Wednesday May 22, 2013
Op Ed: ALEC Proven Corporate-Dominated: Two Other State-Oriented Groups Bar Private-Interest Membership InfluenceHenry Clay Ruark Salem-News.com
NCSL Executive Committee "Legislators Only", Reflecting 50-State Reality; CSG Serving Since Great Depression, Affiliates Include Widespread Strengths.
(SEASIDE, Ore.) - Oregon's ALEC-leader Rep. C. Gene Whisnant tells us that "The ALEC mission is to advance the 'Jeffersonian principles' of free market, limited government, federalism (state rights), and individual liberties."
Sounds great, right ? Statesmanlike and allathat, right ? But try these leads:
See his official statement responding to ALEX Exposed coverage in the Eugene Weekly; here's link to the story: http://www.eugeneweekly.com/
He doesn't in any way tell us why ALEC ----with corporate and private interest members paying up to $25,000 for "a seat at the table"---- meets those "Jeffersonian principles" more directly and/or effectively than two other major national organizations --the National Conference of State Legislators and the Council of State Governments.
Both have managed to operate for many decades without corporate and private-interests shaping and influencing their direct input for state legislative purposes. ALEC does'nt follow that pattern, as previous reports here have shown, and as will develop further with this one.
These "other two" have been very successfull in developing potential state-level actual legislation into established law --without that threatening corporate/private-interest "seat at the table", veto-threat and all other influence-impacting, "supplementary activities".
OR comparatively massive injections of corporate/private-interest monies via grants and other channels.
OR high-and-heavy fees and expenses for activities with participating legislators.
There must be reasons for Rep. Whisnant's choice of concentration on ALEC, and his reluctance to put exploratory dialog here with S-N right on the public record NOW, starting with national/level investigation, exploration and exposure by a whole group of public-interest organizations, named herein as our sources and from whom we've brought you detailed excerpts and some links for your own direct exploration.
"ALEC's corporate governance structure, near total reliance on corporate funding, and strong ties to legislators from predominantly one political party make it distinctly different," writes Lisa Graves, whose group PR WATCH just won the prestigious Hillman Award for ALEC Exposed, from which much of our detail here is excerpted.
Perhaps that clearly illuminates Rep. Whisnant's current difficulties with open, honest, democratic --and documented-- dialog with us here on Salem-News. It appears that what he says, even in public/record statements, may not be the complete story --or even the most meaningful part-- for overburdened tax-paying citizens extremely interested in who is shaping and solidifying Oregon legislation, budget process and laws. We know many legislative actions do not now reflect broad public opinion, on which our Legislature should surely depend; thus we must pay very close attention to those who shape these laws and to "those others" who, so obviously, "shape the shapers".
SO let us explore still further what he makes sure NOT to tell us about ALEC and the contrasts with "the other two" closely state-affiliated groups also open to Oregon legislators --and to their leaders.
It may help if you learn that "over 98.6% of ALEC's money comes from sources other than legislative dues, including primarily funds from for-profit corporations and foundations funded by the family fortunes of corporate CEOs. "In 2009, ALEC's revenues were $6.3 million. About one percent ($82,981) of its revenues came from dues paid by state legislators."
(Quotes excerpt detailed information from link to ALEC Exposed; see preceding Part 3.5 for sidebar with links.)
In striking contrast, we learn that "NCSL does not accept for-profit corporate members or donors.
"In 2010, NCSL's general fund was $16.8 million. State legislatures contribute about $10 million a year to NCSL.
"Most of the remainder comes from grants from federal agencies such as the federal Departments of Health and Human Services, Education, Energy, and Transportation, and from mainstream private foundations such as the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Pew Charitable Trusts, and the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
"It also has funds from the sale of NCSL publications. Its convention costs are covered by registration fees."
(Most readers will agree that NCSL's completely open funding pattern sets it aside --remarkably well and very obviously-- from that of ALEC.)
Furthering "striking contrast", please note the fact that "In what could be called window dressing for its corporate coffers, ALEC charges state legislators a nominal fee of $50 a year to be members, which some legislators pay with tax dollars.
"Legislators also get a discounted rate for conferences and even 'scholarships' to attend them.
" Corporations are charged up to 500 percent more in dues to become members and get to vote just like legislative members on ALEC task forces."
Basic corporate dues range from $7,000 to $25,000 per year plus fees of between $2,500 and $10,000 to be on ALEC task forces with state legislators. ALEC's corporate donations and sponsorships subsidize its 3-yearly conventions.
(Link-above is direct to ALEC's own website re corporate costs. It also is easy access to multiple other intriguing involvements ALEC provides --all reflecting private-interest activities. Strangely, it doth not mention veto.)
BUT the overall "large thing" that corporations and private agencies get for all those dollars is --you guessed it !-- the solid fact of their private-side veto on any and all ALEC "model legislation" products resulting from the professional efforts of legislators, always "assisted" and "guided" and "supported" by those ALEC-perps "sitting at the table as colleagues."
(You can see quite clearly why Rep. Whisnant was reluctant to engage in dialog re Oregon's heavy participation in ALEC --and why ALEC Exposed-group just won the prestigious Hillman Award, jointly with NATION, for comprehensive disclosures excerpted here for your convenience.)
For anyone familiar with competent group process production of similar complex materials --either as models or as finished product ready for use-- the ALEC working system immediately flashes a series of red-light warnings --all very closely connected with "undue influence" unavoidably affecting not only quality but working impacts of such a system of models.
I.e., this is what corporate information gurus live to see happen some day to themselves, with many equating such an opportunity with "going to Heaven right here on Earth". (Disclosure: That cometh from personal experience as consultant in Chicago for full decade.)
Surely anyone who can achieve Rep. Whisnant's leadership role --in ANY state legislature must be --by the inevitable nature of the leadership experience itself-- well enough informed to understand and appreciate the massive, multiple dangers involved in such precarious and potently-supervised model legislation production.
Both NCSL and CSG are state-affiliated and state-membership/funded; and neither allows corporate "seat at the table" involvement on development of policy and product.
CSG was founded during the Great Depression and has served the states --and the nation-- well for 75 years. Its Affiliate membership of 15 organizations involved in every possible aspect of policy impacting state function and activities offers unprecedented opportunity for creative, cooperative mutual guidance and effective joint action.
Certainly neither organization allows corporate/private-interest veto over what its public-side members decide as the best policies and problem solutions for the states.
There must also be "other strong influences at work here", participants in the group headed by Lisa Graves felt during exploratory work. They were right; there is one --a famed (or is that "notorious" ?) politicizing national/influence law firm-- and we will report on what it does in the next part of this series.
Also it is time to explode Rep. Whisnant's real relation to "transparency", as in the Oregon Transparency Website, a concept originated in ALEC materials and co/sponsored in the Oregon version by Rep. Whisnant.
WHY is it that some parts of this situation are deemed necessarily fully "transparent", while others remain only too well-shadowed ?
Perhaps the time has clearly come for Rep. Whisnant's full disclosure of the reasons he prefers the ALEC choice over similar strong cooperation with either of these other two with well-proven records, free of built-in dangers from corporate/private-interest shaping influence.
Especially that last/defense 'if all else fails': That ALEC-acknowledged FINAL VETO.
At 21, Henry Clay Ruark was Aroostook Editor for the Bangor, Maine DAILY NEWS, covering the upper 1/4 of the state. In the ‘40s, he was Staff Correspondent, then New England Wires Editor at United Press-Boston; later Editor for the Burlington, Vermont 3-daily group owned by Wm. Loeb, later notorious at Manchester, New Hampshire UNION LEADER for attacks on Democratic Presidential candidates.
Hank returned to Oregon to complete M. Ed. degree at OSU, went on to Indiana University for Ed.D. (abd) and special other course-work; was selected as first Information Director for NAVA in Washington, D.C.; helped write sections of NDEA, first Act to supply math, science, foreign language consultants to state depts. of education; joined Oregon Dept. of Education, where he served as NDEA administrator/Learning Media Consultant for ten years.
He joined Dr. Amo DeBernardis at PCC, helping establish, extend programs, facilities, Oregon/national public relations; moved to Chicago as Editor/Publisher of oldest educational-AV journal, reformed as AV GUIDE Magazine; then established and operated Learning Media Associates as general communications consultant group. Due to wife’s illness, he returned to Oregon in 1981, semi-retired, and has continued writing intermittently ever since, joining S-N in 2004. His Op Eds now total over 650 written since then.
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