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Since 2009 I've written about ALEC's involvement in attempting to establish themselves as players on an international playing field.  With "Free Trade" as their primary mantra - just above that of "Less Government" - they have been quietly and steadily supporting and advancing the Trans Pacific Partnership deal and the Keystone Pipeline project.

In 2011 ALEC issued a resolution in support of the TPP as I wrote previously. From ALEC's perspective it makes sense to support any "trade agreement" that opens the door to profits for their multi-national corporate members.

Nobody should be surprised to learn that many of ALEC's current (and many of those that have abandoned ALEC) corporate members are supporters and endorsers of the TPP agreement...and stand to rake in huge profits from it.

In a special report on ALEC's involvement with federal and international issues in 2012 our VLTP.net organization spelled out how deeply helpful ALEC's congressional alumni have been and many of their legislative pursuits through our Congress.  Please pay special attention to the dozens of federal and international policies, resolutions and issues pursued by ALEC's "International Relations Task Force" (pg's 14-20).  Also note the names and countries representing "foreign" nations that sit upon this IRTF of ALEC in this DK diary I wrote in September 2012.

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Will President Obama continue to support the TPP and will it be passed?

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Pursuing Charles and David Koch and their funding of the far right and an ultra-conservative agenda is important. Identifying the “charitable” organizations they launder money through – which is then passed onto other organizations (along with tax credits or deductions), is also important. Exposing the various billionaire families (DeVos, Coors, Bradley, etc.) that contribute to the goals of the Kochs’ and their cabal, is likewise important.

However, what those actively pursuing and exposing the Koch Cabal must understand is that once an integral part of the cabal is exposed, the duties that particular organization was responsible for, is transferred to one or more entities within the Koch’s vast network – and the agenda continues to move along smoothly without any real interruption. The cabal can afford to “lose” one or more of the network’s controlled “charities” and continue to function without missing a beat.

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How many U.S. jobs have been taken over by state and federal prisoners to date?

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Following a full year of investigating complaints and revising Nevada’s prison industry program statute(s), a new Administrative Rule (AR 854) regulating the operation of that state’s prison industry operation has been submitted to the Board of Prison Commissioners (BPC) by NDOC Director, Greg Cox.  In December this regulation was adopted and became effective.
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Should state contracts allowing prisoners to be substituted for American workers at low wages be abolished?

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The above graphic charts the relationship(s) between dozens of extreme right-wing organizations, foundations, institutes, conservative owned companies and wealthy individuals working together to advance a pro-conservative agenda against a majority of Americans. I used this graphic in May of 2011 in an effort of exposing the formation of a secretive "Cabal" dedicated to changing the way our democracy works.  Now other sources have revealed - and corroborate - the existence of such a cabal is in fact true...
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Were you already aware of the Koch/ALEC "cabal" - and their extensive influence?

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(Note to readers - Voters Legislative Transparency Project [VLTP] is the corporate arm of American Legislative Transparency Project [ALTP] group here on Daily Kos)

The Senate held the long awaited hearing on Stand Your Ground laws today.  They addressed issues of the involvement of ALEC in developing and disseminating this law as model legislation - and of the corporate involvement in funding ALEC's model legislation.

The Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) submitted testimony to the Senate on this issue.  In the testimony provided, CMD acknowledged the work of "DK Bloggers" who have helped shine a light upon ALEC and their activities:

ALEC’s Corporate Funders Were Known Well before this Hearing

Accordingly, it is astonishing ALEC and a small number of its legislators – many of whom get their trips to ALEC resort meetings paid for by corporations, whose identities are well known to them – are taking umbrage at this Committee for inquiring about ALEC’s legislative agenda and which corporations have bankrolled it. The lawmakers know who funds ALEC’s bill machine and their trips, but until we launched ALECexposed two years ago, the public was largely in the dark about these special interests and the one-stop shopping ALEC provides for corporations and trade groups to secretly advance the same cookie-cutter bills in nearly every state.

Despite the hoopla trumped up over Senator Durbin’s letter, quite frankly, every single for-profit and non-profit corporation this Committee asked about its support for ALEC and its long-standing gun agenda is a corporation that is publicly known to have funded ALEC or participated in its meetings about bills, based on the investigative research of CMD, along with others like Common Cause, DBA Press, VLTP, CAP, Greenpeace, bloggers at Daily Kos, and many, many ordinary citizen sleuths.

Please take the time to read the full CMD testimony here.

You are invited to also read my take on the hearing published at VLTP.net, here.

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Should more Congressional Hearings on ALEC Activities be held?

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Many DK followers and readers have expressed disappointment that I have not been posting on Daily Kos frequently over the past few months - nearly a year in fact.  Hopefully this diary will help explain my absence here at DK.  I have spent months traveling back and forth from Indy to Las Vegas to interview principals, lawmakers and fellow investigative journalists on this prison industry corruption case.

I have attended meetings of the Nevada Board of Prison Commissioners (BPC) and those held by the Nevada Legislature's Interim Finance Committee's Committee on Industrial Programs - which oversees the state's prison industry program(s).  I spoke at one of these meetings and presented a special report on the state's prison industry operation to the Nevada Senate, Legislature, Assembly and both the IFC and BPC committee members.

Nevada Speaker Kirkpatrick holding VLTP Award
Working with state lawmakers VLTP was able to add input on proposed legislation to reform and amend Nevada's laws pertaining to prison industry operations.  In March VLTP presented the first "Transparency Award" to Nevada Assembly Speaker, Marilyn Kirkpatrick.

Now that this case is nearing resolution, I hope to return to posting here more regularly.

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Should prison labor replace American workers on public works projects - earning higher profits for private companies?

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Most now know that the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) wrote the Prison Industries Act in 1995 and that legislation is now being used in Nevada and elsewhere to promote allowing corporate access to state owned prison factories and prisoners.  Today hundreds of prison factories employing nearly a million inmate workers are in operation across the U.S.  

Every home has at least one...and every consumer has bought at least one prison made good in the last year.  Think not?  Eaten at Wendys?  McDonalds?  Flown on a Boeing made airliner?  Eaten an "Idaho" potato? Visited a Starbucks?  Bought AM/PM coffee? Have hardwood flooring made by Anderson?  All of those companies are using inmate labor to manufacture, package or ship their products or make uniforms for workers.

Though ALEC is not written in this article, their fingerprints are all over this...and their presence though unseen, felt...

Today prison industries are booming with hundreds of thousands of prisoners employed in factories manufacturing a myriad assortment of products and providing services such as call centers, customer service, marketing, reservations and manual labor for municipalities.  Thousands of American workers have been displaced by companies choosing low paid prisoners as a labor force.  Many of these companies realize additional profits from subsidized leases for state manufacturing facilities within prison compounds.  This has been the trend since 1999 but today, as a Burl Ives lyric proclaims, "times, they are a changin'..."

Nevada represents the latest resistance to prison programs taking jobs out of the private sector and allowing unfair competition between private businesses where one company has access to low paid prisoners for their private workforce.

On May 29th legislation reining in control of Nevada’s prison industry program, passed the state Senate and was sent to the desk of Governor Brian Sandoval.  On June 1 the Governor signed the new legislation and it becomes law in Nevada on July1, 2013.  The introduction, passage and signing into law of this necessary legislation is a huge victory for opponents of prison industry programs in the U.S. – and signals to other states the need for similar vigilance of prison industrial programs.

Known as Senate Bill (SB) 478, the Nevada legislation was introduced and sponsored by the Senate's Interim Finance Committee as a means of tightening controls over Nevada's prison industry partnerships. Author of the bill was Senator Debbie Smith, Chair of the Senate Finance and Interim Finance Committees.

Private companies (union and non-union) joined ranks with union leaders in support of changing state laws regarding prison industry operations in Nevada.  

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- Other Business owners complain of unfair competition -

When researching material for the Studyof Nevada’s Prison Industry Program (released in January), I discovered that in addition to several steel fabrication companies, several other industries and manufacturers have come forward saying they’ve also been compromised by Nevada’s prison industry.  These businesses include; embroidery (Carson City), truck manufacturing (water trucks for construction use), auto restoration and repairing (classic cars) and companies involved in repackaging and/or resale of returned or refurbished goods.

In addition to those industries being victimized, any Nevadan that registers a motor vehicle, trailer or semi that requires a license plate is also being forced to contribute to the profits of the prison industry.

Under a contract with the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, the prison industry receives $.50 for every license plate “manufactured” and distributed in Nevada.  This fee appears to be in addition to the current contract between the NDOC prison industries and the BMV that sets pricing for the production of license plates.  Wording of AB 473 makes the payment mandatory and the money deposited to a dedicated Prison Industry Fund.  Vehicles requiring two plates (front and back) are charged an additional $1.00 per vehicle per year.

Sounds like small change for each vehicle owner – $.50 or $1.00 but with an estimated 2 million vehicles registered annually in Nevada the prison industries is expecting to receive a continuing windfall from this amended legislation.  When added to debts owed by private companies partnered with prison industries (2012 Accounts Payable and Outstanding were in excess of $600,000) the state owned and controlled “company” Silver State Industries continues to reap benefits from taxpayers.  They claim that SSI is self-sufficient and relies upon no tax dollars or appropriations for their operations, but what’s been discovered refutes that claim.  Could it be the license plate fees paid to the prison industries will be used to offset industry losses – at the expense of taxpayers who register their vehicles?

An unanswered question…since most consider registering their cars and paying for licensing a state “tax” for owning a vehicle, are Nevadans actually paying a $.50 cent tax per plate to the Prison Industries?

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Is it possible your business or industry is competing against prison operated industries?

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A recent article from the American Independent caught my attention the other day...then it was picked up and republished by Salon yesterday.

These articles help us to dissect how the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) involves themselves in issue specific initiatives in an effort of promoting their "free market," pro-corporate agenda.  Not to assist the public in overcoming a health or other issue, not to alleviate the false claims or misunderstandings causing members of our society fear - but rather to capitalize off of that fear and if possible to increase the fear for monetary and political gain.

As we're told by reading these articles, 1988 was the first time ALEC formed a task force to take up a single issue - HIV and AIDS.  During that period in our history there was much misunderstanding, disinformation and outright lies spread about the disease.  While many were trying to come to grips with the issue ALEC and one of their pharma members were busy fueling the fires, so to speak...ending with the creation of legislation to criminalize the spread of HIV or AIDS.

I would urge everyone to read the linked articles to fully grasp the way in which ALEC is able to accomplish their agenda - and why they continue to be so successful on advancing their conservative model legislation...

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Did you know ALEC was behind the legislation to criminalize those with HIV/AIDS?

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Mon Apr 01, 2013 at 02:57 PM PDT

The Stench of ALEC in Nevada

by Bob Sloan

"There has grown up in the minds of certain groups in this country the notion that because a man or corporation has made a profit out of the public for a number of years, the government and the courts are charged with the duty of guaranteeing such profit in the future, even in the face of changing circumstances and contrary to public interest. This strange doctrine is not supported by statute or common law. Neither individuals nor corporations have any right to come into court and ask that the clock of history be stopped, or turned back." - Terry Macalister (The Guardian)
An ongoing controversy in Nevada has focused attention upon the relative unknown concept of allowing private industry to use prisoner labor and state owned facilities in the manufacture of consumer goods.  Due to numerous complaints that this allows certain companies a distinct advantage over competitors in the same industry, Nevada authorities within the state Legislature, Assembly and the Executive Administration have been forced to address this issue.

Legislation developed more than a decade ago and disseminated state by state is responsible for legalizing and spreading this practice.  The model for this law was written by a Texas State Representative and adopted by a pro-corporate, free market conservative think tank out of Washington, DC in 1995.  Since then it has been proposed and passed in one form or another in more than forty states and has led to exploitation of prisoners for their labor.  An accompanying side effect is an unfair advantage against competitors who have no idea they are competing against cheap labor and subsidized manufacturing in their markets.

This is a brief history of how this all began and identifies some of the key players, organizations, companies and state officials involved in prison industries.  The huge increases in incarceration that created a captive workforce are also identified as are some of the companies realizing substantial revenue streams from incarceration.

Today the state of Nevada is where a line in the sand must be drawn.  If American jobs are going to stop being transferred to prisoners as a means of enriching a few corporate owners and investors, we must begin by understanding the American Legislative Exchange Council and their pursuit of capitalizing off of imprisonment.  This “international” think tank is so good at what they do that only on rare occasions do we get a glimpse of the depth of their involvement in local issues.  When profits can be generated from the spending of tax dollars, you will always find ALEC there, ready to exploit to the fullest.  Nevada is just one example of that exploitation, providing us that “rare glimpse” of their operational tactics.

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Will Nevada authorities put a stop to the unfair competition from prison based companies?

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                                                        By Bob Sloan

On Tuesday March 19th, the Nevada Board of Prison Commissioners (BPC) met in Carson City to discuss an assortment of prison related issues.  Members of the BPC are: Governor Brian Sandoval, Attorney General, Catherine Cortez-Masto and Secretary of State, Ross Miller.

Issues of: (a) realignment of state Parole and Probation responsibilities with the Nevada Department of Corrections (NDOC; (b) compliance with the federal Rape Elimination Act; (c) certifying the Nevada State Prison as a Historical Site was on the agenda.  However, the topic which generated the most heated public discussion was listed on the agenda was: (d) a review of the prison industries program run by the NDOC.

As I’ve reported over the past two or three months, there has been an increasing amount of criticism of NDOC Director Greg Cox and Deputy Director Brian Connett over the operation of the state’s prison industry program.  This program operates under the name “Silver State Industries” and employs hundreds of inmates in various industrial programs.  Many of those prison workers are actually “employed “by private corporations and companies.

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Should prison industry operators be required to consult with private businesses and labor Unions/Groups prior to initiating any new industry or product line(s)?

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The Result of Bureaucrats’ Operating as Businessmen

In the continuing saga of Nevada’s Silver State Industries (SSI), the Legislature’s Ways and Means Committee held a hearing this past Friday, March 8th to discuss the budget of the Nevada DOC which includes state prison industry operations.

Critics of the industry program have found traction with the discovery that Alpine Steel, a private company, had access to inmate labor, subsidized facility leases and even with those subsidized benefits owed the state more than $400,000 in accrued debt.  In late 2012 when this story first broke, it was discovered that Alpine also owed inmate workers back wages to the tune of $78,000.  Because inmates are “assigned” to industry jobs by the NDOC, they were prohibited from simply quitting or asking for a reassignment due to not being paid.  They worked for an extended period without receiving any compensation for their labor – or if they were paid the wages did not come from their employer, Alpine Steel.

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