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Overseeing Koch Profits: The Roots of David Vitter’s Green Billionaires Club Report

7:12 pm in Uncategorized by Steve Horn

Caricatures of the Koch Bros.

A deeper look at the Koch Bros ties to a recent congressional report.

A DeSmogBlog investigation reveals that Kristina Moore, the Senate staffer listed as the author of U.S. Sen. David Vitter’s (R-La.) “green billionaire’s club” report published by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW) on July 30, has career roots tracing back to the Koch Brothers’ right-wing machine.

Metadata from Vitter’s green billionaire’s club report shows Moore’s name as the author, though it remains unclear whether or not she authored it alone. Moore did not respond to a question about her authorship sent via email.

During a July 30 presentation of the report given to conservative transparency advocacy group Cause of Action, Vitter thanked Moore and several other staffers for their help putting together the 92-page document.

Moore — EPW’s senior counsel for oversight and investigations — went to law school at George Mason University School of Law, graduating in 2007. David and Charles Koch both serve as major donors to George Mason University and also endow George Mason’s Mercatus Center, where Charles sits on the Board of Directors.

While attending law school, Moore concurrently worked as chief of staff for formerU.S. Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), according to financial disclosure documents obtained by DeSmogBlog.

As a Davis staffer, Kristina Moore (then Kristina Husar), attended two Mercatus Center-sponsored retreats in 2006 and 2007, held in Richmond, Va. and Willamsburg, Va., respectively.

Husar served as the first Mercatus Fellow for Regulatory Studies. In February 2006, she wrote an article in the Small Business Advocate about attending the Mercatus retreat.

Originating as the Austrian Economics Program in the late-1970s and then hubbed at Rutgers University, Mercatus — latin for “markets” — has held annual congressional staff retreats from its inception, according to SourceWatch. The Center for Public Integrity pointed to the retreats as example of potentially illegal unregistered lobbying in a 2006 investigative piece.

The retreats fit under the broader umbrella of Mercatus’ “Capitol Hill Campus” program, which it devoted over $1.6 million to both in 2006 and 2007, according to Internal Revenue Service (IRS) 990 forms reviewed by DeSmogBlog.

Beyond Moore, a close look into the origins of and people behind the Vitter green billionaire’s club report show Koch brothers ties through and through.

Mercatus-Taught Oversight Techniques

Prior to working for Vitter’s EPW Committee, Moore worked for U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Ca.), serving as senior counsel for the minority staff of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, headed by Issa.

The Watchdog Institute revealed in a February 2011 investigation that many of the so-called “oversight” investigations conducted by the Committee benefited corporate campaign contributors.

And many of Issa’s Oversight Committee staffers, including Moore, attended Mercatus Center staff retreats. Mercatus schooled them in oversight tactics and techniques.

“In February 2009…Issa…approved a trip to a Mercatus-funded retreat for his committee staff director, Larry Brady,” wrote The Watchdog Institute. “On his disclosure form, Brady, who did not respond to an interview request, cited the purpose of the trip: ‘Provide in-depth briefings on issues of relevance to oversight investigations.’”

Daniel Epstein’s Koch Connection

Daniel Z. Epstein, executive director of Cause of Action — which did the presser premiering the Vitter green billionaire’s club report to the U.S. public — formerly served as counsel for Issa’s Oversight Committee before launching Cause of Action.

Epstein, who worked alongside Moore for the Oversight Committee’s investigations team, introduced Vitter at the event.

On the day of the release and the day after the release of the report, Cause of Action published four different items on its website promoting it, including issuing a public statement.

According to a 2009 article appearing in The Hill, Epstein served as “an associate in legal reform at the Koch Foundation, working together with Koch Industries Inc.’s assistant general counsel.”

“The job was an interesting mixture of corporate culture with an emphasis on social change — I miss that synergy,” he told The Hill at the time.

On his personal website, Epstein lists that 2008-2009 gig as “Counsel, Legal Reform at CGKF.” CGKF is shorthand for the Charles G. Koch Foundation and an in the Marin Independent Journal confirms Epstein worked there from June 2008 through January 2009.

Beyond Koch ties, Epstein also has personal financial ties that may make him averse to environmental regulations.

financial disclosure form submitted by Epstein when he worked for Issa’s Oversight Committee shows that he had (or still has) personal investments in both Dominion Resources and Duke Energy.

Both of those companies stand to lose from President Barack Obama’s U.S.Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) coal-fired power plant regulations, as both Dominion and Duke own coal-fired power plant assets.

“God bless the Koch brothers”

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Stink Tanks: Historical Records Reveal State Policy Network Was Created by ALEC

9:24 am in Uncategorized by Steve Horn

Cross-Posted by DeSmogBlog 

The Madison Hotel, DC

A 1991 report tracked down by DeSmogBlog from the University of California-San Francisco’s Legacy Tobacco Documents reveals that the State Policy Network (SPN) was created by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), raising additional questions over both organizations’ Internal Revenue Service (IRS) non-profit tax status.

Titled “Special Report: Burgeoning Conservative Think Tanks” and published by the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, the report states that State Policy Network’s precursor — the Madison Group — was “launched by the American Legislative Exchange Council and housed in the Chicago-based Heartland Institute.”

Further, Constance “Connie” Campanella — former ALEC executive director and the first president of the Madison Group — left ALEC in 1988 to create a lobbying firm called Stateside Associates. Stateside uses ALEC meetings (and the meetings of other groups) as lobbying opportunities for its corporate clients.

“Stateside Associates is the largest state and local government affairs firm,” according to its website. “Since 1988, the Stateside team has worked across the 50 states and in many local governments on behalf of dozens of companies, trade associations and government and non-profit clients.”

Named Constance Heckman while heading ALEC, Campenella also formerly served on the Board of Directors of Washington Area State Relations Group, a state-level lobbyist networking group. 

“The Washington Area State Relations Group (WASRG) is one of the nation’s largest organizations dedicated exclusively to serving state government relations professionals,” explains its website. “Since the mid-1970s, WASRG has been providing its corporate, trade association and public sector members with a unique and valuable opportunity to interact with their peers, key state officials and public policy experts.”

Shadow Lobbying All Along

ALEC is currently under fire for potentially abusing its 501(c)(3) non-profit IRS charity tax status, acting as a shadow lobbying apparatus and “corporate bill mill” throughout its 40 years of existence.

In response to criticism, internal documents recently revealed by The Guardian show that ALEC created a 501(c)(4) group called the Jeffersonian Project, a move activists said was a tacit admission ALEC has illegally served as a lobbying apparatus from the beginning.

What Campanella understood and cashed in on by creating Stateside Associates was how the “shadow lobbying” process works. Her career move from serving as ALEC’s executive director to setting up Stateside is another indicator ALEC and related groups facilitate lobbying.

“Stink Tanks” Ideas Factory

While ALEC facilitates passage of “model bills” — what the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) has coined a “corporate bill mill” — State Policy Network proliferates the ideas legitimizing the myriad models that become legislation in statehouses nationwide.

These ideas come in the form of what CMD and Progress Now call “Stink Tanks,” modeled to be “mini-Heritage Foundations” by one of its original funders, Thomas Roe. State Policy Network has 64 state affiliates.

Roe, who passed away in 2000, served as vice chairman and finance chairman of the Republican Party in South Carolina and as a member of the Republican National Finance Committee. The Heritage Foundation, where Roe served on the Board of Trustees, now houses the Thomas Roe Institute for Economic Policy Studies.

Though current State Policy Network president Tracie Sharp claimed SPN member groups don’t coordinate with one another in a November Politico article, Roe explicitly funded the organization to do just that.

“Starting in 1987, these organizations began meeting regularly as the Madison Group…to trade information and discuss strategies,” a history of SPN published in 2007 explains. “Roe believed that these get-togethers were so helpful that they should be formalized through a professional association that would host annual conferences, provide services, and improve communications among its members.”

To this day, State Policy Network hands out an annual Roe Award.

“The annual Roe Award pays tribute to those in the state public policy movement whose achievements have greatly advanced the free market philosophy. It recognizes leadership, innovation and accomplishment in public policy,” explains the SPN website. “The award is an eagle, a symbol of liberty and the courage and conviction necessary for its preservation.”

“Winning is the Operative Word”

In introducing the “Burgeoning Conservative Think Tanks” report in a July 1991 letter to Kurt Malmgren — then the Senior Vice President of State Activities for the Tobacco Institute — former ALEC Executive Director Sam Brunelli wrote “winning is what ALEC is all about.”

“Winning is the operative word. It is an experience you can appreciate because winning the public policy debate will continue to have a tremendous positive effect on the ‘bottom line’ of your company,” Brunelli wrote.

“At ALEC, we bring together, in an intellectually and challenging environment, state legislators and corporate and business executives, wherein we provide the mixture of determination, dedication, preparation, and teamwork — those elements so necessary to winning!”

Yet, it’s fair to say after a week of hard-hitting investigative journalism by The Guardian and many other outlets, both ALEC and the State Policy Network have doubled down on defense and are not “winning” for now. Read the rest of this entry →

Leaked Documents Reveal IRS Concerns, Funding Crisis At ALEC

1:35 pm in Uncategorized by Steve Horn

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

The Guardian has published a major investigative piece that once again exposes the scandalous ways of the right wing lobbying group, American Legislative Exchange Council(ALEC).

Among the biggest revelations: ALEC may soon face a budget crisis, and is feeling the heat of public pressure from activists and its own membership in the aftermath of the Trayvon Martin shooting by George Zimmerman in FloridaDozens of corporations have jumped ship from what critics have coined a “corporate bill mill” for statehouses nationwide.

Another explosive revelation: ALEC State Chairs were handed a draft pledge to put ALEC’s interests over its constituents’ interests, asked to “act with care and loyalty and put the interests of [ALEC] first.” ALEC confirmed to The Guardian that it was “not adopted by the membership committee or by any of the state chairs.”

The Guardian obtained ALEC’s Board of Directors’ meeting minutes which reveal that ALEC has created a 501(c)(4) non-profit organization called The Jeffersonian Project.

Creation of the Jeffersonian Project – paralleling ALEC’s self-serving branding as standing for “Jeffersonian principles” - could be seen as a tacit admission that ALEC had been illegally operating as a shadow lobbying organization on behalf of its corporate members for the past four decades.

ALEC’s budget hole from the exodus of corporate members has inspired a campaign to win corporate members back to the exclusive club, calling it thebiblically-inspired ”Prodigal Son Project.” Desperate for more member-based funding, ALEC is considering recruiting gambling companies into its member base.

Jeffersonian Project Legal Lifeline

Not going so far as to admit it has acted as an illegal shadow lobbying organization for the past four decades, ALEC’s attorney Alan Dye weighed in on the Jeffersonian Project in a letter, “though we do not believe that any activity carried on by Alec is lobbying, the IRS could disagree…Alec has been approached by donors who are willing to make sizable donations, but insist that the donations go to a section 501(c)(4) organization.”

Put another way, the Jeffersonian Project could be ALEC’s lifeline to keep itself in legal territory and therefore, afloat. ALEC says so itself, in fact.

“Any activity that could be done by Alec may be done by Jeffersonian Project if legal counsel advises it would provide greater legal protection or lessen ethics concerns,” notes from its Board Meeting state, adding 501(c)(4) status answers “questions of ethical violations made by our critics and state ethics boards and provides further legal protection.”

Lisa Graves, Executive Director for the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) responded to ALEC’s lifeline creation, saying, “It should have disclosed its lobbying long ago.”

Pro-Fracking, Anti-Regulatory Agenda for Upcoming Meeting

These findings by The Guardian come just one day before ALEC’s forthcoming States and Nation Policy Summit in Washington, DC, in which pro-fracking and anti-regulatory model bills and presentations will be the centerpiece of the Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force’s convening. Shale gas industry lobbying powerhouse America’s Natural Gas Alliance will be named as a corporate member at the meeting.

As CMD’s PR Watch revealed in an August article, the “United States of ALEC” has already proposed 77 ALEC anti-environmental “model bills” in statehouses nationwide in the first three quarters of 2013.

DeSmogBlog will be covering the events of the upcoming DC meeting closely in the coming days.

Friends of the Earth Sues State Department on Keystone XL FOIA Delay, DeSmog Requests White House Financial Disclosure Forms

11:46 am in Uncategorized by Steve Horn

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

Anita Dunn

Anita Dunn – Obama advisor and TransCanada PR flack

Friends of the Earth-U.S. (FOE) has filed a lawsuit against the U.S. State Department for failing to expedite its April 2013 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request seeking communications between TransCanada Keystone XL tar sands export pipeline’s influence peddlers and the agency tasked to make the final decision on KXL’s northern half.

FOE’s request seeks records of communications between State – which FOE has yet to hear back from since the April expedition request denial – and a cadre of powerful lobbyists.

The most well-connected of the group is Anita Dunn, a principal at SDKnickberbocker, a senior advisor to Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign and former communications director for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee under then-Senator Kerry. Dunn – who had over 100 private meetings with the Obama Admininistration between 2009 and 2012 according to a New York Times investigation – now does public relations on behalf of TransCanada at SDKnickberbocker.

Dunn’s husband Robert “Bob” Bauer - President Obama’s personal attorney, former White House Counsel for Obama, Counsel for the Democratic National Committee and election law attorney for Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign – works at a law firm that does legal work on behalf of another TransCanada-owned pipeline, Alaska’s South Central LNG.

DeSmogBlog submitted a FOIA request to the White House for the financial disclosure forms of Dunn and Bauer on July 5.

FOE’s FOIA also requested communication records between State and other lobbyists with career ties to President Obama, John Kerry and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Some highlights:

1.) Paul Elliott, chief lobbyist for TransCanada, a top Hillary Clinton adviser in her 2008 presidential campaign

2.) David Castagnetti of Mehlman, Vogel & Castagnetti, who was director of Congressional relations for Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign and Brandon Pollak of Bryan Cave LLP, who also worked on Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign

3.) Gordon Giffin of Long & Albridge, a top fundraiser in Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign and Jim Blanchard of DLA Piper, also a top Clinton 2008 fundraiser

Making the Legal Case

FOE argues that because the decision for Keystone XL’s northern half could happen within weeks or months, an expedited request should be granted. Normally, federal-level FOIA requests can take upwards of 2-3 years, by which time President Obama will have decided the fate of Keystone XL.

“The requested information is critical because a number of the lobbyists presently advocating for the project formerly worked for Secretary of State John Kerry, or for former Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton,” says the lawsuit complaint, filed today in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia by Meyer Glitzenstein & Crystal on behalf of Friends of the Earth. “In light of these relationships, the requested records would allow FoE to inform the public about the nature of the State Department’s decision-making, and the role any of these lobbyists may be playing in that process.”

In nullifying FOE’s April request for expedited FOIA filing, the State Dept. argued the request doesn’t “meet any of the established criteria” for expedition.

What though, fits the “imminent danger” concept better than a pipeline that will hasten climate disruption and cause ecological harm? With regards to “physical safety,” climate change is impacting individuals around the world right now and will only worsen as tar sands are extracted from Alberta and shipped to the export market at increasing rates.

And if anything is a plausible “substantial humanitarian” issue, climate change fits the bill.

FOE’s Hurdle: Obama’s Not-So-Hot FOIA Record

To say FOE has a major legal hurdle to clear on this lawsuit is an understatement. Though candidate Obama campaigned in 2008 to “usher in a new era of open government,” his talk has proven cheap.

“When it comes to implementation of Obama’s wonderful transparency policy goals, especially FOIA policy in particular, there has been far more ‘talk the talk’ rather than ‘walk the walk,’” Daniel Metcalfe – Director of the Department of Justice’s office monitoring the government’s compliance with FOIA requests from 1981-2007 - told Bloomberg in a Sept. 2012 article investigating Obama’s FOIA track-record.

Bloomberg further concluded the Obama Administration had “flunked the disclosure test” in his first term.

“I and many other journalists have observed that this administration, despite its public rhetoric, has repeatedly and continually been very difficult to deal with. I rate them worse than the Bush administration,” David Kay Johnston, the head of Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE) said on a recent episode of Democracy Now! ”They’re behaving much more like a corporation than like the people’s government.”

Tough words from Johnston, and a tough road ahead for the FOIA legal battle royale for FOE in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

Read the rest of this entry →

API Spent $22 Million Lobbying for Keystone XL; State Dept Contractor ERM an API Member

6:20 am in Uncategorized by Steve Horn

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

Screenshot from API’s homepage

In President Barack Obama’s Climate Action Plan address, he stated that TransCanada’s Keystone XL tar sands pipeline would only receive State Department approval “if this project does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution.”

As it stands, that means Keystone XL – which if built to full capacity would pipe diluted bitumen, or “dilbit” from the Alberta tar sands down to Port Arthur, TX refineries for shipment to the global export market - may likely receive Obama’s approval.

That’s because Obama’s State Dept. – assigned to make a final decision on KXL because it crosses the international border – contracted its Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Study (SEIS) out to Environmental Resources Management, Inc. (ERM Group).

ERM Group is a dues-paying member of the American Petroleum Institute (API), as is TransCanada.

The SEIS concluded KXL’s “approval or denial” – misleading because its southern half is already 75-percent complete via an Obama March 2012 Executive Order - “is unlikely to have a substantial impact on the rate of development” of the tar sands. Therefore, it will also have little impact on climate change, according to ERM’s SEIS.

It’s important to remember that ERM was chosen on behalf of State by TransCanada itself. Futher, one of the ERM employees tasked to conduct the SEIS, as exposed in a Mother Jones investigation, is a former TransCanada employee.

DeSmog investigation also reveals that API has spent $22.03 million dollars lobbying at the federal level on Keystone XL and/or tar sands issues since the pipeline was initially proposed in June 2008. Further, some of those oil lobbyists have direct ties to both President Barack Obama and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, the two men who have the final say on KXL.

API Keystone XL Lobbyists Ties to Obama and Kerry

One of the lobbyists helping in the API Keystone XL lobbying effort was Marty Durbin, the nephew of U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL). Sen. Durbin was President Obama’s former U.S. Senate colleague from Illinois before Obama won the presidency in 2008.

Initially hired by API to fend off proposed congressional climate change legislation in 2009, Marty Durbin was named President and CEO of America’s Natural Gas Alliance (ANGA) in March 2013, the industry lobbying powerhouse on hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) matters.

API hired Ogilvy Government Relations to lobby for KXL in 2012, as well. One of Ogilvy’s key hired guns lobbying on behalf of API and KXL is Moses Mercado.

Mercado served as a key aide to Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign, as well as a super-delegate representing Texas for the 2008 Democratic National Convention. He also served as campaign director in New Mexico for U.S. Sec. of State John Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign.

“The waves are being generated by Mercado’s other line of work – as a lobbyist with Ogilvy Government Relations who is registered to represent several dozen big-name clients, including the National Rifle Association, the Carlyle Group, the Blackstone Group, Monsanto, Pfizer Inc., United Health Group, Sempra Energy and Constellation Energy,” a Sept. 2007 Washington Post article explained about Mercado joining the Obama campaign team (emphasis mine).

Obama’s national political director for his 2008 presidential campaign, Matthew Nugen, now also works at Ogilvy. He took the job less than a week after Obama’s Jan. 2009 inauguration.

Lobbying Coupled with a Dose of PR and Astroturf

Above and beyond lobbying, API has also devoted much time, money and effort on pro-Keystone XL public relations. Its most recent ongoing campaign is called Oil Sands Fact Check (OSFC).

As explained by the Houston Chronicle, OSFC was created as a tar sands parallel to Energy in Depth (EID), another industry-created front group to promote fracking:

[OSFC] is borrowing a page from Energy In Depth’s playbook, with regular “issue alerts” to reporters and others, and plans for touting the message via Facebook, Twitter and other social media. To lure in critics as well as supporters, the group has ads that appear on Google when users search for “tar sands” – a synonym often used derisively – and other related terms.

Before OSFC’s creation, API ran an astroturf campaign called Vote 4 Energy run byEdelman Public Relations.

“They’re using deception to talk to Americans about the oil and gas industry,” said Gabe Elsner of the Checks and Balances Project at the time, who auditioned to appear in one of API’s commercials. “These multi-million dollar campaigns are clearly being crafted to give the appearance that it’s ordinary people talking. What we experienced was that it was well scripted and totally set up to be the perfect commercial.”

API also created an astroturf group called Energy Citizens during the climate change legislative battle in 2009.

“The objective of these rallies is to put a human face on the impacts of unsound energy policy and to aim a loud message at those states’ U.S. Senators to avoid the mistakes embodied in the House climate bill and the Obama Administration’s tax increases on our industry,” wrote API head Jack Gerard in a memo obtained byGreenpeace USA explaning the rationale behind the campaign to API members. “We are asking all API members to assist in these…activities. The size of the company does not matter, and every participant adds to the strength of our collective voice.”

Can State Dept./ERM SEIS Be Trusted?

With a history of rubber-stamping ecologically-hazardous projects, it should surprise no one that the southern half of KXL already has dents and poorly-welded metalrecently replaced by contractor Michels Corporation. An ominous sign for KXL’s future, to say the least.

“It’s clear that, devoid of factually-based energy and climate arguments, API needs to spend vast sums on lobbyists and campaign contributions to secure the access it needs to political power,” Tyson Slocum, Director of Public Citizen’s Energy Program told DeSmog in an interview.

Friends of the Earth-US Senior Campaigner Ross Hammond echoed Slocum in an interview with DeSmog.

“It’s no wonder that API and its members continue to tout the ERM report as ‘proof’ that Keystone will make a minimal contribution to climate change despite the fact that the EPA and top scientists all take the opposite view. The fact that ERM is a paid member of API should have disqualified it from writing the Draft SEIS,” said Hammond.

Three States Pushing ALEC Bill To Require Teaching Climate Change Denial In Schools

7:23 am in Uncategorized by Steve Horn

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) - known by its critics as a “corporate bill mill” – has hit the ground running in 2013, pushing “models bills” mandating the teaching of climate change denial in public school systems.

January hasn’t even ended, yet ALEC has already planted its ”Environmental Literacy Improvement Act“ - which mandates a “balanced” teaching of climate science in K-12 classrooms - in the state legislatures of Oklahoma, Colorado, and Arizona so far this year.

In the past five years since 2008, among the hottest years in U.S. history, ALEC has introduced its “Environmental Literacy Improvement Act“ in 11 states, or over one-fifth of the statehouses nationwide. The bill has passed in four states, an undeniable form of “big government” this “free market” organization decries in its own literature.

ALEC’s ”model bills” are written by and for corporate lobbyists alongside conservative legislators at its annual meetings. ALEC raises much of its corporate funding from the fossil fuel industry, which in turn utilizes ALEC as a key - though far from the only - vehicle to ram through its legislative agenda through in the states.

A Frankenstein Co-Created with Heartland Institute

DeSmogBlog investigation last year found that the Environmental Literacy Improvement Act’s origins date back to 2000.

The Act’s creation is directly connected to the ongoing efforts of another corporate-funded group, the Heartland Institute – of “Heartland Institute Exposed” fame – a group well plugged into the climate change denial machine.

ALEC’s Natural Resources Task Force, now known as its Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force, adopted this model at a time when the Task Force was headed by Sandy Liddy Bourne. Bourne, who served in this capacity from 1999-2004, would eventually ascend to the role of Director of Legislation and Policy for ALEC in 2004.

Upon leaving ALEC in 2006, Bourne become Heartland’s Vice President for Policy Strategy. Today she serves as Executive Director of the American Energy Freedom Center, an outfit she co-heads with Arthur G. Randol. Randol is a longtime lobbyist and PR flack for ExxonMobil, a corporation which endowed the climate change denial machine for years.

Heartland’s website still lists Bourne as one of its “experts,” stating that ”Under her leadership, 20 percent of ALEC model bills were enacted by one state or more, up from 11 percent.”

Importantly, Heartland is still a member of ALEC’s Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force that originally passed the Environmental Literacy Improvement Act.

According to internal documents leaked to and published by DeSmogBlog in Feb. 2012, Heartland obtained funding for a “Global Warming Curriculum for K-12 Classrooms” project beginning in 2012. This curriculum aims to teach that there “is a major controversy over whether or not humans are changing the weather.”

If this sounds similar to ALEC’s model bill, it should, given the fact that the two outfits share funding from the same honey pot. In fact, Heartland actively promotes the ALEC model on its website.

Model Bill Introduced in OK, CO, and AZ
Read the rest of this entry →

Corporate Interests Influencing State Legislators via National Conference of State Legislatures

11:35 am in Uncategorized by Steve Horn

Fracking sign

Cross-Posted from Checks and Balances Project

The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) describes itself as “a bipartisan organization that serves the legislators and staffs of the nation’s 50 states, its commonwealths and territories.  NCSL provides research, technical assistance and opportunities for policymakers to exchange ideas on the most pressing state issues.”

Affiliated with NCSL, is the NCSL Foundation which was created by NCSL as a  “nonprofit tax-exempt 501(c)(3) corporation that offers opportunities for businesses, national associations, nonprofit organizations and unions seeking to improve the state legislative process and enhance NCSL’s services to all legislatures.”

While the descriptions sound benign, the access to legislators NCSL and the NCSL Foundation provide to fossil fuel interests and other corporate “sponsors” sounds a lot like lobbying. Sourcewatch defines lobbyists as those who do “work on the behalf of their clients or the groups they’re representing to convince the government or others involved in public policy development to make a decision that is beneficial to them.”

Nowhere in the descriptions of NCSL or the NCSL Foundation is the unique access to state legislators granted to corporate funders characterized as lobbying.

In fact, William Pound, NCSL’s Executive Director, said in an interview with Checks & Balances Project at NCSL’s 2012 Fall Forum in Washington, D.C., that legislators are being educated, not lobbied.

However, this access has been called “stealth lobbying” by Steve Horn and Sarah Blaskey in a recent Truthout piece.

According to the NCSL Foundation website, there are many ways for fossil fuel interests to “educate” state legislators. They include:

  • Opportunity to participate in the annual standing committee new officer orientation session
  • Regular forums with NCSL officers and NCSL standing committee officers
  • Opportunity to suggest topics to standing committee officers
  • Opportunity to attend NCSL Executive Committee subcommittee meetings
  • Invitations to attend receptions and dinners with legislative leaders at yearly NCSL leadership meetings

In addition, with legislators from 40 out of the 50 states earning an average of $35,326 for their work and an average staff of 3.1 per member (or 1.2 staff in some states),[1] it raises questions of how much time and resources they have to research issues versus relying on positions posted by corporate sponsors or NCSL papers which corporate sponsors have had input on, according to Pound.

Given the role of Michael Behm as the Vice President of the NCSL Foundation and a Senior Vice President for Stateside Associates, a lobbying firm focused on lobbying state-centric groups like NCSL and the Council of State Governments (CSG), the partnerships being enabled by NCSL between legislators and fossil fuel interests should not be surprising.[2] This is especially true, given that many of Stateside Associates’ clients are also NCSL Foundations sponsors.

According to the current list of sponsors on the NCSL Foundation website (dated 1/31/12), fossil fuel interests such as ExxonMobil and America’s Natural Gas Alliance contributed $142,500, an increase from FY 2011 (July 2010-June 2011) when fossil fuel companies donated $100,000[3].

Perhaps the increase in contributions from fossil fuel interests, coupled with their ability to  “review” NCSL policy papers, explains the change in positions on hydraulic fracturing (or fracking) between 2010 and 2012. A 2010 policy paper provided a relatively balanced look at the costs, financial and environmental, associated with fracking. However, a June 2012 paper raises and dismisses the potentially devastating costs that fracking poses to states and the environment.

NCSL’s activities sound suspiciously like those of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which is now facing a lawsuit under the Tax Whistleblower Act with the Internal Revenue Service. Common Cause filed the lawsuitafter accusing ALEC, legally a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, of “massive[ly] underreporting” the amount of lobbying it was undertaking.

While 501(c)(3)’s can engage in some lobbying, it cannot be the majority of its activity. According to Mother Jones, “The suit alleges that ALEC exists primarily to give corporate members the ability to ‘lobby state legislators and to deduct the costs of such efforts as charitable contributions.’ “

Checks and Balances will continue monitoring NCSL and other like-minded organizations that interact with legislators for purported “educational” purposes that could possibly be masking stealth lobbying activities.


[2] Horn and Blaskey write in their Truthout piece about how Behm and his other Stateside Associates colleagues take over organizations such as NCSL to influence state legislators on behalf of corporate interests.

[3] No figures were listed in the FY 2011 annual report. Therefore current sponsorship level amounts were applied to derive the $117,500 number.

Image by Bosc D’Anjou under Creative Commons License.