountable for their actions.

State Policy Network, an umbrella coordinating ALEC, Heritage, Heartland and others

11:54 am in Uncategorized by Connor Gibson

Fresh today from the Center for Media and Democracy: A Reporters’ Guide to the State Policy Network.

Close up of George Washington on money

The State Policy Network is yet another tool for Koch-based corporate influence on American state politics.

What is the State Policy Network, aka SPN? According to CMD’s report on PR Watch:

SPN officially launched in 1992 with 12 members and money from South Carolina billionaire Thomas Roe to franchise, fund, and foster a growing number of in-state “mini Heritage Foundations” (with the influence of the DC-based Heritage Foundation that Roe helped underwrite). Today, SPN has 59 member think-tank groups, and a presence in every state capitol in the nation. Some of these — like the Texas Public Policy Foundation and Arizona’s Goldwater Institute — have growing notoriety, but many others, despite their influence, are barely known by those other than state capitol insiders.

Its purpose? To produce reports, create statistics, draft talking points and “expert” testimony in support of bills, and disseminate videos along with a raft of other materials to advance a right-wing legislative agenda in the states, under the guise of being a nonpartisan, nonprofit charitable organization full of neutral scholars and academics.

But these are not academics in an ivory tower. These think tanks actually write legislation; they write materials to support their legislation; and they work closely with legislators and sometimes throw their voice through legislative talking points. They also often take to the airwaves and the Internet to give purportedly objective analysis. Their legislative agenda, often ratified via ALEC, is frequently adopted as law by states controlled by ALEC majorities — often with little or no disclosure of their role in the process.

CMD, which brings us PR Watch, SourceWatch and ALECExposed among other online transparency and advocacy tools, spent three months digging into the State Policy Network and its state-level member think tanks and national allies alike. These SPN members and affiliates range from the Heritage Foundation and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) down to Chicago Illinois’ Heartland Institute and North Carolina’s John Locke Foundation.

Through State Policy Network, these seemingly disparate entities coordinate their current attacks on unions, clean energy policies, and numerous other issues that are ultimately funded by a small group of American billionaires, millionaires and multinational corporations.

Aside from the dirty legacies of visionaries like Thomas Roe, Paul Weyrich and Joseph Coors, who founded the Heritage Foundation, SPN and other crucial cogs in the Conservative Hate Machine, we’re talking about the Koch brothers, Art Pope, Phil Anschutz, the Bradleys, the Scaifes, and the other usual suspects who have far too much money invested in manipulating our democracy to serve their narrow financial ambitions.

That’s how it seems anyway, when you’re not a multi-millionaire and don’t have the excess cash to force state politics that work for you. And that’s precisely why the State Policy Network’s mission is bad for the majority of Americans.

I recommend popping over to Lee Fang’s article on SPN in the Nation, and PR Watch‘s actual report, now the best resource on the shadowy State Policy Network.

For more on this fascinating but disturbing history, check out the Lewis Powell Memo, Lewis Lapham’s “Tentacles of Rage” article in Harpers, and the history of SPN on SourceWatch, apparently dating back to a suggestion from President Ronald Reagan.

Connor Gibson does research for Greenpeace USA. Personal opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of his employer.

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